The Perfect Melbourne Itinerary (2023) – Things to Do, Travel Guide & Places to Eat
Two days in Melbourne might seem like an awfully short time to explore a fantastic Australian city but if you are faced with limited time as I was when I visited for just over 48 hours a couple months ago, it is still possible to cover a bit of ground when it comes to the sights and eats in this world-class city Down Under.
Here is a suggested itinerary that you can do easily for two days to four days in Melbourne even without renting your own car.
Day 1 – Melbourne CBD
Laid out in a grid, the streets of Melbourne’s CBD are highly easy to navigate. This is an intuitive place to start your exploration of the city where many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other or just a short tram ride apart. I would recommend starting from the west and working your way to the center and the east where most of the interesting places are located. A hidden gem in Melbourne is 333 Collins Street, an unassuming office building from the outside but housing a beautiful lobby and dome. You’d be forgiven to think you’re somewhere in Europe!
From here, walk to the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade, a duo of historic shopping centers dating back from the Victorian era. The shops here are mostly high-end but it’s worth a short stroll to check out the fascinating architecture. As you are window-shopping anyway, might as well catch a ride on the free tram and head northwards to the Queen Victoria Market (open daily except Mondays and Wednesdays), the most well-known market in the city. If you are there at around noon, grab lunch in one of the specialty food stalls. There’s always something interesting being sold here – from fresh seafood, pastries and even drinks. Alternatively, if you’d like to explore more of Melbourne’s markets, you can check out Prahran Market or the South Melbourne Market.
If you are feeling peckish while walking around Melbourne’s downtown, you can check out Kariton Sorbetes (177 Russell Street), a Filipino-inspired ice cream shop. Try the ube gelato that is served with purple yam fudge, blackberry jam and caramelized coconut curds.
After spending a couple of hours in the sprawling market, make your way down via tram or foot to the State Library of Victoria. Another attraction that you should not miss in Melbourne, the building is known for its highly instagrammable La Trobe Reading Room which has an octagonal shape and a dome which was the largest in the world when it was completed back in 1913.
Head south via the Swanston Street tram to Flinders Street Railway Station, a city landmark. Other notable attractions such as the St. Paul’s Cathedral and Hosier Lane are within reach from here. The latter is especially known for its graffiti and at any given time, you’ll find people spraying paint all over the walls – making for a new scene with every visit. While Hosier Lane is probably the most well-known, Melbourne has several interesting lanes and some other examples include the following:
- Centre Place – very photogenic due to its many neon signs lining either side of the narrow path that mimick busier places like Tokyo or Hong Kong. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars here.
- Hardware Lane – atmospheric area filled with restaurants and cafes, giving off an European vibe.
- AC/DC Lane – tribute to the Australian rock band. You’ll find some bars and night clubs here dedicated to rock and roll.
A short walk from Hosier Lane is Melbourne’s Art Precinct. Located south of the Yarra River and connected through the Princes Bridge, the Art Precinct comprises of attractions such as the futuristic Arts Centre Melbourne, a performing arts venue, as well as the National Gallery of Victoria. This is a free tour that is held at 11AM on most days and runs through some of the more notable artworks by local artists. In the nearby Federation Square, one will find the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia which also has a focus on local artists.
For dinner, I would recommend heading to Rice, Paper Scissors (19 Liverpool Street, +613 9663 9890). It is a Southeast Asian restaurant but even I (who also comes from Southeast Asia) was blown away by the food. There is a distinct Australian twist to the dishes with influences that range from Thailand to the Philippines but most are worth trying.
Day 2 – Fitzroy and Collingwood
While Melbourne already has a reputation for being a “hipster city” – this is probably nowhere else more apparent than in Fitzroy and Collingwood. The area is filled with art galleries, studios, hip cafes as well as independent fashion brands. These two suburbs are best explored by going on a walking tour that takes in Brunswick Street – Johnston Street – Smith Street and then Gertrude Street where most of the interesting establishments are. If you are feeling peckish, check out Naked for Satan (285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; +61 3 9416 2238) which also has a nice rooftop bar. If you are there for lunch, all dishes are priced at S$9 – around half of the usual price. If you prefer to have breakfast/brunch food instead, check out Stagger Lee’s Cafe just across the street. Aside from great coffee, they also have excellent crumpets.
If you don’t mind the fifteen to twenty minute walk, you can head to the Carlton Gardens – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – to soak in some greenery and the magnificence of the Royal Exhibition Building which dates back from 1880.
Many visitors who intend to explore the day trip destinations around Melbourne hire a car but even without one, it is possible to venture to some attractions via public transport. An example is the Brighton Bathing Boxes which has become an ubiquitous part of most tourists’ Melbourne itinerary. A 40+ minute train ride from Parliament Railway Station which is a short walk from Carlton Gardens, the row of colorful and brightly decorated beach houses are highly instagrammable and considered one of the most iconic attractions around Melbourne.
For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Red Spice QV (37 Artemis Lane, +61 3 8660 6300). The Five-Spiced Pork Belly is a must!
Day 3 – Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most spectacular stretch of road. Covering 240 kilometers, visitors can expect plenty of twists and turns as well as natural attractions along the way.
To cover the Great Ocean Road, allocate at least a day. You can choose to rent a car or book a day tour. Must-see stops include Port Campbell National Park, Great Otway National Park as well as the Twelve Apostles. You will also get to see some scenic towns along the way such as Geelong and Torquay.
While most visitors invariably drive up until the Twelve Apostles area, do note that the Great Ocean Road actually stretches longer than that – up to the town of Warrnambool. From that additional stretch from Twelve Apostles to Warrnambool, you will get to see some more rock formations and lookout points such as the Magic Rock and Bay of Islands. These are not as impressive as those found on the main trail so I’d suggest extending until Warrnambool only if you really have lots of spare time.
Day 4 – Yarra Valley
Explore the lush green valleys immediately to the east of Melbourne by going on a gourmet tour of Yarra Valley. Typical trips take you to three wineries and you can sip different types of wines and have some of Yarra’s fresh farm cheese to go along. Lunch is typically provided in these tours with a customary stop at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie at the end. Allot an entire day for the trip. You can book this tour here.
Day Trips If You Have More Time to Spare
To save on costs, you can also consider going with a pre-arranged tour for your day trip destinations. Check out Shopback in order to gain cashback with tour operators such as Klook and Voyagin. Better yet, check out their ShopFest in order to get even better deals during special sale days like single’s day or the 12/12 online fever.
- Philip Island – sighting of penguins
- Ballarat – a glimpse of Australia back in the days of the gold rush
- Grampians National Park
Tip: If you need a local sim card for all your data needs, you can conveniently purchase one here. You can pick-up from the lockers regardless of the time of day you arrive in Melbourne.
Getting to the City From Airport
You can either try a ridesharing app such as UBER (around A$40 to A$50) but the cheapest way to get to town is by taking the SkyBus (A$20.05 for a one-way trip).
Where to Stay in Melbourne
Budget: Situated at the fringes of the city center and a few minutes walk from the State Library, Space Hotel is a colorful budget hotel filled with amenities such as a jacuzzi/hot tub in their rooftop and sweeping views of the CBD. You can choose between dorm beds, private rooms with shared bathrooms or private rooms with your own bathroom.
Midrange: I stated at the relatively new Novotel Melbourne South Wharf which is located in the hip riverside area called South Bank. Rooms are spacious, decently-priced and most important – new. To get to the CBD, you’ll just need to cross the bridge to the other side of the city.
Upscale: If you prefer something more plush, the Pan Pacific Melbourne which is just next to the Novotel is also a great choice. All rooms boast of deep-soaking tub and floor-to-ceiling windows.
You can also check for deals on other Melbourne hotels here.