Melbourne Travel Guide

Get Your Bearings in Melbourne

Where to Stay

There are lots of things to do and experience throughout Melbourne, but booking a hotel as close as possible to City Centre (CBD) will make it convenient to get around the city. As in more large cities, Melbourne has its range of budget-friendly to luxury accommodations. The University is nearby and there are several venues for nightlife. To get to some of the farther out tourist destinations, you may want a car depending on how fast you need to get around. But, the public transport system is good.

Hot Tips: Depending on budget, St. Kilda area is another option and not far from City Centre.


What to Eat

It won’t be hard to find good food in Melbourne. It’s for good reason that the city is often called the culinary capital of Australia:it has a host of options lining its streets from fine to casual dining establishments. It also has been known to pour some good coffee. Locals flock to Brunetti for traditional Italian favorites but also for its desserts (and fresh Vittoria coffee and large wine selection). Arintji on Federation Square is a modern bistro that allows diners to enjoy great tapas while taking in the outstanding views of the Yarrow River.

Hot Tips: Scones are what Americans would call biscuits (which is the local name for what Americans would call cookies).
Be Sure to Sample: Fish and chips (the Australians have their own version of the popular British dish), coffee.


Things to See

It’s hard to visit Melbourne without a trip to the Melbourne Zoo, home to over 350 wildlife species living in naturalistic, botanical settings. Located near the central business district, visitors can admire Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos and wombats. Visitors with a few hours can see the beautiful gardens at Royal Botanical Gardens. Phillip Island is just over 80 miles from south-southest Melbourne where you can see the penguins. Closer to the city and on an easy tram ride, you can see a much smaller penguin colony in St. Kilda.

Avoid: Don't expect to get close to the penguins at Phillip Island; head to St. Kilda for that type of experience.
Hot Tips: Allow at least four hours to see the Melbourne Zoo in its entirety.


Places to Party

Melbourne’s nightlife begins after sun sets on Fridays and Saturday nights when locals head out to enjoy the city. Friday entertainment guide, The Age, gives a great overview of the activities for the week ahead. King Street used to be where the nightlife action centered and while visitors will still find large disco venues here, sometimes the best places are in the hidden bars and clubs so ask your local indie shop owners or restaurant waiters where they’d recommend going while you’re in town. It just may be down a dark alleyway.

Hot Tips: Pubs usually open around mid-day and close around midnight on most nights. Many stay open until 2 or 3a m on Friday and Saturday nights.


Where to Shop

Swanston Street may not make it into the tour guides, but it has shopping options galore from basement bargain shops (literally in the basement) to more upscale department stores like David Jones in the Bourke Street Mall. Historic Royal Arcade runs from Little Collins Street to the Bourke Street Mall and is one of Melbourne's most charming arcades, offering small boutiques, antique stores, jewelry shops, gifts and souvenirs. For those who like the swap market experience, head to Queen Victoria Market where shoppers will find inexpensive souvenirs to high-end alpaca sweaters.

Caution: The Bourke Street Mall area is car-free, but watch out for the trams that run through the centre.
Best Local Souvenir: Anything kangaroo, Aboriginal art or an Australian opal.


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About Melbourne

Nestled on Port Phillip Bay along Australia's southeastern coast, Melbourne is the nation's second largest city. Capital of Victoria, it was established in 1835 on lands John Batman purchased from aborigines (they believed they were granting only a right of way) and named for the British prime minister of the time. Unlike many of Australia's cities, Melbourne was settled by free men rather than by convicts and criminals. As a result, the city enjoyed an optimistic outlook from the beginning. Not long after Melbourne was founded, gold was discovered in Victoria's interior, and the city was flooded with prospectors and folks eager to accommodate their developing needs. Citizens of all nationalities came to Melbourne, and — after WWII — immigrants from the Mediterranean world and from throughout Southeast Asia also found their way to the coast, giving rise to a vibrant, eclectic urban culture. As it's been in the past, Melbourne is regarded as a sophisticated, worldly city, full of cultural opportunity and class. Fantastic restaurants, unparalleled shopping, and a wealth of parks and gardens provide a distinctive character that's bolstered by such community events as the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Tennis Open, and...  Read more »