Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia, and is often overlooked by international visitors who prefer to head to Sydney for its iconic harbour, or to Queensland for its eternal sunshine. That’s a real shame, because Melbourne has so much to offer, and I’m not saying this just because we live there!
Melbourne is a beautiful, vibrant and funky city that has been rated one of the most liveable cities in the world for many years in a row. It’s also Australia’s culture capital with an awesome art and culture scene, and some of the best galleries and art exhibitions in the country.
So what are the best things to do in our city?
1- Take a stroll along the banks of the Yarra River
This is by far my favourite thing to do on a nice sunny day. The Yarra river flows through Melbourne’s city centre and separates the CBD and Southbank Boulevard. The river bank is a great place to soak up the city’s atmosphere, and it provides excellent views of Melbourne’s skyline. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike; you will see many joggers, cyclists and dog walkers as you wander along it. It might not have a world-famous harbour but our city does look amazingly photogenic from the banks of the Yarra.
2- Get lost in Melbourne’s laneways
Melbourne is famous for its arty arcades and street art covered alleyways. There are many of them to explore, and the best way to discover them is to simply start walking, getting lost in the little laneways that branch off from the main CBD streets.
For a look at Melbourne’s finest street art, head to Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, Centre Place and Union Lane. They have ever-changing displays of street art that cover every inch of their surrounding walls.
3- Check out Artvo, Melbourne’s new trick-art gallery
Artvo is Melbourne’s new immersive and ‘trick art’ gallery. It is one of a kind in Australia and it’s a great place to pass a few hours of fun. At Artvo, it’s not so much about looking at art, but about becoming part of the art. Artvo has one hundred tricky works of art that you’re encouraged to touch and interact with. The art pieces are designed to come to life in 3D, providing some great shots for your Instagram feed!
Cost: $28 per Adults.
4- Take a ride on the City Circle Tram
If you want a sneak peak of the whole city, jump on the Circle Line tram (Number 35). The entire loop takes about forty-five minutes. Alternatively, you can “hop-on and hop-off” at any of the many stops, to explore an area further on foot. Designed for tourists, it has a voice-over commentary describing the history of the places it passes.
5- Get the best view in town from the Eureka88
For a birds-eye view of the city, and Port Philip Bay, take the super fast lift to the Southern hemisphere’s highest viewing platform. It’s on the 88th floor of Melbourne’s tallest building, the Eureka Tower. The observation deck offers unobstructed 360 degrees views of the city and its surroundings. Try to arrive just before sunset, to get both day and night time views of the city from above.
6- People watching at Federation Square.
Right across from Melbourne’s most iconic building, Flinders Street Station (which you, of course, need to get a photo of), is Federation Square. Fed Square (as us locals call it) has arguably some of the weirdest architecture you’ll see anywhere. It is a place with daily entertainment, such as films shown on its big screen, bands playing on the main stage, and numerous festivals. The building complex has plenty of quality bars and restaurants and it’s a great place for people watching.
If you like Australian art, take some time to visit the Ian Potter Gallery, with its Modern Australian and Indigenous Art Collection. The entrance is free.
7- Go to an AFL game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Our city is sport crazy, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (“The G”), Australia’s largest, oldest and most popular sporting venue is one of a kind. If you love sports, try catching a game of Australian Rules Football in winter, or a cricket match in summer. With a total capacity of a hundred thousand people, it certainly is an impressive venue with a fantastic atmosphere. Although I’m not much of a sports fan, even I enjoyed watching a game at “The G”.
8- Take a stroll in the Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a magnificent urban retreat at any time of the year, a great place to escape the city’s madness or to enjoy a picnic with friends.
The gardens have an extensive collection of plants, trees and colourful flowers from across Australia, and from around the globe. You will also find the beautiful Ornamental Lake and many meandering paths to follow and get lost on. My favourite part is the Arid garden on the South Eastern side. I love cactuses!
Tip: In summertime, the Melbourne Moonlight Cinema takes place in the Botanic Gardens, showing a mix of new release and classic movies on an outdoor screen. Sit back on the grass with a glass of wine and enjoy an open-air movie on a warm summer’s night.
9 – Visit the Shrine of Remembrance
Right next to Royal Botanic Gardens you’ll find the Shrine of Remembrance. The shrine is Victoria’s main war memorial and is one of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks. The shrine was built to commemorate Australia’s war veterans and those who never returned. There is a large underground museum displaying exhibits from both World Wars and other conflicts that involved the ANZAC forces.
From the balcony of the memorial, you will get some splendid views over the CBD.
10- Catch a tram to St Kilda Beach for sunset
St Kilda Beach is the most popular beach in Melbourne, and it gets pretty crowded in summer. This wide, sandy beach is suitable for swimming but also popular with kite and wind surfers because of the strong bay breezes. Be sure to stay around for sunset because St Kilda gets some of Melbourne most beautiful sunsets.
For people watching, head to St Kilda’s Acland and Fitzroy streets. Those streets have many popular cafes and restaurants which are perfect for sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.
11- Eat your way through the city
Melbourne is a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural city offering plenty of world-class restaurants, with influences from all around the world. Visitors will find an array of culinary delights from fine dining to street food-style experiences.
Some of our favourites restaurants are Rice Paper Scissors, Gingerboy, Movida, Mamasita and The French Brasserie.
12- Get a taste of the cafe culture
If you’re a coffee fan, then you’ll love Melbourne and its cafe culture. With hundreds of coffee shops scattered all around the CBD, you will get your caffeine fix in no time. Melbournians love their coffee so much that we’ve become some of the biggest coffee snobs out there. This means that most coffee shops in Melbourne serve excellent coffee, made by highly trained baristas. Some people even suggest that we have the best coffee in the world. While I haven’t been everywhere in the world, so far I tend to agree!
For a list of the best coffee shops in town click here.
As you can see Melbourne might not have a beautiful harbour or a strong beach culture like Sydney, but nonetheless, it has plenty of cool things to offer. Of course, this list barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do in our beautiful city. So on your next visit to Australia, be sure to pay Melbourne a visit. You won’t be disappointed!
Accommodation in Melbourne
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And if you have a few days extra, check out our post on the best day trips from Melbourne.