There’s always been a rocky rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne is a capital – of the Australian region of Victoria. But not the capital. It’s the most populous in Victoria – but not in Australia. That’s Sydney. Melbourne is like Sydney’s kid brother, living in the shadow and competing for attention.
Melbourne is a coastal city located in the southeast of Australia. It’s average temperatures remain mild and consistent. Even at the height of winter – July – temperatures average around 14 Celsius and in the summer, not much more than 30. Fun fact! The founder of Melbourne is Batman! It’s true. John Batman, who made a treaty with the local aborigines.
Melbourne likes to flaunt it’s independent, artistic, easygoing reputation. While in Melbourne, the things you do should definitely be dominated by indulging in all this reputation has to offer. The climate makes Melbourne a most pleasant walking city.
This guide will concentrate on 5 essential things to do in the CBD – Central Business District – of Melbourne, with a couple brief detours.
See the Nature
Australia is an ecological masterpiece and Melbourne is no different. But it’s still a city, not an outback. So you don’t need to carry a big pack or luggage. Drop it off at Stasher, an international luggage storage depot with locations in Melbourne.
Next, take a walk along Dendy Street Beach, to get a feel for the intersection of nature and the city culture at the same time. It’s extremely insta-ready and full of great bars with exceptional service like the swanky Everley or their sister bar, the divey Heartbreakers.
For more pristine, uncommercialized nature, try Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, a little outside CBD. This is one of those detours. This region is known for its wine crafting and Great Ocean Road is agreed to be one of the most scenic coastal drives on earth, rivaling anything in California or France.
Feel The Culture
The history of Australia is a complex one, involving early settlement from aboriginals and convicts. While too complex to discuss here, you can learn more by visiting some historical institutions in Melbourne.
To learn about the indiginous aboriginals who first cultivated the land and to this day are interspersed through the culture, visit the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre inside the Melbourne Museum. Especially if it’s raining – the Melbourne Museum happens to be the biggest museum in the Western hemisphere.
To experience what life was like for Australia’s expatriated British convicts of the past, take a tour through Old Melbourne Gaol, a jail turned museum where Ned Kelly was executed.
Also, pop into the Immigration Museum to learn about the families who left their homes to help colonize these expansive lands and especially Melbourne itself.
In recent years, Melbourne has begun to rival the likes of New York City and Berlin in renown for its street art scene, so it’s not to be missed and can easily be glimpsed by just walking around. Tours can be guided by free apps or paid guides.
Melbourne loves it’s music! Believe it or not, the scene has room for everyone from Nick Cave to Kylie Minogue, both of whom are famous exports of the city’s music culture. Notable venues to catch a concert include the Palais Theatre, the Ding-Dong Lounge, and the Post Office Hotel.
Melbourne loves its festivals even more! Subjects range from Australia’s biggest comedy festival to cultural events like White Nights or the Greek Antipodes Festival. Fun fact! Melbourne has the largest Greek population outside of Athens. No matter what month you land in, there’s some kind of festival happening!
One more Melbourne-centric attraction that demands walking around it is the Queen Victoria Night Market. Delicacies are everywhere and local artisanal crafts are showcased here as well. Another highly regarded shopping spot is Chapel Street for designer gear. But Melbourne suffers no shortage of second hand and thrift shops.
Taste a Coffee
Melbourne loves to brag about it’s coffee. The city’s cafe culture was introduced in Lygon precinct, the official “Little Italy” of Melbourne. This area made Melbourne’s coffee famous. So famous you can even take cafe culture tours around the city.
Common coffee wisdom in Melbourne is basically: walk down almost any alleyway -if it looks like somewhere people normally get mugged you’re actually doing fine. Talk to whoever has the longest beard and most arm tattoos and prepare yourself to feel inadequate about anything to do with coffee beans.
As noted above. Melbourne loves their festivals. This enthusiasm extends to cinema. Melbourne hosts the world renowned Melbourne International Film Festival as well as smaller niche festivals like MUFF – Melbourne Underground Film Festival -, Melbourne Queer Festival and Monster Film Festival. Very inclusive.
It makes sense. Many famous filmmakers and actors from Peter Jackson to Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts hail from Australia and Melbourne is actually marked as the birthplace of Australian cinema. Take a self-guided tour of locations where famous films like Mad Max and Ghost Rider have lensed in Melbourne.
If by some stroke of chance your trip doesn’t coincide with a festival, compensation is easy. The mesmerizing and extensive collection at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image will help you curate your own festival. Particularly engaging is the permanent exhibition, “Screen Worlds”.
Finish your filmmaking sojourn with “Moonlight Cinema” at the Royal Botanical Gardens and admire the natural scenery at the same time!
Take Another Detour
Finally, escape the overcrowded, touristy cbd and check out a nearby neighborhood where many of the city’s authentic hipster residents spend their time. Fitzroy. It’s kind of like the Brooklyn of Melbourne. There’s loads of dedicated and often curated stores as well as bars and cafes and even the Victorian-era Fitzroy Gardens.
These are the essential things to do and see while in Melbourne, Australia and I hope your trip is long enough to fit them all in! Have fun!