There are so many things to do in Melbourne it would literally take days to write a single article. So instead I’m going to choose 10 of the best that I believe you should do if you ever visit my home town. Melbourne has now won ‘The World’s Most Liveable City’ award, presented annually by The Economist, five years in a row. That’s an incredible achievement by anyone’s standards, but it’s easy to see why. No matter what you’re into there’s something for you to do, like dining in first-class restaurants, attending a wide range of sporting events in world-class stadiums, taking in a play or musical in gorgeous theatres, or experiencing masterpieces in our amazing arts precinct.
There is of course just one problem with Melbourne, it’s expensive. There’s no escaping it, you’ll need a little money in your pocket to fully appreciate this city. But by using services like Couchsurfing, the free inner city trams, and free events that can be found at That’s Melbourne, you can definitely have a great time without breaking the bank.
You could also do a free walking tour when you first arrive so you can work out where everything is and get your bearings. Strictly speaking these walking tours are free, but the idea is you pay what you think the tour was worth at the end by way of a tip to the guide. That way those travelling on a backpackers budget don’t miss out, and it forces the guide to put on a good show.
So without any further ado, here are 10 things to do in Melbourne if you’re ever in my home town…
See a sporting event
If you’re a sports fan then you’ve come to the right city. While Australian Rules football might be the code of choice for the locals, there are many other sports to watch as well. On a weekly basis you could see:
- An Australian Rules football game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – preferably my team Hawthorn!
- See the Melbourne Storm dominate the National Rugby League at the iconic AAMI Park.
- Watch any number of cricket formats such as the high octane Big Bash League, Boxing Day Test Match played over five days, or a 50-over game featuring the Australian team.
- Check out one of the local football teams (or soccer as it’s still commonly called), Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City.
- National Basketball League – Melbourne City
- Trans-Tasman Netball League (ANZ Championship) – Melbourne Vixens
- Australian Baseball League – Melbourne Aces
- Super Rugby – Melbourne Rebels
Then of course there are the huge international events that take place every year, including:
- Australian Open tennis tournament
- Formula One Grand Prix
- Melbourne Cup horse race
If you want to see the greatest athletes in the world plying their trade, head to Melbourne at any time of the year, you won’t be disappointed.
Royal Botanic Gardens
If you love your gardens, or just want to escape the helter skelter of the city, head to the Botanical Gardens by the banks of the Yarra River. Featuring an enormous selection of international and local flora, the beautifully designed gardens make it one of the best botanic gardens in the world. Set aside a few hours and check out the:
- Mini-ecosystems, herb gardens including the National Herbarium with over 1.2 million dried specimens, and indigenous rainforest
- Observatory – for watching the night sky up close
- Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden – an outstanding fantasy land for children and parents to explore together
- Visitor Centre – guide books, information and tours
- Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances in the summer months
National Gallery of Victoria
The three-level National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has all of the art bases covered. There’s everything from the ancient to the modern, with free 45-minute tours hourly from 11am-2pm. You’ll see famous pieces from Monet, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Bonnard, Mogdiliani and Bacon, as well as outstanding visiting shows that will blow your mind. For example, at the time of writing this article there was a major international exhibition of superstar artists Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei.
To check out a great collection of Australian art, head just down the road to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square.
A great place to see exhibitions featuring Victoria’s natural and cultural histories. You’ll see:
- Dinosaur fossils
- Giant squid specimens
- Taxidermy hall
- 3D volcano
- Victorian flora in an open-air forest atrium
- Bunjilaka – state of the art technology using indigenous objects and voices to showcase Aboriginal history and stories
There’s also an awesome IMAX Cinema in the complex showing a range of films from the latest blockbuster releases to educational videos.
St Kilda and Fitzroy
Melbourne really is defined by its individually unique suburbs, and these are two of the best. A 15-20 minute tram trip south of the city is where you’ll find the bayside suburb of St Kilda. Fitzroy Street is not the prettiest, but if you’re looking for a night out there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants serving a multitude of cuisines you might want to check out. Acland Street is where you can do much the same, but in far nicer surroundings. You can also doh a spot of shopping and enjoy a cafe stop where you’ll eat some of the best cakes and sweets in the world. It’s also where Melbourne’s most popular beach is located to take a swim and people watch by the foreshore boardwalk, as well as the famous Luna Park where you can channel your inner child and spend the day on rollercoasters, rides and dodgem cars.
A 10-15 minute tram ride north of the city and you’ll find yourself in the eclectic suburb of Fitzroy. The main thoroughfare where all the action happens is Brunswick Street, and you can find a diverse selection of fascinating shops, vintage clothing stores and eateries. Nearby Smith and Gertrude Streets are also worth a visit, offering a similarly diverse selection of shopping and eating options.
Oh, and If you’ve never seen a hipster, keep your eye out for immaculately groomed and well dressed bearded and moustachioed men, they’re everywhere!
There is no better place to get a complete appreciation of the size and expanse of Melbourne than at the Eureka Skydeck. Located at 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank, about a 5-10 minute walk from the CBD, it’s the southern hemisphere’s highest viewing platform and you’ll be able to pinpoint where the city’s most famous landmarks are.
For those who don’t have any fear of heights, upgrade to ‘The Edge Experience’ where you’ll walk into a glass box projected three metres out from the building itself! You’ll be suspended almost 300 metres above the ground on a glass floor, with outrageous views of the city and beyond. It’s not for the feint hearted, but if you’re up for it, you’ll absolutely love it.
There are many wonderful parks to enjoy in and around the Melbourne CBD, but none come alive quite as often and impressively as Birrarung Marr. The name comes from the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people meaning ‘river of mists’ (Birrarung) and ‘side of the river’ (Marr). It’s located between Federation Square in the city and Melbourne Park, the incredible sporting precinct where the Australian Open tennis tournament is held and the MCG and AAMI Park are located.
You can enjoy open green spaces, public artworks celebrating Victoria’s indigenous culture and history, and three sculptured terraces each with its own fantastic features:
- Lower terrace – hugs the river and features some of the original avenue of elm trees
- Middle terrace – where there are facilities to host multiple events throughout the year
- Upper terrace – great views including the Arts Centre and it’s spire, and St Paul’s Cathedral
If you’ve got children with you, there’s an awesome art centre and gallery called ArtPlay where kids can get creative and enjoy plenty of innovative activities. There’s also a brilliant playground there with slides, sandpits and the usual fun play equipment that kids love so much.
Finally, if you’re around at just the right time, you’ll hear the Federation Bells chiming away to any one of more than 100 compositions that have been created just for them. Featuring 39 upturned bells cast in bronze alloys, be there from 8-9am, 12.30-1.30pm or 5-6pm to enjoy the wonderful sounds.
City laneways and backstreets
Melbourne’s maze of laneways are worth of day of exploration in themselves. Escape the busy, wide open grid system streets of the CBD and get lost in the unpredictably windy laneways in between. You’ll discover the best hidden gems including amazing street art, boutique shops, galleries, delicious cafes and eateries, and cool funky bars.
Some of Melbourne’s more famous lanes include:
- AC/DC Lane – Named after Australia’s most famous rock and roll band.
- Hardware Lane – Great architecture of historical significance and popular restaurants.
- Hosier Lane – If you want to see great street art, head here first. Also includes Rutledge Lane, Caledonian Croft Alley and Duckboard Place with a connection through to AC/DC Lane.
- McKillop Street – Connecting Bourke and Little Collins Streets, it’s full of boutique shops and cafes.
- Degraves Street – Busy restaurants, good coffee places and some quality homewares stores.
- Crossly Street – Cafes, coffee and small lunch places
- Liverpool Street – Asian and Italian restaurants
- Royal and Block Arcades – Beautiful buildings, mosaic tiled floors, grand finishes, and elegant shopping experiences.
- Cocker Alley – Features works by Banksy.
- Meyers Place – If you fancy a drink you’ll find a variety of great bars.
- Bennetts Lane, Manchester Lane and Goldie Place – Intimate live jazz places.
My advice, find an alleyway, put the map down and just start exploring. You’ll have a much better experience that way.
Queen Victoria Market
I must admit this is not one of my favourite places in Melbourne, but I can see why it’s such as huge attraction. Melbourne is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and you’ll find people from all over the world selling their knick knacks, crafts, souvenirs and other goods here on Tuesday and Thursday (6am-2pm), Friday (6am-4pm), Saturday (6am-3pm) and Sunday (9am-4pm).
Located on the corner of Victoria and Elizabeth Streets in the CBD, this enormous market is home to many international foods making it a great place to visit for breakfast or lunch. The only problem you’ll face are the huge crowds that visit, so be prepared to snake your way through the market’s many aisles.
Melbourne Cricket Ground tour
We started with sport, and because it’s Melbourne, we’re going to end with a sporting attraction. A tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the National Sports Museum is a must see for any sports nut. Among some of the MCG highlights:
- Walk through the famous Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) Long Room
- Imagine being a professional athlete as you explore the player change rooms
- Take a walk on the hallowed turf
- Check out the Melbourne city skyline
The National Sports Museum celebrates Australia’s rich sporting history, offering an inspiring collection of memorabilia in an incredible setting. The highlights include:
- Sport Australia, Cricket and Australian Football Halls of Fame
- Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum
- Interactive gallery that can be enjoyed by people of all ages
- Horse racing, basketball, boxing, netball, soccer, cycling, tennis, golf, Paralympic Games, rugby union and rugby league displays.
There are so many things to do in Melbourne, and this list is just the tip of the iceberg. So if you’ve got the time and money, I guarantee you’ll probably want to move here if you stay for a while, after all there’s a reason why it’s been voted the world’s most liveable city for the past five years in a row!