Melbourne is a dynamic city filled with laneways, culture and art. It is the cultural hub of Australia, constantly offering theater performances, live music and/or comedy shows. The city is also teeming with restaurants, cafés and bars.
Melbourne has something for everyone day and night. The city is divided into several suburbs and surrounded by many smaller cities also divided into several suburbs. But the whole area is effectively known as Melbourne. The city center, known as the central business district (CBD), is quite compact and is certainly the heart of Melbourne, but the city has much to offer in its surrounding suburbs as well.
The CBD is best explored on foot; the city center is full of hidden treasures that are easy to miss if you do not amble along the easily navigated grid of streets. There are several laneways with incredible street art, relaxing cafés and plenty of places to shop. If you only have a short time in the city, trams are a quicker option for getting around. And they are free in the CBD area. You can hop on and off as many times as you like within the Free Tram Zone.
Hosier Lane is one of the best-known laneways in Melbourne. It has incredible street art, but is one of many. AC/DC Lane is dedicated to the famous Australian band and is home to Cherry Bar, which hosts a variety of rock and roll gigs. Degraves Street is a great spot for restaurants and cafés. And Swanston Street is full of Asian restaurants, offering everything from Korean to Vietnamese food. Bourke Street is the ideal place to watch buskers (street performers) and do some shopping; it is home to the Bourke Street Mall. For more upscale shopping, visit the Paris End of Collins Street, which is also near the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade. If you have not yet dropped from shopping, head up the street to browse the shops in Emporium. Or continue a bit further to the many shops in Melbourne Central Station. Don’t forget to check out the building within a building, Coop’s Shot Tower under the Melbourne Central Dome.
One of my favorite spots in the CBD is Queen Victoria Market. The market is a great spot to get cheap, quality produce, meats and deli items. It is also filled with souvenir, clothing and home good stalls. The market hosts several events throughout the year and encourages buying local. Queen Vic is open Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday. And during the summer and winter months, Queen Vic hosts the Night Market on Wednesday nights.
The CBD also has a variety of museums and entertainment options. The Melbourne Aquarium has a large variety of sea life and attractions for the whole family. The Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia is home to art works by Australian artists, and includes a wonderful exhibit with aboriginal art. The gallery is found in Federation Square. Fed Square is also home to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. The ACMI has a comprehensive history of film, gaming and sound development for the entertainment industry over the years. It is very interactive and informative. Flinders Street Station is across the street from Fed Square. The station is one of the busiest in the city and is the oldest station in Australia.
The State Library of Victoria is another old and beautifully constructed building. It features several reading rooms, each with a lovely design. It is a functioning library with a great number of resources. The library also has a gallery section in its dome with rotating collections. There are also several statures in front of the library.
The free walking tour of Melbourne meets in front of the Sir Redmond Barry statue. The tour guide wears a bright green shirt and waits in front of the statue to gather a group before setting off around the city. I would absolutely recommend taking the tour of the city. It is a great way to learn a bit of Melbourne’s history and get better acquainted with the CBD. The 3-hour tours are every day at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
You can also take a free tour of the Melbourne Town Hall and get a glimpse into the inner workings of the city’s political atmosphere. The tour guide is very knowledgeable and keeps the tour moving at a comfortable pace. You will see the Council Chamber, stand on the balcony overlooking Swanston Street, sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair and more. The tours are limited to 10 people, so be sure to call or email to book a spot.
For transportation planning and information, visit the comprehensive Public Transport Victoria website. Or you can visit the Yarra Trams website for information pertaining to the extensive tram network in Melbourne.
Other spots worth visiting in the area:
Quick Trips from Melbourne
Spots outside of the city that can be visited for a day or more: