Lively, vibrant and ever surprising. Melbourne is the country’s second largest city after Sydney and lies in the state of Victoria, and it is Australia’s own little piece of Europe. Here is a generous selection of rustic cafés hidden between graffiti painted concrete walls. Melbourne is home to more than four million people, and if one was to say a few words about the locals, both fashion-conscious and confident seems fitting. The former working-class districts have undergone a transformation and are now trendy areas filled to the brim of hipsters and environmentalists. With a variety of quirky bars and charmingly run-down pubs, the nightlife is fantastic. There is a large variety of fine dining as well as simpler lunch-hangouts and shiny nightclubs. Melbourne is a city to get lost in, because it always hides something unexpected behind every corner. And you never have to walk far for somewhere to eat, drink, hang out, shop or relax. Peek at shameless expensive bits and pieces in historic Block Arcade with its beautiful mosaic floors or visit one of the popular vintage shops, relieving one after each other. As the evening approaches, you can head to one of the hip taverns that are close by. During the summer, roof terraces around the city are decorated with coloured light chains. Sipping on a well-mixed drink with the city’s skyscrapers as a fund is a classic.
There has always been a battle between Sydney and Melbourne about which city is the largest, the best and most beautiful. Although Melbourne for long has been the less popular of the two, competing against the flashy Sydney, it is no longer obvious which city is most appreciated. More and more uncontrollably fall for Melbourne’s charms. The city centre has several well-preserved Victorian buildings and is surrounded by suburbs with a wide variety of characters. The tram network makes it easy to get around. Old wagons are constantly rattling by, transporting people into the late wee hours. Hop on the loop of City Circle, which take you around the city centre for free. When you want to disconnect from the city-pulse for a while, the botanical garden is an excellent choice. There is always something happening in Melbourne. Regular music festivals invite you to dreamy days with folk festivals in the city. Visit iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground to see a game of cricket during the summer or Australian Rules Football in winter, lovingly called Footy. Both sports lie close to the hearts of many Australians, and the whole arena is boiling of activity during the games.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
At least a few days are required to discover Melbourne. But expect it to take weeks to get into the depths. There are so many places to discover in this city. Hop on the City Circle tram line to get a feel of the city’s geographical layout and maybe you’ll learn to find your way around. Another option on how to get a grip on all the city’s sights is to join in on a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/city-highlights-tour.a265465.activity-details).
To the city’s southeast lies the well-maintained Royal Botanic Gardens (rbg.vic.gov.au). It is a green oasis in the middle of the city next to Yarra River. The park is in full bloom during spring, in summer the canopy protects from the roasting sun and during autumn, the foliage explodes in a variety of colours. Come here for a relaxing picnic on the grass or follow one of the trails for a jog. During the summer, Moonlight Cinema shows movies in the garden (moonlight.com.au/melbourne).
Degraves Street near Federation Square is a nice place when you want to find a café where you can rest your legs. The outdoor servings with reasonable prices attract many. And don’t miss Hosier Lane where the grey concrete walls have been coloured by creative graffiti painters. Fitzroy has in recent years become one of the hippest districts in the city. Colourful Brunswick Street is probably Melbourne’s most hipster-dense street.
Art and culture
Do you want to take part of art and culture of the highest class without paying? Head to the National Gallery of Victoria (ngv.vic.gov.au) at 180 St Kilda Road. They often have exhibitions from all around the world. The museum is divided into two buildings, one of which is located at Federation Square and is called The Ian Potter Centre. Here you can enjoy Australian art from the colonization to the present day.
Sports, entertainment and events
If you like sports, you have come to the right place. Melbourne’s residents love to cheer on their favourite teams until they lose their voices. The obvious sport-destination is Melbourne Cricket Ground, MCG (www.mcg.org.au). This is the Australians’ big arena in the style of Wembley or Yankee Stadium. If you don’t see the arena from a distance, you’ll find it between Richmond and East Melbourne. In winter, cricket is the deal, but as soon as summer approaches, Australian Rules Football takes over. And it was right here that footy was born. To see what happens behind the scenes of MCG, you can join in on a guided tour. If you like equestrian sports, you can go on a daytrip from Melbourne to regional Victoria. There you can meet retired gallop horses who once were champions. The day trip includes lunch, beer and wine tasting (wotif.com/things-to-do/racehorse-tour-with-beer-wine-tasting.a227023.activity-details). For those who like horsepower of a different kind, perhaps a visit to the Bacchus Marsh Motorsports racetrack, about 1-hour drive from Melbourne, may be of interest. There you can be instructed in drifting on sandy roads by a professional rally driver (wotif.com/things-to-do/advanced-drifting-package-on-dirt.a264677.activity-details).
Finding things to buy is no problem in Melbourne. Collins Street is one of the most beautiful streets in the city. The Block Arcade is an ostentatious, polished and shiny shopping mall (theblock.com.au) at 282 Collins Street with a magnificent architecture from the late 1800s. Although the price tags can make you stare, it is worth getting here just to have a look around. If you want to shop like never before, perhaps a shopping trip to hidden outlets in Melbourne may be of interest (wotif.com/things-to-do/melbourne-outlet-shopping-tour.a190771.activity-details).
Queen Victoria Market (qvm.com.au) is a busy market with a massive range. Here you can find souvenirs and quirky gadgets. They are open five days a week, Mondays and Wednesdays are closed. With deli counters, rows of fresh fruit and vegetables and a lovely cooking smell that hangs in the air. Of course, there are guided tours that will tell you stories about it and take you to the gems of all the stalls of the market (wotif.com/things-to-do/queen-victoria-market-ultimate-foodie-tour.a305596.activity-details).
Melbourne’s nightlife is not to be forgotten. One could travel here just to try out the city’s great variety of food and drinks. For a great breakfast, try Two Birds One Stone Café (twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au) located at 12 Claremont Street in South Yarra. They serve mouth-watering brunches daily.
If you are looking for a quick yet tasty coffee, then go to Patricia’s Coffee Brewers (patriciacoffee.com.au) on the corner of Little Bourke Street and Little Williams Street. It is said they have the city’s best coffee. For the coffee-lover, there is a guided tour that takes you through the art of making a tasty coffee and how the café culture in Melbourne emerged (wotif.com/things-to-do/coffee-lovers-walking-tour.a256096.activity-details). Dinner should be eaten at Rice Paper Scissors at 19 Liverpool Street (ricepaperscissors.com.au). Here you will find flavours from Southeast Asia and dishes worth waiting for. But reserve a table in advance. This place is immensely popular. For world class cocktails, find Eau de Vie at 1 Malthouse Lane (eaudevie.com.au/melbourne). It is a small bar hidden behind a heavy wooden door. With a wonderful French decor and hundreds of liquor bottles behind the counter. The drinks are something of a masterpiece. And the staff is astonishingly modest. If you want to find more hidden local gems, you can go on a bar round amongst Melbourne’s best laneway bars (wotif.com/things-to-do/uncover-hidden-laneway-bars.a514725.activity-details).
Good to know
There is a large Visitor Information Centre at Federation Square along 2 Swanson Street and a smaller one along Bourke Street. If you are planning to visit many attractions, you can get a discounted pass (wotif.com/things-to-do/melbourne-unlimited-attractions-pass.a457156.activity-details). For more attractions and travel packages, you can take a look at wotif’s website (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne.d178283).
Melbourne is well known for its unpredictable weather. Rain is not uncommon. And yes, the winter can bring some cool and windy days, and in the summer, unbearably warm days are not uncommon.
You can get to Melbourne by car (wotif.com/Car-Hire), bus, train or plane (wotif.com/Flights). There are two airports in the area. The larger of them is Melbourne Tullamarine Airport which is located about 22 km from the city. The airline Jetstar also uses Melbourne Avalon Airport, which is located 55 km away. However, there are airport buses for all arrivals, so there is no problem getting into the city centre no matter where you land. In Melbourne, Southern Cross Railway Station and Flinders Street Station are two major bus and train stations. Greyhound is the largest bus company running to and from Melbourne. Local traffic is operated by Public Transport Victoria (ptv.vic.gov.au). They have a great online travel planner that you can use. To travel with them, you need a so-called Myki card that you charge with money (ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki). If you stay for a few days, it might be worth investing in a visitor card (ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/visiting-melbourne). Trams running along the City Circle Line are free (ptv.vic.gov.au/route/view/1112). If possible, avoid driving a car in Melbourne. It is not easy to navigate through the city when there are so many buses and trams. In addition, there are special traffic rules. You can also travel with Melbourne Hop-on Hop-off buses (wotif.com/things-to-do/shore-excursion-melbourne-hop-on-hop-off-bus-tour.a402770.activity-details). Another option is to see Melbourne from the saddle of a bicycle (wotif.com/things-to-do/melbourne-city-bike-tour.a558339.activity-details).
There are plenty of options for accommodation in and around Melbourne. If you are going to camp or stay in a caravan, you are going to have to do with staying a bit away from the city centre. Melbourne BIG4 Caravan Park (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Melbourne_BIG4_Holiday_Park.htm) is located about ten kilometres outside the city. It is a large park where you can put up a tent or rent a small cottage to stay in. The area is fresh and equipped with a kitchen, swimming pool and a children’s playground. There is a whole plethora of hostels to choose from in the city’s central areas. One of the better ones is United backpackers (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/United_Backpackers.htm) at 250 Flinders Street. Located opposite Flinders Street Station, this hostel is just a couple of years old and has already won prizes. The rooms are simple but clean and tidy. Free Wi-Fi and low prices. Home at the Mansion might be the most beautiful hostel in the city (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Home_at_The_Mansion.htm) at 66-90 Victoria Parade. This brick-giant almost looks like a castle. The location is just a short walk from the free tram line.
Higher on the price scale you have the Adelphi Hotel (Hotels in Adelphi Hotel Melbourne) located in a prime spot at 187 Flinders Lane. This boutique hotel is an experience thanks to its art installations and artistic design. Small, intimate and welcoming. The champagne and the food are not so bad either. If you want to stay in the centre of Melbourne’s CBD with close proximity to most things and a view of the city centre, you can try SkyHigh Apartments (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Melbourne_SkyHigh_Apartments.htm).
A Saturday in Melbourne City
08:00 – Breakfast first
You will be served a filling meal at Pillar of Salt (facebook.com/pillarofsaltcafe/) at 541 Church Street in Richmond. This is one of Melbourne’s cosiest places to start the day at. American pancakes, avocado toast, scrambled eggs with chili. You name it. The menu changes from time to time. Sit inside or park yourself in their backyard.
11:00 – Discover the city
It is time to go into the city centre. Hop on the tram running along the City Circle. Stay seated while it takes you around town. Get off near Collins Street and to check out the local shops. And why not to look for bargains at the mega market Queen Victoria Market near Flagstaff Gardens.
13:00 – Refreshments in Fitzroy
Head northeast with eyes set on the colourful suburb of Fitzroy. When your tummy starts to rumble, swing past the cafe Stagger Lee’s (staggerlees.com.au) at 276 Brunswick Street. A cool iced coffee or a fluffy flat white will invigorate you after a long walk.
16:00 – Brunswick browse
While you are in Fitzroy, take the opportunity to have a browse along Brunswick Street, the heart of the hipster-mecca. There are more bearded men and fixie-bikes than can be considered reasonable. Art and culture meet in a delightful mix. And here you get your fair share of indie musicians and second-hand clothes.
18:00 – Green is good
So, you don’t like vegetables? Don’t worry. The Vegie Bar at 380 Brunswick Street (vegiebar.com.au) is as far from tired lettuce leaves as you can come. The restaurant lies in the heart of Brunswick Street with a cosy décor and a well-composed menu. There is a focus on vegan and vegetarian food. They also have raw food and good drinks. The Vegie Bar can make anyone feel good about vegetables. An absolute must to come here.
20:00 – Evening activities
The night is young and the numbers of places to visit seem endless. If you want someplace relaxed and peaceful, maybe Section 8 at 27-29 Tattersalls Lane is something for you (section8.com.au). The bar is built from a freight container and pallets have been transformed into couches and tables. Nearby are a lot of street art to look at. If you instead is after something with a bit more action, go towards the Paris Cat Jazz Club (pariscat.com.au) at 6 Goldie Place. It is one of the city’s largest jazz clubs with live music 5 nights a week, open until late.