Melbourne (Pronounced “Melbun”) has the second largest population of cities in Australia at 4.2 million people and is rapidly growing, with some estimates predicting that the population will be nearing 8 million by the year 2050.
It rates very highly in things like health care, entertainment, education, sport, and tourism, and in 2015, for the 5th year in a row, was named the Most Liveable City in the world. As such, there are definitely no shortages when it comes to finding Melbourne travel attractions.
To find out how to find the cheapest flights to Australia, and also within Australia, please see our flights post.
With regards to getting from the airport to the city, though, you have several options. The main airport in Melbourne in Tullamarine is 22 kilometres (~13.6 miles) from the Melbourne CBD. That drive takes roughly 30 minutes, however, it’s quite expensive in a taxi and will generally cost between $50 and $65 AUD.
The best option by far, in my opinion, is to instead take the SkyBus. These shuttle buses run every 10 minutes during the day, and slightly less frequently in the early AM hours (Usually once every 30 minutes or so), but you’ll have no problem getting one at any time of the day. You can book them online, but that’s unnecessary. You can just buy a one way ticket for $18 from a ticket booth outside of either Terminal 1 or Terminal 3 at the airport, and the bus will take you straight to Southern Cross Station, in the heart of the city. You can see the full timetable information here.
Where To Stay
The Melbourne CBD is definitely a good option when deciding what area to stay. The city is very accessible either by foot or public transport, and you’ll be in close proximity to just about everything you need.
I personally like the area around Collins Street which has plenty of options, however, you really can’t go wrong anywhere in the CBD in what is an incredibly safe city. Click here to see all of the CBD hotel options available.
Southbank is roughly 1 kilometre (~0.62 miles) South of the CBD, and is a really nice waterfront area. This area is where the Crown Casino is, and as such, there are a huge amount of restaurants, bars, cafes, and places to shop.
In terms of accommodation, there are plenty of options of both hotels and serviced apartments, including staying at the casino itself.
If being directly in the city isn’t your thing, consider staying in St Kilda, which is about 6 kilometres (~3.7 miles) from the city centre and is also very accessible via public transport. St Kilda is a really nice area by the beach, and is well known for both its restaurants and nightlife.
St Kilda is a really good base to explore Melbourne. If you’re a backpacker, unfortunately there aren’t as many good options as the city, however, Habitat HQ is probably the pick of the bunch.
What To Do
Here are 5 things to do in Melbourne:
Visit the Melbourne Laneways
Throughout the CBD you will find heaps of laneways that have become really popular over the last 20-30 years among both tourists to the city, and also the locals. They are known for their displays of artwork, as pictured above, as well small cafes and hidden bars.
You may not have time to see them all, but you should definitely stop by Centre Place, Hosier Lane, Hardware Lane, and AC/DC Lane.
Experience Luna Park
Luna Park is an amusement park in St Kilda that was built in 1912. It is a truly “old school” styled theme park and can make for a great family outing.
Even if you don’t plan on spending all day there, it’s located right by the beach and many of great options to eat and drink in St Kilda, so just about everyone can find something they enjoy within the area.
Watch the footy at the MCG
Australian Rules Football (Not rugby) is widely popular all throughout the country, however, before the league became a national one, it was the Victorian Football League (The state which Melbourne is the capital of). As such, most of the teams are based in Melbourne, and in a city that is truly sport crazy, Aussie Rules is king.
It’s a Winter sport, so the season runs generally from March until late September, with the biggest matches at the ‘G attracting up to 100,000 people. For an intro into what the sport is all about, see this video.
Discover Little Italy in Lygon Street
Italians are the second largest ethnic group in Melbourne, and of the 180,000 Italians living in Australia, a touch under 40% of them are in Melbourne. There are plenty of options for nightlife along Lygon Street, but what it’s best well known for, as you might have guessed, is its food.
There are way too many great restaurants to list, but some that you can check out are 400 Gradi, Bar Idda, and Tiamo. Also, as Lygon Street stretches through multiple suburbs and is not just limited to Little Italy, if you want to try some other cuisine check out the Japanese restaurant Kumo Izakaya, or get some Greek-Cypriot food from Hellenic Republic, owned by one of Australia’s most well known chefs, George Calombaris.
See Federation Square
Federation Square is a large development right in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, across the road from the busiest train station in the city, Flinders Street. Known for it’s interesting architecture, Fed Square regularly has outdoor performances and is often used as a meeting place for people, given its location.
There’s always lots of people around, so whether you just want to sit and people watch, or grab a bite to eat or have a few drinks, there’s plenty of options here.
Assuming you’re going to be predominately spending your time in the areas I’ve discussed in this post, getting around Melbourne is really easy, and you definitely won’t need a car unless you plan on venturing out into the suburbs.
In order to use the public transport in Melbourne, you’ll need to buy a Myki card. You can buy a value pack created especially for visitors from the Melbourne Visitor Centre located in Federation Square. Alternatively, you can buy them from convenience stores or vending machines at train stations, and some tram stops.
For most people visiting Melbourne, you’ll generally only need to have access to Zone 1, but you can see the full maps of each zone here to make sure. One other thing about Myki to note is that at most stations in Melbourne there aren’t any barriers that open once your card has been scanned, and the cards can be a bit unreliable at times, so you may think that the card has “touched on,” when it actually hasn’t.
This isn’t a big thing to worry about, but just something to be aware of to ensure you don’t end up getting fined for not having a valid ticket. Also, see this link on the PTV website for more information about how to use a Myki card correctly.
Trains run frequently throughout the day in Melbourne, but like most cities, get really busy during peak times which can occasionally lead to delays. There are 5 stations within the CBD region (Flinders Street, Southern Cross, Parliament, Melbourne Central, and Flagstaff) so it’s very easy for you to get around the city by train.
As pictured below, you’ll see a lot of trams during your time in Melbourne, as the city actually has the largest tram network in the world. Like trains, you can use your Myki cards for tram rides, and there is even a completely free tram route in the CBD called the “City Circle” which you can see timetables and the map of here.
One thing to note, though, is that you should be aware exactly where you are when on the City Circle route, as ticket inspectors have been known to jump on at the first stop immediately outside of the zone to fine people.
Lastly, as of January 1st, 2016, public transport on both Friday and Saturday nights is now available 24 hours a day. There are trains, trams, buses, and coaches running, and you can see the full details including timetables at this link.
The 2 largest taxi companies in Melbourne are 13CABS (Phone number 132-227), and Silver Top (Phone number 131-008). In the city there will be a huge amount of them around that you can hail, with most of them being yellow, but also some that are silver.
The taxi network is fairly safe, but can sometimes be unreliable, just as taxis are in many parts of the world. As an alternative, Uber is also available in Melbourne, and a better alternative to taxis, in my opinion.
Other Things You Should Know
- Melburnians have developed a reputation as being coffee snobs, and while that’s true, it means there is a huge amount of great coffee on offer, so enjoy.
- Melbourne’s weather is erratic and you’ll often hear locals describe it as “four seasons in one day.” Be aware of this when thinking about what you’re going to wear on any given day.
- Footy is king. I mentioned this earlier, but Melbourne truly has a crazy obsession with the AFL. You will see it on every TV and in every newspaper.
- There are several barbers in Melbourne (Namely Dr. Follicles) that will, upon sitting down for a haircut, give you a free beer to help pass the time.
- Melbourne has an enormous Greek population (The largest in the world outside of Athens), so you should definitely stop by a Greek restaurant at least once.
All in all, Melbourne is a great city to visit, and you’ll love your time here. Have any questions? Ask us in the comments.