Melbourne vs. Sydney. That’s been the long debate. But you know what? They’re both great. Melbourne has SO much to offer, we’ll just focus on what to do there, we don’t have time for comparisons. While there, I stayed at Flinders Backpackers and Nomad’s Melbourne and would go to Flinder’s if I was headed back. Free pancakes, what more needs to be said?
The city itself is a bit of a fetch from the airport, but you can grab a Skybus for $18 AUD and you’re there in about 30 minutes. Once you’re there, the city is very walkable! There is also a well connected tram system with a free zone. You’ll need a Myki card [link] to be able to use the paid zones.
Federation Square (FREE)
Federation Square is located right across the street from Flinder Street Station, and the area is always bustling. Aside from having really neat architecture, it seemed there was always something going on in the square – one day it was a car show, another it was a Buddhist celebration event. This is a great meeting spot for friends and perfect for people watching. Check out the Instagram account @thomaslimphotography to see some great shots of the neat buildings and area.
National Gallery of Victoria (FREE)
So many galleries in Australia are free!! It is a massive, beautiful gallery, in which you could easily lose an afternoon. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great works, they have 3 Picassos. But, do the right thing and be sure to donate or at least buy a coffee or snack at the café to show your appreciation.
Royal Botanical Gardens and King’s Domain (FREE)
Australia deserves a slow clap for their amazing botanical gardens. They are so well kept and easy to access and Melbourne’s is no exception. It is massive, so bring enough water to get you through the walk. And like the museum, since it’s free, it would be nice of you to donate or pick something up at the café (mmmm, flat whites). A little bonus to the botanical gardens is that you can walk out through the king’s domain, which is just stunning. I was really wishing I had brought a book and could sit there all afternoon.
Shrine of Remembrance (FREE)
This was the subject of my post asking if there are places where cameras don’t belong, but just because I wouldn’t take pictures inside, doesn’t mean it isn’t incredible. All in all, the Australian spirit of remembrance for Gallipoli is remarkable. This landmark is worth taking your time to go through and really understand what it is commemorating. I found myself incredibly humbled to take it all in and highly recommend it. And since it’s free…you’re seeing a trend by now, consider making a donation.
Melbourne Street Art (FREE)
In Melbourne, some of the street art is sanctioned, and some just shows up. It’s pretty cool to take in and all you have to do is walk around. I found this walking map and followed it with some friends. It’s about an hour’s worth of walking and you’re right in the middle of the city, so stop for a coffee or ice cream if you so please. Keep in mind, since not all of the art is sanctioned, you might turn a corner looking for a piece and find a freshly coated wall, sans art.
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch an artist in action. We were at Hosier Lane and saw not only one, but two artists at work. One was just getting started and the other was putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece.
Australian Rules Football (AFL)
This is something I’ve been looking forward to for over a year since I met some Aussies in Peru who were explaining the game. Melbourne is host to several teams, so finding a match should be easy. Pro-tip: accidentally wear the home team’s colors and be really nice to the guys running the fan club – they’ll let you sit in their section and hold up big signs. I also made sure to let everyone around me know that I really had no clue about the game, so they took care to explain it to me.
At the half, be sure to grab a pie and make it a proper Oz experience.
Not into AFL? There’s enough sport to keep you amused. Unfortunately my timing meant that I didn’t catch any rugby and I missed, by just hours, a grand final for soccer (football).
General City Exploration
Usually I’m not one to just walk around the city, but Melbourne is a wow, and is worth it. Take a day and a coffee, but not a map, and just wander the city. You’ll see art and style. You’ll find the little laneways with cafes and shops that you can only get in Melbourne. The shops are beautiful and cool, but since I’m backpacking, they’re outside of my financial and storage capacity budget. Even the library looks cool.
Just walking the city, you’ll get a feel for the style and swag that is unique to Melbourne. Soak it in – there aren’t many big cities where you get such a cool vibe as Melbourne. Also, you can get like 12 different kinds of churros.