Endlessly hipster and effortlessly cool, the multicultural melting pot of Melbourne has topped the world’s best city to live in list year after year. Here are our recommendations of what to cover off in a day in the Aussie city, from the moment you arrive at the airport through to nightfall.
Within Australia, the perennial rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney is strong: Melburnians will always claim their city is the undisputed culture capital of Australia, whereas Sydneysiders argue sunny Sydney is the country’s must-visit city. As Australia’s largest two cities, both have incredible offerings. It is often said that Melbourne has a distinctly European vibe, with the international influence evident throughout the city – from its trendy cafés, bars, arts and music scene, to its mouth-watering culinary delights, Melbourne won’t disappoint.
There are two main airports in Melbourne; Tullamarine is the city’s primary airport and is located just under 20km from central Melbourne, while Avalon is located 50km away. Once you’ve jumped in your airport transfer and checked in to your accommodation, why not make the most of what this fantastic city has to offer? With so much to do and see, we’ve made it easy for you to choose by narrowing down the options with this list of the top things to cover off in 48 hours.
8.30am: Browse the local markets
Wandering the city’s markets is a Melburnian tradition. Start your shopping at the Queen Victoria Market, affectionately known to locals the ‘Queen Vic’. This Melbourne institution is the largest open-air market in the Southern hemisphere and is a mecca for fresh food produce, artisanal and gourmet goods, and fashion. It’s open five days a week (Tuesday, and Thursday to Sunday), with Sundays the best day to experience the vibrant buzz of this historic landmark. Other markets to explore include the popular village-style South Melbourne Market, Rose Street Market in Fitzroy for art and design goods, and Prahran Market in South Yarra for foodie delights.
10.30am: Explore the green heart of the city
The picturesque Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria were established in 1846 and are considered one of the world’s leading botanic gardens as well as being a wonderful example of Victorian-era landscaping. Spreading over 38 hectares in the heart of the city, the Gardens are home to more than 50,000 plants from around the world as well as those native to Australia. While there, don’t miss Guilfoyle’s Volcano, the 19th-century Melbourne Observatory, or the National Herbarium, which houses more than a million dried botanical specimens.
12.30pm: Wander the laneways
From hipster street art to buskers and talented street performers, trendy hole-in-the-wall coffee shops, boutique shopping, and food and drink for every fancy, Melbourne’s famous cobbled laneways weave throughout the city’s centre and represent everything that is chic and cultural about Melbourne. Get your caffeine hit on Degraves Street followed by some lunchtime fuel at Centre Place, the most quintessential of Melbourne’s laneways. See the street art the city is so famous for in laneways off Flinders Lane, including Hosier and Rutledge Lanes. Cocker Alley features work by internationally renowned British graffiti artist Banksy. Walk in the footsteps of Aussie legends AC/DC down the eponymous laneway; their track It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) features a clip filmed near what’s now known as ACDC Lane. Quench the thirst you’ve built up on your wanderings in one of the many quirky hidden laneway bars – Melbourne is famous for them.
2.30pm: Pick up a holiday read at the best bookshop in the world
Did you know that Melbourne has the best bookshop in the world? Well, that’s the title ordained on Readings Carlton by the London Book Fair in 2016; the shop was named International Bookstore of the Year. Located on Lygon Street, pick up a holiday read in this icon of the Melburnian literary scene.
A stroll down St Kilda Pier is a must on any trip to Melbourne. Try and spot the local residents while you’re there – penguins!
3.30pm: Stroll around St Kilda
Catch a tram to the seaside neighbourhood of St Kilda for a walk along the palm-fringed boardwalk and a sugar hit from one of the many continental cake shops along Acland Street. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, pop into the historic amusement park, Luna Park, for some thrills on one of the rides. Try to spot the little penguins that reside near St Kilda Pier, too.
6pm: Satisfy your inner foodie
The diversity of Melbourne is best experienced through the city’s food scene. From Chinatown on Little Bourke Street, the Greek Precinct on Lonsdale Street or hitting up one of the many riverside dining options along the Southbank Precinct, you’ll find a plethora of eating options to satisfy any hunger, whether you‘re after European, Asian, Australian or anything in between; Melbourne’s food scene is all about eclectic innovation and embracing the city’s cultural diversity. Fine food aficionados fear not – Melbourne does the fine dining scene to boot, too. Ben Shewry’s Attica tops that list, and is named in the top 50 restaurants in the world.
7.30pm: Do as the Melburnians do and catch a sports game
Melbourne has regularly topped the list of sporting capitals of the world, and with good reason. The city is crazy about sports. From the Formula One Grand Prix to the Australian Tennis Open, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach – the world’s longest running surfing competition – to the Great Ocean Road running festival, the AFL Grand Final to the Melbourne Cup, Victoria’s capital city has enough annual and one-off sporting events to keep even the biggest sports fanatics entertained. A visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground – fondly known as ‘The G’ – for a dose of AFL or cricket is a must. And even if your trip doesn’t time up to some sports action, soaking up the atmosphere of this internationally renowned stadium on a tour or a visit to the National Sports Museum is a real treat for sports fans.
For a longer trip…
If you’re lucky enough to stay longer in Melbourne, why not check out these other hot spots in the area:
- Drive the Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. Highlights of this 400km journey include the world-famous surf spot of Bells Beach, the impressive limestone spires of the 12 Apostles, rainforest, waterfalls, breathtaking coastline, among many others. You may even be lucky and spot a whale, koala or platypus along your journey.
- Head to Phillip Island to watch the Penguin Parade at sunset; watching the Little Penguins head ashore after a day’s fishing is one of Australia’s most popular attractions.
- Indulge your senses on a wine tasting trip to the Yarra Valley to sample some of Australia’s finest cool-climate wines.
- Wind your way through the lush forests of the Dandenong Ranges aboard Puffing Billy; a narrow-gauge steam train that huffs and puffs through enchanting mountain scenery. Finish the day with a meal at SkyHigh restaurant, boasting magnificent views across Melbourne city.
Haven’t booked your transfer yet? Book now, so that all that’s left to do is enjoy your trip.