A complete guide to Melbourne

Melbourne is, undoubtedly, a tourist highlight of Australia. Known for its love of coffee, huge sporting events, thriving street art scene, historic railway stations and quirky laneways this multicultural city has it all. There’s heaps to do in the city centre and some gorgeous days trips within easy driving distance with the chance to spot koalas and penguins.

After three months of living, working and sightseeing in Melbourne, we compiled this guide to help everyone make the most of their visit!

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Key Info

Population: 4.8 million
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD$)
Timezone:
GMT +11
Cost:
$$$ expensive
Plug type:
Plug Type I – 2 flat pins in a V shape + grounding pin


When to visit

Melbourne offers something special all throughout the year so when to visit depends on your interests and temperature preferences.

Summer: December-March

A few of the main sporting events happen in this time, including the Australian Open (tennis), the Formula One and the Boxing Day test (cricket), so expect flights and hotels to be more expensive. Also expect the weather to be hot, the gardens to be green and the days to be long and filled with fun. Be prepared and pack for all eventualities even in the summer months, we had 38-degrees and no clouds one day to 17-degrees and rain the next.

Autumn and Spring: September-November & March-May

For us, and many others, this is the best time to visit Melbourne. The weather is generally better at these times of year with warm temperatures (but not extreme heat) and less rainfall (but don’t leave your brolly at home!). This time of year is perfect to explore the city on foot or bike, go on amazing daytrips to nearby wineries and enjoy picnics and bbqs in the public spaces.

Winter: June-August

Statistically, these months are the coldest and have the most rainfall. Perfect for staying inside and experiencing Melbournes impressive shopping centres, incredible dining experiences and even putting the skis on and heading to the nearby ski fields!

#melbmoment

Where to stay

Thanks to house sitting, we stayed in seven different suburbs of Melbourne. If you want to see some of these stunning suburbs or look after some of the finest dogs in the city, check out our guide to house sitting or alternatively, look into Airbnb.

A few of the residential areas we would recommend are:

  • Prahran/South Yarra for its lively Chapel street and nice markets
  • Brighton for its stunning homes, popular beaches and the famous bathing boxes
  • St Kilda for its vibe, links to the CBD and Luna Park
  • Fitzroy for its amazing location, architecture and high street – Brunswick street.

Low Budget Hotels

Toorak Manor – Cheap, clean and most importantly right next to Hawksburn train station. Quite literally a 3-minute walk from the hotel and then only three stops to Flinders Street Station. Though not a central location, this is a nice suburb and you can walk to Chapel Street in around 10/15 minutes. If you’re off to the cricket at the MCG it’s only a couple of stops down the line taking only five minutes by train, which is perfect when you’re trying to beat the crowds back! Although the decor is slightly dated (reminded us of a Grandma’s living room) there are options for breakfast and the rooms are a good size.

Miami Hotel Melbourne – The reviews speak volumes for this hotel. For this central location the price isn’t bad at all and the hotel itself is clean and well run. Just a 10 minute walk to the Queen Vic markets and 20 mins walk to Melbourne central, there’s no need to spend money on hiring a car or on public transport!

High Budget Hotels

Empire Apartments – We were really lucky to stay with family over Christmas in an Empire apartment. This really was luxury. We stayed pretty high up on the 26th (out of 51) floor and had some amazing views of the city. We can only imagine what the penthouse is like! The building offers gym, pool and sauna facilities and the location is perfect. Only a five-minute walk to Queen Vic markets and just around the corner from Melbourne Central, you’ll be in the heart of the action.

Tribeca Serviced Apartments – Another good choice for self-serviced apartments in a good location. Only a 20 minute walk to the centre and in close proximity of the MCG. Step outside your apartment and walk into the tranquil Fitzroy Gardens. The rooftop pool and gym are an added bonus.

Booking.com

Getting around

Public Transport

Public transport is the best way to get around Melbourne. The Myki card, pronounced ‘my-key’, is the only way to use their system (can’t currently use your debit/credit cards). It costs $6 per card, so make sure you don’t lose it! You can buy a weekly pass (Zone 1 & 2) for $43 – which isn’t too bad.

The Myki cards are used for the buses, trams and trains – which all vary for single trip costs. You can find out more here. There’s also a free hop-on-hop-off tram zone within the CBD. Tram tracker is a handy free app that will give you all the info you need. Citymapper also works in Melbourne and has the handy ‘when to jump off’ feature.

The trains can be a tad confusing at the beginning as you can have multiple lines stopping on the same platform. Add in a few delayed trains and if you’re a newbie you might end up getting on the wrong train (speaking from experience). Our advice is to note which line you need before you travel and check the overhead board to make sure you’re getting on the right line. Don’t be shy to ask the friendly staff either. The PTV (Public Transport Victoria) app we found to be more reliable than Google for times and routes.

melbourne tram

Other Methods

With so many day trip destinations in the surrounds of Melbourne (more on those later), it’s worth looking into hiring a car. There are so many different car hire companies out there, it’s hard to know which to choose. The easiest way to decide is to use a comparison site, we recommend rentalcars.com.

If you are starting your year-long Australian trip in Melbourne, check out how to buy a campervan!


What to do

Check out the Architecture

Melbourne has a real mix of old and new architecture. You’ll love the stark contrast between the modern such as Federation Square and Southern Cross Station to older styles like the Royal Exhibition Building and Flinders Street Station. Take your time to wander down Swanston Street and St Kilda Road and admire some of the buildings. Don’t miss the Victoria State Library and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Royal Exhibition Building

Laneways and Arcades

Melbourne is famous for its cute cobbled alleys or ‘laneways’, where you can grab a coffee, admire some street art or hit a niche boutique.

Connecting the main streets, the grid system is interlaced with these perfectly instagram-able streets. Check out Degraves street for a bite to eat and a glass of vino (only $5 during happy hour).

The arcades offer a step back in time and hold some incredible tearooms, galleries and gourmet choccie shops. What more could you ask for? A couple of our favourites were the Block Arcade (don’t miss the insta-worthy ‘Hopetoun Tea Rooms’) and the Royal Arcade.

The main laneways to look out for, especially for their street art, are: Hosier Lane, ACDC Lane, Caledonian Lane, Cocker Alley, Rutledge Lane, Union Lane.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

St Kilda

St Kilda is just a 15-minute tram out of the CBD from Flinders Street. You’ll be met with quirky cafes, great op shops and obviously, the beach. St Kilda beach is the no. 1 spot with the backpackers, if you’re there for Christmas – or you’re looking to go somewhere with kids – we’d recommend heading further south down to Brighton or Sandringham as it’s a bit quieter!

St Kilda as a whole has a great vibe. Not to mention The Block 2018 was filmed there (no. 1 fans over here).

An icon of Melbourne and St Kilda is Luna Park and it’s large face entrance. A historical amusement park that opened in 1912, making it over 20 years older than the Luna Park in Sydney. It’s only $5 for your entry ticket, then you can pay for rides as you go around. It holds an annual Halloween event so it’s worth dropping in if you’re the area!

If you’re not keen on rides then you can always go see the wild penguins! Yep, wild penguins. Take a stroll along the pier just before sunset to grab a spot, then watch the cute fairy penguins come in from their daily fishing trips. It’s such an amazing sight but it does get really busy and some people don’t seem to realise that these are wild animals. Gab’s cousin was a volunteer for the St Kilda penguins and asks everyone to remember/stop anyone doing the following:

  • Don’t use flash – an obvious one but you’d be surprised how many tourists use their phones to take photos with the flash on
  • Give the penguins space, as above, they’re probably used to the crowds now but it’s not worth spooking them
  • Don’t jump on the rocks, it’s their home – no one wants giants jumping on their roof!
  • Just be sensible, scheesh the idiots we saw were mind-blowingly stupid
luna park
Palais Theatre
St Kilda Penguin
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Shrine of Remembrance

On your way out of the city, you’ll pass the impressive Shrine of Remembrance. It’s a beautiful building and definitely worth a visit. Australia, like England, takes honouring those who have served and are currently serving very seriously and the Shrine of Remembrance is a fitting tribute.

Shrine of Rememberance
Shrine of Rememberance
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Grab your tote bag and head to the markets

Type Melbs into Google and one of the top hits is the Queen Victoria market and it’s easy to see why. Operating since 1878 it’s the best place to grab fresh produce (their fruit and veg prices are crazy cheap), your weekly bunch of flowers, some beaut jewellery or Oz souvis to send home. It’s literally got it all.

If you’re further south, check out the aptly named South Melbourne market. There’s always heaps on from jazz festivals to guided tours, plus with so much gorgeous food on offer who could say no?

The seafood stalls are always rammed so if you’re into your shellfish, head that way first!

South Melbourne Markets
Queen Vic Markets
Queen Vic Markets
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Sporting events and venues

Melbourne seems to host most of the big events in Australia and you can see why. The whole city gets behind whatever is being hosted and there is always a great atmosphere. They even have pubic holidays for the big ones like the ‘AFL Grand Final Friday’ and the Melbourne Cup (everyone gets the Tuesday off!).

If Formula One is your thing, Albert Park in March is the place to be. The circuit is one of only four street circuits (in 2019 season) in the racing calendar which means if you go at any other time of year, you can walk or drive the circuit.

Cricket isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but the boxing day test is renowned in the cricketing world and the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is the perfect venue. The MCG also hosts the AFL Grand Final and loads of other events throughout the year so it’s definetely worth checking out what’s on.

MCG

As well as hosting the first race (normally) of the F1 season, Melbourne hosts the first tennis major of the year at Melbourne Park. The Australian Open is held in January every year and is a must see if you’re a tennis fan and in Melbourne.

The Spring Racing Carnival runs over the end of October and November with the Melbourne Cup held on the first Tuesday of November. It’s one of, if not the biggest events in Australia and is dubbed the race that stops the nation. Not one to miss if you’re over here around that time!

The Marvel stadium is also worth checking out. Located in the heart of the city in Docklands, this is a multi-purpose venue hosting AFL, Basketball, Cricket and the Big Bash League, gigs and loads more. You never know what could be on, check it out here.

Gardens

Much like all the major cities in Australia, Melbourne has lots of green spaces, parks and gardens. Three of our favourites are the Royal Botanic Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens. All three are easy walking distance from the CBD or accessible via public transport.

All of the gardens have a main tourist feature. The Royal Botanic Gardens have a beautiful lake in the centre, with the opportunity to go punting (we’re from Cambridge so this was very exciting). The Fitzroy Gardens are home to Captain Cook’s cottage and the Carlton Gardens are a 6-hectare site containing the Royal Exhibition Building. If you’re a nature lover, you’ve got to check all three out.

From the 29th November to the 31st March (18/19 season) check out the moonlight cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Even better!

Royal Botanic Gardens
Bird of paradise flower
Lake at the botanic gardens
Captain Cooks Cottage
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Beaches

All the main cities in Australia are located near/on the coast. This means, unlike most European cities, you can be in the CBD one minute and at the beach the next. Melbourne’s beaches can be reached in as little as 30 minutes from the CBD or take as long as a few hours. All around Port Philip Bay, there are lovely beaches with something for everyone.

Some of the closest and easiest to reach beaches are Sandridge beach, Port Melbourne beach and St Kilda beach. As we mentioned earlier, St Kilda is the no.1 spot due to its high street, Luna Park and the Palais Theatre.

As you get further out from the city, the quieter the beaches become, with the exception of Brighton beach due to the bathing boxes. Elwood beach, Sandringham beach and Hampton beach are still all relatively close to the city but without the regular crowds.

Moving around to the Mornington Peninsula, the whole scenery and feel of the area changes. There are some lovely beaches along the peninsula including Mount Martha beach, where you can find some more bathing boxes, Safety beach and Dromana beach.

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Where to eat and drink

Rooftop rendezvous

Looking for somewhere to enjoy the views and a chilled glass of wine over a stack of ribs? Look no further! The centrally located Melina on the Rooftop restaurant is perfect for lunch or for dinner as you watch the sun go down.

A Meze styled restaurant we can highly recommend getting as many dishes as you can. The olives, the halloumi, the chorizo – all of the tastes of the Med above Melbs. Bliss.

Melina Restaurant

Chocolate Cafes

I mean, anyone who doesn’t like Lindt is not to be trusted. Dan was treated to an afternoon treat at the Lindt Cafe on his birthday and honestly it’s worth every penny. With several locations in Melbourne, what’s not to love? Coffee? Good. Waffles? Good. Lindt. GOOD.

Lindt Cafe

Looking for a traditional Parmi?

Hey Brits, looking for some traditional, Australian pub grub? Trust us, you can’t go wrong with a chicken parmigiana. Chicken schnitzel, tomato sauce and melted cheese. Friends, born and bred in Melbourne, treated us to the best chicken parmi at the Duke of Wellington.

Once you’ve finished the food, head up to the rooftop for a pint of Furphys Ale. The Duke of Wellington has got an awesome atmosphere, especially on the weekend!


Day trips from Melbourne

There are stunning places in every direction around Melbourne including the world famous Yarra Valley and the Grampians National Park.

If you’re looking for spa treatments, cider tasting and lavender fields then head to Daylesford about an hour/hour and a half drive from Melbourne CBD. If you’re looking for wine tasting followed by an afternoon on the beach then Mornington Peninsula is your best bet.

Of course, there’s also the Great Ocean Road right on your doorstep. Take a weekend to enjoy the drive, camp under koalas and hike through rainforests. Definitely one for the bucket list.

For more information and full itineraries, check out our posts on Daylesford, Mornington Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road.

Mornington Peninsula
Daylesford
Great Ocean Road
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We hope you found our guide informative and are now planning your visit to Melbourne! For tips on booking your holiday, check out our booking accommodation and booking flights page.

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