Consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, Melbourne has something for everyone. Whether you’re in town for just a quick trip or settling down for a longer stay, there’s always something new to discover in this vibrant, multicultural city.
Melbourne’s gridlike Central Business District (CBD), is made up of over 230 laneways cutting through the city blocks. Its skyscrapers, interspersed with Victorian-era facades, tree-lined avenues, and landscaped parks and gardens, give a uniquely Melbourne flair to an area that has been nicknamed everything from “mini New York” to “the most European of all Australian cities.”
Sports fans will feel right at home here, as the fringe of the city center is dotted with iconic sports venues — a testament to Melbourne’s obsession with footy, cricket, horse-racing, and tennis, among others.
While the CBD is known for its world-renowned street art and restaurants, much of Melbourne’s personality can be found in its suburbs, each of which has its own unique charm.
North of the CBD, seek out the edgy, hipster vibe of the quirky cafés and trendy bars in Fitzroy, Brunswick, Carlton, and Collingwood. If glitz and glam is more your scene, then the high-end shopping and posh suburbs of South Yarra and Prahran are a must-visit.
To the east, you’ll find discount shopping outlets and delicious Vietnamese food. Wherever you choose to spend your time, be sure to prioritize food and coffee on your list of places to visit in Melbourne — two things the entire city does passionately and excellently.
The bayside city of “Melbourne Vic” is some 1,000km south of Sydney, Australia’s biggest city. It belongs to the state of Victoria in south-eastern Australia, the country’s smallest mainland state but second-most populous overall – making it the most densely populated.
Victoria Melbourne sits close to the country’s southernmost tip, across the Bass Strait from the island of Tasmania further down. The Melbourne city centre is fronted by a body of water called Port Phillip, which narrowly opens into the Bass Strait on the south. Check out the Melbourne Map below:
A collection of inner-city neighbourhoods has formed the city’s unique character, and it’s best to plan your exploration around them:
All international flights as well as most domestic ones land in Melbourne Airport (sometimes called Melbourne Tullamarine Airport), located approximately 22 kilometres from the city center. Dozens of international airlines have flights in and out of this airport, while the main domestic airlines that fly to and from here are Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Tigerair, and Regional Express.
From Melbourne Airport, you can get to the city center or its surrounding suburbs by SkyBus, car, or taxi.
The SkyBus services five different routes to and from Melbourne Airport: Southern Cross Station in the city center, multiple stops in Docklands and Southbank, St Kilda, Frankston and the bayside suburbs, and the Western suburbs.
From Southern Cross Station, SkyBus also provides a free shuttle service called the SkyBus Link to 12 different stops, each of which have been carefully selected to cater to over 100 hotels in and around the city center.
If you choose to rent a car and drive from Melbourne Airport to the city center, you’ll pass through a toll road run by CityLink, which requires purchasing a Melbourne Pass. Some rental cars come with automatic toll payments; so don’t forget to check when you hire. You can search, compare, and book car rentals directly on the Melbourne Airport website.
A taxi can cost anywhere from 55 to 75 AUD, depending on the traffic and time of day. There are designated taxi lines at the airport.
The city of Melbourne acknowledges that it is located in the traditional land of the Kulin Nation — made up of the Wurundjeri, Boonerwrung, Taungurong, Djajawurrung, and Wathaurung tribes — and that “Melbourne” is the European name by which it is presently known. For these indigenous peoples, the area was already a place of economic, social, and cultural significance, years before Anglo-Celtic European settlements displaced them in 1835.
Before Melbourne was born as a settlement, Anglo-Celtic European sheep farmers had secured territories in the cooler grasslands of Tasmania. However, they became hungry for more land, and in 1835 an ambitious young man named John Batman sailed from Van Diemen’s Land to Port Phillip Bay on Australia’s mainland. He chose the location for “Melb” on the banks of the Yarra River, famously declaring: “This is the place for a village.”
Batman then negotiated a land deal with the elders of the Kulin Nation. He convinced the local indigenous Australians to “sell” him an eye-watering 250,000 hectares of ancestral land for a crate of knives, blankets and knick-knacks. On that same year, the settlement of Melbourne was established.
In 1851, prospectors found gold in Central Victoria, triggering a great rush of hopefuls from around the world. The 1850s saw youthful prospectors from all over arriving in Melbourne to try their luck, unfortunately resulting in further indigenous dispossessions. At the same time, the eastern colonies exchanged the commonwealth rule by the governor for democracy.
1900s: The aftermath of World War II brought refugees from Europe plus migrants under the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme — the Australian government’s concerted effort to increase its dwindling population. The 1970s brought with it a wave of migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. These migrations all contributed to making Melbourne one of the wonderfully vibrant and multicultural cities of the world.
Mid-December to March: Melbourne’s summer; dry and hot. Plan your Melbourne holidays around this time if you’re looking for balmy nights, the tennis Grand Slam and music festivals.
March to May: The best time for a Melbourne trip is during autumn, when the sun is mostly out, the air is brisk, and foliage and gardens are glorious.
June to August: Melbourne’s winter; cold and cloudy. Melbourne travel during this time consists of gallery hopping and boutique shopping to escape the cold – not to mention the warm, inviting pubs!
September to November: Melbourne’s spring is also a good time to visit; the weather can quickly change from calm and sunny to cold and windy. Events include Footy finals and the Spring Racing Carnival.
In Melbourne, food and coffee establishments are attractions in themselves. The multiple waves of migration over the last two centuries have shaped it into an incredibly diverse culinary destination, with amazing Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisine, among many others. It is Australia’s premiere city for eating out, known for having the best food and the most options.
What are the best places to go to in Melbourne for food?
There are streets or neighborhoods that are reputed for having particular fare. For example, Lonsdale Street is lined with Greek restaurants; Little Bourke Street is where you can find little Chinatown; Lygon Street in inner city Carlton has many Italian restaurants; Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and Smith Street in Collingwood have a variety of international cuisines, trendy bars, and cafes; Fitzroy and St Kilda are known for being the centers of bar and cafe society; Vietnamese restaurants dominate across the board.
Foodwise, one of the best things to do in Melbourne is checking out the food trucks. Many of them ply the streets offering tasty and inventive dishes, posting their locations on Facebook and Twitter so their followers know to come and find them. For those still unfamiliar with the food truck scene, this website gives real-time updates on which ones are out and about.
No matter where in Melbourne you may find yourself, there’s always an amazing meal to be had.
Spending the night on the town is one of the most fun things to do in Melbourne, whose drinking scene is the best in Australia. It has everything from basement dive bars, rooftop cocktail spots, wine bars, breweries, and distilleries – you’ll never be starved for choices.
Looking for things to do in Melbourne at night? Like its coffee, Melbourne’s bars are legendary, ranging from hideaways to corner establishments. Inner-city pubs have brought in international chefs and mixologists, although the more authentic institutions of ‘Melbourne at night’ are the character-filled oldies.
The Central Business District and Chapel Street in South Yarra are the hotspots for clubbing, and clubs will usually stay open till 5:00am or 7:00am on the weekends. Depending on the DJ playing, whether local or international, clubs can charge a cover of up to 15 AUD. Some of the more upscale spots may have a dress code.
Outside the city center, the best places to visit in Melbourne for a drink are the shopping strips, which are chock-full of drinking holes. Try Fitzroy, Collingwood, Northcote, Prahran and St Kilda.
Opening hours: When planning things to do in Melbourne over the weekend, keep in mind that bars generally stay open till around 1:00am on weekdays and 3:00am on weekends; many of them offer live music.
Whatever you’re in the mood for, Melbourne will provide!
You can purchase a prepaid sim card in almost any newsagent, convenience store, or supermarket in the city.