I’ve been lucky to be able to visit many places in Australia. I gotta say, Melbourne is hands down my top three favorite cities in the world. It’s right up there with Tokyo as the place I hope I end up living in one day.
I feel validated in this opinion when I found out that Melbourne was recently ranked as the most liveable city by The Economist for seven years in a row. An impressive feat, right? And I can see why – after visiting the city three times over the past five years, it’s hard not to fall in love with Melbourne.
- Travel tips for visiting Melbourne
- Should I exchange some cash for Australian Dollars (AUD)?
- When is the best time to visit Melbourne?
- Where to stay in Melbourne
- Melbourne Map & Itinerary
- Where to eat in Melbourne
- Seasonal Activities in Melbourne
Travel tips for visiting Melbourne
1. Flying into Melbourne – There are two airports in Melbourne, Tullamarine and Avalon Airport. You’d probably land at Tullamarine Airport since it’s the primary airport for Melbourne.
2. Getting to the city from the airport by bus – Take the Skybus Airport Transfer from Tullamarine Airport to the city (pre-book using this link for a cheaper rate). This is probably the most cost-effective and fastest way to get to the city from the airport. Taking the Melbourne City Express Route, you will be dropped off at the Southern Cross Station. From there, you can take a complimentary SkyBus Link shuttle to your hotel or a hotel nearest to your accommodation (Update: The link shuttle service is currently on hold due to COVID. Click here for the latest update. For now, you can take the free city tram instead).
3. Taxi and Ride-sharing – If you aren’t too keen on public transport, you can take a taxi or Uber from the airport, which will run about AU$ 55-65 depending on where you are staying. And yes, Uber is widely available in Melbourne! You can definitely use Uber, though I found it to be quite pricy.
4. The Melbourne City Circle Tram is FREE for everyone – Make use of it! This was one of my main modes of transportation when I was in Melbourne. This tram line, marked with brown color on most maps, circles the city center of Melbourne (aka “The Grid”) and basically takes you anywhere you want to go. It comes every 12 minutes and takes around 48 minutes to complete the circle. More info on the city circle tram.
5. Get a Myki card for Public transportation in Melbourne – If you’re planning to use public transport aside from the free city circle tram, you’ll need to buy a Myki card at any 7/11 shop. Myki card can also be topped up online or on 7/11. If you have an Android phone, you can use your phone as a Myki card too! Find out more about Myki card here.
6. Be ready for all kinds of weather – Melbourne weather is notoriously fickle. When I was there in April, I experienced everything from sunny, to rain, to
7. Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking a lot – One of the reasons why I love Melbourne so much is because of its walkability. Trust me, you’ll want to walk and explore on foot while you’re here. On my first day in Melbourne, I clocked in 30,000 steps which are over three times what I normally walk in a day!
8. Wise Card worked super well in Australia – If you’re an international visitor like myself, definitely get yourself a Wise Debit Card. You’ll save the foreign transaction fee with it. Australia is the perfect country to use this card because everything has been contactless in this country for a while!
Should I exchange some cash for Australian Dollars (AUD)?
No! You should not.
For as long as I’ve been going to Australia, they’ve embraced the digital side of payments. In Australia, you can use your credit card pretty much everywhere. I didn’t use cash for most of my trips here, so much such that I still have no idea what AUD bills look like.
However, if you prefer to transact in cash, then you should exchange your money before the trip, while you are still outside of Australia. Do NOT exchange your money in Australia, especially at the Airport. They don’t give you a good exchange rate and will apply a fee for the transaction – check out this article for horror stories.
Anecdotal experience: My friend tried to exchange AUD for SGD at Sydney Airport and was given a rate of $1.43 when the going rate was $1.04. His A$163 became S$115 when it should have been S$155. I know as a general rule you are not supposed to change money in airports, but to his defense, we’ve changed currencies in other airports and were not ripped off as badly as in Australia.
When is the best time to visit Melbourne?
Springtime, from March to early May, is the best time to visit Melbourne (or Australia in general). It won’t be too hot since summer has just finished, and it won’t be too cold yet. Winter hits around the end of May / early June in this part of the world!
Where to stay in Melbourne
Generally, I try to find accommodations within the central area (aka within “the grid“) when I’m visiting Melbourne. Central Melbourne is a small area and totally walkable, and most points can be reached by the free city tram line.
Here are some places I’ve personally stayed in Melbourne and would recommend:
- Rydges Melbourne – Rydges is a chain hotel in Australia. I’ve stayed with them in Hobart and Brisbane too! Rydges in Melbourne boasts one of the best locations to stay in Melbourne. It’s close to all of the spots you’d want to visit and close to a city tram stop. That’s how I ended up walking everywhere.
- Melbourne Central YHA – I love budget accommodations and YHA in Australia is perfect for it. They always have the best accommodation at the best location. YHA is budget, but the location is so good – right on Flinders Street which is the main street in Melbourne. And although it’s a budget, it doesn’t mean you have to share a room – I stayed in one of the private rooms on the rooftop. It had a nice view of the Melbourne business district.
- Melbourne Metro YHA – Unlike the Central YHA, this location isn’t as premium, but it is still within central Melbourne and was very affordable. It’s still not a bad location since it’s close to public transportation, but I’d only book this over the Central YHA if you really want to save money.
Melbourne Itinerary Map & Overview
Here is the overview of the Melbourne itinerary:
- Day 1: Melbourne Central
- Day 2: Melbourne Arts & Culture
- Day 3: Fitzroy
- Day 4: St Kilda and Brighton Beach
- Day 5: Day trip from Melbourne
- Where to eat in Melbourne
- Seasonal Activities in Melbourne
And to make it easier to visualize, here is a map to go with the itinerary! (If you can’t see the map, click here)
🗺 Tip: Save this map to your phone! If you use Google Maps, you can click on the top right-hand corner of the map above. The map will then be saved to your “Recent” maps viewed. Click here for instructions on how to view the map later! It will work from your phone too.
OK, let’s get to my 5-day Itinerary in Melbourne:
Day 1: Get your bearings around Melbourne Central
The Melbourne Central area is not a big place. With the City Circle tram being free for tourists, it makes for an easy first-day itinerary of Melbourne!
First of all, as I have alluded to before, the center of Melbourne is called the Hoddle Grid. And that’s because that’s how central Melbourne looks like – it’s made up of a perfectly rectangular, neat grid of streets.
1. Queen Victoria Market
Start your day at the famous Queen Victoria Market, a large open-air market that is a landmark of Melbourne. You can explore the market and sample the food as you walk around. I ended up buying a few bottles of wine and some cheese from the market.
It’s also the perfect place to grab breakfast and a cup of coffee. By the way, it’s a crime to come to Melbourne and not drink their coffee. This city has the best cafes in the world. For one that is close to the market, you can try Market Lane Coffee.
2. Eureka Skydeck on the 88th floor of Eureka Tower
From Queen Victoria Market, you can take the city circle tram down to Flinder Street and cross the Yarra River to the Southbank area, where Eureka Tower is located.
Eureka Tower is the second tallest skyscraper in Australia and they have an observation deck open for the public on the 88th floor, where you can get a good view of Melbourne and beyond (Trivia: The tallest building in Australia is the Q1 building in Gold Coast, which I also went up to!)
PS: While I loved the Skydeck, I do NOT recommend paying extra for “The Edge” experience unless maybe you’re traveling with kids. We did, and it was more akin to a ride at a local amusement park. I would have much preferred just spending more time in the Skydeck itself.
3. Walk around Southbank
After the Skydeck, you should definitely take some time and walk around the Southbank area. Especially if the weather is great and if you happen to be here during Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. The entire area would just be buzzing with activities and live music.
Along the Yarra River, you’ll find nice restaurants, cafes, and places to chill before continuing to the next destination.
4. Melbourne Parliament House
Also located along the city circle tram route, the Melbourne Parliament House is a cool spot to spend a few hours in. I was lucky they were having their open day when I was in Melbourne – the parliament house is open to the public on weekdays from 8:30 – 5:30 pm (see hours and visiting information here).
You can take a look at beautiful architecture that dates back to the gold rush days and visits the chambers where Victoria MPs make the laws and debate the issues that affect the residents.
5. State Library Victoria
State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library, opened in 1856. It is also one of the world’s first free public libraries. Aside from being a library, it also houses the city’s most beautiful heritage architecture, as you can see from the highly photographed La Trobe Reading room.
6. Explore the Alleys of Melbourne
Once you’re done with the library, it’s time to get off the city circle tram route and enter the central area. I don’t think you need to have a specific destination for this, the central area can be easily explored on foot.
You can of course do this by yourself, but if you prefer to be guided, here are some walking tours you can check out.
Day 2: See arts and culture in Melbourne
One of the huge reasons why I love Melbourne so much is for the arts and culture. If you like visiting museums, you’ll love this itinerary!
1. Melbourne Museum
I almost missed out on this museum – I had left this to visit on my very last day in Melbourne, and that’s only because my mate Mitch (who lives in Melbourne) recommended me to visit on my second to last day. But I’m SO glad I didn’t miss it! Melbourne Museum was such a fun place to visit. There are bits of natural history and science as well as cultural Australian history sprinkled in, as well as interactive displays. Unfortunately, I had to rush when I visited this museum, but you should definitely dedicate at least 3 hours here if you love natural history. I found the gemstone exhibit to be particularly memorable – they’re all so sparkly!
The Melbourne Museum is open 9am–5pm daily (more info)
2. National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
Often referred to by its abbreviation NGV, this museum was one of the best contemporary art museums I’ve ever been to. As with many museums, their exhibit changes but you can see what’s currently on here.
During the time of my visit, I was lucky to catch the last month of the Triennial exhibit. The exhibit featured the work of over 100 artists from around the world including the likes of Yayoi Kusama (made even more famous by Instagram through her Infinity Room installation at The Broad in Los Angeles) and Ron Mueck (known for his lifelike yet bizarre sculptures and whom I later found out is a native Melbournian).
Entry to NGV is free, and it’s open daily 10am–5pm
3. See the Street Art and Graffiti lanes in Melbourne
Just like how it’s a crime to not drink coffee while in Melbourne, a visit to this city is not complete without seeing the street art! You don’t even have to try hard as the city is already filled with amazing graffiti and street paintings, but the most famous streets are AC/DC Lane, Hosier Lane, and Desgraves Street. If you like what you see there, I recommend going to Fitzroy to check out the street art there too – but don’t worry, I have an entire day dedicated to Fitzroy in this itinerary already 😉
Tip: For those of you who want to gain more insights into the graffiti and street art culture of Melbourne, I recommend booking the Melbourne street art tour, run by the street artists themselves.
4. Have some Melbourne “Magic” Coffee
We all know that a flat white is an Australian thing, but have you heard of magic? I spotted this at one of the cafes in Melbourne and I just had to order it. Turns out Magic is just another coffee drink, specifically, it is steamed milk poured over a double ristretto, served in a 6-ounce cup, which results in a stronger-tasting coffee.
Personally, I’m not bougie enough to appreciate the difference. All coffee with milk taste similar to me, but I definitely kept ordering magic when I was in Melbourne. I haven’t seen it anywhere else in the world, and besides, it’s more fun to say “Can I have magic?” to your barista 😛
5. Stroll around Fitzroy Gardens
The garden is called Fitzroy Garden, but it’s actually closer to the central area than it is to Fitzroy. It’s actually only a block away from the central area and it’s a great place to have a morning stroll, or if you’re in Melbourne during fall, you can catch some autumn foliage here!
Make sure to stop by Cook’s Cottage, a reconstruction of an original brick cottage originally built in England in 1755 by the family of Captain James Cook. Yes, they brought them from England to Australia brick by brick and rebuilt the house here!
Day 3: Explore Fitzroy
Fitzroy is Melbourne’s super cool alternative side. It’s located not too far away from the central area – in fact, you can walk to the heart of Fitzroy from Melbourne Central in about half an hour. Or you can grab an Uber for AU$ 10-15.
Tip: If you want to know more about Fitzroy, you can book this walking tour.
I recommend starting out with brunch at Stagger Lee’s Cafe or Smith & Daughters (vegan restaurant), before exploring the fun shops along Brunswick Street. They’ve got all kinds of shops from vintage to high-end shops along the street.
Don’t forget to walk around the alleys in Fitzroy too! You never know what you’ll find. We walked along a small alley between Brunswick Street and Young Street near Johnson Street and found a ton of street art there.
For dinner, you can head to Easey’s, a super cool burger joint on a converted train car that’s on a rooftop of a building – don’t ask me how they got that up there. Then after dinner, go back to Brunswick Street for a fun night out! The area is buzzing with activity especially if you’re there during a weekend night. You can check out Naked for Satan for a rooftop bar.
Special thank you mates Mitch & Chay for showing us around! <3
Day 4: Enjoy the beach at St Kilda and Brighton
You cannot visit Melbourne without going to St Kilda and Brighton, a suburban area south of Melbourne central that’s known as an affluent beachside area. They are pretty close to each other and easily accessible from Flinder street station, so take your Myki card and head down there!
I didn’t make it down to Brighton last time, but the most popular thing on Brighton Beach are these colorful bright bathing houses from the early 1900s, used for ladies to change into their swimming suits back in the day. Nowadays, they are not just empty small wooden houses – they have become one of the most expensive real estate in Australia, with one of the boxes sold for $285,000 in 2016!
If you’re up for it, you can walk from Brighton up to St Kilda. The walk is a scenic route through the coastal line and would take you approximately 2 hours.
I recommend visiting the St Kilda Pier and walking around the boardwalk area, where you can find booths set up by local jewelry designers and artists. If you’re around until sunset, you might be able to spot the St Kilda Penguins at the pier too!
Day 5: Escape from the city – do a short day trip!
While Melbourne is a super cool city, a trip to Australia isn’t complete without a road trip to see beautiful nature outside of city life! In Australia, it’s always a good idea to rent a car and explore on your own. You can rent a car here in Melbourne and drive on the great ocean road.
However, if you cannot drive, then you can join a tour instead. Here are some destinations you can go to escape the city:
Great Ocean Road Day Tour – I went on this tour on my first visit to Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road is a famous driving route, often referred to as one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. This is the perfect place to visit if you have a few days for a road trip. However, it’s doable as a day trip from Melbourne too! One of the most popular highlights of the drive is called the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone pillars that are slowly being reclaimed back by nature. It’s reachable from Melbourne in a few hour’s drive.
Yarra Valley Wine and Cheese Tour – I’ve always seen wine bottles from Yarra Valley, so if you’re a wine and cheese enthusiast, you definitely need to make it out here! There’s nothing like sipping on a glass of wine and cheese locally produced right on the spot.
Grampians National Park – If you are the adventurous type who enjoys being in nature, hiking, and chasing waterfalls, then this is the perfect destination for you. Much like Great Ocean Road, Grampians is great as a multi-day trip destination but it’s doable as a day trip from Melbourne although it will require you to wake up early and come back late.
Mornington Peninsula Hiking Tour – This place is a popular day trip destination for those who want to get out of the city for a hike but something not too far from Melbourne. It’s only about an hour away from Melbourne.
Phillip Island Day Tour – Philip Island is yet another popular day trip option from Melbourne. The island is famous for its wildlife – you can see penguins and koalas!
Skydive in Melbourne – Australia is one of the best places in the world to do skydiving! From Melbourne, you can choose skydiving locations from Yarra Valley, the Great Ocean Road, or near the city center.
Where to Eat and Drink in Melbourne
I guess after visiting a city three times, I have a thing or fifteen to recommend. Here are some places I enjoyed while I was in Melbourne! (Don’t worry, this is all marked in my Melbourne travel maps I shared before)
Brunch and Cafes
- The Hardware Societe – the chorizo baked eggs are their most famous dish!
- Higher Ground – Beautiful place and very popular with loooong wait so you must come early. We tried going, but was turned down by the long line.
- Stagger Lee’s Cafe (in Fitzroy)
- Smith & Daughter (in Fitzroy) – Vegan restaurant
It’s a crime to visit Melbourne and not try their coffee. This city has the best cafes in the world. Don’t forget to try Melbourne Magic Coffee!
- Manchester Press (also great for Brunch)
- The League of Honest Coffee
- Brother Baba Budan
- Market Lane Coffee – in Queen Victoria Market
For Lunch or Dinner
- Cookie – Modern Thai dishes in the middle of downtown Melbourne.
- Chin Chin – Asian-inspired menu. Quite possibly the most popular restaurant in Melbourne. requires a reservation, especially on weekend dinner/brunch time
- Cumulus Inc – delicious Australian food. The menu changes, so I can’t recommend a specific dish but I’ve been here twice and it was a really good experience both times
- Royal Stacks – Great place for burgers!
- Betty’s Burgers – I had Betty’s Burget in Gold Coast and I was glad to see them here in Melbourne too!
- Easey’s (in Fitzroy) – Super cool eatery, where you eat inside a train car… but on a rooftop of a building.
- Menya Ramen – This is not the typical Melbourne recommendation, but this restaurant is super famous among Asian visitors (or maybe it’s just us Indonesians?), not for the ramen but for the great value Gyu Tan Don – aka grilled beef tongue over rice.
- Chuckle Park Bar – get your cocktails and craft beers from a caravan, in a nicely decorated alley!
- Rooftop Bar at Curtin House – a chilled-out, open-air bar on the rooftop in the middle of central Melbourne.
- Cherry Bar – Iconic bar located in Melbourne’s AC/DC lane. They had a live rock band when we visited.
- Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – a street in Fitzroy known for cafes, live music venues, and alternative fashion shops. Check out Naked for Satan if you want drinks and enjoy the nightlife!
Seasonal Activities in Melbourne
- Australia Open in (usually) January – If you’re a tennis fan and in town while the tournament is happening, don’t miss a chance to go down to Melbourne Park.
- Australian Grand Prix (usually) in the first half of the year – For F1 fans, if you are in town for the Grand Prix, the Albert Park circuit is not too far from central Melbourne!
- Melbourne Cup in November – This horse racing event is arguably one of Australia’s biggest annual sporting events. The event is held on the first Tuesday in November each year and is known locally as “the race that stops a nation” as every Australian will stop what they’re doing and crowd around the telly. People will also dress up in race day attire (formal) and attend the race, which (in a true Aussie fashion) often involves day drinking.
- The World’s Longest Lunch in March – this is an annual event usually held as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March, where diners get to enjoy a meal at the 500m long table. Check out the Melbourne and Wine Festival website for more information!
- Regional World’s Longest Lunch in March – If you can’t score a seat at the Melbourne Longest Lunch, fret not! They hold the longest lunch in regional areas outside of Melbourne too. I attended one in Yarra Valley last year, and it was an amazing experience. Read about my Regional World’s Longest Lunch post here.
- Not visiting during these months? Fret not, check out the Melbourne events calendar here to see what’s on during your visit!
That’s all I have on Melbourne! If you are visiting the city, let me know what you think of it!