Australia is home to some of the most amazingly beautiful but also dangerous animals in the world. While living in the outback can be dangerous, the cities are where people come together to really enjoy life. One of the biggest and most exciting cities in Australia is Melbourne, on the south coast of the country. There is so much going on in Melbourne it can be hard to know where to begin making a plan for your trip.
The city is filled with enough artwork, culture, food, drink, and sports to enjoy that by the end of your visit to Melbourne you’ll be wishing you had more time. If you’re struggling to figure out what you Melbourne plans should include then check out this list of the best things to do in the southern Australian city.
Queen Victoria Markets
If you love food, then you have to get yourself to the Queen Victoria Markets during your visit to Melbourne. Since 1878, it has been the center of the food scene in Melbourne, and anyone wanting to taste some of Australia’s best produce needs to visit Queen Victoria Markets. There are tons of stalls all selling their best food produce including cheeses, olives, and a range of meats. It’s not just the food that can take your breath away while in the markets, and the building that houses the stalls is spectacular.
The building is a perfect example of Victorian architecture and is still standing strong after more than 140 years in Melbourne. Back inside the market and there is more than food for sale here as some of the local artists sell their craft. Queen Victoria Market is the perfect place to grab some souvenirs for people back home plus there are often exciting events held at the markets during the year.
Melbourne is famed for its love of music, and the most popular genre in the city is rock. Pretty much every night in the city you’ll be able to find a band playing in one of the many venues across Melbourne. Traveling is all about enjoying the cultures of other places, so why not lose yourself in the thrashing beats of Melbourne?
Nick Cave is perhaps the most famous rock star from Melbourne, but there’s more to the city than one music genre. Other famous musical talents from Melbourne include Kylie Minogue, Vance Joy, Olivia Newton-John, and even Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was born here. All you have to do is follow your ears, and the sound of great music will lead you to an amazing venue. Some of the musical highlights across the city include the Palais Theater, Evelyn Hotel, the Ding-Dong Lounge, and the Spotted Mallard.
A taste of Vegas
If you like to gamble, then you’ll be right at home in Melbourne’s Crown Casino Complex. This isn’t a small facility with a few blackjack tables, the casino is huge. The resort is just beside the Yarra River, and the casino is considered the largest in the whole of the southern hemisphere. Anytime you feel like spending money in the casino you can as it’s open 24 hours a day, every single day of the week.
There is a lot more to this casino than just gambling though as there is a vibrant nightlife scene, some exquisite restaurants, and plenty of stores for shopping in. You can head to the Crown Casino Complex just for the views if you like thanks to the impressive atrium, which displays amazing fountains combined with light shows. One of the best features of the casino is the “Gas Brigades,” which are pyrotechnic towers that shoot fireballs into the sky.
Royal Botanic Gardens
The city center is pretty bustling so if you want to find somewhere to get away from all that action for a while then check out the Royal Botanic Gardens. They are just a short journey from Melbourne city and are well worth the visit. For all of the noise and excitement found in the city, you’ll find nothing but peace and tranquility in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Many locals come here for a jog or gentle walk, and when you get there, you can see why as the views are breathtaking.
It’s not called the botanic gardens for nothing, and there are estimated to be over 8,500 different species of plant life. The Royal Botanic Gardens provide a nice distraction from the sprawling urban city, and it might end up being one of your favorite spots in Melbourne. Thanks to the variety of plants you’ll find the Royal Botanic Gardens to be just as vibrant as the art-covered streets of the city.
Penguins famously live in cold climates, so you might not expect to find any in the hot weather of Australia. When you get to Melbourne, you have to try and find the aptly named ‘little’ penguins. There are tons of attractions for tourists in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, but nothing quite like the sight of these little flightless birds. The penguins first moved to St. Kilda in the 1970s, and their colony has stayed ever since.
They are found at the breakwater, and every single night the little penguins make their way back to their nests, just after sunset. The best time of the year to spot them is during the summer, and there are penguin guides working near the area during the daylight savings period of the year. Little penguins have become a tourist attraction at St. Kilda, but the guides do ask that people treat their nests, eggs, and chicks with respect to keep them coming back.
Melbourne’s criminal past
Australia has a connection to crime after years of British criminals being sent there during the 18th and 19th century. One of the best places to learn about that history is the Melbourne Gaol, which is a museum in the city center. The prison opened in 1842 and closed in 1929. Between those years it was the home of some of the most infamous criminals in the history of Australian civilization, including Ned Kelly.
Executions were carried out here, and the museum lets visitors know all about how those sentences were handed out and dealt with. There is a range of artifacts left behind, but that’s possibly not the scariest thing about the building. Many consider Melbourne Gaol to be haunted and the museum even runs night tours to get people’s pulses racing. The staff encourage their visitors to swap ghost stories with them to add to the tension as they walk around the cells at night.
Cruise along the river
One of the great things about Melbourne is that it’s a city that sits alongside a river. That means you don’t have to stay on dry land to see the city and you can climb onto a boat and take a cruise along the river. The river was hugely important to Melbourne in the past when waterways were the main trade routes for countries. There are tours to suit all budgets on the Yarra River, so you’ll be sure to find one that works for you.
If you don’t feel like being pushed along the water by someone else, you can also jump into a kayak and really get a taste for Melbourne. Although make sure you don’t actually drink the Yarra River water, because the quality is very low and if you fall in you’ll need to shower when you get out. Don’t let the color of the water put you off though, it’s a great way to see Melbourne.
Drinking the best coffee ever
You might remember the scene in the festive movie Elf, where Will Ferrell’s character, Buddy, congratulates a random coffee house in New York City for having the ‘World’s Best Coffee.’ Of course, it was just a random cup of coffee and not the world’s best, but if you go to Melbourne, you’ll find the actual best ever. Booking.com held a poll with its users who all voted on where they had the best cup of coffee, and Melbourne was voted the world’s best city for coffee.
That means it even beat places like Rome, Paris, and Vienna. Baristas in Australia’s coffee capital take their jobs very seriously, and there’s a huge amount of love that goes into making a coffee in this city. It’s actually pretty hard to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne, and if you really love a caffeine hit, you can take a guided coffee tour of the city.
The Block Arcade
If you want to feel like you’re shopping in the Victorian era, then The Block Arcade is the place for you. Unlike many other Victorian buildings in the city, this arcade still runs almost the same as it did back in the day. There are tons of boutiques here for the shopping addict, but even if you don’t like shopping, you should swing by to check it out. From the floor to the ceiling, the entire building is ornately decorated just like it would have been when it first opened in 1892.
Stepping into the Block Arcade is like stepping through time, and it will give you a huge dose of nostalgia when you get there. There are plenty of luxurious boutiques, but there are other things to keep you entertained too. There is the fun of the Dr. Seuss gallery, a high-end chocolatier, and the famous Hopetoun tea rooms for cake and drinks.
An ancient attraction
Why not visit one of the oldest theme parks in the world while staying in Melbourne? Luna Park was officially opened in 1912, and its famous roller coaster, the Scenic Railway opened in the same year. The wooden roller coaster is the oldest in the world to be continually in use, and you can ride this little piece of history when you travel to Melbourne.
Of course, the roller coaster is pretty vintage compared to the rides of today, but it’s a fun trip down memory lane to see what people did for fun a century ago. It will only cost you $5 to get into Luna Park, and for that price, you get to explore the park without going on the rides. It’ll cost a little more to ride the famous old coaster, but there’s plenty to see and do in the park without climbing aboard if rides aren’t your thing.
If you’re staying in Melbourne for an extended period during the summer then maybe you’ll want to catch a movie or two. Every night during the summer, films are shown in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Most of them are major Hollywood hits, so there’s a good chance you’ll get to see something you like. The best thing about the movie experience in the picturesque park is that you can bring along whatever food and drinks you want.
If you’re in Melbourne with friends, then why not treat yourselves to a late night picnic while watching a movie in the park after the sun goes down? Although Australia is a pretty warm place, you might want to bring a jacket to the film because it can get pretty chilly in the evenings. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little slice of home when you’re on vacation and what could be better than kicking back and watching the latest Hollywood flick?
There are plenty of art galleries dotted around Melbourne for the culture vultures out there. The people of Melbourne are passionate about art, and there are over 100 galleries in the Australian city. It’s not all giant galleries filled with thousands of people either, and there are some tiny, intimate galleries too. Of course, if you want to see as much as possible in one visit, then you’ll be looking for a large gallery, and you can’t go wrong with the NGV.
Pretty much any kind of art style you can think of is exhibited in Melbourne, so whatever kind is your favorite, you’ll be able to find it. If you love art, then you can spend days just exploring the galleries in the city, and you’ll still be able to take in most of Melbourne. It won’t take long to plan your trip as many of the galleries are located on the tourist maps you’ll find at the visitor center.
You might not have expected to be able to go bushwalking in the city, but right on the outskirts of Melbourne is the Dandenong Ranges. People can have the best of both worlds as they can enjoy the city life but also get their exploration fix by heading into the bush. Everyone who loves the outdoors will have a great time at the Dandenong Ranges as it’s ideal for cyclists, birdwatchers, nature-lovers, and hikers.
Because the scenery is so spectacular, the Dandenong Ranges is one of Melbourne’s hottest tourist locations. You’ll find a mixture of backpackers, city folk looking for a break from the buzz of Melbourne, and even wedding parties getting some great pictures for their photo albums. Within the ranges are some tiny little towns for travelers to discover and explore, where they can refuel from trekking through the bush. There’s even a steam train, called Puffing Billy, that gently transports you through the landscape.
Flinders Street Station
The grand entrance to Flinders Street Station is one of the most iconic landmarks in Melbourne, and you’ll find plenty of postcards with it on. Flinders Street Station was opened over 100 years ago in 1910, and it has been listed as a protected site. Despite its age, the train station is the busiest in the country, and there are plenty of shopping outlets inside. Across the road from the station is another iconic Melbourne landmark, Federation Square.
The unique architecture in Federation Square makes it stand out among the modern buildings in the city, and it’s unlike anything you’ll ever see. Federation Square is home to the Australian Centre of the Moving Image, and there are some fascinating displays if movies are your thing. If you’re traveling across Australia on public transport there’s a good chance Flinders Street Station is the first place you’ll see in Melbourne, so make sure to enjoy the view.
The Immigration Museum
Australia is a multicultural country that has a long history with immigration, and it wouldn’t be the same today without that past. The Immigration Museum explores that history and celebrates everything that shaped the country to what it has become in the modern day. The diverse stories of the people who helped create Australia are told in this Old Customs House, which is as old as some of the tales told here.
Melbourne’s immigration museum tells the story of the city’s history with people coming to Australia from foreign shores and what they experienced when getting there. The Immigration Museum explores what the definition of identity means and the tough journeys many immigrants had in getting to Melbourne in the first place. Inside the Immigration Museum is the Customs Gallery. This gallery is a record of the past and displays what kinds of things people were trading back and forth across the world from Melbourne.
Find the next Banksy
Street art is huge in Melbourne, and you could stumble across the next Banksy while you’re there. The city council places a lot of importance on the art scene in the city, and there are designated places across Melbourne for street art. That has created one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and artists take turns in highlighting their skills to the public.
This outlet helps creatives let their juices flow, and it can be a very special experience for anyone exploring the city. If graffiti art is your thing, you can even do a Melbourne street art tour which is run by the street artists themselves. That will give you the perfect insight into the meaning behind the images painted across the city as you get it straight from the community who created them. If you want to go it alone, you can grab a street art map of Melbourne and get lost in the graffiti.
Australia is known for having a wide range of wildlife, mostly all of which is out to hurt you in some way. You can go on safari at the Werribee Open Range Zoo, which is a little bit outside of the city, but worth the trip. This African-themed safari doesn’t come with any additional snakes, spiders, or scorpions, and instead, you can enjoy these exotic animals in safety. There are lots of events on during the year at Werribee Open Range Zoo, including the Rhythm of Africa.
Young travelers might not be so interested in checking out the cafes Melbourne has to offer, but this place is definitely going to keep them entertained. Just because you’re in Australia doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little taste of Africa at the same time. Because it’s a little way out of the city, this destination is probably best if you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time in Melbourne.
State Library of Victoria
Eight million visitors a year can’t be wrong, and that’s how many people make sure they enter the State Library of Victoria. The library is one of the oldest buildings in Melbourne after it was built in 1856. It is a source of great pride for everyone who lives in Melbourne, and it has grown into a historic institution. There are so many people lining up to get into this ancient building that you’ll see them lining up well before it opens.
You can take a free tour around the famous building which will explain to you all about its history and architecture. A lot of the furniture in the library is the original dark wood that was installed many years ago. It’s a sight to behold, and unlike any library you’ve ever been to before thanks to the unusual formation of desks in the main hall. Just make sure to keep the noise down as you explore the library.
If you’re visiting the Australian city with the whole family, then you might want to find somewhere that’s perfect for entertaining the kids. There might be no better place for the entire family than the Scienceworks, which is a cluster of learning facilities all in the same spot. There are tons of science exhibits, events, and even workshops to let even the biggest of kids immerse themselves in learning.
Inside Scienceworks there is a lightning room, planetarium, and even a micro metropolis, called Nitty Gritty Super City, that shows how cities work. One thing to watch out for is the huge Tesla coil that can generate 2 million volts as part of a 30-minute lightning show. It’s a great place to get out of the sun for a while and enjoy some time as a family before you’re out exploring the city once again.
Get lost in the lanes
Melbourne isn’t all about big streets and highways, you can really get lost in the city if you go exploring by foot. There is a labyrinth of lanes to make your way through the city which are filled with hidden treasures you won’t see anywhere else in Melbourne. The lanes are the core of Melbourne’s urban culture, and this is the real heartbeat of the city. You shouldn’t come to Melbourne and miss out on this amazing experience, so make sure you grab yourself a map of the lanes and get walking.
Some lanes are busier than others, and you’ll have to check out Hardware Lane, Centre Place, and AC/DC Lane, which is named after the heavy rock band. No day out in a world-class city would be complete without some food or drink, and Melbourne’s lanes are filled with plenty of places to keep your stomach very content.
Enjoy the Aboriginal art
Australia wasn’t always such a diverse mix of cultures, and historically, the land belonged to the Aboriginal people who live there. Melbourne is a great place to see some of the best Aboriginal art on display anywhere in the world. There are a variety of Aboriginal art galleries in the city, and some of the outer reaches, which means there is plenty of choice to see the artwork.
Several galleries are dedicated to Aboriginal art, while other museums and galleries have extensive collections. Some of the best places to take in Aboriginal art in Melbourne include the Flinders Lane Gallery, NGV International, the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and the City Gallery. Aboriginal art is loved for its symbolism and beauty. Melbourne is one of the best places in Australia to learn all about the art and how important it is to Australian culture.
Discover Australian sporting history
Sport is a pretty big deal in Australia, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground is thought to be the country’s “favorite stadium.” After setting foot in Melbourne, it won’t take you long to realize this city is in love with sports and cricket ground is the hub of that passion. It’s not just cricket played in the famous stadium though, and Australia’s other favorite sport, Aussie rules football is also played there.
If you time it right, you could even grab yourself a ticket to the football or cricket during your stay and life like a local. You’ll have to be fast though as tickets sell out pretty quickly. The stadium is over 150 years old and has held the tenth-largest crowd in history, with an estimated 130,000 fans. If you want to learn more about the history of Australian sports then you’re in luck, the Olympic Museum and Australian Gallery of Sport are inside the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Take in a festival
People who live in Melbourne aren’t afraid to have a good time, and throughout the year there are a variety of festivals held within the city. There’s a good chance that during your visit something is going to be happening so check at Federation Square’s visitor center to see the details. March is one of the best times for festivals, but you can expect to find something going on pretty much throughout the year.
One of the most popular festivals across the city is the White Night, which turns inner Melbourne into one big collection of lights. It’s so bright you might even need to bring your shades along. There is a large Greek community in Australia, and the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival brings one of the finest cuisines in the world to Melbourne. Sydney is famed for its fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but Melbourne puts on a pretty spectacular show of its own.