Why Federation Square is a Worthy Stop on Your Melbourne Trip

When I first walked upon Federation Square in Melbourne, I didn’t know what to think.

Is that it? Why is this place so well known? Why is this the centre piece and one of the recommended things to do in Melbourne?

Federation Square

Federation Square - Melbourne attraction
Federation Square a popular Melbourne attraction

It was just a square.

An open square with a bunch of elaborately designed, albeit attractive and interesting, buildings surrounding it. We had arrived during the middle of the day and Fed Square was relatively empty and seemed a little lackluster.

Federation Square - Melbourne, Australia
Not too fancy

The problem with coming from a stunning city like Sydney is that you tend to gaze at places with these glasses that expect to be wowed by an outside appearance.

The sparkle and shine of a stunning harbour grants you permission to not dig a little deeper.

Melbourne doesn’t have the visual wow factor, so you’re forced to dive deeper into its soul. Once you do that, you find yourself slowly slipping into LOVE.

Where is Federation Square?

Federation Square  in Melbourne
Fed Square

The complex of buildings at Fed Square forms a rough U-shape around the main open-air square.

Occupying roughly a whole urban block, it takes up prime real estate right on the banks of the Yarra River and sits directly opposite Flinders Street Train Station and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia
Across the road is Flinders Street Train Station
St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia
On the other corner is St Paul’s Cathedral

Why Federation Square is a popular Melbourne attraction

It happened one slightly chilly morning. I walked down from our Mantra Apartment at Southbank for a free Tai Chi class at 7:30am.

A small group of people keen on opening up their energy points to the chi gathered at Fed Square. It was a peaceful, relaxing and warm atmosphere.

I was a bit uncoordinated, but didn’t feel like anybody cared. It was about your own Zen experience, not anyone’s perceptions of you.

My attitude towards Federation Square had suddenly shifted.

I was learning that Fed Square is an example of what happens when a city cares about its community. It adds vibrancy and experiences that cause people to be happy and return again and again. And many of it for FREE!

Free events and activities in Federation Square, Melbourne

free live music Federation Square - Melbourne, Australia
Free live music in Federation Square

At Fed Square you get free Wi-Fi, free daily health and wellness classes, museums and galleries, rooftop honey bees and gardens, restaurants and bars that have deals, and free sports on the BIG TV screen – we were there during the Australian Tennis Open.

One of the events became our favourite. The I’m-falling-in-love-with-Melbourne sesh was Fed Square Live which celebrates Melbourne’s top acoustic acts in a series of free outdoor concerts on Thursdays through the summer.

Oh, and it comes complete with free beach chairs spread out in front of the stage.

 cool  outdoor music venue in Melbourne Federation Square - Melbourne, Australia
Such a cool outdoor music venue in Melbourne
Savannah & Kalyra dancing to the music at Federation Square Melbourne
Savannah & Kalyra dancing to the music

Fed Square is buzzing with festivals and fun.

From the live sporting events on the big screen like the AFL Grand Final, Tennis Open and the Formula One Grand Prix, to the quieter moments when people laze around on those beach chairs soaking up the atmosphere, and if Melbourne is playing nice, the sun.

Watching the Australian Open at Federation Square Melbourne
Watching the Australian Open at Federation Square

And if you’re lucky, you can stumble upon an entertaining performance from a busker, which kept our kids amused for 30 minutes.

Kalyra & Savannah watching a busker at FEd Square
Kalyra & Savannah watching a busker

We could sometimes be found in the Transport Hotel. A beer garden which overlooks Fed square and the stage – Sunday $12 carafes of white sangria and jugs of cider is a little hard to ignore.

Transport Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
Dinner at the Transport Hotel

And Craig kept going back for the happy hour $5 pints of James Boags Draught, accompanied by the perfect beer o’clock dish – nachos!

What else is at Federation Square?

Riverland Bar & Cafe - Melbourne, Australia
Riverland Bar & Cafe

The Melbourne Visitor Centre is located underground with its entrance at the main corner, drop in for some free info.

The Atrium is one of the major public spaces in the precinct populated with galleries, specialty shopping and cool cafes.

ACMI – The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is worth a look, and it’s permanent exhibition Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television and Digital Culture is free!

Need to catch up online?

Why not grab a seat and a coffee at one of the cafes on the square with your laptop and access the free Wi-Fi. Just don’t expect to get much work done with all the people watching and distractions on the big screen.

Right below Fed Square we also frequented the Riverland Bar & Cafe which is an iconic Melbourne bar located on the banks of the Yarra in the historic Federation Wharf vaults.

On a nice day it’s hard to find a better setting for a beer on the river.

Transport Hotel, Melbourne, Australia

When you’re done with all that, just walk down the stairs to enjoy a stroll along the Yarra River, and for the kids to stop in for a play at Birrarung Marr the free playground, or attend a free art class at Art Play. The girls loved creating Universes outside in the garden.

One other highly recommended place you must see nearby is Hosier Lane, made famous for its sophisticated urban street art (graffiti lined walls). Hosier is literally a 60-second walk away.

Federation Square grows on you the longer you are in the city and the more chances you get to experience the space and the various events.

If we were locals, I know it’s a place we’d frequent often, especially on those special occasions. It’s one of those places that you go from nah, to LOVIN it.

Popular Melbourne Tours

Check out some of these top selling tours in Melbourne through our partner Get Your Guide.

Plan Your Trip to Melbourne, Australia

We’ve been traveling 20 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights, and car rental. Below are our preferred partners. If you book through these links, we do receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps us continue to provide inspiring and helpful travel content for free on this site.

Booking accommodation in Melbourne

Booking flights to Melbourne

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Tours in Melbourne

More Melbourne Travel Tips

10 thoughts on “Why Federation Square is a Worthy Stop on Your Melbourne Trip”

  1. Federation Square is about so much more than I expected! I remember loitering around Flinders Street Station, while my sister was busy shopping. Melbourne isn’t a cultural capital of Australia without a reason.

  2. Fed Sq is great especially when there is something going on. I have visited a few times and loved it most during Melbourne International Comedy Festival when they have stages set up for the comedy acts. There was a great buzz about the area. The Riverland Bar does some great mulled wine in winter. We sat outside under one of the umbrellas on a cool drizzly afternoon all rugged up in our coats and scarves and drank the mulled wine. Its one of my happiest memories of Melbourne.

  3. This is an amazing round-up. I agree, Fed Square is a great location for freebies and fun. My fave would have to be ACMI. I love catching the non-mainstream movies they play there. 🙂

  4. I absolutely loved visiting Fed Square when I lived in Melbourne! I used to go to Transport a lot with my friends for the drinks and live music, they had some awesome live music in the actual square a few times and I also started one of my charity runs there 🙂

  5. Ah, Fed Square, a must for any visitor to Melbourne. I suppose like you when I first saw it I was perplexed. I thought it looked quite ugly and random. Then with each visit I see the real appeal of the place. It is a great meeting point and as you show a location for many events.

    The stage is often used for shows and festivals. When I was at the White Light Festival in February there was a massive crowd watching the live music show here.

    You also highlight the many bars and eateries too. This place can be bustling on a night and a great starting point to explore the city.

  6. Fed Square doesnt have the bee hives any longer and hasnt had them for a year now.
    They also got rid of the gardens at the veggie patch.

    Once the govt. funding ran out at the end of the 10yr grant, they moved away from environmental programs and are now looking at commercial options.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Powerful Ways to Travel More & Create Better Memories
Want to know how we've made a lifetime of travel for 25 years? In
This is what gives us incredible memories to share around the campfire. Join our community for insider tips and updates!
Scroll to Top