If you’re visiting Australia on a tight schedule like I was, Melbourne is definitely one of the places you should make time for. More recently known as the trendy alternative to Sydney, Melbourne is known for its cultural diversity, street art and music, coffee culture, funky vibes, and for being one of the most livable cities in Australia.
With little time and so much to do, here are my recommendations for spending one day in Melbourne:
For backpackers and budget travelers, stay at United Backpackers Melbourne hostel, which has been voted not only the best hostel in Melbourne, but in Australia as a whole. It’s located on Flinders Road, right across from the Flinders Street train station, directly in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD). The hostel is social, clean, has lots of great amenities, and serves free pancakes for breakfast! It’s also just around the corner from the lively Degraves Street, which is where we’ll begin our day in Melbourne.
If you’re not in the mood for pancakes, head just around the corner from United Backpackers to Degraves Street or Centre Place laneway for brunch at any of the cute restaurants on either of these popular streets. I’d recommend ordering avocado toast and a flat white (coffee), because you’re in Australia and that’s just what you do there!
After exploring the area’s unique cafes, restaurants, and boutiques, continue through the CBD on foot or take the free (and easy to use) Circle Tram. Head over to Bourke Street where you’ll find impressive street performers on every corner and the world-class shopping that’s earned Melbourne the title of Australia’s shopping capital.
From Bourke street, continue onto Chinatown, another distinguished neighborhood of the CBD. There are lots of cool and interesting things to try here, as Chinatown’s extensive reach includes tons of authentic shops, restaurants, and hole in the wall food stands with lines out the door. If you’re hungry, grab a tasty uncut sushi roll and eat it like you would a burrito...I found this to be a strange and wonderful take on sushi for a quick on-the-go snack!
From there, take a stroll around Queen Victoria Market, the biggest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Explore endless stalls filled with food, handmade jewelry, clothes, and much more. The market is open five days a week starting at 6am, and on Sundays at 9am, but check online to be sure of the daily schedule.
Once you’ve exhausted your shopping funds, it’s time to relax a bit over in the Queen Victoria Gardens. This picturesque park filled with ponds, sculptures, and a massive flower clock is the perfect place to sit with a book, a picnic, or with friends and take some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
After you’ve had a chance to relax in the gardens, it’s time to slowly make your way back to the hostel via Bourke Street, where I recommend stopping for dinner at Isan Soul, Thai Street Food. This restaurant is known for having the most authentic Thai food in Melbourne (we heard this from the locals, but I can definitely vouch for it myself!). Here you can expect great food, good vibes, and you’ll feel like you’ve transported straight into northeastern Thailand.
After dinner, head back to the hostel to get ready for your night out! Start with a drink and some live music at the hostel’s popular bar, then take the tram over to super cool, hipster-infused Fitzroy, one of Melbourne’s trendiest (and my favorite) neighborhoods. Take a walk down Brunswick Street, Fitzroy’s main drag, to take in the funky shops and thrift stores, outdoor patio bars, and restaurants ranging from every nationality you can think of. This culturally diverse area is full of colorful street art, live music bars, and young, stylish, beautiful people, making it the perfect place to start a wild night out in Melbourne!
Once in Fitzroy, head over to Naked For Satan (don’t worry, this place isn’t as hardcore as the name suggests!). Go up to the rooftop bar for an espresso martini (their specialty), fantastic views of the city, and good vibes with beautiful people.
When you’ve had your fill of espresso martinis, either stick around Fitzroy to explore the quirky bar scene, head back over to the CBD area to check out what’s happening on Swanston Street, or hit the clubs over on King Street.
Once you’re completely wiped out and can absolutely take no more, end your night at “Macca’s,” (Australia’s favored nickname for McDonalds) for some late-night eats you’re sure to regret in the morning. Finally, go back to the hostel and GO TO SLEEP! You’ve definitely earned it after a seriously full day in Melbourne.
For me, I’ve just described an ideal day spent in Melbourne, which is by far my favorite city in Australia. But if you have more than one day in this vibrant place (which I would certainly recommend making time for), or your interests are a bit different from mine, not to worry, the city has much more to offer! Check out the National Gallery of Victoria art museum, take in phenomenal city views from the top of the Eureka Skydeck, watch a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, see Koalas in the Melbourne Zoo, or take a dinner cruise along the Yarra River.
If you have a bit more time, make your way over to Melbourne’s St. Kilda neighborhood for beaches, surfing, and a more laid-back feel, take a drive out to the Great Ocean Road and admire the world-famous Twelve Apostles, or take a day trip to explore the Yarra Valley vineyards. With something for everyone in this wild and wonderful city, Melbourne definitely will not disappoint.
My name is Sophie Mendel, and I’m an American travel writer and editor currently residing in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I have traveled to 42 countries and lived in 5, am fluent in English and Spanish (and always in the process of learning more languages), and love lugging my guitar around the world with me! Follow my travels on Instagram @theunboundedtraveler!