Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Melbourne or have lived here all your life, there are some absolute must-do Melbourne bucket list items. Melbourne’s food, drink, coffee, art, theatre and sports culture are among the best in the world, and we reckon you should try to experience every single one of them at least once before you die.
Melbourne isn’t exactly a ‘city of attractions and landmarks’ as much as, say, London. But, there are still plenty of places to visit in Melbourne to keep anyone occupied for weeks.
I’m not joking when I say weeks, either. I may as well say months or years because even if you try a new cafe every morning, explore a new park or museum or laneway or suburb each day, test a new restaurant for dinner each night, and then visit a new trendy/hidden bar…. you would still never finish it all. And that’s why I LOVE this city!
Melbourne has more cafes per capita than any other city globally, has new restaurants and bars opening each and every week, and is a centre for food, culture, art, music, theatre, and just about anything else you could think of. There’s a reason Melbourne won the most livable city in the world seven years running, people!
Getting to Melbourne
Because Australia is ‘the largest island in the world,’ I assume you’ll be flying here if coming in internationally. You fly direct from many hub cities on Qantas, Virgin, or other international airlines. Compare rates!
If you are coming from within Australia, compare rates for domestic airlines such as Jetstar and Tigerair (just make sure to watch out for bag fees)!
Even if coming domestically, I have to recommend flying in – things in Australia are a LOT farther away than they seem! Of course, you can take a Greyhound bus from Adelaide or Sydney, but it will take about 12 hours.
Getting Around Melbourne
Melbourne has a very well-connected network of buses, trams, and trains. Melbourne’s entire CBD (Central business district/downtown) area is the Free Tram Zone – meaning all trams that pass within the zone are entirely free! Pretty awesome, huh?! There’s also a city circle tram that runs loops around the CBD and includes a bit of a tour, too.
However, for the sake of this guide to places to visit in Melbourne, I assume you’ll want to see more than just the CBD. To take public transport outside the free tram zone, you’ll have to purchase a Myki Card from any train/tram station or 7-11.
Myki is to Melbourne as Oyster is to London – it’s a card you tap on at the beginning of your journey on public transport. Use Google Maps public transport option to find your way wherever you’re going, tap on your Myki, and you’re set!
I must also mention that Melbourne has public bikes throughout a lot of the city and surrounds, and a lot of it is very walkable as well. So choose what’s right for you!
Best Things to Know Before Visiting Melbourne – Quick Tips
City Design: The Melbourne city centre/CBD is shaped like a perfect grid. There are wider streets in between tiny little one-lane streets called laneways. East-West facing laneways will have the same name as the wide street next to them with ‘little’ in front: i.e. Collins St, Little Collins St, Bourke St, Little Bourke St. Don’t get confused!
Laneways: Although initially designed to be dumping streets, these laneways have become the beating heart of Melbourne. The laneways are where you’re going to want to explore most to find the most authentic culture of the city (it’s the one city I would say, actually YES it’s a good idea to wander down a dark alleyway at night because you never know what you’ll find).
Coffee: Melbourne is known by many to have one of the world ‘s best coffee cultures, and Melburnians are famously known to be self-proclaimed coffee snobs. They also famously put nearly all the Starbucks’ out of business when they tried to open up here. This is not the city to get Starbucks – try a hole-in-the-wall tiny laneway cafe instead. Trust me.
Suburbs: This map of Melbourne Suburbs will be beneficial to visualise the places.
Great things to do and places to visit in Melbourne
See the Melbourne sunrise from a hot air balloon
Hot air balloons aren’t just for the countryside – they fly over Melbourne’s pretty city too. If you can handle dragging yourself out of bed well before dawn, then the flight really is worth it.
Unsurprisingly, there are few people around at sunrise, and drifting over the city in the dawn light feels surreal. However, where you start, travel and land in your balloon is always a mystery as the flights are determined by each day’s conditions – meaning you might see some of your favourite Melbourne locations from above or discover some new gems.
The parliament building is, for the sake of comparison, like Melbourne’s White House. It’s where the government functions for the state of Victoria always have and still do take place. They have free tours of the inside each day if you’re into that kind of thing.
The building is known for its beautiful Victorian-style architecture and massive stone columns out the front. It and a few buildings around the city of Melbourne were all built in this style during the Victorian Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, which played the main role in shaping the Melbs we know today. It’s a great place to get to the city circle tram.
Treasury Building Museum
Continuing the historic gold rush-era buildings, we have the Old Treasury Building Museum. This one was built to be, well, a treasury during the gold Rush. It used to be the place to weigh, class, and store the gold found out in the goldfields.
Today, it’s a museum all about the foundations of Melbourne. It’s one of the best places to visit in Melbourne to gain a bit more of a historical understanding of the city, which is why I recommend it first!
Street Art Laneways
Did you even visit Melbourne city if you don’t have a photo in the street art-filled laneway? No. Melbourne is well-known for street art, and in the CBD, you’ll find some of my favourite laneways for street art- AC/DC Lane and Hosier Lane.
AC/DC Lane is my personal favourite. They say AC/DC (the band) had some of their first gigs in a hidden rock bar called Cherry Bar (recently closed), which is why the laneway is named after them and why you’ll find all rock-related murals (many album covers for famous artists) covering the walls. See how many you can pick out!
Tip: Two of my favourite hidden bars are in this area: Eau de Vie (most incredibly presented cocktails in the city) and Trinket (enter the secret bar through the wardrobe).
Hosier Lane is the most famous (read: crowded af) laneway in the city. This one has a high turnover rate of art, so you’ll often see someone doing a mural right in front of you. If you have time, visit Presgrave Place a bit farther away in the city centre too.
St Paul’s Cathedral
This is the tallest church in Australia and one of the many famous Melbourne city attractions. Take a photo from Federation Square or visit during some of their open hours or Sunday services.
Take a drive down the Great Ocean Road
Justifiably one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road snakes all along the state’s southwest coast, starting in Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool.
This winding stretch of road provides ample opportunity to reconnect with the ocean, the bush, and the sounds and sights of nature, whether driving, walking, horseriding, surfing, sailing or cycling.
It’s about a four-hour drive without stops, but heed our warning: you’ll definitely want to stop. There’s just too much happening along the coast not to. Take a day trip, stay the weekend or just pack up and move there – plenty is going on down the Great Ocean Road.
Melbourne is a foodie’s paradise, so this is an absolute must of all the things to do in Melbourne! As a result of immigration throughout the years, Melbourne has a rich and diverse choice of culinary options.
There is everything from Vietnamese to Lebanese in the city. You could probably find food from most cultures, such as the wealth of options. Lygon Street in Melbourne is renowned for Italian food, while Sydney Road in Brunswick offers several cuisines, including Afghan and Nepalese!
If you fancy a flutter while you’re visiting Melbourne, then going to the Crown Casino is a definite must! It’s one of the most exciting things to do in Melbourne if you like a gamble!
As well as a Casino, the complex is a hotel and has numerous restaurants, bars and a cinema as well. It’s situated on the Southbank next to the river.
I’m not advising that you go and spend all your money at the casino, but it’s a great place to go if you fancy a change of pace in Melbourne!
Southgate and Arts Precinct
Southgate is an excellent precinct to enjoy the Yarra River, fine shopping and great restaurants and cafes. In addition, one can walk back and forth across the various bridges over the Yarra to enjoy a splendid city ambience.
Stroll along the promenade in Southgate. Stop and enjoy a coffee. Enjoy fine shopping. Then step into a fine restaurant for a gourmet experience.
Some of Melbourne’s best restaurants are to be found in Southgate, including Pure South, Melba Brasserie, Hophaus Bier Bar Grill, The Meat and Wine Co., Koko, Tutto Bene, Red Emperor, World Restaurant and Bar and many others.
Allocate a day to spend in the glorious Yarra Valley! Just a short drive from Melbourne (under an hour), the Yarra is full of amazing lush scenery, world-class wine centres, outdoor activities and great cafes and restaurants. See our Best Yarra Valley Wineries article…
Head out to Healesville and call into Domain Chandon to see how the Moet and Chandon French connection does it in grand style! Sweeping views, spectacular grounds and facilities and excellent tours.
Then travel a short distance to Oakridge Winery and Restaurant for some of the best winery dinings in Australia. You have to love a winery with spectacular views!
Check out the fantastic foodie haven at Innocent Bystander in Healesville, which features amazing wood oven pizzas, wine, cheeses, gourmet breads, and the sourdough fruit bread is a killer! Sit out on the deck or in the restaurant next to the winery. Even the menu for kids is gourmet!
Head to Levantine Hill for luxe dining or Bella Vedere for some fine Italian dining. Check out Punt Road Wines along the way to the Yarra Valley Dairy – another foodie haven.
Grab yourself a cheese tasting plate and enjoy the views. Finally, head out to Yering Station, a massive and impressive winery that offers foodies, fine dining, wine, and much more.
If you’re visiting Melbourne for the culture, then you won’t want to miss out on all of the fantastic street art on offer.
Some pieces are a little hard to find but well worth discovering. Adventure Clues has a dedicated cryptic street art tour that leads you straight to all of the most famous pieces without wasting time.
Adventure Clues tours are self-guided on your mobile and set out in scavenger hunt style, so you get to solve fun clues and learn more about each destination without the tour guide.
There’s also a trail set in Fitzroy and Collingwood that leads you to hipster bars and cool locations – so there’s something for everyone here. Reasonably priced at $25 per person, be sure to check Adventure Clues out if you’re looking for something fun and different.
Iconic Melbourne precinct! The best thing about Brunswick St is the people. Here you will see people from all walks of life. Appreciate the social ambience even before you hit the shopping.
Take a long stroll down Brunswick St, which is full of exciting and cool establishments, such as jazz, bookstores, cafes, giftware and alternative shops!
On a recent visit here, this place rocks a group spent the whole day just visiting shops and restaurants over only a few hundred metres!
Check out cafes like Stagger Lee’s, Industry Beans (just off Brunswick St), and Madame Sousou. Not to mention internationally acclaimed bar Black Pearl, Indian eatery Mukka and vegan delight Smith & Daughters.
Brunswick St is a great place for vintage clothing. Relive the 80s! It’s also great for op shops. A popular stop is the factory outlets – get yourself some bargain Allanah Hill. Brunswick St. Has been used as a location to film Australian television series such as Offspring and Rush.
Smith St, Collingwood
Smith Street is a street in inner northern Melbourne, running north from the city proper and separating Fitzroy from Collingwood. In 2021, Smith Street was named the coolest street in the world.
Smith St has been transformed in recent years to be a trendy precinct full of fashion, great cafes and restaurants and boutique stores. Check out Lost and Found, an amazing second-hand store with several levels of wares where treasures can be found.
A must is to divert to nearby Proud Mary, one of Melbourne’s finest cafes in a renovated warehouse.
For delicate dining, check out Saint Crispin, also a hatted sensation. Or grab a gourmet burger from Huxtaburger (one of Melbourne’s best), pizza from Bontempo, and savour the vegetarian delights of Smith & Daughters and Vegie Bar.
Further down Smith St are some factory outlets, including Nike and Adidas. Also, cool to duck out to the Abbotsford Convent nearby and check out the architecture and cafes.
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, along the banks of the Yarra River, is one of the best-loved destinations in Melbourne! It is a world-class aquarium! Not just for kids, but kids love this place! It’s easy to spend several hours here!
A striking exhibit is the penguin display – including large King Penguins and the Gentoo Penguins. To see these animals swimming is fantastic. To watch events at feeding time is breathtaking!
Other highlights include displays such as River to Reef, Rockpool, Mangrove and Billabong. In addition, some shows are interactive and creatively put together!
The upstairs Deck Café is a pleasant way to enjoy refreshments along the way! The main exhibit is the immense oceanarium which features sharks, including the Grey Nurse! It is a magnificent exhibit and bound to enthral.
Bourke St Mall and Melbourne Central
Bourke Street Mall and Melbourne Central are two of the major shopping hubs of Melbourne. Enjoy the Bourke St Mall – a bustling and attractive precinct. Plenty of designer brands here, including popular Myer and David Jones and overseas retailers like Zara.
Bourke St Mall has one of the best vibes in Melbourne, and at lunchtime, it is usually packed with people and eclectic. But, even then, you can duck into a laneway cafe and escape the crowds.
The GPO precinct along Bourke St showcases some great upmarket shopping and houses the iconic Federal Coffee Palace. There is also great coffee nearby in Little Bourke St and surrounding laneways.
Melbourne Central is only a short distance away and offers an outstanding shopping and dining experience. Once again, there is excellent parking, especially if you can score an early bird park. Not only that, you can travel down to the train station with lines out to most of Melbourne – so convenient! So many shops. So many eateries. And a big clock!
Get a ground pass at the Australian Open
What is it? Every year, thousands head to Melbourne Park to watch the superstars of tennis battle it out in the fierce summer heat for the southern hemisphere’s only Grand Slam tournament.
Why go? Birrarung Marr is abuzz with live entertainment and food stalls for the Australian Open Festival, where live screenings of matches are played on big screens even if you don’t make it to the arena.
Don’t miss: If you’re a tennis fan, opt for a Ground Pass. This ticket won’t get you into the big arenas, but you’ll instead get access to all the smaller surrounding courts where up-and-coming tennis stars will play. Plus, the tickets start at only $49.