Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia, is quite a popular destination for tourists from all over the world heading to the Down Under! For all those travelers looking for the best things to do in Melbourne, Australia’s most “European” city, read on!
A hub for many interesting things including museums, vintage stores, coffee shops, art galleries, events, festivals etc., there is literally nothing you cannot do in this city!
In order to share all the love that I have for this city, I have created this ultimate Melbourne travel guide that will take you through the best places to visit in Melbourne and have included some practical information at the end so as to help you organize your Melbourne trip more efficiently.
Let’s get to it – here’s my list of the best things to do in Melbourne City:
- 1. Explore the City Center
- 2. Hop on a train at Flinders Street Station
- 3. Explore Queen Victoria Market
- 4. Try the famous Melbourne coffee
- 5. Become an art expert at National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
- 6. Explore St Kilda and the iconic Luna Park in Melbourne
- 7. Learn more about aboriginal culture in Koorie Heritage Trust
- 8. Celebrate multiculturality at the Immigration Museum
- 9. Admire the street art and sculptures
- 10. Enjoy a drink in one of Melbourne’s best rooftop bars
- 11. Relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens
- 12. Enjoy the view from Eureka Skydeck
- BONUS 1: Extra Things to do in Melbourne, AU
- BONUS 2: Day trips from Melbourne
- Melbourne tourism – Practical Information about the city
1. Explore the City Center
There are countless Melbourne city attractions to enjoy and see, and the smartest way to go about it is by taking one of the amazing Melbourne walking tours! Most walking tours take you through the city centre.
I recommend checking out this 2.5 hour Melbourne city tour, in which a knowledgeable guide will take you through Melbourne’s top sightseeing spots including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and more!
NOTE: If you are not the type of person who enjoys walking, did you know there is also the option to hop on the free tram that goes through the city centre?
2. Hop on a train at Flinders Street Station
Being the busiest suburban railway street of the Southern Hemisphere, Flinders Street Station is, out of all the places of interest in Melbourne, a must-see!
While you’re at Flinders Street Station, you can admire the beautiful yellow victorian building, explore its interiors and get lost going up and down the floors. On the third floor, there is an eerie old abandoned ballroom that is, unfortunately, closed for visitors! However, you can always take a leap of faith and kindly ask an employee to let you in!
Finally, make sure to also check out Federation Square, which is just across the street.
FUN FACT: Flinders Street Station opened in 1854, which made it the first railway station in an Australian city!
3. Explore Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne is full of BIG things! For instance, Queen Victoria Market has 7 hectares and it’s the biggest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere!
This market was built in the 19th century and it has since become one of the biggest Melbourne tourist attractions; it’s also a great place to get fresh produce!
FUN FACT: Here’s an interesting story so you can get a better image of the way Australians are: In the 1960s, the mayor of Melbourne wanted to destroy Queen Victoria Market in order to build a parking lot, but the neighbors reacted and forced him to turn the building into a national trust, so that it could never be destroyed!
You can also check it out with this 2-hour foodie tour that will take you through the amazing world of Queen Victoria Market. Great for every food loving people out there!
4. Try the famous Melbourne coffee
Did you know that Melbourne is worldwide famous for its coffee? Not for growing it, but for making an exceptionally good one!
And drinking it is one of the best activities to do in Melbourne! There are so many cafés in Australia’s cultural capital that the chances of you not coming across one of them are almost non-existent.
PRO TIP: You can try out the most delicious coffees on this 3-hour coffee walk.
5. Become an art expert at National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
What to do in Melbourne when you want to admire some local art? It’s simple, head over to the National Gallery of Victoria!
Once again, another landmark in Melbourne makes it to the Guinness World Record Book! The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia’s largest, oldest and most visited art museum and art gallery!
The National Gallery of Victoria displays a permanent exhibition of international art from all over the world that will only take you a couple of hours to see. They have some events from time to time as well, which you can also check on their website!
6. Explore St Kilda and the iconic Luna Park in Melbourne
St Kilda is Melbourne’s cutest neighborhood. With its historic buildings, seaside restaurants and cafés, beaches and exciting nightlife, St. Kilda is an awesome place for every traveler to spend a day and it can sometimes feel like a unique world on its own! St. Kilda is also home to Chapel Street – perfect for some entertainment, including shopping and events!
PRO TIP: If you head to St Kilda Pier after sunset, try to also keep an eye out for penguins coming back home after a day spent fishing! They are present all year round, including the summer!
St. Kilda is also home to Luna Park in Melbourne – a historic amusement park built in 1912, which makes it a retro gem that will turn your Instagram feed into an aesthetic dream! Trust me, this park is a must see and one of the most fun things to do in Melbourne! Oh, and by the way, the park is also perfect for those who’d like to save a couple of bucks, as it is one of the best cheap things to do in the city, too!
PRICE: Entry fee is AU$5, check all their passes here!
7. Learn more about aboriginal culture in Koorie Heritage Trust
Even though Australia is said to be a “young country”, this couldn’t be further away from the truth! The country is home to the oldest civilisation in the world (60.000 years old!) which has unfortunately been somewhat overshadowed by colonization.
The Koorie Heritage Trust is a non-for-profit indigenous organization and it is the best way to learn about Aboriginal culture in and around the region of Victoria!
8. Celebrate multiculturality at the Immigration Museum
The Immigration Museum is a museum that celebrates the multiculturality of the world that we live in and I recommend it if you are a little bit of an anthropologist or if you are simply curious!
PRO TIP: Make sure you engage in the interactive activities of the Museum – spoiler alert: you can become part of the border control police! So fun!
PRICE: Entry fee is AU$15
9. Admire the street art and sculptures
Melbourne is quite famous for its street art culture! A must see when heading to Melbourne is Hosier Lane, where you’ll always find street artists working on their pieces. You can also check out AC/DC lane and Centre place.
On another note, you’ll find, as you’re walking around Melbourne, that there are plenty of sculptures scattered all throughout the city. Ranging from surrealist to realist, each one of these sculptures shares its own story with those passing by.
PRO TIP: Check out this walking map: in just 56 minutes, this 3.7km walk guides you to some of the most famous sculptures in Melbourne!
If you’re quite into art, I would suggest you check out this Street Art Tour, in which you’ll get to admire the top Melbourne pieces – basically it’s one of those walking art gallery tours on the streets!
10. Enjoy a drink in one of Melbourne’s best rooftop bars
If you are a night owl or if you simply enjoy a little night fun on your trips, Melbourne has a wide array of cool bars that you can head to! And why settle for a regular bar, when you can go to a rooftop bar? Here are my favorite ones:
- Easey’s – go there if you want to mingle with the young crowd
- Heroes – for some karaoke fun
- Rooftop at QT – for a more sophisticated night out
- Bomba – a rooftop tapas bar, heaven!
- Albion Rooftop Bar – for a fun night out!
Alternatively, you can check out the Southbank Crown Casino. In case you didn’t know this (I know I didn’t) – Australians love gambling! That’s why each city’s casino is always a big landmark and a pretty fun stop, if you gamble in moderation!
11. Relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens holds a place very close to my heart, as it is precisely where my brother and sister in law got married.
Visiting the botanic gardens is one of my top things to do in Melbourne! While you’re there, you can even see the Shrine Of Remembrance, a shrine commemorating World War I!
If you want to visit the city and the Royal Botanic Gardens with an organized tour, I recommend this one that takes 4 hours.
PRO TIP: During the summer, you can attend one of the movie nights organized at the Royal Botanic Gardens! Admission is AU$19 – and you can even bring your own snacks and have a great picnic at the gardens!
NOTE: Another place to relax at is Fitzroy Gardens, just a 20 min walk from the Botanic gardens. Check out their free guided walking tour that departs from the visitor centre every Saturday at 10am!
12. Enjoy the view from Eureka Skydeck
If you’d like to see the city from up high and marvel at its breathtakingly beautiful skyline, you can visit the Eureka Skydeck on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower! Eureka Tower is a 300m skyscraper that was built in 2006. The view from the skydeck is one of the most stunning panoramic views and photo opportunities in Melbourne – you can actually see the Dandenong Ranges National Park!
BONUS 1: Extra Things to do in Melbourne, AU
If you have already followed all of my above-mentioned recommendations, check out my list of extra things to do in Melbourne below:
1. Check out Melbourne Museum
If you head to Melbourne, you have to make sure you visit the Melbourne Museum, as you’ll get to know life in Victoria from a natural and cultural history perspective!
This is a museum packed with different galleries showcasing the most informative and educational pieces. They also have special events at times. Whether or not you come with your family and kids, I can assure you that this place is good for every traveler and I hope you will also try including the interactive area during your visit!
2. Shop ‘til you drop at Bourke Street
One of the most important streets in Melbourne, Bourke Street (located close to Federation Square) is a must visit on your itinerary and my recommendation for every traveler! This is the place where everyone meets up for a day to be spent strolling through the Bourke Street Mall! There are also events (including music events) held around this area at times.
PRO TIP: If you don’t like crowds, avoid it during the weekends (especially Sunday), as it can get a bit hectic!
CAUTION: Smoking is banned in Bourke Street. Yes, in this country they ban smoking on some main streets! Be careful, or you may end up taking a very unwanted souvenir back home – one in the shape of a fine!
3. Get creeped out at the Old Melbourne Gaol
Visiting prisons when heading to Australia might sound like something that every traveler does, but it is definitely a part of Australian history that shouldn’t be missed.
The Old Melbourne Gaol or the Old Melbourne Prison is a prison turned into a museum that will help you discover Australia’s past and history through the bars!
A great way to explore this prison is to buy a skip-the-line ticket online for AU$28.
4. Take a river cruise
If you’d like to admire the city from another perspective, you can get one of the many Yarra river tours that check out the most popular landmarks including Federation Square and more!
For instance, you can book this 2-hour Yarra river cruise that explores all the top Melbourne city centre highlights!
5. See the city from above at Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
If you are a keen photographer or if cool views are your thing, head to the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel and you can get a whole new perspective of the city from the most iconic Melbourne observation wheel!
PRICE: The price for one adult is AU$27
6. Go to a jazz club and see a jazz performance in Melbourne
One of the best things to do in Melbourne at night is going to a jazz club to listen to some music – my boyfriend and I enjoy them all the time! Melbourne is such a great place for this, as it’s got several jazz clubs where very good, yet not necessarily well-known bands play music for your ear’s pleasure! For example, you can check out Paris Cat Jazz Club or Bird’s Basement for live music!
BONUS 2: Day trips from Melbourne
A trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without visiting a couple of the surrounding natural areas! That’s why I have elaborated this list of Melbourne day trips that will give you some ideas in case you run out of things to see in Melbourne:
1. Great Ocean Road
The most popular day trip from Melbourne and a MUST (with capital letters!) is to see the Great Ocean Road!
Driving along the Victoria coastline, on one side of the road you’ll be able to see the ocean and wonderful views such as the 12 Apostles and the beauty of the Port Campbell National Park on the other side!
I think one of the best ways to discover the famous 12 Apostles would be to rent a car and explore the area on your own! It is a 250km road, so if you’d like to do it all and come back to Melbourne on the same day.
2. Phillip Island
If you’d like to see some real wildlife, but you don’t want to see it in captivity at the Melbourne Zoo or at the Melbourne Aquarium, you can head to Phillip Island!
Phillip Island is a true heaven for Australian fauna! While you’re there, you can spot seals, penguins, whales, kangaroos, koalas, etc.
The drive to Phillip Island takes about two hours from Melbourne and it is perfectly feasible on your own without any tours if you rent a car.
3. Yarra Valley
If you are a wine lover, you are in the right place!
Victoria has quite a reputation for its wineries! Specifically the Yarra Valley region surrounding the Yarra river, which provides perfect conditions for the wine grape to grow!
However, due to road safety and in order to make sure that you can enjoy and taste as many wines as you want, I recommend this amazing 8-hour Yarra Valley Gourmet tour. Alternatively, why not book this full day wine tasting experience that includes a gourmet lunch?
DISCLAIMER: Even though the Melbourne Zoo and the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium are quite popular Melbourne attractions, I do not recommend heading there because you can spot wildlife in many easily accessible places around the city. In this post, I have talked about plenty of places where you can see many real wild animals that do not need to be held in captivity for our entertainment.
Of course, this is just my opinion, but I thought I would let you know why I am not including these places in this post. 🙂
Melbourne tourism – Practical Information about the city
Where to stay in Melbourne
Melbourne doesn’t lack good accommodation for all budgets! Here, I have selected some great hotel recommendations for Melbourne in the centre, all sorted by price range:
Luxury (US$160 and up) – Located on the banks of the city river, The Langham Melbourne Hotel is a top pick amongst travelers and it offers world class service! The QT Melbourne Hotel is another fine choice with stylish design for a great time in the city!
Mid-range (US$50 – US$160) – The boutique Treasury on Collins Hotel is situated in a historical 19th century building and it’s a great choice. Novotel Melbourne Central Hotel is also a great and safe choice when selecting accommodation!
Budget (up to US$50) – Yep, the city also has very good budget accommodation! If you are on a strict budget, you can try the Hub Hostel. Alternatively, you can stay at United Backpackers; it offers shared rooms right in Melbourne’s city centre!
How to get from the airport to Melbourne city
Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL) is 23 km away from the city centre. Considering what Australian distances are like, this is really nothing, but it is still a significant distance. Here are your options of getting to the centre:
The SkyBus is my favorite option, as it runs buses between the airport and the city every 8 minutes. It costs AU$19.75, and you can purchase your tickets at the desks located at the exit of every Melbourne Airport Terminal. They even provide a free city hotel shuttle!
You can buy your tickets beforehand here.
By public bus
Public Transport Victoria provides several public buses; You can hop on at the undercover bus interchange located at Terminal 4.
- Routes 478, 479 and 482 take you from Melbourne Airport to Airport West and Sunbury
- Route 901 provides connection between the airport and Broadmeadows Station, where you can then get a train to the city centre.
To enjoy these services, you would need a Myki card – check out how to get in in the “Transport inside the city” section below. And finally, make sure you use the Journey Planner to plan your journey home!This trip will cost you AU$4.50.
Getting an Uber is always a great and convenient option when traveling between the airport and the city center and it ends up being cheaper than public transport! The ride from the airport would cost around AU$45, depending on where you want to get off!/vc_column_text]
Transportation inside the city
To survive here, you are going to need to master its transport system. Keep in mind that it is quite a busy town, so make sure you use it smartly and read the following tips thoroughly, as they’ll be the key to your navigating the city successfully!
PRO TIP: For most of the following methods of transportation, you can use the Journey Planner in order to plan your journey!
Here are all the available options:
In order to get on a tram, you need to purchase a Myki card that will just cost AU$6 and which you can buy at the stations or at 7-Eleven stores, the same places where you can top them up (bear in mind that you can pay neither cash nor card to the tram driver directly).
A ride will cost you around AU$4.50 (Zone 1 and 2) or AU$3 (Zone 2). Alternatively, you can purchase a 7-day pass whose price is from $30 (Zone 2) to AU$45 (Zone 1 and 2) and which can be used in all types of public transportation.
NOTE: The city center has a Free Tram Zone, so if you exit the centre, you still need to stay on the tram, you just need to “touch on” with your Myki card (no need to touch off on trams).
A ride usually costs around AU$4.50, which you will have to pay with your Myki card. Make sure you touch on when you get on the train and you touch off when you get off!
By public bus
You can use your Myki card in order to enjoy the bus services as well and it works exactly as the tram – a ride will cost you around AU$4.50 (Zone 1 and 2) or AU$3 (Zone 2). Alternatively, you can get a 7-day pass that costs from AU$30 (Zone 2) to AU$45 (Zone 1 and 2) and which can be used in all types of public transportation.
By Uber and taxi
Uber is my favorite private mode of transportation in the country – it is safe, reliable and cheap! For instance, a 10 min ride would cost you around AU$10.
Alternatively, you can always get a taxi! Taxis are quite safe here and you can always hail one on the street. The only con? It is a bit pricier, as compared to Uber! They cost AU$1.8 per km, plus a AU$5 initial charge, which means that, depending on the traffic, a 10 min ride can cost around AU$15.
Must-try food in Melbourne
No, we are not just talking about kangaroo meat. Australian modern cuisine is a twist between all these cultures that form this new Australia, and even some aboriginal delicacies! Find below Melbourne’s best food that you have to taste while in the city:
- Meat Pies – classic Australian pies with meat
- Chicken Parmigiana – Baked chicken breast with a layer of tomato and parmesan cheese
- Barbecued meat – Having a Barbie is the Aussies’ favorite excuse for a get together!
- Greek food – having once hosted the second largest Greek community after Athens, Melbourne is bound to have some yummy Greek food.
- Pizza – Probably the best pizza after that from Italy
- Traditional Australian sweets and desserts – Anzac Biscuits, Pavlova, Tim Tam’s, Lamington’s, etc.
Best restaurants and cafés in Melbourne
Melburnians like to eat well, that’s a fact. They also like to eat out. This could only mean one thing – that they have the best restaurants in Australia!
Apart from this and as mentioned above, Melbourne is considered to be the “coffee capital of the world”, so it is highly unlikely to have a bad cup of coffee while there.
- Etta – My favorite restaurant! I took my boyfriend here to celebrate his birthday – and everything, from the food to the service, was outstanding! The menu has since changed, but I am sure it’ll be delicious anyway. The way it’s designed is to order a little bit of everything and SHARE as much as possible! Also, as it was a special occasion, I politely asked for a nice table during my online reservation, and they gave us the best table at the restaurant!
- Stalactites – One of the oldest and most popular Greek restaurants, close to Federation Square
- 400 Gradi – Taste the award-winning margherita pizza at the famous Italian restaurant 400 Gradi
- Charcoal Lane – I couldn’t forget an Australian restaurant featuring native ingredients and indigenous cuisine!
- Vue de Monde – Located in the Rialto Building, the Vue du Monde dining experience is otherworldly;
- Florentino – Who doesn’t love a fancy Italian restaurant, right near to Federation Square?
- Lentils as Anything, Abbotsford – For a vegan or vegetarian feast in a restaurant where you just pay whatever you like;
- A1 Bakery – A Lebanese bakery located in the trendy Brunswick neighborhood
- Seven Seeds Café
- Market Lane Coffee
Money and prices in Melbourne
The rumours that you’ve heard about Melbourne being a bit unaffordable are not totally mistaken; HOWEVER, most of us traveling to the Antipodes come from European countries or the US, which means that our currencies are way stronger than the Australian dollar!
PRO TIP: If you are a smoker or if you just like to enjoy a whisky glass at night James-Bond-style, first of all you’re really cool – but second of all, you should note that those items are highly taxed in Australia! So you might want to bring your own in your luggage. And no, that is not tacky, it’s called smart! 😉
ATTENTION: I recommend checking what you can or can’t take into Australia here. The border police don’t mess around!
Find below a list of average prices in Melbourne:
- A meal in an inexpensive restaurant for 1 person – AU$17
- Dinner for 2 in a restaurant – AU$80
- A night in a hotel (very approximate) – AU$160
- Taxi – AU$1.8 per km + AU$5 initial charge
- A bottle of water – AU$1
- Domestic beer 0,5L – AU$9
- Metro ticket – AU$4.50
- Average price for a museum – FREE
- 1l of gas (1/4 gallon) – AU$1.46
TIPPING CULTURE: Tipping is not widespread here; however, if you choose to do it, you’ll get a great smile in return. And if you don’t, the service will still be excellent and no one will think of you as a cheapskate!
SIM cards in Australia
While I lived in Australia, I happened to always own a prepaid card; maybe because of my fear of commitment, or because they just have amazing plans – I just never got a contract!
Vodafone was the cheapest company to use when I made my research – with a AU$20 plan for 20 GB, it makes for an awesome deal.
If you are going to be traveling to the Australian Outback or to areas that are a bit further away from the cities, you are better off buying Telstra.
Tourist Visa for Australia
Traveling to Australia can be the easiest or the hardest thing ever – it all unfortunately depends on where you are from (and also on how well you’ve read this article! 😉 ).
All tourists going to Australia need a tourist visa that needs to be prepared with as much time in advance as possible (15 days should be enough, in most cases). However, if you are a bit tight on time, don’t worry – they are super-efficient and generally process these types of visas quite fast. For