Melbourne is an enchanting destination to explore thanks to its rich tapestry of culture, coast, countryside—and coffee.
Australia’s second city, set in the southeastern state of Victoria, is a laid-back metropolis of tramways, laneways, and beautiful beaches. Melbourne is adorned with Victorian-era buildings, tempting museums and galleries, and prominent performing arts venues.
Melbourne also acts as a great gateway to the verdant wineries, wildlife viewing, and dramatic coastline that the state of Victoria is recognized for–with some of the best places to go just a short drive away.
Here are some of the best places to visit in Melbourne on your next vacation.
Commonly referred to as Fed Square, this central hub of creativity, culture, cuisine, and compelling performing arts has quickly become one of the city’s leading attractions since its opening in 2002.
Centrally located across from Flinders Street Station, the public plaza is flanked by the impressive Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a museum dedicated to the silver screen and digital media, housed in a remarkable triangle pattern-clad building.
Further cultural exhibitions can be enjoyed at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, a branch of the National Gallery of Victoria dedicated entirely to Australian art, both contemporary and Indigenous, and the Koorie Heritage Trust, a First Nations owned cultural center hosting Aboriginal events and exhibitions.
After your cultural fix, make time for refreshments. Sample a local craft brew at Riverland, sitting alongside the Yarra River, snack on sensational sushi at Chocolate Buddha, or enjoy a classic late-morning Aussie brunch at Time Out Café.
For the best introduction to the lively lifestyle of Melburnians, dive into the vibrant laneways that are a cornerstone of the city’s culture.
While Melbourne is home to an ever-growing population of some five million people, a trip down these celebrated alleys serves up a small-town vibe. Be drawn into a smorgasbord of street art, chic coffee shops, bustling boutiques, and many more of the city’s secrets.
With more than 40 laneways, you’ll need to whittle down the best ones to visit. Perhaps the most illustrative laneway is Centre Place, an ideal lunch destination for European-focused dishes and perfectly crafted coffee—the flat white is a Melbourne staple.
For more upscale dining, you’ll want to make a beeline to Flinders Lane, where premium restaurants serve up internationally inspired plates.
To dig deeper into the city’s street art scene, head to Hosier Lane, which is by far the most famous for its constantly changing selection of colorful murals. Union Lane and Presgrave Place are other popular spots to admire the art form of authorized graffiti.
If retail therapy is calling, round off your laneway experience by visiting some of the most interesting shopping arcades that Australia is known for, with the Royal Arcade, the nation’s oldest, and The Block.
Nestled inside the Victorian-era Carlton Gardens, the Melbourne Museum, with its futuristic exterior, provides a modern contrast to the historic manicured grounds.
As you explore the galleries and interactive exhibitions focused on nature and the state’s heritage, you’ll discover the history and landscape of Victoria, from rainforests to an immersive world of dinosaurs.
Be sure to visit the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, housed within the Museum. This incredible space is focused entirely on the achievements, culture, and history of Victoria’s Aboriginal people. Through storytelling, performances, and displays from the Koorie community, the Cultural Centre provides a first-hand understanding of Indigenous history.
Royal Exhibition Building
Opposite Melbourne Museum, also in Carlton Gardens, the UNESCO-listed Royal Exhibition Building shares another side of Melbourne’s history. Constructed for the international exhibitions of 1880 and 1888, this Australian landmark is one of the oldest exhibition pavilions remaining globally.
Over the past 140 years, the grand building has served various purposes beyond its initial intention, from hosting the opening of the first Australian Parliament and operating as a hospital to acting as an Olympics venue. Thankfully, much of the original building is still standing and has been lovingly restored, allowing for impressive events to grace its halls again.
If you’re visiting Melbourne while the pavilion isn’t in use, you can join a guided tour to admire the impressive blend of Renaissance, Byzantine, and Romanesque elements which adorn the interior.
St. Kilda Beach
While Brighton Beach–with its iconic and colorful early 1900s Bathing Boxes–is one of the city’s most recognized sandy stretches, a day trip to the suburb of St Kilda promises much more than just a chance to top up your tan.
This eclectic neighborhood, only four miles from the city center, is renowned for boutiques of inspired apparel, creative cafés, farm-to-fork restaurants, and the beloved Luna Park theme park.
It’s also home to an ever-growing creative arts scene, with the recently renovated 1927 Palais Theater (the largest seated theater in Australia) just moments from the beach.
Beyond the palm-lined boardwalk that frames the golden sands, the lapping waves of St Kilda Beach will happily lull you into a state of relaxation.
Once you’ve made the most of the shoreline, head to St. Kilda Sea Baths to wine and dine. With a handful of bars and restaurants to choose from in this historic pavilion, you can enjoy some signature Aussie dishes such as fish and chips or chicken parma (Australian for “parmigiana”), with oceanside views.
One of the best things to do in Melbourne with kids is to stroll along St. Kilda Breakwater, a pier famous for its “residents”, who make a special evening appearance. Just after sunset, the colony of Little Penguins waddle their way back home, making for a terrific opportunity to spot these adorable creatures.
One of Australia’s tallest buildings and home to the highest observation platform in the southern hemisphere, the Eureka Skydeck soars above the city’s sophisticated Southbank neighborhood.
Undoubtedly the best place to go in Melbourne for a birdseye view of the metropolis, it’s not just the 360° panoramas that await you at the top. Settle in at a window-side table at Bar 88 to enjoy the outstanding perspective while sipping on a coffee or cocktail, or head to the top floor where Eureka 89 restaurant awaits.
With an inspired tasting menu crafted by award-winning chef Renee Martillano, it’s a refined spot in which to enjoy lunch with a view.
If you seek an adrenaline-pumping extra, then the “Edge” experience is an exciting addition. Step into a protruding glass cube suspended nearly 1,000 feet above the city and marvel at the incredible vertical view—it’s certainly a moment you won’t forget.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
If you’re a fan of Australia’s national sport, cricket, this mega stadium is one of the best places to go in Melbourne during your visit.
Affectionately known as “The G” by locals, Melbourne Cricket Ground is one of the largest in the world, with the capacity to accommodate up to 100,000 spectators. It’s challenging to comprehend the stadium’s sheer scale until you’re standing by the wicket.
During a one-hour tour, you’ll not only have the chance 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.
Take a sneak peek into the players’ changing rooms, visit the famous Long Room (previously named the Members’ Lounge), and extend your tour to include the Australian Sports Museum located within the grounds.
The Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles
One of Australia’s most awe-inspiring routes, The Great Ocean Road is a captivating coastal drive of crumbling cliffs, dreamy Australian beaches, and untamed waves, courtesy of the Southern Ocean.
While it might be tempting to take the more direct inland route to the 12 Apostles, a series of limestone sea stacks and arguably the route’s most famous sight, half of the magic is found in the journey.
Beginning in Torquay, just over an hour from Melbourne, for the most part, the Great Ocean Road hugs the coast, passing sun-drenched villages and golden bays. A popular detour along the way is through Otway National Park to spot koalas in the wild.
On arrival at the 12 Apostles, of which only eight remain standing, the sea breeze and awe-inspiring cliffs set the scene for one of Australia’s most beautiful places. Just beyond the Apostles, the laid-back coastal town of Port Campbell is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch before laying out your towel on the pocket-sized beach.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Hugging the Yarra River, the cherished Royal Botanic Gardens have been one of the best places to visit in Melbourne since their opening in 1846.
This delightful verdant space is the perfect urban refugee, with more than 8,000 plant species across the garden’s 38 hectares. Pristine and picturesque collections of rainforest flora, threatened species, bamboo gardens, and ornamental and lily lakes will take your senses on a journey of aromas accompanied by the soundtrack of birds such as spinebills and cormorants.
The Victorian-era Fitzroy Gardens is another of the city’s delightful green spaces. Created as a reserve in 1848, and thus one of the most historic parks in Melbourne, it’s a serene setting of ornamental shrubs and landscaped lawns and flowers.
You’ll also find heritage buildings dotted around the park, such as the Corinthian style bandstand and the 1930s Conservatory, which houses mesmerizing seasonal floral displays.
Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges
While some visitors to Melbourne will opt to walk the Capital City Trail along the Yarra River or take a river cruise, those in the know will follow the river inland to the Yarra Valley.
Around 20 miles from the city, this lush natural setting of breathtaking scenery and celebrated vineyards is undoubtedly one of the best places to go in Melbourne’s surrounding region.
Spend a lazy day hopping between cellar door tastings and meeting the makers before enjoying a refined farm-to-table menu in one of the region’s acclaimed restaurants. With countless award-winning vintages to sample from exceptional estates such as Yering and Rochford Wines, prepare your palate for an extraordinary experience.
Ramblers and wildlife-seekers will also find refuge in the valley. The Dandenong Ranges are an ideal place to traverse bushwalking trails, spot king parrots dancing in the canopy, or simply soak in the scenery of the Sherbrooke Forest on an antique train ride.
National Gallery of Victoria
The main National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on St. Kilda Road is home to a vast collection of international art from all four corners of the globe.
With a treasure trove of over 70,000 pieces hosted across permanent displays and temporary exhibitions, and an extensive program of talks and tours to enjoy throughout the year, the NGV remains one of the best places to visit in Melbourne.
From thought-provoking fashion, paintings from acclaimed artists, and the often less explored topics presented in the temporary spaces, you’ll quickly appreciate why this is Australia’s most visited gallery.
Shrouded by Bushland, the Sir Colin Mackenzie Sanctuary (located in Healesville) is an expansive conservation zoo where you’ll enjoy the chance to spot native wildlife in a protected environment.
An hour inland from the city, the sanctuary is one of the best places to go in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley to learn about the many protected and indigenous species. Here you’ll have the chance to tour various habitats ranging from wetlands to woodlands, recreating the typical surroundings of the animals’ usual territory.
Wander the main track to encounter beguiling birds, such as the native emu or orange bellied parrot, before heading to Kangaroo Island to spot everyone’s favorite furry marsupial. Continue along the bushland trail, where wombats, wallabies, and koalas reside, followed by the chance to spot the naturally shy dingo (a distant relative of the Indian Wolf) or the equally scary-sounding Tasmanian Devil.
Try to attend one of the Keepers’ Talks for an intriguing insight into the stories and facts about the native species direct from those who care for the animals.
Queen Victoria Market
One of the best places to visit in Melbourne for tasty treats, retail therapy, and to search for souvenirs, Queen Victoria Market has been a beloved part of the city’s landscape since 1878.
You’ll find everything from fresh produce and handmade pearl jewelry to bamboo crafts and specialized culinary cookbooks. With over 600 small businesses under the same roof, you’ll be hard-pressed not to come away with something special.
When you’ve exhausted all the stalls, settle into the fantastic food hall to devour regional delicacies and diverse international cuisine or sip on a local craft beer.
Boasting the title of Australia’s largest multi-arts precinct, this National Heritage-listed building, which originally opened as a convent in 1863, is another of the best places to visit in Melbourne to experience the city’s cultural scene.
The verdant grounds of the convent are open 365 days a year and provide the perfect place to pause, whether on the sun-kissed lawn or under the flora-shaded deck of Kappaya, where you can refuel with an organic coffee.
Self-guided audio tours can be downloaded to your phone to explore the grounds and learn more about the precinct’s history. Of particular interest is the Indigenous Sound Trail, created by the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri Elders, featuring soundscapes by celebrated local musicians.
Inside, the convent has been lovingly reimagined and is now home to over 100 artists’ studios, the work of the artists displayed in temporary exhibitions at St Heliers Street Gallery.
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