Melbourne: The only Australian city with four seasons in one day” ~ Alyse.
As the city holds a very special place in my heart, a Melbourne itinerary has been on my calendar once or twice a year since 2010. Catching up with local friends during my stays, I’ve come to know Victoria’s capital very well. You could say the city is like my second home and I’m always excited to visit despite having seen and done all the touristy (and many non-touristy) things! There’s always something new to do in this ever-changing city.
In this 5 day Melbourne itinerary I’ve combined the best things to see and do from a tourists’ perspective as well as sprinkling local knowledge throughout to ensure you can make the most of your visit. Read on for more!
Why visit Melbourne?
There’s a friendly rivalry between folks from Sydney and Melbourne as to who is the “capital” of Australia for different categories. Depending on whom you speak to, Melbourne is internationally recognised as the sporting, fashion, arts, foodie and even coffee capital of Australia.
Although I’m a Sydneysider through and through, I have to give credit where it is due and agree Melbourne is definitely Australia’s capital for ALL these things. Perhaps that’s why I visit so frequently!
Melbourne plays host to world-class art exhibitions, numerous sporting events like the annual Australian Open tennis championships, and attracts major international events such as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. And that’s just getting started. What’s more, this vibrant city is also home to the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere (yes, seriously) so there is literally something for everyone!
This 5 day Melbourne itinerary will cover:
Where to stay in Melbourne
As I’ve visited Melbourne on a number of occasions, I can recommend quite a few hotels I’ve personally enjoyed my stay at. My go-to is usually Citadines on Bourke Street, near Chinatown. It’s always reasonably priced and the location cannot be beaten. Restaurants, tram stop and Bourke Street Mall are just a few steps outside the door. Although some rooms don’t offer much for a view, the rooms are modern, always spotless and offer a mini kitchen (not that I use it for cooking, but the fridge comes in handy). Wifi is also free and fast.
If you’re up for splurging a little, the Park Hyatt is quite luxurious. As you’d come to expect from Hyatt hotels, it’s perfect for celebrating a special occasion. The bathroom and spa are huge, too! The only downside is it’s not located on “The Grid” (more about this below) so getting around the city takes a little longer but is an enjoyable stay nonetheless.
Other options for accommodation in Melbourne
Thinking of using a homestay service during your Melbourne trip?
Complete 5 Days in Melbourne Itinerary
Things to do in Melbourne
Are you ready to discover all the best things to do in Melbourne, Australia’s capital of culture? I’ve broken up the attractions and things to do into an efficient day-by-day guide to make things easy. Let’s jump in!
DAY 1: The Grid
Unlike Sydney where roads were thrown together in a very haphazard formation, the layout of Melbourne’s CBD was planned in a grid pattern – hence why locals call it “The Grid”. Most of the things to see and do in Melbourne are located within this area, or clinging to its edges.
This combined with its mostly flat landscape makes Melbourne a very pedestrian-friendly city. Additionally, the tram network is quite good and they are free to use within the Grid. You’ll need a Myki card if you plan on using the trams outside the grid, which I’ll discuss more at the conclusion of the itinerary.
To begin your first day, check into your hotel and get your bearings in this stunning city. First things first, let’s cover the popular sights to see in Melbourne located on the Grid:
- You can’t miss geometric Federation Square! Hosting many events in this outdoor setting it’s the beating heart of the city! You’ll find Fed Square directly opposite Flinders Street Station.
- Love hunting down street art? Melbourne’s famous laneways are crammed full! No two visits will be the same as the colourful murals and graffiti are constantly changing. Hosier Lane is one of the most popular, as is Union Lane. More laneways worth mentioning are AC/DC Lane, Rankins Lane, Duckboard Place and Croft Alley.
- If you’re ready for a mini shopping fix before dedicating a day to it, Bourke Street Mall is a must-see. At the western end of Melbourne CBD’s main street is the beautiful old GPO Building, a former post office tuned retail centre. In 2014 the entire GPO building was converted into a huge H&M store, Australia’s first.
- The Golden Mile Heritage Route runs through the stunning Block Arcade. Completed in 1892, this Victorian era arcade is full of boutique retailers. Architecture junkies like myself will love the gorgeous mosaic flooring, decorated columns and ornate glass dome ceiling in its centre.
- On the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets you’ll find grand Melbourne Town Hall, dating back to 1867. It hosts theatre, exhibitions and weddings on occasion.
- On the eastern edge of the Grid is the impressive Parliament House. Did you know from 1901 – 1927, this was home to the Australian Federal Government while our new capital of Canberra was being built? The enormously lengthy Parliament steps are also a popular photo spot for brides on their wedding day.
DAY 2: Southbank
Formally an industrial area, Melbourne’s Southbank has much to offer to keep you busy, or simply relax along the river’s edge. From Federation Square it’s an easy walk from the Grid across Princes Bridge or one of the five other bridges or footbridges. Here’s what you can expect to see and do in Melbourne’s Southbank:
- Admire the city skyline from Princes Bridge. Trust me when I say it’s hard to take a bad photo from here!
- Enjoy a pleasant stroll along the Yarra and Southbank Promenades and dine at one of the dozens of restaurants overlooking the river to start your day.
- If you’re after a quick escape from the bustle of the city, take your pick of exploring some of the numerous gardens along the Yarra River. Here’s the best part, entry is free to them all! Alexandra and Queen Victoria Gardens are closest to Princes Bridge, while a wander further south down St Kilda Road will take you through the King’s Domain to Government House. The Royal Botanic Gardens are my personal favourite, with varying kinds of lakes, sculptures, boardwalks and gardens to explore (even a volcano – just maybe not the kind you’re expecting!) A café overlooks the tranquil waterlily pond with swans gracefully floating along. The nearby Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden is also fun, even if you’re not travelling with kids! Enter through the Melbourne Observatory.
- Opening in 1934 and nearby Government House is the Shrine of Remembrance. Dedicated to Australians who served and lost their lives during WWI, the temple-like structure serves to remind us of the sacrifices our ANZACs made. Paying tribute to our soldiers is a huge part of Australian culture and is a worthwhile detour on your way back into the city. On display within the building are the Rolls of Honour and Books of Remembrance inscribed by specialist calligraphers. Perhaps the best-kept secret is the 360-degree rooftop views, especially looking north towards Melbourne’s skyline!
- Crown Casino is worth popping into, even if you’re not a gambler. During various events throughout the year the entrance is beautifully decorated according to a theme.
- If you’re a die-hard art lover like me, your trip to Melbourne won’t be complete without visiting the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). I actually make a special trip down to Melbourne to attend any world-class events held here! The NGV hosts internationally recognised exhibitions like Hokusai, M.C. Escher x Nendo (on now!), Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier and works from the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York City just to name a few. Aside from the temporary exhibits, their permanent collection is worthwhile browsing as well. Remember to “be invisible” and buy any large exhibition tickets in advance from the NGV website or partners like Klook. This will allow you to skip the massive lines and shimmy on in without a wait, like I do!
- Finally, A visit to Eureka Skydeck 88 is something I don’t see listed on other Melbourne itineraries although it should be! Located behind the Southgate Centre, this 300m high tower with sweeping views over the city will help you appreciate the scale of Melbourne from above. Aside from taking in the view from the windows you’re also able to walk out onto a glass ledge if you dare. As the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll even find the Australia’s highest postbox up there!
You can book your Eureka Skydeck tickets in advance here.
DAY 3: Where to go shopping in Melbourne
If shopping is your therapy, you won’t be able to get enough in Melbourne! Because there are so many retailers I suggest searching through the store listings at each so you know what to look for once you get there. It’s all about being efficient, right? Here are my top picks for shopping up a storm in Melbourne:
DON’T MISS: Chadstone, The Fashion Capital
Have you even been shopping in Melbourne if you didn’t visit Chadstone Shopping Centre? The tagline for this massive mall is “The Fashion Capital” and it does not disappoint, although there are numerous stores besides fashion. It’s the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere (sensing a theme here?) so you could easily spend the most part of a day shopping. Located just 20 minutes from the CBD you’ll be able to find things here you won’t anywhere else.
Getting to Chadstone from Federation Square
A free bus runs from Federation Square to Chadstone Shopping Centre almost every hour (here’s the timetable). You do need to book your spot online in advance to avoid disappointment. A word of warning: Getting a spot on the free bus back to Fed Square of an afternoon is hardly possible unless you book a day or so in advance because it’s so popular (I’ve learnt the hard way!) Uber is also an option if you miss out on the free bus.
- Melbourne Emporium is home to many Australian designer stores as well as international retailers. Lots of dining options here, too.
- DFO South Wharf stores offer up to 70% off retail prices for electronics, cosmetics, clothing, shoes, jewellery, homewares and more. I always end up adding this to my annual Melbourne itinerary!
- Spencer Street Outlets It’s like a smaller version of DFO and located within the Grid. As the same suggests it’s on Spencer Street, right next to Southern Cross Station so you can’t miss it. Stores like TK Maxx, Ugg Shop and Australian clothing retailers can be found here.
- Collins Street Is where you’ll find high-end designer brands such as Dior, Chanel, Gucci and more.
- There are tonnes of little specialty stores dotted throughout the city so I recommend doing a quick Google search if you’re after something specific. If you love the latest in local designs, Melbournalia on Bourke Street offers unique Melbourne souvenirs and gifts that are locally made. Trendy wall prints, homewares and wearable souvenirs from Melbourne like T-shirts and scarves can also be found here. Give back to the community and support local!
DAY 4: St Kilda & Brighton Beaches
Spend a day exploring beyond the city’s borders! Heading out to the beachside suburbs in Melbourne’s south makes for a great day trip. You’ll be able to visit popular locations such as St Kilda & the colourful Brighton Beach Boxes. Here’s how!
How to get to St Kilda from Melbourne CBD
St Kilda is about 30 mins from Melbourne’s CBD by tram. Use tram #16 from Swanston Street, #96 from Bourke Street or #12 from Collins Street in the St Kilda direction. Just tap on your Myki card as you enter the tram.
Cost: AUD 4.40 one way.
Once you’re in St Kilda, you can spend some time at Luna Park with its many rides or take a photo outside its spooky entryway. If amusement parks aren’t your thing, enjoy a stroll along the St Kilda Promenade. If the weather is on your side you may also want to go for a swim! Just ensure you stay between the red and yellow flags, as lifesavers have marked this area to be the safest place for a dip depending on weather conditions.
How to get to Brighton Bathing Boxes
Before we look how to get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes, I’ll let you in on why they’re a significant Melbourne attraction. Did you know there’s more to these wooden sheds than meets the eye? The Brighton Bathing Boxes date back to the late 19th century and were inspired by those found in Europe and the UK at the time.
Even today, owners are not allowed to have electricity or running water in the beach boxes as to keep with their original form. Valuable little pieces of real estate, in 2017 a box sold for a record AUD 337,000!
It’s an incredibly rare event when these prestigious boxes come up for sale as they are usually passed down between generations. Only local residents are able to own the beach boxes – no outsiders or foreign investors permitted in order to help preserve the local identity. More below on the best way to get to them.
How to get to Brighton Beach Boxes from Melbourne CBD
Brighton Beach is super easy to reach by using the Metro trains. Simply catch the pink Sandringham Line from Flinders Street Station (in Sandringham direction) to Middle Brighton Station. It takes about 25 minutes. Melbournians complain about their rail network but I didn’t think it was any different to Sydney. It gets the job done! The bathing boxes are located on Dendy Street beach, so head north. You can also use your Myki card on the Metro.
Cost: AUD 4.40 one way.
NOTE: The beach is a 5 minute walk from Middle Brighton station. The station is in a quiet residential area so please spare a thought for the neighbours in this peaceful area and “be invisible”.
How to get to Brighton Beach Boxes from St Kilda
If you’re doing St Kilda and Brighton Beaches in the same day, the fastest way to get between the two is to use an Uber. Getting back to the CBD at the end of the day is easy via the Metro train from Middle Brighton Station, as mentioned above.
Once you’ve arrived at the southern end of Brighton Beach, the colourful beach boxes are a 10 minute walk north along the sand at Dendy Street Beach. Although, on a clear day you’ll be able to admire the view of the city skyline over the water from here! There are 89 bathing boxes altogether lining the shore, but you can be certain everyone will be waiting to take a photo with the iconic box sporting the Australian flag.
DAY 5: Alternative things to do in Melbourne
Choose your own adventure! Here’s some alternative things to do in and around Melbourne if you want to mix and match how you spend your final day. With so much to do, the hardest thing is deciding what to choose!
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
If you’re more into sports than shopping, you may be interested in taking a tour of Melbourne’s sporting arenas, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Rod Laver Arena. A guided tour will help you appreciate the scale of the grounds, and at the MCG you can visit the player’s changerooms, the famous Long Room and even walk on the grass to see the grounds from a player’s perspective. You don’t have to be a cricket fan to enjoy your time there, culture vultures will appreciate the longstanding traditions associated with the sport that have been upheld to this day.
More info and book a MCG & Rod Laver Arena Guided Tour here.
Queen Victoria Market
Are you a fan of fresh foodie markets? With over 140 years of history, you’re bound to enjoy the Queen Victoria Market! The Market covers a whopping 7 hectares and is packed with fresh produce, dairy, meat and fish. If you’d prefer a local show you significant sites that have helped shape its history, a guided tour may be for you. Complete with fresh food tasting, glass of wine and hot jam doughnut, what’s not to love?
More info and book a Queen Victoria Market Foodie Tour here.
Yarra River cruise
Why not experience a different side of Melbourne by taking a river cruise? These allow you to admire the city from a different perspective and you can also dine as you leisurely sail along the Yarra.
Royal Exhibition Hall & Carlton Gardens
As Australia’s very first UNESCO World Heritage listed site, The Royal Exhibition Hall dates back to 1879 and hosts numerous events each year. Check out their website to see if there’s an exhibition takes your fancy during your visit! Afterwards, you can enjoy exploring the tranquil Carlton Gardens outside. Located at the rear, the Melbourne Museum also provides an interesting insight into natural and cultural history. And again with the “largest in the Southern Hemisphere thing”… It’s the largest museum this half of the globe!
Day trips from Melbourne
Melbourne makes a great base to get out and explore more of the state of Victoria. If you’re not planning on hiring a car during your Melbourne trip, there are a few options with guided tours to help you get about. Some popular day trips from Melbourne are:
Great Ocean Road
Fancy seeing natural Australian attractions such as the Twelve Apostles? You’ll learn about how the iconic rock formations were created, get to visit Loch Ard Gorge and spend the afternoon strolling through the cute town of Port Campbell with its cafes, boutiques and galleries on a day tour from Melbourne.
If you’re a photography lover, there’s no better time to see the Twelve Apostles than sunset! The bonus about visiting at sunset means you’ll avoid the crowds of day trippers for a more peaceful experience. Remember to take a jacket during the cooler months as the temperature can drop quite rapidly after the sun sets.
More info and book your Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour tickets in advance here.
Do you love penguins and koalas? Get up close to these adorable little guys on Philip Island, about 2.5hrs south of Melbourne. Help support these animals in their native habitat at the Koala Conservation Centre and watch the penguins waddle on down to the beach at sunset – it’s been dubbed the “Penguin Parade!” Advance tickets for this guided day trip tour from Melbourne are valid for 6 months.
More info and book your Penguin Parade & Koala Conservation tickets in advance here.
Love wineries, cider and chocolates? You’ll feel right at home in the Yarra Valley. You’ll even find international brands like Chandon here in the vineyards. I did a self-guided day trip with my friends but if you prefer a guided tour then this Yarra Valley day trip to the wineries, chocolaterie and ice-creamery may be for you!
Want even more ideas for your Melbourne itinerary?
Where to eat in Melbourne
As I’ve mentioned previously, Melbourne is a foodie lover’s paradise! There are so many places to eat with cuisines from all corners of the globe, from trendy to high teas and gourmet buffets. You’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice and wish you had a second stomach to indulge in it all!
Head to Lonsdale Street to satisfy your Greek cravings, the entire Chinatown area around Little Bourke Street for Asian cuisine (Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese are popular choices here). Hardware Lane and McKilliop Street have a bunch of al fresco eateries including Italian, Mexican, Thai and Australian cuisines. You’re bound to find something you’ll love!
Here’s some recommendations for places to eat in Melbourne that are my personal favourites:
- Melba Buffet at the Langham Hotel – More on the pricey side, but this gourmet buffet is totally worth every cent. There’s extensive seafood choices, meats, cheeses, desserts… You name it, it’s there! They even had a chocolate fountain fondue during my visit. Many hot options at the buffet are cooked fresh to order by a specialised chef, just for you. Ensure you book in advance.
- Sofitel No 35 – Incredible views from 35 floors up! Enjoy gazing down over Melbourne’s CBD, Southbank and Port Philip Bay while you dine and watch the sun set.
- Attica – Proudly a 3-hat restaurant (Aussie version of Michelin stars), Attica has been voted #2 Australia’s best restaurant and #32 restaurant in the ENTIRE world! You’ll need to book this one about three months in advance if you know you’ll be visiting Melbourne, but it’s an unforgettable gastronomical experience. I can still taste the Snow Crab whenever I think about it!
- Takumi – If you love your Japanese food like me, you can’t miss Takumi’s Japanese BBQ. For me it reminds me of being in Japan without being in Japan. Try their amazing wagyu beef to cook yourself at your table (image below). I can never get enough of the harami meat! Book a table at least a day or two in advance if possible as they can get very busy.
- Restaurants in Block Lane – This covered alleyway is crammed with trendy little eateries. Australian, Italian, Greek cuisines… You can’t really go wrong here and can usually just turn up if you’re not travelling as part of a big group.
- The high tea hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel is very good. I enjoyed switching out the Champagne option for Espresso martinis. The scones are divine and martinis delicious! Another one to book in advance.
How to get to Melbourne
Melbourne has two airports: Tullamarine and Avalon. Tullamarine is closer to the city and is where most international flights will arrive, as well as many domestic.
Getting to Melbourne city from Tullamarine Airport
Melbourne Tullamarine airport is located 24 kilometres from the city, about 30mins by car. Unfortunately, there is no train from the airport (c’mon Melbourne, even Sydney has this!) so the easiest way to get to the city centre is either with Uber or a taxi. The yellow taxis are ok but sometimes aren’t always the cleanest.
Depending on the time of day, a taxi or Uber will cost around AUD 45.00 – 60.00 and a private driver around AUD 75.00.
There’s also the SkyBus as an option. It runs directly from Tullamarine Airport to Southern Cross Station in Melbourne’s CBD. The journey takes about 30 – 40 minutes. It’s a very cost-effective way to get to the city at only AUD 16.00 and the advance tickets are valid for 3 months from date of purchase!
More info and book your Tullamarine SkyBus ticket in advance here.
Getting to Melbourne city from Avalon Airport
Avalon airport is much further from Melbourne city (50 kilometres), about an hour by car. This distance is why you may see super cheap domestic flights there. Remember to take into account the extra time and transport cost to get to the city, as it can between AUD 100.00 – 130.00 to reach the city in a taxi so that cheap flight might not be so cheap after all!
There is also a SkyBus that runs directly from Avalon to Melbourne CBD. The journey takes about an hour. As with the Tullamarine SkyBus, advance tickets are also valid for 3 months from the date of purchase. Handy!
More info and book your Avalon SkyBus ticket in advance here.
Things to know before you go to Melbourne
You’ll need a Myki card to use the trams and Metro trains. It can be purchased from a number of locations, perhaps the easiest being convenience stores such as 7-Eleven. It costs AUD 15.00, where it’s AUD 6.00 for the card and AUD 9.00 of preloaded credit. Here’s where you can purchase a Myki card and top it up. If you plan on revisiting Melbourne in the future, hold on to your card instead of throwing it away so you can use it again.
Make sure you tap on with your Myki card when using the trams and buses, and tap off once you exit so the correct fare is deducted from your balance. For the Public Transport Victoria train, tram and bus network maps, click here.
Unlike Sydney’s double-decker trains, Melbourne’s trains are more European in style as they’re only one level. Keep in mind the doors do not always open automatically, so if there’s no other passengers you may have to pull the doors to trigger them to open.
On the train map, Zone 1 is the area with the white background and Zone 2 is in the grey. You’ll only need Zone 1 for this Melbourne itinerary.
As mentioned previously, the trams are free to use within the Grid. If you plan on using the trams to go further than the Grid, including south of Princes Bridge, you’ll need to tap on with your Myki card.
In the absence of “lock out laws” that Sydney is burdened with, Melbourne makes it easy for everyone to dance the night away until the wee hours of the morning! There’s a fantastic pub culture here so get involved and enjoy it alongside the locals.
Concluding my 5 days in Melbourne Itinerary
So this wraps up how to spend 5 days in Melbourne. With dozens of fascinating sights, delicious cuisines, endless shopping options, pristine beaches, street art galore and more, you may wish to stay longer!
What are your thoughts on this Melbourne itinerary? I hope I’ve managed to inspire you to experience the best of this incredible city through ideas from my frequent visits. Hopefully you’ll end up loving Melbourne as much as I do!
Melbourne is one of my all-time favourite city break destinations and maybe after your visit, it will be yours too. If you found this itinerary for Melbourne helpful, please share it with your friends and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for more!
Until next time,
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