Summer is a wonderful time to get out and explore Melbourne. The Australian Open is on, bringing the greatest tennis players in the world to our fair city, and the weather just begs you to get out and explore.
Whether you're a first-time visitor to Melbourne or have lived here all your life, there are some absolute must-do Melbourne bucket list items. Melbourne's food, drink, coffee, art, theatre and sport culture are among the best in the world, and we reckon you should try to experience every single one of them at least once before you die.
So here is our ultimate bucket list: 50 amazing things to do in Melbourne right now, plus Melbourne attractions, great restaurants, bars, fun festivals and everything in between. For a deeper look into two of our greatest pastimes – eating and drinking – browse our guides to Melbourne's 50 best restaurants and 50 best bars.
Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.
You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.
The 101 best things to do in Melbourne
What is it? This expansive garden is home to a cool 8,500 plant species, zen lakes and lush lawns.
Why go? Melbourne is lucky enough to have its Royal Botanic Gardens smack bang in the middle of the city. Being so accessible, the gardens are ideal for a picnic or even just somewhere different to eat your workday lunch. The expansive grounds means you’re rarely forced to awkwardly face off with someone for a good spot of turf.
Don't miss: Having a picnic in the gardens. Around Ornamental Lake seems like the obvious scenic choice for your go-to picnic location, but that’s exactly why you should think again. Explore the gardens thoroughly and we reckon you’ll find your favourite new al resco nook in no time. If you forget your lunch, make a beeline for Jardin Tan for Vietnamese cuisine.
What is it? Queen Victoria Market is an open-air market that's packed with veteran stallholders who are passionate about fresh produce (and are happy to tell you about it).
Why go? 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. And why not? With a huge number of stalls selling clothes, accessories and other bric a brac, the market has evolved into more than just the place to get your weekly shop. Pro-tip: be mindful of the market's opening hours before visiting as it's closed Monday and Wednesday.
Don't miss: Hot jam doughnuts from the American Doughnut Kitchen van. These doughies should be in a museum: they’ve got just the right amount of oily crunch, the dough is flavoured with vanilla and stuffed with a sticky and sweet red dollop of strawberry jam, and they’re covered quite liberally with sugar.
What is it? Justifiably one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road snakes all along the southwest coast of the state, starting in Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool.
Why go? This winding stretch of road provides ample opportunity to reconnect with the ocean, the bush and the sounds and sights of nature whether driving, walking, horseriding, surfing, sailing or cycling.
Don't miss: It's about a four-hour drive without stops, but heed our warning: you'll definitely want to stop. There's just too much happening along the coast not to. Take a day trip, stay the weekend or just pack up and move there – there's plenty going on down the Great Ocean Road.
Why go? Melbourne is only the third city in the world to get the show (after London and New York), and producers are pretty adamant it’s not going to tour anywhere else in Asia-Pacific.
Don’t miss: The play is running a digital ticket lottery which will allow fans to score tickets for just $40 per part (so $80 for the full, two-part epic). The program is known as “Friday Forty” and is modelled on the lottery run for both the West End and Broadway productions of the show. Read all about it here.
What is it? The National Gallery of Victoria, the grand modernist building that sits pretty on St Kilda Road, is also Australia's oldest and most popular art museum.
Why go? The NGV brings major international art exhibitions to Melbourne, showcasing classic works of art alongside hot contemporary talents. In the past, we've seen Van Gogh, Hokusai, MC Escher, Dior, Dali, Warhol, works from New York City's MoMA gallery, and the massive free NGV Triennial, which included an insanely popular Yayoi Kusama room.
Don't miss: Given the near-constant rotation of fabulous special exhibitions at the NGV, you’d be forgiven for neglecting the equally impressive (free!) permanent collection. Next time you visit, make sure you spend a good few minutes with Dosso Dossi’s portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara (1519-1530). It’s one of the only known portraits of the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, which makes it, as NGV curator Laurie Benson explains, “a unique record of one of the most famous women in history”.
What is it? Every year, thousands head to Melbourne Park to watch the superstars of tennis battle it out in the fierce summer heat for the southern hemisphere’s only Grand Slam tournament.
Why go? Even if you don’t make it to the arena, Birrarung Marr is abuzz with live entertainment and food stalls for the Australian Open Festival, where live screenings of matches are played on big screens.
Don’t miss: If you’re a tennis fan, opt for a Ground Pass. This ticket won’t get you into the big arenas, but you’ll instead get access to all the smaller surrounding courts where up-and-coming tennis stars will play. Plus, the tickets start at only $49.
Why go? It's a Parisian-looking lane that connects Flinders Lane and Flinders Street and boasts a bunch of cafés with on-street dining. We'd suggest settling in for a glass of red before picking up a nifty gift (or something for yourself) from artisan stationary store Il Papiro or a piece of handmade jewellery from Sine Qua Non.
Don't miss: A scoop of incredibly tasty housemade gelato from Pidapipo.
What is it? A massive display of the animal kingdom right outside Melbourne's CBD.
Why go? You can watch the world flutter by at the butterfly room, visit the colourful residents of the aviary and trek through the Trail of the Elephants to visit the close-knit family of big-eared beauties. Melbourne Zoo has all the animal action. There’s always something going on here, from the Zoo Twilights concert series in summer to keeper talks and zoo high teas. Be sure to say hi to the lion pride before you leave (follow the roars).
Don't miss: For the wildest night of your life book in for a Roar ‘n’ Snore – a zoo sleepover where you camp in the historic elephant exhibition.
Why go? If you like cocktails, whisky, blues, good service and eating Reuben sandwiches at 2am, Beneath Driver Lane is the basement of your dreams. Occupying an old bank vault in the CBD, this bar has a speakeasy feeling that’s rare in a city whose subterranean spaces are sorely underused.
Don't miss: Getting to know the well-rounded back bar that boasts a 100+ bottle selection of whiskies, including unicorns like Yamazaki 18 and Pappy Van Winkle.
What is it? From the beginning, Hutong was the Melbourne byword for xiao long bao, and while the competition for great dumpling joints is running hot, this place is still dear to our collective hearts.
Why go? Everything is top-notch, but it's the place to go for those soupy xiao long bao. We'd also suggest the wontons with hot chilli sauce. And the dry chilli chicken. Oh, and the pork spare ribs and the snow pea shoots with garlic if they've got them. Basically everything. And it's BYO.
Don't miss: If you're in Chinatown, it'd be a shame not to belt your lungs out post-dumpling frenzy at one of Chinatown's karaoke joints.
What is it? Hot air balloons aren’t just for the countryside – they fly over Melbourne's pretty city too.
Why go? If you can handle dragging yourself out of bed well before dawn then the flight really is worth it. Unsurprisingly there are not a lot of people around at sunrise, and drifting over the city in the dawn light feels surreal. Where you start, travel and land in your balloon is always a mystery as the flights are determined by the each day’s conditions – meaning you might see some of your favourite Melbourne locations from above or discover some new gems.
Don't miss: A flight over the Yarra Valley is equally as impressive.
What is it? Lune Croissanterie's croissants earned the venue the top spot on Time Out Melbourne's best patisseries list, and they were dubbed "the world's best" by a writer for The New York Times. Not a bad gig for brother-sister team Kate and Cameron Reid.
Why go? As with many celebrated Melbourne eateries (ahem, Chin Chin), such high accolades often mean crowds. The lines snake out of the door nearly every day, in fact. But does Lune really cut the mustard? In short, yes. Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry. This isn’t really so unusual when you consider the fact that Kate Reid used to be a racing car engineer.
Don't miss: The plain croissants are the OG, but we're also particularly fond of the almond croissant. Lucky for us, Lune also opened an outpost in Melbourne's CBD.
What is it? Luxury hotel Sofitel boasts one of the best views of the city... in its swanky sky-high bathrooms.
Why go? We're not even exaggerating here. Sofitel's loo is not so much a toilet as a powder room: golden drapes frame the floor-to-ceiling windows, from which you can see all the way out to the Dandenongs, as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance, the 'G and even out to the sea.
Don't miss: While you're up there, consider having a cocktail at the luxe Atrium Bar on 35.
What is it? Victoria's premier wine region, the Yarra Valley, is all rolling green hills, swaying vineyards and old farmhouses. Plus! It's less than an hour's drive from the CBD.
Why go? The cellar doors of the region's famous wineries are open every weekend, and the winery restaurants are becoming some of the most sought-after dining destinations out of Melbourne. Our picks of the region are TarraWarra Estate, Maddens Rise and Rochford Wines, but don't forget to fill up on some cheese from Yarra Valley Dairy while you're there.
Don't miss: The free tastings at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Seriously, do not miss this.
What is it? The Astor is an Art Deco cinema that's been in operation as a cinema since 1936. It's actually the last single-screen cinema of its kind in continuous operation in Melbourne.
Why go? Beautiful gold curtains frame the screen, and the entire experience feels like you've flashed back to old Hollywood. The theatre boasts a program of new and classic films in 35mm, 70mm and digital formats, and it's a cultural hub for movie fans, with double features, remastered classics, new and independent movies, film festivals and special events.
Don't miss: Revel in the glory of this beautiful old relic with cheap tickets on special days throughout the week. There are $14 tickets on Magic Mondays, Wicked Wednesdays and Fantastic Thursdays.
What is it? In 2018, Peninsula Hot Springs underwent a $13 million expansion, which included nine new pools, a food garden and a new ice cave and deep freeze chamber.
Why go? The ice cave is the first of its kind in Australia, and hot/cold therapy is a well-regarded method to reduce inflammation, stress and soreness in the body (think footy players jumping into the sea or having crazy cold ice baths).
Don’t miss: While you’d be pretty content to spend hours lazing in the pools, the ‘fire and ice experience’ is a standout. Guests are guided through a 45-minute workshop, which takes you between the site’s 60-degree hot sauna, its ice cave (a very cold -17), 4-degree cold plunge pool and geothermal hot spring, which sits at a balmy 36 degrees. Your heart rate will rise and fall, you’ll sweat, you’ll shiver, but you’ll also walk out of it with a profound respect for your body and its limits (seriously, forget bungee jumping – this is what thrill-seekers should be doing).
What is it? When a grand opera hits town, it’s more than likely going to the majestic, underground State Theatre – the stage is so big it’s the equivalent of eight suburban houses.
Why go? Look, we get it. Opera isn’t for everyone – but we insist you give it a shot. There are often stunning costumes, elaborate set design and so much drama at the opera.
Don’t miss: Trying to count all those tiny brass cups that have been nailed to the theatre’s ceiling. We’re heard there are about 75,000, but good luck fact checking that.
What is it? OK, it seems obvious, but most visitors have never even seen a tram, let alone ridden on one. Melbourne’s tram network is a wondrous beast – the best part of all is that a huge chunk of it is free to ride if you stick to the city.
Why go? The tram network branches out from the city centre. It’s often easier to use trams than any other form of transport for those hopping between CBD attractions or visiting the inner suburbs.
Don’t miss: Travelling north-south on the Route 96 tram. It’s one of our favourite tram routes, stretching from St Kilda to East Brunswick and going along Bourke Street in the city. At stop 16 (Kay/Nicholson St) you can try the world’s best croissants at Lune, or you can spot fairy penguins at St Kilda Beach at stop 145 (Acland St).
What is it? Adelphi Hotel's rooftop pool, which has swiftly become one of the most photographed pools in Melbourne.
Why go? Well, a glass-bottomed section of the pool actually cantilevers out over Flinders Lane, meaning you can spy all the tiny ant people scurrying along while you're submerged in water. After an upgrade in late 2017, the rooftop pool deck is looking as fresh as ever. You don't have to be a guest of the hotel, though you do have to pay. Grab a spritz and your beach towel, and you'll be golden.
Don't miss: An overnight stay in the hotel itself. Located within a hulking 1938 building on the busy CBD hotspot that is Flinders Lane, the Adelphi Hotel is a nice landing spot for those who value edgy design, location and first-rate service.
What is it? The Toff in Town is one of the swankiest bars in town. Climb the stairs at vertical laneway Curtin House and you'll find a private booth bar to the left and an excellent band space to the right.
Why go? This cosy little red-curtained room has hosted a wealth of talent, both home and from far away. It's a fun haunt and one that reeks of character in an already vibrant Melbourne scene. Get right up and sweaty at the foot of the stage or sit back and sample the menu of delicious eats and the extensive range of drinks on offer.
Don't miss: Heading upstairs to super popular Rooftop Bar for a drink among the city's rooftops.
What is it? The Abbotsford Convent began as a convent in the late 1800s and was also a commercial laundry, orphanage and aged care facility. These days, it’s a hub for artists, makers, community radio broadcasters and teachers – as well as a beautiful place to explore.
Why go? You can feel the weight of the past as soon as you step into the grounds and look up to the gothic spires of the convent. It's also an excellent place to roam, explore or just relax on the green hills and amongst the gardens.
Don't miss: Checking out the work of local artists in the galleries, the gorgeous animals at the Collingwood Children's Farm, and going for a vegetarian feast at Lentil as Anything, the restaurant run by volunteers where you pay what you feel the meal is worth.
What is it? This Diagon Alley-looking laneway boasts great food, shopping and some of Melbourne's best street art.
Why go? Laneways throughout the CBD regularly get a repaint, so it's worth checking in on some of our favourite street art spots (including AC/DC Lane, Croft Alley and the super popular Hosier Lane) numerous times throughout the year.
Don't miss: Getting the best shot. If you want to take photos without people walking through your shot, we suggest waking up early.
What is it? A huge inner-city garden located amidst Melbourne’s busy cityscape
Why go? You can take a stroll around the park and take in the natural landscape and historic sites, which are located throughout the gardens. There’s a model Tudor Village, Captain Cook’s 1755 family home uprooted from Yorkshire and reassembled here in the 1930s, a collection of similarly strange fountains, memorials and follies accumulated over the park’s 150 years.
Don’t miss: A trip into the Conservatory. This Spanish Mission-style conservatory was opened way back in March 1930. It currently exhibits five floral displays annually, meaning it’s in full bloom all year round with a mix of hydrangeas, fuchsias, begonias, cyclamens and calceolarias all making an appearance at some point. Pro tip: make sure your nasal passages are clear – the smell is incredible.
What is it? The Melbourne International Comedy Festival – held in March/April every year – does much like the box says. It's a world-class comedy festival that takes over every corner of Melbourne's CBD, and it's impossible to miss.
Why go? The whole city is talking about the shows you have to see; the pink-and-yellow banners line CBD streets; and of course, hordes of audience members gravitate to the Melbourne Town Hall, tickets in hand. As the third-largest international comedy festival in the world, MICF boasts more than 400 shows to choose from.
Don't miss: It's impossible to see everything, so we suggest rocking up at the Town Hall in the evening and checking out what's on for the night. You could ask the festival's friendly staff for recommendations, take a chance on an up-and-comer who's flyering out front, or you could keep a close eye on social media (especially Twitter) to see what everyone is raving about.
What is it? Melbourne caffeine queen Proud Mary’s is a Collingwood café and coffee roaster that has been brewing a damn fine cup of coffee since 2009.
Why go? Melbourne is a coffee city, we know this. Although you’re rarely more than a hundred metres from a good brew, there still are some standout roasters like Proud Mary's. Founder Nolan Hirte is dedicated to bringing customers closer to the origins of their daily joe, and you can really taste the coffee love. Your black or milky cup of caffeinated happiness will cost you $4, so you’ll have plenty moolah left to get something tasty from the café menu.
Don't miss: If you like what you taste, Proud Mary’s offer a fortnightly coffee subscription delivered straight to your doorstep.
What is it? Vegan Italian food from one of Melbourne’s best vegan restaurants. This restaurant aims to dispel the myth that vegan cuisine is lacklustre and instead serves up dishes like “oxtail” ragu and creamy, slighty sweet ricotta on pizza fritte.
Why go? If you’re the kind of vegan who misses your melty cheese and your juicy meatballs, this place is for you. On the other hand, diehard curd lovers should prepare to be impressed.
Don’t miss: Everyone is raving about the ragu on polenta and three-cheese stuffed eggplant, but for some real sorcery, order the super-bitey cacio e pepe, which is impossible to tell apart from one emulsified with real Parmesan.
What is it? A magnificent old cultural landmark that houses an incredible amount of books, as well as several exhibitions and galleries with a lot of history. The library was established in 1856 and is a grand presence on Swanston Street with interior spaces to match.
Why go? You don't have to be a student or bookworm to enjoy the State Library. The beautiful building is a wonder just to explore and there's even a two-storey children's space where they can learn and play.
Don't miss: If you want to take that Hogwarts-like photograph of the library head to the La Trobe Reading Room. The six-storey-high domed space is a beautiful sight to behold – head up to the second or third floor to take the best shot.
What is it? Australia’s own version of the Northern Lights – the Southern Lights, or the Aurora Australis.
Why go? Um, have you seen the photos!? The best time of year to see this dramatic light display is during winter and the equinox in September, and you need to go somewhere where 1) there’s an uninterrupted horizon view, and 2) a place that’s away from city lights. So try Point Lonsdale, Cape Schanck, Flinders, the south side of Phillip Island, Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory, Aireys Inlet or Anglesea.
Don’t miss: It! The Aurora Australis, like its northern sister, is very difficult to predict. Patience is key here. Bring your camera (human eyes often can’t see the faint colour changes that happen during an aurora show, but DSLRs can) and wait.
What is it? Westgate Park, located on the edge of the city in Port Melbourne, turns a delicious shade of pink every summer.
Why go? It’s pink! And before you ask, yes, it’s completely natural. It’s been turning pink every year since the summer of 2012/13, when a collection of hot temperatures, algae combinations, lack of rainfall and excessive sunlight came together like a perfect pink witch’s brew.
Don’t miss: the pink colour. It happens in late summer and the colour can intensify as the water evaporates in the summer heat. Luckily, the pink colour has no impact on birdlife on the lake, who you’ll regularly see frolicking around the shoreline.
Why go? Take a walk through the park and see the awesome canopy of mountain ash trees or take a picnic by the picturesque lake and quaint boathouse.
Don’t miss: The park is home to a heap of Australian native flora, which changes all year round. In spring, the park is full of colour with flowering azaleas and cherry trees, while in autumn the park turns golden with the changing colours of the maples and beeches.
What is it? A whisky distillery located in Port Melbourne that’s churning out smooth, easy-drinking flavours that any dram drinker would enjoy.
Why go? The distillery itself is an airy and open warehouse space within easy walking distance of the city. The bar at the front is open to the public (try a whisky and tonic – you can thank us later) and a great space to catch up with friends. It is whisky-focused, as you'd expect, with Starward as well as other Australian spirits available and a few craft beers.
Don’t miss: You can book tours of the distillery to learn how whisky is made, from barley to bottle. You can taste it at its various stages along the way too, as well as seeing up close the state-of-the-art equipment and hundreds of barrels ageing the precious liquid.
What is it? A tennis ball-sized parcel of meat, cabbage and just the right amount of spice and served two ways: fried or steamed.
Why go? The South Melbourne Market dim sims are probably the best dim sims in the state. These massive morsels are a huge level up from the average tuck shop dimmie and they’ve become an icon of the southside indoor market, as the stall has been serving them for six decades.
Don’t miss: If a dimmie isn’t your thing, try a gozleme from the neighbouring stall on Cecil Street.
Why go? Owners Andrew Joy and Travis Howe can count Cumulus Inc, Cutler and Co, Tonka and Coda on their resumés, but it's head chef John-Paul Twomey who's bringing instant classics to the kitchen. Essentially, it's the dream team who are representing everything that's great about Melbourne dining right now.
Don't miss: The potato focaccia, which Twomey has perfected to contain both a strong, exterior crunch and light, interior airiness. It comes served in four fingers with a pool of the soft, creamy and super lactic cheese stracciatella, plus shaved zucchini and a dose of bright chive oil. It’s bread and dip, but not as you know it.
What is it? A boat hire service out of Docklands that lets you take a five-metre-long boat out on the Yarra River.
Why go? You don’t need a boating licence to operate one, so it’s fun for all.
Don’t miss: Go Boat is BYO. Boats come equipped with a built-in picnic table in the middle, meaning you can have lunch (and drinks) on the river.
Why go? Here you can celebrate the vibrant cultures of Indigenous Australia with exhibitions about traditional performances, storytelling rituals and artworks. It's a museum must see.
Don'tmiss: The Deep Listening space, where you can listen to Victorian Aboriginal people telling the stories of their culture from the time of creation to today.
What is it? The Bellarine, Melbourne’s “other” peninsula, has quietly transformed into a wine lover’s paradise.
Why go? The Bellarine has been producing wines since the 1980s, and frankly we think it’s about time the rest of the world knew about it.
What is it? Victoria's favourite sport. Australian Rules Football was born here, and to this day the Melbourne Cricket Ground (known more colloquially as the 'G) is the best place to see it all go down.
Why go? It's a bloody good time, no matter what team you're barracking for. Rug up, get a pie, a hot jam doughnut and a beer, yell like a bastard, heckle the umpires and have a right old laugh at the little tackers having a crack during half-time.
Don't miss: Seeing a game of AFLW, as well. The women’s league of the AFL hit the big time a few years back, and what better way is there to support the athletes than heading along to a game? The AFLW season starts in February and ends in late March.
What is it? As the name suggests, Californian redwoods are indigenous to coastal California and the southernwestern corner of Oregon in the US. Redwoods were planted down the coast in the Great Ocean National Park in the 1930s as well as a collection in the Warburton Valley.
Why go? These trees are distinguished by their extreme height (they can reach up to 115 metres tall) and their somewhat horizontal branches. They’re some of the oldest living organisms on Earth!
Don’t miss: Walking through these plantations makes you feel tiny. The grid-like plantation in Warburton includes over 1,400 trees, all up to 55 metres tall.
What is it? Every February Melbourne kicks off its Chinese New Year celebrations, which often include traditional live music, food, firecrackers, street performers, martial artists and the traditional lion dance down Little Bourke Street aka Chinatown.
Why go? Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year is for many a time to get together with friends and family to wish for good luck and a prosperous year ahead. As Melbourne's Asian communities celebrate, everyone is invited to join in the festivities all around the city.
Don’t miss: Tying it in with a visit to Melbourne’s best yum cha eateries. You won’t regret it.
What is it? One of Melbourne's best small theatres, Arts House is where you can go when you don't have the dollars to catch a mainstage show.
Why go? Going to a smaller theatre will no doubt reward you with cutting-edge, locally made theatre for at least half the cost. Committed to contemporary performance in all its guises, Arts House presents an innovative year-round program of national and international works, including theatre, dance, live art, digital and visual art.
Don't miss: Arts House also presents annual festivals –Festival of Live Art (FOLA) and Dance Massive – and provides the creative community with multiple artistic development programs.
What is it? Afternoon tea at the Windsor is a strictly traditional afternoon tea complete with ribbon sandwiches, warm scones and an ever-changing array of pastries.
Why go? It’s one of the best high teas in Melbourne (and definitely partly because of the dark and light chocolate fountains that roll out on weekends).
Don’t miss: Trying the Grey De Luxe tea, enjoyed by members of high society since the 1880s after it was made famous by Earl Grey himself.
Why go? Where else can you get a premium burger made with a mix of fill and half-blood Robbin’s Island wagyu, 24 hours a day? Plus, at $12.50, it’s a steal.
Don’t miss: Trying a skewer of offal, if you’re game!
What is it? A kayak ride right through the centre of the city thanks to Kayak Melbourne
Why go? It’s one of the coolest ways to see Melbourne’s skyline – and nothing beats seeing the sun set over all those buildings.
Don’t miss: The Moonlight Kayak Tour. It runs for two and a half hours, is suitable for all ages, and there’s no experience necessary.
What is it? Singaporean street food outlet Hawker Chan landed in Lonsdale Street at the end of 2017 and has been popular ever since.
Why go? Street food and Michelin stars might not seem the likeliest of bedfellows, but Hawker Chan sure makes it work. It’s not uncommon to see people queueing up outside the venue before it opens, eagerly awaiting their serve of soya chicken, rice and beans. Sounds simple, but sometimes simple dishes are the hardest to perfect.
Don't miss: The Michelin star rating comes from how Hawker Chan prepares its chicken: after making the soya marinade from scratch, chefs soak the whole chicken in it overnight. And it only costs $6.80.
What is it? Lake Mountain is an alpine village only two hours from Melbourne that’s perfect for a day trip.
Why go? This alpine region is great for skiers and snow bunnies in winter, and in the warmer months the resort is an ideal day-trip destination for bushwalking, mountain biking, cycling, trail running, leisurely picnics and nature walks.
Don’t miss: Trying out tobogganing. Lake Mountain has dedicated toboggan slopes that are great for beginners.
What is it? New Year’s Eve. Fireworks. Melbourne. It’s pretty self explanatory.
Why go? Sure, we don’t have the harbour like in Sydney. But Melbourne still puts on quite the show every NYE. There’s usually a fireworks display at 9.30pm for children as well as the big display at midnight.
Don’t miss: Securing a spot at one of these great free places across the city that offer top-notch views of the fireworks.
Why go? It's one of the only times where you don't need to ride an elevator for a beautiful city vista. Venture up the stairs on the outside of Hamer Hall (accessed from the bank of grass next to Arts Centre Melbourne) and step outside its warm, red walls to absorb the riverside.
Don't miss: A show while you're there! It's one of the city's best concert halls.
What is it? Most famous for the smiling face of the Luna Park gates, immortalised in programs like The Secret Life of Us, St Kilda is a one-of-a-kind bohemian suburb in Melbourne's south.
Why go? It's one of Melbourne's most eclectic suburbs. Head to Luna Park (Australia’s oldest amusement park) and hit the original rides still in operation, including the Scenic Railway, which opened in 1912, and the merry-go-round, built in 1913. Next, take in the sunset while you stroll down Jacka Boulevard to St Kilda’s breakwater for a peek at a healthy-sized colony of fairy penguins. The black-and-white cuties are there all year round, but the best viewing is in summer after sunset.
Don't miss: If the ocean seems intimidating, go for a dip at the St Kilda Sea Baths. You'll still get beautiful views of the bay, but with the added benefit of an aromatherapy steam room and café.
Why go? It was built in the 1890s, and it certainly lets you know it. We reckon the fanciest-looking entrance is via Collins Street, though the grandeur certainly smacks you in the face if you sneak in from Block Place. With the high, domed glass ceilings, extravagant cornices and an ornate tiled floor the Block is like a set from Harry Potter. Even the arcade's retailers fit the wizarding world brief with fancy chocolate shops, old-fashioned tea rooms, jewellers, watchmakers and more.
Don't miss: Buying something at Haigh's. If you do, staff will also offer you a free sample choccy.
What is it? If you find walking tours too sober and pub crawls declassé, join guide Ben Oliver on a Drinking History Tour.
Why go? You'll hit classic Melbourne landmarks like Federation Square, the Forum, the MCG, AC/DC Lane, the Old Treasury Building, Chinatown and more, but also stop at three bars en route. You'll learn fascinating stories about Melbourne's seedy past, including tales of murder, brothels and a centuries-old unsolved mystery.
Don't miss: There are plenty of great tours happening around Melbourne, so don't just limit yourself to one!
What is it? It’s 3.8 kilometres of primo jogging real estate.
Why go? The Tan is encircled by the beautiful surrounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Once a horse track, it’s now a running route that sees hundreds of locals descend on its picturesque path every weekend.
Don’t miss: An attempt at smashing the current record. If you can do a lap in under 10 minutes and eight seconds, you’ll probably get your own statue.
What is it? It’s lights out at this global dining phenomenon where you’ll eat dinner in complete darkness. Experienced guides, who have low or no vision, escort you into a pitch-black room and help you sit down, find your cutlery and find your wine and water. Then you’ll be given meals and learn how to eat without the help of sight.
Why go? Have you ever stopped to consider how much you rely on your eyesight to do something as simple as enjoy a meal out? From finding your wine glass to loading your fork to making eye contact with your dining companion, your eyesight makes eating out simple, and indeed almost automatic. But Dans Le Noir challenges you and forces you to rely on your other senses – it’s an unforgettable experience.
Don’t miss: Having a good conversation with your neighbours. Being seated with strangers you can’t see has its own challenges, but everyone becomes emboldened friends after hours in the dark.
What is it? An impeccably good cocktail bar that’ll have you thinking your soulmate might not be a person, but a conveniently located CBD bar.
Why go? Romeo Lane has struck the perfect balance between comfort and class: all your cocktails come in beautiful cut glassware; Tom Waits is on the stereo, followed by a little Stones and Levon Helm covering Springsteen; and on a chilly night they’ll fire up the open fireplace to turn the charm offensive up to 11.
Don’t miss: If you’re feeling poorly (mentally or physically) forget Lemsip or Butter Menthols. A Gold Rush cocktail is an essential sweet-and-sour salve made from lemon juice, honey and a healthy glug of bourbon.
What is it? A cute Carlton shopfront serving some of the best gelati in Melbourne.
Why go? Pidapipo's Lisa Valmorbida graduated from a gelato university in Italy. Naturally, her signature flavours include fior di latte, ricotta and fig, rosemary and chestnut and a rare rhubard and vincotto swirl; but to these she adds a rotating selection of adventurous seasonal flavours. Some of her ingredients – including cheese from St Kilda's La Formaggeria – may not fit with your idea of gelato, but somehow, she always makes it work. Whichever scoop you choose, you can't really go wrong.
Don't miss: A scoop of the Baci or banana milk gelato on brioche (the Italian way), and don’t skip on the Nutella on tap.
What is it? Shujinko is a 24-hour ramen bar located on Russell Street in the city.
Why go? Shujinko’s presence smack bang in the CBD and a stone’s throw away from some of the city’s most popular late-night venues is a godsend. Nighttime city dwellers will no longer have to resort to a greasy kebab or a mysteriously long-lasting burger from the golden arches.
Don’t miss: The ultra-spicy karakuchi ramen is just the thing to clear those sinuses, while the black ramen is an umami bomb that can cut through your booze-numbed tastebuds.
What is it? A gorgeous coastal region of Victoria located an easy 90-minute drive south of the CBD.
Why go? With beaches, wineries, parks, gardens and spas, Mornington Peninsula boasts an embarrassment of getaway riches.
Don’t miss: A stop at the Peninsula Hot Springs or a stay at the Jackalope Hotel, if you can swing it. There’s also the Arthurs Seat chairlift, the Bushrangers Bay Trail at Cape Schanck, the Enchanted Adventure Garden, Pt Leo Estate winery and its stellar restaurant Laura, dolphin and seal spotting in the bay… see what I meant about an embarrassment of riches?
What is it? It’s not often that you see crowds hanging out at a bookshop at 10pm on a Saturday night, but that’s Readings for you – proof that there’s still a place for great independent bookshops.
Why go? The original Carlton outpost took out the top prize at the 2016 London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards, and for good reason: aside from its unparalleled range, helpful staff and great atmosphere, the shop has a strong history of community outreach and support for local authors with their literary prizes.
What is it? Mt Hotham is one of Australia’s highest ski resorts and offers 13 lifts and over 80 runs for budding snow bunnies.
Why go? Hotham has 320 hectares of ski terrain, its own airport, 18 restaurants and bars, and even a luxe day spa. Whatever your needs, it’s sorted here.
Don’t miss: A soak in the mountaintop onsen. The Onsen Retreat and Spa has its own 38-degree Japanese onsen, plus an indoor pool, spa, sauna and treatment rooms. It’s exactly what you need after hurtling yourself down an icy mountain all day.
What is it? Heide Museum of Modern Art is a torchbearer for Australian modernism but also champions contemporary Australian art – in the spirit of its founders John and Sunday Reed, patrons and collectors who fostered the local modernist movement in the 1930s and 1940s.
Why go? Once you’ve completed your encounter with contemporary Australian artists inside the gallery, head out to Heide's green sculpture park, tip your hat to the corrugated iron cows and find a spot near the riverbank. In this blissful pastoral setting, you can almost sense the presence of members of the famous ‘Heide circle’, among them Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.
Don't miss: We'd suggest hopping on your bike and riding towards Heide if you're feeling energetic. It's a rather pleasant ride right next to the Yarra.
What is it? Rooftop Bar is a bar... on a rooftop ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Why go? For a city with such temperamental weather, we sure do love a rooftop bar. Our city is basically covered by them, but the most popular is Rooftop Bar. Once you ascend the seemingly endless flight of stairs up Curtin House (passing Cookie and the Toff in Town along the way), catch your breath and quench your thirst while taking in the heart and soul of Melbourne from above. Kick back on the fake grass or huddle under the heating and lose yourself in the spectacular view.
Don't miss: Getting friendly with the vertical lane that is Curtin House while you're there. This six-storey building houses some of Melbourne's most interesting tenants, from bookshops to hairdressers, restaurants to high fashion mavens.
What is it? About a two-hour drive from Melbourne is wildlife wonderland Phillip Island. Some 3.5 million people visit the island every year.
Why go? There are plenty of activities for families, couples and solo visitors, including a chocolate factory, wildlife parks full of native animals and of course, the nightly penguin parade. Motorheads flock to the island in their thousands for the Motorcycle Grand Prix in the spring.
Don’t miss: The fairy penguin parade, when hundreds of the little guys come in from a hard day's fishing and waddle up the beach to their homes in the rocks.
What is it? If you'd like to eat at one of the country's finest dining establishments, Attica is the place.
Why go? It won't be cheap, we'll warn you. But if you're willing to shell out $295, you're in for a once-in-a-lifetime degustation. The Attica team will let you taste quintessential Australian ingredients like yabbies, quandong, saltbush, finger lime or even the common, Antipodean pest the possum, all in a classy, fine dining setting. In the past, there have been hot jam doughnuts (a very Melbourne snack) and bush tucker tea made from gumbi gumbi (also known as native apricot) which is used by Indigenous people for its medicinal qualities.
Don't miss: Telling everyone you know about getting a table at Attica. Seriously, you'll be talking about this experience for years to come.
What is it? An annual feast of theatre, dance, visual art, music and events from Australia and all over the world.
Why go? The line-up never fails in its quest to be a celebration of the finest art from across the world. Serious talent headlines the festival, but you’ll also find a bunch of more accessible smaller acts to fill up your festival quota.
Don’t miss: In 2020, Melbourne International Arts Festival will combine with White Night for a mega winter festival. We can’t wait to see what this will look like.
What is it? This Art Deco icon is a creative hive that was built in the ’20s.
Why go? Exploring its ten storeys is an unparalleled shopping adventure: you’ll find boutique retailers, jewellers, art studios and bespoke tailors. Top picks include RetroStar (a small department store for vintage clothes and accessories), Brendan Dwyer (bespoke cobbler), L’uccello (specialist haberdasher) and Mattt (studio and retailer for beautifully designed and crafted handmade satchels). This was actually the last building in Melbourne to have lift operators.
Don't miss: Recreating your own version of local musician Courtney Barnett's 2015 video for 'Elevator Operator'.
What is it? Some of the city’s best dining is clumped together into this one, delicious stretch of road. Luckily, Flinders Lane is located in the city. Unfortunately, this means there’s almost always a queue at some of the best restaurants.
Why go? There’s ceviche and sours, Andrew McConnell’s culinary wizardry, Pan-Asian fusion with a side of hip hop, understated Japanese, tacos and tequila or modern Mediterranean. We hope you’re hungry.
Don’t miss: Kisumé is the sort of place where slivers of jewel-coloured ocean flesh are laid out with all the ceremony of tea in Kyoto, some complete with judiciously placed ornaments of edible gold leaf.
What is it? All hail Melbourne's iconic music pub the Tote, a venue that's been keeping Melbourne's rock'n'roll dream alive since 1980.
Why go? Did you know the Tote is the only pub in Melbourne to ever spark a full-scale protest, led by Australia's royalty of rock, when draconian licensing laws threatened to shut the place down back in 2010? Luckily the rockers and the pub prevailed, with live music reigning here every single week.
Don't miss: While rock still prevails on most nights, the Tote has diversified and now hosts DJs, pop acts, folk bands and queer nights.
What is it? A windy coastal road that shows off the best of Melbourne's bayside suburbs.
Why go? Running along the south-eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, Beach Road stretches from Brighton all the way to the southern point of Mordialloc. On a sunny day, it's a positively glorious drive, especially if you're keen on a dip in the ocean and curious to see how the other half live.
Don't miss: Taking a dip at Half Moon Beach. The name isn’t for nothing – Half Moon Beach curves around just like a crescent moon. It also has the added benefit of being at the bottom of scrub-covered cliffs.
What is it? Melbourne has a long and proud history of brewing top-notch beer. Thanks to the craft beer boom, micro-breweries have popped up all over the city. If you’ve got time for only one then make sure it’s Stomping Ground.
Why go? These beer barons are the same people behind the Local Taphouse and GABS Beer, Cider and Food Fest. The massive beer hall welcomes all sorts, from beer buffs to families with tots.
Don't miss: Taking a tour of the premises and seeing where your beer is made.
Why go? There’s a host of great bars to work through, whether you’re starting on the Windsor end or the South Yarra end.
Don’t miss: Leonard’s House of Love is like a cool house party at a ski resort circa 1983; Boston Sub’s Jungle Boy is the hidden bar all other hidden bars aspire to; and Lucky Coq are still slinging five-dollar pizzas so it’s pretty unmissable.
What is it? Built in the 1920s, the Forum is a tribute to Moorish architecture was saved from dereliction and Christian Revivalists by rock’n’roll. Nowadays, it's host to something the biggest names in rock (everyone from Nick Cave to Courtney Barnett have played there over the years), comedy and theatre.
Why go? Stepping out onto the Forum floor is an exercise in wonder – the ceiling is cerulean blue and dotted with tiny lights to mimic the night sky, while the walls form the façade of a gothic courtyard. Rock has never looked so good.
Don't miss: Looking down – the 2017 refurbishment has unveiled the Forum’s original mosaic floor from 1929.
What is it? An old car factory was converted into a huge permanent beer garden and food truck park called Welcome to Thornbury.
Why go? Fun fact: if you ask any Melburnian what their favourite car is, the answer will be “a food truck”. Like food cooked on a barbecue, there is something inexplicably tastier about food that’s been made in a truck. For the biggest range of meals on wheels visit Welcome to Thornbury. There’s room for up to seven food trucks on site, and roughly 80 different trucks rotate through the venue every month, including Mr Burger, Fancy Hank’s, Super Taco and Levain Doughnuts. Try your darndest to eat from every truck, but remember there’s no shame in failing.
Don't miss: This venue is dog-friendly, so either bring your dog or go to have a squiz at everyone else's adorable doggos.
What is it? While our friends from Sydney might scoff at Melbourne's attempt at beaches, little do they know one of the city's best beaches is actually one of the best places to kick back, have a swim and watch a pretty epic sunset over Port Phillip Bay.
Why go? Brighton Beach is famous for its iconic colourful bathing boxes, which line the foreshore along the beach. If the lure of purchasing one of these boxes for yourself is too good, fair warning: a 2016 sale of a box went for a cool $326,000.
Don't miss: If the wind picks up, it's also a great place to try some kiteboarding.
What is it? Moomba is Australia’s largest community festival and involves events like roller discos, skateboarding and BMX competitions, fireworks, puppet gardens, as well as the super popular Birdman Rally.
Why go? Moomba makes the most of Melbourne’s still warm March weather with watersports, live music and more over the Labour Day long weekend.
Don’t miss: Watching the action of the Birdman Rally. Each year, competitors create their own flying apparatus and hurtle themselves into the Yarra River – all in the name of charity.
What is it? Alpha60 is a local label that epitomises Melbourne’s penchant for comfortable yet stylish gear, with plenty of baggy cuts and dark colours.
Why go? Designer Alex Cleary, who founded the label with his sister Georgie, says "not only do we have to look stylish in Melbourne – we have be somewhat practical [for the weather]. Want to fit into Melbourne? Just add layers."
Don't miss: If you're looking to strike out from the all-black-everything memo, give Gorman a try – this Melbourne-born label has a penchant for bright colours and in-your-face designs that Melburnians love to sport.
What is it? The Regent Theatre opened in 1929 and is one of Melbourne’s most lavish theatres, embodying the glorious fantasy and escapism of Hollywood.
Why go? It’s where the big named musicals usually play – in the past there’s been Wicked, The Lion King, The Wizard of Oz and We Will Rock You.
Don’t miss: Taking a photo under the glitzy lights out the front of the theatre.
What is it? Melbourne’s alternative side is in full force in Fitzroy, this inner-city haven for all things cool and kooky.
Why go? Fitzroy’s main drag, Brunswick Street, is packed with vintage clothing stores, Melbourne fashion labels and secondhand stores including Hunter Gatherer, Mud, Alpha 60 and the Lost and Found Market.
Don’t miss: If you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday morning, hop over to Rose Street for the weekly Rose Street Artists’ Market. It gathers together some of Melbourne’s most exciting artists and designers to display their wares and talk all things handmade.
What is it? Fluffy pork buns. Silky, thin tofu skin. The sweetest pork dumplings. There’s nothing like a mid-morning dumpling feast to get you started for the day ahead.
Why go? David’s does all-you-can-eat yum cha on weekends, and you’ll want to make sure that you can indeed eat as much of the generous yum cha as you can.
Don’t miss: Much of David’s dishes are inspired by Shanghainese cuisine. The Peking duck pancakes are a dream and the scallop dumplings are wonderfully silky.
What is it? The hottest brunch seat in town, Higher Ground is a gorgeous café-restaurant located in a heritage-listed former powerhouse.
Why go? Brunch rules in Melbourne. There's no denying it. And one of the best places to go is Higher Ground. If you go on the weekend, there will be lines – there's no way around it. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a book and order coffee and a croissant from the outside food cart while you wait.
Don't miss: The 15-metre ceiling is impressive but not as impressive as the signature dish: a huge ricotta hotcake drizzled with maple syrup, seeds, grains, cream, seasonal fruit and some 'grammable flowers.