Chic, sophisticated, and always on trend, Melbourne offers visitors a vast array of things to see and do.
Explore the collections of the Victorian capital’s preeminent cultural institutions (most of which are free to enter), feed your inner foodie at some 1,600 cafes and restaurants, dive into the energetic live music scene or roar with the crowd at an elite sporting event, party at a plethora of uber cool rooftop bars, and revive with the best coffee you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet. That’s Melbourne!
This Melbourne city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
Watch our video of ten top things to do in Melbourne:
Enjoy discounted entry to many of the attractions listed in this guide by pre-purchasing a Melbourne Flexi Attractions Pass. Passes are valid for three months from the date of issue. Choose a three, five, or seven-attraction pass and save up to 40% as you sightsee!
The CBD is home to a maze of interconnected laneways and arcades that harbour themed bars, fashion incubators, artisanal chocolatiers, and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Famous back alleys and byways like Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane are coated with colourful and creative street art. Don’t be afraid to wander; it’s one of the best ways to get to know Melbourne. Alternatively, book a guided laneway walking tour and let a local show you around.
There’s plenty more for art lovers to enjoy beyond what’s displayed on laneway walls. The renowned National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has two impressive sites — one on St Kilda Road devoted to international art and one at Federation Square, which focusses on Australian art. Also seek out esteemed private institutions like Flinders Lane Gallery and the Anna Schwartz Gallery. Both showcase the work of cutting edge contemporary creatives.
Melbourne hosts an extensive calendar of festivals and public events, and there’s almost always something happening in the city. The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is one of the highlights and takes place in August. Choose from a diverse programme of screenings, many of which are followed by a Q&A session with the director. Much of the festival takes place at ACMI (Australia’s national museum of screen culture) in Federation Square. It’s recently undergone an extensive upgrade and is well worth seeing.
Speaking of films, catch a flick at any time of the year in the suburb of Yarraville (five stops by train from Southern Cross station). It has a great village vibe and is home to the historic Sun Theatre — an Art Deco gem that serves house-made choc tops! Enjoy dinner beforehand at one of the precinct’s innovative eateries (we can personally vouch for the Yarra Lounge and Corner Shop). The newly refurbished Railway Hotel does a great pre-movie parmie.
To add some drama to your holiday find out what’s playing at the city’s four CBD theatres, the Arts Centre, and cutting edge spaces like the Southbank Theatre (home of the acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company) and Malthouse. Over in Carlton, diminutive fringe venue La Mama has been staging the work of emerging writers since the 1960s.
Melbourne for history lovers
Melbourne’s history is etched into the facades of its spectacular period buildings.
The city was founded in 1835 when colonial grazier John Batman purchased a tract of land alongside the Yarra River from the Wurundjeri First People. Construction boomed during the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s, which also gave rise to many towns and cities across central and northern Victoria. To learn more about the city’s early days, visit fabulous Melbourne Museum, the Royal Exhibition Building, Old Melbourne Gaol, and the regal State Library Victoria.
High levels of immigration during the mid-20th century changed the face of the city and delivered the diverse culinary scene that Melburnians enjoy today. Pay a visit to the excellent Immigration Museum in Old Customs House to hear the experiences of migrants from 260 countries who came to call Melbourne home.
Great places to eat in Melbourne
Melbourne dining is comparable with the best in the world and largely defined by where you are in the city.
Specific suburbs are renowned for certain styles of cuisine. Tuck into traditional Italian on Lygon Street in Carlton, or all-you-can-eat Greek in Collingwood. Give your holiday budget a break with great value Vietnamese on Abbotsford’s Victoria Street, or spice things up with the tastes of Turkey along Sydney Road in Brunswick. Do a dumpling tour in Chinatown, or head over to Footscray and feast on the flavours of Africa. Trendy Fitzroy is a one-stop-shop for Modern Australian and you can’t go wrong at the popular Panama Dining Room. Book early!
The sky’s the limit for fine dining — literally. Celebrated Vue de monde is located on the top floor of the Rialto building in the CBD, while Eureka 89 occupies the 89th floor of the soaring Eureka tower in Southbank.
For casual dining, get amongst Melbourne’s amazing cafe scene. It’s hard to get a bad brew or average smashed avo in this town!
Where to shop in Melbourne
Whether you’re in the market for designer labels or vintage hand-me-downs, Melbourne has it covered.
In the CBD, luxury boutiques line the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street, while Bourke Street Mall is dominated by fashion chains and department stores. Shop up a storm at neighbouring Emporium, the GPO, and Melbourne Central.
Chapel Street dissects the city’s south-eastern fringe suburbs of Windsor, Prahran, and South Yarra, and is well known for its retail credentials. This popular strip morphs from shabby chic at the Windsor end, to just plain chic in South Yarra. Further out in the eastern burbs, fashionistas also flock to ‘fashion capital’ Chadstone for the convenience of having just about every label under the sun under one roof (this is the largest shopping centre in the country).
Bridge Road in Richmond and Smith Street in Collingwood are ground zero for Melbourne outlet shopping. Book a spot on the popular ‘Bargains and Bubbles’ Outlet Shopping Tour and enjoy eight hours of concentrated retail wrangling.
There’s no shortage of ways to relax and rejuvenate in and around Melbourne.
In terms of not doing too much at all, the bayside suburb of St Kilda is a good place to do it! Stroll along the historic St Kilda Pier, pack a picnic and throw down a rug in the gorgeous St Kilda Botanical Gardens, or ride the famous Great Scenic Railway — the oldest continuously operating wooden roller coaster in the world — at Luna Park. When it’s time to caffeinate, skip the touristy haunts here and tram it up Carlisle Street to gritty Balaclava.
Melburnians love their sport and the annual international Australian Open (tennis) and Formula 1 Grand Prix attract huge crowds. Equally, local competitions like the Spring Racing Carnival (which famously features ‘the race that stops a nation’ — the Melbourne Cup), AFL (Australian Rules Football), and A-League (soccer) are never short of spectators. Much of the on-ground action takes place at the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Book a behind-the-scenes tour and soak up the gravitas of this world-renowned sporting venue.
And finally, set aside some holiday time to explore at least one of the stunning natural landscapes that lie within easy reach of Melbourne. South-east of the city, the idyllic Mornington Peninsula is characterised by verdant vineyards and charming beach retreats. Consider incorporating a visit to Phillip Island — where the famous colony of little penguins perform their much-loved parade up the beach at sunset.
To the east lies the stunning Yarra Valley — another of the wine-producing regions that ring the city. Sample the wares of the valley’s many cellar doors and gourmet providores, all the while soaking up the beauty of the setting.
Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne offers superb apartment-style accommodation in the heart of the city and has recently unveiled its eleven new-look penthouse suites. The one, two, and three-bedroom penthouses all come heavy on the ‘wow’ factor, with sophisticated New York loft-style interiors and stunning city views. The decor incorporates lots of natural timber, black granite, iron staircases, and an earthy colour palette — all of which work together to create a sense of contemporary luxury.
Take a tour of the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne:
We were thrilled recently to get a sneak peek at the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne’s new penthouse apartments, and to put together this video preview. If you happen to be holidaying in marvellous Melbs, it’s well worth exploring the city’s high-flying social scene.
The hotel has 155 guest suites in total — each with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry facilities. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided, and you can burn off any Yarra Valley indulgences in the indoor pool, gym, and sauna. Airport transfers can be arranged, and parking is available onsite (additional fees apply).
Browse our range of Melbourne tours and experiences here.
Do you have any tips to add to our Melbourne city guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune
About the writer
Chris Bright is a freelance writer based in Melbourne with a passion for travel, food, music, and film. He’s travelled to South-East Asia, India, Japan, parts of Europe, and much of North America. While on the road, Chris loves nothing more than meeting new people and sharing a laugh over their drink of choice.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.