If you’re travelling along Australia’s east coast, the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Melbourne. Thanks to its thriving street art scene, smorgasbord of restaurants and bars and proximity to the Yarra Valley – some of Oz’s best wine country, it’s earned its name title as the cultural hub of the country. Oh, and did we mention it serves some of the best coffee in the world?
Whilst you may not plan on putting roots down in The Most Liveable City in the World (a title Melbourne won seven years in a row), a weekend visit will give you just enough time to take in its biggest hits.
I worked with Austravel to bring you my ultimate itinerary for 48 hours in Melbourne
- First stop, check in at your hotel. We recommend a stay at Crown Towers for a touch of glamour and a sprawling view. Thanks to its high rise credentials, you’ll get a front row seat to the city skyline no matter which room you choose. Based on the Southbank overlooking the Yarra River and CBD, it’s perfectly placed for exploring town. The décor is sleek, modern and luxurious – think over-bath TVs, separate dressing rooms and feather down king size beds – and the facilities are second to none. Be sure to check out the spa whilst you’re there and enjoy a drink down in the lobby bar, where a concert pianist performs every afternoon. Got a good poker face? There’s also an on-site casino.
- Once you’ve dumped your bags, head out to the Eureaka Skydeck (you can book on Visit Melbourne) before the sun goes down. Just a ten minute walk along the river from the hotel, it occupies the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and offers a 360 degree view of the city and rolling countryside beyond. Jutting into the sky above the city, you’ll be able to watch the sun set over the Dandenong Ranges and Port Phillip Bay, all with a drink in hand. If you’ve got the nerve, head out onto the Edge – the glass cube suspended 300 metres above ground (yep – the floor is made of glass, too).
- Often credited as the birthplace of Melbourne’s world-famous café culture, dinner on Lygon Street is an absolute must. Still need convincing? It’s also home to the city’s very own riff on Little Italy and is crammed with some of the best pizza, pasta and parmigiana restaurants in the country. 400 Gradi is an absolute must if you want to experience what was once crowned the World’s Best Pizza. Cooked in just 90 seconds over 400 degree heat, they’re the picture of scorched, chewy and melting in all the right places. After that, pop over to Gelatissimo for a scoop of authentic gelato. The pistachio is the best.
- You know what they say – good things come in small packages, which is certainly the case with The Hardware Societe – one of Melboune’s best loved brunch spots. Get up early and walk across the river to CBD, where you’ll likely find this institution already bustling with fellow early risers after a coffee-and-eggs fix. Head chef Jean Paul Dargan is dedicated to maintaining a seasonal menu, so you’re never quite sure what new delights there’ll be to discover, though options such as the baked eggs are always there for the hardcore fans.
- Once you’ve dosed up on caffeine, make your way to Federation Square for the 10am start of the Melbourne Lanes and Arcades Tour from Hidden Secret Tours (you can book this through Visit Melbourne). Three hours long, it’ll give you a glimpse into the history of Melbourne’s most famous streets and alleyways. Forget stuffy historical facts – every story the guides tell exposes a little more of the cultural heart that the city is so proud of. You’ll discover plenty of spots that even locals aren’t aware of and have plenty of opportunities for some serious Instagramming.
- You undoubtedly worked up an appetite on the walk, so it’s time to stop for lunch. Head to The Arbory – Melbourne’s floating bar – which is tucked in right behind Flinders Street Station for some tapas, a killer cocktail and even better view.
- Though Melbourne is famous for enjoying four seasons in one day, if you get a couple of hours of sunshine, head to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Home to flower-bordered lawns and tree lined avenues, it’s the most tranquil spot in the city and perfect for an afternoon doze or read. Once you’ve recovered enough from the morning walk, take a stroll along the famous Tan Track – the gravel path that encompasses the park – to see Melbournites in their element. Dogs, runners and Saturday strollers will be out in force.
- Ready for a night on the town? Once you’re suitably spruced up after your day of adventuring, head over to Chapel Street – one of the city’s main thoroughfares that connects north to south. Your first stop should be Jungle Boy – a small cocktail bar at the Prahran end. Don’t be fooled by its poutine shop exterior- step through the freezer door and you’ll find a low lit cocktail lounge with the kind of buzzing atmosphere you’d expect in a secret bar. Cocktails have a south American edge and are expertly created by the team of mixologists.
- Once you’ve had a couple of aperitifs, walk next door for dinner at Hawker Hall – a thriving warehouse style Asian Fusion restaurant. Loud, busy and uber cool, its motto, ‘Forever Independent,’ adorns the walls in lit up lettering. This is food for sharing, so pick a few plates and pass them around the table. Make sure you ask for the cauliflower with Sichuan pepper and cashews – it’s off menu but by far the best dish.
- If you’ve still got room after your Hawker Hall feast, hop in an Uber to Two Wrongs – a super kitsch dive bar just a ten minute drive down the street. Littered with graffiti, art work and UV lights, it’s unabashedly over the top and unapologetically Melbourne. Grab a glass of wine and people watch.
- There’s only one thing that’ll cure a fuzzy Sunday head in Melbourne – a trip to Lune Croissanterie in the CBD. Described by several food critics as the best croissants in the world, expect there to be a bit of a queue. Be patient – it’s definitely worth it. Super crisp and think layers of flaky pastry give way to a warm, buttery centre. Don’t bother trying to decide between the all-butter and the almond options – just get them both. You’ll thank me later.
- A trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the National Victoria Gallery – home to some fantastic permanent and visiting exhibitions. The collection changes regularly, but you’ll always find an intriguing mixture of international and local modern art works. Take a few minutes to soak up the atmosphere of the stain glass hall – it’s truly breath taking.
- Pop into the Garden State Hotel for a spot of lunch – featuring a central industrial style bar and outer courtyard, it’s a great spot to sit and chat through the adventure of the last few days. There’s an excellent house sparkling wine and a great menu of small plates. Make sure to try out the Kiosk bao buns, though – they’re particularly delicious.
- One last stop before it’s time to say goodbye- spend your last couple of hours wandering through China Town and the CBD. Crowded with ramen shops and noodle houses, it’s as chaotic as it is mesmerising – like stepping into an entirely different world. There are plenty of shops for those so inclined – take a look around the beauty hall in David Jones (Australia’s answer to Selfridges) or discover the independent designer stores nestled into the laneways.