Got some time to spare while you’re in town for the Australian Open? From street art and laneway bars to shopping and shows, try these iconic experiences.
Snap a stunning photo
Pause on bustling heritage Princes Bridge and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Yarra. To the east, there’s Fed Square’s contemporary architecture. Plus acres of parkland and the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground. Look west to see the river lined with skyscrapers. And the Arts Centre spire and iconic Flinders Street Railway Station. A must-visit location for photographers across the board, the bridge is especially popular at sunset.
Drink aboard Arbory Afloat
Arbory Afloat is back for its fourth summer on the Yarra River. It’s the place to be for drinks and bites not just by, but on the water. This season, Melbourne’s famous alfresco floating bar has a luxe Aussie beach house theme. Think wicker chairs, striped brollies, lush greenery and pizzas. There’s even a pool! Come and raise a pink gin cocktail to summer in Melbourne.
Visit a blockbuster exhibition
Melbourne loves art, and right now the show to see is the NGV Triennial. The large-scale exhibition features contemporary art, design and architecture from across the globe. That means 86 projects by more than 100 artists from over 30 countries. See how the world’s creatives are viewing our world at this interesting time in history. Visit at night for Triennial Extra, a free late-night fest of music, food, bars and art.
Eat dumplings in Chinatown
Melburnians are totally devoted to dumplings. Ideally enjoyed among the bright lights, spicy scents and Asian accents of Chinatown. Devour these bundles of joy at HuTong, or the city outpost of renowned Tim Ho Wan. The queue outside Shanghai Street is often long for good reason, but don’t worry, it moves quickly. East China Trading Company is another top pick. Though here, your dumplings are paired with gin cocktails. For much more, see our ultimate guide to Chinatown blog.
Take a free tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens
Find out just how special our botanical gardens are by taking a free tour. Led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll gain insider info on the gardens’ history and plant diversity. Not to mention their many quirky details. The tours run on Sundays and Wednesdays, from 10.30am to midday.
Rediscover Melbourne's most beautiful shops
Go retro at Vintage Sole and Reina, or find curated designer fashion at Christine on Collins. Make it super local and ethical at Collective Closets and Queen Victoria Women’s Centre’s SHOP! Add a classic tailored jacket to your wardrobe from Viktoria & Woods. And pair it with stylish podiatrist-designed sandals from Bared. Refresh your lounge room with fresh new homewares from Make Designed Objects. Then browse your way through the boutiques lining Royal Arcade and the Block Arcade.
Go to a pop-up cinema
Melbourne’s movie lovers make the most of summer by taking it outdoors. The Big Screen at Fed Square is lighting up with 80s classics, from Splash to Labyrinth. On Saturday evenings, catch an iconic flick during the Hellenic Museum’s Summer Cinema season. The big daddy of open-air movies is Moonlight Cinema in Melbourne Gardens. The program includes old favourites like Back to the Future and recent hits The Dry and Penguin Bloom. Over at ACMI, classics like Metropolis are screening outdoors with live scores performed by local musicians.
Visit Little Italy on Lygon Street
Lygon Street has long been known as Melbourne’s Little Italy. A short tram ride from the central business district, it’s still the place for a taste of la dolce vita. Favourites include Tiamo, Brunetti, Donnini’s Restaurant and King & Godfree. Taste your way up each level to K&G’s rooftop bar, Johnny’s Green Room, for panoramic views of the city. And add Italian staples from Pidapipo Gelateria and Leonardo’s Pizza Palace.
Discover street art
Melbourne is renowned for its street art, but the good stuff is hidden in the city’s nooks and crannies. Get the lowdown with our street art guide. It maps the route for a self-guided walk through the city’s art-lined laneways. From Strachan Lane to Bender Lane, the walk takes in 11 spots. While you’re in Hosier Lane, stop off for a margarita at Tres a Cinco’s pop-up laneway bar. The new street art is inspired by Alice in Wonderland, in vivid colours as trippy as the theme.
Drink in a hidden bar
Many visitors never discover some of Melbourne’s best bars. That’s because they’re hidden down laneways and behind secret doors. Favourites include basement level Bar Margaux, with a Paris-meets-New York vibe. Peruse the epic cocktail menu at prohibition-style bar Eau de Vie. Pop in for a negroni at teeny-tiny Bar Americano, tucked down a dogleg alley off an arcade. Hidden doors lead to drinks and games at Bartronica. It’s a grown-up arcade-game heaven. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss Chuckle Park, an open-air bar off Little Collins Street. And dip into basement-level Bar Clara for cocktails with a carbon positive garnish. As a super green twist, they’re planting a tree for every cocktail served. Now if there’s a better excuse for ordering a second Banoffee Special, we’d like to hear it.
See a show
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to big shows in Melbourne. After New York and London, Melbourne was the third city in the world to host Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Another international hit on stage right now is Come From Away. Coming attractions include Moulin Rouge, Chess the Musical and Friends! The Musical Parody. The Australian Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth is on outdoors in the Melbourne Gardens. Or try your luck with tixatsix. A limited number of $30 tickets are available every day at 6pm for shows at Arts Centre Melbourne.
More iconic Melbourne experiences
Hidden Secrets Tours
Indulge and discover the city's hidden charm with Melbourne's original laneway walking tours.
The ultimate guide to Chinatown
Where to eat, drink and karaoke the night away in Melbourne's famous Chinatown precinct.
Queen Vic Market Ultimate Foodie Tour
A fascinating guided walking tour of the city's iconic market.
10 rooftop bars and eateries you can book
The city is opening up, the weather is warming up, and the best bevs in town are right upstairs.
Private Melbourne Walking Tour
Walking tours designed for your family, office, school group, or club.
The best dog-friendly staycations in Melbourne
From hotels to fine dining, Melbourne's just better when you can bring your dog.
Melbourne Street Art Tours
Local guides treat you to some of Melbourne's underground treasures.
Last updated on Thu 11 Feb 2021
Sign up to What's On weekly
Thanks for signing up!
8 experiences that make you a true Melburnian
Plenty of Melbourne’s attractions are well known. Here's our guide to getting off the beaten track.
Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
Attraction in Docklands providing panoramic views of Melbourne.