The Best Things to do in Melbourne

Hidden bars, beautiful views, lush gardens, and so much more.
Content creator for hospitality & tourism. I spent a decade exploring Melbourne, and operated a walking tour company.

On A Boat Melbourne 2

There’s no shortage of things to do in Melbourne. Here’s our list of the city’s best highlights.

54 Moreland Rd, Brunswick

Escape rooms started popping up in Melbourne in the early 2010’s, but Ukiyo blows most of them out of the water. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s 50% escape room, 50% video game, and 100% immersive.

You are tasked with helping a young prince investigate why his best friends have gone missing. The Prince, who you engage with throughout the challenge, communicates with you using artificial intelligence.

It all takes place in a beautiful Japanese-inspired setting, and it comes with our highest recommendation.

National Gallery of Victoria

180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

It’s easy to spend hours wandering the National Gallery of Victoria – a.k.a. ‘the NGV.’

Established in the wake of Victoria’s Gold Rush (1851), it is Australia’s oldest and most popular gallery.

Home to permanent displays of Australian art, the NGV also showcases rotating international exhibitions – and thankfully, a large part of their exhibitions are free.

The NGV is also the setting of one of the nation’s greatest art heists.

In 1986, Picasso’s Weeping Women – purchased for 1.6 million dollars – was stolen from an art display. The thieves, calling themselves ‘Australian Cultural Terrorists,’ demanded greater funding for the arts from the state minister.

But when the minister refused their ransom demands, the painting was found two weeks later wrapped in brown paper, inside a locker at Southern Cross Station.

Yarra River, Melbourne

Ever fancied yourself a captain? On A Boat can make that a reality, as you commandeer a boat down the middle of the Yarra River.

These boats can hold up to nine people, you don’t need a license, and you can bring your own drinks & snacks; just make sure the skipper stays sober.

If you want to cruise in style, then book a deluxe boat with plush seating and built-in Bluetooth speakers.

It’s a great opportunity to get a different perspective of the city – for both tourists and locals.

328 Swanston St, Melbourne

Libraries get a bad wrap for being ‘boring’ – but not this one.

The State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and filled with more than just bookshelves.

The Cowen Gallery showcases a permanent display of colonial and modern portraiture, as well as artists’ impressions of historical Victorian events.

It’s also the home of the diary entries of the city’s original founders (John Batman and John Fawkner) as well as the armour that Ned Kelly wore for his final shoot-out.

But the main attraction is the Latrobe Reading Room; this octagonal study room is six stories high and topped with a glass dome. It can fit 320 readers at its desks, and at the time of completion was the tallest structure of its kind.

590 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Mini golf has made a comeback. Holey Moley is a 27-hole putt-putt course inspired by pop culture; holes feature The Simpsons, Forrest Gump, Game of Thrones and many more.

They have a complete cocktail bar and sling pizzas from the kitchen. Booze and mini golf sound like a good mix, and it is.

Along with their city location, you’ll find them at Crown Casino in Southbank.

Basement/335 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Retro gaming has surged the past couple of years, with gamers finding nostalgia in their childhood games.

Bartronica takes that fun and mixes it with alcohol. This retro gaming bar is filled with pinball machines, arcade games and classic shooters – think Time Crisis, Mario Kart and Donkey Kong. Grab a drink and challenge your mates to a game.

8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Who doesn’t love a fire show? Visit the Southbank promenade after dark to enjoy the gas brigades fire show.

Eight massive towers line the river outside Crown Casino, and every hour they shoot massive flames into the sky. They put on a great show, and it’s entirely free. Locals will commonly refer to them as ‘the flames.’

Curtin House, Swanston St, Melbourne

Melbourne opened Australia’s first rooftop bar back in the 1960’s. It was the Pamplemousse (French for grapefruit) and was ‘where you’d find food with a world of difference.’

The Pamplemousse is no longer, but the craze has continued and Melbourne now has many amazing rooftop bars.

The most popular is simply called Rooftop Bar. Perched seven floors high, this spacious escape has great city views and is super popular during the warmer months.

187 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000

After exploring Melbourne’s restaurant scene, you’ll want to finish with some dessert.

Meet Om Nom, the world’s first dessert hotel. Located within the Aldephi Hotel, Om Nom does dessert like no other, combining unique tastes and exquisite plating.

Melbourne Central, Shop, La Trobe St, Melbourne

We were avid bowlers in our younger days, but all of the rinks were usually unchanged since the 80’s. Strike aims to change that.

It’s a modern take on 10-pin bowling, complete with a bar, small bites and popular music.

There are several locations throughout Melbourne (we recommend the Melbourne Central and QV locations) and they make for a fun nighttime outing.

187 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Walk down Flinder’s Lane and you’ll see a pool that extends two metres above the street. This is the Adelphi Pool.

The pool is open throughout the year and maintains a nice 22-degree heat. While it is complimentary for guests staying at the hotel, it will cost visitors. But keep an eye out for special events that happen from time to time.

Sealife Aquarium

King St, Melbourne

With over 10,000 different critters, Sea Life Aquarium will take you to different parts of the deep blue. You’ll find penguins, rays, crocodiles, turtles, sharks, and even arctic fish – a first for Australia.

Chinatown

Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Melbourne’s Chinatown is the longest-running continuous Chinese settlement in the world. It takes up several blocks of the city centre, and is filled with Chinese restaurants.

The main attraction is the countless dumpling houses – offering authentic wontons, xiao long bao, gyoza and many more varieties.

You’ll also find several laneway bars as well as Asian desserts and bubble tea.

The Chinese Museum is also worth a visit – for a small entry fee, you can learn about the Chinese settlement during Melbourne’s gold rush.

377 Russell St, Melbourne

Ned Kelly was Australia’s most notorious gang leader – he robbed trains, killed police officers and spent years on the run. He was eventually captured after a big shoot out, and then hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

The gaol was the scene of 132 other hangings, up until 1929 when it ceased operation. Visit now and you can wander around the old cells, see the stocks and even take part in a night-time ghost tour.

16 Meyers Pl, Melbourne

Melbourne’s hidden bar scene began in the mid-nineteenth century when restaurants and households would serve alcohol without a license; these were called sly-grog shops.

Venture down Meyer’s Place to find Pizza Pizza Pizza, a New York-style joint that slings pizza by the slice. It might look small but head through the black curtain at the back to reveal an intimate cocktail bar.

68 Little Collins St, Melbourne

From Prince doing spontaneous shows at Bennet’s Lane, to Lady Gaga dancing on the bar at the Cherry Bar, Melbourne has some great musical stories.

The city has spawned bands like AC/DC, Jet, and Crowded house – and it continues to deliver. With a strong music scene, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a gig.

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Brunton Ave, Richmond

Melbourne loves sports – and the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the sports capital of the nation. Commonly referred to as ‘The G’ it is the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere and the 10th largest in the world.

Founded in 1853 by the Melbourne Cricket Club, the MCG has since hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics, two cricket world cups, and The Commonwealth Games.

The MCG regularly hosts AFL matches (Australian Football League) and hosts the AFL Grand Final every September.

Regional Victoria

Do you like wine? We thought so. You’ll be spoilt for choice at the Yarra Valley. This regional area is home to hundreds of wineries, notably producing Chardonnay, sparkling wine, and Pinot noir.

It’s a very popular tourist destination, welcoming over three million visitors every year. You can visit wineries, try samples, and then purchase your favourites.

There are also non-wine makers, producing gin, vodka and other spirits. Four Pillars & Alchemy are both worth noting.

Avoid driving – we don’t want you going to jail – and take a tour of the Yarra Valley instead.

In 1844, Charles La Trobe, the colony’s first Lieutenant Governor, received a request from the Melbourne council asking for parks close to the town, ‘where they could conveniently take recreation therein after their daily labor.’

The 500 acres that La Trobe reserved included Royal Park, The Domain, Fitzroy Gardens, Fawkner Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is now one of Melbourne’s finest attractions; stretching over 89 acres, it is filled with 50,000 individual plants representing 8,500 different species.

There is no entry fee, and you’re welcome to wander around and explore the gardens.

St Kilda

When it comes to Australian beaches, Melbourne isn’t the first place that comes to mind, but we do have St Kilda, a beachside precinct about 6km from the city centre.

Here you’ll find a dining district, beachside bars, a theme park, and adorable fairy penguins.

Not far from Acland St is Luna Park, a historic amusement park built in 1912. Based on the park in Coney Island in New York, Luna Park is filled with amusement rides, including a roller coaster that skirts the park’s circumference.

Head to the beach, and onto the pier, and you’ll come to the fairy penguin viewing platform. At sunset you’ll see these adorable critters waddle up to their nests in the rocks, returning from a day of fishing.

South Melbourne Dim Sims

South Melbourne Market, Melbourne

The humble dim-sim was invented in Melbourne’s Chinatown in the 1940’s. Since then it has become an Australian fast-food staple.

It’s a dumpling-style snack featuring minced meat (usually pork) wrapped in pastry, and then either steamed or deep-fried.

To try one of the best, visit South Melbourne Market Dim-Sims; they’ve been perfecting the recipe for over seventy years. While you’re at the market, browse the deli section for even more delicious eats.

The Tan

Kings Domain

Originally a horse-riding track, The Tan is Melbourne’s most popular running track.

Stretching for 3.8 km it follows the outskirts of the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s a peaceful path to walk, or join all the other Melbournians and run a couple of laps.

106 Hardware St, Melbourne

This Viking-inspired bar & restaurant is straight out of Norse Mythology. The team at Mjølner – named after Thor’s Hammer – have successfully brought an opulent touch to barbarian dining.

This venue is from the team behind Eau de Vie, so expect a high-level of theatrics. You’ll be able to drink beer from a horn and take flaming shots poured down beef-bone.

Mjølner also serves mead, a fermented honey drink that is thought to be the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage.

Hosier Lane

Flinders St, Melbourne

Melbourne has one of the best laneway scenes in the world.

Originally dingy service lanes (built to service local businesses and residents) the laneways were first revitalised in the 1980’s by the city council.

These alleyways are now home to an amazing street-art scene, as well as award-winning bars and restaurants.

Degraves St, Centre Place, Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Meyer’s Place are all among the best laneways in Melbourne.

Map out your route and spend the afternoon exploring them all.

Ground/105 Pearl River Rd, Docklands

Take to the ice at the O’Brien Icehouse in Docklands. This stadium is home to two ice-rinks and hosts sports like ice-hockey, curling and figure skating.

It is also open for the casual skater among us. Come down, hire some blades and hit the ice – just hopefully not literally.

22-32 Steel St, North Melbourne

Grab your gun, throw on your goggles and enter the world of Zero Latency.

This immersive virtual reality game will have you fighting zombies, defeating robots and will even pit you against your mates.

The arena is the size of a tennis court and groups of up to eight can play.

Rathdowne St, Carlton

Boasting one of the biggest screens in the world, IMAX is a theatre of epic proportions; the screen itself spans a massive 32 metres wide by 23 metres high.

They screen the latest blockbusters, as well as a collection of educational 3D documentaries. After you watch a flick, head next door to check out the free exhibitions at The Melbourne Museum.

Peninsula Hot Springs

140 Springs Ln, Fingal

All of this sightseeing, eat and drinking can be tiring, so break it up with a visit to the Peninsula Hot Springs.

Founded by brothers Charles and Richard Davidson in 1997, the inspiration for the baths began when Charles visited several hot springs while living in Japan in 1992.

Throw on your bathers, kick off the shoes and sink into one of many geo-thermal pools.

Inspired by the baths in Japan, the water is infused with natural minerals which they claim detoxifies the body and rejuvenates the spirit.

The Tan

Kings Domain

Originally a horse-riding track, The Tan is Melbourne’s most popular running track.

Stretching for 3.8 km it follows the outskirts of the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s a peaceful path to walk, or join all the other Melbournians and run a couple of laps.

Phillip Island is known for many things, but just like St Kilda, it’s the fairy penguins that capture visitor’s hearts.

These adorable creatures can only be spotted on the southern coast of mainland Australia, and spend 80% of their time out at the sea. Come sunset they waddle up the beach to take roost, in what is dubbed ‘the penguin parade.’

Phillip Island is its own attraction, and deserving of at least a dedicated day. When’s the most popular time to visit? During the Summer the population of Port Phillip Island swells by 400%.

City Circle Tram

Melbourne

Jumping on a tram is an instinctive behaviour of the Melbournian. As a tourist, you’ll need to join the locals, and the best way to practice is by catching the No 35.

This is the City Circle Tram, an iconic heritage W-Class tram (one of the old ones) that travels in a loop around the city centre.

It’s entirely free (no Myki card required) and there is an onboard audio commentary.

You’ll pass city landmarks and major attractions, including Melbourne Museum, Parliament House, State Library of Victoria, Docklands, Federation Square, and the Sealife Aquarium.

Basement/111 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Enjoy some of Melbourne’s best cocktails at this award-winning, underground French bar and brasserie

We’ve whiled away many evenings at Bar Margaux; it’s an instant escape from the outside world.

Their cocktails are expertly concocted. Michael Madruson, the owner, honed his craft at Milk & Honey, a well-renowned cocktail bar in New York City.

The same team is also behind local favourites The Everleigh and Heartbreaker; one a prohibition-style cocktail bar, and the other is a grungy rock ‘n’ roll bar.

Bar Margaux offers the classics; manhattans and martinis – which you can also order in the ever-adorable ‘snack-size.’ But you’ll also find their own creations on the menu.

Inspired by the French bistros of New York, you’ll find a food menu with escargot (snails smothered in butter,) duck frites and a giant two-patty burger (The MGX Burger.)

You’ll find Margaux on Lonsdale Street at the bottom of a staircase; look for their neon sign that simply reads ‘MGX.’

The opening hours are long, and the outside world effortlessly fades away as soon as you arrive.

7 Riverside Quay, Southbank

Rising 297 metres (975 ft) above Southbank, is Eureka Tower, one of the tallest residential towers in the world.

Named after the Eureka Stockade (a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush) the building’s top is coated in 24-carat gold and split by a red stripe, representing the bloodshed during the battle.

It’s here that you can access the Eureka Skydeck and enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the city.

With 30 viewfinders you’ll be able to find Melbourne landmarks or use the binoculars to zoom in for a closer look.

Or try the Edge Experience – a glass cube that projects out from the 88th floor and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high.

Cooks Cottage

Fitzroy Gardens, East Melbourne

Cook’s Cottage is technically the oldest building in Australia. Built in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, it was constructed by James and Grace Cook.

Their son, also James, is responsible for the first recorded European contact with the east coast of Australia; you might know him better as Captain Cook.

In 1934 Cook’s Cottage was deconstructed and transported to Melbourne, where it was rebuilt in Fitzroy Gardens.

Purchase a ticket and you’re able to explore the cottage with an audio guide. While you’re here, it’s also worth exploring the Fitzroy Gardens, they’re 64 acres of lush greenery right next to the city.

Sam Sam

Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) and a bottle of soju is always a good time.

Unlike typical American fried chicken, the Koreans deep-fry theirs twice, making it crispier and less oily. They also pair it with soju, a sweet-flavoured, alcoholic beverage made from rice.

Luckily Melbourne has many great Korean fried chicken joints, but our go-to is SamSam.

This modern restaurant is spread over two levels, and has a menu perfect for sharing. All of their chicken is served with fries and coleslaw, and their sweet chilli sauce is delicious.

Victoria

Mount Hotham is one of Victoria’s popular ski locations.

357 kilometres from Melbourne (4-hour drive,) this is one of Australia’s highest alpine villages. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding or hurtling down in a toboggan, there are 72 runs to choose from – with all skill levels catered for.

Ski season generally runs from June to September.

249 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The Yarra Valley is the heartland of Victoria’s wine scene, but this urban winery is shaking things up.

Noisy Ritual began as a few friends stomping grapes in their basement, now it’s taken over a warehouse in East Brunswick.

This urban winery attempts to demystify the winemaking process, allowing you to make your own drop from start to finish.

Don’t want to get grapes between the toes? There’s a full bar that allows you to sample their range of wines instead – much less exhaustive.

4/8 Franklin St, Melbourne

You don’t need to leave the city to experience rock climbing.

Hardrock offers 16 metre high walls across 44 different climbs, all in the city centre. Catering for beginners to pros, they utilise an automated cable system so you won’t be needing a spotter.

Rock-climbing and bouldering have become a popular past-time for Melbournians.

Skydive St Kilda

42a Marine Parade, St Kilda

Nothing quite compares to jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet.

That’s what the team at Sky Dive Australia will have you do. With locations all around Australia, their most central Melbourne location is St Kilda.

On a tandem dive, you’ll experience one minute of free fall, followed by a gentle eight-minute glide back to earth. The dive itself isn’t that scary, it’s the slow ascent in the plane that really gets the heart beating.

6 Goldie Pl, Melbourne

We love a night of jazz, and of the city’s best jazz clubs is the Paris Cat. This long-running jazz club hosts 4-5 shows every week.

Inspired by the 1930s French bee-bop era, the Paris Cat is a fantastic escape. Grab a drink, settle in and get ready for some toe-tapping tunes.

Basement/121 Elizabeth St, Melbourne

Now you can unleash your inner viking and challenge your mates to axe throwing.

Inside this Abbotsford warehouse, Maniax lets you vent all sorts of frustration. Enter one of their cages and choose from three different types of axes – regular session axe (16 inches), league axe (14 inches) and the comically oversized big axe.

Then you throw your axe at the target – it’s kinda like darts on steroids.

Maniax also have their own bar, but you’ll have to wait till after your session; no one wants to see a drunk viking on the loose.

Contents: Things to do

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