There’s no shortage of things to do in Melbourne. Here’s our list of the city’s best highlights
It's easy to spend hours wandering The National Gallery of Victoria - a.k.a. 'the NGV.'
Established in the wake of Victoria’s Gold Rush (1851), it is Australia's oldest and most popular gallery.
Home to permanent displays of Australian art, the NGV also showcases rotating international exhibitions - and thankfully, a large part of their exhibitions are free.
The NGV is also the setting of one of the nation's greatest art heists.
In 1986, Picasso's Weeping Women - purchased for 1.6 million dollars - was stolen from an art display. The thieves, calling themselves 'Australian Cultural Terrorists,' demanded greater funding of the arts from the state minister.
But when he refused their ransom demands, the painting was found two weeks later wrapped in brown paper, inside a locker at Southern Cross Station.
Ever fancied yourself a captain? On A Boat can make that a reality, as you commandeer a boat down the middle of the Yarra River.
These boats can hold up to 9 people, you don’t need a license, and you can bring your own drinks & snacks on board. Just make sure the skipper stays sobre.
If you want to cruise in style, then book a deluxe boat with plush seating and built-in Bluetooth speakers.
It's a great opportunity to get a different perspective of the city - for both tourists and locals.
Libraries get a bad wrap for being 'boring' - but not this one.
The State Library of Victoria is Australia's oldest public library and filled with more than just bookshelves.
The Cowen Gallery showcases a permanent display of colonial and modern portraiture, as well as artists' impressions of historical Victorian events.
It's also the home of the diary entries of the city’s original founders (John Batman and John Fawkner) as well as the armour that Ned Kelly wore for his final shoot out.
But the main attraction is the Latrobe Reading Room; this octagonal study room is six stories high and topped with a glass dome. It can fit 320 readers at its desks, and at the time of completion was the tallest structure of its kind.
Mini golf has made a comeback. Holey Moley is a 27 hole putt-putt course inspired by pop-culture; holes feature The Simpsons, Forrest Gump, Game of Thrones and many more.
They have a complete cocktail bar and sling pizzas from the kitchen. Booze and putt-putt sounds like a good mix, and it is.
Along with their city location, you'll find them at Crown Casino in Southbank.
Retro gaming has surged the past couple of years, with gamers finding nostalgia in their childhood games.
Bartronica takes that fun and mixes it with alcohol. This retro gaming bar is filled with pinball machines, arcade games and classic shooters - think Time Crisis, Mario Kart and Donkey Kong. Grab a drink and challenge your mates to a game.
Melbourne loves to laugh. Every year the city hosts The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the largest stand-alone comedy festival in the world.
With around 6,700 performances there is a style of comedy for everyone.
If you want to see a show outside of the festival, get along to Spleen Bar on a Monday evening. This donation-based event showcases some of the city's up-and-coming comics, plus they might surprise you with a comedy legend.
Who doesn’t love a fire show? Visit the Southbank promenade afterdark to enjoy the gas brigades fire show.
Eight massive towers line the river outside Crown Casino, and every hour they shoot massive flames into the sky. They put on a great show, and it’s entirely free. Locals will commonly refer to them as 'the flames.'
While you're there, visit Southbank's other attractions.
Melbourne opened Australia's first rooftop bar back in the 1960’s. It was the Pamplemousse (French for grapefruit) and was ‘where you’d find food with a world of difference.’
The Pamplemousse is no longer around, but the craze has continued and Melbourne now has many amazing rooftop bars.
The most popular is simply called Rooftop Bar. Perched seven floors high, this spacious escape has great city views and is super popular during the warmer months.
After exploring Melbourne’s restaurant scene, you’ll want to finish with some dessert.
Meet Om Nom, the world’s first dessert hotel. Located within the Aldephi Hotel, Om Nom does dessert like no other, combining unique tastes and exquisite plating.
We were avid bowlers in our younger days, but all of the rinks were usually unchanged since the 80's. Strike aims to change that.
It's a modern take on 10-pin bowling, complete with a bar, small bites and popular music.
There are several locations throughout Melbourne (we recommend the Melbourne Central and QV locations) and they make for a fun night time outing.
Strike also have regular deals,where you can score some cheap sessions as well as cheap drinks.
Walk down Flinder’s Lane and you’ll see a pool that extends two metres above the street. This is the Adelphi Pool.
The pool is open throughout the year and maintains a nice 22-degree heat. While it is complimentary for guests staying at the hotel, it will cost visitors. But keep an eye out for special events that happen from time to time.
With over 10,000 different critters, Sea Life Aquarium will take you to different parts of the deep blue. You'll find penguins, rays, crocodiles, turtles, shark, and even arctic fish - a first for Australia.
Melbourne’s Chinatown is the longest-running continuous Chinese settlement in the world. It takes up several blocks of the city centre, and is filled with Chinese restaurants.
The main attraction are the countless dumpling houses - offering authentic wontons, xiao long bao, gyoza and many more varieties.
You’ll also find several bars - Berlin, Manchuria, Union Electric - as well as Asian desserts and bubble tea.
The Chinese Museum is also worth a visit - for a small entry fee, you can learn about Chinese settlement during Melbourne’s gold rush.
Ned Kelly was Australia’s most notorious gang leader - he robbed trains, killed police officers and spent years on the run. He was eventually captured after a big shoot out, and then hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
The gaol was the scene of 132 other hangings, up until 1929 when it ceased operation. Visit now and you can wander around the old cells, see the stocks and even take part in a night-time ghost tour.
Cats & coffee, that’s the promise of Melbourne’s (and indeed Australia’s) first cat cafe.
Originating in Taiwan, cat cafes gained popularity in Japan, as a way for visitors to spend time with some friendly felines.
Eventually, they found their way to Melbourne, and now you too can sip on a latte and pat one of their resident cats.
There is a small entrance fee, and bookings are required.
We love a good show, and there are plenty to see in Melbourne; from lavish musicals to small independent one-person shows.
Grand theatres like The Princess Theatre, Regent Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre all showcase performances from massive production companies.
While smaller venues like The Butterfly Club have independent shows, often from just a single performer.
Melbourne's hidden bar scene began in the mid-nineteenth century when restaurants and households would serve alcohol without a license. These were called sly-grog shops.
Venture down Meyer's Place to find Pizza Pizza Pizza, a New York-style joint that slings pizza by the slice. It might look small but head through the black curtain at the back to reveal an intimate cocktail bar.
It's a local secret and is open till late. To discover even secrets join our hidden bar tour.
From Prince doing spontaneous shows at Bennet’s Lane, to Lady Gaga dancing on the bar at the Cherry Bar, Melbourne has some great musical stories.
The city has spawned bands like AC/DC, Jet, and Crowded house - and it continues to deliver. With a strong music scene, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a gig.
Escape rooms started popping up in Melbourne in the early 2010's, but Ukiyo blows most of them out of the water.
It’s difficult to describe, but it’s 50% escape room, 50% video game, and 100% immersive.
You are tasked with helping a young prince investigate why hi best friends have gone missing. The Prince, who you engage with throughout the challenge, communicates with you using artificial intelligence.
It all takes place in a beautiful Japanese inspired setting, and it comes with our highest recommendation.
It’s no surprise that Melbourne’s oldest suburb is now one of its liveliest.
Fitzroy was founded in 1839 and has grown into Melbourne’s bohemian capital. The main thoroughfare is Brunswick St, and it's lined with restaurants, cafes, and bars - many of which have a vegan focus.
The Everleigh and Naked for Satan are some of the more popular local bars, while Transformer and Rice Queen are great options for dinner.
AFL (Australian Football League) is the nation’s sport, and it was born in Victoria in around 1858. Over 100 years later, AFL is now played all across the country, with nearly 50% of teams based outside Victoria.
Head along to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to catch a footy game, tour the grounds or visit the sports museum.
Travel 32kms from Melbourne and you'll find The Yarra Valley, home to hundreds of wineries, notably producing Chardonnay, sparkling wine, and Pinot noir.
It’s a very popular day-trip, welcoming over three million visitors every year. You can visit wineries, try samples, and then purchase your favourites.
There are also non-wine makers, producing gin, vodka and other spirits. Four Pillars and Alchemy are both worth noting.
In 1844, Melbourne’s first Lieutenant Governor decided that several plots of land should be reserved for parkland. Now, the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the city’s greatest assets.
Filled with 50,000 individual plants representing 8,500 different species, the Royal Botanic Gardens are free to visit and a great way to spend the afternoon.
It is also the site of the Melbourne Observatory. Built for stargazing in 1861, it now offers solar & night tours with the chance to get a glimpse of the cosmos.
This isn’t a normal cinema. All you’re given is the secret location and the theme; the rest is all a surprise.
Underground Cinema pop-ups throughout Melbourne and screens classic films, surrounded by theatrics that tie into the movie. Live jazz, SWAT teams, and real camels; these guys go all out. It's an immersive way to enjoy the films you love.
Melbourne’s most popular beachside suburb is filled with plenty of ways to keep occupied - whether you lounge by the seaside, ride the roller coaster at Luna Park, or visit one of the many restaurants on Acland Street.
Come by after sunset to see the adorable fairy penguins come home to roost on the pier. They are the smallest species of penguin, and approximately 1,400 penguins call the St Kilda Pier home.
The humble dim-sim was invented in Melbourne's Chinatown in the 1940’s. Since then it has become an Australian fast-food staple.
It’s a dumpling-style snack featuring minced meat (usually pork) wrapped in pastry, and then either steamed or deep-fried.
To try one of the best, visit South Melbourne Market Dim-Sims; they’ve been perfecting the recipe for over seventy years. While you're at the market, browse the deli section for even more delicious eats.
Originally a horse-riding track, The Tan is Melbourne’s most popular running track.
Stretching for 3.8 km it follows the outskirts of the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s a peaceful path to walk, or join all the other Melbournians and run a couple of laps.
This Viking inspired bar & restaurant is straight out of Norse Mythology. The team at Mjølner - named after Thor’s Hammer - have successfully brought an opulent touch to barbarian dining.
This venue is from the team behind Eau de Vie, so expect a high-level of theatrics. You'll be able to drink beer from a horn and take flaming shots poured down beef-bone.
Mjølner also serves mead, a fermented honey drink that is thought to be the world's oldest alcoholic beverage.
Discover more with our guide to Melbourne's best-themed bars.
Melbourne has one of the best laneway scenes in the world.
Originally dingy service lanes (built to service local businesses and residents) the laneways were first revitalised in the 1980’s by the city council.
These alleyways are now home to an amazing street-art scene, as well as award-winning bars and restaurants.
Degraves St, Centre Place, Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Meyer’s Place are all among the best laneways in Melbourne.
Map out your route and spend the afternoon exploring them all.
Take to the ice at the O'Brien Icehouse in Docklands. This stadium is home to two ice-rinks and hosts sports like ice-hockey, curling and figure skating.
It is also open for the casual skater among us. Come down, hire some blades and hit the ice - just hopefully not literally.
Grab your gun, throw on your goggles and enter the world of Zero Latency.
This immersive virtual reality game will have you fighting zombies, defeating robots and will even pit you against your mates.
The arena is the size of a tennis court and groups of up to eight can play.
Boasting one of the biggest screens in the world, IMAX is a theatre of epic proportions; the screen itself spans a massive 32 metres wide by 23 metres high.
They screen the latest blockbusters, as well as a collection of educational 3D documentaries. After you watch a flick, head next door to check out the free exhibitions at The Melbourne Museum.
With a drink in one hand, and a paint-brush in the other, this is how you’ll spend your evening at Cork & Canvas.
Offering group painting sessions, you and your friends will be guided through the entire painting process. By the end, hopefully, you'll have something close to a 'masterpiece.'
It’s BYO wine and nibbles, but they’ll provide you with the painting supplies.
The Penninsula Hot Springs is an escape from the city.
Founded by brothers Charles and Richard Davidson in 1997, the inspiration for the baths began when Charles visited several hot springs while living in Japan in 1992.
The water is infused with natural minerals, which are claimed to 'detoxify the body and rejuvenates the spirit.'
The Penninsula Hot Springs also offers yoga, clay rituals, massages, freezing plunge pools, and full dining experience.
There's nothing like a hot air balloon to get a view of the city.
Every morning, these hot air balloons fire up in a Melbourne suburb and then float for an hour above the city; Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world where that's possible.
Pickup is from the cbd, and after the flight, you'll float down into one of Melbourne's many parks.
Phillip Island is known for many things, but it’s the fairy penguins that capture visitor’s hearts.
These adorable creatures can only be spotted on the southern coast of mainland Australia, and spend 80% of their time out at the sea. Come sunset they waddle up the beach to take roost, in what is dubbed ‘the penguin parade.’
Phillip Island also has its own car circuit, where that hosts bike and car championships. There is also a go-kart track, nature hikes, serene beaches, day spas and restaurants.
Ride Melbourne's oldest operating tram and see the sights of the city.
These heritage W-class trams operate as the City Circle, a one-hour tram ride that loops the Melbourne city centre. There are zero fees (keep that Myki card in your pocket) and your trip can be as long or as little as you like.
Each tram has audio commentary, which tells you more about the sites as you pass them. Even if you're a Melbourne local, it's a worthwhile experience.
Enjoy some of Melbourne's best cocktails at this underground French bar and brasserie
We've whiled away many evenings at Bar Margaux; it's an instant escape from the outside world.
Inspired by the French bistros of New York, you'll find a menu with escargot (snails smothered in butter,) duck frites and a giant two-patty burger (The MGX Burger.)
As for drinks, their cocktails are expertly concocted. Michael Madrusan, the owner, honed his craft at Milk & Honey, a well-renowned cocktail bar in New York City.
They offer the classics; Manhattans and martinis - which you can also order as a 'snack-size.'
We love the Americano Perfecto - Margaux's take on an Americano. It's a plisner (beer) mixed with Campari and vermouth - we're also told it's Marusan's go-to cocktail when he's around.
Rising 297 metres (975 ft) above Southbank, is Eureka Tower, one of the tallest residential towers in the world.
Named after the Eureka Stockade - a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush - the building features a giant golden crown and a red stripe that represents the blood-shed during the battle.
It’s here that you can access the Eureka Skydeck and enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the city. With 30 viewfinders you’ll be able to find Melbourne landmarks or use the binoculars to zoom in for a closer look.
Cook’s Cottage is technically the oldest building in Australia.
Built-in 1755 by James and Grace Cook in the English village of Great Ayton, it was deconstructed and transported to Melbourne where it was rebuilt in Fitzroy Gardens.
It holds historical importance because they were the parents of James Cook, responsible for the first recorded European contact with the east coast of Australia; you might know him better as Captain Cook.
Purchase a ticket and you’re able to explore the cottage with an audio guide. While you’re here, it’s also worth exploring the Fitzroy Gardens: 64 acres of lush greenery right next to the city.
Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) and a bottle of soju is always a good time.
Unlike typical American fried chicken, the Koreans deep-fry theirs twice, making it crispier and less oily. They also pair it with soju, a sweet-flavoured, alcoholic beverage made from rice.
Luckily Melbourne has many great Korean fried chicken joints, but our go-to is SamSam.
This modern restaurant is spread over two levels, and has a menu perfect for sharing. All of their chicken is served with fries and coleslaw, and their sweet chilli sauce is delicious.
Scienceworks is made for those with a curious mind.
Beneath the grand arc of the West Gate Bridge, Scienceworks is a museum showcasing the endless wonders of the universe.
One highlight is their lightening room, a 120 seat theatre with a giant Tesla coil, capable of generating two million volts of electricity and 3-metre lightning bolts.
Scienceworks is also home to the planetarium, with a 6m domed ceiling and a 7.1 surround sound system. It's the perfect outing for a fun afternoon while also learning a thing or two.
Mount Hotham is one of Victoria's popular ski locations.
357 kilometres from Melbourne (4-hour drive,) this is one of Australia's highest alpine villages. Whether you're skiing, snowboarding or hurtling down in a toboggan, there are 72 runs to choose from - with all skill levels catered for.
Ski season generally runs from June to September.
Have you ever dreamt about unleashing your rage and breaking everything in sight?
The Break Room lets you do just that. Upon entry you're given a baseball bat, helmet and hazmat suit, then led into a room filled with glass and ceramics: then you go to town.
Their mission is to let you de-stress, by smashing everything in sight.
The Yarra Valley is the heartland of Victoria's wine scene, but this urban winery is shaking things up.
Noisy Ritual began as a few friends stomping grapes in their basement, now it's taken over a warehouse in East Brunswick.
This urban winery attempts to demystify the winemaking process, allowing you to make your own drop from start to finish.
Don't want to get grapes between the toes? There's a full bar that allows you to sample their range of wines instead - much less exhaustive.
You don't need to leave the city to experience rock climbing.
Hardrock offers 16 metre high walls across 44 different climbs, all in the city centre. Catering for beginners to pros, they utilise an automated cable system so you won't be needing a spotter.
Rock-climbing and bouldering have become a popular past-time for Melbournians.
Nothing quite compares to jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet.
That's what the team at Sky Dive Australia will have you do. With locations all around Australia, their most central Melbourne location is St Kilda.
On a tandem dive you'll experience one minute of free fall, followed by a gentle eight-minute glide back to earth. The dive itself isn't that scary, it's the slow ascent in the plane that really gets the heart beating.
We love a night of jazz, and of the city's best jazz clubs is the Paris Cat. This long-running jazz club hosts 4-5 shows every week.
Inspired by the 1930s French bee-bop era, the Paris Cat is a fantastic escape. Grab a drink, settle in and get ready for some toe-tapping tunes.
Now you can unleash your inner viking and challenge your mates to axe throwing.
Inside this Abbotsford warehouse, Maniax lets you vent all sorts of frustration. Enter one of their cages and choose from three different types of axes - regular session axe (16 inches), league axe (14 inches) and the comically oversized big axe.
Then you throw your axe at the target - it's kinda like darts on steroids.
Maniax also have their own bar, but you'll have to wait till after your session; no one wants to see a drunk viking on the loose.
More expert tips by our tour guides: