Are you planning a getaway to the quirky city of Melbourne? There’s so much to do and see here that I can promise you, it won’t be your last visit. It’s famous for its street art, coffee culture and all round relaxed alternative feel. With so much to fit into just 3 days in Melbourne, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. After visiting quite a few times now (because I simply can’t get enough of it) I think I’ve got the perfect 3 day Melbourne itinerary for you to help plan your time and really make the most of your trip.
My last trip to Melbourne was a completely spontaneous one. Tom and I had been in Sydney for Christmas and New Years and were heading back to the farm we had been working on via Melbourne. We landed in Melbourne and on the way to the city to catch our train to regional Victoria, we couldn’t resist stopping over. We booked a hotel and even though we’d been here before, saw a lot of new things. Melbourne has really drawn me in and I think it will you, too!
If you’re visiting on a shoestring, I’ve got a handy list of things Melbourne has to offer for a free and easy itinerary to help your budget go further. You can take a look at it here.
Take a look at Tom’s video below for a glimpse into what Melbourne has to offer
When is the best time of year to visit Melbourne?
When I describe Melbourne’s weather, I describe it as being similar to the UK’s, in that it very much has seasons. Melbourne is beautiful, sunny and hot in the summer, but can definitely get cold during the winter. I’ve visited in both summer and winter and to be honest, it’s a great city for any time of the year. There are plenty of things to do both outdoors and indoors so whether it’s to cosy-up or cool off, there are plenty of spots to choose from.
Getting to Melbourne from the airport
If you’re flying into either of Melbourne’s 2 airports (Avalon or Tullamarine) the quickest and most convenient way to get to the CBD is by using the SkyBus airport shuttle. Tickets for the SkyBus can be bought in advance online here, or alternatively, you can buy them at the airport when you land. A one-way ticket cost $22 per adult and they regularly run from the airport to the city. If you are flying out of Melbourne, tickets can be bought online, at the airport while you’re there or from Southern Cross Train Station which is where you will be dropped off and will catch the SkyBus from in the city to return to the airport.
Transport in Melbourne
Melbourne is one of the easiest cities to navigate. It have an excellent free tram service that runs within Spring Street, Flinders Street and La Trobe Street. As well as this, Melbourne also has the beautiful old-fashioned number 35 City Circle Tram that travels the perimeter of the CBD and is also free to use. These 2 zones alone cover a lot of the city are great if you’re visiting on a budget.
For all other transport such as the buses, trains, and tram lines outside the free tram zone, you will need to buy a Myki Card. This is a reusable travel card that you simply just top up and touch on to transport as you go. You can get one from some of the Myki machines or from lots of retailers such as 7Eleven. Find more information about the Myki card here.
Melbourne is also a great city to walk around. It’s full of hidden laneways, beautiful architecture and it’s really easy to go from one place to the next. Be sure to wear some comfy shoes though as you’ll be walking a lot more than you realise!
Where to stay in Melbourne
For a whirlwind 3 days in Melbourne, it’s important to stay in the right location. I stayed in Hotel Atlantis on Spencer Street which is in an unbelievably convenient location super close to Southern Cross Station and also around the corner from a tram stop on the free tram line. Being so close to both transport areas was perfect as I didn’t waste time navigating my way across the city to find my hotel and I managed to travel around the city for very little cost.
Despite having booked the hotel on the SkyBus from the airport to the CBD, there was no delay in the booking process and our room was ready for us straight away. The room was a great size with a large comfy bed, thick curtains to keep the sun out in the morning, a small fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. The bathroom was a good size and the shower was lovely and hot.
I didn’t use many of the other facilities in the hotel but they do also have a gym, swimming pool and a breakfast room that serves continental breakfast if you want to eat in the hotel. They also have luggage storage facilities next to the reception which was perfect for us as we still had most of the day to explore Melbourne after we checked out. With the Atlantis being so close to Southern Cross, it was also reassuring that we didn’t have to go far to collect our bags later.
Your 3 day Melbourne itinerary
Grab some breakfast from a nearby cafe and then jump on the free tram line to Bourke Street. This is the main shopping area in Melbourne, but it is so much more than just the high street shops you expect to find. Walk along and you’ll find talented musicians and street artists putting on an awesome show so be sure to stop and take a listen. Music and art is a huge part of Melbourne culture so it’s a great way to delve into it. These guys and gals have all had to audition to get permits to perform on Bourke Street, so you might well be listening to the next big thing! The architecture all around here is stunning, too.
Just off the side of Bourke Street, keep your eyes open for Union Lane. This is one of Melbourne’s famous street art lanes and it is covered in designs, posters, stickers and colour. This lane is actually open to anyone to add their piece, so if you’re looking to leave your mark in Melbourne grab some paint and get creative. Take time to walk to the other end before making your way back onto Bourke Street and heading over to China Town
I absolutely adore Melbourne’s Chinatown, and walking through one of its 5 gleaming gates makes you feel like you’ve been transported. Melbourne has a huge Chinese community and this is the heart of it. Chinatown holds a number of festivals throughout the year and is home to amazing restaurants to suit all budgets. tempting as it may be to stop here for some delicious eats, keep walking on to the Block Arcade to discover one of Melbourne’s iconic laneways.
The Block Arcade
Make your way down Russell Street and onto Collins Street to find your way to the Block Arcade. You will walk past Melbourne Town Hall along the way as well as plenty more shops. The Block Arcade is a glistening gem full of boutiques, high-end shops, luxurious cafes and restaurants, but above all, it’s definitely one of the most opulent buildings in the city. It was built in 1982 and was designed around a Galleria located in beautiful Milan.
Lunch at Centre Place
After a busy morning, it’s time to grab some delicious fresh and local food and experience the laneway dining that Melbourne offers. This is top of my list of places to eat in Melbourne and as it’s full of loads of small cafes, you’ll definitely find something you fancy. You will also find some street art here while you soak in the overall buzzing atmosphere of this unique place.
You’ve already visited Union Lane, home to the armature artists but now it’s time to check out the street art created by professionals. Hosier Lane is a lot wider but is just as vibrant and filled with colour. The guys who paint here need a permit and you will see awesome murals everywhere you look. It gets busy here but it’s worth joining the crowds to soak in the artwork.
Federation Square and the ACMI Museum
Once you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the street art in Union Lane, carry on to the end and you will reach Federation Square. More commonly known as Fed Square, this area has a lot going on. You’ll find restaurants and bars here and it hosts a number of big events throughout the year as well as street performers. It’s a space for the people and it’s always changing and being used for different things.
The ACMI Museum is also here and it’s a great place to spend some time in the afternoon. It’s the national museum of Film, TV, Digital Arts, Video Games and Culture and is a really fun and hands-on museum. It’s perfect for kids and big kids alike and ideal for Melbourne’s chillier winter days or hot summer days to escape the weather.
Flinders Street Station
From its bright golden yellow walls to its prominent green domed roof, Flinders Street station stands out a lot. You will have probably seen it in photos but nothing beats seeing it for real. It’s right next to Federation Square so you won’t be able to miss it.
After freshening up for the evening (if you like, Melbourne’s nightlife is super chilled so anything goes) make your way over to Southbank. The Yarra river weaves through the city and being by the river is a must during your trip! Walk over one of the many bridges to Southbank and head over to the Eureka Skydeck to get a birdseye view over the whole of Melbourne. The Eureka Tower is the skyscraper with a gold top and a red strip on and it’s viewing platform is stunning, especially during sunset and at night. Book your tickets in advance here for a discounted rate and to make sure you don’t miss out.
Dinner along Southbank
Southbank in Melbourne is full of restaurants to choose from so you’re bound to find something you like. From delicious Italian to the hearty German Hophaus, there’s a good selection of cuisines and with a view overlooking the Yarra and the city, it’s a beautiful spot for your first evening in Melbourne.
As you made your way over to Southbank earlier, you may have noticed a small bar tucked away under the pedestrian bridge. This bar is called Ponyfish Island and it’s just a brilliant use of the space. They serve up some enticing cocktails as well as an awesome selection of Aussie craft beers. During the summer you also have to check out the cocktails at Supafish; a fluorescent floating bar in the shape of a fish, and the gin selection at Ahoy Arbory Afloat too!
Queen Victoria Market
Today you will see the beautiful older side of the city. Jump back on the free tram line and head over to the famous Queen Victoria Market for breakfast and a wander. This huge market is open every day apart from Mondays and Wednesdays. You will find everything here from fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes, bags and souvenirs. There are also cafes and restaurants here to grab some breakfast or let your nose guide you to one of the bakery stalls for a real treat to start the day
Whilst Melbourne may be incredibly hip in all its urban glory, it also has a number of beautifully sculpted gardens. The Carlton Gardens are just a short walk from the Queen Victoria Market and are a great place to relax and enjoy the greenery. In here you will also find the grand Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum.
The old-fashioned City Circle Tram
Chances are you will have seen one of the old style red or green trams go past already and Victoria Street outside Carlton Gardens is the perfect place to jump on. Relax and let it take you round the loop to see a bit of everything across Melbourne.
Lunch at 8bit
Jump off the City Circle Tram at Flagstaff Gardens along La Trobe Street and navigate to Swanston St. where you will find 8bit. This is a hotdog and burger bar that I can’t get enough of and is always a quick eat that’s both delicious and filling. I would also recommend their peanut butter milkshake for the road as well!
State Library of Victoria
Not only is the outside of the library magnificent, but the inside is too. The library holds a number of exhibitions and galleries all through the year but a trip to the viewing gallery in the dome is unmissable. The gallery overlooks the beautiful La Trobe reading room. Think along the lines of Harry Potter and you’ll get an idea of what it looks like!
Opposite the State Library, you’ll find Melbourne Central. This is essentially a shopping mall but when you go in, be sure to look up and you’ll be both surprised and mesmerised.
Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a National War Memorial dedicated to all those who have served Australia. It’s a truly moving place to visit and is surrounded by beautiful grounds. When you go inside you will walk through the crypt which commemorates the fighting units from WWI. Around the crypt you will find the permanent exhibitions to learn more about the wars and battles fought over the years. It’s an excellent museum and you’ll want to take some time to explore it. After this, go up to the Balcony for an amazing view of the city and watch the sunset.
Dinner in Chinatown
Chinatown comes alive at night with bright lights and waves of delicious smells flowing through the air. Melbourne has a huge Chinese and Asian population so it’s time to try some of the food. Make your way to Little Bourke Street, walk through one of the opulent gates and find a restaurant that takes your fancy. Many have excellent set menu deals so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a good feed without the price tag.
Melbourne is famous for being super quirky and for having an awesome nightlife. It’s full of hidden bars down unsuspecting laneways and unmarked doors. With so many bars, a great way to spend an evening is by taking yourself on a bar crawl. Some of my favourites are the Croft Institute which is a bit of a Melbourne institution with a dark laboratory theme serving cocktails from syringes, Lily Blacks where the mixologists put on a show in the art deco styled bar and the Berlin Bar who has a great mix of old and new going on.
After spending a couple of days in the heart of Melbourne, it’s time to leave the CBD and check out its suburbs. Catch a bus to Brunswick Street for Melbourne’s quirkiest suburb, Fitzroy, and spend the morning exploring it. Start at Marios for breakfast (another one of Melbourne’s institutions) to fuel you up. Afterwards, walk along Brunswick Street, Gertrude Street and Smith Street and check out the local designers, boutiques, vintage shops, op-shops, street art and some great markets. For more information about the gems you can find in Fitzroy, take a look at my guide here.
Once you’ve shopped your heart out in Fitzroy, take a bus over to St Kilda beach for some sea air. Here you will find the crazy face of Luna Park which is home to the oldest operating wooden roller coaster in the world along with a number of other rides to go on. Walk along the Esplanade or the beach and grab a bite to eat from one of the cafes. Be sure to also take a walk along the pier there for a great view of the city skyline at the end.
As well as the beautiful beach and relaxing atmosphere at St Kilda, it also has some gorgeous wildlife, Every night, all year round, Little Penguins come ashore to go to their nests along St Kilda Pier. It happens every day after sunset and is amazing to watch. The pier can get busy so make sure you check what time sunset is during your visit and grab a spot in plenty of time. No photography is permitted as to not disturb the penguins and there are people there who are incredibly knowledgeable about them and are there to help keep the penguins safe.
Dinner at Souk
I actually found this awesome restaurant through Google Maps recommendations as being a ‘place where the locals eat’ and after going there, I can really see why. Souk specialises in middle eastern cuisine and is hands down one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Australia. The restaurant oozes cool in a non-pretentious and fun way and the food will blow your mind. The staff are knowledgeable and happy to give recommendations, so pick some Mezze dishes and dive in.
Evening drinks with a view
What better way to finish your 3 days in Melbourne than with a view of the city from above. The CBD has a number of rooftop bars to choose from, each offering their own unique selection of drinks. Rooftop Bar is a cosy little bar through an inconspicuous doorway serving up delicious cocktails, The Palmz rooftop bar in the Carlton Club will make you feel like you’re in a beautiful rainforest and Loop Roof is super chilled with a huge selection of drinks to choose from.