If you find yourself with some spare time in Melbourne, you’re going to have a fabulous time exploring its laneways, cafes, and bars. The number of options can be overwhelming so here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction.
There is no shortage of things to do in this coastal capital.
Melbourne has long been considered Australia’s most liveable city. It’s the home of Australian cool, with no shortage of creativity or quirk. Like Sydney, Melbourne is extremely diverse and an excellent food city. It’s probably the country’s most cultural city and has been blessed with beaches close by.
Here are some suggestions for things to do with your free time the next time you are in this vibrant city.
Get cultural at Federation Square
Federation Square is Melbourne’s beating heart. The precinct is home to a number of important institutions, such as the Ian Potter Centre and National Design Centre.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is one of the square’s most beloved attractions and highly recommended for any film or computer game lover. The ACMI is Australia’s premier museum for TV, video games, and digital culture and is fun, interactive, and at the forefront of technology and art.
Outside, there are often festivals or performances in the square, which boasts three large screens and acts as a gathering spot for residents to experience important national and international events. If you don’t have enough time to go to a museum or don’t feel like getting involved in the events, don’t worry. Federation Square is a perfect place to people watch and take in the vibe of the city.
Australians are coffee snobs. While you’ll find amazing coffee in every major Australian city, Melbourne was arguably where the caffeine culture first took off. People have written books about Melbourne’s coffee scene and as such, there are way too many great cafes to list here.
If you’re in the CBD, try Industry Beans, Dukes Coffee Roasters or Gold Drops, which only serves naturally processed coffee. Really though, Melbourne’s city and inner suburbs are saturated with good coffee options so you won’t need to look too far or try to hard to find a tasty drop.
Sample the wide range of cuisines Melbourne has to offer. Credit: iStock
Enjoy Melbourne’s diverse bar scene
If there’s one thing Australian city dwellers love more than coffee, it’s alcohol.
Melbourne is chocked full of stylish bars, revamped pubs, and concealed specialty establishments. But beware, Melbourne bars are notoriously hard to find, often hidden down alleys, underground, or halfway up innocuous office buildings. Around the city, whiskey fans could try Whisky and Alement; absinthe lovers, Bar Ampere; and gin lovers, Gin Palace. The Lui Bar, on the 55th floor of the Rialto building, offers an up-market option with views. It has a strict dress code and guests must be buzzed up by a concierge on the ground level.
Melbourne laneways are famous the world over for their hidden restaurants, bars, shops, and street art. The city’s alleys cut a winding route through the bustling city and have proved a clever way of turning the city’s most grimy parts into exciting mini-districts.
They’ve also become a big business, with numerous companies offering guided tours of the city’s most well-known back streets. For food, try Centre Place, which is known for its hole-in-the-wall restaurants, or Market Lane, which creates an entrance into Chinatown from the famous Bourke Street. Hosier Lane is probably the most Instagrammed street art lane, with barely a space free from colorful creations. Music lovers should head to AC/DC Lane, which was named after Australia’s famous rock band and is decorated with music-related art.
Melbourne’s Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world, getting its start after the discovery of gold in the state of Victoria in 1851.
Once a center for Chinese craftsmen and lodgings, modern-day Chinatown is full of restaurants and the site of cultural events all year long. Hungry visitors can choose from tasty, budget dumpling houses, mid-priced family eateries or elegant upmarket restaurants. You will often see lines outside favorite establishments on the busiest dining days. The district also boasts a wealth of retail options for shopaholics. A visit to Chinatown is an absolute must for any lover of Asian cuisines.
Queen Victoria Markets
This 140-year market, the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, is loud, lively and full of produce but fruit and vegetables aren’t the only things you’ll find here. Food stalls, beer suppliers and all sorts of general merchandise make this giant outdoor market, which sits 2km from Federation Square, a must-see. You’ll often hear or see live music, food events or art performances at the markets, which also opens through the night during winter. It’s open every day except Monday and Wednesday. Head down there and treat your taste buds!
Take a swim or meet some penguins
Visit the colony of little penguins at St Kilda. Credit: iStock
Melbourne can get scorching hot in summer and visitors often search out cool spots to escape the particularly baking days. This city isn’t as known for its beaches as Sydney, but it still has some beautiful ocean spots.
The most well-known is St Kilda, which is about a half-hour drive from the city. Pre-book a Irideyourway Luxury Chauffeur Car Service chauffeur service in Melbourne to take you to this lively beach, where visitors can enjoy swimming, dining, and drinking. If you’re there in the afternoon, take a quick walk to the St Kilda pier where a colony of delightful little penguins live. These adorable seabirds can be seen on the St Kilda breakwater every night. Volunteer “penguin guides” patrol the area to make sure the colony of the world’s smallest penguin species is not harmed by interested tourists.