A bonafide melting pot of cultural diversity, Melbourne is a city of bustling laneways, lush, green spaces, world-class museums, and myriad foodie haunts. Steadily surpassing Sydney as Australia’s must-see city, Melbourne is a place that will steal your heart and open your eyes as to why this destination has been crowned “The World’s Most Liveable City” time and time again.
With so much to see, do, and eat, a weekend in Melbourne is simply never enough. That being said, here’s our ultimate guide to cramming as much into 72 hours (more or less) as humanly possible. Have your eyes, appetites, and cameras at the ready!
If arriving at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, catch a SkyBus straight to Southern Cross Station. Once you’ve ditched your bags, get ready to head out and explore Melbourne’s famed laneways for some much-needed sustenance. Melbourne has shown its prowess in brewing a great cup of coffee; its laneways teem with some of the best cafes the city has to offer. Tucked along Centre Place — Melbourne’s answer to Diagon Alley — and wedged beneath Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll find Jungle Juice, a true favorite among locals. Serving seriously good coffee, freshly-squeezed juices, and delicious bagels, you can re-fuel your tank post-flight and get ready to hit the ground running. If you’ve got a hankering for freshly made sourdough, head to Brick Lane for sumptuous sandwiches or Rustica Canteen for pastries galore.
Once you’re revitalized, jump on a tram and hop off at the trendy streets of Fitzroy or the ever-buzzing Brunswick: Melbourne’s inner-city mecca for all things hip. A bohemian hub of live music with a vibrant art scene, the suburbs of the inner-east are full of eclectic bars and unique cafes well-known for their excellent vegan and vegetarian options. While you’re there, don’t forget to peruse the many op-shops (or thrift stores, as they’re known in America) and quirky vintage stores that line the busy streets. If you find yourself in Fitzroy on a Saturday, saunter on down to the Rose Street Artist’s Market for a plethora of handmade goods and walk back towards the city via the Carlton Gardens.
Once you’ve wandered to your heart’s content, you’ll no doubt have worked up an appetite again. True foodies will want to make a beeline for the famed Thai restaurant Chin Chin, situated next door to another of Melbourne’s legendary establishments — the dark and dingy, rock ‘n roll Cherry Bar. Make your way to Flinders Lane, add your name to Chin Chin’s waitlist (it will be worth it) and then nip next door for a drink while you eagerly await your table. For a smaller price tag at the epicenter of Melbourne’s epic Asian food, head to Chinatown and the locally loved Shanghai Dumpling House. Feast on fried noodles, Chinese broccoli, and pork dumplings. Though this hideaway is sure to be heaving with other enthusiastic diners, it’s an experience that your tastebuds will thank you for.
Post dinner, it’s time for some late-night drinks. Whether it’s a quiet nightcap with your partner or a few raucous cocktails with friends, Melbourne has ample opportunity for a great beverage in an even better locale. Stroll along the shores of the twinkling Yarra River, and grab a drink at the likes of Arbory Bar or The Boatbuilders Yard for alfresco views of the city from the southern banks. For aerial views of the skyline, a drink at Lui Bar will be well worth your time, as it occupies the top level of the magnificent Rialto Building — some 230 meters up. Amid elegantly dark decor, sip on Australian inspired cocktails and gaze out upon the sensational view of the city below, all before stumbling on home to bed.
Rise and shine, it’s time for breakfast! Croissants from Fitzroy’s famous Lune Croissanterie are first up on the menu. Gorge yourself on an assortment of world-famous sweet and savory croissants, lemon curd cruffins and black forest cake, before washing it all down with a hot cup of coffee. We get it, it’s not the most nutritious of breakfasts, but you’re only here for the weekend!
Your next stop should be the National Gallery of Victoria (universally referred to as the NGV) for a perusal of both permanent collections and visiting exhibitions, as well as a peek up at the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling. As a bonus, general admission is free. Following a few quiet hours spent traipsing the hallways of the NGV, head across the road to the Royal Botanic Gardens. These spectacular, sweeping lawns and botanical terraces are the perfect way to spend some time outdoors in the late morning sun (especially after a few too many calories consumed earlier in the day). Immerse your senses in this slice of inner-city nature, admiring the lakes and diverse plant collections, before emerging from the gardens feeling refreshed and invigorated. For lunch, why not indulge your tastebuds at Jardin Tan, where French and Vietnamese cuisine come together to create a vibrant fusion of foods right on the grounds of the gardens. Showcasing organic produce either grown onsite or sourced locally, Jardin Tan embodies a “farm-to-table philosophy where tradition meets innovation”. Count us in!
With a full belly (and perhaps a few new additions to your Instagram feed) head on back across the Yarra River to explore Melbourne’s prestigious street art. Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, and Croft Alley should be at the top of your list and you can tick each one off in one stroll. If you’re after a photo sans-passersby, come back in the early morning to snap some sweet pics of the art at sunrise, or take advantage of the many bystanders and delve into some interesting street photography.
In shopping, Melbourne has always had an edge over other Australian cities. Its many arcades and stylish shops deserve an afternoon, if not a full day, to explore. Within the CBD (Central Business District), venture to Melbourne Central and the adjoining Emporium for a variety of upscale retailers over five levels, or take the hourly free shuttle bus out to Chadstone Shopping Centre. Known as Melbourne’s “Fashion Capital,” Chadstone is the biggest shopping center in Australia, with claims of being the largest in the southern hemisphere. You can get lost for hours within its huge open spaces, allowing ample time to shop ‘till you drop!
Time to rest those feet and scoot back into the city for dinner. Dishing up some of the city’s best Spanish cuisine is MoVida on Hosier Lane, known for its laid-back atmosphere and exceptional tapas. If you’re feeling like some spice, Tonka serves up contemporary and firey Indian fare in an artsy and modern space. Just be sure to book your table in advance for either of these restaurants to avoid any disappointment!
Everyone knows drinks are better at altitude, so off we go to end the night high above the city streets. If you’re too tired for a fancy sit down dinner, Rooftop Bar’s burgers are bound to hit the spot, with live DJ’s and a busy bar to boot. Elsewhere, Good Heaven’s Rooftop Bar serves 80’s-inspired drinks in a stylish retro setting, while Madame Brussels is cute and kitsch with a tongue-in-cheek drinks list. Take in the city one last time, and don’t think about packing your bags — just yet!
It’s your last day in Melbourne and there’s nowhere else you should brunch at other than Hardware Société, where high quality baked eggs and french toast are staples. A handy stone’s throw away from Southern Cross Station, it’s finally time to pick up your bags and bid adieu to a weekend well spent in Melbourne. See you next time!
Header image by Fabian Mardi.