Many see the cultural melting-pot of Melbourne as the central hub of all things that make Australia great! From its hip and dynamic metropolis to the tasteful, beach-lined suburban expanses and mountainous borders, the city covers the entire spectrum.
Grand Victorian architecture stand amongst modern high-rises and mind-blowing art displays both amongst its many galleries and on the walls of the streets themselves! Not to mention the city represents the Mecca of Australian sports, hosting beloved Aussie rules football and cricket to the world-renowned Australian Open and the Grand Prix!
All that and more are the reasons why the city regularly finds itself regularly voted one of the greatest cities to live in. So in that case, let’s take a look at the best things to see in Melbourne.
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Flinders Street Station
There’s no better proof of Australia’s Victorian heyday than Flinders Street Station. The picturesque postcard image has become synonymous with the city and is by far Melbourne’s biggest landmark!
Opening as early as 1854, the bright yellow structure was once the busiest train station in the world, and still remains the busiest in the southern hemisphere! The vibrant outer walls and its placement smack-bang in the middle of the city make for some truly amazing photos!
Queen Victoria Markets
More evidence of Melbourne’s Victorian peak can even be found in its markets, with the biggest being named after good old Queen Vic herself!
Since 1978, Queen Victoria Market has been the beating heart of fresh produce throughout the city! The 2 block-wide market has a myriad of stalls serving all manner of mouth-watering treats, many being of the cheese and smoked meat variety.
Though the list doesn’t end there! Inside you’ll also find plenty of art, indie clothes stores and some ideal tacky souvenir!
Admire the Amazing Street Art
If there’s one thing that Melbourne is known for, is its extensive amount of street art, some of which are considered the best in the world! The city was kind enough to designate certain areas open for street artists to run wild. Thus, the creative side of Melbourne was aloud to flourish along its once dark dingy alleyways!
There are a bunch of spots worth checking out, though some of note include Hosier Lane (the most iconic of all), Centre Place and AC/DC Lane (yes, it’s named after the band!).
The seaside suburb of St Kilda is Melbourne’s little getaway! Here, backpackers, families and party hunters alike come to enjoy the gorgeous sunlit beaches, quaint seaside bars and some incredible water sports opportunities.
Yet, most people know of this spot because of St Kilda’s most iconic and unlikely residents, penguins! A small colony of these waddling little cuties established itself on the St Kilda breakwater in the 1970s and have remained ever since. After a long day of fishing, they periodically return to the shores after sunset each night.
Others come to St Kilda to enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of Luna Park…speaking of which…
Since 1912, Luna Park has been an iconic landmark of St Kilda and Melbourne alike! The crazy nostalgic vibes of the theme park scream of another age and is worth a trip down memory lane!
The most iconic ride is the Scenic Railway which has kept on chugging ever since the park opened its doors! That makes it the world’s oldest continually operating rollercoaster! Though it looks pretty rickety by today’s standards, it’s still a fascinating look at what amusement parks once were!
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The Royal Botanic Gardens
The living breathing relic of the Victorian era remains one of the best spots in the city! Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are among the finest in the world with almost 10,000 separate plant species from around the world!
The 38-hectare grounds offer a peaceful oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. Make sure you swing by the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, designed to encourage tomorrow’s generation of gardeners. What’s more, it’s all absolutely free!
Melbourne Cricket Ground
London has Wembley, New York has Madison Square Garden, Melbourne has the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The spiritual home of Australian sports plays host to regular spots of cricket (obviously), AFL events, intentional football and even rugby.
What’s more, the stadium even gave birth to Test Cricket and Aussie Rules football! Along with having a capacity of up to 100,000 (making it the 10th largest stadium in the world), it’s considered one of the greats.
If you don’t have time for a match, then you should still visit the National Sports Museum which includes the Australian Gallery of Sport and the Olympic Museum.
Other than the rich cultures of the aboriginal tribes, the majority of Australia’s citizens are descendants of the European immigrants that landed on its shores! The story of these pioneers is no better represented than at the Immigration Museum.
The museum allows you to see the life of an immigrant and the struggles they faced as they arrived in Melbourne. Funnily enough, the museum is housed in the Old Customs House which once functioned as the gateway for every immigrant that came through the city.
If you’re planning on travelling Australia long term, why not check out The Ultimate Travel Itinerary: 3 Weeks on Australia’s East Coast.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Sadly, life in Melbourne wasn’t always smiles and rainbows, especially if you were a crook! At the heart of the city centre, Old Melbourne Gaol is a harsh reminder of what awaits you after a life of crime!
The prison became notorious for executing some of Australia’s most notorious killers, such as Ned Kelly, between 1842 to 1929. In total, 133 unlucky criminals lost their lives here.
Yet, it wasn’t only criminals that were at risk. In a time of ignorance, even the mentally ill and homeless were subjected to the vile conditions of the prisons!
Today the museum gives a brutal look at what prison life was like in the 1800s by displaying some of its relics, including the death masks of many executed criminals.
Immerse Yourself in Aboriginal Art
Long before the arrival of European immigrants, these harsh lands were ruled by the Aboriginal tribes. Though aboriginal cultures suffered years of mistreatment and whitewashing which diminished the population and culture alike, today their culture is celebrated more than ever!
Several exhibitions of aboriginal art can be found within its many galleries and some specifically showcase indigenous art! Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Melbourne Museum is one of the best places to see some amazing pieces!
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Melbourne doesn’t just have a fascinating cityscape to explore, but just a stone’s throw away from the city centre is a healthy dose of good old fashioned Aussie wildlife!
Phillip Island holds an eclectic collection of wildlife. At the Phillip Island Koala Reserve, you can walk amongst the top of eucalyptus trees to observe koalas in their natural habitat, while at the Philip Island Nature Park, you might catch a glimpse of happy seals playing along the coast. Last but not least, at Warrook Farm you’ll even get the opportunity to get up close and personal with some kangaroos!
Phillip Island is also one of the best places to see the wonderful colony of Penguins that have found on the coast of Melbourne!
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Shrine of Remembrance
Australia has a long history of fighting when the world needs them the most! One of the biggest losses the country faced was during the First World War, and thus the Shrine of Remembrance was built to commemorate their sacrifice.
In the Galleries of Remembrance beneath the shrine, you can also study photographs, artefacts, and artwork related to Australia’s wars and peacekeeping operations.
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The Block Arcade is the city’s oldest shopping centre which has been a favourite amongst locals since 1892. Rich in history and boasting stunning architecture, the Block Arcade is a step back in time for vintage shoppers.
In the labyrinth of alleyways and compact shopping centres, you’ll find everything from vintage jewellery to designer fashion, gifts, and cafés. One of the highlights is the Hopetoun Tearooms, which is the only shop still open since the arcade opened its doors!
This might be one of the most peculiar cottages you’ll ever come across. Though it’s named after the iconic British explorer Captain James Cook (the man who explored Australia and discovered the Hawaiian islands), he never actually lived in it! It was built by his father almost 10 years after Cook had still been away from home.
That’s not even the most peculiar bit, the cottage originally stood in Yorkshire, England!! It was brought to Australia in 1934 by Sir Russell Grimwade after each individual brick was shipped, including a few clippings from the original ivy coverings!
National Gallery of Victoria
Though there is a myriad of different galleries worth spending time in, the National Gallery of Victoria is the very best! Not only is it the oldest public gallery in Australia, but it also has over 70,000 pieces spread across 2 separate museums.
The international collection is housed in the St. Kilda Road building, while an extensive collection of Australian work is housed in the Ian Potter Gallery in Federation Square. It’s also one of the finest places to find some magnificent examples of Aboriginal works. Oh, and it’s all absolutely free!
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Skydeck at Eureka Tower
Every city needs a decent vantage point to see it from, and this is what Melbourne has to offer! On the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower, the Skydeck is the perfect spot to get a whole new perspective of the city, and in fact, is the highest public view in the Southern Hemisphere!
Its quite a gorgeous tower too with its gold crown and gold-plated windows sparkling as the sun beams against it. For thrill-seekers, there’s also a slide that stretches 3 meters out from the building!
Take a Ride on the City Circle Tram
Ding ding, all aboard! Though there are plenty of ways to get around the city, nothing beats the quaint beauty and unique look of the City Circle Tram. It also happens to be a great way to see some of the highlights of Melbourne. It passes major landmarks such as the CBD, the Docklands the Parliament House, the Old Treasury Building, Princess Theatre, and many more!
There’s a running recorded commentary as you pass each historical, cultural, or architectural site. Even better, it’s completely free within the city centre!
Werribee Open Range Zoo
If you come all the way to Australia, you’re certainly going to spend time amongst some of their most iconic creatures! At the Werribee Open Range Open Zoo, the safari-style experience allows you to get very close to a wide variety of exotic animals.
Though it may look like an unassuming government building, its actually one of the city’s best-hidden gems! This is where Australia’s first parliament met from 1901 to 1927, and thus became the birthplace of modern Australia!
If for nothing else, the grand collonaded exterior makes for quite an amazing site, which is even more true once you step inside. Built at the height of the Gold Rush, the interior is lavishly decorated with gold leaf and dotted with extravagant chandeliers!
The Carlton Gardens
The Carlton Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage site that holds some gorgeous gardens amongst a scattering of beautiful fountains. What’s more, it’s home to an eclectic range of treats!
The most notable is the Royal Exhibition Building which held the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia in 1901.
Adjacent to the incredible structure is the Melbourne Museum, which houses a diverse collection of exhibits depicting society and cultures, as well as science and the environment. Other than that, the gardens also have an IMAX cinema if nothing else catches your fancy!
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