Melbourne is one of the funkiest cities in Australia. From its cool architecture to its robust art scene with hip cafés and music, Melbourne is often considered the cultural capital of Australia. Its narrow lanes, covered in world-class street art, hide beautiful cafés and beer gardens.
The city and I mix well together, and it’s my favourite spot in the country. With plenty of culture, activities, art exhibitions, and live music, you could easily spend over a week here and not get bored.
To help you plan your trip, I want to share some of my favourite things to see and do in Melbourne so you can make the most of your visit!
1. Take a Street Art Tour
Start your trip off with a street art tour. I loved the tour by Melbourne Street Art Tours. It’s pricey at AUD 69, but the cost of the time helps support local artists. I learned so much about the art scene in the city and developed a much deeper appreciation for why Melbourne attracts so many artists worldwide. I can’t recommend this tour enough.
If you’re on a tighter budget, take a free walking tour around the city instead. I’m Free Walking Tours offers a couple of different free walking tours to give you a fun and educational introduction to the city and its history. You’ll learn a lot about the city and get access to an expert local guide who can answer any questions you have. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
2. Catch a Moonlight Movie in the Park
During the summer, there are nightly movies (most of the major Hollywood features) in the Royal Botanic Gardens. You can bring your food and drinks (including alcohol) and have a cozy picnic while watching some great movies. Think of it like going to the drive-in but without the car. Just make sure to check the weather in advance and bring a blanket to sit on and a sweater (it can get a little chilly sometimes). They will cancel if it rains a lot but not if it’s light rain, so be sure to bring a rain jacket (or reschedule) if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
3. Wander Queen Victoria Market
This outdoor market is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. Made up of both indoor and outdoor areas and occupying two entire city blocks, it’s a mix of food sellers and knick-knack vendors — think flea market meets food market. During the week, the food hall is the main draw, but the weekend offerings are more extensive as sellers fill up the outdoor vending space.
When you’re in the food hall, be sure to get some free wine samples from Swords Wines; the staff is friendly, and the wine is cheap (I bought two bottles for some afternoon drinking in the park!). And don’t miss the jam doughnuts either. They’ve been a staple there for over 50 years!
4. Visit the State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is a historic institution that welcomes over 8 million visitors a year. Initially built in 1856, the library has grown into an event space that’s a source of pride for city residents.
Come here before it opens, and you’ll see a queue of people ready to pounce on the open desks. The famous central dome with its octagonal shape, original dark wood furniture, and book-lined walls is something not to miss.
5. Take the City Circle Tram
The City Circle Tram is a free “hop-on, hop-off” service between Melbourne’s sightseeing attractions. The route includes Federation Square, the Old Treasury Building, Parliament House, and the Princess Theater.
There’s a running recorded commentary as you pass or stop at a place of historical, cultural, or architectural significance. It’s a free, fun way to see the main sights and get a feel for the city without having to spend any money!
6. Relax in Federation Square
Right along the free City Circle train route and across the street from Flinders Street Station lies Federation Square. Opened in 1968, this open square spans around 8 acres and serves up stellar people-watching.
I like to take lunch here and just watch the city go by. Below the court on the river are also several restaurants and outdoor bars. In the summer, there are often all kinds of different events here as well.
7. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
Located in Federation Square, the National Gallery of Australia is the largest, oldest, and most-visited art museum in the country (over 3 million people visit each year). It’s home to over 75,000 works, including modern and contemporary art, sculptures, paintings, and works from aboriginal and indigenous artists. You can see pretty much everything in a couple of hours. It’s one of the best free activities in the city.
8. Wander the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens covers 86 acres and is home to over 8,500 different plant species, including flowers, shrubs, and trees from across the country and worldwide. Hanging out here and wandering around is one of my favourite activities in Melbourne.
It’s walking distance from the city centre and is an excellent place to spend some time strolling around, relaxing, and reading. Free guided walks or self-guided audio tours are also available from the main visitors centre.
9. Admire Flinders Street Station
Opened in 1854, Flinders Street Station is a significant landmark and popular meeting place in central Melbourne. The station features Victorian architecture and large clock faces. It was the busiest railway station in the world in the 1920s and is currently the busiest suburban railway station in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a lovely imposing building to admire — and free too!
10. Enjoy the Café Scene
While I’m not a coffee drinker (tea all the way!), even I could see that the café and coffee culture in this city is part of its soul. Everyone here loves to have coffee and a snack while doing some work or chatting in some arty café.
You can also take a café tour with Melbourne Coffee Tours or Café Culture Walk to learn more about why Melbournians love their cafés so much and then spend an afternoon with a good book at your new favourite spot.
11. See the Como House and Gardens
Over 160 years old, this regal estate blends a mix of classic Italianate architecture and Australian regency. It’s considered the best of the historic houses in the city and offers a rare glimpse at the luxurious and opulent life of high society in 19th century Australia.
Guided tours are available for AUD 15 if you want to learn more about this beautiful mansion and its history.
12. Visit the Immigration Museum
Founded in 1998, The Immigration Museum is located in the Old Customs House and features exhibitions about Australia’s immigration history.
Europeans started flocking to the country in 1788, bringing their own cultures that eventually swept the island and displaced the aboriginal peoples who called the island home for over 50,000 years.
I enjoyed learning about the people who left their homes to move across the known world, undertaking the risky voyage and uprooting their entire lives.
13. Hit the Beach
Down in St. Kilda, you can head to the beach to swim, lounge, tan, and watch the stunning sunset. It’s a beautiful, wide beach, and while the water is a little cold for me, it faces due west, so you get some stellar sunsets.
There are also dive sites nearby (including some caves) in case you have your certification. Check out The Zu Boardsports for rentals.
14. Party in St. Kilda
If you’re looking to enjoy Melbourne’s famous nightlife, head to St. Kilda. The area is home to tons of inexpensive restaurants, bars, and clubs.
If you want to find Melbourne’s wild side, this is where it will be. (Base Melbourne is one of my favourite places to go party if you’re going to hang out with other travellers — and a few locals! Their downstairs bar is popular and has cheap drinks.)
15. Enjoy the Fitzroy Gardens
Created in 1848, Fitzroy Gardens is a massive Victorian-era garden that covers over 65 acres. It’s one of Melbourne’s most historic and beautiful gardens and is meant to resemble the English gardens the early settlers left behind.
The area was originally a swamp but was painstakingly cultivated into a beautiful and sprawling garden. There are walking paths, greenhouses, cottages, and lots of flower gardens and greenspace. It feels like an English garden!
16. Get Cultural at the Melbourne Museum
The Melbourne Museum showcases Australian social history, indigenous cultures, science, and the environment. For me, the highlight of the museum was the extensive Bunjilaka Aboriginal Culture Center, which highlights aboriginal culture, art, and history.
They also have a children’s section that’s great for anyone travelling with kids. There are also regular visiting and temporary exhibitions, so be sure to check their website to see what’s going on during your visit.
17. Go On a Wine Tour
Wine tours are super popular in this region. The Mornington Peninsula in the outer suburbs of Melbourne is a world-famous wine-producing region. Located 45 minutes from the city, it’s home to over 40 wineries. There are many day trips available to the Yarra Valley, too (where most tours take you). If you don’t have your car or don’t feel like spending the night in the area, day trips from Melbourne cost $150-225 AUD per person.
18. Take a Day Trip to Phillip Island
Located two hours from the city (and connected to the mainland by bridges), Phillip Island is a weekend hot spot for locals looking to enjoy some beach time. The island is renowned for the nightly penguin parade (when thousands of penguins return from the sea to nest), its koala sanctuary, and the vast seal colony that lives offshore.
The island, which is home to just 7,000 people, can be visited as a day trip, but due to infrequent buses, I would recommend spending at least a night here as there are many neat things to see and do.
With tons of museums, fantastic parks and beaches, and lots of day trip opportunities, Melbourne is a city that just keeps on giving. You won’t be short on things to do here — just the opposite! It’s my favourite spot in Australia (and for a good reason). Spend some time here, and I promise you’ll fall in love with the food, cafes, beaches, and parks. It’s a city that doesn’t disappoint!
How to Spend 2-3 Days in Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is full of character, backed by its creative culture and grungy charm. There are endless alleyways & streets, lined with eccentric restaurants, cosy cafes and quirky bars, along with museums, parks, street art & world-class shopping.
Some even consider Melbourne the #1 city in the world to live in. (I guess they didn’t take weather into account?!)
But the real drawcard of Melbourne? The food.
Top Places to Explore in Melbourne
Here are our favourite places to explore in Melbourne, along with our top restaurant choices and the best Melbourne day trips. Perfect for 2-3 days in Melbourne.
- Degraves Street
- Lygon Street
- South Bank
- Queen Victoria Markets
- Top Melbourne Restaurants
- Hosier Lane
- Best Melbourne Road Trips
This pedestrian-only, ‘European’ street comes alive during lunch hour, with hundreds of locals & tourists checking out the hole-in-the-wall cafes, boutique stores, and street art. Our recommendations? For lunch, the Little Den for lunch, Degraves Espresso Bar for an afternoon coffee and Little Cupcakes for a sweet fix of, well, you guessed it, cupcakes! Degraves Street can be found a short walk from Flinders Street Station and has an atmosphere not to be missed.
I am calling out to all Italian lovers! Leafy Lygon Street in the neighbourhood of Carlon is one of the greatest food precincts in Melbourne. A multicultural street predominately lined with Italian cuisine and alfresco cafes. Lygon Street is heavily European and is the home of the yearly Lygon Street Festa, Australia’s largest outdoor street festivals. Tables and chairs line the sidewalks of Lygon street, and on a summer’s afternoon, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a bite to eat.
Our recommendations? Papa Ginos & Tiamo for home-cooked, authentic Italian food. These restaurants have been around for over 20 years and know what they’re doing! Try Seasons Provedore for their homemade pasta and DOC for pizza. Make sure you keep room for dessert. Skip every other gelato joint on the whole street until you reach Pidapipo Gelateria. Oh.my.golly.goodness! Incredible gelato.
South Bank has a far more upscale vibe than the rest of the city. This area is home to the city’s tallest towers and largest corporate headquarters, with a full view of Melbourne’s CBD. You can find the ever so fancy Crown Casino, which you should have a walkthrough. Bring you wallet 😉
Other notable restaurants along Melbourne’s South bank are Neil Perry’s, Rockpool (steakhouse), and Spice Temple (Chinese), Dinner by Heston (degustation menu) & The Deck Restaurant (modern Australian with a view). Even if you don’t plan to indulge in South Bank, just enjoy a nice walk along the river.
Queen Victoria Markets
The Queen Victoria Markets are a foodie lovers paradise! Considering it is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, you should make sure you get here at least once during your visit to Melbourne and come hungry! Queen Victoria Market is not just a gastronomical adventure, but it’s also a cultural & historical landmark in Melbourne. You could spend hours roaming the fresh produce, clothing stores, souvenirs, antiques, bakeries & delis, spice stores, coffee shops, tea merchants and artisan chocolate stores.
There is also a decently sized food court with various cuisines from Greek to Sri Lankan & Italian. I am stuck with what to eat? Try a Borek from the “Boreks” shop. One of the cheapest, most popular places in the markets to grab a bite. Spicy lamb filed pastries for just $3 in Australia; that’s a bargain! (Vegetarian also available).
Note: The markets are closed Monday’s during the day and on Wednesday, but they re-open from 5 pm – 10 pm for the night markets on Wednesday during Summer.
Our Favourite Restaurants in Melbourne
We may have spent a few days in Melbourne, but boy, did we get around to many restaurants! These were our top picks and restaurants we would strongly vouch for. If only we had more time, money and room!
- Naked for Satan: One of, if not the most incredible rooftop in Melbourne! This multi-level bar/restaurant has a plethora of infused cocktails, a rooftop with fantastic city views (& heaters for the winter), + and ample space for groups topped with great decor. A must visit! See more rooftop bars in Melbourne here.
- Little Hop: Just next door to Naked for Satan is one of the most fantastic little taco joints. Cheap and cheerful!
- Om Nom: Calling all dessert lovers! Try the three dessert combo ($59) if you can’t decide which one to try! The attention to detail on these are sick (in the best way possible!)
- Chin Chin (shown above): Asian fusion, most notably Thai. There can be a wait of up to 2 hours for this restaurant. We strongly recommended getting the ‘feed me’ option for $69. They come up with a selection of dishes for you. You’ll find great variety combined with a HUGE amount of food.
- Higher Ground: A hip brunch restaurant with very ‘instagramable’ dishes.
- The Garden State Hotel: Perfect for after-work drinks or a more upscale pub meal. There are many different areas inside this hotel, so make sure you go for wonder before settling.
- Rooftop Bar: The city’s most popular rooftop bar. Prepare to hike the seven flights of stairs to get to the top! During the summer they have an open-air cinema too. Keep your eye out for tickets.
- Sir Charles: You know those restaurants that everything on the menu sounds delicious? Yup, this is one of them! Great place for brunch. Go for the chilli scramble! Sir Charles can be found a bit further out in Fitzroy.
- Supercharger: Supercharger is a vegan, vegetarian restaurant located in the food court of the Emporium Mall. There is a large selection of healthy options and “do it yourself” bowls. Great value for money, quick and healthy!
- Cup of Truth: Hole in the wall Espresso Bar located inside the historic subway arcade in the CBD.
On a side note, check out The Beauty of Melbourne on Instagram; they curate some fantastic dishes in Melbourne.
Hosier Lane + Croft Alley + AC/DC alley
So maybe these aren’t related to food, but not everything has to be about food (or does it?). Melbourne’s street art is renowned worldwide, and its legal status contributes to what we see today… a vibrant, urban environment with artists who can draw freely in public spaces. These 3 alleys, all within the CBD, are worth a stroll, even if they are filled with tourists. Hosier Lane is Melbourne’s most popular laneway for street art, and it draws hundreds of tourists daily.
Hosier Lane has a lively and vibrant atmosphere, mixed with artworks that cover the entirety of the walls and even garbage cans. The murals are incredibly colourful, unique and are constantly changing. Melbourne Street Tours give you more insight into the history and background of the underground culture in Melbourne, but without this, your eye will still be impressed with what’s in front of you.
Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, known for its music, art centres and museums, and celebration and expression of art. It has been ranked, year after year, the most 'livable city' and it's not hard to see why.
- Catani Gardens.
- Flagstaff Gardens.
- Carlton Gardens.
- Docklands Park.
- Fitzroy Gardens.
- Kings Domain.
- Queen Victoria Gardens.
- Treasury Gardens.
- Melbourne's famous tramway system is the largest outside Europe and the fourth largest in the world. ...
- The world's first feature film, the Story of the Ned Kelly Gang was filmed and made in Melbourne in 1906.
- Melbourne had the first gay and lesbian radio station in the world.