With its world-class arts and culture, dining and nightlife, and sports and parklands: Melbourne is known as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
This is an accolade based on the city’s stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. And many agree that Melbourne is a great place to live.
Greater Melbourne is home to a population of nearly four and a half million people. That’s around 1 in 5 Australians. Add to that number the more than 12 million people from across Australia and around the world who visit the region each year. You don’t have to spend much time exploring Melbourne to see why so many people love it.
The city was designated ‘Melbourne’ by British settlers in the early 1800s, but the region’s history stretches back much further. Aboriginal people have lived in the area now known as Melbourne, and indeed right across the country, for many thousands of years.
Melbourne is on the traditional lands of the Kulin nation. When visiting or planning your trip to Melbourne, you might come across references to ‘Naarm’ (or ‘Narrm’). This is the Aboriginal place name for the area where the city of Melbourne is located.
Why not explore this local history while experiencing some of the arts and culture for which Melbourne is renowned? A good place to start is with a visit to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum. At Bunjilaka, in addition to the exhibitions and art, you can also experience the Milarri Garden trail where you can see indigenous flora and fauna and learn about traditional uses of indigenous plants. And if you enjoy your time at Milarri Garden, make your next stop Birrarung Marr park on the north bank of the Yarra River alongside Federation Square. Here you can see public artwork celebrating Indigenous culture.
What to do in Melbourne
Melbourne’s CBD is home to an eclectic mix of culture, theatre, arts, restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and parks and green spaces.
With so much going on it can be difficult knowing what to do first in Melbourne. Whether you’re a planner or a wanderer, you’ll find plenty going on. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Wander the Laneways
You’ve likely seen or heard about Melbourne’s laneways, home to street art, cafes, bars, and restaurants. These tiny streets tucked away between city blocks are a fantastic place to soak up the best of Melbourne’s street art and cafe culture. Start with perhaps the most noted laneway of them all, Hosier Lane. But don’t stop there. Half the fun is finding your own hidden-away favourites among Melbourne’s grid-like streets.
Experience the Arts
Head to Southbank to experience Melbourne’s arts precinct, where you can visit galleries and exhibitions, and take in a show. There’s so much to see when it comes to Melbourne’s arts: National Gallery of Victoria, Art Centre Melbourne, Melbourne Recital Centre, Australian Centre for the Moving Image and more.
Melbourne also has a thriving theatre and comedy scene. Be sure to check out what’s on at the Regent Theatre, Princess Theatre, Comedy Theatre, and of course, Her Majesty’s Theatre. If the weather turns during the day, you can take cover in a matinee. Or make a night of it with an evening show and some late-night drinks at one of the nearby bars.
Enjoy the Parklands
Visit Birrarung Marr on the north bank of the Yarra between the river and the city. Opened in 2002, the park’s name comes from the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people. Birrarung Marr is not only a beautiful riverside park but a celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage. Other great Melbourne parks to enjoy include Flagstaff Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens, and the sprawling Royal Botanic Gardens.
Take the Tram
Melbourne is home to the world’s largest operational tram network. If you’re looking to get around the city itself, there is a free tram zone inside the CBD. This means you can check out the state parliament building, browse the bookshops at the top of Bourke St. Grab lunch in Chinatown. Make your way across town to the Queen Victoria Markets, before heading back up to the theatre for a matinee. And then across town to check out Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. All while jumping on and off the trams that circle and run the length of the grid-like CBD.
Top tip? Be sure to grab a Myki. This card is what you’ll use to ride the trams (and other Melbourne public transport) beyond the CBD. While you can use the free tram zone to ride around central Melbourne, your Myki can take you out to neighbourhoods like Fitzroy, Prahran, and St Kilda. You can also use your Myki to take the train to Brighton to see the iconic, colourful Brighton Bathing Boxes. Your Myki will help you tick off plenty of those Melbourne bucket list items!
The MCG for the sports. Federation Square for the people watching. Queen Victoria Market for the food and local market wares. Old Melbourne Gaol for the spooky history. Eureka Skydeck for the view from above. The State Library for the architecture and the books… and Docklands to ride the giant Ferris wheel.
48 Hours in Melbourne
Only got a couple of days to see the sights of Melbourne? Never fear, you can experience a lot in 48 hours. Our tip? Soak up the best of central Melbourne for a day, and then hit the road to experience one of Melbourne’s best day trips. The toughest decision you’ll be making is which Melbourne day trip you’ll be hitting the road for.
Here are our tips for what to do with two days in Melbourne…
Day 1: Explore the City
Rise and shine with an early morning walk around Royal Botanic Gardens where you can watch the sunrise as the city wakes. Wander into the city via Federation Square and St Paul’s Cathedral to enjoy coffee and breakfast at any one of Melbourne’s fine cafes — maybe try a spot on Hardware Lane, or just follow your nose.
Spend the morning browsing your pick of Melbourne’s galleries and museums. Head across town to Queen Victoria Market to pick up some food, because you’re packing a picnic and heading to one of Melbourne’s parks for lunch — Flagstaff Gardens is close by and a lovely spot.
If the weather is looking good, jump on a tram out to St Kilda to see Luna Park and stroll around the foreshore. Stop by St Kilda Pier for views back toward the city skyline.
If the weather is looking a bit dreary, take cover in the grand State Library or check out an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria before heading up Eureka Skydeck to witness the city from above. When you come back down to the ground level it’s time to get ready for a night on the town.
Why not dinner on Southbank overlooking the Yarra River, and then a show? From theatre to comedy, music to musicals, there’s always something on. And no evening is complete without a celebratory toast. But don’t stay up too late, because day two of your 48-hour adventure is coming right up. And it’s an action-packed day for a road-tripping adventure!
Next up… day 2: Road Trip!
It’s day 2 of 2 on your 48-hour adventure and today you’re heading on a day trip out of the Melbourne — because, after a big day in the city, you’ll be ready for a big day exploring the great outdoors!
Start with an early breakfast and then head to the Arts Centre for your early Melbourne city pick up — don’t worry if you don’t have time for a coffee, we’ve got you sorted: we’ve packed the keep cups and the thermos to serve you up a hot brew as we hit the road out of town…
Today we’re heading off to soak up some next-level natural landscapes. These are the destinations people travel across the world to witness. And all within a stone’s throw of Melbourne. All you’ve got to do is pull on your walking shoes, throw on your day pack, and take your pick of the truly sensational Melbourne day trip destinations on offer. We’ll take care of the rest.
Choose your own adventure with these great day trips from Melbourne:
At the end of the day we’ll drop you back to where you started, having experienced some of the best Victoria has to offer and made memories to last a lifetime.
Don’t forget to ask your friendly Hike & Seek guide for a dinner recommendation! You’ll have walked up an appetite and there’s nothing quite like local knowledge to find the hidden gems in a city like Melbourne.
Book your next adventure today! Melbourne day trips to the best destinations Victoria has to offer.