- Getting Around
- City Centre
- St Kilda
- South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor
- Events and Festivals
- Live Music
The public transport system is known as Metlink and consists of trams, trains and buses. There are connections to most of the city's major attractions, and it is quite possible to spend time in Melbourne without a car. Metlink's Journey Planner can suggest the best way to get from point A to B, with schedules, maps and connections, check out the website or download their phone app. The city is divided into zones, with Zone 1 covering the central city and inner suburbs and Zone 2 covering the middle and outer suburbs. Tickets for public transport, known as MetCards, are available at all train stations, on trams, or from most newsagents. The most common is a the basic Zone 1, two-hour ticket ($3.80). Depending on your plans it could be more economical to buy a daily or multi trip ticket, or a Myki Pass which allows you to deposit a monetary amount on a credit card-sized plastic card which you swipe when you enter and exit a train station, bus or tram. That's probably the easiest option. Make sure you have a ticket because the ominously long-coated humourless beasts, the 'MetPolice', roam the system dispensing fines for invalid tickets, crimes against seats by dirty feet and delinquent behaviour.
The free City Circle Tram runs around the CBD perimeter, covering Flinders St, Spring St, Nicholson St, Victoria St, La Trobe St and Harbour Esplanade in the new Docklands Precinct. It is an older style tram, easily recognisable by its maroon colour and charming rickety gait. The tram stops along the route are signposted with City Circle. They run in both directions every 12 minutes every day from 10am-6pm, and until 9pm Thursday-Saturday during daylight savings. They are a fun introduction to central Melbourne and sometimes have recorded commentary, but being elderly types, they can be painfully slow for those in a hurry.
The free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle bus service stops at key tourist destinations in and around the city. The buses run at 30 minute intervals between 9.30am and 4.30pm every day. A complete circuit takes 90 minutes, and there is on-board commentary.
Melbourne has an excellent network of bike paths, plus a generally flat terrain, making pedal-power a great way to take in the city. Most paths are shared footways and you should expect to share them with pedestrians, dog-walkers, rollerbladers, joggers, prams and tricycles. Helmets are required by law, and care should be taken when cycling near slippery tram tracks, particularly on Swanston Street. When you cross tram tracks on your bike make sure you cross at an acute angle. And remember, lights for nights!
The main paths of interest to travellers are the Yarra River Trail, the Capital City Trail and the Bay Trail. Detailed maps of the bike path network can be found online with Bicycle Victoria and bikes can be hired from Rentabike near Federation Square or from Melbourne Bike Share at stations across the city.
Australian's drive on the left. Remember this - it will be helpful in avoiding accidents.
For hire cars, the major chains are well represented; Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. There is also a bunch of 'Car Share' companies throughout the city which can provide easy access to a car if you only need one for a short time, try Flexicar or GoGet.
Due to Melbourne's tram system there are a handful of intersections in the city centre where you must do a Hook Turn, a traffic rule so confusing some Melbournians avoid them by turning left three times! Follow the signs, pull to the left of the intersection if you are turning right (a-huh!), as far forward as possible, and when the light turns amber make the turn, watching for oncoming traffic. Don't worry, it'll be fine. Just wait till you get to some of the six point roundabouts!
Melbourne's two tollways are CityLink and EastLink. They are fully electronic toll roads with no manual tollgates. You can buy a day pass in advance, or within three days of having driven them, giving your registration and car details, it's about $11. You can do this by phone, online, or at some Shell petrol stations. One option for travel on both CityLink and EastLink is the Melbourne Pass. It's valid for 30 days, costs $5.50 to start up an account after which tolls are debited from your credit card automatically. It can be extended once for another 30 days if you need more time. The pass can be purchased online at www.citylink.com.au/1526.jsp.
Like any large city, Melbourne is divided up into many suburbs and districts, with the city centre probably having the most to attract the traveler. It's a beautiful and interesting mix of the old and the new, with oodles of cafes, boutiques, restaurants, bold architecture and Melbourne's major attractions, most of which are within walking distance of one-another, or a short tram ride away. Great precincts and attractions in the city are:
- Federation Square On the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street you'll find 'Fed Square', a city square with a difference and a popular meeting and hang-out place. Its progressive design divided the city's artistic tastes, and when it was built it sure set tongues a-wagging! It's a great place to see Melbournians enjoying life amongst the cafes, bars and restaurants, or just having a relax and watching the big screen in one of the provided deck chairs. Events, concerts and performances are held there throughout the year, and it really is the heart and centre of Melbourne. It also holds ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) which has a revolving program of fascinating movies, exhibitions and docos; well worth a visit.
- National Gallery Victoria A two minute walk from Federation Square is Melbourne's state gallery, holing a fabulous permanent collection of both Australian and international works, with feature exhibitions throughout the year. The stained glass roof within the building is an iconic Melbourne sight, as is the cascading 'Water Wall' at the gallery's frontage. Part of the NGV is the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, which has a fantastic Indigenous art collection; a must see in Melbourne.
- Southbank and Southgate Two lively promenades along the south bank of the Yarra River, just a five minute walk from Fed Square. You'll find restaurants, bars, shops, buskers, icecream stalls, the Crown Casino and a Sunday art and craft market, simply a wonderful place to visit at night and enjoy a glass of wine beside the river whilst admiring the view of the glowing city.
- Docklands A relatively new precinct filled with shops, bars, restaurants, galleries and Etihad Stadium, all with a waterside setting. You can go on a cruise of the harbour or see the living dinosaurs exhibition, watch fireworks then hit a market, or turn up for any of the events held there throughout the year.
- Eureka Tower The tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere with panoramic views of the whole of Melbourne from the Skydeck on the 88th floor. It has a bar to grab a drink at, as well as a glass cube jutting out 3 m from its side called 'The Edge', from which you can peer at the city streets 300 m below!
- Parliament House of Victoria One of the oldest buildings in Melbourne and the first seat of the Australian federal government before it was moved to Canberra. The elaborate use of gold in the interior reflects the time when it was built, that is 1856, the height of the gold rush. Free tours are available on week days.
- Queen Victoria Market Huge and colorful, offering a variety of fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and deli foods as well as specialty delicacies. It also has a large non-food related market, selling a diverse range of clothing, shoes, jewellery and handmade art and crafts. It's the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and its frontage is also an excellent example of the city's Victorian architecture. During Summer it holds a fantastic night market every Wednesday, check it out!
- State Library of Victoria Worthwhile if you're into books, city architecture, meeting students and free internet.
- Immigration Museum This is the place to explore the moving stories of people from all over the world who have migrated to Australia.
- Kings Domain Parklands This parkland is part of the larger Domain Parklands, directly south-east of the city, which also include the Alexandra Gardens, the Queen Victoria Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens (see: South Yarra). The major feature of the park is the Shrine of Remembrance, a majestic marble Parthenon-esque WWI memorial sitting grandly at the end on a long ceremonial avenue, just off St Kilda Road. Also within the park are Government House, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and La Trobe's Cottage.
- Melbourne Aquarium A huge aquarium with various sections where you can see phosphorescent jellyfish, penguins in an icy Antarctic environment and walk through a glass tunnel with sharks swimming above and around you. Adult tickets are $33.50, kids $19. You can pre-book your tickets online here and receive a discount, or get tickets for the Shark Walking Experience. It's located on the banks of the Yarra River beside the King Street Bridge, enter on the corner of Flinders and King Streets.
Two kilometres from the CBD is the old suburb of Carlton. It's well known for its "Little Italy" precinct on Lygon Street, its European-style squares (University Square, Lincoln Square, Argyle Place and MacArthur Place) and the beautiful Carlton Gardens, the latter being the location of the Royal Exhibition Building, one of Australia's few man-made sites with World Heritage status. To get there take the route 1 tram towards Coburg or the route 8 tram towards Moreland from Swanston St in the city.
- Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens These gardens are an outstanding example of Victorian era landscape design with sweeping lawns, colourful flower beds, varied European and Australian tree species, ornamental fountains and lakes, tree-lined paths and the striking Exhibition Building. The northern section contains the Melbourne Museum and an award winning childrens' playground designed as a Victorian maze.
- Melbourne Museum Located in the Carlton Gardens, and the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere! This modern building holds permanent exhibitions on prehistoric animals, the human body and evolution, science and nature, marine life and more. It also hosts special touring exhibitions, like displays of mummies from Egypt, dinosaurs from China and remains from Pompeii.
- IMAX Cinema On the lower level of the museum building, it shows movies and documentary films in 3-D format.
- Old Melbourne Gaol A museum set in the old prison where Ned Kelly was hanged. The night tours are a haunting but fun experience!
- La Mama Theatre This small theater in a former factory building operating since 1967. It hosts all sorts of things like plays, dance performance and art exhibitions; usually bizarre and always entertaining. With its cheap tickets, free coffee and ever-changing program, it has become an indispensable part of Melbourne's progressive arts scene.
- Cinema Nova Shows many international arthouse films and has a $9 movie ticket deal every Monday night which seems to attract all of bohemian Melbourne. Along with the Astor Theatre in Windsor, it's a Melbourne institution.
- University of Melbourne The premier university of Victoria, and internationally recognised as a leading university. It is a hub of students, fine buildings and gorgeous sprawling gardens.
- Melbourne Zoo The usual assortment of zoo animals, but in a lovely park-like setting with lots of Australian native species too. 'Jazz at the Zoo' is a popular Summer evening function, where you bring a picnic, listen to some music and take an evening stroll around the animal enclosures. Entry is about $25 for adults and $13 for children.
Melbourne's famous beachside and nightlife precinct, located 6 km south of the CBD. Its two main streets are Acland St and Fitzroy St (not to be confused with the suburb of Fitzroy), both of which are lined with a plethora of restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs. It is tremendously popular with beach goers, U.K. backpackers and those looking to grab a bite or sip a latte by the sea. To get to St Kilda take the route 16 tram towards Kew via St Kilda Beach from Swanston St in the city, it will take you to both Acland and Fitzroy St. Or, take the number 96 tram from Bourke St along the light rail through South Melbourne, Albert Park and Middle Park, before hitting St Kilda at Fitzroy St.
- St Kilda Esplanade The beach strip where Melbournians and travellers gather to swim, sunbake, walk and rollerblade, and discover new treasures and quirky crafts at the Esplanade Sunday Market.
- St Kilda Pier An idyllic spot for fishing, walking and enjoying a hot chocolate at the cafe at the end of the pier!
- The Esplanade Hotel The Espy is the longest continuously running live music venue in Australia, and built in 1878, it's a significant landmark of St Kilda. It overlooks the bay on a rise opposite the St Kilda Pier, and attracts a varying crowd of cruisy locals enjoying a beer outside and rowdy backpackers on a big night out. The front bar, pool tables and band rooms are deliciously scummy, but if you venture further you'll find a funky restaurant in a renovated section. It's almost always busy and every Melbournian has started, or more likely, ended a night out there.
- St Kilda Botanical Gardens With the first trees planted in 1859, the Botanical Gardens are a sprawling oasis of tranquility and greenery, with a giant outdoor chessboard! Access is off Blessington street, a two minute walk from the Barkley St end of Acland St.
- Jewish Museum of Australia Depicts the history of the Jewish community in Australia.
- Luna Park A historic amusement park on the foreshore, built and operating since 1912. Its main features are the smiling 'Mr Moon' face entry, an iconic image of Melbourne, and the 'Scenic Railway', which is the oldest continuously-operating roller coaster in the world (which is not exactly the the most confidence inducing claim-to-fame!) Unlimited ride tickets are $42 for adults and $32 for children.
South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor
These three suburbs all lie along the main shopping, dining and entertainment stretch of Chapel St, 5 km south-east of the CBD. It has myriad shops ranging from exclusive upmarket fashion designers at the South Yarra end, to mid-range bargains in Prahran, and onto the vintage and funky fashions towards the Windsor end.
It is not only the retail shops which reflect this pattern, the "upmarket-ness" of the bars and restaurants also decreases as you travel down the street. That is not to say that the Windsor end is derelict, quite the opposite, it is the 'bohemian end' of Chapel Street, with a great range of funky couch strewn bars, relaxed restaurants and cool cafes where style conscious Melbournians gather to hang.
To get there take any number of trams from Swanston St/Flinders Street Station; the number 6 Glen Iris tram will take you to the the corner of Chapel and High St at the Windsor end, the 72 Camberwell tram will take you to the corner of Chapel and Commercial Rd in the heart of Prahran, and the number 8 Toorak tram will take you to the corner of Chapel and Toorak Rd in South Yarra. The number 78 tram runs along Chapel St.
- Royal Botanic Gardens Located on the edge of South Yarra and the CBD, the Royal Botanic Gardens are 38 ha of beautifully landscaped vegetation featuring a central lake and many extensive lawns. There is a 3.8 km walking track popular with joggers which circles the park, and running "The Tan" is a popular Melbourne pastime. It also boasts a restaurant and cafe, many great places to loll on the grass, Summer Shakespeare performances and a wonderful dense forest which is home to thousands of Flying Foxes, which can be seen flying around the city at dusk. The Botanic Gardens are adjacent to the Kings Domain Parklands.
- Greville Street This is a side street off Chapel St in Prahran, marked by the large white Town Hall on the corner. It was once the centre of Melbourne's hippie community but has been completely gentrified and is now an upmarket collection of cafes, bars, restaurants, bookstores and shops. You'll find some good vintage clothing stores, and don't miss Greville Street Records, a fabulously grungy leftover of former times with an awesome music collection.
- Commercial Road Just off Chapel St in the heart of Prahran is this gay-friendly strip of clubs, shops and restaurants. It's a super spot to find a quiet bar or a raging club full of drag queens. The Prahran Market also fronts onto this street.
- Prahran Market A fresh food market that's been running for over 125 years! It's known for the quality and range of foods on sale, including heritage varieties of fruit and veg, unusual poultry, game, seafood and exotic cheeses. Also on site is the popular shop 'The Essential Ingredient' which has an enormous range of gourmet and hard to find foods like Persian fairyfloss, black sesame seeds and truffles. Double yum.
- Astor Theatre See interesting double features at this old Art Deco theatre, but be careful your seat isn't stolen by its resident cat who roams around freely. They have a wonderful mix of the old, the classic, the new and the down-right weird, and you get two movies for the price of one! Technically this theatre lies in the suburb of St Kilda, but it's on the border of Windsor and the difference is a matter of a 20 m crossing of Dandenong Road!
Melbourne's very first suburb, Fitzroy, is 2 km north-east of the CBD. Along with its neighbouring suburbs of Collingwood and North Fitzroy, it has undergone waves of improvement from industrial to chic since the 1950's, and is a highly sought out area to live. Wander the back streets and see some impressive displays of modern architecture melding with the historic terrace houses, warehouses and English brick cottages. Despite this, it's still sort of grungy and maintains its trendy hipster vibe, filled with eclectic cafes, bars, restaurants and stores.
- Brunswick St The commercial centre of Fitzroy and a long and lively cafe/bar strip with cheap and decent eats and very Melbourne fashions. It's home to a melting pot of artisans, housing commissioners, young professionals and boomers with excess retirement savings. The bars thrive and throughout the working week expect a regular trade. To get there take the route 11 or 112 tram towards Preston from Collins St in the city. It will take you down Johnston St to the corner of Brunswick St.
- Smith St A slightly run down yet charming street with cafes, bars, and unique clothing shops, located parallel to Brunswick St a block east. With the ongoing gentrification of Brunswick St, Smith St has become more and more popular with the bohemian crowds seeking out more rustic digs. Shopping wise, there are factory outlets selling athletic and fashion clothing down the Alexandra Parade end, or visit the Rose Street Markets on the weekend to pick up very unique craft pieces. To get there take the route 86 tram towards Bundoora from Bourke St in the city.
A multicultural and newly popular suburb 4 km north of the CBD. When Fitzroy and Collingwood became too expensive, the artistic community moved here. As such, Brunswick has a fantastic array of shops, with the jewel in the crown being its collection of old pubs, newly popular enough to be cool, but old enough to retain that sodden public bar feel! The suburb centres around the commercial strip of Sydney Rd which holds an odd mix of cafes, bakeries, cheap home-wares, vintage and second-hand clothing stores, restaurants of all cuisines and, of all things, wedding dresses!
If you're around in late February head on down to the 'Sydney Road Street Party' when a large portion of the road is closed to traffic and thousands hit the streets to listen to music, shop, eat and generally just party! It is a prelude to the wonderful Brunswick Music Festival held in March, featuring blues, roots, folk and world music. To get to Brunswick take the number 19 tram from Elizabeth St in the city, it will take you to Sydney Rd and onto North Coburg.
Events and Festivals
Melbourne loves a good festival, and the locals turn out in droves to participate in a huge range of carnivals, concerts, exhibitions and events, whatever the season. If you find yourself in town for any of the events listed below (or any of the others too numerable to mention), go mingle, taste, watch, play, laugh and ultimately be entertained!
- Australian Open One of the four great Grand Slam tennis tournaments, played at Melbourne Park in Summer when the stifling temperatures can sometimes exceed 40 degrees! Locals gather in Fed Square to watch the games on the big screen and enjoy the lighthearted jovial atmosphere. (January)
- Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (March)
- Melbourne Fashion Week (March)
- Formula One Grand Prix The second race of the Grand Prix Championship season is held at the Albert Park track in South Melbourne. It's car racing at its repetitive best! (March)
- Melbourne International Comedy Festival The largest of the festivals, it hosts comedians from around the globe doing silly things in venues around the city. It you're in town during the Comedy Fest, you simply must to go see a show and have a drink at the Festival Hub Bar in the Melbourne Town Hall. (April)
- Melbourne International Jazz Festival Another fantastic festival held at various venues across the city. You don't have to be a jazz nut to appreciate what's on offer, the line up is usually so interesting and well thought out that anyone who just enjoys a good show will dig it. (June)
- Melbourne International Film Festival (July-August)
- Melbourne Fringe Festival When the odd-bods of Melbourne's artistic community surface in a three week frenzy of performance, exhibitions, dance and cultural activities. (September-October)
- Melbourne International Arts Festival Usually just known as the Melbourne Festival, dance, theatre, art and music from around the world is celebrated in this contemporary art and performance festival. The schedule is always really intriguing, and sometimes bizarre, so make it a must if you're around. (September-October)
- Spring Racing Carnival Think feathers and champagne, culminating in "the race that stops the nation", The Melbourne Cup. (November)
- AFL Premiership Season Played mainly throughout Autumn and Winter, Melbourne's most popular sport crescendos in the AFL Grand Final in September at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Make it a priority to see an AFL game; guys will be entertained by it's fast pace and unique rules, and for the gals, the players are athletic and wear tremendously small shorts. (March-September)
Melbourne has an exceptionally vibrant live music scene and consistently turns out international music artists...and some hilarious local ones. Melbourne does folk and rock particularly well, but also has a substantial hip-hop, dance and drum n' bass scene. Many bars, pubs, cafes and shops will have copies of the free street press magazines Beat and Inpress which provide local gig guides. Fitzroy, Brunswick and St Kilda are generally your best bets for seeing some of the great local talent, and you'll also find terrible cover bands in most pubs across Melbourne! Venues where you can see some good music include: The Northcote Social Club, The Evelyn, First Floor, Bar Open, The Espy and the Corner Hotel.
Melbourne also hosts a plethora of large independent music festivals which thousands turn out to for some fun in the sun, or quite often, a dance in the rain. They mostly fall around the Summer months, feature varying lineups from huge internationals to popular locals, are either one-day city affairs or multi-day bush camping events, all with their own special vibe and crowd. Listed below are some of the popular ones, to name just a very few. Seriously, there's tons more.
- Big Day Out (January)
- Rainbow Serpent (January)
- Summudayze (January)
- St. Jerome's Laneway Festival (February)
- Parklife (September)
- Meredith Music Festival (December)
- Good Vibrations (December)
Melbourne is known as the fashion capital of Australia, bursting with quaint malls and boutique lined streets, as well as the infamous secret alleys that twist through the city centre.
For the expensive stuff visit Collins St, Chapel St (mainly South Yarra but also Windsor end), Melbourne Central, the GPO and the Bourke St Mall. For more kooky, vintage or left-of-centre options visit Brunswick St, Smith St and Chapel St (Windsor end). For bargains check out the DFO Outlet Mall in South Wharf or the outlets on Bridge Rd in Richmond. There are also several huge shopping complexes in the outer suburbs, such as Chadstone and Southland.
If you'd like some help navigating those streets, hop on a Melbourne Lanes and Arcades Walking Tour, a three hour shopping jaunt down wondrous lanes and arcades finding local fashion, jewellery, galleries, spaces, bookstores and funky cafes. If that's not your cup of tea, try the Melbourne Outlet Shopping Tour, a full day of retail therapy at some of Melbourne's best discount and hard-to-find warehouse sales.
ToursTours are plentiful in Melbourne, and they can greatly add to your holiday experience. They are particularly convenient if you're short on time or transport, but who needs an excuse to go kayaking down the river or discover the city's history on a walking tour?! The following tours, cruises and attraction passes can help you get the most out of your stay, and experience something a little different on the way. Enjoy!
- Melbourne City Sights Morning Tour A four hour morning tour to sights like the Bourke St Mall, Botanic Gardens, Southbank and St Kilda, with pick-up from most city hotels. it ranges from $50-$70 per person.
- Melbourne City Afternoon Tour A $65 four hour afternoon tour covering the city sights, then out to the forest and wildlife of the Dandenong Ranges.
- Highlights of Melbourne River Cruise A two hour narrated city cruise down the Yarra, seeing Southbank and Southgate, the Docklands, Princes Bridge, Herring Island and more. The launching dock is behing the Langham Hotel, Southgate.
- Melbourne Bike Tours A half-day guided bike tour departing from the aquarium and traveling to some eclectic city neighborhoods like Fitzroy and the Docklands.
- Sports Lovers Tours of Melbourne A half or full-day tour visiting the MCG, the Sports and Aquatic Centre, Rod Laver Arena and Etihad Stadium, exploring the history and excitement of Australian sports.
- Melbourne Kayak Tours See the city from a unique perspective as you kayak along the Yarra River; $70 per person.
- Sports Lovers and Brewery Tour An eight hour day-tour combining sporting venues and a tour of the Carlton and United Brewery for $140.
- Melbourne Attraction Passes Various multi-day passes to attractions including the zoo, Eureka Skydeck and the aquarium. They're good value and can include public transport passes. Card collection is from the Visitor Centre at Fed Square and there's a range of options so peruse the details in the link.
- Melbourne Helicopter Super-Saver Saturday Flight Enjoy the skyline from up above on this 20 minute helicopter flight departing from Essendon Airport. A Saturday flight is only $125.
- Colonial Tramcar Restaurant One of Melbourne's star attractions, enjoy a meal on the Tramcar Restaurant, offering a sightseeing tour with a difference!
- Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise Watch the city light up on a romantic three-hour dinner cruise on the Yarra River, from $100 per person.
- Ballarat and Sovereign Hill Day Tour Step back in time and experience the Australian gold Rush era at Sovereign Hill, a replica historic town where you can tour the underground mines, ride a stagecoach and pan for gold for around $150 for a day-tour. Don't miss buying a jar of raspberry drops from the lolly shop, they're killer!
- Mt Buller Ski Day Tour A day-tour (best June-October) to Mt Buller, Melbourne's most accessible ski resort, including transportation, lift pass and entry from $145 per person.