Melbourne is a city that prides itself on cultural diversity, with people from all corners of the world calling it home. Here, you can do everything from attend a basement rock gig and visit a five-star restaurant fusing Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, to duck into a hidden bar in a laneway.
Melburnians also take their sport seriously. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world, and the city hosts a range of international sporting events throughout the year, including the Australian Open Tennis, the Formula One Grand Prix, and the Melbourne Cup horse race.
Whether you’re a visitor or a long-time resident, there are always new experiences to be had in this exciting city. Here are 15 essential things to do in Melbourne at least once.
1. Visit the Iconic Federation Square
Federation Square is home to some of the city’s most popular cultural attractions, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the National Gallery of Victoria. It also hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
2. Shop at the Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is one of the largest open-air markets in the Southern Hemisphere and a must-visit destination in Melbourne. Visitors will find a variety of fresh produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, and specialty foods. You can also find clothing, souvenirs, and unique handmade items from local artisans.
3. Stroll Through the Royal Botanic Gardens
This stunning garden attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year, with guided tours, cultural events, and picnics on the lush lawns. The parks also offer spectacular views of the city skyline.
4. See Animals at the Melbourne Zoo
Melbourne Zoo is a popular attraction that features over 300 animal species from Australia and around the world. Visitors can see native animals, such as koalas, kangaroos, and wombats, as well as exotic animals, like lions, tigers, and elephants. The zoo also offers behind-the-scenes experiences and special encounters with animals, which makes it a popular spot for tourists and locals.
5. Explore Chinatown
Melbourne’s Chinatown is a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood that offers a unique cultural experience. Try delicious dumplings and noodles, or explore the many shops and boutiques that offer a wide selection of Chinese goods and souvenirs. The area is also known for its stunning red and gold archway, which marks the entrance to the neighbourhood and serves as a popular photo spot for tourists.
6. Tour the Royal Exhibition Building
This stunning example of 19th-century architecture can be found in Carlton Gardens. It was built in 1880 for the Melbourne International Exhibition and later used for various events, including the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular venue for events and exhibitions.
7. Take a Street Art Tour
Melbourne’s street art reputation speaks for itself. Take a guided tour through the city’s laneways and alleys, where you can see some of the best street art in the world. You’ll learn about the artists behind the murals, their techniques, and the history and culture of the street art scene in Melbourne. The tour is also a great way to explore the city’s hidden gems and discover a side of Melbourne that many visitors miss.
8. Catch a Game at the MCG
If there is one thing you must do in Melbourne, it would be watching a cricket game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. You can catch an AFL game, or an international cricket match or tour the grounds with a guide.
9. Day Trip to the Mornington Peninsula
Just an hour’s drive from the CBD, the Mornington Peninsula offers beautiful beaches, wineries, hot springs, and national parks. You can explore the coastal town of Sorrento, walk along the iconic Port Phillip Bay trail, or visit the famous Peninsula Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. The region is also known for its excellent food and wine, with many renowned restaurants and vineyards offering tastings and tours.
10. Fly Above the City
A hot air balloon ride over Melbourne is a unique and unforgettable experience. The flight takes you over the city’s stunning skyline, offering a bird’s-eye view of landmarks. Hot air balloon rides in Melbourne typically take off at sunrise, and many tours include a champagne breakfast after the flight. It’s a perfect activity for special occasions or a romantic getaway.
11. Drive the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most iconic road trips, stretching over 240 kilometres along the southeastern coast. The scenic drive takes you past stunning beaches, towering cliffs, and the famous Twelve Apostles rock formations. Along the way, you can stop at charming coastal towns, hike through national parks, and even spot whales and dolphins from the shoreline.
12. Grab a Coffee, Anywhere
Step into any coffee shop in Melbourne, and chances are it will be good. Melbourne is the world’s coffee capital, home to the world’s best baristas. Getting a caffeine fix in Melbourne is a must. We even have a list of the best coffee shops to try.
13. Sip Wines in the Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley is a world-renowned wine region located just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. There are over 80 wineries, ranging from large-scale operations to boutique vineyards, producing a range of wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings and cellar door experiences and indulge in delicious food at the many renowned restaurants and cafes in the region.
14. Admire Art at the National Gallery of Victoria
Visit Australia’s oldest and largest public art museum to explore a vast art collection, including Australian, Indigenous, and international works. The gallery features both permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as educational programs and events. Visitors can enjoy free entry to the main collection and a range of special exhibitions throughout the year.
15. Take Photos of the Colourful Beach Boxes at St Kilda Beach
St Kilda Beach boasts golden sands, clear waters, and colourful beach boxes lined up on the sand. Go for a swim, a stroll along the iconic St Kilda Pier, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many beachside cafes and restaurants.