Voted the second-most liveable city in the world, Melbourne has it all – cultural diversity, a passion for fashion, a vibrant coffee scene, hidden laneways and a love for sports. Experience all that the cultural capital of Australia has to offer with this specially curated seven-day guide.
Renowned for its hip vibe, Melbourne attracts thousands of visitors who flock to the city each year to watch sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open, or for a dose of retail therapy and to experience its café culture. With the city occupying much of the coastline of Port Phillip Bay and taking in the Dandenong and Macedon ranges, Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, visitors are assured a great time.
Start by visiting Melbourne’s favourite meeting place, Flinders Street Station. The busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere has a distinctive facade and a set of clocks dating back to the 1860s that display departure times to this day. From here, it’s a short walk to Federation Square – the city’s public events space that’s packed with cafés, bars and cultural institutions. Take some time to wander around before heading towards the beautiful Yarra River for a late lunch. Seek out Arbory Bar & Eatery, the popular floating bar on the defunct Sandridge railway platform, and sip on a refreshing Aperol Spritz while having a casual bite to eat overlooking the famous waterway.
Leanne Clancey, a food and travel journalist, is an authority on Melbourne and has been published in National Geographic Traveller Food (UK), Gourmet Traveller and Australian Traveller. Clancey states that the walkability of the city is what makes Melbourne particularly attractive to visitors.
“Whether you’re wandering the city’s laneways in search of a great bar, browsing the incredible produce at Prahran Market, doing a lap of the Tan or hunting down your morning caffeine fix in Brunswick or Collingwood, exploring Melbourne by foot (or tram) feels really doable – in fact, its invitation to just wander is a big part of the city’s charm,” she says.
With the afternoon nearing its end, head over to Eureka Tower, a 297-metre-high (974-foot) skyscraper that offers the best panoramic views of the city.
Consider rounding off day one with a meal at Crown Melbourne. The world-renowned casino-entertainment precinct is a seven-minute walk from the tower and has a selection of 29 restaurants to choose from, including eateries such as Nobu, Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill, and Emporio Pizza and Pasta.
There are plenty of day trips to enjoy in this part of the world, so consider hitting the road today.
“Just over an hour’s drive from the city, it has something for everyone: beautiful beaches, charming towns with cafés, restaurants, boutiques and, of course, wineries galore among its rolling green hills,” Campbell says. “In the season, you can pick your own strawberries, get lost in Ashcombe Maze or view the area from above on the Arthurs Seat Eagle.”
Meanwhile, Foodie Trails entrepreneur Himanshi Munshaw Luhar suggests a couple of wineries that are worth seeking out.
“Some amazing settings include Pt Leo Estate with sculptures on display, Yabby Lake Vineyard and Ten Minutes by Tractor,” Luhar says.
Be sure to make a stop in Sorrento to see the mainland’s first European immigrant community, the Collins Settlement, with its heritage buildings and stylish boutiques, before taking time out to trek the clifftop trail to Portsea. Hiking enthusiasts will appreciate Point Nepean National Park, too, for its terrain.
Spend today discovering Melbourne’s heritage. Start by learning more about the land on which Melbourne resides and take part in a tour of the Kulin Nation. Local guides lead visitors on a 90-minute stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens, sharing with them the history of Victoria’s First Peoples. This experience is an ideal starting point for a follow-up visit to the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum, where visitors can glean a greater understanding of the region’s Aboriginal communities.
“Or, you could join Foodie Trails newest food walk, the Melbourne Foodie Culture Tour, and explore the migrant arrivals and their impact on Melbourne food and history,” suggests Luhar.
Continue the cultural adventure into the evening with a theatre or musical experience at the Arts Centre Melbourne – the premier performing arts venue in Victoria. The Southbank complex houses concert halls and theatres.
Make today all about shopping – after all, this is the country’s bona fide fashion capital. Venture into Chapel Street, the precinct renowned for its collection of designer boutiques and second-hand stores. It’s split into two distinct areas, so it’s best to start at the South Yarra end for the pick of quality threads and then cross Commercial Road into the Prahran and Windsor end – the popular pre-loved patch.
But first, coffee. There are plenty of coffee spots along the strip, ideal for a pre-shopping breakfast or brunch – try Lucky Penny for a modern Melbourne-style brunch or Abacus Bar & Kitchen.
Having exercised some holiday purchasing power, consider taking a load off and head to The Astor Theatre, a classic, single-screen revival movie theatre that has an illustrious history. It’s the last cinema of its kind in continuous operation in the city and a seven-minute walk from Chapel Street.
With three zoos in Melbourne, plus an aquarium, there are plenty of options for a ‘wild’ day out with the kids. SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium on the corner of Flinders Street and King Street is the most central of the lot and offers a 3D experience, with the Penguin Playground, Bay of Rays and Interactive Wonder Wall among its attractions.
Melbourne Zoo, Australia’s oldest, is not too far away, while Healesville Sanctuary is a little bit farther out. The Werribee Open Range Zoo is “an African adventure close to home” – about half an hour out of the city.
Start the weekend with a visit to the 140-year-old Queen Victoria Market. Home to more than 600 small businesses, the inner-city market is a great spot to shop for fresh and speciality produce and peruse the extensive selection of well-priced souvenirs, clothing and eclectic goods.
Don’t leave without checking out String Bean Alley, the section full of collections from some of Melbourne’s best independent creatives.
While here, purchase some nibbles from the fresh produce section, and then head over to the nearby Flagstaff Gardens for a picnic lunch.
Switch gears in the afternoon and take a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Explore one of the country’s landmark sporting stadiums, walk around the arena and visit the change rooms and the MCC Library (founded in 1863) in this tour that takes place every 30 minutes.
See the day out with a dinner cruise on the Yarra River. There are plenty of options, but Melbourne River Cruises is one of the best.
Alternatively, as Clancey suggests, check out the top end of Little Bourke Street in the central business district (CBD). “The top end of Little Bourke Street (north of Chinatown) is emerging as a vibrant food pocket, with Bar Saracen, Sunda, Annam, Longsong and Daughter in Law all starring,” she says. “Head down the hill a little farther, and you’ll find another great pocket between Elizabeth and Queen Streets, with highlights that include Kirk’s Wine Bar, Tipo 00, Miznon, Osteria Ilaria and French Saloon.”
Brighton and St Kilda are two of Melbourne’s most popular suburbs and the ideal destinations for a weekend walking adventure. Start the two-hour walk towards St Kilda at the Middle Brighton Baths. However, if you want to capture some keepsake holiday snaps of the iconic Brighton bathing boxes, it’s best to start a little farther down.
The reward for starting the day early and making it to St Kilda is the popular Esplanade Market, packed with quality home-made arts and crafts and souvenirs.
If you still have some energy left after strolling through the selection of coastal stalls, there’s one place left to see: Melbourne’s famous laneways district back in the city centre. Not only will travellers find some incredible street art to marvel at, but the café and restaurant scene is just as impressive.
Both Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane provide a dizzying array of urban art, while Degraves Street and Centre Place are great for the café vibe. For a refreshing cocktail, check out Bar Tini, a popular haunt for those heading to nearby Forum Theatre – a live-music and entertainment venue.
This is an updated version of a story created by Monique La Terra.
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