27 things we love about winter in Melbourne

With its cosy eateries and bars and fairy-lit ice rinks, Melbourne is a city made for the colder months. Embrace the chill and follow these tips on how to fall in love with winter
Ballarat Winter Festival
Photograph: Anthony Evans
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When winter's chill sets in, it can be tempting to hibernate. Our advice: don't. As a city that takes pride in its top-notch food and drink culture, arts, festivals and fashion, Melbourne comes into its own in winter – and we're here to help you make the most of it.

Never have a boring winter's day again with these 14 rainy day activities in Melbourne; and stay toasty with our list of 21 ways to beat the cold. If all else fails, grab a seat next to the fireplace at one of these cosy pubs.

Ice rinks

River Rink at Federation Square

1. River Rink in Fed Square
Jul 1-Jul 23
Rug up, hire some skates and take a spin at Fed Square. It's a great way to impress a date or out-of-towners as you show off your coolest tricks overlooking the Yarra, and the evening sessions will be accompanied by warming food trucks and beverages, plus extra entertainment and sweet tunes.

2. Skate Slide Chill
Until Aug 27
South Wharf’s riverside winter park is back with an ice rink and toboggan slide. Score half-price tickets on Mondays and try your hand at the strange sport of curling on Tuesdays between 8-9pm. Head over on Date Night Thursdays where you can make the most of the drink-and-skate couples package for $60, and boogie down on RnB Fridays.

3. St Kilda Winter Garden Ice Rink
Until Jul 30
This winter, St Kilda's foreshore (located right next to the Palais Theatre) is home to Map 57; an arts festival precinct packed with bars, food stalls, carnival rides, a Spiegeltent and a sparkling outdoor ice rink. While you’re there, be sure to take a chance on stand-up comedy (including Fiona O'Loughlin and Heath Franklin), cabaret (Blanc de Blanc) and kids' performances (Tessa Waters' How to be a Rockstar).

4. Eastland Ice Rink
Jul 1 - Aug 31
Eastland Shopping Centre's custom-built rink will be surrounded by snow-topped trees and will feature curated music for skating. The rink is designed to operate during rain, hail or shine, with skate loans available and a viewing area with seating. Entry is free for shoppers who spend $20 at Ringwood’s Town Square, a culinary playground that features Jimmy Grants, 400 Gradi, Huxtaburger, Pacos Tacos and plenty more. On selected Sunday mornings, the rink will be open to children and adults with disabilities, as a means to encourage participation on the ice in a safe and secure environment. 

Mulled wine

Top down view of mulled wine on a wooden table at Milk the Cow
Photograph: Ryan Noreiks

5. If the cold starts to get you down, there’s nothing like hot red wine infused with citrus and spices to bring you back to life. You’ll find it bubbling away in bars and pubs across the city; our favourites include Vegie Bar, ReWine, Milk the Cow and Naked for Satan.

Art galleries and museums

Markets

Queen Victoria Night Market

7. The Winter Night Market and Queen Vic Market
Until Wed Aug 30
Every Wednesday evening, Melbourne’s biggest night market greets visitors with a blazing fire display, glowing neon lights and billowing walls of red, hazy smoke. Warm up with a cup of mulled wine or hot cider, then get stuck into a street food feast – highlights include That’s Amore Cheese’s signature pasta tossed in a parmigiano wheel, lamb on the spit from Black Sheep and Movida’s Paco’s Tacos. As always, expect live performances, design stalls and roving entertainers.

8. Finders Keepers Market
Jul 14-16
What started as a cute 25-stall operation is now a three-day extravaganza with over 250 handpicked design and art stalls. Finders Keepers is Melbourne's original emerging designer market, and the key to getting your hands on amazing pieces before they hit the mainstream. Expect plenty of fashion, homewares, bodycare products and jewellery, as well as food trucks and coffee carts to keep your energy levels high.

9. Truffle and Charcuterie Celebration
Sun Jul 9
Prahran Market's annual Truffle Festival has incorporated delicious smallgoods for a feast of all manner of truffled dishes and locally made and imported charcuterie (including ham that has been crowned the world’s best). 

10. Batman Night Market
Until Sat Aug 26
Holy smokes Batman! Get down to Coburg on every second Saturday night to check out the great line-up of arts and crafts stalls, live performers and ever-changing selection of top-notch street food vendors.

11. Footscray Finds
Third Sunday of every month
If you love Camberwell’s Sunday flea market, you'll love Footscray Finds. This new monthly market in the heart of the inner west is set up with a combination of stalls and car boots. Expect vintage clothing, locally designed goods and homewares, vinyl records and even locally grown fresh produce. The market will also feature live music and food trucks for when hunger strikes. 

Winter fashion

Alpha60: Eastland

12. When it comes to layering, Melburnians do it best. Splash out on high-quality minimalist sweaters, coats and dresses at Alpha 60, or choose from a kaleidoscope of colour at Uniqlo. Also at Emporium, visit Glue Store for their collection of beautiful raincoats by Denmark label Rains.

Hot spring getaways

Rugging up

Otto & Spike

15. Yes, literally. Nesting is one of winter’s great pleasures, so buy yourself a soft, beautiful blanket from homewares stores like the pattern-obsessed Otto and Spike or monochrome prints at Marimekko.

Wine and cheese

San Telmo cheese board
Photograph: Kristoffer Paulsen

16. Sure, you could hunker down at home feasting on vin et fromage, but going to a specialised wine and cheese bar like Milk the Cow, Underwood Wine Bar or San Telmo guarantees you expert advice on the most delicious pairings.

Festival roadtrips

Ballarat Winter Festival
Photograph: Anthony Evans

17. Ballarat Winter Festival
Jul 1-30
There’s something a bit magical about this historic regional town in the dark, cold months – and this is exactly what the Ballarat Winter Festival seeks to capture. All through July, the Gold Rush town will come alive with food and wine events, gigs and performances, an ice rink, eerie ghost tours and (our particular favourite) a Winter Wonderlights projection art festival at Sovereign Hill.

18. Winter Wild
Jul 1-Aug 12
You may know Apollo Bay as a summer seaside haven, but in winter, things are very different in the town where the wild forests of the Otway National Park meet the Southern Ocean. This inaugural dark arts and music festival – which could be Melbourne’s answer to Dark Mofo – will take place over four weekends. Every Saturday night, the festivities will begin on the beach, where visitors will gather around bonfires the size of rooms, contained within artist-built braziers. From there, audiences will move into performance spaces; headliners include musician Mick Turner (best-known as the guitarist from the Dirty Three), and the inimitable Japanese-Australian performance artist Yumi Umiumare.

19. Winter Weekends Port Fairy
Jul 8-23
If you’ve never discovered the postcard-perfect seaside town of Port Fairy yet, then this community run festival – running every second weekend in June and July – is the perfect opportunity. By day, get involved with photography workshops, markets wine tasting, and after sunset, explore light installations, film screenings and ghost tours.

20. Hot Chocolate Festival
Aug 1-31
The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and its newer sister chocolaterie on the Great Ocean Road are famous for their month-long festivals dedicated to hot chocolate in all its delicious forms. Every single day of August, a new and ever-more ambitious combination of chocolate and milk will be introduced: we're talking chocolate brownie, Nutella, cookies and cream and the more adventurous like salted caramel popcorn and bacon and maple syrup. 

Playing board games in a bar

Entry at The Rooks Return
Photograph: Graham Denholm

21. Spend a long, boozy afternoon battling your mates in Scrabble, Connect Four or Balderdash. Our favourite board game bars include Katuk, the Rooks Return and 29th Apartment.

Winter cocktails

Autumn leaves cocktail Eau de Vie

22. Life-giving tonics abound in Melbourne’s bars over winter; we love Eau de Vie’s Autumn Leaves – an aromatic blend of gin, thyme, detox tea, fresh lemon and mandarin.

AFL at the MCG

Western Bulldogs vs Carlton AFL
Photograph: Flickr/Chris Brown

23. Nothing says winter in Melbourne quite like cheering for your team at the 'G, steaming tea in one hand, hot jam doughnut in the other, wrapped in a scarf.

Snow breaks

Mt Buller skiing
Photograph: Andrew Rai

24. Whether you love hitting the slopes or you’re more of an après-ski connoisseur, there are plenty of sweet alpine deals to get you to the snow for cheaper than you’d expect. Going in the middle of the week will save you money, for starters. Our favourite Victorian ski resorts include Mt Buller, Mt Baw Baw and Lake Mountain.

After-dark art adventures

Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Floodslicer

25. Gertrude Street Projection Festival
Jul 21-30
Celebrating 10 years in 2017, the free outdoor festival is taking over Fitzroy's Gertrude Street for ten nights. RMIT lecturer Fiona Hillary has curated a line-up of more than 30 works, themed around 'Unfurling Futures'. Australian artists creating work include Yandell Walton, Ray Thomas, Susan Forrester and Jody Haines, and key sites include the Festival Hub at the Catfish, Atherton Towers and the Gertrude Hotel, but look out for the smaller works in nooks and laneways along the way.

26. Nite Art
Thu Jul 27
More than 60 artists will showcase their work as part of this biennial after-dark art crawl, stretching from the Nicholas Building to the University of Melbourne. Kick things off by searching for US artist Jordan Eagles’ large-scale Illuminations installation, which will project dappled red ‘blood’ across a secret location. Then, find Isolation – a slice of dramatic landscape re-created in a white exhibition space – by acclaimed Berlin artist Fabian Knecht. Head to Flinders Lane Gallery for one of two performances of Holding Pattern: a collaboration by Hannah Quinlivan, Louise Keast and Alexandra Hobba that will combine 'spatial drawing' using LED lights and a performance of classical vocals that respond to the qualities of light and space.

27. Leempeeyt Weeyn'
Aug 5-20
The communal fire has always been central to the culture of the people of the Kulin Nations (the traditional owners of this land). This month, a large campfire will appear in Fed Square and burn for three weeks in August, symbolising a coming together of cultures and a sharing of stories and songs. Festivities will begin with a Welcome to Country on Saturday August 5. Then, selected evenings will feature activities and storytelling for kids, plus live music and spoken word performances.

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