Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria and is well known for its sporting events, street art and cafe culture. It is well worth a few days’ visit – even longer.
Brief history of Melbourne
Port Phillip Bay was discovered in 1802. It is shaped like a pear and its shoreline is around 265 kilometres. Melbourne was founded on the Yarra River in 1835 after other attempts to settle it in the Port Phillip Bay Area were aborted. It is said John Batman came to Port Phillip Bay and ‘paid’ the local Aboriginal people in blankets and trinkets for many acres of land which included what is now Melbourne. It was called Melbourne after the British Prime Minister at the time.
Melbourne gained its independence from New South Wales in 1850 just before the gold rush which saw Melbourne and other parts of Victoria boom. The gold rush saw the development of houses, schools, churches and other public buildings. From its humble beginnings of a few tents, today it is one of Australia’s financial centres and is home to around 4 million people.
Many nationalities call Melbourne home particularly from Italy and Greece, in fact, Melbourne is the largest Italian city outside of Italy. This explains why Melbourne has some of the best international cuisine. The city is also well designed. In fact, it has been designed in a grid, known as the ‘Hoddle grid’ after Robert Hoddle, a surveyor who designed it, and this makes it easy to get around.
Best time to visit Melbourne
Any time is a good time to visit Melbourne. However, if you like warm weather, I suggest you visit over late spring, summer and early autumn months. Winter is also a great time to visit Melbourne as you can experience sporting events such as an Australian Football League (AFL) game or spend your time indoors in a eatery.
Getting around Melbourne
There are various ways to see Melbourne. You can walk to many of the sights because of the Hoddle Grid design but the local transport of trains and trams are very good and easy to take. If it’s your first time to Melbourne you may want to ride aboard the free burgundy and gold ‘Circle Tram’. You travel in one of Melbourne’s iconic W-Class trams, with an audio commentary providing details about the city and the landmarks it passes. Major places you will visit include the Docklands, Parliament House and Federation Square. Trams operate every 30 minutes moving in both directions around the city.
If your time is limited or you want to see the city while sitting down then you might want to take a trip on the hop-on hop-off ‘City Explorer’ bus. The bus will take you to more places than the Circle Tram because it can travel through the city unlike the tram which circles it. You can purchase your ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus here.
Where will you stay in Melbourne
Melbourne has a plethora of accommodation available ranging from hostels to 5-star establishments. There is plenty of accommodation available inside and just outside the Hoddle Grid to ensure you are close to everything you want to see and do in Melbourne. Though there is plenty of accommodation further out which might be cheaper, you will need to travel in to the city to see the sights. I suggest you get on the booking websites and find something that suits you and your budget. For a bed in a hostel visit HostelWorld.com and for everything else visit Booking.com.
What to see and do in Melbourne
Flinders Street Train Station
You cannot miss Flinders Street Railway Station. It is on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets and is so large it takes up two city blocks. Originally opened in 1854 it was a collection of weatherboard sheds known as the Melbourne Terminus. In the early 1900s the station was redeveloped and renamed and now serves the entire metropolitan rail network. It is the busiest train station in Melbourne and arguably also in Australia. Platform 1, at 708 metres, is the longest train platform in Australia, but it is the main building’s facade that everyone comes to see. It is also a great meeting point and this is where many a Melburnian meets – either ‘under the clocks’ or ‘on the steps’.
Federation Square is across the road from Flinders Street Train Station and is hard not to miss. It is a large piazza that hosts world-class events and has cultural attractions along with a variety of speciality stores, restaurants and bars. It houses the National Gallery of Victoria and Arts Centre. This vibrant area is also used as a meeting point and is well worth a look around.
Street art is popping up all over Melbourne however, there are a number of highly concentrated ‘hotspots’. The most popular two hotspot areas are Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. Both these cobble-stoned laneways are very close to Federation Square. And yes, AC/DC Lane is named after the band. Whether or not you are in to art it is very interesting to see the spray-painted murals on the walls of the laneways.
Eureka Skydeck 88
The Eureka Tower is the second tallest building in Australia and stands at 297.3 metres. A visit to the observation deck on the 88th floor is a must. It has a great vantage point offering 360 degree views over Melbourne. For those not afraid of heights there is a glass cube called The Edge where you can step out over Melbourne. I couldn’t do it – but my kids loved it! You can purchase a ticket here.
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
Sport enthusiasts, and even those who are not, might want to tour the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). This impressive structure holds many sporting events and can accommodate around 100,000 people. A tour of the facilities will take you to the change rooms, the Australian Gallery of Sport, and private member areas such as the Long Room and members’ areas. You could peruse the cricket and AFL memorabilia and sit in the awesome Great Southern Stand which holds the capacity of the entire Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), or so I was told. Or experience a game of AFL or cricket at the ground. You can purchase a ticket here.
From the cricket ground ,you could visit the National Tennis Centre where the Australian Open Tennis Championships are held every January.
The Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance – or The Shrine as it is often referred to – is Melbourne’s war memorial. It is not far from the city and can be easily reached by taking a tram down St Kilda Road. The Shrine was built as a memorial to all Australians who have served in war and is one of the biggest in Australia. Outside The Shrine is an eternal flame while inside in the sanctuary you will find the Stone of Remembrance. Down in the Crypt you will find many interesting things, including panels listing every unit of the Australian Forces. At the top of the stairs you can look down Ceremonial Avenue and see great views of Melbourne.
Captain Cook Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens
Captain Cook’s Cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Australia. It was originally located in Yorkshire in England but was lovingly taken apart, brought to Australia then put back together stone by stone as a present to Victoria from Sir Russell Grimwade. And here it has been in Fitzroy Gardens since 1934. Go inside and learn about its history.
While in Fitzroy Gardens enjoy walking around and seeing local flora and fauna. Maybe visit the Fairy Garden. The gardens are on the edge of Melbourne City and are an easy walk or catch the free City Circle tram and disembark at Spring Street/Treasury Gardens stop.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne Gaol was built in the mid-1800s and housed many dangerous criminals, petty offenders and the mentally ill. It was the scene of 133 hangings – including the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly – until it closed in 1929. Today you can visit the gaol and learn about many of the men and women who were imprisoned and died there. You can walk in to some of the individual cells and experience what it was like to be imprisoned in one of them. Also see where Ned Kelly was hung and his death mask. Eerie. The gaol is open during the day to experience or you could possibly take a night ‘ghost’ tour. You can book a tour here.
Southbank and Crown Casino
Southbank is a vibrant area with many restaurants, clubs, food courts and designer shops to experience. It is adjacent to the Yarra River and at any time during the seasons you can sit outside or even walk along the promenade and enjoy the atmosphere. At Southbank, you will find the Crown Casino complex offering the Crown Towers accommodation, casinos, cinema, Kingpin bowling, live theatre and concerts, nightclubs, bars, 29 restaurants and many clothing boutiques. You could spend hours or even days here! Just quietly, I think that is their plan!
Museums & Arts Centre
I’m not big on museums but they are good to visit on really cold and wet days. Museums include the National Gallery (NG) and those around Federation Square. Across the bridge from Federation Square is The Arts Centre and it is a popular place to visit with its theatres and concert halls. Venues include Hamer Hall, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and the Playhouse. For good views over Melbourne you can head to the Hamer Hall balcony and see up and down the Yarra River.
The Docklands is situated at the western end of the city and is a modern harbour development which is dominated by high rise accommodation. It is also a popular place for shopping, waterside dining and even sport. Many people head to Marvel Stadium for concerts and sporting events. The Docklands is also home to the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel which provides great views of Melbourne. You can purchase your ticket to ride here.
St Kilda is a suburb of Melbourne that is located only 5 kilometres south from Melbourne City centre. It is on Port Phillip Bay, and it is a very popular place for backpackers, tourists and locals. You can easily catch tram 12 from Flinders Street Station down St Kilda Road and find yourself in St Kilda. You may want to enjoy a nice coffee and a cake in one of the many cake shops along Acland Street. Or perhaps try some vegan food in one of the many eateries. Maybe take a walk along St Kilda Beach, or if it is warm enough have a dip in the water. Many go to Luna Park to enjoy the rides and carnival atmosphere.
Shopping & Dining
You can shop till you drop in Melbourne and there are many notable places to do this. The Queen Victoria Markets are great to visit for clothes and food, and especially for the interesting trinkets you can find. Other shopping precincts include Melbourne Central, Melbourne GPO, Bourke Street Mall and Southbank.
Just outside of central Melbourne there is Chapel Street and also Bridge Road in Richmond. Bridge Road is home to many fashion factory outlets and can be reached easily by tram 48 or 75.
One of my favourite things in Melbourne is the dining. There are all sorts of restaurants and cafes to experience, from fine dining to interesting and exotic cuisines. And the coffee, well Melbourne is known for its coffee. Don’t forget Chinatown with its plethora of eateries and culture.
Other places of interest
Melbourne’s State Library is an extremely large place which was established in 1854, making it the oldest public and free library in Australia. It is a quiet place where you might sit and look at some of the two million books you will find there. Or maybe use the free wi-fi. Don’t forget to look up to see the impressive Dome.
Melbourne Zoo is north of the city and as the name suggests you could spend your day here checking out the animals. Maybe a visit to the Melbourne Aquarium to see all the fish. Fans of Neighbours might want to take a tour to see Ramsay Street in the suburb of Nunawading.
As you have read there is plenty to see and do in Melbourne. I hope you enjoy your stay.