Visiting Melbourne for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Australia’s second city and coffee capital, Melbourne, is packed with fun and cultural things to do. But its lack of internationally recognized attractions can mean that first-time visitors may not have a clear idea of what to do in the city. However, if you know where to go, Melbourne delivers a diverse restaurant scene, contemporary street art and museums, and a network of laneways and arcades with surprises around every corner. Here are our recommendations for how to make your first trip to Melbourne a memorable one.
Admire the Yarra River
Take a waterfront stroll or head out onto the water.
The Yarra River is a defining feature of Melbourne’s city center. So, taking a trip along the river at the start of your visit is the best way to get a sense of what the city is all about. Walk along the Yarra Promenade to admire Melbourne’s green spaces and sleek skyscrapers. Or, for a different perspective, get on the water; sightseeing cruises allow you to take it easy with a sparkling wine or coffee, while a kayak tour provides a more active experience.
Hunt for street art
Go in search of the city's best murals.
One of the cultural capitals of Australia, Melbourne has an art scene that extends beyond city museums and onto the streets. The best way to discover both well-known and hidden street art—which ranges from political statements to kaleidoscopic murals—is on a walking tour. Laneways, especially the heavily-graffitied Hosier Lane in the Central Business District, are a usual starting point. But street art aficionados should also turn their attention to inner suburbs including Fitzroy and Richmond.
Refuel at laneway cafés
Get your dose of caffeine.
Melbourne prides itself on its coffee culture to the point that coffee has become a core part of its modern identity. Australia’s self-proclaimed coffee capital has an almost excessive number of cafés and coffee shops, many of which are hidden away in the inner city’s alleys and laneways. If you don’t feel like wandering aimlessly through laneways and arcades for your coffee, local food tours make it easy to experience both elements of the city at once.
Pause a moment at the Shrine of Remembrance
Learn about the sacrifices made by Australian veterans.
One of Melbourne’s best-known landmarks, the Shrine of Remembrance is the city’s monument to Australians who served in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping missions. Take a tour through this fittingly peaceful memorial, which is bordered by the greenery of the Royal Botanical Gardens, and explore the various exhibits and galleries inside to discover the wartime stories of Australians across the years.
Insider tip: Make sure to head up to the roof to enjoy the balcony view of Melbourne’s skyline.
Gaze out from the Melbourne Skydeck
Take in unparalleled city views.
Although it’s no longer the tallest building in the city, Melbourne Skydeck is the place to go for panoramic views of Melbourne in its entirety. Combine a regular ticket, which provides admission to the observation deck on level 88 and its 360-degree-views, with more thrilling experiences such as the suspended glass-bottomed Edge and the stomach-dropping VR Plank experience. Take your time with the view, drink in hand, at Bar 88 or sit down for a meal one floor up at Eureka 89.
Head out to Brighton Beach
Spend a day bayside at the beach.
Bayside Melbourne is where visitors will find the city’s closest beaches in suburbs such as St. Kilda and Port Melbourne. But a little farther out lie the brightly colored bathing cabanas of Brighton Beach. This Melbourne institution offers some of the city’s best photo ops. Combine your visit with a wildlife-filled day trip to the Moonlight Sanctuary Conservation Park and Phillip Island, home of the Penguin Parade, to maximize a day away from the city center.
Explore with a trip down the Great Ocean Road
Use Melbourne as a base to see more of Victoria.
Melbourne is where many visitors start their travels in Victoria, but no trip to the southern state would be complete without a day trip along the Great Ocean Road. This scenic stretch of road on Victoria’s surf coast is home to the world-famous Twelve Apostles rock formations, as well as others including the Loch Ard Gorge and Gibson’s Steps. Leave the long day of driving and navigation to someone else with a tour, so you can just focus on admiring the scenery.
Visit the MCG
Discover the city’s sports obsession.
Sport is a staple of life in Melbourne; the city hosts an embarrassing number of games, matches, and events year-round. And the symbol of the city’s love of sport is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), a 100,000-spectator stadium which hosted the 1956 Olympics, among countless other events. Touring the ground gives visitors the rare opportunity to walk out onto its hallowed ground and the option to learn more about Melbourne’s fascination with sport at the Australian Sports Museum.
Dine out in Chinatown
Indulge in delicious East Asian cuisine.
Melbourne’s multicultural roots started early; the city’s Chinatown sprung up around the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s, making it the oldest Chinatown in the Southern Hemisphere. Melbourne’s Chinatown stretches from Little Bourke Street and and surrounding side alleys in the heart of Melbourne and is the default go-to spot for quality East Asian cuisine, from dumplings to ramen and hot pot. Visitors without the time to sit down at multiple venues can take advantage of a food tour to sample as much as possible.