Melbourne is a bustling city with a plethora of activities to keep you busy. I spent 12 days in the city and despite everyone tell me that it was too much time – I never ran out of things to do! With hidden laneways full of graffiti and cafes, public markets, and beaches just a train ride away, the most livable city in the world offers so much for your entertainment! Here’s a list of 20 things to do in Melbourne:
1. “Let them eat cake!” on Acland Street, St. Kilda
Acland Street in St. Kilda is lined with restaurants and cafes – particularly mouth-watering European-style cake shops. With my nose pressed up against the glass and my mouth starting to water, I literally spent half an hour trying to decide which baked good I wanted to eat. (Honestly, trying to pick was half the fun!) You can either enjoy your cake at the cafe or for a slightly cheaper price, you can take it to-go and wander down to the benches in the nearby park.
2. Pay your Respects at the Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial that was built to commemorate those who died and served in World War One. Not only is it a stunning landmark to observe, but a climb to the top of the steps will reward you with a great view of the city. It’s open from 10am to 5pm daily and there are guided tours at 11am and 2pm.
3. People Watch and Watch the Performers at Federation Square
Located within walking distance of most of Melbourne’s attractions, Federation Square is a great place to rest your tired feet, get some free-wifi, and take in some of the fantastic city sights. There is a constant stream of people passing through – tourists and locals alike – which makes it prime people-watching territory. If you’re hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at one of restaurants or cafes on the piazza; if you’re bored, you can sit on the steps and be entertained by one of the street performers. Plus, they set up deck chairs for your enjoyment where you can sit back, relax and watch the outdoor movies/news/sporting events that they stream on the big screen. Federation Square is also the place of the Visitor’s Center so it’s a great first stop to make. Basically, there is NEVER a dull moment here!
4. Explore the Graffiti-decorated Alleyways
My favourite thing about Melbourne was probably the graffiti. I simply loved how it made the city ooze with creativity – it just made it so alive! You can start at the famous Hosier Lane (right by Federation Square) and make your way through the maze of laneways from there. Don’t worry about getting lost – it’s part of the fun!
5. Spend the day at Brighton Beach
If you’re in Melbourne, I beseech you to go to Brighton Beach! It is so wonderful, you won’t even know how to express your joy. Basically, it’s a little slice of Heaven – colorful huts line the sand, sailboats dot the ocean and you can see the hazy outline of the city in the distance. I think I loved the colorful huts most of all. They just add so much character and life to the beach. You can spend the whole day at Brighton Beach (I did!) – reading on the sand, going for a swim and of course, taking your photo with the beach huts!
6. Stroll Through Southbank
Southbank makes for a lovely evening stroll. Southbank makes for a lovely evening stroll. The general atmosphere and the bikes tied up against the river reminded me of Europe (but then the Europeans I met looked at me like I was crazy when I mentioned this so I guess I was wrong!). This waterfront promenade is the perfect place to sit down in and listen to the buskers sing under the stars. Families and friends happily eat in restaurants and you get a fantastic view of the city lit up at night – what’s not to love?!
7. Eat Your Heart Out (Evel Knievel)
Seriously, there are so many restaurants, bars and cafes! Millions of delicious smells waft through the air and I literally could not walk more than 10 meters without being distracted by food in a shop window. Upon recommendation, I went to Movida and ChinChin, which happened to be some of the more expensive restaurants. But fear not – there are a lot of cheap eats too! For example, I bought a whole meal in Chinatown for $5.80 (and it was a big portion!) If you’re not looking for a meal, you won’t be short on options for cafes and bars.
8. The Dandenong Ranges
Just a 24 minute bus ride away from Flinders Station, you can escape city life and find yourself in luscious woodland. Lose yourself in the towering trees or reflect at the peaceful William Ricketts Sanctuary admidst mystical sculptures embedded in the rocks. It was very Lord-of-the-Ring-like and reminded me of Rivendell. The Dandenong Ranges is also the home of the famous Puffing Billy Train (which I didn’t actually ride but I heard it’s quite the beautiful journey!)
9. The Eureka Skydeck
The Eureka Skydeck offers a fabulous view of the city but BE WARNED: your photos may be ruined by reflections in the glass! I went to catch the sunset and while the view was beautiful, the lighting made it difficult to take good photos. Honestly, even my reflection did’t get it in the way, my camera wouldn’t have been able to capture the stunning, rich colors of the Australian sunset. Be sure to keep your eye out for 10% off admission coupons which you can find on certain city maps, in pamphlets and on the information guide you receive when you purchase your Myki card.
10. Visit the Great Ocean Road
This day trip is ideally taken with your own car on your own time but if you don’t have that luxury, you can join a tour like I did. Your tour guide will take you to all the important sights – including Apollo Bay, the 12 Apostles, Otway Rainforest, London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge. I would have liked to have taken my time appreciating the spectacular sights and I would have liked to have seen the 12 apostles at sunset, but hey, it was still a great ocean day. Such scenery should not be missed!
11. Browse through the Queen Victoria Market
Depending on where you are, you can either walk to the Queen Victoria Market or take the free tram. Open everyday except Sunday and Wednesday, Vic Market is a vibrant place where you can buy fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, souvenirs, Australian crafts, clothing, toys and so much more! If you are prepared to buy something – try bartering! I tried and the first time I failed. So I came back again later on and guess what – I saved one whole dollar! Basically, Queen Vic is the very definition of bustling.
12. Wander through Docklands
Docklands is a wonderful waterfront area that invites you to enjoy an ice cream as you smell the fresh ocean air. You can wander up and down the pier, ride the Melbourne Star (if you’re willing to pay the price for it) and even go shopping if you’re so inclined.
13. Drink lots of Coffee (Lots and lots of Coffee!)
Melbournians take pride in their coffee – and for good reason! With every street lined with endless of cafes to choose from, it really is the coffee capital of the world. I went to Brunetti, Bonbons Bakery, Merchant Cafe, and Ganache Chocolate. Degraves Street, with its bluestone cobbles, is also a lane worth checking out! So take a walk through the city and stop to enjoy a nice ‘cuppa,’ as the Australians would say!
14. Take in the View from a Rooftop Bar
Going to a Rooftop Bar was something everyone told me to do – so now I am telling you. The views differ depending on which one you go do – I went to to Transit located right in Federation Square. The cost of food and drink tends to generally be higher in Australia, but it still blew me away to have to buy $18 for a cocktail! (CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED). Other bars that I didn’t visit but that I heard are good are Goldilocks and Cookie.
15. Marvel at the creativity of the Architecture
Melbourne is one of the most creative cities I’ve seen, and their architecture testifies to it. My head was literally turned upwards so often that I’m surprised I didn’t develop a neck problem. From the bridges to the buildings, there’s something to amaze everyone.
16. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
Another free and enjoyable activity is visiting the National Gallery of Victoria, or the NGV as it is affectionately known as. It is the oldest public art museum in Australia and features a wide range of art from international and local artists – from contemporary to fashion to architecture. Go with a friend to spark interesting conversation as you check out the different exhibitions.
17. Visit the State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria offers free exhibitions for your viewing pleasure and a wonderful place to rest your feet after a long day of walking. They also host free talks, workshops and guided tours in addition to the exhibitions. Fun fact: The State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free public libraries in the WORLD!
18. Join the Free Walking Tour
Meeting at 10:30 and 2:30 in front of the State Library of Victoria every day, the FREE walking tour gives you an insightful and interesting view into the city. In 2 and a half hours, your guide will take you to all the famous places and give you tidbits of knowledge along the way. Discover the significance of Ned Kelly, learn the story behind the design of the Eureka Skytower, and find the best places to dine!
19. Bike through the CBD
The first 30 minutes of renting a bike are FREE – and it’s totally doable to bike around the CBD in that time frame! So hop on a bike at one of the stands scattered around the city and get pedaling. The bike lanes make it safe and easy to get around – don’t forget your helmet as Melbourne has a strict helmet policy!
20. Sit on the Beach at St. Kilda
St. Kilda was one of my favourite places! You can walk up the promenade, take a picture with the iconic Luna Park grin, and wander the Esplanade market. The market offers handcrafted wood products, jewelry, artwork and more. (I bought my wonderful Melbourne artwork here!) The main street in St. Kilda is Fitzroy Street which is lined with outdoor restaurants, pubs and cafes. Take in the view of the gorgeous sunset, palm-tree lined streets, beautiful parks and wonderful old buildings. Definitely worth dedicating a whole day to!