Melbourne is one of the largest cities in Australia, so it has a lot to offer you. Not to mention, Melbourne was voted “the world’s most liveable city” 7 years in a row! It is often referred to as the cultural and artistic capital of Australia thanks to its diversity and “European” vibes. The big debate as a traveller is often how to choose between Sydney and Melbourne. While Melbourne is smaller, this has some great benefits such as less time spent on public transport and a slightly lower cost of living, which is always good when you’re travelling! Take a read of our complete travel guide for Melbourne, including all the highlights and hidden gems. Visit this amazing place and experience Melbourne yourself!
Table of Contents
How to get to Melbourne?
If you’re travelling from Europe (or any other continent), obviously you will have to travel by plane. Be prepared for a long journey – around 24 hours – often with one or two transfers.
Always shop around for flights, and use flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner or Kayak for the best ticket prices. As with all flights, book your ticket as soon as possible and avoid school holidays for the best deals.
From another city in Australia
If you are already based in Australia, to visit Melbourne you have two options: via plane or bus. Avoid the rail network in Australia – it is not very well developed for long distances, and it can be super expensive for cross country trips. Generally, buses are cheaper (allow around $60 for a night bus from Sydney) but this will take much longer. If you book well enough in advance, flights can be relatively cheap from Sydney to Melbourne (not to mention much faster.) For domestic flights in Australia, the best low-cost airlines are Virgin and Jetstar.
If you’re keen for a road trip and have time on your hands, you can also take your time and visit Melbourne from Sydney by van or car. Check out our Melbourne to Sydney Road Trip itinerary. If you are arriving from the west, see our itinerary for a Adelaide to Melbourne road trip to make sure you don’t miss anything on the road.
When to visit Melbourne and how long to spend there?
Best time to visit Melbourne
It is generally pleasant to visit Melbourne at any time of the year, but be prepared to experience all possible weather conditions in a very short period of time. We often talk about “four seasons in one day” and it’s not a myth! You could have sun in the morning, rain at noon and then a cloudy and windy afternoon.
Read more: Climate and weather in Melbourne
How much time should I spend in Melbourne?
If time is limited, it is possible to visit Melbourne in two days. The city centre has plenty to offer, and you can see a lot of the main attractions on foot or with the City Circle Tram that goes around the city for free.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to stay longer, Melbourne is the perfect place to hang out. Whether you prefer museums and galleries, exciting nightlife or hikes and nature, you will find plenty to do!
What are the best things to see in Melbourne?
You wouldn’t go to Sydney without visiting the Opera House or Bondi beach, would you? In the same way, Melbourne has its famous highlights which you cannot miss during your visit:
Melbourne city centre is full of things to see. Explore Hosier Lane, one of the most famous streets for street art lovers. There are also many “laneways” and “arcades” as well as small hidden alleyways where you will find a string of quaint restaurants and shops. Do not forget to visit Chinatown for lunch during your time in the CBD.
This large esplanade located near Flinders Street Station and Saint Paul’s Cathedral is considered the cultural centre of the CBD. Made up of museums, attractions, restaurants and cafes, Federation Square hosts all major events in the city. You will find among others, the tourist office, the Ian Potter Center (which is the first gallery dedicated to Australian art), the Australian Center for the Moving Image and the National Design Center specialising in Australian design.
Historical buildings and museums
Melbourne is considered the cultural capital of Australia, and it definitely deserves the crown thanks to its many museums, cultural events all year round and important street art culture. Cultural institutions house acclaimed works and shows in the heart of the city. Among those not to be missed is the Melbourne Museum with its post-modern art and interactive spaces, the Immigration Museum which traces the stories of a cosmopolitan homeland, the ACCA which brings together exhibitions of contemporary and famous artworks, and the NGV with two centres and various exhibitions of modern, traditional and contemporary art. Museums are always a great option when it’s rainy in Melbourne or the weather is gloomy.
As for historic buildings, if one were to make a quick list, then there would be Flinders Street Station, the Houses of Parliament, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the State Library of Victoria and Melbourne Town Hall. It’s worth at least walking by these buildings to admire their architecture.
Melbourne is famous for its street art, and the cobbled Hosier Lane near Federation Square is one of the most popular spots to see it. It is always crowded with people who want to take in the giant works of art.
If you’re a fan of quirky and alternative neighbourhoods, you will fall in love walking down Gertrude Street or Johnston Street. Here you will find small designer shops and artist’s studios. Grab a coffee and take a stroll through these colourful streets, which are essentially an open-air museum.
Read more: Melbourne: Capital of Street Art
Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the must-see tourist attractions in Melbourne. Internationally renowned for its beautiful gardens, the park is located a short walk from the city centre, on the south bank of the Yarra River. It extends over 38 hectares and its flora includes local and exotic species, more than 8,500 species in total. With beautiful lakes and guided tours to learn more about its unusual flowers and trees as well as a heritage walk on the history of the Koolin Aborigines, it takes at least half a day to fully enjoy the park.
The park welcomes 1.6 million visitors each year who come to admire the Australian flora. Do not forget to visit the Shrine of Remembrance (the “shrine of remembrance”) built in tribute to the Australians who died during the 1st World War.
Queen Victoria Market
It is Melbourne’s largest market with nearly 600 stalls selling food, clothing, accessories and souvenirs. Open from Thursday to Sunday; it also stays open late on a Wednesday night where food trucks replace the market stalls, often accompanied by live music or performances.
Located 30 minutes by tram from the city centre, you must go for a walk in the St Kilda district during your Melbourne visit. Although the water is generally quite cool, the beach offers an amazing view of the harbour and CBD buildings, especially at night when the lights dazzle in the dark. No visit to St Kilda would be complete without a visit to the iconic Luna Park – a theme park with rides and arcade games. If you visit Saint Kilda on a Sunday, a market takes place near Luna Park down past the beach, where local artists and craftspeople sell their handmade items.
At the end of your day in Saint Kilda, head to St Kilda pier to witness the penguins return from their day at sea. The best time to see them is usually at sunset.
Brighton Beach and bath boxes
After St. Kilda, you can hop on a bus or train to another beach: Brighton beach! At Brighton beach, you will be treated to 82 colourful beach cabins called “bathing boxes” which are regular backdrops for holidaymakers’ photos in Melbourne. It is an attraction not to miss although it’s very popular at weekends and you will sometimes have to queue for a photo beside your favourite bathing box. The water is usually calm here, and the sand is of good quality.
There are several “pink lakes” in Australia, but this one has the advantage of being close to the city and therefore very accessible during your Melbourne trip. Just minutes from the CBD, jump on a bus or train to get a closer look at this natural phenomenon. This pink colour is in fact due to the chemical reaction between the algae and salt contained in the lake. Although it isn’t pink all year round, generally the hotter the weather, the more chance you will have to admire its pink colour. Have a quick search online before your visit to make sure it’s pink during your time in Melbourne.
Activities and amusement parks
Melbourne Zoo was founded 150 years ago, making it the oldest zoo in Australia! Alongside kangaroos and koalas, you can see tigers, orangutans and more than 320 different species from around the world. Located a few minutes North of the CBD, it is easy to visit via train or tram.
The zoo has reconstructed tropical forests but also aquatic spaces for marine species: the little penguins of Victoria and the seals found on the Australian coast. The zoo also takes species conservation seriously by housing 21 endangered species, including rock wallabies, allowing them to be bred in captivity and then reintroduced into the wild.
Attend a cricket or Australian football (AFL) game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
To immerse yourself in the Australian sporting atmosphere, what could be better than going to see a match in Melbourne! At the Melbourne Cricket Ground you have cricket or Australian rules football matches all year round. Best to check the events schedule: www.mcg.org.au/whats-on/events-calendar
To purchase tickets, visit: premier.ticketek.com.au
Sea Life Aquarium
The Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium is a great way to discover marine life on a rainy day! Located on the edge of the Yarra Valley, just opposite South Bank, you can easily access it from the city centre. Count about $37 per adult for admission.
Admire the view by climbing up the 88 floors of the Eureka Skydeck Tower ($28 entry). If you’re an adrenaline junkie, for $12 extra, you can get a scare in “The Edge Room” which is a suspended glass cube! For information and tickets visit their website here.
A funfair-like amusement park in Melbourne. A mix between entertainment and dreams. Welcome to Luna Park! Located in St Kilda (south of Melbourne). This park is easily accessible by tram (35 min from the CBD). Full of colour and sensations, you can explore its attractions such as “Power Surge” or “Pharaoh’s Curse”, “Ghost Train”, “Mirror Maze” and many more. Although created in 1912, Luna Park has not said its last word! You will have the opportunity to ride the “Scenic Railway”, the oldest roller coaster in the world still in operation. Then, for lovers of wooden horses, the park offers a magnificent Baroque carousel that is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. A great day ahead.
A word of advice: Come after dark to enjoy the illuminated attractions. Timetables are available on the website: lunapark.com.au
Adventure Park (Geelong)
An hour’s drive from Melbourne, Adventure Park is considered Victoria’s largest amusement park with 20 attractions and rides. Karting, mini-golf, climbing, carousel and Ferris wheel, there is something for everyone.
Funfields water park
Open only during the summer (September to April), this water park located 40km from Melbourne has quite the reputation. It is actually one of the greatest record holders in the world. Some of the records it holds include:
- Largest “Tornado Wave” (27.1 m in height and 201.16 m in length)
- Longest “Kraken Wide” (109 m length)
- Largest “Typhoon” (137 m in length)
Fundfields ranks as one of the most striking places in Australia. But the park doesn’t stop there! Other attractions remain to be explored. You will discover the “Dragon’s Fury” which offers a unique virtual reality experience and even an authentic summer toboggan. Relaxation areas where you can stroll and have lunch are also available. Ideal before leaving for a new attraction. Your swimsuit and thrills are waiting for you!
Just in case: We encourage you to check the opening hours before your visit at www.funfields.com.au.
Melbourne Cable Park: sport and relaxation
Want to climb peaks? Or to slide on the water? Discover a sports and initiation park where young and old alike are about to explore a whole new style of fun. A relaxed and family atmosphere near the lakes 45 minutes from Melbourne. This place will allow you to return to childhood by trying your hand at the Ninja course offered by the park. For the more adventurous, Cable Park mainly offers “wakeboarding” sessions for an attractive price, but also climbing at all levels.
Ace karts: an atypical park where speed reigns
Only 30 minutes from Melbourne, you’ll find Ace karts! The only place where you can reach the speed of 75 km/h on a kart. Created to look like two drops of water like a Formula 1 circuit, this site is one of the favorites in the region. Indeed, it is possible to test your skills in terms of driving day and night at an attractive price. What you let yourself be tempted for a few laps. So before getting on, take a look at the different karts that Ace karts offers. You will find three models including one to share with your teammate. Now all he has to do is join the track and let’s go!
Accommodation in Melbourne
In terms of accommodation budget, Melbourne is a little cheaper than Sydney. However, it’s still a large expense. Accommodation prices will depend on many criteria and in particular the neighbourhood where you are staying.
Depending on the length of your stay and the level of comfort expected, several options are available to you:
Hotels: Prices are quite high in the city centre. It will be necessary to move away in the surrounding districts to obtain a good price.
Hostels: This is usually the most popular option for backpackers, as it’s the most affordable. For a bed in a dorm room expect to pay around $25/$30 per night. For a private double room around $70/$90 per night. The best option is to book via a comparison site to find a hostel at the lowest price.
Airbnb : Renting an entire apartment is expensive, but you can also consider just renting a room. This will allow you to get to know locals upon your arrival as well as trial different neighbourhoods before deciding where to settle for a while.
Temporary subleases or roommates: Facebook groups are ideal for finding flat or room shares. Many people sublet their homes for a short time, which is ideal for backpackers. For long term rentals, Gumtree is also very useful.
Couchsurfing or HelpX: We tend to forget it as we focus on meeting other travellers. But going to live with local people is the best way to immerse yourself in a new country. In exchange for a few hours of work a day or simply an exchange of culture, you will be accommodated with a sofa or a room for free! Some even include meals, and often hosts will show you their favourite spots around the city.
Where to go out in Melbourne?
To enjoy the nightlife in Melbourne, there are plenty of unusual places to go out! It is THE Australian city of parties, trendy bars and everything you could want from a night on the town! In Melbourne, there is no curfew, they dance and eat all night long. No wonder it has been voted the most liveable city in the world. Life here is punctuated by numerous festivals, sporting and cultural events. You won’t find this anywhere else in Australia.
The best neighbourhoods to go out
- CBD: In the heart of the city, you will have access to many opportunities, all while taking advantage of the tram zone for free.
- Fitzroy & Collingwood: The “hipster” neighbourhoods, where excellent restaurants and nightclubs of all kinds abound.
- Southbank: For a chic and relaxed atmosphere on the banks of the Yarra. It is also the meeting place for artists.
- Carlton: The perfect place to rest on the terrace where the restaurants will make you drool!
- St Kilda: The number one spot for backpackers who come to enjoy the beach, bars and nightlife.
Our selection of bars
Who has never wanted to activate a book to open a secret door? Or to go through the Narnia wardrobe to discover another world? Whatever your reasons, if you are looking for a quirky place to have a drink with your partner or friends, we invite you to follow us. In the very heart of Melbourne are authentic, discreet and fun places that we have selected for you.
Trinket – 87 Flinders Ln, Melbourne: Psst… The Narnia wardrobe is here!
Berlin Bar – 2/16 Corrs, Melbourne: A brick wall and a bell… It’s up to you to ring it!
State of Grace – 27 King St, Melbourne: What will be the right book to open the door?
“Underground” and trendy bars
What we love about Melbourne is its varied atmospheres! Each bar is unique and has its own identity. You can find everything there: the surprising as well as the unforgettable. Your turn to judge! But we warn you…You won’t be able to resist going back!
Black Pearl – 304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy: Simply sensational! It was ranked as one of the best bars in the world by Word’s Best Bar Award in 2018 (very serious ranking). So, make the most of it and let yourself be served by a master of cocktails.
Section 8 – 27/29 Tattersalls Ln, Melbourne: “Underground” atmosphere located in a small outdoor street. In the evening, there is a DJ who will have you dancing to House music.
Whitehart Bar – 22 Whitehart Ln, Melbourne: In the intimacy of Melbourne hides a cozy place where a shaded terrace and music mix. Perfect for lounging with friends.
Arbory – 1 Flinders Walk, Melbourne: Located on the banks of the Yarra, this chic-looking bar offers an exceptional view of the river. A wonderful moment to share at sunset.
Father’s Office – 249 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne: One of Melbourne’s best-known establishments! Here, the locals come to meet around a beer after their day’s work. An ideal atmosphere to meet new people.
Clubs & nightclubs
In the centre of Melbourne
New Guernica – 322 Little Collins St, Melbourne: This club is a local haunt and is definitely a place to remember. An incredible experience awaits you!
Story Ville – 185 Lonsdale St, Melbourne: Nothing is more exotic than this place where huge mushrooms grow. We did not dream! Its fabulous decoration hides an exceptional mastery of cocktails. Moreover, do not hesitate to discover the “Fire Balls”: so well known that you will not see them on the map.
Club Retro – 383 Lonsdale St, Melbourne: Claiming to be one of the best nightclubs in the city, Club Retro is a rite of passage in Melbourne.
Spice Market – Beaney Ln, Melbourne: Known for its theme nights, we advise you to take a look at the site to ensure your entry (and costume, if necessary). Be prepared!
The Night Cat – 137/141 Jonhston St, Fitzroy: Located in Fitzroy, this establishment welcomes new artists every day.
Ya Ya’s – 99 Smith St, Fitzroy: Change of atmosphere! For those who would like to wiggle their hips to festive music, welcome to Ya Ya’s Club! It has two rooms for a successful evening.
Revolver – 229 Chapel St, Prahran: A iconic Melbourne techno club! Who has never been to the Revolver? Certainly not you. See you on Sunday evening for an unforgettable night.
Lucky Coq – 179 Chapel St, Windsor: This is a dance bar that has been able to retain its customers. We go back time and time again!
💡 Good to know
Always go out with your passport. In Australia, entry requirements for establishments that serve alcohol are strict. You will need to be able to prove your age before entering.
Remember, restaurant hours generally start and finish earlier than in Europe: between 6pm – 9pm (last service for places). The same goes for nightclubs, where at 11 pm the party is already in full swing. So while waiting to see you on the dance floor, we hope you enjoyed this article!
Where to eat in Melbourne: our favourite spots
Melbourne is a multicultural and rich city! The culinary offering is the same, so you can also taste Chinese, Indian, Greek, Lebanese or French specialties. For that, go to Chinatown in the CBD, to the cosmopolitan streets of Fitzroy, or to Lygoon Street to eat Italian.
For those who prefer to cook, the best option is to head to Queen Victoria Market to stock up on fresh produce.
Chin Chin – 125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne: A great place to sample typical Southeast Asian dishes. Here, they don’t take reservations but do not hesitate to come early. Indeed, their dishes are the envy of passers-by.
Juicy Bao – 178 Little Bourke St, Melbourne: Right in the heart of Chinatown, delicious baos await. And for those who are still unaware of this flavour, we leave you the leisure to discover it. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised!
Blue Chillies – 182 Brunswick St, Fitzroy: Located in Fitzroy, this restaurant offers modern Malaysian dishes whose finesse will delight your taste buds.
400 Gradi – 99 Lygon St, Brunswick East: This Italian restaurant has already been talked about a lot. Head to the Brunswick district to discover the art of pizza (cooked at 400°)! Authentic and renowned, this restaurant offers cookery lessons to those who are interested. So, get cooking!
Hotel Jesus – 174 Smith St, Collingwood: A Mexican restaurant like you’ve never seen! Hotel Jesus shows off its tasty cuisine, in a colourful presentation.
Naked for Satan – 285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy: This little restaurant doubles as a bar where you can grab some snacks. However, its greatest asset lies in its delicious mulled wine to sip on the rooftop.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants
Sister of Soul – 73 Acland St, St Kilda: One of Melbourne’s most highly recommended vegetarian restaurants! We advise you to take a trip there and enjoy the beaches of St Kilda at the same time.
Crossways Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant – 309/325 Bourke St, Melbourne: Just as highly rated, this establishment offers an original formula where every day equals a new buffet.
Vegie Bar – 380 Brunswick St, Fitzroy: It is very rare for a restaurant to win unanimous support and yet the Vegie Bar rose to the challenge with flying colours. It is undoubtedly a rising star.
Public transport: Get around the city
It is very easy to get around central Melbourne. You can get around for free thanks to the tram that goes around the city. You will see “Free zone” displayed on the zones concerned.
For the rest of the city, you will need to buy a Myki card at the airport or at a “7 eleven” store. It will cost you $6 for a normal fare (or $3 for children). To use it, you will have to recharge it then “top up” / “top off” i.e. scan it when entering and then remember to scan it again when going down! There are two formulas.
- a Myki Money allows you to pay by card. For $4.60 you can travel by tram, bus or train for two hours. The daily rate is blocked at $9.20 and on weekends, holidays and evenings after 6 p.m. at $6.7.
- the Myki Pass is for people who use public transport very often. It is therefore a weekly or monthly subscription.
What to do in the Melbourne region?
If you plan to spend several days in the surroundings, here is a brief overview of the spots to visit in the Melbourne region:
The Great Ocean Road
90min by car from the center of Melbourne, this famous coastal road stretches over 243km. It offers breathtaking landscapes! One of the most famous spots is the view of the “12 apostles”, a group of rocks along the shore of which only 8 still remain.
If you don’t have a vehicle, you can take a day trip on the Great Ocean Road. Budget around $130 per person.
The Yarra Valley
Less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is home to more than 120 world-renowned wineries, from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. Plan to take a tour of its majestic forests during a tasting. Organised tours offer visits to the valley and tastings in the vineyards (about $140/pers.).
Located just under a two-hour drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations. A true haven of peace, the island is home to many animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and penguins! At nightfall, you can also observe the Penguins Parade.
A 1-hour drive from Melbourne, the Mornington peninsula is like a Mediterranean seaside with its superb beaches and other small cafes and restaurants.
A 3-hour drive from Melbourne, this wild park offers you the possibility of hiking along the cliffs or swimming in the middle of the waterfalls. The place is magnificent, it is not for nothing that it is classified as a national heritage site.
Sample tour package: From Melbourne: Grampians National Park Tour
French Island National Park
For camping lovers, the place is perfect because it is not often visited by tourists. However, it is not that difficult to get there. Take a 15 minute ferry from Stony Point.
Located 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne, Wilson’s Promontory National Park is one of Australia’s favorite parks! Also nicknamed “The Prom”, this approximately 50,000 hectare park offers more than 80 km of hiking trails. But if you don’t have a vehicle, here is a day tour departing from Melbourne.
Things to do in the Melbourne area
Our selection of the best things to do and see outside Melbourne, so you don’t miss a thing!
– Melbourne Central, a 5-storey mall with 300 stores, mainly ready-to-wear brands.
– Emporium Melbourne, a gigantic 7-storey shopping center with 225 shops including Topshop, Victoria’s Secret and luxury brands like Chanel and Michael Kors.
– DFO South Wharf, more than 200 outlet shops with brands like Nike, Adidas, Uggs, Rip Curl, Fossil…
For outdoor shopping, head to the high street of Bourke Street Mall. It is a pedestrian street where you will find the MYER galleries and a huge H&M whose architecture alone is worth a visit. Further north of Melbourne, the streets of Smith Street and Brunswick Street in Fitzroy are full of various factory outlets (Adidas, Converses, Champion, Rip Curl…)
Melbourne Cup Carnival (November)
Melbourne New Year’s Eve (31 Dec)
Melbourne International Comedy Festival (April)
Melbourne International Film Festival (July)
White Night Melbourne (August)