A Melbourne Bucket List for First-Time Visitors
This is the Ultimate Melbourne bucket list itinerary for anyone planning a quick visit to the Victorian capital. As regular visitors to Melbourne’s CBD, we have chosen the places on our list that we think are the cream of the crop. We have arranged our bucket list in a way that will allow you to work from top to bottom over a couple of days, starting with the must see sights.
Melbourne is the traditional home for the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. Naarm is the Wurundjeri name for the city.
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Are you getting ready to take a trip to Melbourne? From watching the sunset at St Kilda Pier, checking out the awesome street art scene, or sampling some of the best food and coffee in the country, there is loads to see and do in this vibrant city.
Tips to make your trip to Melbourne easier
- There is a lot of walking on our bucket list itinerary. If you need a bit of a rest, you can jump on any tram in the city centre and ride for free – where we think it makes sense we will point out times to jump on the tram and save your feet.
- Melbourne can be frosty in the mornings, and not just in mid-winter, so unless you are visiting in summer, be sure to pack a warm, waterproof jacket. You will need it.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s create your perfect bucket list for an unforgettable visit and find out why this is one of ‘the world’s most liveable cities.’
In a hurry, here are our top tour choices for short tours that will cover the top sites and experiences. If you prefer to do your own thing, keep scrolling for our easy to follow 3 day itinerary.
Top 5 Melbourne Tours
If you prefer the idea of a guided experience, these are our favourite options
- Best Street Art Tour –This Melbourne Laneways Street Art Tour tour is led by a street artist and includes a visit to the famous Blender Studios
- Most relaxing Melbourne Tour – Melbourne City Highlights River Cruise – a 2 hour cruise along Melbourne’s Yarra River. There is also a bottomless lunch option.
- Best Foodie experience – Melbourne Foodie Culture Walking Tour – A progressive tasting through 5 stops with stories around the history behind the foods and flavours of the stops.
- Best family experience with teens – Classic Melbourne Bike Tour this 4 hour small group tour travels along safe bike paths and parks is perfect for the whole family.
- Best all round day tour from Melbourne – Great Ocean Road and Wildlife Full Day Tour – See Apollo Bay, 12 Apostles, Gibson steps & Loch Ard Gorge and koalas and parrots in their natural habitat
Day 1 – AKA, how many bucket list spots can we see in a day?
We will start and end our first day at Federation Square and tick off many of the top tourist attractions in Melbourne.
This is the place where Melbourne locals get together for big events, think world cup matches and New Year’s Eve, for example.
Covering almost an entire block, Fed Square really is an artwork itself. The deconstructivist style provides a stark contrast between the French Renaissance-inspired Flinders street station and the Gothic Revival of St. Paul’s Cathedral that sits across the intersection.
Look down, the paving below you in the main square is a huge urban artwork, called Nearamnew, by Paul Carter
Federation Square is also the home of a couple of important museums and art galleries including, the Ian Potter Centre, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Koorie Heritage Trust but on a short visit, you won’t really have time to visit them all.
We chose the Koorie Heritage Centre last time and this small but interesting collection, and we suggest you allow 30 minutes to pop in now if it is open.
On day three or if bad weather hits, you can come back and see the other venues here.
Before we leave the area, walk a little east to Birrarung Marr just along the Yarra. The famous Angel, a sculpture by Deborah Halpern, is perhaps the first thing that pops out in this riverfront park, but the space is home to several other important artworks.
Woi Wurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, birrarung means ‘river of mists’ and ‘marr’ relates to the edge.
The first two are indigenous works
- Birrarung Wilam – an installation and audio artwork, a collaboration between 3 artists
- Eel Trap sculpture – a large piece of metalwork by Fiona Clark and Ken McKean
A little further on, you will find the Federation Bells, 39 upturned bells that ring out three times a day (8-9am, 12.30-1.30pm and 5-6pm).
For now, let’s retrace our steps and cross the road to explore Melbourne’s laneways.
Melbourne’s laneways and street art
Make your way to Hosier Lane. This is the most iconic of Melbourne’s street art laneways. Since officially decreed as a street art gallery by the Melbourne City Council in 1998, Hosier Lane has attracted both artists and art lovers with its ever-changing, often politically motivated messages.
The laneway is the starting point for our self-guided street art tour [+map] which is a must for graffiti art lovers and a great route to follow to see many of the city’s best spaces.
Along with the artwork, Hosier Lane is also home to one of our favourite Melbourne bucket list eats, MoVida, a Spanish tapas bar we always pop into when we visit. But this morning we suggest a coffee from the Social enterprise cafe The Little Social for your first coffee of the day.
Continue strolling a few more laneways, we think AC/DC Lane and Duckworth Place are must-sees too.
There are some excellent street art tours if you are keen to learn more.
Now walk up to Bourke Street and jump on the 86 or 96 tram, which will drop you right by our next stop
The Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens
If, like me, you never pass up a chance to visit a UNESCO site, then you will want to add the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens to your Melbourne bucket list.
The dome of the building was modelled on the dome on the Florence Cathedral
The building was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004 for its outstanding architectural and cultural significance as one of the world’s last surviving 19th-century exhibition buildings and for its association with the development of the modern Australian nation.
It was constructed to host the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, but perhaps its most important role was as the home of the first Australian Parliament in 1901.
There are daily tours of the Royal Exhibition Building at 10am or 2pm ($29)
Directly behind the building is our next stop – the Melbourne Museum.
With a collection covering natural and cultural history, there is plenty to see here and you could easily spend 2-3 hours learning about Melbourne’s history.
However, with our limited time today, we suggest you take the opportunity to learn more about the First Nations people of Melbourne in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre. This collection gives an excellent introduction to indigenous culture. You can also visit the Milarri Garden and learn about the indigenous flora and fauna.
Okay, it’s likely you are hungry by now, so let’s go find some of Melbourne’s infamous eats!
Queen Victoria Market
My Melbourne bucket list would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Queen Victoria Market. This is one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in the southern hemisphere, offering an incredible range of local produce, vintage clothing stores, souvenirs, and more.
It’s also a great spot for people-watching – there are always interesting characters milling around the market!
Cheese lovers will want to stop by “Ripe Cheese” a shop that specialises in Australian cheese and serves a very decadent cheese toasty. The “Corner Larder” is also an excellent choice, especially if you want to pick up some treats to take back to your room.
You will find them in the Dairy Hall, which is one of the must-see spots in the market, so make sure you drop by, at least for a look around the Dairy and the Meat and Fish hall which have their original features intact.
QVM has been operating continually since 1878 and you are bound to find something you like with over 600 stalls, shops and food trucks on the perimeter.
Note: Queen Victoria Market is closed on Monday and Wednesday. If it’s closed for your visit, continue directly to Chinatown.
Melbourne’s Chinatown is centred on Little Bourke Street and sprang to life during the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s. It has two claims to fame, firstly it is thought to be the “longest continuous ethnic Chinese settlement in the Western World” and second, it’s the oldest Chinatown in the Southern Hemisphere.
You will find the largest Chinatown Gate, officially known as Facing Heaven Archway, is at the corner of Little Bourke Street and Cohen Street. There are three more on Russell Street, Exhibition Street and Swanston Street.
The Chinese migration during the gold rush is an important part of Australia’s immigrant history. Learn more about this rich history at the Chinese Museum ($10.50) where exhibits include the Chinese on the goldfields, Chinese Aboriginal Peoples in Australia and the costumes used in traditional lion dance displays.
Other highlights include The Tianjin Garden on Spring Street and the lovely Num Pon Soon building.
Tip: If you are interested in immigration history, add the Immigration Museum in Old Customs House to your list for later in the week. It’s one of my favourites in the city.
Just a short walk away, you will find our next stop…
State Library of Victoria
We highly recommend a quick visit to Australia’s oldest public library building (1856) and one of the first free libraries in the world.
State Library of Victoria is the fourth most visited in the world, receiving over 2 million visitors a year!
Be sure to pop into the La Trobe Reading Room and marvel at the six-story high dome roof. With seating for 320 readers, this room alone always makes me want to move to the city just so I can sit and work in this space!
If you have time, see the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, which was restored to its former glory in 2019.
The library is open from 10am–6pm, seven days a week.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Next up we have Old Melbourne Gaol, which operated from 1842 to 1929. This is where Australia’s most renowned bushranger, Ned Kelly, was hung in 1854.
You can learn more about his life and view his death mask while touring the gaol. We suggest you take a self-guided audio tour.
Old Melbourne Gaol is also known for its ghostly legends and paranormal activity. Night tours are sometimes offered, including the Hangman’s night tour and ghost tours.
When: Visit Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Last entry is at 3pm.
Time for a drink
This afternoon, book yourself on a bar tour and learn about the city’s incredible small bar culture. Your tour guide will show you more in two hours than you can find alone and give you plenty of tips for the next few days. I thoroughly enjoyed our tour with Little Lon (read more below) my favourite bar of the day.
Prefer to see the sites of this entire day on a guided experience? Check out this free 2.5 to 3 hour walking tour that will cover similar ground to our suggestions above, but at a much faster pace (we suggest a donation of $15 pp.)
Day 2 – The Beach and the Suburbs
Today we will head out of the CBD for a few hours, but first a morning walk.
Royal Botanic Garden
For the early birds today, we suggest you begin with a morning walk in the Royal botanic gardens.
Explore whichever of the gardens appeals. I love Fern Gully and the Cacti Garden but there are several others to discover.
There is a free guided tour each morning at 10.30am or you can book an Aboriginal Heritage Tour ($40)
Looking for a romantic way to start the day? Between September and May, you can also go punting on the lake.
Before you leave the garden, visit the Shrine of Remembrance. It is free to enter and open from 10am daily. Even if it’s not open when you arrive, it’s worth taking in the building itself and the view from the top of the stairs back over the CBD.
Ok, make your way back to Flinders Street Station and let’s jump on the Sandringham train to make our way to Brighton Beach and see the famous Bathing Boxes.
Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes
The trip from Flinders Street to the bathing boxes takes about 25 minutes on the train, followed by a very scenic 15-minute walk. Leave the train at Brighton Beach for a short walk to Foreshore Reserve, which has a fantastic view of the city skyline in the distance.
Walk along the foreshore to Dendy Beach, which is where the Bathing Boxes start. The 82 colourful boxes that sit on the sand looking out over Port Phillip Bay are another of Victoria’s iconic sites.
Now if you fancy burning off some calories that a trip to Melbourne is sure to deliver, then you could take the 60 minute waterfront walk to St Kilda, our next stop.
Alternatively, jump on the 603 bus to Rippon Lea in Elsternwick, and explore this heritage-listed property with stunning gardens.
You could also just jump in an Uber and head straight to St Kilda Beach if you would like to save your time to explore here instead.
St Kilda Beach
St Kilda is Melbourne’s most popular beachside suburb. It’s been Melbourne’s playground since the early 1900s when trams began delivering Melburnians here in droves.
The fun beefed up in 1912 with the opening of Melbourne’s Luna Park, its iconic smiling face is much loved by locals and visitors.
Perhaps, if you are brave, take a ride on the world’s oldest roller coaster, which opened in 1912 and is heritage listed.
Architecture lovers will enjoy much about St Kilda starting with the Edwardian styled St Kilda Pavilion, at the end of St Kilda Pier is reminiscent of the English pier pavilions. The Pavilion was rebuilt after a fire in 2003 had destroyed it.
On a Sunday a St Kilda Market lines the esplanade from 10am-4pm. This is a great spot to pick up high-quality Australian souvenirs.
Before you leave,Street, it’s time for cake! Make your way to Acland Street, then grab a treat from the famous Monarch Cakes, which has been turning out delicious sweet treats here for over 80 years. Their traditional poppy seed cake is hard to pass up.
While you are in Ackland Street, check out Woolworths, where you will find a fab mural of a Melbourne Tram perfect for your holiday snaps.
If you spend some time wandering the back streets and lanes here, you will find more cool street art
After you have had lunch, make your way back to the Melbourne CBD. Jump off the tram at Southbank.
Stroll the Yarra River along the Southbank from the Crown Complex to the Royal botanic gardens.
Hopefully, you have made here before sunset, because today we are going to take it all in from the highest point in the city.
Melbourne Skydeck ($28) stands 300 metres high, providing 360° panoramic views of the Melbourne Skyline day and night.
There are a number of additional experiences here, including the Edge, a VR Plank experience and even cocktails in the clouds.
Finish the evening with a walk along South Bank. If you are lucky, you might time it for one of the fire displays from the gas brigades that line the waterfront. These start daily between 6pm and 9pm depending on when it gets dark. They then fire hourly until midnight or 1am.
Day 3 – Shopping and Art
We will begin in Bourke Street Mall, which runs between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street. Keep your eye out for The Public Purse, a sculpture by Simon Perry just outside the old Post office which is now a H&M store. The purse is a popular meeting spot for locals.
The mall is also home to some beautiful old arcades – enter the Royal Arcade and make your way around to the Block Arcade which exits on Collins Street. The architecture and the interesting small stores make these a must.
Chapel Street – Boutique shops and a must for fashion lovers, this strip is about 2.5km and straddles South Yarra, Prahran, and Windsor. True shoppers will want to walk the whole length of Chapel Street.
Brunswick Street and Smith Street – If your taste leans a little to the alternative, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is a brilliant spot to wander. Fashion, bookshops, cafes and bars.
Markets in Melbourne
On a short visit, you won’t have time to visit too many markets, but there are some popular ones to choose from.
Prahran Market in South Yarra – Considered by many as the best food market in Melbourne, so if you miss Queen Victoria Market, this is a good choice. Arrive hungry, grab something delicious to eat and enjoy the live music on weekends. Open Tue, Thur-Sun 7am-5pm.
South Melbourne Market – This large indoor market is much loved by locals and along with being a great food market, it has plenty of fashion, jewellery and gifts. Take the number 96 tram from Bourke Street, the tram stops a one-minute walk from the market entry. It’s open Friday – Sunday + Wednesday from 8am-4pm.
The Rose Street Artists Market in Fitzroy– I always try to pop by this market on my visits. All the stalls here offer handmade original products. Open weekends from 10am-4pm.
Direct Factory Outlets South Wharf (DFO) – a large outlet centre with 120 shops. If you are a bargain hunter wanting to shop up a storm, you might want to include this. Open 10am-6pm daily. Personally, I was a little underwhelmed and thought there were better bargains at Spencer Street outlet centre.
NGV – National Gallery of Victoria
If you have not spent the entire day shopping or you are just not much a shopper, I suggest you pop into the National Gallery of Victoria where you can view the permanent collection for free! If you would like to focus on Australian art, make your way back over the bridge to The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square.
Melbournes Best Night tours
If you are not ready for a good rest by now, consider one of these top things to do in Melbourne at night
- A sunset kayak tour on the Yarra River
- A Melbourne bites walking tour
- Or for the brave an old Melbourne Ghost Tour
From markets to laneways, there’s so much fun waiting to be had in Melbourne! I hope this gives you some ideas of the must-see experiences that should be on your Melbourne bucket list.
Got a question? Head over to our Australia Travel Tips Facebook Group and ask a local.
What to Eat and Drink in Melbourne
One joy of Melbourne is its amazing food culture. When we visit, we often plan the food before we plan our things to do. If food is an important part of your trip, check out the Seasoned Traveller by food writer Sofia Levin. You will find enough inspiration to want to stay for a month!
Dinner in Melbourne
The dining scene here could easily have its own Melbourne bucket list. We suggest food lovers do some independent research on what’s hot right now. A great starting point is Melbourne tourism lists.
Having said all that, here are my three personal favourites:
- Mabu Mabu Sample some native Australian flavours and explore modern Australian cuisine. Choose from the al la carte menu or one of the shared “Feed me” options.
- MoVida is a great choice if you fancy a grazing-style dinner punctuated with big bold reds. This venue is very popular on Saturday night so book early.
- Maha – Fine dining Middle Eastern style. Chef Shane Delia is most respected for his take on the cuisine.
We always book ourselves a food tour when we first arrive in a new city to give us an idea of the food scene, and this is especially true for Melbourne.
Melbourne Bar Scene
There are too many bars in the Melbourne CBD for us to give you a list of bests. Include at least one rooftop bar and then choose one of these bars with a story. We can’t recommend enough that you join a bar tour and learn about the best spots from a local specialist.
Here are a few we love.
Little Lon Distilling Con.
Explore this tiny heritage-listed building with red brick architecture while enjoying perfectly crafted cocktails from the bar, all within the walls of this iconic building.
The Little Lon Story is an interesting one dating back to 1877 was part of the Little Lon red-light district and a popular house of ‘ill repute.” and where a single Chinese prostitute known as “Yokohama” worked.
The gin which is distilled on site, our favourite was the Miss Yoko, a lychee infused gin named after the previous occupant. Three other gins have names of people connected to the building, including a local constable.
On our visit, we optioned for the gin tasting flights but are keen to do a masterclass on our next visit.
Open: Thurs-Sunday 4–11 pm
Another bar we really enjoyed on our first visit and always return to is Berlin Bar. On entering, you are transported to Berlin in the Cold War era. With cocktails named after the astronauts and well-known people of the era, it has a fun vibe and the menu provides a great conversation starter. Personally, I think it’s hard to beat the Laika, a drink named after the stray dog that found itself manning a space mission!
Berlin Bar has 2 areas, the east and west. The East features communist propaganda, and the West has you in the lap of capitalist luxury. Where do you think you will be most comfortable?
Open: from 5pm daily (closes 12pm or 1am Fri -Sat)
The Best Melbourne Bar Tours
If you are travelling solo or would like a really good introduction to the Melbourne Bar scene, book yourself on one of these tours. As Sydneysiders, we do one almost every time we visit to find out what’s new and fill our visit with cool places to go when the sunsets.
Melbourne History And Hidden Bars Tour – This 3 hour tour is offered in the afternoon or evening every Saturday.
Scary Tales and Hidden Ales Bar Tour – Available on Thursday and Saturday afternoon or evenings. Three hours of ghastly, ghoulish and scary tales about Melbourne while tasting some of the city’s finest drinks.
When is the best time to visit Melbourne
Melbourne can be blisteringly hot in summer and positively freezing in winter, so we love to visit in March- April or October- December. Check out our full guide for the best time to visit Melbourne here.
Festivals in Melbourne
If you time it right, you might get to take in one of Melbourne’s fantastic festivals or events. From the Spring Racing Carnival (October), to the iconic Moomba, Christmas carols in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and The Melbourne Comedy Festival there is a lot happening in Australia’s most populous city.
Sports lovers will also want to note the Australian Open (Tennis), AFL Grand Final, Cricket’s Boxing Day test match and the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix.
Day trips from Melbourne
If you have more than 3 days in Melbourne to complete your bucket list, then we suggest you add a day trip to your itinerary. Honestly, we think you should add at least 2 days at a minimum. Victoria is such a compact state that day trips are fairly easy from the capital.
- Mornington Peninsula – Beaches, wine and art combine to make a day spent in the Mornington Peninsula hard to resist. Take the Millionaires walk and visit some of the state’s most impressive cellar doors. You might also like a day relaxing at the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs.
- Another must-do on my Melbourne bucket list is to take a drive down the iconic Great Ocean Road. This beautiful stretch of coastline is filled with stunning lookouts, surf beaches and charming towns you can explore. An official one-day tour or 2 day Great Ocean Road trip is unforgettable.
- Phillip Island – a good choice for families – kids will love watching the penguins make their way up Summerland Beach at day’s end.
- Yarra Valley – Home of Puffing Billy at Gembrook and the wonderful Healesville sanctuary and for a tipple on the way home Four Pillars Gin Distillery. Make sure you stop in at one of the area’s famous wineries, too.
- Grampians National Park – Hiking, rock climbing or mountain biking, one of Victoria’s most loved national parks is a magnet for adventure lovers.
- Ballarat or Bendigo – Easily reached by train, both cities offer a fantastic glimpse into the gold rushes
Get more details about the best day trips in Melbourne here.
Where to stay in Melbourne
On a quick visit, we recommend you stay in the Melbourne CBD with easy public transport access.
We have a full guide on the best places to stay in Melbourne, but these three hotels are well positioned for a quick break in Melbourne:
voco Melbourne Central – On Lonsdale Street, this 252 room property is surrounded by shops, cafes and restaurants. Tram stops are just minutes away. A great choice for summer with a lovely infinity pool.
Laneways By Ovolo – 42 rooms featuring 1980s Italian-inspired design Laneways by Ovolo sits at the top of Little Bourke Street perfectly positioned for exploring the city’s bars and shopping districts.
Vibe Hotel Melbourne – Located on Queen Street just a few minutes walk from Flinders Street Station, the Vibe Hotel offers an indoor pool, family rooms and uninterrupted views of the Yarra River and Southbank.
If you’re looking for more places to visit, why not consider some of the lesser-known locales and dive deeper into the culture? A healthy dose of exploration and wandering can bring tremendous rewards!
And for more tips on things to do in Melbourne, be sure to check out these articles:
- Street art self-guided tour with map
- Free things to do in Melbourne
- Day tours from Melbourne
- Some great walks in Melbourne
- Must do Melbourne Sports lover’s experiences
Need more ideas? Join our Australia Travel Tips group where you can ask questions, stay updated with what’s happening and meet a bunch of friendly local experts ready to share their advice!