Melbourne is largely considered Australia’s cultural capital. As a thriving melting pot of diverse cultures and a sociable vibe that trickles throughout the city, it’s not hard to see why. It is a city of plenty, with world-class art and architecture, vivacious locals, vibrant music and food scene and stunning natural escapes right on its doorstep. Get in touch with nature and trail through the gorgeous outback or lose yourself in the city’s bustling nightlife – Melbourne provides a wide spectrum of things to see and do. Below is a list of only the best the city has to offer. You can also consider it as a place to start planning your trip.
Explore a model Tudor Village at Fitzroy Gardens
Head to the scenic Fitzroy Gardens located amidst Melbourne’s busy cityscape. Take a stroll around the park and take in the natural landscape and historic sights, which are located throughout the gardens. You can find a model Tudor Village in the middle of the gardens, created by London pensioner Edgar Wilson back in the 1940s. This miniature village is a replica of a typical Kentish village built during England’s Tudor period. It was unveiled in Fitzroy Gardens by the lord mayor in 1948.
Wander around the State Library’s beautiful Dome Reading Room
Step into the Dome Reading Room, the most extravagant room in the State Library of Victoria, and you can hear mental cogs turning: people are studying, examining old books and expanding their knowledge on anything from rare birds to architectural history. Don’t miss a stop at the impressive Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, which was reopened in 2019 after being closed off to the public for nearly 15 years. Daily free tours will show you the library’s hidden reaches.
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
At the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, you can see penguins, crocodiles, sea horses, elephant sharks and many many fish! There are coral, turtles and other associated sea life. It has what you would expect to see at an aquarium, and it is well presented.
I do have mixed feelings about this one though. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with this aquarium, and it is fun. On the other hand, it is quite expensive considering it is quite small. When I went with a 2 year old S, we got through it all in thirty minutes even going at her pace. If I was paying $93 for a family, I would be very disappointed with only 30 minutes of entertainment.
If you are in the CBD, you can walk or tram it here. It is not far to walk from Flinders St station.
Coffee in Melbourne is an art form, a passion – it’s very hard to find a place that serves up a bad brew. The city’s coffee culture is more like a religion, so head to one of the city’s top baristas and order a Melbourne Magic – steamed milk poured over a double ristretto and served in a smaller cup (apparently offering the ideal coffee-to-milk ratio). Zielke may be biased, but Bonnie Coffee on Collins Street has been voted for having some of Melbourne’s best coffee many times and often has a line snaking out the door. Established in 2014, it has since expanded to Sydney.
Visit Federation Square
Federation Square is a centrally-located plaza and a famous landmark of the city where flurries of people meet for coffee, meals… you name it. Opened in 2002, this cultural hub is home to a museum, an art gallery, an auditorium, countless shops, restaurants and bars.
The Ian Potter Centre is a must-visit for those who can spare the time. At this art museum, there are some remarkable displays of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day, which is spread across 20 galleries. If you have time (and the energy), head over the river to its International gallery, where renowned museums, such as New York’s MOMA, have put on exhibitions. Highly advised: comfortable walking shoes.
Pop into one of Melbourne’s many excellent markets
Seeing that Melbourne is paving its way as Australia’s food capital, the markets it has to offer are no short of amazing. The most famous of them all is the vibrant Queen Victoria Market, which has functioned as a cemetery, a livestock market, and a wholesale fruit and vegetable market.
Today, the market serves as a busy community centre, with entire halls designated to organic produce, meats, cheeses, and artisanal wares. In the winter, it even turns into a cosy night market. Another market making a name for itself is Preston Market, which has a range of cultural offerings such as Greek and Italian delis and bakeries as well as traders selling unique artisanal wares. For maximum hipster vibes, head to The Rose St. Artists’ Market.