Are you looking for travel tips on what to do in Melbourne, Australia?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Steve Davidson who has lived in Melbourne for almost 12 years.
Steve shares with us his insider knowledge on what to do in Melbourne for those looking for the best places to eat, sleep, drink, shop and explore.
Why Visit Melbourne?
There really is something for everyone here, no matter what your budget or tastes are.
The streets are very easy to navigate, and the city’s laneways offer a shopping and dining experience like no other city in Australia. The inner suburbs also offer an array of shopping and dining experiences, especially along shopping strips like Chapel and Fitzroy Streets and Sydney and Bridge Roads.
Also, it is a well known fact among Australians that we have the best coffee in the country.
What to Do in Melbourne
A personal favourite is St Kilda Pier at dusk, when the fairy penguins come in and bring smiles to everyone who sees them. Why go to Phillip Island for the penguin parade when there is a free one right in the city?
For shopping, I love the city laneways, especially between Flinders, Elizabeth, Bourke and Swanston Streets. Little Collins Street is also very good for relieving you of some of your cash.
Eureka Tower is a must see for anyone in the city. It offers stunning views from the highest observation deck in the southern hemisphere, at 297 metres/88 floors.
If you’re here during the AFL (Australian Football League) season, you must check out a game. The atmosphere in the massive MCG is unlike anything else in this country.
Best Neighbourhoods to Explore
The city centre is actually pretty good. I also like St Kilda for the outdoor dining and bars, many with bay views. Brunswick is great if you want to experience a bit of the Middle East, with small markets, affordable restaurants with delicious food.
I like Fitzroy for the cafes and restaurants, not to mention all of the boutique shops, many catering for a hip crowd. Richmond and Prahran are also alright, but a little more expensive than the others. They are quite popular with the locals though.
Where to Eat in Melbourne
For budget, I would recommend any beer garden on a Sunday afternoon offering a free BBQ – these are quite widespread over the summer months.
Don Dons on Swanston Street, near Melbourne Central, offers very affordable and tasty Japanese fare – and lightning fast service.
For stylish yet casual, I’d recommend anywhere on Little Collins Street from Swanston Street, up to Spring Street. Terra Rosa is a personal favourite of mine along this strip.
Where to Drink in Melbourne
There are also many along the river in Southbank – walk along and pick one – they are all great, though if you like cocktails, Left Bank (next to Freshwater Place) has the best espresso martinis I’ve ever had…
Best Place for a Sunday Session
Definitely any of the suburban bars and pubs mentioned above. I personally love The Penny Black because they also offer a Sunday roast for those wishing to enjoy a nice, traditional Sunday meal.
I’ve never been disappointed with the food, drink, or atmosphere there on a Sunday. And, it’s good all year round, with outdoor heating and protection from the elements in winter.
I also like checking out the bars along Chapel Street – many offer discounted meals with each drinks purchase. The people are relaxed and happy on a Sunday. I’ve only good things to say about my Sunday sessions.
Best Area for a Night on the Town
This very much depends on your preferences. There is so much diversity.
Bimbo Deluxe has always been a place where I’ve had great nights – with an outdoor beer garden on the rooftop, dancefloor, dining area and lots of comfy couches. This one is for the younger people who like to dance to stuff other than what’s on the radio.
If you like hip-hop, Bond Lounge in the city is the place to be. There are also many great options in St Kilda, the city, Fitzroy and along Chapel Street. There truly is something for everyone.
Getting Around Melbourne
The city is laid out on a very easy to navigate grid. The public transport system will get you to anywhere you may need to go, despite the odd cancellation.
If you’re heading to St Kilda, get the 96 tram – it runs express along an old train line, and will save you quite a bit of time.
Markets and Shopping in Melbourne
The Queen Victoria Markets, despite it’s reputation, does not really offer anything for the average tourist, in my opinion (other than to say you’ve been there). I do my meat and fruit shopping there though, so it may be handy if you’re staying in a serviced apartment and wanting to save a lot of money on the essentials.
Rose Street Markets, in Fitzroy, are known as The Artist’s Market. It is small compared to other markets, but I really like the range of clothing, accessories and art available there. They also sell some pretty nice coffee!
As above, there are many shopping areas to choose from – this really is the shopping capital of Australia, with something for everyone.
There are also other markets at St Kilda on a Sunday, as well as the ones at the Arts Centre. Chadstone in the suburbs is worth a visit if you like massive shopping centres. It may be a little tricky to get to via public transport though.
Events and Festivals in Melbourne
There are heaps. The Comedy Festival, through April, is fantastic for seeing world famous (and up and coming) comedians live.
The Moomba Festival (on the Labour Day long weekend in March) offers a carnival experience right in the city, with a highlight for me being the annual parade down Swanston Street, and the Birdman Rally. The latter just has to be seen to be believed.
Spring Horse Racing Carnival in early November is what I consider to be the unofficial start of summer, with a whole week of horse racing at Flemington, the highlight being the Melbourne Cup. I highly recommend everyone to go and experience this once in their lives.
Favorite Side Trip
Daylesford to the north is a beautiful country town, just over an hours drive away. There is great food and the Sunday markets are also worth the trip, along with the nearby Chocolate Mill.
This is an excellent place to visit any time of the year, though it is generally a little colder than Melbourne most of the time.
Best Time of Year to Visit Melbourne
Autumn to early winter. The weather is at it’s sunniest at this time of year, and there is generally a lack of weather extremes that occasionally hit in summer and winter.
Having said that, the weather is no where near as bad as other Australians would have you believe. I love this city all year round.
Getting from Airport to CBD
There really are only a couple of options for those without a car.
The Sky-Bus offers a regular shuttle service 24/7 direct to Southern Cross Station in the city. They also offer a hotel drop off and pick up service – ask for details at the counter.
A taxi to the city costs around $50-$60, depending on what time of day you’re travelling. I am generally very happy to stick with the Sky-Bus, unless I have returned from a long day at work interstate.
Best “insiders” Tip
Hmm…this is a tricky one. Definitely check out the city’s laneways for some shopping bargains, along with Smith Street, Collingwood for some decent factory outlets.
Avoid the DFO outlets and Docklands’ Harbour Town. In my observation, the items on “sale” there are more expensive than the major city department stores, although the rare occasional bargain may be found.
You Can’t Visit Melbourne Without____?
A map. There are several “City Ambassadors” – wearing their distinctive red outfits, on many of the main intersections in the city.
The locals are also only too happy to recommend things to see and do, and give you directions on how to get there. This city is very easy to navigate.
More Resources for Melbourne
Check out these helpful travel guides:
BIO: Steve Davidson moved down to Melbourne from tropical Queensland almost 12 years ago. He first visited Melbourne in the winter time (deliberately) to see if it was as miserable as everyone says it is. He ended up falling in love with the city. You can follow Steve on twitter and connect with him on facebook.