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Discover Melbourne

All you need to know about Melbourne

All You Need to Know About Melbourne

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 skyline looking towards Flinders Street Station

 

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. 

 

Geography: Where is Melbourne?

 

 

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:

Official Melbourne City Map

A collection of inner-city neighbourhoods has formed the city’s unique character, and it’s best to plan your exploration around them:

  • Central Melbourne: Where wide main streets and charming lanes dotted with museums and art galleries buzz day and night. There are two big ends of town; skyscrapers cluster on the east and west ends of the grid. The ‘Paris end’ (east) is home to monumental buildings and designer stores. 
  • Fitzroy: Melbourne’s first suburb now shedding its reputation for vice and squalor after a long bout of gentrification. A place where creatives meet up to ‘do’ lunch and blog about it before heading to boutiques and vintage shops. 
  • Carlton: Traditional home of “Melbourne” Australia’s Italian community. Also the hub of the city’s counterculture scene in the 1970s. 
  • South Yarra, Prahran & Windsor: Neighborhoods synonymous with glitz and glamor; access South Yarra and the Yarra Valley Wineries by boat or punt there. 
  • St Kilda: A seaside scene for sea breezes and people watching. Expect a street party atmosphere with backpacker hostels alongside fine-dining restaurants. 
  • West Melbourne: Originally an industrial area home to the Port of Melbourne, Dynon Railway Yards and Melbourne Markets. Come for the Wholesale Fruit, Vegetable and Fish Markets, or the National Flower Centre.

Get In

Southern Cross Station

Plane

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. 

  • Only the Melbourne Airport-Southern Cross Station route runs 24 hours; all other routes run approximately from 6:00am to 7:00pm. 
  • All five routes have frequent departures within their respective hours of operations. 
  • Detailed stops and timetables for all routes may be found by going directly to the SkyBus website
  • SkyBus tickets may be purchased online, at ticket booths at Melbourne Airport Terminals T1, T3, T4, or at Southern Cross Station. 
  • Ticket prices vary depending on the route, but will generally cost about a third of what a taxi would charge. 

 

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. 

 

History

State Library in Victoria, Melbourne

 

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. 

 

Weather: Best time to visit Melbourne

Colorful bathing boxes at Brighton Beach

 

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. 

Where to stay: Accommodations

Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne, Australia

 

Hotels in Melbourne, Australia

  • City Centre: The best hotels in Melbourne and some great hostels; close to the main sights, bars, and eateries; can be noisy and expensive. 
  • Southbank and Docklands: Luxurious Melbourne accommodations that are close to top restaurants; touristy and expensive.
  • North Melbourne and Parkville: Close to the zoo; however, there are few options, and removed from the main Melbourne attractions and entertainment areas. 
  • Carlton and Brunswick: Cool neighborhoods with great bars and lots of live music; slim pickings for Melbourne hotels. 
  • Fitzroy, Collingswood, and Abbotsford: Good local bars and eateries; some unique heritage properties; options are limited. 
  • Richmond and East Melbourne: Close to the city centre and the Melbourne Cricket Ground; very few options for Melbourne city hotels. 
  • South Yarra, Prahran, and Windsor: Close to some great bars, clubs, and shopping; a little far to walk to the city. 
  • St Kilda: A good selection of budget motels in Melbourne and mid range options; close to the beach; vibrant eating and drinking strips; quite removed from the city centre. 
  • South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, and Albert Park: Some good Melbourne hotel deals positioned between Southbank and the bay, and close enough to the city centre, although not the most exciting area. 
  • Melbourne’s West: Interesting neighborhoods removed from the city centre; not many options except for Williamstown, which is relatively isolated. 

 

Eat

A nice place to eat brunch is the stunning Bentwood in Fitzroy

 

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. 

 

Nightlife: What’s on in Melbourne

Little Hop bar in Melbourne, Australia

 

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!

 

Nice to Know Before You Go

Melbourne Guide in a cafe

 Essentials

  • Population: 5.5 million
  • Coastline: 2,000km
  • No. of wineries: 850+ 
  • Etiquette: If a friend buys you a drink in the pub, it's expected that you'll offer to buy the next round; when dining out, it's common practice to split the bill. Queue jumping is frowned upon.
  • Time: Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT/UTC plus 10 hours; plus 11 during daylight saving).
  • Bargaining: Haggling is not common in Melbourne or Victoria.
  • Tipping: Tipping isn’t obligatory in Australia. Tips are always optional, as it’s presumed that staff will be paid appropriately by their employers. 
    • For restaurants, it’s common to tip up to 10%, but only if you’re completely happy with the service. 
    • For cafes, it’s not necessary, but sometimes there are tip jars on the counters. 
    • For hotels, some people will tip their porter, but it’s not expected. 
    • For taxis, round up to the nearest dollar.

Mobile and Internet Access

You can purchase a prepaid sim card in almost any newsagent, convenience store, or supermarket in the city. 

ATM and Credit Cards

  • ATMs are widely available.
  • Credit cards are accepted in most establishments. 

Transportation / Getting around

Bicycle

  • Melbourne is an incredibly cycle-friendly city and is one of the most common ways that Melbourners get around. 
  • If you don’t have your own bike, you can either (1) rent a bike on websites such as Humble Vintage or Rentabike, or (2) make use of the Melbourne Bike Share — an automated, self-service bike-share system. All you have to do is download the Melbourne Bike Share app, find an available bike nearby, and get a ride code or use your member key to unlock the bike. You can then take as many short rides as you want while your pass or membership is active. Once you’re done, return your bike to any station, and wait for the green light on the dock to make sure it's locked. Pricing and other details can be found on their website
  • Conventional bikes can be taken on trains (except the first carriage), but only folding bikes are allowed on trams or buses.
  • Wearing helmets is compulsory in Melbourne.

 

Buses in Melbourne 

Buses, Trains, and Trams

  • Transport pass: To board and make use of the city’s buses, trains, and trams, you’ll need a myki card. You can buy a physical myki card or, if you have an Android phone, a digital myki called Mobile myki. 
    • If you travel to Melbourne occasionally, pay as you go with myki Money. Load money onto your myki and it will calculate the lowest fare based on where you travel. 
    • If you travel to Melbourne often, buy consecutive days with a myki Pass. Choose where you’ll be travelling and how many days you need. You can buy a myki Pass for 7 days or anywhere between 28 and 365 days. 
    • You can buy and reload your myki at various stops and stations; locate those nearest you by clicking here. Detailed  information on fares for various routes can be found here. 
  • Bus: Melbourne has an extensive bus network, with over 300 routes covering all the places that the trains and trams don't go. Most routes run from 6:00am to 9:00pm on weekdays, 8:00am to 9:00pm on Saturdays and 9:00am to 9:00pm on Sundays. Night Bus services operate after midnight on weekends to many suburbs
  • Train: Flinders Street Station is the main city hub for Melbourne's 17 train lines. Trains start around 5:00am on weekdays, run until midnight on Sundays to Thursdays, and all night on Friday and Saturday nights. 
    • Trains generally run every 10 to 20 minutes during the day and every 20 to 30 minutes in the evening – although during peak hours (7:00am to 9:00am into the city and 4:00pm to 6:00pm out), trains run every three to five minutes.
  • Trams run roughly every 10 minutes during the day (more frequently in peak periods), and every 20 minutes in the evening. Services run until around 12.30am from Sunday to Thursday, until 1:00am on Fridays and Saturdays, and some major lines run all night on weekends. 
    • The entire city centre is a free tram zone. The zone is signposted on tram stops, with announcements made when you're nearing its edge to warn you that you should either hop off or pay with a myki card. 
  • Details on routes, stations, and stops, for the buses, trains, and trams can be found on the Public Transport Victoria official website.

Cars

  • If you’re interested in renting your own car for the duration of your stay, most car hire businesses have offices at Melbourne Airport and in the city or central suburbs. There are also several great comparison websites if you’re looking to book in advance for a bargain, including Thrifty, Avis, and Budget
  • As an alternative to renting a car, you can make use of any one of the car-sharing companies that operate in Melbourne. These allow for all the benefits of a private vehicle, but with none of the commitments or hassle. Generally, the process is as follows: Joining online and receiving a card to access vehicles, booking your car at any time of the day or night, proceeding to the location of the car and unlocking it with your card, then returning the vehicle once you’re done. The following are some of the car-sharing companies currently operating in Melbourne (specific instructions and rates may be found on their websites): Flexi Car, Go Get, and Green Share Car.

Taxis

  • Melbourne taxis are metered and require an estimated prepaid fare. 
  • Toll charges are added to fares.
  • Uber also operates in Melbourne, and is often cheaper and more convenient than hailing a taxi.

 

 

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