Melbourne, Australia doesn’t always get as much attention as its famous sister Sydney, but many argue that it is the more interesting city. Melbourne is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city known for its hip culture and often touted as the “most livable city” in the world. It is easy to see why with its European style parks and laneways, trams that transport you anywhere within the city and delicious coffee and cafés on every street corner. Not to mention being the gateway to one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations – the Great Ocean Road.
Sydney has must-see sites to visit when you are there, but Melbourne’s attraction is more nuanced. It is best absorbed by simply spending time in the city and exploring the cultural capital of Australia. As a Canadian currently living in the city, here are my suggestions for what to experience and how to spend your time in Melbourne.
1. Get an Introduction to the City on the Trams
Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world and it is easy to get anywhere in the city on the trams. The City Circle tram does a loop of the city in heritage style trams passing many of the city’s sites. You can hop on and hop off whenever you like and best of all, it is completely free. This will give you a great introduction to the city and allow you to explore Melbourne as residents and visitors have done for 150 years.
2. Explore the Laneways and Alleys
Don’t stick to the major streets when touring Melbourne, head into the laneways and alleys to see what makes Melbourne so unique. You will be greeted with laneways covered in street art, alleys with cute cafes and restaurants and shopping arcades from a bygone era.
3. Attend a Sporting Event
Melbourne is sport obsessed and no visit would be complete without taking in a game. The sporting complex built for the 1956 Olympics features impressive stadiums and sporting grounds including the 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can take in a cricket game, Australian Rules Football (AFL), the Australian Open, or soccer and basketball matches.
4. Visit St. Kilda
Melbourne’s happening beach and nightlife district, St Kilda is worthy of a stop. If visiting during the day, spend some time on the beach and at the heritage theme park, Luna Park. Acland Street is the place to go to eat, drink and shop to your heart’s content.
5. Enjoy Delicious Coffee and Breakfast
Melbournians love their coffee and have perfected the perfect flat white. There are cafes on every street corner and you can’t go wrong picking one. Melbourne features restaurants from all over the world, but my favorite meal is breakfast here. They make the most amazing poached eggs, usually served with avocado mash and bacon or salmon.
6. Wander through the Queen Victoria Market
Since 1878 this market has been servicing and entertaining residents and visitors. You can sample amazing food truck fare, pick up fresh fruits and veg and any other knick knack you desire. Weekends get really busy, so visit during the week if you want a more peaceful experience.
7. Relax in the Beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne has no shortage of green spaces, but the Royal Botanic Gardens is a peaceful place to explore right in the heart of the city. Find a peaceful place to enjoy a picnic lunch, learn about the plant life from all over the world and enjoy this tranquil space.
8. Mix with the After Work Crowd in SouthBank on the Yarra River
Come 4 o’clock, SouthBank is just buzzing with employees out after work enjoying some social time at the many restaurants and bars that line the Yarra. You often see street performers out entertaining the crowds of tourists and residents. There is no better place to take in the atmosphere of the city on a beautiful summer day then SouthBank.
9. Take a Drive on the Great Ocean Road
You can arrange a one day tour out on the Great Ocean Road, but if you are comfortable driving, rent a car and take it at your own pace. Stop at all the beautiful view points and cute towns along your way to the highlight for many – the 12 Apostles.
10. See the penguins at Phillip Island
Melbourne has these cute fairy penguins that live in colonies along the coast. You can travel to Phillip Island on a tour to see them come ashore for the evening. Alternatively, you can often view them at sunset at St Kilda pier.
Melbourne is truly best experienced by wandering the city and stopping often at anything that catches your eye. It won’t take long to see why Melbourne is so often called the most-livable city in the world.
Dawn Nicholson loves traveling and blogging about her adventures traveling and living overseas with her three kids at www.5losttogether.com. She has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas.