Melbourne is renowned for its food, cafes, gardens and art. Culture is the name of the game here, and Melbourne never fails to entertain. Although Melbourne’s weather is known for producing four seasons in one day, it remains reasonably mild year-round, with October to March being the best times to visit. There are heaps of cheap flights in and out of Melbourne’s two airports, and public transport within the city is great. From gardens to museums, gigs to beaches, this truly is the city that has it all.
Day 1: Melbourne Alleys, Museums & Galleries
Start your day off right with a primo Melbourne coffee and breaky from The Hardware Societe or Higher Ground. Melbourne cafes and coffee are some of the best in the world, so make sure you get your fill while you’re here. Once you’re caffeinated and satiated, head over to Queen Victoria Market to check out a classic Melbourne market scene. If you’re visiting in summer, the market is open at night too, with live music and sangria to boot. Make sure you head to the deli and grab some local cheeses and other delightfully tasty goodies for schnacks on the go.
Next up is a visit to the State Library of Victoria. Walk around the 163-year-old library, and make sure to head up to the viewing gallery on level 6 (you can find a map here). After soaking in its history, it’s time to be mindful of Melbourne’s alleys and arcades – because they can be easy to miss. Alleys in Melbourne are nearly always full of gems, whether it be a hidden cafe or Banksy graffiti. Some of my favourites are Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, Centre Place, Presgrave Place, Duckboard Place, Flinders Court, Rutledge Lane & Union Lane.
On the way to Federation Square, drop into Roule Galette Melbourne, Rice Paper Sister or Red Spice Road for lunch. The ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is next on your plate, and a mecca for video, gaming and digital culture and art. Then it’s on to the Ian Potter Centre, which houses an impressive collection of classic and modern Australian art. If you want to learn about Australia’s truly fascinating immigration history, the Immigration Museum is well worth a visit.
For a cheap dinner feed, you can’t go past Shanghai Street Dumpling & Mini Juicy Bun, Hawker Chan or Shujinko. A few (and then some) extra dollars will get you a truly memorable eating experience at Chin Chin or Supernormal. Don’t food coma yourself just yet, because you’re going to finish off your first night in Melbourne with watching a game of footy at the MCG or Etihad Stadium.
Day 2: Melbourne Gardens & Rivers
There’s no rest for the wicked, and day 2 is best spent exploring Melbourne’s many green spaces and nearby suburbs. Get brunch in Carlton at Humble Rays, Seven Seeds or Flovie Florist Cafe, and then check out the Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens. The Exhibition Building is one of the world’s oldest exhibition pavilions, build way back in 1880 (which for Australia is really bloody old). Keep an eye out while you’re here for some of Melbourne’s famous food trucks for some more takeaway schnacks.
Onwards, to Fitzroy Gardens, where you can see the stunning Spanish mission-style conservatory and Australia’s oldest building, Cooks Cottage, which was built in 1755. If you didn’t take too long with brunch, you can score a spot on the free guided walking tour, which leaves from the visitor centre every Saturday at 10 am.
Then take a stroll down the Yarra River, popping over to the other side to explore the Royal Botanical Gardens of Victoria. If it’s your first time to the gardens, I recommend heading to the visitor’s centre first to get a map, as there’s a lot to see. Personal favourites include Fern Gully, National Herbarium of Victoria, Tropical Glasshouse, and if you’re here in summer, Moonlight Cinema. Then grab a well-deserved lunch at The Crux & Co or The Kettle Black.
Head up to the Shrine of Remembrance and explore the Melbourne icon, built in 1934 in memory of all Australians who have served in war. Then wander through Kings Domain, and if it’s not too late, hop on a tour of Melbourne’s Government House. The tour includes La Trobe’s Cottage and Government House, and are held every Monday and Thursday from 10 am to 12.15 pm.
To round off the day, join back up with the Yarra River at Princes Bridge (St Kilda Rd), and explore Melbourne’s iconic South Bank and all its offerings. It’s got more shops and restaurants than you can poke a stick at, but for dinner, my top picks are Pure South Dining, Nobu or The Meat & Wine Co. They’re hella pricey, so if you want a cheaper dinner you’ll have to head across the river to Melbourne proper. Crossways Food For Life or Don Don is good for an affordable but hearty meal.
Day 3: South Melbourne, Chapel St, St Kilda & Brighton
Up until now, you could have gotten away without having a car. But if you have any hopes of fitting in everything listed here, I’d highly recommend you consider renting one today. Melbourne’s public transport is good, but you’ll be in struggle town to get all this in without wheels.
Start in South Melbourne with breakfast and one of Melbourne’s best coffees at Chez Dre or St Ali. Then check out South Melbourne Market and soak up the hawkers and hipsters selling their wares. If you’re of the carnivorous persuasion, you have to try a famous South Melbourne Dimmy (dim sim).
Jump in the car, and drive down to the famous Brighton Beach Houses for an amble along the beach. These 82 brightly painted wooden beach huts are a Melbourne icon and date back to the early 1900s, from when beach modesty was a thing.
Next on the list is St Kilda, known for it beachfront and slightly creepy Luna Park gates. Walk along the boulevarde, check out the iconic entrance to Luna Park, and wander around this beachside hotspot. If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure you check out St Kilda Market, which shows off a heap of local Aussie craftspeople and their wares. For lunch, I’d recommend you check out Fitzrovia or the St Kilda institution that is The Galleon, polished off with a handmade gelato from 7 Apples or Piccolina.
To round out a beautiful outdoorsy day, you’re going to head down Chapel Street and explore the delightful Windsor and Prahran. I’d recommend parking near Dandenong Road and exploring on foot to get the most out of this area. There are more boutiques, bars and cafes than you could poke a stick at, so take your pick. Make sure you check out Prahran Market and Chapel Street Bazaar while you’re here for all your nic-nac and gifting needs.
For a cheap dinner, you can’t go past Lucky Coq ($5 pizzas for the WIN!), but Borsch Vodka & Tears, Mr Miyagi and Leonard’s House Of Love are worth checking out too. After tea, do what all good Melbournians do – Party on Chapel St. With an absolute plethora of shenanigans right at your fingertips, you’d be hard-pressed to get bored here. Whether its trivia at Colonel Tans (on Tuesdays, and book ahead!), video games at Japanese biker bar Bosozoku HQ, drinkypoos at Punk Carla or Morris Jones, or an all-night rager at Revolver Upstairs (or Revs if you’re a local), your last night will be a blast. Just don’t drink and drive, yo.
Where To Stay In Melbourne: