view from above of melbourne city buildings and river

This guide provides the best things to do in Melbourne, in my opinion. Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia and is always a hive of activity. There is something for everyone, from sports to fashion shows, theatre productions, art galleries, and music festivals.

Melbourne is also a foodie destination and a coffee lovers dream. The diverse culture creates a superb dining scene with authentic multinational dishes.

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Location

Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and the second-most populous city in Australia.

International visitors will land at Melbourne Airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport. Details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety can be found on our Australia page.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, look at our travel resources to find out how to get the best flight deals.


Purchase Australian currency at the Travelex kiosk in the baggage reclaim area.

There are a few ways to get from Melbourne airport into the city.

Taxi – A taxi into the city takes about 35 minutes depending on traffic and will cost approximately $55-65.

SkyBus – The SkyBus runs six services – the city, St Kilda, Southbank Docklands, the Peninsula, Western, and Eastern Suburbs. The journey into the city takes 30-45 minutes. Tickets can be purchased online or on the ground level of T2.

Public Transport – Buses run from Melbourne airport and take about 70 minutes. A Myki card is required to travel. The Public Transport website has more information and a route planner.

Car Hire – There are several car hire companies available at the airport. I use Rentalcars.com to compare prices for all the major car rental companies. I usually find that Europcar has the best deals for us. My links will take you directly to their site.

Tip: The earlier car hire is booked, the more options there are, and the cheapest prices.

Melbourne Weather

Melbourne is known for its “four seasons in one day.” No matter the time of year, layers are required. It can go from being boiling to rainy, windy, and cold.

Jan and Feb (summer) are the driest and hottest time of year with high temperatures averaging 27°C and minimums about 14°C.

Winter (Jun-Aug) is the coldest time of year when the maximum average drops down to 14°C and the minimum 6°C.

The wettest month is October but prepare for rain regardless of the season.

Brief History and Settlement of Melbourne

I want to respectfully acknowledge the  Kulin Nation, who are the Traditional Owners and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of the Kulin Nation.

Taking the form of a wedge-tail eagle, Bunjil, gave life to the first people, living things, and their land. The Kulin Nation continue to practise their customs in urban Melbourne through the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung people.

The first British settlers arrived in Port Phillip Bay in 1835.

In April 1837, Richard Bourke, the Governor, named Melbourne after British Prime Minister William Lamb (2nd Viscount Melbourne).

Melbourne’s population exploded in the 1850s due to the discovery of gold. Land prices shot up, and gold rush money was used to construct beautiful buildings. This incredible gothic architecture can be found in Melbourne today.

Population of Melbourne

According to the latest figures, Melbourne’s metro area population is around 5 Million.

Top 10 Best Things To Do in Melbourne

Explore Melbourne City

There is a lot to see and do in Melbourne city centre so you may need to set aside a couple of days.

The original Flinders Street Station, known as Melbourne Terminus, is the oldest railway station in Australia. This collection of weatherboard sheds was opened in 1854 when the first steam train in Australia departed from it. In 1901, work began on a new railway station to take the place of this one. This Melbourne icon can be found on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets.

Federation Square was opened in October 2002. This modern-day piazza sees cultural attractions and world-class events take place. It’s a popular meeting place in Melbourne city, just across from the historic Flinders Street Station.

Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens are one of my favourite places to go in Melbourne. The Treasury Gardens date back to the mid 19th century, making it one of Victoria’s oldest parks. The gardens are close to Parliament House and overlooked by the Treasury buildings. It contains a beautiful ornamental pond and statues, including one of Robert Burns.

Just across Lansdowne Street is Fitzroy Gardens. A wonderful Victorian-era landscape garden with a cafe, conservatory, historic building, ornamental lake, trees, a model Tudor village, a band pavilion, and sculptures.

One tree is of significant historical value; the scarred tree. The scar on the tree was formed by Aboriginal people when they removed the bark to make items like canoes, shields, etc.

The gardens are home to wildlife, including possums, rainbow lorikeets, and flying foxes.

The cottage belonging to Captain James Cook’s parents can also be seen in Fitzroy Gardens. It was built in 1755 in England but shipped to Australia in 1934. The interior includes antiques dating back to the 18th Century.

We enjoyed visiting the Conservatory, which is a popular Melbourne tourist attraction. It was built in 1930 and copied the Spanish mission architectural style. This building is also in Fitzroy Gardens.

The free heritage City Circle Tram is an option to get around but we found it extremely busy. However, as it is free, it’s worth having a ride to tick that off your list and see some of the historic buildings like the Princess Theatre, Parliament House, and the Old Treasury Building. It also includes a commentary but can be hard to hear.

If you stay in an apartment or house, a trip to Queen Victoria Market is a good option. The market is where to find delicious local produce and hand made crafts, with around 600 stalls. If this interests you, consider taking a guided tour to discover the market’s history and enjoy generous tastings. You also learn tips and tricks for shopping and cooking. I like this one by Get Your Guide

Chinatown is a great choice for lunch or dinner in the city.

Melbourne is known for its excellent shopping. Have a browse down Bourke Street Mall and take in the Victorian architecture along with high street stores. If designer brands are your thing, head to Collins Street.

Melbourne Emporium is one of my favourite places to shop. It includes a lot of international brands, restaurants, and a food court.

There are some excellent walking tours around Melbourne. I haven’t done one, but this walking tour has positive reviews.

city centre with old buildings one of the best things to do in melbourne

Royal Botanic Gardens

I’m not a gardener but always enjoy walking through a city’s botanical gardens. I’m a sucker for a pretty flower and trees and plants just amaze me. It also helps that they are generally free, like this one!

The Royal Botanic Gardens are located on the Yarra River, not far from Southbank. The gardens date back to 1846 when Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe established them.

Once a swampy site, it now extends over 38 hectares and includes displays of more than 50,000 individual plants.

Although we like to wander at our leisure, the Botanic Gardens offer a free guided walk and an Aboriginal Heritage Walk.

If it’s a nice day, a picnic here would be a great thing to do by the lake.

The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden is a kid-friendly garden. Ideal for children who like to get their hands dirty with digging and building. Check the website for opening though, as it closes in winter for regular maintenance.

Across Birdwood Avenue is the Shrine of Remembrance, a Victorian memorial to Australians who served in the war.

botanical gardens with trees

South Bank

Melbourne’s South Bank is home to the Crown Casino complex and the Southgate Restaurant and Shopping Precinct.

The Crown is the largest casino complex in Australia and offers not only the casino but a spa, cinema, bowling, arcade games, theatre, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. It’s also one of the best places to stay in Melbourne. We loved our stay at Crown Towers and would recommend it to anyone looking to stay in this area of Melbourne.

It’s nice to walk along the river during the day, but it comes alive at night. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from where you can dine outside and take in the city’s lights.

If it’s a bar you’re after, there are lots of those too.

Don’t miss the Crown’s Gas Brigades, where eight towers shoot the world’s largest fireballs into the air. They fire on the hour in the evenings but check the exact times on the Crown website. The heat they give off is incredible.

Eureka Skydeck and the National Gallery of Victoria are also located on the South Bank (see below).

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Melbourne’s Laneways & Street Art

Melbourne is famous for its laneways, incredible street art, small bars, live music, and claims to be the world’s coffee capital. What more could a city possibly offer?

The most photographed laneway is Hosier Lane. If you want to take photos, you will need to get there early as it gets busy with tourists fighting for the perfect Instagram pic.

If you enjoy AC/DC music, then you’ll love the AC/DC lane in their honour.

Some other lanes worth checking out are Centre Place, Meyers Place, and Degraves Street.

Klook has a list of laneways with a map.

Don’t miss the spectacular Royal Arcade, Melbourne’s oldest arcade, dating back to 1870. The Gog and Magog statues at Gaunt’s clock are modeled on those at Guildhall, London, and based on the British myths of the conflict between the ancient Britons and Trojans.

Several companies run tours around the lanes, and some specialise more in street art. I haven’t taken any of these, but I would choose this Lanes and Arcades Tour or the CBD Street Art Tour.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Carlton Gardens & Royal Exhibition Building

Another beautiful park in Melbourne, just across Victoria Street, is Carlton Gardens.

These gardens are a great example of Victorian landscaping with tree-lined paths, grand fountains, miniature lakes, and spectacular flowerbeds.

Within these gardens stand the intricate Royal Exhibition Building. Built in 1880 to host Melbourne’s International Exhibition, it became the first building in Australia to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

The Royal Exhibition Building isn’t always open to visitors but tours are sometimes run. Check with them to find out when they are running.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Views at Eureka Tower

My family knows that we always have to find the highest viewpoint on our travels. Melbourne was no different.

Eureka Tower offers spectacular 360-degree views from its observation deck on the 88th floor. At 285 metres above ground, it is the highest observation deck in the southern hemisphere. The 38-second lift ride is also the fastest.

I’m sure you’ll be able to spot the many landmarks and attractions dotted around Melbourne. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset.

If you don’t mind heights, unlike me, then you can brave The Edge, a glass cube that slides out three meters from the building.

Advance Free Cancellation tickets can be purchased online through Get Your Guide or Viator.

The Crown Towers are situated just down the road from the Eureka Skydeck. They aren’t as high, but the rooms’ outlook is still incredible and offers a similar view. It was amazing to wake up to it every day and have sunset drinks in our room. We booked our Crown Towers room through booking.com.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Museums

There are a few museums in Melbourne where you can get your culture fix.

The National Gallery of Victoria, founded in 1861, is the oldest public art gallery in Australia. It is also Australia’s largest and most visited art museum.

Split across two locations – the Australian Collection and International Collection – the gallery holds more than 70,000 works of art. The St Kilda Building houses the international collection. It is renowned for its stunning Great Hall (pictured opposite) with stained glass ceiling.

The Australiana collection is housed in the Ian Potter Gallery, Federation Square. The entrance to the building and most exhibits are free, but payment is required for major exhibitions.

The Immigration Museum, as the name suggests, is predominantly a museum on immigration history. It is housed in the Old Customs House on Flinders Street. Admission is $15 per adult and free for children.

Melbourne Museum is a natural history museum located in Carlton Gardens, near the Royal Exhibition Building. Admission is $15 per adult and free for children.

The Koorie Heritage Trust, in Federation Square, provides an authentic experience of Aboriginal art and culture from the First Peoples of South East Australia. Entry is free and Aboriginal owned and managed.

The Old Gaol was operated as a prison between 1842 and 1929. During this period, the gaol saw 133 hangings, including Australia’s most infamous citizen, bushranger Ned Kelly. Prices and more information can be found on the Melbourne Old Gaol website.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

St Kilda

On our last trip to Melbourne, we escaped to St Kilda on a hot 40 degree day (along with everyone else). The beach was packed, and it wasn’t the nicest beach either. However, I liked the boardwalk and the cafes lining the waterfront.

If you are in St Kilda at dusk, head to the St Kilda Pier. You may be lucky enough to see the fairy penguins.

Luna Park St Kilda dates back to 1912. This historic amusement park is the best-preserved Luna Park in the world. The original Luna Park was at Coney Island, New York, but closed in 1946. The most famous ride is the 1km long wooden scenic railway. This ride is the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world.

The Astor Theatre, opened in 1936, is the last single-screen cinema of its kind in Melbourne still in continuous operation. 

The best way to get to St Kilda is by Tram. Choose from the Number 16 from Swanston Street, 96 from Bourke Street, or 12 from Collins St; Number 3 from Swanston Street to Carlisle Street and Alma Road.
Trams run approximately every 10 minutes between 5.30 am and 1.30 am. 

amusement park entrance witha large face and open mouth

Melbourne Bars

There’s a great bar scene in Melbourne with a lot having live music. Now I haven’t personally checked all these out but here are some recommendations that I’ve been given:

Above Board – a small bar that only seats 12 with no standing.

Beneath Driver Lane – a basement laneway blues bar serving cocktails, whiskey, French bar food, and wine.

Black Pearl – a world-class bar that’s been serving drinks for 18 years.

Eau De Vie – a cool bar based on America’s 1920’s prohibition era.

Gin Palace – a laneway late-night cocktail bar with a selection of over 200 gins!

Glamp – a cocktail bar beneath safari-style canvas and decor.

Jungle Boy – a secret bar hidden behind a cool room door ina sandwich bar.

Loch and Key – a hidden bar behind a bookcase in the Captain Melville bar. Multiple indoor rooms make it feel like a home away from home.

State of Grace – this reopened bar is now in Kings Street and also has a secret bar. Access through the bookshelf into a lavish den. Thank you, Abby, for the recommendation.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

MCG

Melburnians love their sport and this stadium is a testament to it. The Melbourne Cricket ground, or MCG as it’s affectionately known, is considered one of the world’s best stadiums.

Established in 1853, it was the birthplace of Test cricket in 1877. Not only is it home to Australian Rules Football (AFL) but it was the main stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth Games.

This stadium has a capacity of just over 100,000 and if you get a chance to see a game of AFL or cricket here you will witness the incredible atmosphere.

The MCG offers daily tours as an add on to the Australian Sports Museum. Tickets can be purchased here.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Other Things To Do in Melbourne City

Melbourne Zoo

If you are travelling as a family, I’d recommend adding Melbourne Zoo into your itinerary.

Melbourne Zoo is Australia’s oldest, dating back to 1862. It has over 320 animal species from around the world.

Our favourite part was the Trail of the Elephants (we were there when Man Jai was little and he enjoyed playing in the water with his mum).

Buy tickets online here with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Yarra River Cruise

I always like to get out onto the water, even in cities. Melbourne was no exception. I didn’t include it in my Top Ten as I didn’t think it should be in there. However, if you have time, and like boat cruises then try and add this in.

Day Trips from Melbourne

If you are in Melbourne for longer and want to get out of the city and metro area, my choices for day trips from Melbourne are:

Phillip Island – it’s a two-hour drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island so, in this instance, I recommend taking a tour (unless you plan on staying there).

The highlight is seeing the little penguins return to their burrows around sunset after a day of fishing. These are the world’s smallest penguins and it’s pretty amazing to witness them in their natural habitat. The Penguin Parade is not to be missed.

Yarra Valley – An hour’s drive from Melbourne and you will be in the Yarra Valley.

Apart from the wineries that the Yarra Valley is famous for, there’s plenty of other things to do to keep you occupied. Go on one of the many nature walks, take in the stunning views on a road trip, stop for a picnic, or view some of the superb art.

The Yarra Valley Tourist Information has maps and a huge resource of information on what to do and places to visit.

Dandenong Ranges – these low mountain ranges are located about an hours drive from Melbourne. The Dandenongs are a popular place for walks, scenic drives, picnics, and the famous Puffing Billy Railway.

Puffing Billy is a major tourist attraction, being one of the world’s best-preserved steam railways. There are a few options to ride this historic steam train including a themed Murder on the Puffing Billy Express.

The Dandenong Ranges Visitor Site has a wide range of information and activities to do in the region.

Getting Around

To travel on Melbourne public transport, a Myki card is required. They cost $6 per adult and $3 per child.

The Myki Money is a top-up card where money is loaded onto it. The fares are calculated at the lowest fare based on where you travel.

If you are staying in the centre of Melbourne, there is a free tram zone. This means that your journey is free and you don’t need a Myki. Note that if you do accidentally tag on, a 2 hour Zone 1+2 fare will be charged. Your journey has to start and finish in this zone. This Free Tram Zone Map will help.

Where To Stay in Melbourne

There are plenty of accommodation options in Melbourne and surrounds.

Luxury Hotels

On another trip, we stayed at the Crown Towers on the Southbank. I cannot rate this hotel highly enough. We preferred the location as the city is only over the river but there wasn’t as much traffic. There are lots of great quality restaurants to choose from right outside the door. We all shared a room as we booked a twin room which features 2 large double beds.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

My choice if I was looking for a luxury couples hotel in Melbourne city, would be QT Melbourne. It consistently receives amazing reviews, is located 200 m from the Regent Theatre, and has ample amenities included.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

My other luxury stay recommendation is The Langham, also located on Southbank. This hotel is more for sole travellers, couples, or families with one child (unless you opt for two rooms). The interior is stunning with a grand marble staircase, cascading fountains, and magnificent chandeliers.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Mid-Range Hotels

When our children were babies, we stayed at Batman’s Hill on Collins. It was right in the middle of the city with easy access to all the main tourist attractions. We booked a one-bedroom apartment and hired porta cots for the girls to sleep in. The apartment had a kitchenette which was perfect for heating bottles and whipping up a quick lunch and/or dinner.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Novotel Melbourne South Wharf would be my top choice if we were to visit Melbourne and wanted a mid-range hotel. It’s located in historic South Wharf with direct access to the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. There is a range of accommodation types to suit all types of travellers.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

For anyone wanting kitchen facilities, I would choose the SoYa Apartment Hotel in South Yarra. All apartments feature a fully equipped kitchen with an oven, stovetop, full-sized refrigerator, and a dishwasher. It is located 100 m from South Yarra Train Station and a 15-minute walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Budget Accommodation

We were meant to be in Melbourne in a couple of weeks time. Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel. We’d booked the Holiday Inn Express as it represented good value and is located in our favourite part of Melbourne, Southbank.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

My second budget choice would be Radisson On Flagstaff Gardens. It’s in a great location, is clean and has comfortable beds according to the reviews.

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

My Backpacker/ hostel pick is the Queen Victoria Hostel in North Melbourne.  All rooms include air conditioning and a shared bathroom. This hostel is highly rated and clean.

Tours in Melbourne

If you don’t have your own car or would rather take a tour, Viator has some great ones. We use them as low prices are guaranteed and they offer free cancellation on most tours and activities. Click below for more options.

Flights

plane flying over a beach

I use different sites to try and get the best possible price for flights.

First I visit matrix.itasoftware.com to get an idea of the cheapest dates, but you can’t book through this site.

Next I compare the cost of flights with Trip.com and try different routes.

Accommodation

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

I mainly use Booking.com for accommodation as they consistently have the lowest rates with free cancellation on most properties.

Car Hire

black car

To compare rental car company prices, I use Rentalcars.com. They are the world’s biggest car rental site, comparing all main brands including Europcar, Budget, Ace, Hertz, Avis, and Alamo.

Travel Insurance

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

Don’t travel anywhere without travel insurance, it’s not worth the risk.

Travel insurance: simple & flexible

You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Travel Information & Guides

This Australia Travel Guide, which includes all essential information and tips, will help with the planning of your holiday to this beautiful country.

If you found our Best Things To Do in Melbourne guide helpful, please consider booking through one of our links. It won’t cost you anything but will help towards the cost of running this site. Thank you 🙂

Top 10 Best Things To Do In Melbourne Australia

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16 Comments

  1. Melbourne is so wonderful. I wish I had had more time there. I did get to drive the Great Ocean Road and see the penguin parade. Both were well worth it!

  2. What a great Melbourne post! I’ve been there twice only for a few days for work. I visited the national gallery Victoria during that time and absolutely loved it! There’s so much more I’d love to do there. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. There’s a lot to do in Melbourne, as with most cities. Glad you’ve got to see it Lannie.

  3. Melbourne is on my list of places to visit in Australia. Love that view from the tower and that street especially…so much talent!

  4. Everything I have heard about Melbourne makes me want to visit and this post has reinforced that view. My son said it was his favourite place when he was in Australia for a year. I love the street art, the culture and just the general vibe conveyed here. Some of the day trips from Melbourne look really interesting too. Strangely, it had never dawned on me that the city was named after Lord Melbourne!

    1. I didn’t think of the name either until I researched it. I love to visit Melbourne but couldn’t live there as the weather is too much like the UK lol

  5. A great and detailed guide Wendy! I’ve not yet been to Melbourne but I want to get there to try out everything in this itinerary. Fingers crossed it won’t take 10 years!

  6. Thanks for putting your pulse and for allowing us to feel the beat of this London-esque city of Down Under. A very handy summary for those who intend to visit Melbourne!

  7. Great summary of Melbourne’s attractions and I agree with all your recommendations! 🙂 We stayed at the Langham last time and loved it. My stepdaughter and I particularly enjoyed the spa and pool which has an outdoor lounging area overlooking the river. Could I give a shout out to the State Library of Victoria – a beautiful traditional building with a modern extension, one of the best blends of old and new architecture I’ve seen 🙂 And the Spanish tapas restaurant MoVida was amazing.

    1. Thank you Carole, The Langham does look amazing. What great additions for my readers.

  8. Vanessa Shields says:

    Melbourne sounds like a fabulous city! I’ve known a few people that have lived there and always hear such great things. I’d love to explore everything including the street art, restaurants, museums and of course the top of the Eureka Tower as I love those high viewpoints too! I’d like to visit St. Kilda but that clown at Luna Park is a little scary looking! 😄

    1. It’s a fantastic city to visit and always ranked highly as the most livable city in the world. I, however, don’t like the weather….too much like England haha

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