SD › Melbourne Travel
Updated: January 4, 2022
The 99 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, craft breweries, cafes, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Melbourne.
- Best Hotels in Melbourne
- Best Hotels for Families in Melbourne
- Where to Stay in Melbourne
- Best Time to Visit Melbourne
1. InterContinental The Rialto • City Center • $$$$
Unparalleled blend of history, style, opulence, and convenience. Based in twin 19th-century buildings with many original features. Rare old-world charm throughout and extensive selection of modern conveniences.
+61 (0)3 8627 1400 • Review of InterContinental The Rialto
2. Langham • Southbank • $$$$
Offers the sort of elegance and luxury rarely found elsewhere in Australia. Extraordinary views and first-class amenities, including one of Melbourne’s finest hotel pools. Facing the Yarra River and surrounded by sophisticated bistros, bars, and boutiques.
+61 (0)3 8696 8888 • Review of The Langham
3. Grand Hyatt • City Center • $$$$
Standout features include gorgeous marble bathrooms, views from ample floor-to-ceiling windows, massive gym, and unique rooftop tennis court. Pleasant location on the edge of downtown and surrounded by fashionable places to eat, drink, and shop.
+61 (0)3 9657 1234 • Review of Grand Hyatt
4. Lyall Hotel and Spa • South Yarra • $$$
Melbourne’s only privately-owned and operated 5-star hotel is so charismatic and graceful – from the walls of commissioned art to the quaint bar/bistro with street-side terrace. Only offers suites – all with full-sized kitchens. In a fashionable suburb bursting with bistros and boutiques and well-connected to the city center by train and tram.
+61 (0)3 9868 8222 • Review of Lyall Hotel and Spa
5. Treasury on Collins Apartment Hotel • City Center • $$$
Attractively renovated 19th-century former bank building boasting an old-world allure, rich history, and class not found at recently-built rivals. Compact apartments and suites feature kitchenettes, laundry, and separate living rooms. Bonuses are the mezzanine-level guests’ lounge accessible to all and excellent inner-city location.
+61 (0)3 8535 8535 • Review of Treasury on Collins Apartment Hotel
6. Pan Pacific • Southbank • $$$$
Surrounded by upmarket shops and cafés, this is one of very few hotels that genuinely overlook the Yarra River, and is in an area with virtually no traffic, so it’s astoundingly quiet. Some suites are ideal for families with a kitchenette and two bedrooms and bathrooms.
+61 (0)3 9027 2000 • Review of Pan Pacific
7. Crown Towers • Southbank • $$$$
Soaring over the Yarra River just across the bridge from the city center, this is the mainstay of the remarkable Crown Melbourne casino and entertainment complex (see #49). Opulent accommodations and outstanding amenities, including one of the city’s finest pools. Virtually downstairs is the casino and meters away are numerous riverside bistros and bars.
+61 (0)3 9292 6868 • Review of Crown Towers
8. Sofitel on Collins • East Melbourne • $$$$
So enchanting and stylish, the ultra-high Sofitel is in a likeable position on the edge of downtown. The wonderfully refined and beautifully furnished rooms and suites boast arguably Melbourne’s finest views. On the lower levels of the hotel building are an abundance of shops, cafés, and bars, as well as an arty cinema.
+61 (0)3 9653 0000 • Review of Sofitel on Collins
9. The Jazz Corner • City Center • $$$
Adorably chic boutique hotel with a jazz theme throughout. The studios are cozy while apartments come with one/two bedrooms, and all feature balconies overlooking public gardens. Convenient to transport options and, of course, there’s a jazz bar in the basement.
+61 (0)3 9454 9000
10. Ovolo Laneways • East Melbourne • $$$
Part of a countrywide chain of funky hotels, this embraces the city’s renowned laneway culture with vividly-colored and fashionably-designed rooms bursting with original art. Also, self-contained suites with one/two bedrooms. Unusual free extras include breakfast, evening drinks, and laundry facilities.
+61 (0)3 8692 0777
11. QT • City Center • $$$
Lovable boutique hotel in a prime inner-city position. Expect chic décor (e.g. concrete ceilings), swish furnishings (e.g. stand-alone bathtub), and a rooftop cocktail lounge.
+61 (0)3 8636 8800
12. Crown Metropol • Southbank • $$$
Victoria’s largest hotel is within the immense Crown Melbourne casino and entertainment complex (see #49). Spacious rooms and suites feature an unfussy, contemporary décor and expansive views. Faces a surprisingly quiet street, yet an abundance of amenities are just along the river and in downtown via a bridge.
+61 (0)3 9292 6211 • Review of Crown Metropol
13. Crowne Plaza • City Center • $$$
Built virtually above the water, so it offers rare direct river frontage. Following massive renovations, the bright and airy rooms and suites are extremely spacious and many feature wonderful views of the Yarra River. Short walk from downtown, the casino, and an abundance of riverside amenities.
+61 (0)3 9648 2777 • Review of Crowne Plaza
14. Cosmopolitan • St Kilda • $$
Quirky, quiet, and friendly, the Cosmo offers amenities rarely found (e.g. kitchen facilities) or unheard of (e.g. free car parking) in downtown hotels. Some rooms cater very well for families, without feeling too cramped, and it’s quietly set along a residential street. In a popular beachside suburb with plenty of amenities and trams to the city.
+61 (0)3 8598 6700 • Review of Cosmopolitan Hotel
15. Quest Docklands • Docklands • $$$
Collection of apartments meters from a delightful marina and massive football stadium (see #71). One or two bedrooms – all with kitchen facilities, laundry, and separate living/dining areas. In a relaxed suburb packed with cafés, bars, and takeaway food shops, and only a few minutes by free tram to the city center.
+61 (0)3 9630 1000 • Review of Quest Docklands
16. Rockpool Bar & Grill • Southbank • $$$$
World-famous steakhouse managed by celebrity chef Neil Perry. Chic décor, flawless service, and hefty prices from the deliberately limited menu. Open-plan kitchen and notable wine list add greatly to the appeal. • +61 (0)3 8648 1900
17. Lûmé • South Melbourne • $$$
Flavorful tasting menus with up to 14 courses that don’t ignore vegetarians. Friendly ambience as well as a wine list and knowledgeable staff to rival top-end city hotels. Dinner only. • +61 (0)3 9690 0185
18. Melba Restaurant • Southbank • $$$$
Award-winning, inventive, and ever-changing menu enhanced by silver service, gorgeous river views, and unusual open-plan kitchen. In the elegant and decadent Langham hotel (see #2). • 1800 641 107 (local calls only)
19. No35 • East Melbourne • $$$$
Extraordinary views from floor-to-ceiling windows on the 35th floor of the Sofitel hotel (see #8). Refined French-inspired menu using ultra-fresh ingredients, and modern art lining the walls. Staff is particularly attentive and the wine list is especially impressive. • +61 (0)3 9653 7744
20. Eureka 89 • Southbank • $$$$
On the 89th floor, one level above the Eureka Skydeck (see #64), so views are sublime. Degustation menus with five or seven courses and special vegetarian dishes. Dress up and book ahead. • +61 (0)3 9693 8889
21. Alluvial Restaurant • City Center • $$$
Expect to be wowed in the extraordinary glass-topped atrium at the historic InterContinental hotel (see #1). Modern Australian cuisine, along with buffet breakfast, affordable lunch menu, and set-priced pre-theater dinners. • +61 (0)3 8627 1400
22. The Bank Bar and Restaurant • City Center • $$$
Wonderful setting in the forecourt of the Treasury hotel (see #5) which is based in a gloriously renovated 19th-century former bank. Pulsating hive of activity, the set-priced two/three-course meals are great value and the children’s menu is thoughtful. • +61 (0)3 9070 3980
23. Charcoal Lane • East Melbourne • $$
Unique idea teaching young Aboriginal people skills in cooking and hospitality (and run by a charity). Unfussy décor but it’s all about the Australian cuisine, friendly staff, and helping young people. • +61 (0)3 9418 3400
24. Berth • Docklands • $$$
Arguably the finest for service, setting, and choice among similar bistros facing the lovely marina. Award-winning menu with a focus on seafood, and popular for sipping cocktails and admiring views. • +61 (0)3 9670 0199
25. Stokehouse • St Kilda • $$$
Well-known bistro (rebuilt after burning down in 2014). Laidback beachside vibe, Australian cuisine, swish design, and full-length windows overlooking the sea. Book ahead, especially on summer weekends. • +61 (0)3 9525 5555
26. Gypsy & Pig • City Center • $$$
Something quite different. Cozy spot famous for Japanese-inspired cuisine focussed on pork with a sleek and unique pig-themed décor. • +61 (0)3 9640 0731
27. Ponyfish Island • Southbank • $$
Quirky casual eatery in a remarkable location: under a pedestrian bridge and in the middle of the Yarra River halfway between downtown and Southbank. Simple menu at pleasing prices; it’s really all about the unique setting. • +61 (0)3 9534 8415
28. Spirit of Melbourne Cruising Restaurant • Southbank • $$$
Intimate cruises along the Yarra River on the old-style Spirit of Melbourne boat. Set-price packages include a four-course dinner of Australian cuisine and some drinks. Vegetarians catered for, too. Especially romantic as the city lights sparkle after dark. • +61 (0)3 8610 2600
29. Hawker Hall • Windsor (near South Yarra) • $
Sick of pretentious city bistros? If so, hop on a tram/train to this fantastic food and beer hall along fashionable Chapel Street (see #33). Similar to the throbbing hawker centers of Southeast Asia, but just one large eatery. Inexpensive and loads of fun. • +61 (0)3 8560 0090
30. Bourke Street Mall • City Center
One of Australia’s premier shopping districts is along an extended pedestrian street. Home to numerous arcades, malls, and two of Australia’s most historic and iconic department stores: David Jones and Myer. Also, the Melbourne Visitor Booth.
31. Southgate • Southbank
Plenty of classy shops and fashionable boutiques within an attractive shopping mall alongside the Yarra River just over the bridge from downtown. Also, no shortage of places to eat and drink. Much more spacious and airy than the average shopping center. • +61 (0)3 9686 1000
32. The District Docklands • Docklands
So different to other shopping centers: i.e. games arcade, cinema complex, playground, 3D art gallery, mini-golf, and (next door) an ice-skating rink. Unhurried riverside setting handy to the football stadium (see #72) and observation wheel (see #61). Free tram from the city center. • +61 (0)3 9328 8600
33. Chapel Street • South Yarra (also Prahran and Windsor)
An old precinct with flour mills and bootmakers, now packed with stylish boutiques. Along the street are the Pran Central shopping center and the Chapel Street Bazaar with permanent market stalls along an arcade. Lots of pubs and cafés, and easy to reach by tram and train.
34. R.M. Williams • City Center
This legendary Australian clothing manufacturer has outlets all over the country, including three in the city center. Mostly handcrafted boots, hats, trousers, and shirts for men, but some items for the ladies and children, too. • +61 (0)8 8259 1007
35. Howey Place • City Center
Most appealing of numerous laneways for which Melbourne is famous. Typically short and narrow, but unusually covered, it’s crowded with designer boutiques and trendy bistros. Joins the huge Collins234 shopping center.
36. Queen Victoria Market • City Center
Much-loved for over 140 years, the 600+ stalls sell fresh produce, clothes, souvenirs, and food. Also, ‘foodie tours’ (see #57), tourist information center, and vibrant night market on Wednesdays in summer with street food, live music, and pop-up bars. Closed Mondays and (usually) Wednesdays. • +61 (0)3 9320 5822
37. Prahran Market • South Yarra
Melbourne’s oldest and hippest market is lined with stalls selling arts, crafts, fresh produce, and, especially, food alongside a heritage-listed building. Live music and, often, special events. Open daily except Monday and Wednesday. Easy to reach by tram/train. • +61 (0)3 8290 8220
38. South Melbourne Market • South Melbourne
First established in the 1870s, village-style stalls offer an incredible range of clothes, jewelry, gifts, and fresh produce (often organic). Usually live music, often other events, and night market on Thursdays in summer. Closed Monday, Tuesday, and (usually) Thursday. • +61 (0)3 9209 6295
39. Sunday Market Arts Centre • Southbank
Lovely setting on a lawn near the river. Some of the city’s finest art, jewelry, and clothes, as well as homemade produce on sale. Live music and plenty of fun for all every Sunday. Outside the Arts Centre (see #67). • +61 (0)3 9281 8581
40. St Kilda Esplanade Market • St Kilda
Very arty. Along the attractive foreshore at Melbourne’s prime inner-city beach every Sunday. Great day out – maybe combined with a beach walk, pub meal, and visit to Luna Park (see #77). Easy to reach by tram from downtown.
Melbourne Bars & Pubs
41. Siglo • City Center
Chic rooftop bar with industrial-style design and a terrace offering sublime views across the city, including heritage buildings in front like St Patrick’s Cathedral and Parliament House. • +61 (0)3 9654 6631
42. Beneath Driver Lane • City Center
Dimly-lit and downstairs along one of many narrow laneways in downtown. Popular for signature cocktails, French-influenced meals, laidback ambience, and blues performed on weekends.
43. Hotel Esplanade • St Kilda
The iconic Espy is renowned across the city for its hip vibe, beer garden, street-side tables, and live bands. Recently renovated, now with 12 bars across 5 levels. Easy tram ride from downtown. • +61 (0)3 9534 0211
44. Arcadia Hotel • South Yarra
One of Melbourne’s oldest pubs is famous for its live music, rooftop garden, and award-winning menu. • +61 (0)3 9866 5380
45. Dr. Watson’s Bar & The Sherlock Holmes • City Center
Dr. Watson’s offers an appealing bar counter and airy street-level position. Cozy, downstairs, and next door, The Sherlock Holmes is an adorable pub seemingly transported from an English village. Both are popular for happy hours and food specials all day. • +61 (0)3 9629 1146
46. The Boatbuilders Yard • Southbank
Continues to win awards for its nautical-style setting and good-value meals. Popular with local workers, it’s attractively positioned along a boardwalk facing the river. • +61 (0)3 9686 5088
47. Palais Theatre • St Kilda
Nearly 100 years old, but renovated in 2016, this character-filled Art Deco building sits proudly beside Luna Park (see #77) and along the appealing esplanade. Hosts concerts by major Australian and international performers on most nights. • +61 (0)3 8537 7677
48. Arts Centre Melbourne • Southbank
Australia’s largest performance center (see #66) offers over 4,000 events each year in 3 separate buildings. Home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the state opera, ballet, and theater companies. Guided tours available and a market (see #39) held on Sundays. • +61 (0)3 9281 8000
49. Crown Melbourne • Southbank
This casino and entertainment complex sprawls across two inner-city blocks. Major attraction for many with a casino open 24/7, over 70 places to eat and drink, plenty of live performances, and shops open until late. For families, a games arcade, bowling alleys, and cinemas. • +61 (0)3 9292 8888
50. The Prince Hotel • St Kilda
Long-time favorite for quality bands on most nights, as well as affordable pub meals and elevated views. Still known as the Prince of Wales sometimes. • +61 (0)3 9536 1111
With so much to see and so little time, these hop-on/hop-off buses are ideal. In red twin-level buses with an open-air top deck and air-conditioning inside. Nearly 30 stops at attractions across the city center and inner suburbs like St Kilda. • +61 (0)451 140 011
52. Melbourne River Cruises • Southbank
The city may not boast a Sydney Harbour or Brisbane River, but cruising along the inner-city Yarra does provide perspectives not possible from buses or walking. This long-running and award-winning company offers detailed commentary and free tea/coffee across six different trips. Also, cruises after dark with dinner (see #28). From Southbank. • +61 (0)3 8610 2600
53. Gray Line
Australia’s premier bus company offers numerous half and full-day tours around the city and state. Particularly popular are those to Phillip Island (for penguin watching), Sovereign Hill (reformed gold-mining town) at Ballarat (see #88), Healesville Sanctuary (see #78), and the spectacular Great Ocean Road. • 1300 858 687 (local calls only)
This countrywide agency also offers an impressive range of tours across the state run by energetic and informative guides. Many daytrips from Melbourne are different to Gray Line (see above), e.g. Yarra Valley (see #87), Mornington Peninsula (see #86), and Grampians National Park. Also, intercity bus trips stopping at major sights over several days. • +61 (0)3 9393 1300
55. Melbourne Street Art Tours • City Center
To find, explore, and understand the magnificent murals, graffiti, and street art along many of the laneways across downtown Melbourne, join this informative tour led by the street artists themselves. • +61 (0)3 9328 5556
56. Food Tours
Melburnians are justifiably proud of the range of cuisine from every region across the globe. Foodie Trails starts with an explanation of the city’s cultural diversity at the Immigration Museum (see #65) before visiting several cafés and restaurants. Also, cooking classes. Less walking is needed on the Ultimate Foodie Tour within the Queen Victoria Market (see #36).
Things to See in Melbourne (also refer to ‘Family Fun’ and ‘Parks & Gardens’ later)
57. Melbourne Zoo • Parkville (4km north of the city center)
Over 300 species in an as-natural-as-possible environment large enough for elephant herds – yet just outside the city center. Admire a rainforest with orangutans, ‘jungle’ of lions, typical bushland packed with native animals, and ‘Antarctica’ with penguins. Very educational and sometimes free for children. • 1300 966 784 (local calls only)
58. Old Treasury Building Museum • City Center
Finest place to learn about the city’s culture, heritage, and development from a colonial-built town to a contemporary metropolis. Also, displays about the 1860’s gold rush that defined the state of Victoria. In one of the country’s most beautiful 19th-century buildings. Free entry. • +61 (0)3 9651 2233
59. National Gallery of Victoria • City Center
The NGV is the oldest, largest, and most popular of its kind in the country. World-class displays of not only Rembrandt and Monet but also Egyptian antiquities in two locations: Federation Square (see below) and Southbank. Family-friendly, with free entry and free tours. • +61 (0)3 8620 2222
60. Melbourne Star Observation Wheel • Docklands
The largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the unhurried Docklands area. The 30-minute ride offers detailed commentary and views stretching up to 40kms away from over 100m high. Worth doing again at night. • +61 (0)3 8688 9688
61. Federation Square • City Center
Impossible to miss at a prime inner-city corner, this cluster of ultra-modern buildings may look underwhelming, but the plaza is home to the remarkable Australian Centre for the Moving Image and half of the National Gallery of Victoria (see above). Over 2,000 events held annually and many appealing cafés and bars. Free tours recommended. • +61 (0)3 9655 1900
62. Australian Sports Museum & MCG Tours • East Melbourne
No better place to appreciate why Australians (and, particularly, Victorians) are so passionate about sports. Interactive and great fun, but still of interest to the non-sporty. In the much-loved Melbourne Cricket Ground where tours are possible of the changing rooms, coaches’ boxes, and hallowed turf. • +61 (0)3 9657 8888
63. Eureka Skydeck • Southbank
At almost 300m, the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. On the 88th floor for extraordinary views and a stomach-churning elevator soaring two floors per second. The crazy-brave may get into The Edge – a glass cube extending 3 meters from the building. Maybe, combine with lunch/dinner at Eureka 89 one level higher (see #20). • +61 (0)3 9693 8888
64. Melbourne Museum • Carlton (1.5kms north of the city center)
Extensive complex with interactive technology showcasing the country’s nature, wildlife, and environment (including a remarkable rainforest). Also, a special Aboriginal cultural center. Tours include the UNESCO-listed Royal Exhibition Building. At the pretty Carlton Gardens (see #92) easily reached by tram. • +61 (0)3 8341 7777
65. Immigration Museum • City Center
Explains Melbourne’s remarkable beginnings and subsequent development as home to hundreds of different races, nationalities, and languages. Fascinating displays and rotating exhibitions across two levels at the renovated Old Customs House. • +61 (0)3 8341 7777
66. Arts Centre Melbourne • Southbank
Australia’s largest performance center is easy to find from the spiral tower dominating this riverside precinct. Plenty of music, dance, and theater (see #48) – and not just for arty people. Also worth visiting for the fascinating backstage tours and Sunday market (see #39). • +61 (0)3 9281 8000
67. Old Melbourne Gaol • City Center
Explore some of the city’s less glamorous history, complete with cells and gallows. (Over 130 people were hanged here.) Also, learn about Victoria’s (in)famous bushrangers and join an evening ‘ghost tour’. Well-displayed and a lot of fun. • +61 (0)3 9656 9889
Best Walks in Melbourne
68. Foreshore Trail (Port Melbourne to Elwood, via St Kilda)
Over 11kms long and next to the bay, the most popular section (about 5kms) is between Port Melbourne and the prime inner-city beach, St Kilda. Via a boardwalk, beaches, and promenades, and plenty of cafés along the way. Accessible by tram and suitable for cycling.
69. Yarra Trail (Southbank to Eltham)
Incredible path stretching over 30kms and following the Yarra River from Southbank to the distant northeast suburbs. Popular for short walks and ideal for cyclists.
70. Walking and Cycling Tours
To really appreciate the city and learn about its hard-to-find attractions, join an organized tour with a passionate local guide. Recommended on foot are Hidden Secrets Tours which specializes in culture, food, and history; or those in small groups run by Melbourne by Foot. On two wheels, try Melbourne by Bike.
Outdoor Activities & Sports in Melbourne
71. Australian Rules Football • East Melbourne and Docklands
Most Melburnians are sports-mad and many are obsessed with the country’s unique code, Australian Rules Football and the nationwide Australian Football League competition. Up to four games are held each weekend (March to September) at the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground (see #62) and special football stadium at Docklands. Tours available at both.
72. Cricket • East Melbourne
The national summer sport is rarely played outside a dozen countries once colonialized by the British. Most state games and all international matches are played at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), first built in the 1850s. Book ahead for the Boxing Day Test (from 26th December) when crowds of 80,000+ are common. Museum attached and tours available (see #62).
73. Beaches • St Kilda
Melbourne was originally built along the Yarra River, but the suburbs inevitably spread to the beaches. Most renowned and accessible is St Kilda, which has transformed in recent years and offers an attractive esplanade, extended pier, water sports (see below), and rides at Luna Park (see #76). Less appealing but still worthwhile are the beaches at South Melbourne (Port Melbourne) and Brighton, famous for its colorful bathing boxes.
74. Water Sports • St Kilda
Along the extended inner-city beach at St Kilda (see above), visitors can enjoy paddle-boarding, kite-surfing, and swimming in the saltwater pool (more appealing than the ocean). The more adventurous might try parachuting with Skydive Australia and boating/fishing with St Kilda Charters. Also, penguin-spotting and bike riding along the Foreshore Trail (see #68).
Best along the paths that follow the bay (see #68) and Yarra River (see #69), but shorter and more accessible trips are possible at Southbank, the Docklands marina, Melbourne Gardens (see #89), and Albert Park (see #91), and between downtown and St Kilda beach. Bike rentals are available at St Kilda Cycles.
Family Fun in Melbourne
76. Luna Park Melbourne • St Kilda
Century-old amusement park full of old-style rides, such as rollercoasters, and all sorts of fun activities for everyone. Nicely positioned along the attractive esplanade and unmistakable entrance through the massive (almost creepy) clown face. Free entry, but charges for rides. • +61 (0)3 9525 5033
77. SEA LIFE Melbourne • City Center
This world-class aquarium is home to 10,000 creatures from across the southern oceans – from scary sharks to cute penguins. Plenty of interactive displays and engaging activities for children, and conveniently on the edge of downtown • 1800 026 576 (local calls only)
78. Healesville Sanctuary • Yarra Valley
Wonderful park lined with bush trails leading to kangaroos, wombats, koalas, and other adorable Australian wildlife. Also, bird shows and an educational rehabilitation center. Free entry for children on some days. About an hour by car from downtown. Otherwise, take the train and then bus via Lilydale, shuttlebus from Federation Square, or join a bus tour (see #53). • 1300 966 784 (local calls only)
79. LEGOLAND • Chadstone (15kms southeast of the city center)
Plenty of fun using the much-loved bricks in designated play areas as well as rides, kids’ clubs (for under 5s), and a 4D cinema. For those aged from 3 to 10 at the massive Chadstone shopping center accessible by train.
Festivals & Events in Melbourne
80. St Kilda Festival (second Sunday of February) • St Kilda
Regarded as Australia’s largest free music festival, also with visual arts, beach sports, and food stalls. Long-running and loads of fun for the family.
81. Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (changeable, throughout March)
More than 250 events over 17 days across the city and state. One of the world’s finest and longest-running food festivals, especially vibrant across Melbourne’s many inner-city laneways.
82. Moomba Festival (changeable, early March)
Largest free community festival in Australia. Much-loved and held for four days, finishing on Labour Day (second Monday of March). Parades, rides, and plenty for the family at various venues along Yarra River.
83. Melbourne International Comedy Festival (changeable, late March to mid-April)
About three weeks of stand-up, theater, and cabaret at numerous venues across the city and suburbs. Well-organized and tickets are often inexpensive.
84. Melbourne Cup (first Tuesday of November) • Flemington (5kms northwest of the city center)
The city (and most of the country) almost literally stops for this horse race which is held on a public holiday across Victoria. One of several races during the week-long Spring Carnival in early November.
Short Trips from Melbourne
85. Port Phillip Bay
Melbourne is at the top of the vast (and almost enclosed) Port Phillip Bay. The quickest and most relaxing way to travel across the bay is on the Port Phillip Ferries. These travel daily (80 minutes one-way) between a convenient terminal at Docklands and Portarlington, a historic seaside village along the western Bellarine Peninsula.
This peninsula along the eastern edge of the mighty Port Phillip Bay (see above) extends as far as gorgeous beachside villages of Rye, Portsea, and Sorrento. From Sorrento, car/passenger ferries travel across the mouth of the bay to Queenscliff on the western Bellarine Peninsula. Public transport is limited, so without a car (1.5 hours), join a daytrip by bus (see #55).
87. Yarra Valley
Beautiful countryside northwest of Melbourne offering charming villages, wineries, a wildlife sanctuary (see #78), extensive botanic gardens, art galleries, and hot-air ballooning. Plenty of accommodation, but an easy daytrip by car (1.5 hours), train via Lilydale, or organized bus tour (see #55).
Almost a mini-Melbourne, this fabulous overnight getaway is home to gorgeous colonial-era buildings, a superb lake and gardens, and Sovereign Hill, a converted former gold-mining town showcasing the 1860’s gold rush that defined early Victoria. Also, plenty of galleries and festivals luring city folk. Accessible by car (1.5 hours), train, or bus tour (see #53).
Melbourne Parks & Gardens
89. Melbourne Gardens (part of the Royal Botanic Gardens) • South Melbourne
Vast and immaculately maintained, these world-class botanic gardens are worth a whole day: e.g. join a guided Aboriginal Heritage Walk, explore the interactive Children’s Garden, and paddle on a boat across Ornamental Lake. Adding to the appeal are the walking/cycling paths and visitors’ center with gift shop and café.
90. Fitzroy Gardens • East Melbourne
Within a pleasant stroll of downtown, these gardens are lovably colonial in design – from the wide paths lined with English trees to Cooks’ Cottage, transported from the UK and dedicated to James Cook, the ‘discoverer’ of Australia. Also, a café, conservatory, and visitors’ center.
91. Albert Park • South Melbourne
This park (rather than gardens) around a manmade lake is packed with black swans. Paths are perfect for strolling, jogging, and cycling, and alongside are the Albert Park Golf Course and Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre, with public swimming pools. Albert Park magically transforms into a racing track for the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in March.
92. Carlton Gardens • Carlton (1.5 km north of the city center)
Pretty, heritage-listed site and home to the Melbourne Museum (see #64) and Royal Exhibition Building. Beautifully landscaped with lakes and fountains, it’s very popular among locals for picnics and barbeques (free facilities provided).
93. City Center
As one of the most historic cities in Australia, Melbourne is loaded with architectural delights, as well as fashionable boutiques, spacious department stores, and meandering arcades. The city is also renowned for its narrow laneways, many daubed with intriguing street art and bursting with hip cafés. Although the city center is becoming alarmingly overbuilt and is often overpriced, public transport is excellent and free within downtown. Just across the scenic Yarra River is Southbank, an extended waterside precinct packed with inviting places to eat, drink, and shop (see below).
Best Stuff: InterContinental The Rialto • Grand Hyatt • Treasury on Collins Apartment Hotel • The Jazz Corner • QT • Crowne Plaza • Alluvial Restaurant • The Bank Bar and Restaurant • Gypsy & Pig café • Bourke Street Mall • David Jones department store • Myer department store • R.M. Williams clothing store • Howey Place • Queen Victoria Market • Siglo bar • Beneath Driver Lane blues club • Dr. Watson’s Bar & The Sherlock Holmes Inn • City Sightseeing Melbourne bus tours • Melbourne Street Art Tours • Foodie Trails • Ultimate Foodie Tour • Old Treasury Building Museum • National Gallery of Victoria • Federation Square • Australian Centre for the Moving Image • Immigration Museum • Old Melbourne Gaol • Melbourne by Foot walking tours • cycling • SEA LIFE Melbourne
Just past the western edge of the city center, Docklands is a renovated area of upmarket apartment buildings. Based around a pleasant marina flanked by waterside bistros and dominated by a gigantic football stadium, Docklands is also popular with families. This is because of the cycling paths; The District Docklands shopping center, arguably Melbourne’s finest; and the amazing Melbourne Star Observation Wheel. What’s more, most hotels and apartments are competitively-priced and all are only a few stops by free and regular trams from the city center.
Best Stuff: Four Points by Sheraton Docklands (super-swish and OMG views) • The Sebel Docklands (functional and good-value) • Quest Docklands • Quest NewQuay (quiet apartments facing the marina) • Berth bistro • Cargo (chic eatery with superb harbor views) • The Nixon Hotel (friendly corner pub) • The District Docklands shopping center • Obrien Icehouse ice-skating rink • Melbourne Star Observation Wheel • Football stadium and tours • Cycling • Ferries across Port Phillip Bay
Separated from the city center by the Yarra River, Southbank is dominated by the extraordinary Crown Melbourne casino and entertainment complex. Other swanky areas for shopping, eating, and drinking extend along the southern edge of the river, and elsewhere are top-end hotels, fashionable art galleries, and sizeable concert venues. Barely five minutes’ walk via one of numerous bridges to downtown, Southbank allows visitors to enjoy the cultural, architectural, artistic, and culinary delights of the city center without staying among its crowds, noise, and traffic.
Best Stuff: Langham • Pan Pacific • Crown Metropol • Crown Towers • Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne • Melba Restaurant • Eureka 89 restaurant • Ponyfish Island café • Spirit of Melbourne Cruising Restaurant • Southgate shopping center • Sunday Market Arts Centre • The Boatbuilders Yard restaurant/bar • Arts Centre Melbourne and tours • Crown Melbourne complex • Melbourne River Cruises • Eureka Skydeck observation deck • Yarra Trail walking/cycling path • Walking • Cycling
96. South Yarra
Like neighboring Toorak, Prahran, and Windsor, South Yarra is a swanky suburb of boutique hotels, refined bistros/bars, and weekend markets. With a likable suburban feel and carefree vibe, there are no busloads of tourists and restaurants are priced for locals. Ask residents for recommendations about the finest corner pubs, most authentic Italian trattorias, and trendiest coffee shops. Only 4km by regular tram and train to the city center and vibrant beach area of St Kilda, South Yarra is also within walking distance of the amazing Melbourne Gardens.
Best Stuff: Lyall Hotel and Spa • The Como (suave and luxurious) • The Cullen (charming boutique hotel) • The Olsen (great position) • Hawker Hall restaurant • Da Noi (long-established for Italian cuisine) • Cucinetta bistro (cozy corner and authentic food) • Arcadia Hotel pub/restaurant • Temperance Hotel (swish pub with live music) • Chapel Street shopping precinct • Pran Central shopping center • Chapel Street Bazaar • Prahran Market
97. South Melbourne
Several blocks further down from Southbank and only a few tram stops from the city center, South Melbourne is an upmarket residential area devoid of tourists. It is home to the magnificent Melbourne Gardens (packed with trees, statues, glasshouses, and colonial-era buildings) and Albert Park (based around a lake and encircled by a 5km path ideal for walking, jogging, and cycling). Only 3kms away is St Kilda, with its extended beach and alluring amenities.
Best Stuff: Pullman Albert Park (functional and facing Albert Park) • Mercure Albert Park (great value and fab location) • Coppersmith (chic design and suburban vibe) • Lûmé restaurant • Windows Restaurant (overlooking a lake and contemporary cuisine) • Arcadia Hotel pub/restaurant • South Melbourne Market • Cycling • Walking • Melbourne (botanic) Gardens • Aboriginal Heritage Walk • Children’s Garden • Ornamental Lake • Albert Park • Albert Park Golf Course • Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre • Australian Grand Prix
98. St Kilda
Although wide and sandy, the beach at St Kilda is not that great for swimming, though everything else is wonderfully ‘beachy’: summer breezes, photogenic sunsets, seaside gardens studded with palm trees, water sports, extended pier, boardwalk for walking/cycling, oodles of eateries, and a quirky, historic amusement park. Bohemian and, in sections, likably tacky, St Kilda also boasts several terrific venues for live music and a pedestrian plaza packed with cafés. And all of this is barely 15 minutes by tram (or longer by bicycle) from the city center.
Best Stuff: Cosmopolitan • Rydges St Kilda (functional, opulent, and convenient) • Quest St Kilda Bayside (great-value apartments) • Stokehouse • Vineyard Restaurant (lovely corner position and modern Australian cuisine) • St Kilda Esplanade Market • Hotel Esplanade pub/restaurant/live music • Palais Theatre • The Prince Hotel pub/restaurant/live music • City Sightseeing Melbourne bus tours • Foreshore Trail walking/cycling path • Beach • Water sports • Skydive Australia parachuting • St Kilda Charters boating/fishing • Penguin-spotting • Bicycle rentals • Luna Park Melbourne amusement park • St Kilda (music) Festival
99. East Melbourne
The eastern section of the city center and suburbs just beyond offer the sort of extensive parklands and beautifully maintained colonial-era buildings not found elsewhere in Melbourne. Unlike the increasingly overbuilt downtown, the top-notch hotels offer more space and finer views, and most are within walking distance of a sporting precinct that includes the iconic 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground. Only a few tram stops from the city center.
Best Stuff: Sofitel on Collins • Ovolo Laneways • The Hotel Windsor (serene and old-world charm) • No35 • Charcoal Lane restaurant and hospitality school • Australian Sports Museum • Melbourne Cricket Ground and tours • Australian Rules Football • International cricket • Tennis and Soccer grounds • Fitzroy Gardens
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