Melbourne: One week itinerary

Melbourne Insider
The Spring Racing Carnival is a true frock-fest. (Photo: Greg Elms / Lonely Planet Images)
The Spring Racing Carnival is a true frock-fest
Spend a few days getting into a Melbourne state of mind. From bars to galleries, markets to countryside.

Getting of Wisdom

Melbourne's not a town of stunning vistas and must-do sights. But it's famous for taking the good life seriously. With this in mind, spend a few days getting into a Melbourne state of mind. First off, see every alley, basement or rickety flight of stairs as a potential new, hot bar, shop or art gallery. At the very least you'll discover some street art, even if it requires shimmying past skips and holding ones nose.

Next, get used to the cardigan, scarf and sunglasses shuffle: one comes off and the other goes on. Locals call it "layering". Crowded House wasn't being entirely metaphorical with its "four seasons in one day" line. Luckily, unpredictable weather is a great excuse to fill out your travel wardrobe with local pieces.

Finally, release your inner gourmand. Avoid anywhere that looks like a franchise or has laminated menus. If you don't know a gris from a grigio or a ristretto from a macchiato, don't be afraid to ask — Melbournians love to proselytise. With these precepts in mind, get to know the city: explore the laneways, and shop-, cafe- and bar-hop.

In the neighbourhood

Once you've got the city sorted, it's time to strike out into the inner-neighbourhoods. All good for — you guessed it — shopping, bar and cafe hopping, not to mention some delightful corner pubs. Fitzroy was Melbourne's first suburb and once a veritable den of vice, and still sports an insouciant side. After fresh baked pain au chocolat and bowls of fairtrade coffee at Monsieur Truffe, poke around edgily stylish Gertrude Street and hipster hang Smith Street. Or, borrow a bike from the folks at Little Creatures Dining Hall, ride to the Melbourne Museum then wander Brunswick Street's shops and café-clad length. Park your bike and park yourself.

Spend another day south of the river — first Albert Park's Vic Ave for its nonchalant bayside vibe and subtly sophisticated shopping, then South Melbourne or Middle Park for a pub lunch. Luke Mangan's slick Palace and the lovingly designed retro-clubby Middle Park Hotel keep it simple with a roll call of gastropub greats. Then discover St Kilda's two distinct personalities as the sun sets: endearingly languorous seaside resort and insanely gung-ho nightlife destination. Will it be the Prince Bandroom or the ever-grungy Espy Hotel for a beer?

Too much sport is never enough

Being the unofficial style capital of Australia doesn't mean Melbournians aren't fanatical about spectator sport, which they also do with an unmistakable flair. If you're in town during the footy season, devote an afternoon or evening to catching an AFL game at the "G", the atmospheric birthplace of Aussie Rules.

Otherwise, there's always cricket, new-kid-on-the-block soccer, the courtside party of the Australian Tennis Open or the frock-fest of Spring Racing Carnival.

Get out of town

Be sure to schedule a day or two exploring Melbourne's surrounding countryside. In just over an hour you can be visiting cellar doors in the Mornington Peninsula or Yarra Valley, hitting the stunning Surf Coast or up to your neck in hot mineral water at Hepburn Springs.

A little further afield, the Alps and Twelve Apostles and Grampians beckon; both possible as day trips but better with an overnight stay. Bushbashing in Victorian doesn't mean you need to leave your new-found Melbourne attitude behind — regional towns pride themselves on excellent food, wine and service, too.

Have you tried any of the places on this itinerary? Got any ideas we haven't thought of? Have your say using the comments form below.

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User comments
Hi! I think you got Melbourne sooooo right in this article except for the omission of the amazing Queen Victoria Market which is the wonderful mix of tourist fun and local know-all. Whenever we head to Melbourne, we always hit QVM because we know we'll get that local Australia market that's so cool. I bought a glasshouse candle last year that everyone loves. Definitely hit Melbourne Museum as you suggested. Enjoy! Kate
I love Melbourne!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every year we spend 10 - 14 days in Melbourne. We go to see the magnificent PIES at the G and at the paddock, get photos and autos. We do the same with the Pride of Melbourne STORM, this year will be at their new ground. Swanston street is fab for shopping as it is close to where we stay. I just love wandering around the little lane ways and finding querky little stores, cafes and eateries. Our son loves the skate parks in and around Melbourne. The Queen street markets are great for fruit and veg but pricey for clothing. Melbourne is definintely the best place to visit.
It would be really great if we could add some of these travel articles to our Facebook pages!!