Melbourne is an enchanting destination offering a rich tapestry of culture, gorgeous coast, and lovely countryside. It’s no wonder why many digital nomads in Australia will choose to base themselves here. For those visiting I have created a Melbourne Travel Guide of the best 15 things to see and do.
Set along the southeastern state of Victoria, Melbourne is a laidback metropolis of picturesque alleyways and stunning beaches. Discover Victorian-era buildings, exceptional museums and art galleries, and Australia’s top wineries.
If you’re visiting Australia soon and want to base yourself in this city, here’s a Melbourne travel guide to give you an idea of what to see and do in the city.
1. Marvel at the Sleek Facade of the Federation Square
Federation Square is one of the top things to see in Melbourne. It is one of the city’s most popular public gathering places and consists of world-class art galleries, a diverse range of cafes and restaurants, exhibitions, and events. The ultra-modern design of the open and closed spaces complements the magnificent Victorian architecture.
The galleries and museums are some of the highlights of visiting Federation Square. It houses the Ian Potter Gallery, which holds an extensive art collection, including Australian arts, aboriginal works, and contemporary mixed media. Among the highlights is “The Pioneer” by famous Australian artist Frederick McCubbin.
Federation Square is also known for hosting live entertainment and exhibits, luring visitors and locals. It hosts over 2,000 events each year, and you can always find a performance or festival to enjoy at the intimate indoor venues and outdoor performance space.
2. Admire the Art Displays at the National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne is famous for its cultural attractions. To learn more about the local culture, head to the National Gallery of Victoria, a fantastic museum considered the oldest public art gallery in Australia. Here, you will find over 70,000 works of Oceanic, Asian, European, and American art.
If you want to view the international art collections, visit the building along St. Kilda Road, which opened in 1968. The building houses The Great Hall, where visitors can lie on the ground and gaze at the marvelous stained-glass ceiling.
Regardless of when you will visit, there’s always something to look forward to at the National Gallery of Victoria. It holds more than 40 exhibitions yearly, including special events, children’s programs, performances, and tours. The best part about visiting this museum is that it’s free to enter the permanent exhibitions.
3. Check out the St Paul’s Cathedral
The St Paul’s Cathedral is one of those attractions worth seeing in Melbourne. Constructed in the 1860s, it is a perfect example of Gothic revival architecture in Australia. St Paul’s is an Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Melbourne, who is also the metropolitan archbishop of Victoria. While you can attend the service for free, you must purchase tickets to explore its historic galleries, domes, and tombs. The ticket will also give you access to audio tours, a multimedia tour, and a guided tour of the cathedral.
4. Stroll the Lovely Streets of Melbourne
Strolling Melbourne’s labyrinth of lanes and alleyways is fun, especially around Flinders, Collins, and Bourke Streets. As you wander along the streets, you’ll see elegant buildings and all kinds of shops. If you want to indulge in high-end shopping, head to Collins Street, where you’ll find the magnificent Block Arcade. As you browse its boutique shops, admire its impressive mosaic floors and period details. You’ll find everything here, from vintage jewelry pieces to designer outfits, souvenirs, gifts, and more!
If you feel like taking a break after shopping, visit the Hopetoun Tea rooms to enjoy a variety of tea. The iconic tearoom dates back to 1892 and is the only original shop that remained in the arcade. You will find plenty of cozy cafes along the backstreets, where you can enjoy coffee while people-watching.
5. Relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens
If you want to escape the bustling streets and head somewhere peaceful and quiet, visit Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Opened in 1846, the lovely gardens occupy two areas, Melbourne and Cranbourne. The Melbourne gardens are in the heart of a lush green parkland that extends south of the Yarra River.
Covering an area of more than 30 hectares, it is not only a place for relaxation. It has more than 10,000 plant species derived from around the globe, including rare plant varieties. The Royal Botanic Garden is also home to the Fern Gully, a health and well-being garden where you can relax and escape from the busy city life.
6. Learn History at the Melbourne Museum
If you only have time to visit one museum, make it Melbourne Museum. The modern museum houses extremely diverse collections, including aboriginal pieces and those depicting different cultures and societies. It’s a fascinating place to learn about the city’s rich history. Check out the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Center, Children’s Gallery, and Phar Lap exhibit. You will also find an area full of life-size dinosaurs.
Set in a tranquil place surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland, the Melbourne Museum is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings. Adjacent to the museum is the Royal Exhibition Building, where the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia was held.
7. Wander Around Southbank and South Wharf
A great place to visit for a culture fix is the Southbank, which lies along the banks of the Yarra River, just a short walk from Flinders Street. It’s a picturesque area with long lines of cafes, restaurants, shops, and various cultural attractions. The place gets even livelier at night, making it a top nightlife destination.
Head to the South Wharf area, where you’ll find fun entertainment venues. The place looks more vibrant at night when city lights illuminate the structures and reflect beautifully in the water. If you come here on a Sunday, you will stumble upon an arts and crafts market where you can shop for souvenirs.
8. Climb to the Skydeck of the Eureka Tower
If you want to enjoy panoramic views of the city, head to the Eureka Tower, a 91-story tower located at the heart of Southbank. The striking skyscraper has a viewing deck on the 88th floor known as the Skydeck, overlooking the breathtaking city views.
For a more thrilling experience, check out The Edge, a glass cube that slides out three meters from the building, for a vertigo-inducing experience. To enjoy the best views, come here at sunset, and marvel at the spectacular views when city lights twinkle beautifully as the sun slips away.
9. Watch a Game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
As the sporting capital of Australia, Melbourne is home to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), a massive stadium built in 1853 and capable of accommodating up to 100,000 spectators. As one of the world’s greatest cricket stadiums, seeing a cricket game at the MCG is such a fascinating experience.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is not only the largest and oldest stadium in the world, but it’s also the birthplace of Test Cricket. If you want to learn more about the history of the place, join one of the daily tours. You can also watch a cricket game if you come here in the summer. Consider visiting other sports venues, such as the National Sports Museum, the Olympic Museum, and the Australian Gallery of Sport.
10. Witness a Performance at the Arts Centre Melbourne
If you want to watch a concert and other performances, from theatre to dance and comedy, head to the Arts Centre Melbourne, the city’s leading arts and culture venue. Sitting along the Yarra River, you can easily recognize the building through its spire.
The beautiful building features a range of state-of-the-art theatre venues, including the State Theatre, home to Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet. There’s also the Playhouse theatre, which has 884 seats, and the Hamer Hall, where the famous Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performs. You can also check out the nearby Sidney Myer Music Bowl, an outdoor concert venue only a short walk from the Arts Centre.
11. See the Captain Cook’s Cottage
Another lovely attraction you should see in Melbourne is Captain Cook’s Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens. Captain James Cook is a British explorer from Yorkshire, England, famous for his voyages in the Pacific Ocean and into Australia and New Zealand. The quaint cottage was originally from Yorkshire and later on brought to Melbourne. As you explore the quaint cottage, you’ll get a closer look into the life and times of Captain Cook’s exploration of Australia and the world.
Aside from Captain Cook’s cottage, you’ll also find the impressive Spanish-style conservatory in the Fitzroy Gardens, which has a vibrant display of colorful flowers. You will also find a Fairy Tree and a small Tudor village. After going around Fitzroy Gardens, take the time to explore Fitzroy, a lively suburb with a bohemian reputation, famous for its restaurants, including Melbourne’s top vegan restaurants. You will also find vintage shopping stalls and vibrant street art in Fitzroy.
12. Ride the Melbourne Star
Melbourne has its version of the London Eye, the Melbourne Star, an observation wheel about 120 meters tall. Enjoy incredible 360-degree views of the city when you ride the Melbourne Star. After your ride, wander around the Docklands, a lovely waterfront village with many great places to eat. It’s a fantastic place to relax, explore, and indulge in delicious Australian food. Aside from Australian delicacies, you’ll find all kinds of restaurants serving international cuisines, from Turkish food to Vietnamese dishes and more!
The Docklands is also home to ArtVo, an interactive 3D art gallery, the Etihad Stadium, an amusement park, and a winter sports venue, the Icehouse. If you want to indulge in some retail therapy, check out the vintage market along the waterfront, which takes place every Sunday.
13. Pay Respects at the Shrine of Remembrance
Located in the Kings Domain gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance was built to honor the Victorians involved in the Great War. Today, the shrine serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by Australian forces during the war. The shrine is also the venue for ceremonies during ANZAC Day, taking place every 25th of April, and Remembrance Day, which happens every 11th of November each year.
Under the shrine, you’ll find the Galleries of Remembrance, which displays photographs, artifacts, and various works of art related to war and peacekeeping operations. At night, the building looks even more magical when it’s lit up. You can join one of the daily guided tours or go on a self-guided tour.
14. Take the City Circle Tram Tour
A more enjoyable way to go sightseeing in Melbourne is on board the City Circle Tram, a free and easy way of seeing the top attractions within the CBD area and the Docklands. Listen to the commentary to learn more about the places you’ll pass along the way.
The City Circle Tram will take you to the city’s historic sites, including the Old Treasury Building, Parliament House, and the Princess Theater. It runs every 12 minutes and will complete the entire loop in 50 minutes. You can hop on the tram at any stop within the City Circle Route and hop off anytime you want. The tram runs seven days a week, except during holidays like Good Friday and Christmas Day.
15. Observe Wildlife Up-close at the Melbourne Zoo
For wildlife lovers, head to the Melbourne Zoo to observe wildlife up close. Sitting in an area of about 22 hectares, it is home to over 250 species of animals with state-of-the-art enclosures. Here, you will find a variety of animals, including resident Asian elephants housed in a village garden setting.
One of the highlights of the Melbourne Zoo is the orangutan sanctuary, where you’ll find orangutans dwelling in their treetop home. Walk through a bush track to get close and personal with some Australian animals, including koalas and kangaroos. Enjoy fun wildlife encounters, such as the roar and snore, tours of animal enclosures, and other fun activities for visitors of all ages.