Your ultimate guide to Melbourne

written by Emily Kratzmann October 13, 2017
A bike leans up against a graffiti-covered wall in Melbourne

When you tell someone you’re visiting Melbourne, the most common things you’re likely to hear are “oooh, make sure you explore Melbourne’s famous graffiti laneways”, and “ahhh, you HAVE to get a latte in Hardware Lane”, and “the pizza and pasta on Lygon Street are soooo authentic”.

These are all good enough tips, but there’s SO much more to one of the World’s Most Liveable Cities than what we’re stereotypically ‘famous’ for.

So please, join me as we walk (and catch a tram or two) around Melbourne. Here’s your guide to things to see and do and places to eat and drink in Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs.

The Central Business District (CBD), aka downtown Melbourne

Royal Arcade. Melbourne

Royal Arcade. Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

You can easily spend a day (more, actually) wandering around the city. The bulk of the shopping/cheap eats stuff is concentrated in the Russell to Elizabeth/Collins to La Trobe block, but wander further afield and you’ll hit cute boutiques, tucked-away cafes, and sprawling parks and gardens.

Mosey south along Flinders Street to Federation Square, where you can visit ACMI for an arthouse film or exhibition, or cross the Yarra River and hit up the NGV or MPavilion for talks, meetups and music. Wander the other way for the State Library (its magnificent reading room is not to be missed) or the iconic City Baths.

Downtown Melbourne is FULL of great places to eat and drink. Chinatown, which takes up two city blocks on Little Bourke Street (between Swanston and Exhibition streets), is great for – yep – Chinese, while Swanston Street boasts many cheap and cheerful Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian restaurants. You’ll find bars and pubs just about everywhere you look – down alleys, on rooftops, inside shipping containers… you get the idea.

The impressive reading room at the State Library.

The impressive reading room at the State Library. Photo by Geraldine Lewa on Unsplash

Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) many of Melbourne’s best restaurants don’t take bookings in advance, so be prepared to line up (or eat much earlier – or much later – than you may be used to) if you want to hit up somewhere a bit special.

That said, it’s not hard to find an eatery to suit your noshing needs in Melbourne’s CBD (at the time of writing, there were around 1,600 restaurants and cafes in the city alone). Check out Broadsheet or The Urban List for suggestions, or try one of our favourites:

  • Belleville, up a flight of stairs via a laneway off Chinatown, for Americana-style food and cocktails
  • Pellegrini’s for cheap, homely Italian fare in a no-fuss coffeehouse
  • The Arbory for craft beers, fancy spritzers, and pub-style meals, wedged between Platform 10 of Flinders Street Station and the Yarra River (on Thursdays and Fridays they have a roving oyster cart, where you can grab a freshly shucked oyster for $2)
  • Rooftop Bar, at the top of Curtin House, is a great spot to visit on sunny days for burgers, craft beers and incredible views across the city. In summer, you can kick back in a deckchair for a flick at Rooftop Cinema.
The water wall at the NGV.

The water wall at the NGV. Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash


Jump on the 11 or 86 tram (or walk) to Fitzroy and Collingwood. Brunswick Street used to be the boho centre of all things alternative, but has seen better days. There are still some good cafes and restaurants along the strip (Vegie Bar, Mario’s and newcomer Mukka), but a lot of what made Fitzroy ‘edgy’ has been scrubbed away, painted over, and re-graffitied (on commission).

It’s definitely worth a visit, but spend more of your time wandering on Smith and Gertrude streets – filled with galleries, boutiques, cafes and bars – and in Fitzroy’s back streets (if you’re a croissant lover, DEFINITELY get a pastry from Lune Croissanterie on Rose Street).

Also worth a visit:

  • On sunny days, pack a picnic and soak up the sun in North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens
  • Hire a bike and ride along Merri Creek. The trail joins up with the Capital City path, so you can make a day of it
  • Check out the animals at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, then grab a coffee and some lunch at the farm café, or next door at the Abbotsford Convent.


St Kilda pier at dusk.

The St Kilda pier. Image via Shutterstock.

The 96 tram will take you to the heart of St Kilda, via the South Melbourne Market – make a pit stop there on Wednesday, Friday or at the weekend to grab a couple of dim sims, or throw back freshly shucked oysters and sea urchins at the main counter at Aptus Seafood.

St Kilda has loads of great spots to eat and drink – the West Beach Bathers Pavilion, a former nude beach, is a great spot to watch the sunset (or a beach volleyball match) over a burger and a cold beer. Pull up a stool at the Nelson (serving up rum, rum and more rum), the Vineyard (a converted boat house with great wines) or 29th Apartment (boasting buffalo wings and giant Jenga sets).

At dusk, head down to the St Kilda pier and watch the fairy penguins hopping along the rocks (please don’t take photos with a flash or shine torches at them – it damages their eyes).

Also worth a visit:

  • Catch a movie at the Astor, a classic single-screen cinema in St Kilda
  • Stroll around the Tan, a 3.8-kilometre track surrounding the Royal Botanic Gardens
  • On Saturdays, hit up Alma Park for the Hank Marvin Market – we’re talking food trucks hawking burgers, doughnuts, ice cream, the list goes on… oh, and there are usually dogs you can pat, too.


They say ‘West is best’, and many Melburnians would agree. Jump on the 82 tram to Footscray, a vibrant, multi-cultural suburb where you’ll find some of the city’s best food thanks to the diverse migrant communities that call it home. Pop into Footscray Market to browse fresh produce at bargain prices (it’s known for its solid selection of Asian ingredients and harder-to-find items). Then head to the iconic Nhu Lan Bakery to grab a crusty banh mi – but save room in your stomach for a creamy cannoli from T Cavallaro & Sons.

At night, head to a former old t-shirt factory known as Back Alley Sally’s for a cocktail, or enjoy a glass of wine in an intimate setting at Bud of Love.

If you fancy a walk after all the feasting, walk through Footscray Park and down to the Maribyrnong River which offers excellent views of the city skyline.

Getting around Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station. Photo by Fabian Mardi on Unsplash

The easiest way to get around Melbourne is by tram, train or on foot. Trams in the CBD are free (as long as you’re in the Free Tram Zone, marked at the tram stop), but you’ll need a Myki card to travel further afield. You can grab one from most convenience stores for about $6; top it up with enough cash to get you around ($20 should be enough for a couple of days).

On trams, touch your Myki on the card reader in the door when you get on (no need to touch off). On trains, you’ll need to touch on AND touch off at the station. There’s also a free tourist tram that runs around the perimeter of the city and provides an audio history on various points of interest.

Melbourne is a great starting point for exploring Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, the Great Ocean Road or the High Country. Explore Victoria’s capital before (or after) one of Intrepid’s Victoria or Australia adventures.

Feature image by Linda Xu on Unsplash.

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