Melbourne is a beautiful city, with lots of green open spaces, modern buildings, great cafes/restaurants and interesting street art. You can easily spend weeks here and not do everything there is on offer. For me, this is the first city I have visited that felt like a home away from home and so I have written this guide of my top things to do so you can experience it to the full!
Go and watch an Australian football league game (also called Aussie rules) at the Melbourne cricket ground
I will be straight with you, I am not a football fan in any way. Yes I will watch the occasional match and listen patiently when my boyfriend is talking to me about it, but I am definitely not an avid fan. So, when we decided to go an watch an Aussie rules match, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no idea how the game was played or what the rules were so I went in with an open mind, and…. I loved it! It was so much more exciting than regular football, much faster paced, yet the crowds were all intermixed and amicable with each other. It was very different to normal football and I would definitely watch it again. At half time we went in search of food and got a hot dog and an obligatory hot jam doughnut, which is definitely good to keep you warm during the match!
Go see the St Kilda penguins
No this isn’t a strange sports team name, there are actually wild penguins in St Kilda! Around dusk, the penguins return from a day at sea to rest for the night, and they do this at St Kilda. If you head to the pier, the breakwater at the end which protects the St Kilda coastline is where you will find these tiny birds. Go along any time after sunset to try and spot the penguins nestled amongst the rocks. Please do not bring a torch or use your phone as a flash-light, as the penguins do not like the white light. There will be volunteers and staff there who have special red lights they can shine on the penguins which do not disturb them. These staff members are also very knowledgeable about the birds and happy to answer any questions you may have, so ask away! I would have stayed for hours watching the penguins and listening to them call to each other, if it wasn’t so cold! Make sure you wrap up warm if you’re heading down there in autumn/winter.
Get a freakshake at Rowena Corner Store
We stopped off here before our Aussie rules game and stuffed ourselves silly. If you find yourself in the area, or have some time before an AFL match, or even just fancy a gloriously decadent treat, then you HAVE to come here. We treated ourselves to the Salted Caramel Freakshake to share but there are plenty of other flavours to choose from. It was a creamy salted caramel milkshake loaded with pieces of cake, salted pretzels, squirty cream (squidgy cream as my Nana says!), wafer tubes, caramel sauce, chocolate shards and chocolate ganache. It was absolutely over the top and absolutely incredible, just like a freakshake should be! By the way, their bowls of chips are enormous and delicious too, but maybe don’t order both at once…. unless you are really really hungry.
Shopping at Bourke street
There are lots of places to go shopping in Melbourne city centre, however I believe the best place to go is Bourke street. Here there are 3 shopping malls interconnected, Melbourne Central, The Emporium and The Strand, There is a good range of shops for all price ranges here, from David Jones, Myer and Karen Millen, to Topshop, H&M and Target so there will definitely be something to suit your budget.
Visit the Royal Botanic gardens
If you are anything like me and enjoy taking walks in beautiful surroundings then you should definitely go and check out the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. There are plenty of surroundings to enjoy here, and it is accessible for the young and old, so perfect for families. Take a walk around the lake, fern gulley, and the cactus garden and pack a picnic for an enjoyable day out immersed in nature. Go and pay your respects at the Shrine of Remembrance, and then head to the balcony to look at the beautiful view of the city. If you are staying in the St Kilda area then also check out the much smaller but still beautiful St Kilda botanical gardens.
Walk around the beautiful Albert park
Another great walk (or run if you’re feeling particularly energetic) to do is Albert Park and Lake. This beautiful lake set in over 2 square kilometres of parkland provides a great circuit to go around, as seen by the many locals running around it! The park is home to ducks, coots and black swans and is a nice little respite from the bustle of the city. Plus if there are any Formula 1 fans out there you may already know that Albert Park is also home to the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. This circuit is rebuilt during the season, so while we were there there was no trace of it, but true fans will recognise the bends in the roads where the circuit would be!
Get the free tram around the city
If you are looking to be a tourist for the day then there is a very handy free tram circuit around the city centre. This loop goes past St Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria Market, Federation Square, the Docklands and Melbourne Central Station. So if you’re not strapped for time, this is a lovely way to spend the day hopping on and off the tram, seeing the major sights as you go.
Queen Victoria market
Head down to the Queen Victoria Market just North of the city on any day except Monday or Wednesday. Opening times are different for different days so check out their website for more details. This market is well worth a visit especially if you are a fellow foodie! There are plenty of hot food stalls to choose from including German bratwurst, Greek food, burgers, chips, grills, BBQs and more. There are some awesome bakery stalls selling delicious treats such as this vanilla slice doughnut, and huge homemade breads. You can also pick up your shopping here as there is local produce, fruit and veg, butchers and delicatessens (make sure you taste all the free samples!). There are also many other non food sections such as clothing, souvenirs, children’s toys, jewellery and homeware.
Where to stay
If you are looking for a place to stay in Melbourne than you definitely need to consider Habitat HQ hostel in St Kilda. This hostel is a little away from the city centre, however this means it is cheaper than most, plus it is also right next to a tram stop which goes right into the city. The hostel has simple yet clean dorm rooms which seem to be the norm in Australia, with individual plugs, a shelf for phone etc., lockers under the beds and a shared ensuite bathroom for each dorm room. There is a large communal area on the ground floor with tables and chairs to eat at, a movie room with sofas, and a large kitchen for cooking and storing your own food. What is even more great about this hostel (yes it gets better!) is the daily events organised by the staff. Each day there is an event of some sort such as a pub crawl, pool tournament, movie night and even a free BBQ. This means it is very easy to meet new people and socialise with people from all parts of the world!