You could spend a lifetime in Melbourne – some of you readers may already have done so! – and never experience absolutely everything awesome to do here. Heck, it’s our job, and sometimes we feel like we’re barely scratching the surface. Still, we love a challenge, and this time, we’ve set ourselves the goal of rounding up the essential experiences that Melbourne has to offer in one handy guide. It may take you a while to complete them, but we reckon these are the crème de la crème: the very best things to do in Melbourne at least once in your life. Go forth and explore, and make sure to save this list to keep up to date with the latest happenings.
1. Check out what’s happening in Fed Square
Melbourne’s gathering place usually has something going on, whether that be a Pixar-themed mini-golf course or a night of open-air cabaret featuring the irrepressible Reuben Kaye. Rare are the days when Fed Square sits empty, so if you’re ever in need of a spot of culture, it’s no bad idea to head along.
2. See a theatre show
Melbourne has a truly thriving theatre scene. This year, you can look forward to shows like:
3. Scope out the eats at the Queen Vic Market
Foodie heaven awaits you at Queen Vic Market, with a variety of mouthwatering stalls and traders selling their wares each week. Arguably the highlights are the special editions throughout the year, such as the current Summer Night Market (until March 13, 2024), along with the likes of Hawker 88 and the Winter Night Market. You’ll also catch the Melbourne Book Market here on weekends, and the CRFT* WRK craft market pops up on the final Saturday of each month.
4. Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Lose yourself in nature at the Royal Botanic Gardens in the heart of Melbourne. Stretching over 38 hectares, the gardens are home to over 8,500 species of plants from around the world. There’s also plenty of events and activities around to keep things interesting, including Moonlight Cinema over the warmer months, and the romantic Punting on the Lake. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat from The Terrace. If you’d like to go further out, there’s also a Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne, which features an Australian Garden and plenty of bushland.
5. Indulge in a bit of high tea
Treat yourself to fluffy scones, sweet and savoury bites, tea and bubbly at one of the many high tea places around Melbourne. You can find them within the CBD’s historic arcades, high up in towering buildings, and places further out like Werribee and the Dandenong Ranges.
6. Go behind the royal scenes at Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition
Embark on a photographic documentary of Princess Diana’s introduction to and reinvention of royal life in this exhibition of over 50 iconic images. Now for the first time, we can hear more about these frozen glimpses into her life by the photographers who captured them. Through the use of audio guides, you can listen as the photographers Anwar Hussein and his two sons, Zak and Samir, talk you through each picture. Everything will be told from their perspective: what they heard, what they saw and what they witnessed first-hand. Tickets can be found here.
7. Explore Melbourne’s laneways
Take a stroll through Melbourne’s famous laneways, and stumble across some exciting street art, tiny cafes, buzzing restaurants and more. Check out the iconic Hosier Lane for colourful new creations, admire the greenery of Guildford Lane, grab lunch on Hardware Lane and much, much more.
8. Show your pride at Midsumma
Don’t miss Midsumma Festival, a summer celebration of queer culture that’s packed with events, performances, visual arts, public forums and more. Highlights include Midsumma Carnival, the opening weekend festivities, as well as the Victoria’s Pride Street Party on Gertrude and Smith Streets. This year, the festival will run from January 21 to February 11.
9. Rev your engines for a real-life Mario Kart experience
Opening in early 2024, BattleKart Melbourne is coming from Europe to help you live out your racing dreams. The karts are electric, but the track relies on virtual reality and projections to complete the effect, as you can use power-ups and other tricks to race your way to glory. There are a variety of different race-based challenges to enjoy, and the tentative opening date is currently February 2024. Read more about it here.
10. Dive into the action of Melbourne’s sports scene
No doubt about it: Melbourne is a sports town. There’s a healthy dose of competition going on at any given point of the year, so here the the unmissable sporting events you need to put in your diary.
🏉 Pledge your loyalties to one of Melbourne’s nine AFL teams, and cheer them on through the season (March to September).
🥎 See the stars of the tennis world at the Australian Open each January.
🏏 Catch the highlight of Australia’s cricketing calendar – the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Alternatively, get behind either the Melbourne Stars or Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash, with fixtures across December & January.
⚽ If it’s not footy season in Melbourne, it’s football season. Running from October until April, the A-Leagues brings women’s and men’s professional soccer under one banner for Australia’s ultimate prize. The Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City rivalry has become one of the city’s fiercest, so choose your side wisely.
🏇 Head along to the Melbourne Cup in November.
🏎 Feel the excitement of the Australian Grand Prix, usually taking place in March.
11. Discover kawaii installations at the weird and wonderful Unko Museum
Following its incredible success throughout Japan, Unko Museum: The Kawaii Poop Experience has made its way to Australia. This museum, completely dedicated to poop, provides an amusing glimpse into Japanese pop culture. Divided into various zones and sections, Unko Museum offers a range of interactive activities. From games to video projections and photo opportunities, there will be more than enough to keep you entertained. Discover a world where poop is cute and colourful! You can find your tickets here.
12. Check out the world’s largest digital art gallery
Melbourne would be a far less colourful place without The Lume. Luckily, that’s a reality we don’t have to ponder — the massive digital art space is a cultural mainstay that we keep coming back to again and again. The current offering is Connection, which assembles 650 works from First Peoples artists in a powerful celebration of art and country; it’s in place until February 4, 2024. Afterwards, an upcoming exhibition will be centered on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, including your chance to see the Mona Lisa in Melbourne.
Attend a live classical music performance in some of the most iconic venues in Melbourne, lit up by thousands of candles. Candlelight Concerts showcase some of the top musical talents Melbourne has to offer — from string quartets to piano solos and full orchestras, each musician has been handpicked to offer audiences only the best experience. Enjoy music by Queen in Collingwood Town Hall, Mozart at The Athenaeum Theatre or Coldplay at Fitzroy Town Hall, just to name a few of the concerts currently available. Having been held in over 100 cities around the world with over 3 million attendees, Candlelight Concerts are not to be missed. See all of Melbourne’s upcoming concerts here.
14. Experience the unforgettable Rain Room
Famously, Melbourne’s four-seasons-in-a-day climate means you’re never that far from rain, let’s be honest. At Rain Room, however, you’re not in danger of getting wet. Merging art, technology, and nature, the rainfall here responds to your presence, eliciting the feeling of being in a rainstorm without the sodden clothes. Find it in St Kilda from now until March 2024.
15. Have a marvellous time at Moomba
Have some fun and frivolity at Melbourne’s longest-running and largest community festival, Moomba. Look forward to carnival rides, parades and fun events in the city. This exciting celebration takes place every March.
16. Sample the best of Melbourne’s famed coffee culture
Coffee culture is Melbourne culture, and vice versa, so if you’re here, you’ll want to be making a beeline for your closest latte, flat white, cold brew, or iced concoction. Here’s our pick of the best coffee shops in town. And if you’re a bit of a night owl, here are some cafes that are open later.
17. Embrace your inner foodie at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has been delighting hungry foodies for over 30 years. Treat yourself to special events, in both the CBD and the surrounding suburbs, including the World’s Longest Lunch. This year, the festival will run from March 15 to 24, 2024.
18. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Australia’s largest lolly store
A recent addition to Melbourne, Tom’s Confectionary Warehouse opened its doors in November 2023 with a whopping 30,000 sugary snacks on offer. We don’t recommend you sample everything, but there’s surely something to satiate every craving here.
19. Chance your way around one of the world’s only Monopoly theme parks
Having opened in Melbourne Central in November 2023, Monopoly Dreams has quickly set about delighting guests with an array of interactive games and immersive sets that bring the classic board game to life. Modelled on the original in Hong Kong, it’s split across two areas of fun: Mr Monopoly’s Mansion and Monopoly City. Who said capitalism wasn’t fun?
20. Have a laugh at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Don’t miss the annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This event is one of the three largest comedy festivals in the world, along with Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. Leave your troubles behind and laugh your way through a series of stand-up comedy from international and Australian performers. This year, the festival will run from March 27 to April 21. See more here.
21. Visit the Wizarding World at Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience
From April 6, 2024, you will get to venture deep into the Forbidden Forest at The Briars in Mount Martha. Who knows what you might encounter? Say hello to friendly centaurs, creep amongst mischievous nifflers and bow to a hippogriff, as the characters from the Wizarding World™ come to life. Created by Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment and award-winning theatrical designers, this event will allow you to experience the sounds, lights and characters that make the Harry Potter™ and Fantastic Beast™ series so memorable. Get your tickets here to experience the magic!
22. Gaze at Melbourne from these stunning city viewpoints
Take a moment to pause and enjoy the view – Melbourne boasts a number postcard-perfect vantage spots. See our guide to Melbourne’s best lookouts here.
23. Marvel at the magic of Marshmallow Laser Feast at ACMI
London-based experiential art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast is currently exhibiting its latest show Works of Nature at ACMI. With narration from the one and only Cate Blanchett, the exhibition is a journey through the natural world via five awe-inspiring digital artworks that evoke the stunning scale of the world, versus our place in it. It runs until April 14, 2024.
24. Have a brilliantly bonkers day out at Chaos Lab
Located in the heart of Melbourne, Chaos Lab is a lab-themed playground that offers a variety of activities that are tailored towards children between the ages of 4-9 years old. Children will get to meet the manic mad scientist and their lab assistants who will guide them through different zones where they can play, create, learn, and get just a little bit messy. From a mirror maze to a giant ball pit, many surprises await. Book your visit here.
25. Prop up the bar at AFLOAT
Oh those summer nights… are even better if you can snag a spot at AFLOAT, the riverside pop-up from the Arbory team that becomes Melbourne’s hottest spot each summer. In 2024, they’ve got a Mexican-inspired outfit complete with its own pool, the kind of extra-ness that we live for.
26. Browse the amazing art at NGV
The National Gallery of Victoria – known far and wide simply as NGV – is the most-visited gallery in Australia, and houses one of the largest art collections in the Pacific region. That, and the free entry, make it a popular choice for Melburnians and visitors looking for a cultured day out. Exhibitions come and go, but right now, it’s well worth checking out the spectacular Triennial, which brings together the work of 120 artists including Yoko Ono and David Shrigley. Keep your eyes peeled for their NGV Friday Nights programme, too, which offers after-hours visits with live music and extra bells and whistles. In winter 2024, you can also look forward to an exhibition filled with artefacts from ancient Egypt.
27. Walk with the dinosaurs at Dinos Alive
Travel back to the Jurassic era as you come face-to-face with over 80 dinosaur specimens. Dinos Alive features life-sized animatronics replicating various dinosaur species, from turkey-sized Velociraptors to the mighty T-Rex. Visitors can look forward to adventuring through the dense jungles to see dinos in their natural habitat with the help of the latest VR technology, available as part of the VIP ticket. Or if sea creatures are more your thing, you can interact with Jurassic sea giants in a unique virtual aquarium which sees you ‘dive’ underwater with the latest video-mapping technology to see ancient sea creatures brought to life. Tickets are on sale here!
28. Bite into a slice of heaven at Lune
There are no ifs or buts: if you’re in Melbourne, you’ve got to get your hands on a croissant from Lune. Their pursuit of croissant perfection is near legendary, and their lovingly laminated creations have delighted foodies from around the world for over ten years now. The classic croissant is the proof of their labour of love, but ever-inventive variations will have you coming back time and time again. You’ll find their bakeries in Armadale, Fitzroy, and on Collins Street in the CBD.
29. Experience the fascinating exhibits of Melbourne Museum
With a much-hyped Titanic exhibition having docked until April 2024, and with popular events like the after-hours Nocturnal sessions, Melbourne Museum shines brightly amongst the galleries and museums of Victoria.
30. Beat the winter blues at RISING Festival
Brightening up the long winter nights, RISING Festival is the city’s premier winter culture showcase, putting the spotlight on Melbourne’s art, culture, food, and music scene beneath the glow of the winter moon. There’s a mix of free and low-cost events to enjoy, and you’ll find something wonderful to do each year – 2023’s 10,000 Kazoos was a personal highlight (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like). Our annual RISING Festival guide can be found here. This year, the event will run from June 1 to 16.
31. Feel dazzled at Lightscape
For the past two winters, Lightscape has illuminated the Royal Botanic Garden with plenty of shimmering installations, laser gardens and more. This year will be no different. Venture along a 2.2km trail, and encounter glowing tunnels, sparkling lights, tasty treats and more. This after-dark experience will run from June 14 to August 4.
32. Stay toasty at Firelight Festival
It’s a simple idea: to survive the winter, you need fire. And if that fire looks pretty, can be twirled, or can be turned into sculptures, all the better. Firelight Festival will return in 2024 to illuminate the winter solstice, and entry to this Docklands festival is entirely free.
33. Head to the showgrounds for the annual Melbourne Royal Show
Having run since 1848 and regularly attracting crowds of half a million people, the Melbourne Royal Show is an integral part of the Melbourne entertainment calendar. It takes place in September, and our regularly updated guide will help you discover the highlights.
34. Taste food with heightened senses at Dining in the Dark
Enjoy a unique new dining experience, as Gingerboy invites you to enjoy a three course meal in complete darkness. The theory is that with the sense of sight eliminated, you’ll focus solely on taste, smell and touch. This will allow the flavours of each dish in front of you to be intensified, while also adding a little mystery to the dining experience. Have fun figuring out what each meal consists of, and enjoy a new way of experiencing flavours. Put on your blindfold and tuck in!
35. Row, row, row your boat to the historic Studley Park Boathouse
A multi-million-dollar renovation brought Melbourne’s oldest public boathouse into the 21st century, and boy is it looking swish. There’s heaps of space for indoor and outdoor dining, and there’s now an onsite pizzeria serving wood-fired pizzas as you gaze across a tranquil stretch of the Yarra. Of course, you’d be remiss not to hire a boat while you’re there, especially when dogs are welcome to come along too!
36. Check out Melbourne Fringe Festival
Over forty years have passed since the first Melbourne Fringe Festival took place, and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. Regularly boasting over 400 events spanning the worlds of comedy, dance, music, and more, and featuring acts from around the world, it’s one of the crown jewels of the city’s cultural calendar. October is the time to see it; our festival guide will be updated regularly.
37. Voyage around the world at the BBC Earth Experience
You can leave your passport behind for this one. Take a 360-degree audio-visual journey through the seven continents of the world, with narration from the iconic Sir David Attenborough. This technological marvel will use footage from the BBC Studios Natural History television series, Seven Worlds, One Planet. Melbourne is the second city in the world, after London, to host the BBC Earth Experience. Find it at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
38. Get your culture fix at Now or Never festival
You’re never far away from a festival in Melbourne, it seems. Now or Never was a new one for 2023, building on the successes of Melbourne Music Week and Melbourne Knowledge Week to present a festival full of art, technology, sounds, and more. Taking place at venues across the city, it’s slated to return in 2024, and you can stay updated with our festival guide.
39. Have a wacky good time at Hijinx Hotel
Leave your luggage at home — this isn’t an ordinary hotel. Hijinx Hotel is an immersive space filled with interactive game rooms that will take you straight to your childhood. Enter rooms at random, and complete challenges like solving word scrambles, remembering song patterns, shooting a basketball through a hoop and more. When you’re done, unwind with a cocktail or two.
40. Feast your eyes on a sea of flowers
Melbourne has so many beautiful floral events and gardens that will help you embrace your inner fairy. Frolic through fields at the annual Tesselaar Tulip Festival or Tesselaar KaBloom Festival of Flowers. Go sunflower picking or peony picking, and wander under a whimsical wisteria archway. Explore the wonders of Blue Lotus Water Garden, or set out in search of dreamy lavender farms.
41. Swim over to the Oceanarium at Sea Life Aquarium Melbourne
After a $9 million renovation, the Oceanarium at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is complete, and there’s a brand new exhibit to go along with it. Check out Night on the Reef, and explore the nocturnal life under the sea, with colourful creatures and a bioluminescent beach. Then, wander around the rest of the aquarium in search of adorable penguins, mesmerising jellyfish and more.
42. Seize the night and explore Melbourne after dark
Fun fact: our late-night guide to Melbourne sees a spike in views every Saturday, like clockwork. Clearly, Melburnians don’t believe in going home when the sun goes down, which is a lifestyle choice we heartily endorse. Whether you’re after late-night karaoke or midnight feasts, it’s time to carpe noctem, people!
43. Take a walk on the wild side at the zoo
Love animals? Zoos Victoria boasts four locations around the state for you to check out. For something nice and central, you can’t go wrong with Parkville’s Melbourne Zoo. Go on a safari through the savannah at Werribee Open Range Zoo. And check out Healesville Sanctuary for some awesome native wildlife. If you’re keen to go a bit further, drive to northern Victoria and explore Kyabram Fauna Park.
Pentridge Prison is now full of interesting things, including a cinema, a beer garden, a restaurant and, yes, a wine bar. At the sleek Olivine Wine Bar, you’ll find intimate booths, a grazing menu and a wine list with over 500 labels, all nestled within the heritage Coburg pile. The bar also runs a wine school on the last Wednesday of every month, so you can learn a little more about the wonderful world of wine.
45. Kick back and relax at Melbourne’s best beaches
They may not get the same worldwide acclaim as Sydney’s, but Melbourne’s beaches more than stack up. Sand and surf are guaranteed – the sun is not – but either way, you’ll have a grand day out.
46. Hunt for cherry blossoms in springtime
Have an enchanting time wandering through rows of cherry trees during cherry blossom season. There’s an annual Cherry Blossom Festival to check out in the Yarra Valley, complete with live music, cherry ice cream and fun workshops. Then, when spring is over, go cherry picking around Melbourne.
47. Take in skyline views from one of Melbourne’s radiant rooftop bars
Soak up the sunshine or admire the twinkling night lights at one of Melbourne’s fabulous rooftop bars. Our essential list features spots both within the CBD and surrounding suburbs.
48. Bathe your burdens away at a hot spring
Feeling stressed? Travel along the Great Victorian Bathing Trail and unwind in the healing waters of the hot springs. Your closest options from town would be Peninsula Hot Springs and Alba Thermal Springs & Spa, which are both 90 minutes away from Melbourne.
49. Hop aboard the iconic Puffing Billy
Journey through lush forests and across trestle bridges on the famous Puffing Billy. Let your legs dangle from the carriage sill, and admire dreamy views from this popular steam train in the Dandenong Ranges. During the year, they run special events to keep thing exciting, such as the winter Train of Lights and the festive Polar Express.
50. Ride the world’s second-oldest rollercoaster
St Kilda has long been regarded as Melbourne’s summer playground, and perhaps no site has contributed more to that reputation than Luna Park. The historic amusement park has been a beloved fixture of the bayside suburb since opening its mouth in 1912, making its iconic wooden rollercoaster, officially known as The Great Scenic Railway, the second-oldest operating rollercoaster in the world and one of only seven anywhere that requires a brakeman to stand on the train. Despite its age, carriages on the 967-metre-long track can hurtle along at up to 60km/h, making for a thrilling ride backed by one of the best views in town.
51. Have a souvlaki at Stalactites
Melbourne is home to the largest Greek community outside Greece, so it stands to reason that the Greek food in Melbourne is more than up to scratch. One spot that has stood the test of time is Stalactites, the late-night family-run diner that’s stood proudly on the corner of Lonsdale and Russell Streets since 1978. The menu features all the classics — think velvety taramasalata, gorgeously golden saganaki and homemade spanakopita — but let’s be honest, you’re here for the souvlaki. It’s still one of the best this side of Athens, thanks to the perfectly seasoned, melt-in-the-mouth meat cut to order from the rotisserie. Opt for a serving of crunchy chips inside your wrap for a truly authentic experience.
52. Hop on a tram
There’s no doubt that we live in a great walking city, but Melbourne simply isn’t Melbourne without the ding and rattle of its iconic tram network that stretches in just about every which direction from the city. The CBD’s free tram zone is a must if you’re showing visitors around – or if you just want to feel like a tourist in your own city.
53. While away an afternoon at the State Library
Established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, Swanston Street’s State Library is not only Australia’s oldest public library and one of the world’s first free libraries, but, as of 2023, is also the third busiest library anywhere in the world. That last stat shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise — after all, the 170-year-old building boasts a fascinating collection of around 5 million items, which includes books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, newspapers and paintings, as well as historical artefacts like Ned Kelly’s armour. The SLV also has a stacked, year-round exhibitions and events calendar, ensuring there’s always something different to see with every visit.
54. Discover Melbourne’s proud multicultural legacy at the Immigration Museum
Celebrate our city’s rich multicultural history at this dedicated institution. Set within Flinders Street‘s stately Old Customs House, the Immigration Museum takes a look at the stories that have shaped contemporary Australia through exhibitions, events and education programmes that explore themes of migration, identity and citizenship.
55. Escape the city and explore more of Victoria
Yes, technically this is supposed to be about the best things to do in Melbourne, but sometimes you want a little break from the city. We’ve got plenty of inspiration for that, too:
🏘 Visit these charming towns on a day trip
🚙 Hit the road for a scenic drive from Melbourne
✨ Feel out of this world at these otherworldly places in Victoria
Strike out for a relaxing spa break
⛰ Check out the other Grand Canyon
🪐 Look up to the heavens at these stargazing spots
⛺️ Discover the best things to do in the Dandenong Ranges
❄️ Embrace the winter and head in search of snow
💗 Head off in search of a majestic pink lake