Melbourne - the capital of Victoria and Australia’s second largest city - is a modern, cosmopolitan city with a host of entertainment, sports, and culinary, cultural and shopping options to be enjoyed. The streets, parks, distinctive cultural precincts and waterfront area of Melbourne make it a magnificent city to explore at leisure.
While still retaining architectural links to the past Melbourne has all the benefits of a modern city and over recent decades has explored its identity with ultra-modern buildings like Federation Square, Victorian Arts Centre and the redevelopment of the Docklands area.
The city centre is laid out in a simple grid pattern, the long, wide north-south streets gently sloping down to the Yarra River. The main shopping streets such as Bourke Street, Swanston Street and Collins Streets are crossed by a mix of narrow lanes and old-world arcades. The CBD is easily navigable by foot, and if you need a rest after sightseeing or shopping, there are numerous parks nearby, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens.
Alternatively, you can take one of Melbourne's signature attractions, a tram. The burgundy-coloured City Circle tram is free, and is a good way to get your bearings as well as explore the inner-city. But be prepared for a passenger crush during peak tourist seasons.
Take a range of clothing options for temperature variations and changeable weather – even during summer. Temperatures range from 6 to 13 degrees Celsius in winter and 15 to 27 during summer months.
Aboriginal peoples occupied the area for some 40,000 to 60,000 years prior to European settlement, which began in 1835, through the efforts of John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner. Population growth was slow until the discovery of gold to the north-west, in and around Ballarat and Clunes in 1851.
In fact the growth was so great that until 1911 Melbourne was Australia's most populous city and housed the Federal Government, until the completion of Canberra. The city population is now well over 3.5 million.
Melbourne attractions include:
- Federation Square - Fast becoming the cultural icon of Melbourne with its ‘Fractal Façade’ system on each building in the square. The façade is made up of triangles made of sandstone, zinc and glass pieced together at different orientations and surface angles. See it from the inside at The Atrium and the BMW Edge Theatre indoor amphitheatre. The Square is home to restaurants, cafes, bars and retail outlets as well as venues including the Melbourne Visitor Centre, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Australian Racing Museum and the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia - dedicated exclusively to Australian art.
- Queen Victoria Market - a Melbourne institution since the late 1860s, you can shop for gourmet food, clothing, toys, souvenirs and more. Closed Monday and Wednesday.
- Melbourne Cricket Ground - Melbourne's home of cricket and Australian Rules football, and the heart of the 1956 Olympic Games and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. There are tours and the ground houses the Australian Gallery of Sport, Olympic Museum and the Cricket Hall of Fame.
- Southbank - a bustling entertainment complex situated on the south side of the Yarra River, housing Crown Casino, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, cinemas, sculpture, artworks and more. There is an open air Arts & Crafts market on Sundays.
- Melbourne Aquarium - a state-of-the-art aquarium located by the Yarra River, featuring sharks, stingrays and coral.
- St Patrick's Cathedral - with soaring interiors and stained glass windows.
- Old Melbourne Gaol and Penal Museum - amongst the museum's chilling exhibits are the gallows from which Ned Kelly was hung. If you're brave, take a night-time tour of the jail.
- Docklands - New Quay - a short walk or tram ride from the CBD, you'll find restaurants, cafes, bars and riverside walkways decorated with public artworks.
- The Shrine of Remembrance – in the parklands of Kings Domain, off St Kilda Road, a fine European-style boulevard.
- St Kilda - beachside suburb with restaurants, cafes, bars and famous Luna Park.
- Scienceworks - a hands-on, innovative science museum in Spotswood also includes Melbourne Planetarium. Exhibits include Australia's first plane and car.
- Melbourne Museum - innovative collection housed in a stunning modernist building.
- Lygon Street, Carlton - known as “Little Italy”, a popular restaurant, cafe and bar strip.
- Brunswick Street, Fitzroy - a street with a bohemian heart, with cafes, restaurants, clubs and fashion shopping.
Find out more about Melbourne’s Top Spots - categories include Attractions,
Shopping Precincts, Eating Precincts, For Kids and Free Things.