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The Night Market at Queen Vic Market
Photograph: Ewen Bell

48 hours in Melbourne

Only have two days to spend in Melbourne or looking for the ideal weekend in your own city?

By Cassidy Knowlton
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If you only have a little bit of time to spend but want to experience the best Melbourne has to offer, we have you covered. From lush parks and gardens to world-class museums and out-of-the-way secret bars, here is an itinerary to make the most of your precious hours.

But where should you start? Here's our guide to where to stay in Melbourne. On a budget? Check out our cheapskate's guide to Melbourne.

48 hours in Melbourne

Friday evening: Eat at Sunda

Restaurants Melbourne

It’s the roti with Vegemite curry, OK? Sunda has made the most spectacular play for the hearts and minds of Melbourne with a crazy-brave combination of wickedly buttery deconstructed roti and a deeply savoury curry sauce with a Vegemite-umami backbone. Add the fact that it’s an off-menu secret for those who know the password (tip: try “do you have any roti with Vegemite curry left?”) and what you have is bona fide catnip to anyone with a stomach to fill. It's as Melbourne as it gets, though its Sydneysider chef, Khanh Nguyen, has taken the pan-Asian fun of Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes, picked them apart and made them new again with the help of native Australian ingredients. 

Friday late night: Drink at Eau de Vie

Bars Melbourne

How Melbourne can you get? Eau de Vie is hidden down Malthouse Lane behind a signage-free door that you’d easily mistake for a service entrance. Once you’ve made it through the clandestine entrance, you’ll be greeted by waistcoated staff and buoyant, boisterous jazz tunes. There's an incomparable sense of bonhomie among the drinkers within, as though everyone had stumbled into an exclusive, exotic club. But all of this energy and joie de vivre would be for naught if the drinks weren't up to scratch. In fact, the cocktails and whisky selection are among the country’s best. Slip into the clubby, handsome whisky lounge for your choice of 200 single malts, or secure a seat at the bar for a slice of the mixing, shaking and stirring action. 

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Saturday morning: Get a croissant at Lune

Restaurants Patisseries Fitzroy

There is a reason The New York Times said Lune Croissanterie's croissants were "the best in the world". Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry. Come early if you want to nab a twice-cooked almond croissant or the lemon curd cruffins, piped to the gills with a tart curd and sprinkled with citrus sugar. One of the baristas takes coffee orders from the queue to the pastry service counter and by the time you pick a croissant or cruffin and have it served to you warm from the oven, your coffee will be ready. And if you don't feel like schlepping to Fitzroy, there is also an outpost on Flinders Lane in the city. 

Outdoor green grass at The Abbotsford Convent
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Saturday midday: Visit the Abbotsford Convent

Museums Abbotsford

Spend your late morning strolling around the historic (and free!) Abbotsford Convent. You can feel the weight of the past as soon as you step onto the grounds and look up to the gothic spires. It’s a hub for artists, makers, community radio broadcasters and teachers – as well as a beautiful place to explore. If strolling around the gardens makes you hungry, grab a vegetarian lunch at Lentil as Anything. The restaurant is run by volunteers, and you pay what you feel the meal is worth.

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Croft Alley, Melbourne Street Art 2017, Photo credit: Graham Denholm
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Saturday afternoon: Check out street art

Art Street art

You definitely should spend some time checking out (and 'gramming) Melbourne's famed street art. The best place to start looking for jaw-dropping murals is Hosier Lane, opposite Federation Square and joining Flinders Lane with Flinders Street. From there walk to Centre Place (off Flinders Lane between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street). A few more blocks and you'll find ACDC Lane (off Flinders Lane between Exhibition and Russell streets). If you've been to Cherry Bar you'll be familiar with it, but in daylight you can enjoy the cool murals. From there it's a 10-minute stroll to Croft Alley, which is definitely worth checking out.

Section 8, Tattersalls Lane
Photograph: Robert Blackburn

Saturday night: Drink at Section 8

Bars Melbourne

Every time is party time at Section 8, a bar in a converted shipping container loaded with booze, good-looking hipsters and enough intriguing graffiti to fill a whole other laneway. The drinks selection is solid and ranges from top-shelf spirits to longnecks. The crowd skews young and is heavy on arty types - Section 8 is one of the CBD’s best spots for people watching and there’s a see-and-be-seen element to any night here. It’s a popular venue for DJs and MCs and is busy – and loud – most nights.

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Saturday late night: Eat at Supper Inn

Restaurants Melbourne

Around the corner from Section 8 you'll find yourself in Chinatown – and there are few restaurants in the district with as long a pedigree as Supper InnThe menu is long. As in really, really long, but among the best dishes are: the congee with chicken, flecked with ginger; whole steamed flounder; sizzling chilli quail; hotpot with pork; and the roasted suckling pig with the sweetest meat and skin like chewy, salty toffee. Plus, Supper Inn is open until 2.30am, so take your time. 

Sunday morning: Stroll around the Botanic Gardens

Things to do Melbourne

Grab a takeaway coffee and a pastry and make yourself a breakfast picnic in one of the most beautiful oases in Melbourne: the Royal Botanic Gardens. Located on the city’s fringe, this expansive garden is home to a cool 8,500 plant species, zen lakes and lush lawns. It's free to enter. Once you've finished your brekky, stretch your legs and take in the verdant scenery. The camellia collection is one of the world’s best, with more than 950 different types; Fern Gully recreates a cool forest, which showcases many fern species; and the Tropical Glasshouse is filled with colourful flowers and palms. 

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NGV International 2015 Federation Court courtesy National Gallery of Victoria photographer credit Charlotte Ambrose
Photographer: Charlotte Ambrose

Sunday midday: See art at the NGV

Art Southbank

Emerge from the gardens refreshed and ready to take on Australia's oldest and most popular art museum, the National Gallery of Victoria (universally called the NGV). The permanent collection includes a Rembrandt, a Bonnard and a Tiepolo. The ground floor is where you'll usually find the gallery's major exhibitions, and it's also where you'll find the magnificent, boiled lolly-like stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall. Upstairs you've got the permanent collections, as well as the smaller visiting exhibitions. Visiting exhibitions usually cost money, but the permanent collection is free. Check out the NGV's shop, too, for some killer gifts.

Sunday afternoon: Get a cake at Brunetti

Restaurants Cafés Melbourne

Brunetti is a Melbourne institution – a triple threat café, bar and restaurant where you could pass the whole day, going from meal to meal and then browsing the pastries and cakes in the interim hours. The décor harks back to 1950s and ‘60s Italy, with a dedicated gelato bar, a bunch of whirring coffee machines, a mini paninoteca serving sandwiches and deli eats, and a massive mural of a bustling Italian square by illustrator Filipe Jardim. Get yourself a treat, lunch or just a coffee (be honest, though, you're going to get the treat), people watch and stretch out that museum back.

Want to get out of town?

Great Otway National Park
Photograph: Robert Blackburn

The best day trips from Melbourne

Travel Short getaways

The state of Victoria is full of friendly neighbourhood towns, whether you're in the mood for a winery tour, a road trip or a national park to explore. 

Have a bit more time?

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