For the non-foodie...
Reputation: food: fancy food, expensive food, queuing for food, talking about food...
Why you should go: great shopping. World-class street art and museums. Excellent markets. A great place to take the kids.
A quick note about accessibility in Melbourne: Melbourne is a very easy city to get around even if you've got a pushchair or use a mobility device.
Everything’s free unless stated.
Get lost in the laneways
Melbourne is famous for it's labyrinth of small lanes and alleys between Flinders and La Trobe streets. The lanes contain a fabulous mix of street art, boutiques and cafes. Our favourites are Degraves Street, Centre Place and the Block Arcade for cafes, shopping and a good dose of Melbourne's grungy atmosphere, and AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place for street art. Here's a link to a video of the street art in Melbourne. Our thanks to Mick Russell at Linchpin Studios, Melbourne.
There are many guides to this area but our advice is: just get lost.
Hunt for a bargain at Queen Victoria Market
If you like markets, you'll LOVE Queen Victoria Market on Elizabeth Street. It's the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere and has a huge range of clothing, souvenirs, crafts and food. It's easy to get lost but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're self-catering, you'll find an excellent range of fresh produce here.
Get your culture on
Melbourne has some awesome museums. National Gallery of Victoria hosts a wide range of Australian and international art, and regularly hosts exhibitions from the likes of Ai Wei Wei, Andy Warhol and Dior. It's also got a programme for the most-difficult-to-please: teens. It's worth visiting for its permanent collection of Aboriginal art.
Kids love, love, love ScienceWorks where they learn all about science without realising it because they're having so much fun. All the exhibits are interactive and encourage kids to think about how stuff works. It's located outside the CDB and is easy to reach by train from Flinders Street station - hop off at Spotswood and then it's a 10 minute walk.
If you prefer your culture with more of a grungy edge, jump on a tram to Prahran and head to Revolver Upstairs on Chapel Street. Revolver Upstairs is a multi-arts venue: live music, exhibition space, restaurant and nightclub. It's also home to a world-class collection of street art, including some Banksy. Open pretty much all the time except Mondays.
Melbourne's shopping is fabulous. If you love to buy or just look at expensive treats, head to the 'Paris end' of Collins Street (between Swanston and Exhibition streets) for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes. Check out Miss Louise for designer shoes, bags and accessories. Pay a visit to Cose Ipanema for Dries Van Noten. The laneways have some great treats including Marais for Lanvin, Balenciaga and Off White and Zambesi for lots of edgy black.
High street brands, like Zara, H&M and Foot Locker, are well represented in the Bourke Street pedestrian mall. Also in the mall are department stores David Jones and Myer. Looking for the world's best skincare and make-up brands? Head to Meccacosmetica in Myer on Bourke Street Mall. Think Nars, Hourglass, Diptyque, Eve Lom...you get the idea.
On your travels around Melbourne, keep an eye out for Aesop, our favourite Australian skincare brand. It has stores all over town. The body products are divine and the service is great.
If you prefer all your shopping under one roof the Melbourne Emporium, behind David Jones and Myer, is a shopper's paradise: Coach, Georg Jensen, Boss, Le Creuset, Marimekko and Aussie labels Dion Lee and Bianca Spender. You'll also find Topshop, Uniqlo, SuperDry, Muji...the list goes on. Our award for 'best shop for women of every size' (if we gave out such a thing) goes to Nicola Waite, an Aussie designer making beautiful clothes in sizes 8-22. They're pricey but worth it. Or you can head to Chadstone Shopping Centre with over 350 luxury and high street stores. The easiest way to get there is on the free bus from ACMI. Free, yay!
Go sports crazy
Melbourne is sports-mad. And the centre of this madness is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The MCG is HUGE and seats over 100,000 people. It has to be experienced to be truly appreciated so check out what's on and just go. Even if you're not a sports fan, yelling your head off for a couple of hours is a great way to spend an afternoon. It's also the best place to watch cricket for the first time (try a Twenty20 match as it's short and easy to digest) or Aussie Rules Football.
Grab a pint
It's simply un-Australian not to grab a pint of beer when in Melbourne. There are pubs everywhere. Young & Jackson in the city is a good place to start. It's convenient - right across the road from Flinders Street train station - heritage-listed and has a proper Aussie no-BS atmosphere.
Enjoy some great Aussie wine
Australia produces some of the best red wine in the world. We suggest heading to the City Wine Shop on Spring Street. Here, you can buy local wine by the bottle to take with you, or by the bottle or glass to drink on site. The range is extensive and the staff know their stuff (so you don't need to). Grab a seat outside and watch the world go by. They also serve nibbles. And it's open every day until midnight. Perfect!
Explore the parks
Melbourne is full of great public spaces to explore. Try Fitzroy Gardens, Alexandra Gardens and Kings Domain on the 'bottom' edge of the CBD or Carlton Gardens at the 'top' end. Stroll along the Yarra River. A little further out is Royal Park and Melbourne Zoo. And parks for the kids are found in all these places.
For history buffs, pay a visit to Captain James Cooks' cottage in Fitzroy Gardens. It was built in 1755 in North Yorkshire and moved to Melbourne in 1934.
Visit the 'burbs
When it's time to take a break from the city, head to the suburbs for a completely different vibe. Twenty minutes on the train will take you to Yarraville with it's cute shops, yummy cafes and boutique movie theatre.
Or jump on the train for 15 minutes to Armadale for clothing and homeware stores, vintage posters shops and more upmarket children's clothing retailers than you can shake a stick at.
Or jump on a tram to St Kilda and enjoy the beach.
If you decide to give the foodie scene a nudge...
Melbourne has some fantastic restaurants and the choices can be overwhelming. Our suggestion is to head to Chin Chin, but not for dinner! This insanely popular restaurant doesn't take bookings and the queues are horrible. Go for an early lunch instead. Get there around 11am and you should be fine. And go on a weekday. After all, you're on holiday.
Side trip: Daylesford
Daylesford is cute-as-a-button and an easy 90 minute drive from Melbourne. If you want to explore some Aussie countryside, hire a car and spend a few days in Daylesford. For ideas and details, see our photos by clicking on the button below.
To make sure that this page loads quickly we've popped the photos on a separate page.
Contributors: Ann-Marie Nansett, street artist Kach, Andrew Greaney, Mick Russell
Updated: 4 September 2017