We’re all for going off the beaten track and exploring our city’s hidden hotspots – but in Melbourne even the biggest tourist attractions are well worth a visit. From seaside amusement parks to street art-filled alleyways, there’s a tourist attraction for every type of traveller. Plus they’re all easily accessed by Melbourne’s public transport system and, in many cases, free to enter.
Although local opinion is divided on Fed Square, there's always something happening at the public space – everything from farmers' markets to free films on the big screen, art and craft displays, wine and food exhibitions, and live music. If you're a visitor to the fine city of Melbourne then heading to Fed Square is always a good starting point. The Melbourne Visitor Centre is in Fed Square too, for anyone needing a little extra information.
Opposite Federation Square and joining Flinders Lane with Flinders Street, the cobblestoned Hosier Lane is arguably the central point of the city's street art scene. Spend a long while checking out every little bit of this overflowing art cluster – a creative mark has been left on almost everything. Sometimes it's the smaller, easily overlooked pieces that really astound. It gets repainted regularly, so there's always a fresh work to check out.
A glorious, sprawling space filled with themed displays, interactive areas, Imax cinemas, postmodern art and no end of surprises, Melbourne Museum rewards first-time visitors and repeat patrons equally. For recent initiates, the sheer scope of the permanent galleries can be intimidating, but for those who aren't intent on digesting it all on one visit, the greatest treasures can be the tiniest. Like history itself, the most enlightening of surprises lurk in the dimmest corners and darker recesses. Stuffy this museum certainly ain't.
The most beautiful stretch of Melbourne retail real estate unquestionably belongs to the Block Arcade. Opened in 1892, the grandiose arcade immediately astonishes visitors with its ornate French Rennaissance-style architecture – think tall, sweeping arches, delicate cornices and a fancy-pants decorative tiled floor. Don't be fooled by its pretty face, though: Block Arcade is still a functional shopping arcade open to all.
In Sydney it's Paddy's, in Melbourne it's the Queen Vic. The open-air Queen Victoria Market is loud and proud, packed with veteran stallholders who are passionate about fresh produce (and are happy to tell you about it). It's popular with locals as their go-to for fresh fruit, veggies, meat and an outstanding variety of dairy and smallgoods, but it has also become something of a 'must visit' for tourists. Do try the hot jam doughnuts.
Every child dreams of walking through the giant mouth doorway at Luna Park. Inside there's everything from attractions that send you sky-high to historical carousel rides. Be sure to check out the Scenic Railway Roller Coaster, a large wooden coaster that projects its passengers, at high speed, around the outside of the entire park. This world-famous rollercoaster will not only provide you with heart-stopping dips and turns, but also the most stunning views of Port Phillip Bay.
Ah, Flinders Street Station – its yellow dome is so iconically Melbourne that Weddings Parties Anything (that most Melburnian of pub rock bands) wrote 'Under the Clocks' in its honour. If you ever hear of one of the ultra-rare tours of the station's disused ballroom (the only inhabitants these days are pigeons), jump on it – the room is still spectacular. If you want to take a photo it's easier from across the street at Fed Square.
This grand modernist building on St Kilda Road is Australia's oldest and most popular art museum. That title has been won thanks to the gallery's top-notch and diverse permanent collection, its fantastic visiting collections and an ongoing series of additional events aimed at locals and tourists alike. The permanent collection includes a Rembrandt, a Bonnard and a Tiepolo – not bad for a gallery that's only been around since the mid-1800s.
The MCG, truly one of the world's greatest sporting venues, was built back in 1853 and has been a juggernaut ever since. On the last Saturday in September every year, the biggest show in Australian sport, the AFL Grand Final, descends on the 'G' to pack it to the rafters with 100,000 screaming sports fans. Many huge music concerts have been staged here, and MCG tours operate on non-match days, accessing the stands, the coaches' boxes, the famous Long Room, players' change rooms and onto the hallowed turf itself when available.
Despite being Australia’s oldest zoo, this vibrant animal world is constantly evolving with new exhibits, events, and of course, creatures great and small. A trip to Melbourne Zoo done right takes a whole day for you to visit in the penguins, lions, seals, lemurs, orang-utans, elephants, meerkats and more. For children and adults alike, a trip to Melbourne Zoo is a way to reconnect with our animal friends and gain a closer understanding of the delicate ecosystems of the world.
Step into the Dome Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria, and you can almost hear the cogs turning in the minds of visitors. The library is full of surprises, and you can discover them on the free daily 2pm tour. A guide takes visitors to the far reaches of the library, even to places not open to the general public.
The best stretch of sand in metropolitan Melbourne is easily St Kilda beach, a calm coastal strip populated with wide boardwalks and cafés. During summer the beach buzzes with locals and tourists dousing themselves in the salty spray and relaxing on the sand. It's easy to get to St Kilda beach from the city (just catch the 96 tram straight there), and there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars within walking distance.
The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens is one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions. It's the only surviving Great Hall that once housed a 19th-century international exhibition and is still used for exhibitions from flower shows to tattoo festivals. After checking out the extravagant edifice, chill out in Carlton Gardens or wander around Melbourne Museum.
The stats: 297m high. 88th floor. 110,000 tonnes of concrete, 13 elevators. The building houses two 300,000-litre water tanks on levels 90 and 91 to prevent the awe-inspiring structure from swaying in high winds. Only a building inspired by one of Victoria’s bloodiest battles for freedom could have given rise to the Edge: a glass box that extends three metres out of the 88th floor and offers the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Shrine of Remembrance was built between 1927 and 1934 as a place for Victorians to grieve, honour and preserve the memories of those that had lost their lives in WWI. Now it serves as a memorial to all Australians who served at war. There are services at the Shrine for both ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day, with all welcome to attend.
Built between 1855 and 1929, Parliament House sits atop Collins Street and is backed by the green hills of Treasury Gardens. As well as being the modern-day chambers for the Victorian parliament, the building was between 1901-1927 the home of the Australian federal parliament. Take a tour while parliament is not in sitting to see some of the halls, chambers and eateries not usually open to the public.