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Top 10 Things to Do in Melbourne on a First Visit

Ahh, Melbourne. So much to do; so little time to do it. Here's a checklist of the ten quintessential experiences to tick off in the Victorian capital.
Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne: Visit the NGV. Image: Visit Victoria

Poking its elegant head up on the ‘most liveable cities in the world’ list every year, anyone who calls Melbourne home needs no convincing that it deserves the accolades.

There’s an indefinable quality that gives the city its edge, but it’s no secret that creativity, cuisine and eclectic culture play a key role in making Melbourne more than a little bit special.

There are many iconic experiences to be had, so it’s a task and a half to distil them down to a shortlist. But every one of the following has woven its way into the fabric of the city’s character, and helped define its depth, colour and irrepressible vitality.

Here are ten of the best things to do in Melbourne on a first visit.

Watch our video of ten top things to do in Melbourne:

10 Top Things to Do in Melbourne, Victoria, 2022 | Melbourne City Guide

Welcome to Top Oz Tours’ YouTube channel! In this episode of our online travel series, we bring you ten fabulous things to do in Melbourne.

1. Ride the City Circle tram

This one comes first, simply because doing a loop on the City Circle tram (aka route 35) is one of the best ways of getting an orientation of the CBD. You can hop on one of the heritage W-Class trams at any of the designated stops around the circuit (they run in both directions every 30 minutes), and trundle around the city for absolutely nix. The recorded audio commentary gives you an introduction to Melbourne’s history and points out the major attractions along the way. While the loop takes about an hour to complete, you can hop on and off at your leisure — so it might take a good deal longer!

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Ride Melbourne’s City Circle tram. Image: Visit Victoria/Greg Elms

2. ‘Do coffee’ at a laneway cafe

Ah, how Melburnians love their coffee — and they do it so well! So you must experience ‘doing coffee’ at one of the CBD laneway cafés during your visit. Tucked away all over the city in secret, unexpected places, you might find yourself squatting on a milk crate with the hipster crew, reclining in a vintage armchair, or rubbing elbows with the suits and stilettos at a miniscule bar as you enjoy your brew. The best known laneways are the pedestrian-only Centre Place and Degraves Street (on either side of Flinders Lane). Soak up the ambience Euro-style, with a confusion of chairs and tables spilling out onto the cobbled lanes and the heady aroma of food and freshly ground coffee filling the air.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Enjoy a coffee Melbourne-style. Image: Visit Victoria/Kristoffer Paulsen

3. Browse the NGV’s collections

Set over two sites, on either side of the Yarra River, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has been at the centre of Melbourne’s cultural scene since 1861. Divided into the NGV International and the NGV Australia (The Ian Potter Centre), the superbly curated gallery has some of the most noteworthy collections in the country. With everything from painting and sculpture, to architecture and fashion, the gallery also hosts major international touring exhibitions and events throughout the year. Make a plan to see specific artworks, or just wander around and enjoy the buildings themselves. There’s never a wrong turn, and the best thing is it’s all absolutely free. (Admission charges may apply for temporary and touring exhibitions.)

4. See some street art

Of course, Melbourne is famous for embracing a very different kind of art as well, and the city’s alleys, laneways and sides of buildings are the canvas for the work of many extremely talented street artists. Some of the best places to see their vibrant creations is in Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, Centre Place, Duckboard Place and Union Lane. If you really want to get under the gritty skin of Melbourne’s street art scene, a walking tour with a working artist is the way to do it.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne: Do a street art tour.

5. Shop at the Queen Victoria Market

The grand old dame of Melbourne’s markets has occupied the same spot for over 140 years, and no visit to the city is done and dusted until you’ve experienced the assault upon your senses that is the Queen Victoria Market. Open daily from Tuesday through to Sunday, more than 600 stall owners ply their wares of fresh produce, deli foods, seafood, arts, crafts, fashion, homewares, sporting goods, and the list goes on. And on. Whatever you’re in the market for, you’ll find it at ‘the Vic’, and the buzzing atmosphere and host of characters you’ll encounter are the best bargains of all.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne. Image: Visit Victoria

6. Take in a show

Melbourne is awash with live theatre; everything from comedy and musicals, to fringe works and highbrow plays. The amateur theatre scene is also massive. While visitors have a packed programme of choices to weigh up, if you can snag yourself a ticket to an MTC (Melbourne Theatre Company) production, you’ll get the quintessential theatrical experience that’s earned this cutting-edge company its stellar reputation.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
See an MTC show at the Southbank Theatre in Melbourne. Image: Alamy

7. Order a cocktail at a rooftop bar

OK, rooftop bars are not exclusive to Melbourne, but it’s an experience the city has practically claimed as its own — and it does it oh-so-well that that presumptuousness can be forgiven. Is it just imagination or do your cocktails actually taste sweeter overlooking the panorama of evening city lights as a gentle breeze ruffles your holiday hair? Only you can come up with the definitive answer, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test the theory. If you want to be in with the in-crowd, head for Loop Roof, the Parisian-style Siglo BarQT Rooftop and Good Heavens.

8. Go behind-the-scenes at the MCG

The legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (if you want to sound like a local, just call it ‘the G’) has been hosting sporting clashes since 1853. In fact, it’s been around almost as long as the city itself! Over the decades, the ground has played host to a huge range of sporting and entertainment events, including football, cricket, World Cup soccer, rugby union, international concerts, and even an Olympics. If you time it right and you’re in town for a big game, the atmosphere is like no other. But even if the great ground is silent, you can book in for a behind-the-scenes tour and get an intimate taste of its longstanding traditions.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
MCG. Image: Visit Victoria/Emily Godfrey

9. Enjoy some top notch nosh

Believe me when I say it’s all about the food in Melbourne. So much so, that you’ll be selling yourself short unless you plan to try as much of the fabulous multicultural cuisine as you can while you’re here. Wander through Chinatown for dumplings, along Lygon Street for Italian (read reviews first!), and down Victoria Street in Richmond for Vietnamese (it’s an easy tram ride there and back). You should also treat yourself to one extra special dining experience to add that extra spice to your memories of Melbourne. If you need some inspiration, Attica (named Restaurant of the Year for 2020 by Gourmet Traveller) brings the concept and ingredients of Indigenous food to fine dining, while the perennial Flower Drum offers a very different experience to your cheap and cheerful Chinese.

Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne
Ten of the best things to do in Melbourne: Explore Flinders Street station.

10. Step back in time in Flinders Street station

It’s unmistakeable, inimitable and defines the Melbourne CBD like no other landmark: Flinders Street railway station. Cornerstone of the city since 1854, the building you see today was completed in 1910 (although the famous clocks, which inspired the phrase ‘meet you under the clocks’, date back to the 1860s). The station’s impressive Art Nouveau façade is one of the most recognisable in the country, but there’s so much more to this grand building. Do a guided walking tour to delve deeper into its fascinating heritage.

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Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Melbourne? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind, and an open-ended ticket. Her first novel — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman — is now available in bookstores.



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