Melbourne, Australia, is a vibrant and diverse city with many activities and attractions. It is in the state of Victoria and is often referred to as the cultural capital of Australia.
We stopped in Melbourne for a few days at the end of our Adelaide to Melbourne Great Ocean Road trip and got a taste of what Australia’s second busiest city was all about.
Melbourne CBD (central business district) is a walkable city, which is excellent news if you are on a quick visit and are time-conscious.
We spent one day sightseeing in Melbourne City, which gave us enough time to see most of the main landmarks in Melbourne. We then headed to St Kilda for two nights before sailing from Melbourne to Tasmania to continue our six-week Australian adventure.
So keep reading and discover the best things to do in Melbourne if you only have one, two or three days to spend in Australia’s capital of culture.
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To help you navigate the city, I have created a map of the Melbourne attractions detailed in this article.
Here are some of the best things you can do in Melbourne, Australia, on a short visit:
Explore the Laneways
One of Melbourne’s most famous attractions is its narrow laneways filled with vibrant street art, graffiti, and independent boutiques, coffee shops, and bars.
After dropping off our hire car, we headed here to check out the shops, get a haircut and see the famous Melbourne street art that has made the city a hit with urban artists and tourists alike.
As we love street art and actively search for it on all our travels, this was a must-visit in Melbourne.
Wander through Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane to admire the best street art in Melbourne.
If you are lucky, you might spot one of the urban artists at work. The tell-tale sign of an artist at work is typically when a group of people are all standing together looking at something.
Urban art is forever evolving, so an excellent way to immerse yourself in the street art scene and learn more about the hip and trendy Laneways area is to join a Melbourne street art tour.
Many laneway/street art tours are run by Melbourne locals who can provide an exciting insight into the individual artists and their works.
Visit Federation Square
Federation Square is across from Flinders Street Station and is a cultural hub hosting many events, from live music to food and drink festivals.
While we were in Melbourne, a music festival was in full swing in the square. We didn’t know it would be on, so it was a nice bonus to our quick visit.
It’s a great place to immerse yourself in Melbourne’s arts and culture scene.
If you arrive and nothing is happening in the square (which is unlikely), you can pop into the ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) located here.
Afterwards, stop off for lunch or a cool drink at Time Out. Sit on the terrace; it’s an excellent place for people-watching!
Want to know what’s on during your visit? Check out the Federation Square Website.
Pay your respects at St.Paul’s Cathedral
On the opposite side of the road to Flinders Street Station is the beautiful St.Paul’s Cathedral. It carries the same name as the London landmark but looks very different.
The 19th-century cathedral, with its prominent red spire, stands at the busiest junction in Melbourne. It offers a quiet space within the bustling city.
It has a beautiful interior and is worth visiting, whatever your faith is.
Stroll along the Yarra River
Take a leisurely walk or a bike ride along the Yarra River; it’s a fantastic place to take in the skyline and dine in one of the many Melbourne riverside restaurants.
Enjoy a scenic boat cruise to see Melbourne’s landmarks, including West Gate Bridge, the Botanic Gardens and Government House.
A Melbourne river cruise is a leisurely way to see the city from the water and can be done during the day or at night.
Shop at Queen Victoria Market
One of Melbourne’s major landmarks is the Queen Victoria Market, which covers over seven hectares and is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.
Explore the market to experience local produce, gourmet foods, clothing, indigenous arts and crafts, and more. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs and enjoy delicious food.
Check out opening times and what’s on at the Queen Victoria Market website.
Ride the City Circle Tram for free
Melbourne’s public transport includes the City Circle tram route, which stops at all the main Melbourne attractions in the city centre.
And guess what? The City Circle trams in Melbourne are free, meaning getting around Melbourne is easy and budget-friendly.
If you want to head out further to St Kilda, you must pay to take the number 96 tram from Bourke Street or 112 from Collins.
In St Kilda, you can relax by the sea, have fun at Luna Park and even see the fairy penguins that live by the breakwater.
Enjoy the art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
The oldest art gallery in Australia houses an impressive collection of historical and contemporary artworks in two separate buildings.
NGV International showcases works of art from around the world, including pieces by Picasso.
The Ian Potter Centre is not far from Federation Square and has a large and impressive Aboriginal art collection. Both museums are free to enter.
Visit the Shrine of Remembrance
One of Melbourne’s most striking landmarks is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Shrine of Remembrance is a pyramid-shaped architectural building which is particularly eye-catching as you walk towards it through the gardens.
It stands as a memorial to all those Australians who served in the wars. The shrine is free to enter, but should you want to join a guided tour to hear about the shrine and who it represents, there is a fee of $20.
You can find out more on the official Shrine of Remembrance website.
Discover Victoria’s history at the Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, so make sure you work out precisely what you want to see before you go. Otherwise, you might realise you’ve spent half a day inside!
Learn about Victoria’s history, culture, and natural environment, ranging back over millions of years, through interactive exhibits and fascinating displays.
Make sure to visit the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Museum to learn about the origins and struggles of Australia’s indigenous people.
Both museums are set in Carlton Gardens, a historic Victorian-era park.
Get your adrenaline pumping at the Melbourne Skydeck
Experience breathtaking views of Melbourne from the observation deck of the Eureka Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.
If you have a head for heights, step into the EGDE, a glass cube that protrudes 300m above Melbourne’s streets below. Afterwards, calm your nerves with a drink at Bar 88, the highest bar in Melbourne.
You will only need to spend up to 30-60 minutes at this city attraction, so adding it to a one-day Melbourne itinerary is a good idea.
Pre-book ticket for the Melbourne SkyDeck Experience.
See indigenous animals at Melbourne Zoo
If you have yet to see Australia’s indigenous animals in the wild, head to Melbourne Zoo, home to various animals, including kangaroos, koalas, and exotic species.
While I do not necessarily enjoy seeing animals in captivity, the Australian zoos I visited were focused on conservation; the enclosures were open, and the animals looked healthy. (I didn’t see any animal pacing, which is the case in many zoos worldwide).
It’s a great place to get close to indigenous Australian wildlife, especially if you are from Europe, where kangaroos, koalas and echidnas are not the norm!
Other Australian animal activities I experienced in Australia included:
- Visiting Kangaroo Island
- Exploring the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane
- Learning about the Tasmanian Devil at Devils@Cradle
Stroll through Queen Victoria Gardens
Spend time wandering in the beautiful Queen Victoria gardens, which feature an array of native and exotic plants, lush lawns, and walking paths.
The floral clock is one of the centrepieces in the gardens and features the statue of Edward Vll, the eldest son of Queen Victoria.
Take a tour of Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you might like to catch a game of cricket while you are in town. Check out the fixtures on the MCG events calendar.
Alternatively, book a guided tour of Melbourne Cricket Ground and learn about its history.
See all the sights of St. Kilda Beach
Relax on the sandy shores of St. Kilda Beach, known for its vibrant atmosphere, cafes, and the iconic Luna Park.
There are many things to do in St Kilda, including seeing fairy penguins, taking boat trips and visiting Luna Park.
Book a trip to see the Great Ocean Road
While not directly in Melbourne CBD, a road trip along the Great Ocean Road is a Melbourne must-do activity. Witness stunning coastal views, the Twelve Apostles rock formations, and charming coastal towns.
We experienced the Great Ocean Road on our road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne, so it took us much longer to reach. However, it’s a quick drive from Melbourne to see the Great Ocean Road attractions, so it’s doable on a short city break – book online for your GOR day tour.
Experience the beauty of the Yarra Valley Wine Region
Take a day trip to the Yarra Valley to enjoy wine tasting at the region’s many wineries and indulge in gourmet food experiences.
There are many pre-bookable tours to the Yarra Valley, which include wine-tasting, lunches and even a balloon ride.
See the beauty of the Mornington Peninsula
The Mornington Peninsula is an hour’s drive from the central city area and a popular tourist destination for locals in Melbourne. If you want to see more of Melbourne’s surrounding countryside and coastline, a guided tour from Melbourne is the answer.
Melbourne Frequently Asked Questions
Is Melbourne Worth Visiting?
While Melbourne didn’t excite me as much as when I visited Brisbane and Adelaide, it is one of Australia’s best-loved cities after Sydney.
Which is nicer, Melbourne or Sydney?
I preferred Sydney over Melbourne as it seemed more dynamic and had the famous Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach, two places I had always wanted to see.
Sydney is also only a short 50-minute drive from the incredible Blue Mountains National Park, which is a must-see on anyone’s Australian travel Itinerary.
Melbourne has more of a coffee culture than Sydney; it is supposedly where most coffee per capita is drunk in Australia! Sydney has more fine dining restaurants and famous landmarks.
How long do you need in Melbourne?
If you are only visiting Melbourne for a day or two, you won’t be able to do everything on this list, but the fun is picking out the attractions in Melbourne that appeal to you and working with them.
When we visited Melbourne, we concentrated on seeing the main CBD sights, but we didn’t venture into the museums or visit the zoo or cricket ground due to lack of time.
After a day in central Melbourne, we headed to St Kilda for a few days before sailing on the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to embark on an epic 8-day Tasmania Road Trip.
The Spirit of Tasmania dock is 70km southwest of Melbourne’s CBD, and sailing is the perfect way of travelling to Tasmania overnight rather than flying. Just be aware that the waters can get choppy, and getting a good night’s sleep may be harder than expected!
In reality, if you want to include a trip to the Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, plan to spend at least five days in Melbourne.
Melbourne FAQ’s continued
Are there beaches in Melbourne?
Melbourne has several lovely sandy beaches, so you have plenty to choose from.
St Kilda is the most famous, but others include Brighton Beach, Sandringham Beach and Altona Beach.
Is Melbourne a party town?
The city is known to be lively, and this is exemplified by the number of clubs, pubs and late-night bars hosting gigs and concerts on a daily basis.
Additionally, the city hosts various festivals, events, and concerts throughout the year, so check the local event calendar to see if anything is happening during your visit.
So, if you are young at heart and want to party like a Melbournian, this is the city for you!
Is it worth booking a walking tour of Melbourne?
If you only have a short time in Melbourne, a CBD walking tour is the perfect way to see the main highlights of Melbourne with a guide. You will learn exciting facts about each landmark and can even combine a walking tour with food tasting. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Where to Stay in Melbourne
There are plenty of places to stay in the CBD, St Kilda, and surrounding neighbourhoods.
I chose to stay in St Kilda in a private rental; however, in hindsight, I should have booked a hotel in the centre of town and visited St Kilda for the day instead of the other way around.
Hotels are priced for all budgets, and you can find a good selection of Melbourne hotels on Booking.com
Final Thoughts on Melbourne
I visited Melbourne as part of an extended stay in Australia, and although I enjoyed elements of what the city had to offer, like the street art, gardens and beach, I wouldn’t rush back.
I noticed many homeless beggars on the streets, which I can’t say I saw in such large numbers in the other Australian cities I visited.
Many in St Kilda had a visible drug problem that made me uncomfortable while sightseeing in Melbourne.
That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss experiencing one of Australia’s most talked about cities, and a short break in Melbourne allowed me to do just that.
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