Out of all of the cities that I visited while travelling through Australia, Melbourne was one of my favourites. It ticked a lot of boxes for me – food, culture, atmosphere, landscape, the list goes on. Although when meeting other travellers, I found those who did not have a local guide, struggled to appreciate Melbourne as much as I did. Therefore, I have put together a jam-packed itinerary for a weekend in Melbourne in order for those travelling to appreciate some of the best things the city has to offer.
Melbourne is world-famous for its incredible café culture. It has an extensive selection of independent cafés and restaurants, particularly for the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free eaters among us! No matter which area of Melbourne you are based in, you are bound to find the most delicious brunch options everywhere:
Oscar Cooper, Prahran
SOS Café, South Yarra
Addict Food and Coffee, Fitzroy
Matcha Mylkbar, St. Kilda
Top Paddock, Richmond
Little Somethin’ Somethin’, Richmond
Queen Victoria Market
This has to be one of my favourite places in Melbourne and considering it’s reputation as the largest market in the southern hemisphere, that’s hardly surprising! If being surrounded by stalls selling everything from organic fruits and vegetables, to fresh fish, cheese, nuts and seeds, Mediterranean nibbles and everything in between appeals to you too, make sure you head over there. It is open 5 days a week (not on Mondays or Wednesdays), and if you get there towards closing time you will be able to take advantage of big discounts on the fresh produce as they slash the prices! This is perfect if you want to get some tasty bits for a picnic in the park. There is also a café area within the market if you fancy eating lunch there. They have lots of clothes and souvenir stalls at the market as well if that tickles your fancy. You just have to be careful that time doesn’t run away with you!
Queen Victoria Gardens/Royal Botanic Gardens
This gorgeously green sprawling area of parkland takes over a large area just south of the Yarra river and city centre. Admission is free and they are lovely to stroll through on a sunny day. You can even take a gondola ride on the lake. If you’ve been to the market beforehand, head there with a stash of nibbles, grapes, strawberries, etc. and set down for a nice picnic.
Afternoon in the National Gallery
As a History of Art graduate, I am that person who loves to check out the local galleries when I’m overseas. One of the most impressive galleries I have visited during my travels to date has to be the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The collection spans from ancient to modern, east to west. My favourite area of the gallery, the international modern collection, contains everything from Renoir and Monet, to Picasso, to Man Ray, to Francis Bacon. Admission is free unless you want to go to the exhibition (they host temporary exhibitions throughout the year). If you’re an art lover and you find yourself in the city centre, this attraction is not to be missed. Just make sure you give yourself enough time – it closes at 5pm!
Dinner and Drinks on Chapel Street
If you’re looking for a glimpse of Melbourne by night, Chapel Street is one of the most popular areas amongst the locals that has a great buzz at the weekends with plethora of restaurants and bars. It’s a long street, stretching through South Yarra, Prahran, and Windsor so as you can imagine, there are plenty of venues to choose from. Be warned though, all the good restaurants on this street fill up fast and you could have to wait a long time for a table if you don’t get there early or reserve one. Some restaurant recommendations:
Morning coastal walk
Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne doesn’t have quite as impressive a coast line as Sydney, as it’s in a bay and relatively flat. However, it still has some really cool suburbs along the coast and beaches and ocean pools stretching along the way. If you fancy burning off some calories from the night before, you can quite happily run all along the coast. If you fancy something a little more relaxing, it’s a lovely 9km walk from St. Kilda to Brighton beach. It will only take 2 hours if you stroll leisurely as it’s a flat, easy walk. On one side you will follow the ocean and see some kite surfers at Brighton beach if you are lucky, while on the other side you can have a nosey at some of the most expensive houses in the city. Depending on where you start, there are some lovely coffee shops in both those suburbs and you will find some great places for brunch too.
Afternoon at the Heide
I am not suggesting that the Heide Museum of Modern Art is anywhere near the beach, so you will need a vehicle to get there, but it is a lesser known yet fabulous attraction that should not be missed if you have time. I know you may be thinking, ‘two museums in one weekend!?!’ but the Heide is totally different to the NGV in the city centre and is one of Australia’s most significant cultural institutions. Formerly the dairy farm and home of two Australian art benefactors, the site became almost a commune for some of Australia’s most esteemed modern artists in the mid 1930s right through until the 1950s. Today the three buildings and rolling grounds of the Heide contain a great collection of modern Australian art and tell a wonderful story. Admission is $18 per person but you can easily spend a whole day there. If the weather is nice, you might want to consider taking a picnic, or ordering a more lavish one from the restaurant within the museum 24 hours in advance. They also sell lunch boxes to take out into the grounds and offer an Afternoon Tea experience.
Dinner at Claypots, St. Kilda
If you enjoy fresh fish and live jazz, Claypots in St. Kilda is the perfect place to round off a wonderful weekend in Melbourne. It is fancy and shabby all at the same time, but it will not fail to deliver a memorable atmosphere. Make sure you go wish a friend or partner as there will be plenty of food to be shared. Order the garlic prawns to start and then select your fish of choice from the chalkboards and a claypot of veggies and other delights on the side. Once you have stuffed yourself silly, move through into the bar and step back in time as you enjoy live blues and jazz surrounded by old school artefacts and Melbourne’s coolest OAPs. What more could you want on a Sunday night?
So that’s my ideal way of spending a weekend in Melbourne, but I’d love to hear your suggestions. What are your favourite things to do in the city?