Melbourne, Australia, is a captivating destination renowned for its rich culture, stunning coastal landscapes, and a fervent coffee culture. This laid-back metropolis, situated in the southeastern state of Victoria, is a charming amalgamation of tram-lined streets, picturesque laneways, and beautiful beaches. Melbourne boasts an abundance of Victorian-era architecture, enticing museums, and prominent performing arts venues. Moreover, Melbourne serves as an excellent gateway to the verdant wineries, wildlife observation sites, and dramatic coastlines for which the state of Victoria is celebrated, many of which are just a short drive away.
Here are some of the finest places to explore during your next vacation in Melbourne
1. Federation Square (Fed Square)
Commonly known as Fed Square, this central hub is a beacon of creativity, culture, and cuisine. Since its inauguration in 2002, it has swiftly become one of the city's foremost attractions. Located across from Flinders Street Station, this public plaza is flanked by the impressive Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a museum dedicated to the world of cinema and digital media, housed in an extraordinary triangular-patterned building. Additionally, visitors can explore further cultural exhibits at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, a branch of the National Gallery of Victoria devoted exclusively to Australian art, both contemporary and Indigenous, as well as the Koorie Heritage Trust, a cultural centre owned by First Nations people that hosts Aboriginal events and exhibitions. After indulging in this cultural feast, make time for refreshments. Sample a local craft beer at Riverland, a venue situated alongside the Yarra River, or enjoy delectable sushi at Chocolate Buddha. Alternatively, savour a classic late-morning Australian brunch at Time Out Café.
2. Melbourne’s Laneways
To experience the vibrant lifestyle of Melburnians, venture into the city's lively laneways, which are an integral part of its culture. Despite Melbourne's ever-growing population of approximately five million, these celebrated alleys exude a small-town charm. As you explore, you'll encounter an array of street art, stylish coffee shops, bustling boutiques, and a host of the city's hidden gems. With over 40 laneways to choose from, you'll want to prioritise your visits. Among the most iconic is Centre Place, an ideal lunch destination known for its European-inspired dishes and expertly crafted coffee—particularly the flat white, a Melbourne classic. For a more upscale dining experience, head to Flinders Lane, where premium restaurants offer internationally inspired cuisine. If you're interested in delving deeper into the city's street art scene, Hosier Lane is by far the most famous, featuring a continually changing array of colourful murals. Union Lane and Presgrave Place are other popular spots to appreciate authorised graffiti. If retail therapy beckons, complete your laneway exploration by visiting some of Australia's most intriguing shopping arcades, including the Royal Arcade, the nation's oldest, and The Block.
3. Melbourne Museum
Nestled within the Victorian-era Carlton Gardens, the Melbourne Museum, with its futuristic exterior, offers a striking contrast to the meticulously manicured historic grounds. While exploring the galleries and interactive exhibitions focused on nature and the state's heritage, visitors can delve into Victoria's history and diverse landscapes, from rainforests to an immersive world of dinosaurs. Be sure not to miss the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, housed within the Museum. This remarkable space is dedicated entirely to the accomplishments, culture, and history of Victoria's Aboriginal people. Through storytelling, performances, and displays from the Koorie community, the Cultural Centre provides an authentic understanding of Indigenous history.
4. Royal Exhibition Building
Situated opposite the Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens, the UNESCO-listed Royal Exhibition Building offers a different perspective on Melbourne's history. Constructed for the international exhibitions of 1880 and 1888, this Australian landmark is one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions. Over the past 140 years, the grand building has served a variety of purposes beyond its initial intent, from hosting the opening of the first Australian Parliament to functioning as a hospital and an Olympic venue. Fortunately, much of the original structure still stands and has been lovingly restored, allowing for impressive events to grace its halls once more. Visitors to Melbourne, when the pavilion is not in use, can join guided tours to admire the impressive blend of Renaissance, Byzantine, and Romanesque elements that adorn the interior.
5. Melbourne Cricket Ground (The G)
If you're a fan of sport, cricket, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (lovingly known as "The G" by locals) is one of the top places to visit during your Melbourne sojourn. This mega stadium is one of the largest in the world, with a capacity to accommodate up to 100,000 spectators. It's hard to fully comprehend the sheer scale of the stadium until you stand by the wicket. During a one-hour tour, you'll not only have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of this iconic arena but also follow in the footsteps of cricketing legends and set foot on the famous grass. Get an exclusive glimpse inside the players' locker rooms, explore the renowned Long Room (formerly known as the Members' Lounge), and enhance your tour by including a visit to the Australian Sports Museum situated on the premises.
6. St. Kilda Beach
While Brighton Beach, with its iconic and colourful early 1900s Bathing Boxes, is one of the city's most recognisable stretches of sandy coastline, a day trip to the suburb of St Kilda promises much more than just an opportunity to soak up the sun. This eclectic neighbourhood, a mere four miles from the city centre, is renowned for its inspired fashion boutiques, creative cafés, farm-to-table restaurants, and the beloved Luna Park theme park. St Kilda is also home to a thriving creative arts scene, with the recently renovated 1927 Palais Theatre, the largest seated theatre in Australia, just moments from the beach. Beyond the palm-lined boardwalk that frames the golden sands, the gentle waves of St. Kilda Beach will effortlessly lull you into a state of relaxation. Once you've made the most of the shoreline, head to St. Kilda Sea Baths to indulge in fine dining. With several bars and restaurants to choose from in this historic pavilion, you can savour signature Australian dishes such as fish and chips or chicken parma while enjoying ocean views. For families visiting Melbourne, one of the highlights is strolling along St. Kilda Breakwater, a pier famous for its "residents" who make a special evening appearance. Just after sunset, a colony of Little Penguins waddle their way back home, offering a terrific opportunity to spot these adorable creatures.
7. Eureka Skydeck
One of Australia's tallest buildings, the Eureka Skydeck rises above the sophisticated Southbank neighbourhood, providing the best panoramic views of Melbourne. However, it's not just the 360° vistas that await you at the top. Settle into a window-side table at Bar 88 to savour the outstanding perspective while sipping on a coffee or cocktail. Alternatively, head to the top floor, where the Eureka 89 restaurant awaits. Featuring an inspired tasting menu crafted by award-winning chef Renee Martillano, it's an elegant spot to enjoy lunch with a view. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the "Edge" experience offers an exciting addition. Step into a protruding glass cube suspended nearly 1,000 feet above the city and marvel at the incredible vertical view—an unforgettable moment you won't soon forget.
8. The Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles
One of Australia's most breathtaking routes, The Great Ocean Road is a captivating coastal drive featuring rugged cliffs, idyllic Australian beaches, and wild waves courtesy of the Southern Ocean. While the more direct inland route to the 12 Apostles, a series of limestone sea stacks and arguably the route's most famous attraction, may seem tempting, half of the magic lies in the journey itself. Commencing in Torquay, just over an hour from Melbourne, for the most part, the Great Ocean Road clings to the coastline, passing sun-drenched villages and golden bays. An enticing detour along the way leads through Otway National Park, providing opportunities to spot wild koalas. Upon reaching the 12 Apostles, where only eight remain standing, the sea breeze and awe-inspiring cliffs create a scene that ranks among Australia's most beautiful places. Just beyond the Apostles, the laid-back coastal town of Port Campbell is an ideal spot to enjoy lunch before unfurling your towel on the petite beach.
9. Royal Botanic Gardens
Nestled along the banks of the Yarra River, the beloved Royal Botanic Gardens have been a must-visit in Melbourne since their establishment in 1846. This delightful green space serves as the perfect urban sanctuary, boasting more than 8,000 plant species across 38 hectares. Pristine and picturesque collections of rainforest flora, endangered species, bamboo gardens, and ornamental and lily-laden lakes will immerse your senses in a fragrant journey, accompanied by the sounds of birds such as spinebills and cormorants.
10. Fitzroy Gardens
The Victorian-era Fitzroy Gardens is another of Melbourne's charming green havens. Established as a reserve in 1848, it stands as one of Melbourne's most historic parks, offering a tranquil landscape adorned with ornamental shrubs, landscaped lawns, and vibrant flowers. Within the park, you'll also discover heritage buildings, including the Corinthian-style bandstand and the 1930s Conservatory, which houses captivating seasonal floral displays.