I’ve been to quite a few places Australia, and I gotta say, Melbourne is hands down my top five favorite cities in Australia… if not the world. It’s right up there with Tokyo as places I hope I end up living in one day. I feel validated in this opinion when I found out that Melbourne has been ranked as the most liveable city by The Economist for seven years in a row. Impressive feat, right? 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.
Melbourne Travel Tips
- Getting to Melbourne – There are two airports in Melbourne, Tullamarine and Avalon Airport, but you’d probably land to Tullamarine Airport since it’s the primary airport for Melbourne.
- Getting to the city by bus – Take the Skybus Airport Transfer from Tullamarine Airport to the city (pre-book using this link for cheaper). This is the cheapest and fastest way to get to the city. You can get dropped off at the Southern Cross Station or Southbank and Docklands. From there, you can take a complimentary shuttle to your hotel (or hotel nearest to your accommodation). View SkyBus stops here.
- 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 them, though I found them to be on the pricier side.
- Melbourne City Circle Tram is free – This was one of my main mode of transportations when I was in Melbourne. This tram line, marked with brown color on most maps, circles the city center of Melbourne and basically takes you anywhere you want to go. It comes every 12 minutes and takes around 48 minutes to complete the circle.
- Get Myki card for Public transportation in Melbourne – Aside of the city circle tram, you’ll need a Myki card if you want to get on other trams in Melbourne. Myki card can be topped up and bought at many retailers, including 7/11. Find out more about Myki card here.
- Get ready for all kinds of weather in Melbourne – Melbourne weather is notoriously fickle. When I was there in April, I experienced everything from sunny, to rain, to
coldwind… all in one day.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking a lot – One of the reasons why I love Melbourne so much is for its walkability. Trust me, you’ll want to walk and explore while you’re here. On my first day in Melbourne, I clocked in 30,000 steps which is three times I normally walk in a day.
Cash Management in Australia
In Australia, you can use your credit card pretty much everywhere. I didn’t use cash for most of my trips there. However, if you prefer to transact in cash, then exchange your money before the trip. Do NOT exchange your money in Australia especially at the Airport. They generally don’t give you a good exchange rate and sometimes applies a fee for the transaction – check out this article for horror stories.
My friend tried to exchange AUD to SGD in 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 currency in airports, but to his defense, we’ve changed currencies in other airports and was not ripped off as badly as in Australia.
The best time to visit Melbourne
March – April 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.
Where to stay in Melbourne
Generally, I try to stay within the central area when I’m visiting Melbourne. The central Melbourne is a small area and totally walkable, and there is the free city tram line. Here are some places I’ve personally stayed in Melbourne:
- 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! 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 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 okay since it’s close to public transportations, 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
(If you can’t see the map, click here)
Tips: Save this Map on your phone! If you’re on your phone and have Google Maps app installed, you can click on the top right hand of the map above and save it to your maps for later viewing! How to view your maps later
OK, let’s get to the Melbourne 5-day Itinerary:
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 tourist, it makes for an easy first day itinerary of Melbourne.
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 (try Market Lane 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!
If you don’t want to explore on your own, you can book this Queen Victoria Foodie Tour. It includes a lot of food so make sure you come with empty stomach.
2. Eureka Skydeck on 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 public on the 88th floor. (The tallest building in Australia is Q1 in Gold Coast, which I also went up to!)
You can buy the Eureka Skydeck 88 Entry Ticket for cheaper using this link. However, while I loved the Skydeck, I do NOT recommend paying extra for the Edge experience unless maybe you’re traveling with kids – 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 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, but 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 from 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.
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 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!
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. 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).
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 arts! 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 the 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 😉
For those of you who want to gain more insights into the graffiti and street art culture of Melbourne, I recommend booking a session with Melbourne street art tour, run by the street artists themselves!
4. Have some Melbourne “Magic” Coffee
We all know 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 a 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 A$10-15.
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 suburb area south from 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 days. 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 the city life!
In Australia, it’s always a good idea to rent a car and explore on your own. 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 – The Great Ocean Road is a famous driving route, often referred to as one of the world’s most scenic coastal drive. This is the perfect place to visit if you have time for a few days 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 hours drive. I did this tour on my first visit to Melbourne.
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 Day Tour – This place is a popular day trip destination for those who want to get out of the city but looking for something not too far. It’s only about an hour away from Melbourne. You get a bit of everything on this trip – a nice lookout point, some wine, and a taste of local produce.
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)
- The Hardware Societe – the chorizo baked eggs is their most famous dish!
- Higher Ground – Beautiful place and very popular with looong wait so you must come early
- 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
- Chin Chin – requires a reservation, especially on weekend dinner / brunch time
- Cumulus Inc
- Royal Stacks
- 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 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
- Rooftop Bar at Curtin House
- Cherry Bar
- Brunswick Street on Fitzroy
Seasonal Activities in Melbourne
- Melbourne Cup in November – This horse racing event is arguably one of Australia’s biggest annual sporting event. 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 at 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!