Two days in Melbourne might seem like an awfully short time to explore a fantastic Australian city but if you are faced with limited time as I was when I visited for just over 48 hours a couple months ago, it is still possible to cover a bit of ground when it comes to the sights and eats in this world-class city Down Under.
Here is a suggested itinerary that you can easily for two days in Melbourne even without renting your own car.
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Day 1 – Melbourne CBD
Laid out in a grid, the streets of Melbourne’s CBD are highly easy to navigate. This is an intuitive place to start your exploration of the city where many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other or just a short tram ride apart. I would recommend starting from the west and working your way to the center and the east where most of the interesting places are located. A hidden gem in Melbourne is 333 Collins Street, an unassuming office building from the outside but housing a beautiful lobby and dome. You’d be forgiven to think you’re somewhere in Europe!
From here, walk to the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade, a duo of historic shopping centers dating back from the Victorian era. The shops here are mostly high-end but it’s worth a short stroll to check out the fascinating architecture. As you are window-shopping anyway, might as well catch a ride on the free tram and head northwards to the Queen Victoria Market (open daily except Mondays and Wednesdays), the most well-known market in the city. If you are there at around noon, grab lunch in one of the specialty food stalls. There’s always something interesting being sold here – from fresh seafood, pastries and even drinks. Alternatively, if you’d like to explore more of Melbourne’s markets, you can check out Prahran Market or the South Melbourne Market.
After spending a couple of hours in the sprawling market, make your way down via tram or foot to the State Library of Victoria. Another attraction that you should not miss in Melbourne, the building is known for its highly instagrammable La Trobe Reading Room which has an octagonal shape and a dome which was the largest in the world when it was completed back in 1913.
Head south via the Swanston Street tram to Flinders Street Railway Station, a city landmark. Other notable attractions such as the St. Paul’s Cathedral and Hosier Lane are within reach from here. The latter is especially known for its graffiti and at any given time, you’ll find people spraying paint all over the walls – making for a new scene with every visit. While Hosier Lane is probably the most well-known, Melbourne has several interesting lanes and some other examples include the following:
- Centre Place – very photogenic due to its many neon signs lining either side of the narrow path that mimick busier places like Tokyo or Hong Kong. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars here.
- Hardware Lane – atmospheric area filled with restaurants and cafes, giving off an European vibe.
- AC/DC Lane – tribute to the Australian rock band. You’ll find some bars and night clubs here dedicated to rock and roll.
For dinner, I would recommend heading to Rice, Paper Scissors (19 Liverpool Street, +613 9663 9890). It is a Southeast Asian restaurant but even I (who also comes from Southeast Asia) was blown away by the food. There is a distinct Australian twist to the dishes with influences that range from Thailand to the Philippines but most are worth trying.
Day 2 – Fitzroy and Collingwood
While Melbourne already has a reputation for being a “hipster city” – this is probably nowhere else more apparent than in Fitzroy and Collingwood. The area is filled with art galleries, studios, hip cafes as well as independent fashion brands. These two suburbs are best explored by going on a walking tour that takes in Brunswick Street – Johnston Street – Smith Street and then Gertrude Street where most of the interesting establishments are. If you are feeling peckish, check out Naked for Satan (285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; +61 3 9416 2238) which also has a nice rooftop bar. If you are there for lunch, all dishes are priced at S$9 – around half of the usual price. If you prefer to have breakfast/brunch food instead, check out Stagger Lee’s Cafe just across the street. Aside from great coffee, they also have excellent crumpets.
If you don’t mind the fifteen to twenty minute walk, you can head to the Carlton Gardens – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – to soak in some greenery and the magnificence of the Royal Exhibition Building which dates back from 1880.
Many visitors who intend to explore the day trip destinations around Melbourne hire a car but even without one, it is possible to venture to some attractions via public transport. An example is the Brighton Bathing Boxes which has become an ubiquitous part of most tourists’ Melbourne itinerary. A 40+ minute train ride from Parliament Railway Station which is a short walk from Carlton Gardens, the row of colorful and brightly decorated beach houses are highly instagrammable and considered one of the most iconic attractions around Melbourne.
For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Red Spice QV (37 Artemis Lane, +61 3 8660 6300). The Five-Spiced Pork Belly is a must!
Day Trips If You Have More Time to Spare
To save on costs, you can also consider going with a pre-arranged tour for your day trip destinations. Check out Shopback in order to gain cashback with tour operators such as Klook and Voyagin. Better yet, check out their ShopFest in order to get even better deals during special sale days like single’s day or the 12/12 online fever.
- Great Ocean Road – one of the most scenic drives in Australia – the star attraction is the rock formation called “Twelve Apostles”
- Philip Island – sighting of penguins
- Ballarat – a glimpse of Australia back in the days of the gold rush
- Yarra Valley – for the wineries and beautiful scenery
- Grampians National Park
Tip: If you need a local sim card for all your data needs, you can conveniently purchase one here. You can pick-up from the lockers regardless of the time of day you arrive in Melbourne.
Getting to the City From Airport
You can either try a ridesharing app such as UBER (around A$40 to A$50) but the cheapest way to get to town is by taking the SkyBus (A$18 for a one-way trip). You can book discounted tickets here (15% off).
Where to Stay in Melbourne
I stated at the newly-built Novotel Melbourne South Wharf which is located in the hip riverside area called South Bank. Rooms are spacious, decently-priced and most important – new. To get to the CBD, you’ll just need to cross the bridge to the other side of the city.