If you are looking for the definition of cool transformed into a city, then you are looking for Melbourne. The capital of Victoria, and Australia´s second biggest city (after Sydney), is one of the trendiest cities in the world (even being 20+ flight hours away from London, Berlin or NYC). Of course, if a city is cool, trendy and far away, it is a flashpacker’s paradise!
Melbourne has been appearing as the world´s most livable city in many rankings during the past few years, and this is just a way to say it is full of cultural spots such as libraries, museums and theatres, good transport, amazing parks, top universities and sport venues plus a vibe that transmits the sensation that there is always something happening in the city.
After almost a year and a half living in Australia (in Perth, to be specific), we decided it was about time we travelled to Victoria to see the city with the world´s largest urban tram network…and guess what? We loved it!
We started by taking an awful overnight 3.5hs flight that arrived at 6am, so with close to zero hours of sleep, we decided to start exploring the marvelous Melbourne.
We decided to stay in an AirBnB apartment in the CBD, so it would be easy (and free) to move around mostly all important places in a first visit. The apartment was located in the Chinatown area, which as you can imagine is full of great places to eat. Also, as Chinese influence in Australia is huge these days, it is a great place to see that influence.
As mentioned, Melbourne has a Free Tram Zone, so you can just jump on and off the tram without paying as long as you stay within that area. It is well signaled in the stations and also, in case the tram you are on gets to the end of the FTZ, it will be announced on the speakers.
Day 1 – Melbourne 101
So, as said above, we arrived in Melbourne early in the morning, and we took the Skybus from the Melbourne Tullamarine airport to the city. Skybus costs 19 AUD per person, so normally taking Uber would be cheaper when 2 or more people are going to the CBD. However, when requesting from the Airport, you can only request Uber deluxe service, so it is more expensive than taking the Skybus. This being said, we took the bus to the Southern Cross Station, and from there, the free tram to get to the apartment.
After leaving the apartment, we did one of the Melbournians favorite things: meeting with a friend for coffee. In our case, we went to one located in Centre Place. One of the cafes, close to Flinders Lane, has a great deal of coffee + muffin for 5 AUD. And coffee is really good.
Once coffee was running through our veins, we decided it was time to start the real walk. We took the tram on Swanston St and went all the way up north of the Hoodle Grid (name for Melbourne´s CBD), to see the State Library of Victoria on La Trobe St. Beautiful building, the gem there is the La Trobe reading room. Amazing place to enjoy quietly, the views from the higher balconies are really nice. Also, right in front of the Library on La Trobe St nice Victorian buildings that are part of the RMIT University campus can be seen. Good place for photographs.
From there, we took La Trobe St to the east, towards the Carlton Gardens. The Royal Exhibition Building is located within the gardens. This Building was constructed for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, and is currently used for diverse events closely related to the Melbourne Museum located right behind.
After walking through the gardens, we went to see St. Patrick´s Cathedral, on Albert Street. A Victorian Era building, it is Melbourne´s Roman Catholic Cathedral, and considered the biggest church in Australia. We kept onto MacArthur St., to see The Old Treasury building (to our left) and the Parliament House. Both nice buildings, what we enjoyed the most was the view of Imperial Hotel with the Old 35 Tram coming by on Spring St.
By that time we entered into the “Huddle” again, especially to start discovering Melbourne´s famous lanes. The city is so full of those alleys full of urban art and hidden bars and cafes you can never get tired of exploring them. Some of our favorites during the visit were Hosier lane, AC/DC lane, and Tattersalls lane. One tip: go really early in the morning, so you can find them as desert as possible. We came back on Sunday morning to have the chance to find them that way 🙂
Within the CBD, we also visited Federation Square, which is the heart of Melbourne´s city, right in front of Flinders Train station and St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. On peak times, the spectacle of people crossing the street after the lights change can be pretty intimidating if you are not used to huge cities. At Melbourne Visitor´s centre, located on Federation Square, you can get maps as well as lots of discounts for different attractions. Good to have a look there.
After walking through that area (and having lunch), we headed to see two of Melbourne most famous Arcades: Block Arcade and Royal Arcade. The first one was built in the late 1800s inspired in Milan´s galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and is a classic of Victorian architecture. The second one, the Royal Arcade (Main entrance on Bourke st., but also can enter opposite to Block Arcade on Little Collins St.), is the Oldest Surviving Arcade in Australia, having been open since 1870. In the same area, corner of Bourke and Elizabeth St., the former General Post Office can be found. Nowadays a flagship store for Swedish fashion brand H&M, the building is very nice and worth a visit.
After that, we took the tram on Bourke Street to head south west to visit the new development known as “the Docklands”. It is full of super modern buildings, a multiuse stadium and the Melbourne Star, Southern hemisphere biggest Ferris wheel.
As you can imagine, it was almost 5 pm, Friday, in Australia, so it was beer time! We met friends at the Southbank area, in a Pub named Munich Brauhaus with 5 AUD pints from 4PM to 7PM (great deal!). We enjoyed a few of those and walked over the Southbank, passing through Melbourne´s tallest building, the Eureka tower, as well as enjoying a lovely skyline lit up.
As already mentioned a million times in this blog, Australia is possibly the most multi-cultural country in the world. And one of the biggest influences is Chinese, so we decided it was a good opportunity to have Chinese food. We took the tram and went back to Chinatown to have dinner at a place on Little Bourke St and Celestial Ave. The place has Mao´s face in the logo, and is right in front of Vintage Cellars. This last thing is an important tip for Australia. Many restaurants, mainly Asian ones, have the BYO policy, meaning you can bring your own beer or wine from outside and you can drink them there. Eventually, they might charge you a corkage fee, but it is still cheaper than buying it at the restaurant (if they sell it).
After dining dumplings and sweet and sour pork, it was time to call it a day. We were too tired to continue so we went to bed. Next day, new adventure: the Great Ocean Road!
Day 2 – The Great Ocean Road
One of Australia´s must visit, the Great Ocean Road disserves more than one day to enjoy it fully. As our first visit to the state of Victoria was just for three days, we decided to struggle it in just one. It is doable, yes. But if possible, it is good to have an overnight stop in the area (we will go for it again!). Read about our visit here.
Day 3 – Market, Parks and Sunday life.
Day number three in Melbourne started with a photo tour of the lanes we had seen on Day one. Yes, as mentioned we wanted to see them empty, so we went there 7.30am. And it was a good decision that can be seen in our picturesJ.
After enjoying the lanes, we took the train south to see the Brighton Beach Boxes. One of Melbourne classics, it is possibly more enjoyable in Summer than in July, however, we could see them all, have a nice walk on beach and take the glimpse of one of Melbourne´s nicest suburbs. The boxes, particularly, are used by their owners to change when they go to the beach, to keep some belongings and to provide shade. Sadly, it is impossible to rent one, as they are only allowed to be used by owners approved by the city council. To get there to see them, take the train to Sandringham and get off at Middle Brighton Station and walk towards the beach.
The train took us back to Flinders, from where we took the tram to the Shrine of Remembrance located within the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Shrine, erected as a memorial for all Victorians who served in World War 1, is now a memorial for all Australians who have served in War. While the building itself is impressive, our favorite thing was the view of the city from the balcony.
To return to the city, we took the tram again. It left us close to the Queen Victoria Markets, which we visited with friends. The Market has been there since late XIX century, and currently is an experience itself with different stores from fresh markets to deli and clothes shops, as well as some food trucks and food stalls. One funny story, the name is not directly after Queen Victoria, but instead it gets the name from the location on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets.
When it was about lunchtime, we headed to Fitzroy. This former working class neighborhood is currently one of Australia´s most trendy and bohemian areas, with lots of bars and eateries on the Brunswick street area. We ate at Vintage, which had a great deal of a Chicken Parma + Pot for 12 AUD (meaning Chicken Schnitzel with Cheese, tomato and fries, and half pint of good beer!). Highly recommended.
After lunch, we walked all the way to the Fitz Roy Gardens. James Cook´s family house, brought from England, is located there. Captain Cook was the first European to make contact with Eastern Australia, making him very important for Oceania´s history, but as per the house, we don´t think it is worth to visit. The park is nice.
Our next to final stop in Melbourne was the Sports and Entertainment Precinct. Containing the Olympic Park – where 1956 Olympic games took place- as well as the Melbourne Park -where the Australian Tennis Open is played-, and the Yarra Park – where one of the world’s biggest stadiums, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is located- this is a central part in Melbournians life, and a must for any sports fan.
Finally, last stop was one more coffee in the lovely lanes, before heading back to the airport. While we still have so much more to visit in Melbourne, these three days have given us a great first glimpse of this amazing city.
Have you been to Melbourne? Are you planning to go? What are your impressions? Tell us!
About the authors in their own words: We are a young Argentinean couple who have been enjoying traveling for a while. We have visited several destinations on our own (or with friends and family), and in the past few years, a lot of destinations together.
Flor: Born & raised in Buenos Aires, my first backpacking experience was with friends in Argentina’s Northwest, followed by a couple other trips around South America. As I grew older I was more than happy to switch backpack for wheels, considering I could afford a more “comfortable” style of travel. Now I realize that traveling light (no more than 8kilos) is part of “comfortable” if you are planning to travel a lot! An amateur photographer, I enjoy capturing moments in the places I visit.
Currently living in Perth, Australia.
Born in La Plata, Argentina the same year Back to the Future was released (don’t look online, it was 1985). First travelled at the age of 6 to Rio, Brasil. At 12 took my first ‘long’ flight to Florida, US, and since 21, travelling has been one of my top priorities, mixed with work and study. Visited 30+ countries in 4 continents, and always plan to add more. Besides travelling, huge fan of association football (soccer), history and long discussions about “what is your favorite city”.
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