Top ten things to do and see in Melbourne
Top ten things to do and see in Melbourne

TOP-10 things to do in Melbourne: must-visit attractions

Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia. Melbourne is the flag bearer of Australian culture.  Although Sydney might debate this with its quota of museums and up and coming events.  Melbourne, founded on the 19th century glimmer of gold and the rush to get a stake in the newly opened goldfields is a vibrant multicultural city with the Yarra River as its soul. Beguiling, seductive Melbourne wins the heart with narrow alleyways, sheer sandstone architectural splendor next to funky modern, intimate cafe bustle with coffee aroma tantalizing the senses.  Languages are folded into one another  in bustling markets and Melbourne charm is an added extra.  

Melbourne does not overwhelm the visitor even though it is actually a large city with a population near 5 million.  Australians from the country towns, Western Australia, South Australia and the Territories Melbourne is quintessentially Australia, a place to call home.  Take the  State Library it has a great story about Ned Kelly, bushranger extraordire. What more could you ask for. 

For overseas visitors Melbourne has a familiar big city vibe yet still breathes an undeniable identity, Australia.

A favoured city and a favourite Melbourne is a must do destination.  

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Top ten things to do and see in Melbourne

It’s free, the City Circle Tram is the perfect orientation of Melbourne. Start with a free tram ride. And it is quaint. City Circle Tram 35 City Circle (Free Tourist Tram) departs every 12 minutes from Flinders Street Station and other designated stops. The tram has stops along its route. Information leaflets are available when boarding the tram. The tram is a heritage W class tram decorated in special maroon and green with yellow and gold trimmings. If you can manage an early start grab a seat and simply relax. Enjoy people watching while the tram circles the city. Trams are a major form of public transportation. Get your tram pass and enjoy the ride.

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Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens has a hidden gem Australian Native Garden plus the grandeur of over 94 acres to spend a day finding out what is around the next corner. There is something for everyone in the sprawling space, duckpools to picnic by, a free garden people mover  and a 4km walking track known as ‘The Tan’ that circles the garden.  At the centre of the Park is a lake where families and friends meet. The children’s playground is a must do destination for those travelling with small people who need time to jump and run in outdoor spaces.  Check out their website for free garden walking tours or join the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. This popular walk explains  the gardens from the perspective of the traditional owners.

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Insta photo moments Melbourne’s architectural gems range from heritage-protected buildings of various eras and styles. Get ready to update your facebook page as you spot the well known,  quirky city buildings, old advertising paintings and contemporary structures.  Do not miss the Flinders Street Railway Station, Federation Square (both on the City Circle Tram route), Block Arcade, the Nicholas Building and ANZ’s gothic headquarters. Every July, you can glimpse, for free inside many of Melbourne’s off-limits architectural highlights at the city’s annual Open House event.  Check out specialised architectural tours as well as our gallery of buildings on our website.  Instagram moments galore.

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Explore St Kilda’s a short tram ride away from the city centre. A seaside suburb, a pier and esplanade, a heritage amusement park which still operates, a main street stacked with cake shops and ice cream vendors, and backstreets with art and architecture to gaze at. St Kilda is a seaside retreat for locals, complete with lifeguards and next door is Brighton Beach with its instagram famous beach huts. You have skyline views of the city and, best of all you are within walking distance of Acland Street cafes and cakes. On Sunday there is a craft market set up along the esplanade running alongside the Pier. For playground fans check out St Kilda Adventure Playground. It is within five minutes walk from the beach. For fans of heritage homes a walk around the streets of St Kilda and neighbouring Elwood will showcase Vicctorian mansions, Edwardian houses, art-deco apartments and post World War II modern from the 1950s and 60s. Check out our website for photos to inspire you what to see and observe.

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St Kilda cakeshops

Festival time and you need a break.  Melbourne is a great place to time your trip around the numerous festivals. Melbourne’s events calendar is packed with festivals throughout the year. There is free entertainment in addition to ticketed events. Free street performers, comic, musicians and mine being street favourites.  Parks and public venues are used as a stage. In March, there’s Moomba, which is Australia’s largest free community festival. There’s nightly fireworks, celebrity monarchs, a parade, and carnival rides and games galore. Other popular festivals in the city include the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Festival.

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And Aboriginal stories are to be found at Appreciate Aboriginal history, Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre. For an initiation into the practices of the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri people, and an introduction into contemporary Koorie history and culture, check out the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Cultural Centre  in Federation Square. City Circle tram stop one. Aboriginal artists are supported by a permanent social history interactive exhibition to provide context for visitors unfamiliar with Aboriginal culture. The Melbourne Museum also has excellent information on indigenous social and culture heritage but is only free for students and members.

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Explore the laneways for dynamic graffiti embellished street art.  Laneways are a labyrinth coiling themselves around the  Melbourne city centre. Shadowed lanes and alleys are canvases for artists looking for large blank wall.  A few downpipes just adds to the charm. Bright colours, large vibrant art narratives get visitors deciphering the messages.  Check out our article and images on street art to get you inspired for your visit.  Instagram-worthy backdrops for any selfie.  And do not forget to look down alleyways wherever you are in Melbourne.

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Melbourne’s is a shopping destination from high end local designers to funky contemporary to a myriad of pop up markets, the city is retail therapy on speed. In most suburbs there are markets selling fresh local produce, handmade crafts, secondhand treasures or gourmet hawker dishes from the Middle East through to spicy Asian. Browsing is part of the retail therapy and is free.  And in Prahan and South Melbourne markets you are encouraged to taste and test before purchasing. Temptation with every bite. Besides the grand old lady of markets, Queen Victoria Market, there are plenty of less touristy markets to check out. Perhaps Camberwell Market for a Parisienne flea market vibe; the Rose Street Artists Market in Fitzroy to soak up some Melbourne creativity;  the summer-time-only Night Market at Victoria Market for hawker-style food and live music; and the Farmers Market at Abbotsford Convent or the Collingwood Children’s Farm for a bit of rural idyll in the city.  A handy tip carry cash as sometimes the bargain does not have electronic payment facilities and for more directions and marketplaces check out our article on markets.

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Museums, the reoccurring favourite is NGV. Entry to the NGV Collection is free; however entry fees may apply to special exhibitions. The entrance is marked by sheets of water cascading against the sheer concrete facade.  This is matched by a series of foundations on the pavement where the tired, the weary and the slightly flustered visitor can be found figuring out what to do next.  To enter the building just walk towards the water, pass through and I promise you will not get wet.  Head into the gift shop to view the water feature from the inside.  It is also worthwhile to pick up souvenirs and gifts from the NGV shop.   The building was designed by Sir Roy Grounds, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has a collection of more than 73,000 works of art.  As you pivot towards the entrance look up and behind the wall of water towards the very large foyer where  the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling casts a kaleidoscope of colours onto the gallery floor.  And to simply gawp at the entrance it is free.  And a bonus the cafe is usually fitted out to match a major exhibition.  There are often queues at the cafe and its prices are not bargain basement.

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Gold mining and Chinese cultural heritage is found in Chinatown.  Chinese miners arrived in Victoria in search of the ‘new gold mountain’ in the 1850s and started Little Bourke St from the 1860s. For more than 150 years this section of central Melbourne, now flanked by five traditional arches, has been the focal point for the city’s Chinese community.  Explore a red and gold themed Chinese neighbourhood with historic buildings filled with Chinese restaurants, gift shops and Asian groceries.  Chinatown also hosts the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations.To learn more about the Chinese-Australian story, visit the informative Chinese Museum, part of the Chinese Visitor Information Centre. 

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Vying to be in the top ten is Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour is a near miss for the top ten with its main area dedicated to entertainment and visitor experiences. Darling Harbour’s  promenade is wall to wall cafes and restaurants with their menus displayed on the pavement to assist with choosing where to eat and drink. Remember to check google for restaurant reviews. And the area is not cheap. You are charged for the privilege of dining at Darling. Many of the guided tour harbor cruises depart from the docks here and it is also home to the Sealife Aquarium. A polished aquarium experience for younger members of your group will not disappoint. It is sometimes crowded as it is part of the mass tour bus circuit. The National Maritime Museum is part of the Darling Harbour. A mecca for all ages interested in the sea and the ocean. Stories of the relationship between the sea and the immigrants who spent months at sea is relayed through personal narratives drawing the viewer into the harrowing experience. A favourite place is the welcome wall.

And there is always the  temptation of a day trip to:

  • The Great Ocean Road
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Gippsland 
  • Healesville native park sanctuary
  • Goldfields, Bendigo and Ballarat
  • Dandenong Ranges exploration 
  • The Murray River 

Our in depth articles on Melbourn are:

Facts and tips to make the most of your journey.

From the airport 

Melbourne does not have the convenience of a train running directly to the city centre. There are the usual shuttle services, and two public bus service to Southern Cross Railway Station, Here is a link to a handy site informing us of up to date pricing. Welcome Melbourne There are two methods to reach the city centre from Melbourne airport. The most convenient is by taxi, however it is not a cheap option. A Melbourne Airport taxi to the central city will cost around 37€ (AUD$60.00) and the journey will last around 30 minutes to reach the centre. Alternatively, public transport via bus services is available. You can take two forms of bus services, public or SkyBus. SkyBus is the most convenient for travellers new to the city, costs around 12€ (AUD$19) and takes around 45 minutes to reach the city. 

Melbourne getting around

Melbourne transport within the city limits is Yarra Tram. Remember to purchase a tram tag on and tag off, electronic travel card, here is the link to fares and ticketing.   

Hop on and hop off bus provides an excellent opportunity for visitors short on time to hop, skip and jump between attractions.

Weather Melbourne

Where to stay: tremendous choice from luxury to budget backpacker.  Check on our booking button.  As always check the physical location of your proposed accommodation that is it on major transport routes.  

Check our city guide for information about museums, galleries, family favourite places and day trips outside Melbourne.  The Yarra River story is explained and where to eat on the Southbank.


The journey is worth it

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