Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Chris Bright and Adam Ford check in from marvellous Melbourne...

Chic, sophisticated and always on trend, Melbourne offers visitors a massive amount to see and do.

The scope of the Victorian capital’s cultural and culinary offerings are unsurpassed anywhere else in Australia. Immerse yourself in a thriving live music scene and a packed calendar of festivals and elite sporting events. Shop ’til you drop, party at the city’s plethora of trendy rooftop bars, then revive with the best damn coffee you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet. That’s Melbourne.

Enjoy this Melbourne travel guide.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide

Need to know

Capital of: Victoria
Base yourself: City, Carlton, South Yarra, South Melbourne
Average hotel price per room/per night: $170 AUD
Best breakfasts: Fitzroy, Collingwood, North Melbourne
Great coffee: Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Yarraville
Top spots for a beverage: City, Docklands, St Kilda
Must-do tours: Inner-city laneways tour, chocolate tour, outlet shopping tour, Great Ocean Road day trip

Best times to visit

Melbourne famously features four seasons in one day, particularly in autumn and spring. The city is at its best from December through to May. In summer, dry sunny days reach the high 20s, with occasional heatwaves pushing temperatures up into the mid to high 30s.

In autumn you’ll enjoy mostly sunny days with temperatures in the high teens to mid 20s, but bring a light jacket for evenings. Winter temperatures drop down into single figures. Brave the chilly days with plenty of layers and a scarf — the must-have Melbourne winter fashion accessory!

Spring is the wettest time of the year, with variable temperatures in the teens. Keep an umbrella handy.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Beachside St Kilda is a popular with locals and visitors alike in summer. Image: Bigstock

Melbourne tours & experiences

Save on top Melbourne attractions

Consider purchasing a Melbourne Flexi Attractions Pass for your visit. You’ll save up to 40% on many of the top attractions and things to do listed in this Melbourne travel guide. Choose from three or five attraction passes. Passes are valid for three months from the date of issue.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Culture

Melbourne isn’t your typical concrete jungle.

The inner city is a maze of laneways and arcades that harbour many of Melbourne’s best kept secrets — including themed bars, fashion incubators, artisanal chocolatiers and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Famous back alleys and byways like Hosier Lane are decorated with some of the most colourful and creative street art in the world. Don’t be afraid to wander. It’s one of the best ways to get to know Melbourne. You can also join a guided walking tour.

How to experience Melbourne on a budget: Ten top tips

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Explore the inner city’s eclectic network of laneways.

There’s plenty more for art lovers to enjoy beyond what you’ll find on alley walls. From the National Gallery of Victoria (where entry to the permanent collection is free of charge) to renowned private facilities like Flinders Lane Gallery and artist collectives such as The Blender Studios, the city’s arts scene is vibrant and diverse. You’d need weeks to really do it justice.

Melbourne hosts an extensive calendar of events and festivals. The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is one of the highlights and takes place in July. Choose from a programme of ground-breaking films from around the world. Quite often a screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the director.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Sun Theatre, Yarraville. Image: Alamy

The suburb of Yarraville, located in Melbourne’s inner west (just five train stops from Southern Cross Station), is still abuzz over the visit of Quentin Tarantino to the preview of The Hateful Eight at the historic Sun Theatre. From the art deco surroundings to the house-made choc tops, a movie at the Sun is a memorable Melbourne experience. Pair it with dinner at any of the precinct’s innovative eateries, including the Yarra Lounge and Corner Shop, or an antipasto platter at Barkley Johnson Deli & Wine. The newly refurbished Railway Hotel does a great pre-movie parmie.


 

Melbourne has an incredible live music scene. While the big stars play the city’s large-scale stadium venues, independent acts rock The Forum TheatreThe Corner and 170 Russell. If you’re into something a bit more alternative, try The ToteThe Old Bar or Northcote Social Club.

For the best of the performing arts, find out what’s on at the Arts Centre, Southbank Theatre (home of the acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company) and the Malthouse Theatre. Fringe venues like tiny La Mama break all the rules, and the city’s amateur theatre companies like Cloc Musical Theatre mount lavish productions that play to packed houses.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Catch a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Image: Bigstock

Melburnians love their sport. The city is home to global competitive spectacles such as the Australian Open tennis tournament and the Formula 1 Grand Prix, along with a plethora of local sporting events and competitions, including the Spring Racing Carnival (featuring the Melbourne Cup), Australian Rules Football (AFL), A-League soccer and rugby league. Tours of Melbourne’s top sporting venues like the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) are popular.

History

Melbourne’s past is on display for all to see through its museums, monuments and spectacular period architecture.

The city was founded in 1835 when colonial grazier John Batman purchased a tract of land by the Yarra River from the local Wurundjeri people. Construction and the population boomed during the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s, which also gave rise to many towns and cities throughout central and northern Victoria. To find out more about the city’s early history, visit the fabulous Melbourne MuseumRoyal Exhibition BuildingOld Melbourne Gaol, and the State Library Victoria. Each of these institutions is packed with informative displays.

There are a variety of ways visitors can tap into local Indigenous heritage. Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust or take an Aboriginal cultural tour. The popular Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria offers a guided introduction to the history of the gardens, interwoven with that of the traditional owners.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide. Image courtesy of Melbourne Museum

High levels of immigration during the mid-20th century fuelled the city’s growing ethnic diversity (which is reflected today in Melbourne much-lauded culinary scene). Pay a visit to the excellent Immigration Museum in Old Customs House and hear the experiences of migrants from some of the 260 nationalities that now call Melbourne home.

Dining

The dining scene in Melbourne is comparable with the best in the world.

Every suburb offers something different. Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine on Lygon Street in Carlton, or all-you-can-eat Greek in Collingwood. Give your holiday budget a break with great value Vietnamese on Victoria Street in Abbotsford, or Turkish fare on Sydney Road in Brunswick. Double up with dinner and karaoke in Chinatown or head to Footscray for tastes of Africa. In trendy Fitzroy, Modern Oz is the go. The shabby chic Panama Dining Room is super popular with the hipster crowd. Book early.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide. Image courtesy of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

The sky’s the limit for fine dining. You’ll find some of the city’s top eateries at the top of its tallest buildings, including Vue de monde on the 55th floor of the soaring Rialto building. Crown Melbourne offers a directory of premium dining options, including Long Chim, Nobu, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Melbourne’s comprehensive tram network is an integral part of city life. All trams within the city grid are free, however, it’s well worth splurging on a lunch or dinner on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Enjoy an excellent meal as you ride the tracks across the city, comfortably ensconced in a charming old world setting.


 

Latte lovers, you have certainly come to the right place. Melbourne is renowned for the best coffee in the world — and while the latest craze of ‘deconstructed coffee’ may leave some visitors slightly perplexed, the truth is it’s hard to get a bad brew in this town. Join a cafe walking tour of the inner city and discover some of the most innovative options.

Melbourne’s bar scene is also the toast of the town. Stalwart Cookie, the medical-inspired mayhem of The Croft Institute, the garden party whimsy of Madame Brussels or the Parisian par excellence of the rooftop Siglo Bar are just some of the must-visits.

Top Melbourne rooftop bars, restaurants and places to stay

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Cookie

Shopping

Whether you’re seeking designer labels or hand-made arts and crafts, Melbourne offers a huge array of retail options.

You’ll find luxury labels lining the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street (at the top of the CBD), and big name brands in and around the Bourke Street Mall and Lonsdale Street at Emporium, Melbourne’s GPO and Melbourne Central.

Chapel Street in Windsor, Prahran and South Yarra is also renowned for its retail credentials. Take the old style W-class tram for a spin along the full length of this popular strip, which morphs from shabby chic at the Windsor end, to just plain chic in South Yarra.

Fashionistas flock to ‘fashion capital’ Chadstone in the eastern suburbs for the convenience of having just about every label under the sun under one very large roof (this is the largest shopping centre in Australia).

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Shop up a storm on an outlet shopping tour.

Head for Bridge Road in Richmond or funky Smith Street in Collingwood for outlet shopping options. Serious bargain hunters should consider booking a spot on the city’s famous ‘Bargains and Bubbles’ Outlet Shopping Tour.

Melbourne would be in with a serious shot at taking out the title of market capital of Oz. Top options include the perennial Queen Victoria MarketSouth Melbourne Market and Prahran Market for fresh food, the Arts Centre Sunday Market for arts and crafts, and the Camberwell Sunday Market for pre-loved fashions and bric-a-brac.

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Queen Victoria Market

Relaxation

There’s no shortage of ways to relax and rejuvenate in Melbourne.

If you like to find your inner peace through exercise, Melbourne’s bike share scheme operates across the city. There are around 135km of on and off-road bike paths. Helmets are mandatory and they’re available from various retail outlets and vending machines for $5.

Five self guided Melbourne walks you have to do

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: Take a relaxing stroll along the St Kilda Pier. Image: Bigstock

In terms of not doing too much at all, the popular bayside suburb of St Kilda is a good spot to do it. Stroll along the historic St Kilda Pier, pack a picnic and head for the foreshore or the St Kilda Botanical Gardens, and take time out to pose for a pic in front of the giant grinning mouth to Luna Park. Skip the touristy cafes here and make your way up Carlisle Street to Balaclava for more inventive options, including Wall Two 80. It’s a leisurely 15-minute walk.

If you have a day or two to venture out of the city, several of Victoria’s most spectacular natural landscapes are within easy reach. Take a day trip down the lush Mornington Peninsula (home to the fabulous Peninsula Hot Springs). Keep heading southeast to Phillip Island — where the famous little penguins perform their nightly parade up the beach after fishing in Bass Strait.

Five of the best day trips from Melbourne

Melbourne travel guide

Melbourne travel guide: See the famous little penguin parade at Phillip Island.

You’ll find the stunning Dandenong Ranges east of the city, along with the rolling green hills of the Yarra Valley and its many superb wineries and cellar doors.

The Great Ocean Road is possibly the most popular day tour destination from Melbourne. Visitors flock to see the 12 Apostles limestone sea stacks at the end of the world-famous coastal drive.

Stay

Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne

The Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne offers superb apartment-style accommodation in the heart of the city. The hotel recently unveiled its new-look penthouse suites. There are 11 new penthouse apartments, but in actual fact all of the hotel’s 155 apartments have a chic new look. The 1, 2 and 3-bedroom penthouses all come heavy on the wow factor, with sophisticated New York loft-style interiors and stunning city views. If you can nab an apartment on the east-facing side of the building, you’ll get a fabulous view up Bourke Street all the way to the top end of town.

Take a look around the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne:

Take a sneak peek at the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne’s new penthouse suites – The Big Bus

We were thrilled recently to get a sneak peek at the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne’s new penthouse apartments, and to put together this video preview. If you happen to be holidaying in marvellous Melbs, it’s well worth exploring the city’s high-flying social scene.

Whichever room type you choose, you’ll enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi and have access to the indoor pool, gym and sauna. Airport transfers can be arranged, and parking is available onsite (additional fees apply).

Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne

Contemporary finishes and the refined elegance of yesteryear meld into one at the Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne — one of the city’s finest historic hotels. Located just a stone’s throw from Flinders Street Station, you can’t get any more central than this.

Take a look around the Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne:

Take a look inside the historic Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne – The Big Bus

We were thrilled recently to get a guided tour of the historic Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne, and to put together this video preview. Contemporary finishes and the refined elegance of yesteryear meld into one at this amazing hotel. Located just a stone’s throw from Flinders Street Station, you can’t get any more central than this.

The hotel actually occupies two heritage buildings. One started life as The Commercial Travellers’ Club, which opened its doors in 1913 to accommodate the travelling great and good. Both buildings fell into disrepair but were completely refurbished in the late 1990s. Today, the hotel is one of the city’s most charming and atmospheric places to stay. The mix of period touches and modern décor is a delight, as are the views up and down Flinders Street from the balconies off some of the rooms.

Do you have any tips to add to our Melbourne travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.

Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune

 

Chris Bright

About the writer

Chris Bright is a freelance writer based in Melbourne with a passion for travel, food, music and film. He’s travelled to South-East Asia, India, Japan, parts of Europe and most of North America — the most memorable of which was hiring a 7-foot RV and driving from Miami to LA with a bunch of close mates. Chris is willing to try anything once, whether it’s leaping from great heights or eating things that don’t look the least bit appetising. When it comes to travel, he loves nothing more than meeting new people and sharing a laugh over their local drink of choice.

 

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. Adam loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hoi An.


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