Do you really, really love Christmas? You’re in luck. Melbourne has put on a huge holiday display, and you barely have to leave the CBD to get your fill.
You don’t need to have a winter wonderland from grand trees to brilliant lights to great shopping and cool carols to enjoy the festive season. But, But, Christmas Grinches be warned: you may find the events below far too festive for your tastes.
Many of Melbourne’s iconic buildings will light up in all their Christmas finery in December, including the State Library, the Melbourne Star, the Arts Centre, the MCG and the Royal Exhibition Building.
The most impressive may be the Melbourne Town Hall, which will display its Christmas Projections, set to The 12 Days of Christmas, every night from 9 pm to 10:30 pm until Christmas is over. The animated lighting, made especially for the building, is a fantastic thing to see.
The Lego Christmas Tree
- The LEGO Christmas Tree is built from half a million LEGO bricks
- The LEGO Christmas Tree weighs 3.5 tonnes
- It stands almost 10 metres tall – that’s taller than a two-storey house and wider than the average family car
- The LEGO Christmas star is made from more than 13,000 LEGO bricks and twinkles with the power of more than 3,000 LED lights
- It’s the biggest LEGO Christmas Tree in the Southern Hemisphere
- The LEGO Christmas tree took more than 1,200 hours to build (watch the stop motion video of how it was built!)
- Features kookaburras, cricket bat-wielding elves and Santa in his sleigh, built from thousands of LEGO bricks
This Christmas, Melbourne is hosting the most giant Lego Christmas Tree in the Southern Hemisphere. The tree is taller than a two-storey house. It’s complete with mainly Australian additions, including a surfboard-wielding Lego Santa at the base and a koala and a kookaburra hanging off the tree’s highest branches.
The size and scale of the brick-built tree is amazing to behold, and just watching the crowds of people around the tree taking photos, smiling and being delighted by the LEGO tree is an essential part of the entire experience.
The tree is great to visit during the day, but it also looks very special lit up at night. It will be at Federation Square until December 27.
The Myer Windows
The Myer department store has been celebrating Christmas with window displays for 60 years. So it’s become a Melbourne tradition to line up in Bourke St Mall and watch Christmas stories and fairy tales come to life with animated puppets and moving scenes.
This year, the windows adapted an Australian children’s book, Little Dog and the Christmas Wish. The story follows a small dog lost on the streets of 1950s Melbourne, a setting covered in amazing detail by the artisans who have spent the entire year working to bring the story to life.
Crown’s Atrium Spectacular
Head to Southgate and the Atrium at Crown to see the Christmas Spectacular lighting and music display for a quick burst of Christmas cheer. Featuring animatronics, dancing fountains, and a well-utilised crystal-filled ceiling, the show plays out every half hour from 10 am to midnight. The family-friendly Christmas Spectacular has been running for over ten years, and this year’s display can be seen until January 3 2016. The Atrium can be found just inside the entrance closest to Queensbridge Street.
The Crown Towers Atrium Spectacular is on daily from 24 November until 1 January. The show features spectacular lighting, music and animatronics displays from 10am to 12am midnight. The display goes for about 10 minutes and starts on the hour and half hour.
If you’ve attended the show before it is much the same as in previous years. This doesn’t detract from the magic – my kids are thrilled to see it year after year.
The Gingerbread Village
For the fifth year in a row, chefs from Epicure have created a little village made of gingerbread, full of Melbourne icons and references and with some sneaky sugared surprises.
One of Melbourne’s favourite Christmas attractions, the Gingerbread Village was held at St. Collins Lane, and featured two new displays – The Shrine and the Royal Botanical Gardens. EPICURE’s award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Deniz Karaca and his team have painstakingly recreated iconic Melbourne landmarks like Luna Park and the MCG, using 600kg of gingerbread, 460kg of royal icing, 200kg of marzipan to bring the magical Gingerbread Village to life.
This year it features an edible Melbourne Grand Prix. It’s open at the Melbourne Town Hall from December 1 to December 24. Entry is a gold coin donation, which goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Carols always complete the holiday season. Fortunately, there are many different ways to hear them sung live around the city. For example, the Australian Girls’ Choir will perform carols with special guests at Christmas Square on December 18 and wander around Collins Street singing carols from December 21 to 23. Meanwhile, the Salvation Army carollers will take to the Southgate stage every Saturday in December to sing festive songs.
For a very different kind of music, head to the north bank of the Yarra River, right behind Flinders Street Station, and seek out the mysterious orange metal pyramid. The Giant Theremin is an art installation and an unusual musical instrument. It doesn’t need to be touched to be played, all it needs is movement.
The Theremin responds to nearby running, dancing, jumping, or even simple arm-waving with sounds, creating curious symphonies. Unfortunately, the Giant Theremin has been reinstalled for Christmas and will disappear again at the end of January.
QV Outdoor Cinema
One of the benefits of a hot Christmas is that Melbournians can appreciate the outdoors at Christmas time. The QV shopping mall hosts a pop-up cinema in its outdoor square all summer and is promising themed films in the lead-up to Christmas.
With the recent program launches of the Lido’s rooftop cinema, Moonlight Cinema, Rooftop Cinema, Sunset Cinema et al, it’s clear Melbourne’s furiously enthusiastic love for cinema under the stars isn’t waning anytime soon. And now QV Cinema has announced it too will be returning.
Usually the realm of hectic shopping sprees, QV Melbourne last year launched its own openair cinema, and it will return with summer screenings running every Thursday to Sunday night from November to February. It’s an intimate 80-seat deckchair cinema on the astroturf outside the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, and the whole program is curated by Melbourne filmmaker and film programmer Gus Berger, who runs Red Hot Shorts at ACMI.
Expect festive films in December (think Bad Santa, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf), an Australian film on Australia Day (The Sapphires), a focus on Melbourne independent films, alongside ’80s favourites and selected special event films. There’ll also be three dog-friendly Doggie + Deckchair screenings, starting with a doggy red carpet before Lady and the Tramp on December 10. All proceeds from ticket sales going to non-profit animal charity Lort Smith. With tickets at $12 (and $14 for the dog screenings) each, it’s a pretty budget-friendly date option for the summer.
Each ticket holder is issued a deck chair and a personal set of headphones, so cinema-goers can chill out and won’t be distracted by the festive mayhem going on around them.
Relax on the beaches of Melbourne
While it may not compare to some of the world-famous, iconic beaches of Queensland and some other parts of Australia, Melbourne still has its share of lovely seaside locations that make for a great visit during December regardless of if you’re planning to swim, walk or simply laze on the beach and soak up some sunshine.
While some of the best beaches may be more difficult to reach if you stay in the city centre and don’t have access to private transport, there are still several options for beaches in Melbourne that you’ll be able to travel to without too much trouble.
Port Melbourne’s beach can be accessed from the city’s light rail system simply by travelling to the end of the line; once arriving, hop out and walk around 400 metres, and you’ll be there.
As the closest beach to the city, it is often crowded by locals who are looking for some aquatic enjoyment, yet due to the recent and gradual rejuvenation of the area and its plentiful grass lawns that are dotted with palm trees, wide stretches of sand and shallow yet swimmable waters it still provides everything one could ask for in a beach this close to an urban centre.
Another popular choice is St Kilda beach – situated at the edge of this bayside suburb, it is also just a short distance from the city centre and is one of the most picturesque points of the Bay.
Several clean, sandy beaches are available, and the streets surrounding them are alive with new development that includes many restaurants, cafes and other venues that make grabbing a bite to eat an easy and enticing prospect.
Lastly, a list of famous Melbourne beaches wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those found in Sorrento, with its main beach section being a popular location with several foreshore reserves that contain a variety of facilities for visitors.
Clean, pleasant and safe for swimming, Sorrento has sheltered picnic and public barbecue areas that make it a good choice of destination for a “family” day out without having to sacrifice an entire day’s worth of travel from many of Melbourne’s accommodation districts
Expect to spend about 1.5 hours worth of travel getting there, but if you’re looking for the best possible beach experience, it’s well worth the effort.
The Art of Christmas at Melbourne Central
The Melbourne Central Shopping Centre extends shopping hours and puts on events to celebrate the time of year. Workshops include Christmas present wrapping tutorials, iced tea classes, cupcake decoration and Kit Kat creation. But you don’t have to go shopping to enjoy the festivities.
The iconic central cone and the shot tower will be lit up in a winter-themed lighting show from 8 pm to 10 pm until December 23. There’s also the opportunity to create awkward Christmas photos with family and friends- terrible sweaters and ironic props are supplied.
Blender Lane Market
Blender Lane has a lot of character. Filled with street art, it comes alive on Wednesday nights when local artists and designers set up stalls. This is another good place to get Christmas gifts that are a bit different. There is also plenty of music and performance art to watch and listen to. The Blender Lane Market is open every Wednesday night except for December 23 and 30.
Next pandemic Christmas
It’s been a tough year in Melbourne, so we could be forgiven if our sense of Christmas spirit was feeling at a low ebb. But given that the second COVID-19 lockdown is firmly in the rearview mirror, the time is right to get out into the community and celebrate the festive season. But, of course, events are not entirely as we’ve known them – many have gone online or modified to accommodate social distancing.
Carols by Candlelight, television broadcast, Thursday, December 24
For public health considerations, Melbourne’s Carols by Candlelight organisers have decided to perform the concert at an empty Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Melburnians can still enjoy the magic of the event – and even get a glimpse of Santa before he starts his big night of delivering presents – by tuning into Channel Nine on Christmas Eve from 8 pm.
Rock Around the Block, Yarra City Council, December 19
This year, carols in the Park will be trucked to Yarra residents’ front doors as Yarra City Council pairs with Trucked Up Entertainment and Press Play to feature local artists’ music at various locations.
Head out to Curtain Square, Barkly Gardens and more to catch one of the artists’ 30-minute sets before they head off to their next public local gig. The complete list of locations can be found here.
Whitehorse Carols, online and in-person, December 18
The City of Whitehorse said this year’s festivities would look “a little different”, with its annual carols event going online.
Entertainers Silvie Paladino and Simon Gleeson will headline Whitehorse’s virtual carols concert. In addition, community carolling will go ahead at some of the council’s shopping precincts to help support local traders.
A Very Moreland Christmas, online, December 19
With COVID-19 restrictions spelling an end to Moreland City Council’s annual Carols by the Lake, the council will instead host a short film of local musicians performing some favourite Christmas tunes. Kylie Auldist, Kutcha Edwards and the Moreland City Band are all set to bring the Christmas cheer into homes and keep the Moreland community’s festive traditions alight.
Queen Victoria Markets, various dates
Queen Vic is upping the festive feel this year with eco-friendly Christmas workshops, Christmas cooking demonstrations, festive food trucks, and Santa visits, all taking place throughout December.
The Big Design Market, online
The Big Design Market brings together more than 260 local vendors to provide unique and locally sourced Christmas gifts. This year’s market has been moved online due to the pandemic. Shoppers can still purchase from their catalogue until Christmas (though you may need to explain late postage to gift recipients).
District Makers Market, The Rose Street Market, December 20
Support Australian businesses by heading down to the District Makers Market in Docklands.
LiveSo check entertainment, workshops and food and dining accompanying the arts, craft and jewellery stalls, the pet-friendly, open-air markets could be the perfect place to nab some great Christmas gifts.
Christmas Makers Market, Nicholas Building, Thursday, December 17
Pick up all the artisan wares your loved ones could desire at the iconic Nicholas Building’s makers market. Bespoke jewellery, books, art prints and more can be found throughout three Christmas-music-filled levels of stalls, from 6 pm until 9 pm.
Christmas Square, Federation Square, until December 25
The epicentre of Melbourne Christmas celebrations will undoubtedly be Federation Square. Until Christmas Day, revellers can take in the festivities around the square’s 16-metre tree and visit Santa’s Big Workshop, where children can even get a COVID-safe snap with the big red man himself. Santa’s Workshop will be running until Christmas Eve.
Magical Christmas Quest, Melbourne CBD, until December 25
Take part in Melbourne’s own enchanting Christmas scavenger hunt. Participants are given five new clues each Friday that lead to an iconic Melbourne location. Once there, take a picture of the location and send it to the event organisers for deciphering. If successful, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a $250 prize pack.
Myer Christmas Windows, Myer Melbourne City, until Christmas Eve
This year celebrates the 65th anniversary of Myer’s famous Christmas windows. The tongue-in-cheek theme, Christmas is uncancelled, plays on how the windows were almost brought to a halt this year.
Myer asks window viewers to keep a strict distance of 1.5 metres from others and urges those feeling unwell not to come.
Christmas Projections, Swanston Street, until January 3
Visitors can stroll Swanston Street and take in the views of colourful imagery projected on some of Melbourne’s most famous landmarks. Melbourne Town Hall and Princess Bridge will be just some of the milestones to be lit up, and the State Library of Victoria will feature a touching tribute to Melbourne’s COVID-19 heroes.
Although many popular displays have been put on hold this year, Christmas Light Search has still managed to compile a list of the best spots throughout Melbourne to drive by spectacular Christmas light extravaganzas.
- Coburg, Molesworth Street. Thousands of lights covering a three-storey home, including large inflatables and moving features.
- Doreen, Landano Way. Motorised drummer boys, nutcrackers, a Santa chair and even a ride-on unicorn.
- Cranbourne North, 9 Middlesex Court. Owners of this house love to meet the guests, with some children even bagging lollies for the trip.
- Boronia, Rawdon Court. The Christmas-themed garage door makes this display worth the visit.
- Mulgrave, Lebanon Crescent. Christmas Light Search recommends bringing your sunnies to take in the dazzling panorama.
- Bittern, 157 Woolleys Road. The best in the local area, with more than 20,000 lights and nine snow machines.
- Hoppers Crossing, Bethany Road. The centre for Christmas inflatables. Olaf, Monsters Inc, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and more await those who make the trip.
- Melton, Chesney Road. Covered in lights and Christmas characters, this house is one not to be missed.
Christmas trading hours
No one likes to do the last-minute mad dash to complete Christmas food and present shopping, only to find the shops have closed. Check below to find out when major supermarkets, shopping centres and markets will be open this Christmas season. And what changes have been made to Melbourne’s public transport and airport-transfer schedules.
- Coles: All stores closed on Christmas Day. All stores open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, excluding Little Knox (which will be closed on Boxing Day).
- Woolworths: All stores closed on Christmas Day. All stores open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
- Aldi: All stores closed on Christmas Day. All stores open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
- Melbourne Central: Saturday, December 19 and December 20: 9am-9pm.December 21 to Christmas Eve: 10am-7pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 8am-9pm.
- Melbourne Emporium:December 19 and December 20: 9am-9pm. December 21 to Christmas Eve: 10am-7pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 8am-9pm.
- Chadstone:December 19: 9am-midnight.December 20: 9am-10pm.December 21 to December 22: 8am-midnight. Christmas Eve: 7am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 6am-11pm.
- Highpoint:19 December to December 22: 8am-midnight.December 23: 7am-3pm. Christmas Eve: 6am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 7am-11pm.
- Northland:December 19 to December 23: 9am-10pm. Christmas Eve: 8am-5:30pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 8am-10pm.
- Westfield Doncaster:December 19 to December 22: 8am-10pm.December 23: 8am-midnight. Christmas Eve: 8am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 8am-10pm.
- Westfield Southland:December 19 to December 22: 8am-10pm.December 23: 8am-midnight. Christmas Eve: 8am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 8am-10pm.
- The Glen: December 19 to December 20: 9am-8pm. December 21 to December 22: 9am-7pm.December 23: 7am-8pm. Christmas Eve: 7am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed. Boxing Day: 7am-8pm.
- Myer Melbourne:December 19: 9am-10pm.December 20: 10am-10pm.December 21 to December 23: 9am-10pm. Christmas Eve: 8am-6pm. Christmas Day: Closed.
All PTV will run as normal except on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, where services will run to a public holiday timetable.
- Queen Victoria Market: Closed on December 21, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
- South Melbourne Market: December 19 to December 23: 8 am-4 pm. Christmas Eve: 6am-4pm. Closed from Christmas Day till December 29.
- Preston Market: Closed on December 21.December 22 to December 23: 8 am-6 pm. Christmas Eve: 8am-3pm. Closed from Christmas Day till December 29.
- Prahran Market: Closed on December 21. December 22 to Christmas Eve: 7 am-5 pm. It is closed from Christmas Day till December 29.
- Footscray Market: December 19 to Christmas Eve: 7 am-4 pm. It is closed from Christmas Day till December 29.
Skybus permanently extends the operating hours for their Melbourne City Express service from 4.30 am to midnight, seven days a week, from December 20.
The Avalon City Express will run according to arriving and departing flights.