Melbourne, Victoria Travel Guide
- Australia's culture capital is packed art galleries, live music venues, and cafes
- Beautiful, Victorian-era architecture and relatively easy access to beaches
- Free public transit around the city's center within the Free Tram Zone
- Bike paths throughout the city, which has flat a landscape that's ideal for cycling
- Known to be one of Australia's food capitals, including a dizzying multi-cultural dining scene
- Plenty of green spaces, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens
- Shopping runs from luxury to indie -- head to Flinders Lane, Fitzroy, or Brunswick
- Massive sports scene -- home of Australian Open and major Aussie Rules Football culture
- Home to the tallest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere -- the Eureka Tower
- Cultural hotspot status means film festivals, literary festivals, and art fairs
- Cool countercultural vibe, with lots of street art all around
- Amazing day trips to Victoria's wineries and rugged, wildlife-packed beaches
- Weather is more extreme than Sydney, particularly in fall and spring
- Strict dress codes in many bars and clubs
- Port Phillip Bay beaches can be closed due to pollution
- Grungier vibe might not appeal to those who love Australia's other sparkling cities
What It's Like
Melbourne may be Australia's second-largest city, but it's certainly the country's cultural capital. Situated on Port Phillip Bay, the capital of Victoria is packed with historic buildings, museums, art galleries, large parks, and amazing gardens. The tree-lined streets and green spaces create a clean, eco-friendly vibe, which is part -- but only part -- of the reason Melbourne has consistently been dubbed one of the world's most livable cities. And if the city itself doesn't have enough for you, the wildlife-packed shores of Victoria, as well as the state's amazing wineries, are within easy striking distance.
Mebourne's roots can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when British colonizers invaded the area after finding gold in the surrounding hills. Now, the largest fleet of trams in the world -- which are free in the city center -- zig-zag across the metropolis, making it easy for visitors to explore Melbourne at a relaxed pace within a few days. Is it as sparkling clean and shimmery as Sydney? No. But Melbourne draws a fierce cadre of loyalists, and wins over the hearts of tourists year after year.
One of the city's most popular sights is Southbank's Eureka Skydeck 88, the Southern Hemisphere's tallest observation tower. Another hot spot, Melbourne City Centre -- also known as the CBD -- is a place where visitors will be able to find just about anything, from mini-golfing to historic buildings, shopping, and great restaurants. Like any world-class destination, retail pursuits are a big deal in Melbourne, with trendy and swanky boutiques mixing together across the city. On weekends, quirky local markets and street stalls open up around the beaches and other areas, so keep your eyes open for a bargain. In the center of town, Flinders Lane is packed with converted former warehouses, edgy shops, and sleek cafes -- and while it was once up-and-coming, these days it's an already-arrived hipster paradise.
Being a relatively young city, street-art and skating culture are also a major component of Melbourne's identity. Those in the know will have heard of the notorious Pappas brothers, who pioneered the Aussie skate scene here during the 1980s and '90s. For enthusiasts of graffiti, Union Lane is one of the best places to view Melbourne’s wild street-art scene. Dining in Melbourne is equally eclectic and exciting. Eating out is part of everyday life, and the culture is almost unabashedly foodie-centric. You’ll find restaurants of all kinds throughout the city, though some areas do specialize in certain foods. Lygon Street in Carlton is the place to go if you fancy some Italian food, while Chinatown is the spot for Asian cuisines and Middle Eastern fare is popular in Coburg.
As with all Aussies, Melburnians are extremely passionate about their sports. It’s worth checking out a game of footy (Aussie Rules Football), or a cricket match, at the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tennis fans might opt to visit during the Australian Open, which is played here every January. Indeed, January is a great time to visit as summer temperatures frequently soar and skies stay blue. This is when visitors and locals alike swarm the golden sand beaches which sit right on the city's doorstep. Expect music and street entertainment all along the promenades south of town. If you're in town during transitional seasons, like spring and summer, be prepared for less predictable weather, and it may feel like all four seasons are taking place in the course of one day. Additionally, due to the geography of Port Phillip Bay, beaches here are more susceptible to pollution and can sometimes be shut down.
Where to Stay
Business travelers will likely want to stay within the CBD. As the city’s heart, the CBD is also great option for those looking to be within walking distance of Melbourne's major sights. Visitors seeking Melbourne’s bohemian side should check out Fitzroy -- an interesting quarter filled with funky pubs and boutiques -- and possibly the inner suburb of Brunswick, which some have called the new Fitzroy. High-end shoppers should check out South Yarra, which lies just south of the river, and is chock-full of luxurious shops and eateries. Albert Park Lake in South Melbourne is a solid bet if you’d rather be away from the city-center hustle and bustle, yet still within a 15-minute tram ride of the beaches and the center. If a beachside location is more to your liking, St. Kilda has many reasonable options, though it’s farther from the city center and subsequently many of Melbourne's big attractions.