Melbourne, the capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria, is the most populous city in the country after Sydney. It is considered a migrant city, with almost all nationalities represented, and this makes it a very vibrant city full of culture and heritage -- not to mention great cuisine. Ask any local, and the one thing they will recommend is that you try each and every cuisine the city has to offer before you leave.
Melbourne is very easy to navigate alone or with a group. It boasts an incredible transportation system that connects many different suburbs via train and bus.
Here are a few things to do when visiting this diverse and colorful city in Australia. Plan on spending at least three to four days in the city so you can easily see and do everything on this list.
Spend A Couple Of Hours At The Melbourne Museum
I cannot recommend the Melbourne Museum enough. A beautiful structure that houses a variety of exhibits -- including one on the different Aboriginal tribes that call Australia home -- this museum is a great place to start your Melbourne tour. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours here.
Some highlights of the museum include the Forest Gallery, the living heart of the museum where you’ll see tall trees and wonderful wildlife species; the Science and Life Gallery, where you’ll find an extensive collection of bugs, dinosaur bones, fossils, animals, and exhibits on human biology; and the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which documents the traditions, art, and knowledge of the Koori people and other cultures from around Australia.
We reached the museum right around opening time, and so we had the place pretty much to ourselves, but soon it was filled with schoolchildren on field trips. Plan to visit early or late if you want to avoid crowds.
Visit The Immigration Museum
The Immigration Museum is a museum dedicated to Australia’s rich history of immigration. It is located on Flinders Street in the Old Customs House. The site itself was once the location of the first hotel in Melbourne, Fawkner’s Hotel, which was built in 1835 by John Pascoe Fawkner, one of the founders of Melbourne.
In addition to documenting Australia’s immigration history, the museum hosts various traveling exhibitions, educational programs on art and dance, and community events and festivals. Perhaps one of the neatest features of the museum is the Immigration Discovery Centre, where people can search for their family roots.
Take A River Cruise
Melbourne offers access to the ocean from Port Phillip Bay. The Yarra River runs through the city before it empties out into Hobsons Bay in northernmost Port Phillip.
Plenty of river cruises run up and down the Yarra River; the waterway is used for transportation as well as recreation. You can access the cruises in the heart of the city as you exit the Flinders Street Railway Station. The upstream cruise is considered a much better option than the downstream cruise because it passes by the botanical garden as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground. However, the downstream cruise offers a picture-perfect view of downtown between the Port of Melbourne and the cruise dock. There are many different outfitters to choose from, so just pick one that suits your budget and itinerary.
Check Out The Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium
The Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is located on the banks of the Yarra River. It is right under the Flinders Street Viaduct and the King Street Bridge.
The aquarium is one of the best in terms of research on and conservation of Australia’s marine life. It’s home to several breeding programs aimed at conservation and is also involved in the rehabilitation of turtles washed south into the colder Victorian waters.
This spot is featured on the Yarra river cruise, and a hop-on, hop-off experience is totally doable.
Admire The Views From The Eureka Skydeck
These days, almost every city boasts sky-high buildings with great views, and the city of Melbourne is no exception.
The famous Eureka Skydeck claims to have the fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere -- the elevator shoots up about 935 feet in only 38 seconds. Unless you are afraid of heights, you must go here during your time in Melbourne. The Eureka Skydeck offers incredible 360-degree views of the city from its floor-to-ceiling windows. On a good day, you can see all the way out to Phillip Island. There is also a small cafe up top where you can sit and enjoy this wonderful experience with a cup of coffee.
But perhaps the highlight of the Eureka Skydeck is the world’s first all-glass viewing platform, the Edge. This cube with glass floors and walls protrudes from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and offers visitors the chance to stand 984 feet above Melbourne. I highly recommend this experience -- unless you are afraid of heights, that is.
The entrance fee to the Eureka Skydeck does not cover the Edge experience. It is an add-on, but it’s well worth the expense. You will have to purchase tickets before you board the elevator to the top if you want to experience the Edge.
Browse The Victoria Market
Perhaps one of the most iconic Melbourne attractions is the Queen Victoria Market, a National Heritage List site affectionately known as Vic Market. The market opened in March of 1878 and is one of the largest open-air markets in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, it is the largest and most intact 19th-century structure in the city, spanning more than 7 acres. This is a place that is frequented by locals and visitors alike.
No matter what you are looking for, you will find it here at Queen Vic, from farm-fresh vegetables and fruits to cheese and wines. The market is home to more than 600 small businesses, so you could easily spend several hours exploring the offerings. It’s a great place to find that perfect souvenir.
Don’t leave without sampling the local cheese and wine along with a game meat burger featuring kangaroo or crocodile.
Stop By The Crown Melbourne Casino
Crown Melbourne is a casino and resort located on the south bank of the Yarra River in the heart of the city. It comprises four hotels and countless restaurants along with the actual casino. The entire complex stretches two city blocks and is the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Most Australians consider it better than even the best casinos in Vegas.
The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week except Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Anzac Day.
Even if you are not into gambling or are traveling with the grandkids, it is worth stopping into the Crown Melbourne for a look. There are many different restaurants and shops within the complex. One of the coolest things to witness at the Crown Melbourne is the fire show. After sunset, every hour on the hour, fireballs erupt from eight riverside towers into the night sky. On a cold night, this is the perfect way to warm up.
Stroll Through The City
Melbourne is very walkable. The sidewalks are wide and conducive to pedestrians. The transportation system is also superb, with trains, trams, and buses that run within the city as well as to the suburbs.
Take some time to stroll the city blocks to get a feel for the local lifestyle. Flinders Street, Federation Square, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground are great places to wander. Grab a bite at one of the city’s many eateries and head down to the river’s edge to take a break from sightseeing.
Melbourne really is a traveler’s delight. With its excellent art, music, culture, and food scenes, there is something going on almost every weekend during the summer months. If you want to escape the cold of the Northern Hemisphere and visit a city that is vibrant and colorful, consider adding Melbourne to your bucket list.