By Keira Alexander
Jan 26, 2022
WHILE AUSTRALIAN’S SOUTHERNMOST MAINLAND CITY seems understated on its surface, those who travel to Melbourne don’t need a guide to quickly discover there are layers of passion, hard work, and history behind every aspect Australia‘s cultural capital. Situated on the Yarra River as it flows into Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne and its population of 5 million inhabits a land that has been lived on by Aboriginal Australians for more than 40,000 years.
After British settlement in the early 1800s, the wealth produced from the nearby gold rush of the mid-19th century funded the development of much of the city you see today. Magnificent Victorian-era buildings such as Parliament House, The Princess Theatre, and The Block Arcade remain as vibrant today as when they first opened, and compete for attention with the striking geometric newcomers that dot the cityscape.
From the Victorian era emerged the city’s Hoddle Grid, a layout which created the many laneways now famous for their street art, and alleys that hide world-class restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
You’ll notice that Melburnians have a lot of obsessions, most notably coffee, sport, and food. This is great for visitors, as it results in a city that constantly strives for the best. It’s evident in the espresso-scented laneways, as baristas grind for that perfect espresso; or in the thousands of flavor combinations that come out of kitchens that encompass cuisines from around the globe, thanks to the city’s proud multicultural heritage. And it can be heard coming from the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground when a 100,000-strong crowd packs “The G” for a game of Aussie Rules.
Beyond the arts and all these interests that could keep one endlessly entertained, there is the landscape itself—a mixture of grand parks, impressive gardens and beautiful seasides, all which make Melbourne a must on any Australian itinerary.
Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC+10 hours)
Best Time to Go
Unlike other oceanfront cities, you don’t need to follow a strict seasonal guide to decide when to travel to Melbourne. The temperate climate means visitors can comfortably sightsee year-round. Major sporting events (Australian Open, F1 Grand Prix) and festivals take place mainly in the warmer months, between November and March. Much of the city’s action moves indoors as days become cooler, but Melburnians adapt to their winter well, switching out sun umbrellas for patio heaters at outdoor cafes and rooftop bars. Melbourne weather has a reputation for occasionally having “four seasons in one day,” which should be kept in mind when packing for your trip here.
Things to Know
Currency: Australian Dollar
(Check the current exchange rate)
Calling Code: +61
Capital City: Canberra
Tipping is uncommon in Australia. While never expected, it’s also seen as inoffensive, should you wish to offer a tip. Exceptional service at a restaurant is an example of a situation in which a tip would happily be accepted.
Australians drive on the left side of the road. People here also keep to the left when walking on the sidewalk or standing on an escalator.
How to Get Around
Being a relatively flat city makes Melbourne easy to travel around, and public transport can guide your way. Many sites and attractions can be reached easily on foot—many within walking distance of one another. Public buses and trains are ample within inner Melbourne, and the city’s iconic trams are easy to find. Taxis and rideshare options are also readily available.
Tram: The City Circle line is free and a great way to move around the Central Business District (CBD). Twenty-four routes cover more than 160 miles of track. With the exception of the City Circle, you’ll need a myki card to ride a tram, and across all other public transit services.
Train: Melbourne’s Metro train system includes an underground City Loop, which encompasses the CBD. There are 17 train lines that branch out from the City Loop, which reach further than the tram network, and can often be faster than a tram if journeying more than a couple of miles.
Bus: Your myki will come in handy if you find yourself in need of a bus. While trains and trams access most attractions, buses will come in handy for less accessible parts of town.
Taxi: 13cabs and Silver Top are the two main accredited taxi operators in Melbourne. You can hail them, phone or book using their respective apps.
Ride-share: Uber and Ola are popular ride-share options in Melbourne. Another is Shebah, an all-women service.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning to travel more extensively beyond Melbourne, check out our most recent guide to the best new hotels in Australia.
Overlooking the Yarra River, The Langham offers a luxury stay in an iconic location, with many of the 388 rooms offering views that encompass the city skyline, Flinders Street Station, St Paul’s Cathedral and the MCG. Its restaurant, Melba, is renowned for its decadent afternoon teas, and its menu showcases local produce. Wellness facilities include a fitness center, 16.4-yard pool, and award-winning Chuan Spa.
Address: 1 Southgate Ave, Southbank, VIC 3006
Phone: +61 3 8696 8888
Ever so slightly set back from the bustle of the CDB grid and surrounded by manicured parks and the Fitzroy Gardens, Park Hyatt Melbourne feels like a luxurious oasis while remaining a stone’s throw from the action. With 245 rooms and suites, the hotel also offers outdoor dining at its Trilogy Gardens, a stunning mosaic-decorated 27.3-yard swimming pool, day spa, gym and tennis court.
Address: 1 Parliament Square, off Parliament Place, Melbourne, VIC 3002
Phone: +61 3 9224 1234
Established in 1883, this grand hotel has been dazzling guests since before The Ritz in Paris or New York’s Plaza Hotel were even established. Over the years it has hosted royalty, movie stars ranging from Gregory Peck to Meryl Streep, and sporting legends like Muhummad Ali. Situated on Spring Street across from Parliament House and next door to the Princess Theatre, each of the hotel’s 180 rooms boast timeless elegance and comfort. Dine at restaurant One Eleven, or enjoy a beer and a pub meal at the historic Cricketers Bar.
Address: 111 Spring St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9633 6000
Vibrant artwork decorates all interiors at this 162-room hotel in Southbank, inspired by Melbourne’s graffiti and street art. The complimentary barista-made coffee during your stay seals the deal on a trendy scene, which also offers a bar and cafe. Attractions such as the Arts Centre, NGV, and the Royal Botanic Gardens are all within walking distance.
Address: 167 City Rd, Southbank, VIC 3006
Phone: +61 3 9115 7000
For those who like to be in the middle of the action, The Westin Melbourne sits in the heart of the CBD. The city’s laneways wait right on the doorstep of this longtime favorite, which features 262 cosmopolitan rooms, many with balconies. A well-equipped gym and indoor pool are among The Westin’s fitness facilities.
Address: 205 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9635 2222
Courtesy of Coppersmith Hotel (2)
With just 15 rooms, this understated, modern boutique hotel is removed from the hubbub of the city’s CBD, while remaining close to attractions and transport. Albert Park Lake is nearby, along with the South Melbourne Market—perfect for a morning coffee and pastry pit-stop. Happy hour couldn’t be easier to find, with a pub of the same name downstairs.
Address: 435 Clarendon St, South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Phone: +61 3 8696 7777
Where to Eat
People travel to melting-pot Melbourne as much for the diverse and delicious cuisine as anything, so get started eating with this guide to the tastiest restaurants.
Courtesy of Flower Drum (2)
A crown jewel in Melbourne’s dining scene for over 45 years, the Flower Drum offers Cantonese cuisine at its finest, with first-class service to match. Pearl meat and wild barramundi are among super-fresh seafood on offer; and the restaurant’s iconic Peking Duck highlights on a menu that is both traditional and inventive. Reservations essential. Indoor dining only.
Address: 17 Market Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9662 3655
This fine dining restaurant, frequently found on ‘Best Restaurants of the World’ lists. Here, the focus is on experimental cuisine featuring native Australian ingredients. Plan ahead for this restaurant: bookings become available three months in advance and are snapped up quickly. Indoor dining only.
Address: 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, VIC 3185
Phone: +61 3 9530 0111
Courtesy of Chin Chin (2)
This lively laneway restaurant specializes in fresh, South East Asian fare. Kingfish sashimi, pulled pork roll-ups and corn fritters are reliable highlights on the a la carte menu. There’s often a wait here, but the restaurant’s moody basement bar, GoGo, will keep you happy with its selection of innovative cocktails.
Address: 125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 8663 2000
Jim’s Greek Tavern
With one of the largest Greek populations in the world outside of Greece, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to top-notch Greek cuisine in Melbourne, but you’re guaranteed a one-of-a-kind experience at Jim’s Greek Tavern. Buckle-up for a ride with no menu, as restaurant staff guide you through a mouth-watering variety of classic Greek fare, including lamb, seafood, dips and saganaki. Jim’s is BYOB, so be sure to stop by the bottle shop on your way. Reservations recommended.
Address: 32 Johnston St, Collingwood, VIC 3066
Phone: +61 3 9419 3827
Courtesy of The Esplanade Hotel (3)
A beloved St Kilda mainstay dating back to 1878, “The Espy” has been through a number of reinventions over the years: most recently transforming from a dive bar into a slick, multi-floor venue offering a variety of vibes and dining options, with a focus on seasonal produce and shared plates. One thing that always remains the same: That gorgeous St Kilda Beach view. Indoor and outdoor dining options.
Address: 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, VIC 3182
Phone: +61 3 9534 0211
Perched on the 55th floor of the Rialto tower and adjacent to fine dining restaurant Vue de Monde, consider the Lui Bar your go-to for views over Albert Park Lake and the bay, with one or two exquisite cocktails on the side. Reservations only required for groups of 6+.
Address: 525 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9691 3888
Tucked away in the backstreets of the inner-northern suburbs, The Brandon Hotel knows its pub grub. Offering a mix of Aussie classics—including a really good Chicken Parma—you’ll also find less-typical menu items, such as ham-hock, leek and potato croquettes. Venom Golden Ale is among local beers on tap.
Address: 237 Station St, Carlton North, VIC 3054
Phone: +61 3 9347 2382
A landmark pub across from Flinders Street Station offering local and international beer along with classic pub fare. Dine upstairs in Chloe’s Brasserie, where French painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre’s famous “Chloe” portrait has gazed over patrons since 1909.
Address: 1 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9650 3884
Thing to Do
A great starting point for first-time visitors, this striking public square sits between the Yarra River and the southern edge of the CBD, and directly across from Flinders Street Station. A popular meeting place and public event venue, it’s where you’ll find Melbourne’s main Visitor Information Centre and the Koorie Heritage Trust, which offers information on Aboriginal history, walking tours and more. Two free museums are also located here: The Ian Potter Centre, which is the National Gallery of Victoria’s home to Australian art; and the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI). A number of restaurants and bars operate within the square on a permanent and pop-up basis.
Address: Corner Swanston & Flinders Streets, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9655 1900
Melbourne’s iconic laneways are home to numerous cafes, hidden bars, restaurants and boutiques. Famous for their striking graffiti and street art, these spaces effectively operate as free outdoor art galleries. Explore independently, or sign up to one of the many tours available. Tattersalls Lane, Duckboard Place, ACDC Lane, Croft Alley, and Hosier Lane are a handful of musts when it comes to viewing street art. If you’re looking for quality cafes and hole-in-the-wall espresso bars, be sure not to miss Centre Place and Degraves Street.
Popular laneways are dotted throughout the CBD grid, notably in the area between Flinders & Collins Streets / Elizabeth & Exhibition Streets
Phone: +61 3 9658 9658
Enjoy a sunset stroll along St Kilda Pier before Little Penguins come home to roost at twilight. Around 1,400 Little Penguins call St Kilda home, returning to the breakwater every night after a hard day’s fishing out at sea.
Address: Pier Road, St Kilda, VIC 3182
Phone: Call Parks Victoria 131 963
Australia’s oldest museum, the NGV: International houses an impressive collection of artworks from around the world, and hosts major international traveling exhibitions. The Roy Grounds-designed building is worthy of a visit by itself: The ceiling of the Great Hall, designed by Leonard French, features 224 stained-glass triangles, and is the largest cut-glass ceiling in the world. The iconic Waterwall at the museum’s entrance is a fun posing location for all visitors, whether you’re six, 26, or 60 years old.
Address: 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, VIC 3006
Phone: +61 3 8620 2222
Situated in the beautiful Carlton Gardens, Melbourne Museum is a natural history museum, and so much more. Prehistoric wonders unique to the Australian continent can be found in the Science and Life Gallery, while the Melbourne Gallery details the history of the gold rush and the city’s development. The museum is also home to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which explores Aboriginal culture and history; and the living Forest Gallery replicates the rainforests environment found just outside of the city. Keep an eye out for the critters that call this space home, including frogs and stunning Satin Bower Birds.
Address: 11 Nicholson St, Carlton, VIC 3053
Phone: +61 3 8341 7777
Find a moment of zen within nearly 94 acres of stunningly-landscaped gardens, which offer vistas of the city skyline as it peeks through unique scenes, like the Arid Garden and Australian Forest Walk. Fern Gully will transport you seemingly in space and time, while the Aboriginal Heritage Walk is a valuable experience, where you can learn about Aboriginal history, traditional uses of native plants, and the spiritual meaning of Country. With more than 8,500 species of plants, the gardens are also home to two cafes: The Terrace and Jardin Tan.
Address: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne, VIC 3004
Phone: +61 3 9252 2300
With floor-to-ceiling windows and 360-degree views, the skydeck on the 88th floor of the Eureka building showcases the stunning geography in which the city is set. Views encompass Port Phillip Bay, Albert Park Lake, and the Dandenong Ranges, in addition to miniature versions of all those landmarks you’ve come to love. Suspended almost 980 feet above the ground is The Edge, a glass cube experience for those seeking thrills.
Address: 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank, VIC 3006
Phone: +61 3 9693 8888
Where to Shop
No guide to Melbourne would be complete without a section on shopping, a great reason to travel to this fashionable city.
Running perpendicular between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets, Bourke Street Mall is a hub of activity, where tram riders, buskers, and shoppers intersect. Find department stores David Jones and Myer here, as well as popular chain stores and the entrances to several shopping arcades. On the corner of Elizabeth Street sits the GPO, a grand, Victorian-era building that once housed the general post office, and now operates as a luxe shopping mall.
Address: Bourke Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets, Melbourne, VIC 3000
There are a number of historic arcades within the CBD, many of them heritage-listed and worth a visit for their architecture alone, particularly The Royal Arcade and The Block Arcade. The Royal Arcade offers a mix of curiosities: It’s where local chocolate company Koko Black has its flagship cafe; while neighboring stores include Babushka, a shop dedicated to nesting dolls and Spellbox, for all your crystal and witchcraft needs. Celebrated local fine jeweler Canturi also finds a home here. The Block Arcade features a mix of design, fashion, and confectionary stores, including Haigh’s, Australia’s oldest family-run chocolate company.
This multi-level complex in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD houses over two dozen Australian fashion labels, including Dion Lee, Scanlan Theodore, Alice McCall, and Viktoria & Woods. Here you’ll also find everyday favorites such as Uniqlo, T2, Muji, and Aesop.
Address: 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 8609 8221
Head here for local-fashion finds, such as the ethically-minded Arnsdorf and Kloke. Browse curated vintage at Hunter Gather and be sure to make a pit-stop at one of the street’s many cafes or bars. Handcrafted jewelry and artistic decor stores embrace this district’s bohemian vibe.
Address: Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, is situated between Victoria Parade to the south and Alexandra Parade to the north.
Dating back to 1878, this landmark market covers over 17 acres, making it the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Be sure to bring your appetite: this place is a food lover’s heaven. Explore the artisanal purveyors, and be sure to get your hands on a hot-jam donut while you’re here. Tea lovers must stop by McIver’s for some of the best tea and coffee they can possibly find.
Address: Corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9320 5822
Discover great local art and design at this weekend market located off the northern end of Brunswick Street. Homewares, jewelry, and paintings are just a few of the unique handmade offerings.
Address: 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Phone: +61 3 9419 5529
Made in Melbourne since 1989, Dejour is all about quality denim at a great price. With free on-the-spot tailoring, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better denim deal.
Address: 542 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, VIC 3056
Phone: (03) 9939 0667
Neighborhoods to Know
The CBD (Central Business District) is Melbourne’s easy-to-navigate center, with its grid layout encompassed by the free City Circle tram. You’ll find many of the city’s iconic landmarks here: The State Library of Victoria, Flinders Street Station, Parliament House, and St Paul’s Cathedral are standouts; along with historic and lovingly-maintained historic arcades. This is where the city’s famous laneways reside, home to scores of tucked-away restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The Bourke Street Mall and Swanston Street are both closed to local traffic—but watch out for trams! Plenty of shopping is to be found around here. Chinatown, on Little Bourke Street, is steeped in history and delicious cuisine, and has formed an intrinsic part of Melbourne since the mid-1800s. Lined with stately London Plane trees, Collins Street has a distinct European vibe. Its east end is where you’ll find designer boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Versace, along with Her Majesty’s Theatre.
The spire of Melbourne’s Arts Centre acts as a beacon for the city’s arts precinct on the south side of the Yarra River: The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company, and Opera Australia all call this institution home. The Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Recital Centre, and Southbank Theatre are also nearby, all notable for their striking architecture as much as the creativity produced inside. The NGV International can also be found in this area, while along the riverbank itself you’ll find restaurants, bars, and Crown casino.
Famous for its pier, palm trees, and penguins, this beachside suburb is abuzz on the water and off. Kite-surfing, jet-skiing, and fishing are all popular activities here, but nothing beats the relaxing simplicity in a walk along St Kilda Beach’s tree-lined promenade, where nearby attractions include St Kilda Sea Baths, the historic St Kilda Pier, Luna Park amusement park, or one of the many seaside cafes, restaurants, and bars. Acland, Carlyle, and Fitzroy Streets are popular spots for food and shopping; after the sun sets, they are great places for live music, dancing, and nightlife.
Head to Lygon Street in this inner-north neighborhood and you’ll find Melbourne’s Little Italy. Enjoy one of the many Italian restaurants here, or grab a sweet treat from famed pasticceria Brunetti. There are also more than a few gelateria to take your pick from here, too. The nearby Carlton Gardens are beautiful at any time of year, and is where you will find Melbourne Museum and the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building.
Weather: a seasonal guide to Melbourne travel
Melbourne’s summers are typically hot and dry, but keep in mind the city’s reputation for occasionally having “four seasons in one day.” Averages can be deceptive because of this, with highs capable of reaching over 100, only to be erased by a cool change that causes temperatures to drop to the 60s. It happens infrequently enough not to affect summer vacation planning, but with that unpredictability in mind, be sure to pack a light jacket or cardigan, just in case.
This time of year can feel like an extension to summer, with plenty of warm, sunny days. Mornings become increasingly crisp as the season draws to a close. Evenings out on the town may require a coat.
Melbourne’s winters are mild enough to comfortably spend a day outdoors, with the right amount of layers. While Melbourne never sees a snowfall, winter mornings can be cold enough for frost in some areas, with overnight temperatures nearing freezing on occasion.
Melbourne can sometimes be a little slow to come out of its winter, but spring here is typically sunny and comfortable, steadily warming up while remaining cool in the evenings.
Below are average temperatures in Fahrenheit.
January: 61°F to 81°F
February: 61°F to 80°F
March: 58°F to 76°F
April: 53°F to 70°F
May: 49°F to 64°F
June: 48°F to 59°F
July: 45°F to 58°F
August: 46°F to 61°F
September: 49°F to 65°F
October: 52°F to 69°F
November: 55°F to 73°F
December: 58°F to 77°F