What To See In Melbourne In 5 Days

Melbourne is Australia’s art capital. More like the capitals of Europe than Australian cities like Brisbane and Sydney, Melbourne offers you a completely different side to Australia. Turns out, there is a lot more to Oz than beaches and blue oceans.

Founded as a free settlement instead of being the convict-built city like Sydney, Melbourne feels much older than the other Australian cities. It feels more like New York mixed with London – quirky and artsy but with history on every street.

Hoiser Lane covered in street art in Melbounrne

Day 1: Explore Central Melbourne

Like when visiting any place, it’s best to start in the centre, in the beating heart of the city. Start your first day in Melbourne at Flinders Street Station & Federation Square. Flinders Street is one of Melbourne’s most iconic and historic building, being the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city since it’s opening in 1854. It is also an impressive building that has stayed the same since it first started servicing the people of Melbourne, even as the city around it changed. Federation Square next door to Flinders Street Station is the city’s meeting place and the venue for art, music, political and cultural events all year round. There is always something going on here and always worth a visit!

Flinders Street Station victorian train station

Once you’ve become acquainted with Fed Square and Flinders Street, it’s time for a spot of breakfast (when is it not?). Australians love their coffee, and Melbourne is known for being proud of its caffeine culture – it would be rude not to sample their favourite (non-alcoholic) drink on your trip. There are plenty of coffee houses and cafes to choose from. For some great coffee that the locals love, head to Dukes Coffee Roasters, a small coffee house nestled along Flinders Lane. For a breakfast fit for a king, establishments like Om Nom, Hardware Societe and Rustica.

street art of faces
street art of child's face on building

Full of yummy food and energised by some of Melbourne’s premium coffee, it’s time to get exploring again. As I said, Melbourne is Australia’s art capital. But you don’t have to go to the galleries to get a flavour for the artistic spirit here. One of the best ways to see the city’s love of art, is to head to the laneways. These networks of alleys and small streets have become the city’s canvas, decorated with stunning street art and murals. The best thing is, exploring the laneways is free and a great way to see a lot of the city. Follow this easy route around Melbourne’s laneways to see the best of the city’s street art by yourself! Grab some food en route while you are exploring, or head to a nearby cafe when you need a rest bite.

Once you’ve explored Melbourne’s laneways, your first day in Melbourne will be drawing to a close. Finish the day by trying out some of Melbourne’s Asian food by heading to Chin Chin for dinner. This place creates amazing Asian delicacies merged with a truly Melbourne way of dinning – a social hub full of an eclectic bunch of people, surrounded by art and while enjoying the sensory overload from the plate in front of you. The cocktails aren’t half bad either.

old fashioned tram

Day 2: Dive Into Melbourne’s History

Start your second day by diving a little more into Melbourne’s history by taking the 35 City Circle Tram. This is a free tourist tram that is an easier and convenient way to get around Melbourne’s CBD, as well as taking you to key historical sites across the city. You can catch the 35 City Circle Tram from any of these stops, and hop on and off as much as you like throughout the day!

white victorian building

Take the City Circle Tram to Carlton Gardens, where you can spend your morning exploring this gorgeous park, admiring the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building, and learning something new at the Melbourne Museum. Once you feel like you’ve taken in plenty of information for the morning, take the City Circle Tram to Queen Victoria Market. This 19th-century market is not only a great place to grab a bite to eat, but also is one of the best places to see the life of the city in action. Stalls selling arts, crafts, sweet treats, foodie delights and gifts decorate the market hall, while people mill in and out. It’s got an exciting buzz of activity that really gives you a feel for what Melbourne is like – also the food is fantastic.

If you have time to spare if the afternoon, head to either the State Library or the Immigration Museum. I opted for the State Library because it is a beautiful building and I am also a self-admitted bookworm so I am naturally drawn to any rooms that house books! Once you have finished at the State Library, or the Immigration Museum depending on your choice, head to MoVida for some well-deserved food. Right next to Melbourne’s most famous laneway – Hosier Lane – MoVida Original or MoVida Next Door (literally next door to the other restaurant) are the places to go for drool-worthy Spanish cuisine. Their tapas are to die for, and I would certainly recommend asking the staff for recommendations – they know their stuff!

Day 3: Get Cultured

Kick your third day in Melbourne off with a morning of being cultured. Head to the iconic Town Hall to attend one of their tours to learn about the building’s place in the history of the city. You will see the grand Council Chamber, stand on the balcony where the Beatles and the Queen have stood, generally have a nosy about. The tours run Monday-Friday 11am – noon, 1pm – 2pm, but get there at least 10 minutes early to get a space on the tour!

old sandstone victorian town hall Melbourne

After your miniature history tour around Melbourne’s Town Hall, head over the river to the Southbank where you’ll find the National Gallery of Victoria. Spend the remainder of the morning admiring the vast array of art that the gallery has on show. The National Gallery has around 75,000 works of art, so I’d be surprised if there isn’t something there that suits your tastes! From Australian and Asian art, to contemporary and modern artists from around the world, there is plenty to see!

city by a river

After having such a cultured morning, spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens. These vast public gardens are a wonderful inner-city oasis from the bustling atmosphere of Melbourne. I’d recommend bringing some food and having a picnic in the gardens, soaking up the Australian sun!  

About two hours before sunset, start making your way from the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Eureka Skydeck. This observation tower is just behind the National Gallery of Victoria, and offers views of Melbourne, 297 metres above street level! By getting to the Eureka Skydeck before sunset, you’ll be able to see Melbourne both in daylight, sunset and nightfall – seeing the city from every light! This is one of the best things you can do in Melbourne and is truly an unforgettable experience. Make sure that you have booked your tickets beforehand to avoid the potentially lengthy queues.

After admiring the city from above, head back down to ground level and walk along Southbank by the Yarra River. There are loads of fantastic restaurants on both sides of the river. Why not head to Nobu for some damn good Japanese food, 400 Gradi for the best Italian nosh, and Bistro Guillaume is your go-to for class with a side of expert French cuisine (that won’t break the bank).

coastline Great Ocean Road

Day 4 & 5: Great Ocean Road

After having spent three days exploring what inner-city Melbourne, it’s time to explore further afield. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic parts of Victoria and is beyond worth the trip out of Melbourne. Whether you do a long day trip, or plan an overnight stay, you can explore the Great Ocean Road yourself by hiring a van or car, or opting to join one of the many group tours that will pick you up and return you to your accommodation. The beauty of exploring the Great Ocean Road is it takes very little planning. It won’t be long after you drive out of Melbourne that you’ll be able to see the beauty of Victoria’s coast for yourself. Start by driving from Melbourne’s city centre to Torquay. Then all you have to do is drive on the same road all the way up to Nelson on the South Australian border. But make sure to stop and admire the views as you go!

12 Apostles rocks on beach coastline

There are numerous stops along the Great Ocean Road where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. The quaint old village of Port Fairy and the arty town of Lorne are good refreshment points for when you need to stretch your legs or call it a day. Make sure not to miss the 12 Apostles – the iconic limestone stacks are an unmissable wonder that you have to see! Gibsons Steps and Loch And Gorge are also essential must-sees to really take in the beauty of this coastline. If you want to see more of the Yarra Valley, there are plenty of wine-tasting opportunities to take advantage of! The important part of this part of your trip to Melbourne is to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes you’ll be exploring – don’t rush from one stop to the next just to cross them all off, take your time!

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