Melbourne is a city that I took way too long to go and visit. I’m Australian born and bred and have lived here all of my life, but in my 32 years I had never gone to Australia’s second largest (and some would argue, most popular) city. This year, I finally changed that, and I went for a quick two day getaway to see what the city has to offer. What I found was a vibrant and lively city with a great atmosphere, and somewhat different to other cities I have visited in Australia. With only 48 hours to see the city, I stuck to the main CBD area and explored as much as I could in that time, while also seeing the city in a relaxed enough pace to really take it all in. Here is my guide to spending 48 hours in Melbourne.
Choose a hotel, hostel or apartment in a good, convenient location so that you can get around easily and not have to waste too much time travelling between your hotel and the city’s sites and restaurants. There is a good range of accommodation in Melbourne with hotels scattered throughout the main CBD area. I stayed on Spencer Street, conveniently located right near Southern Cross station which is handy for catching trains and the shuttle bus to the airport. It is also situated right between Docklands and the main part of the CBD, plus the trams are right on your doorstep.
The best way to get around the CBD and really see the city, in my opinion, is to walk. This allows you to explore all of Melbourne’s little hidden nooks and laneways, which is really what the city is all about. However, another fantastic thing about Melbourne are its trams. The city has a fantastic tram system and you never have to walk more than a couple of blocks to find one. There is a free City Circle Tram that circles around the CBD area and stops at main points of interest. This line uses Melbourne’s old vintage trams which are fantastic. Definitely take at least one ride on the City Circle Tram while in Melbourne, even if you jump on just to ride it all of the way around the city.
Melbourne is renowned for having some of the best dining in Australia. To really experience Melbourne’s food scene, you need to hit the laneways. Little cafes and restaurants line the streets and alleys and you will find lots of options. A couple of good spots to check out are the cafes and restaurants on Degraves Street, along with lots of options all along Flinders Lane. For a taste of Europe, head to Hardware Lane where restaurant owners will fight and bargain for your business, all trying to out do each other’s deals by offering free drinks and appetisers. There is also a fantastic little wine bar on the corner of Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street called Kirk’s Wine Bar. Sitting out at the bistro style tables, I almost felt like I was in Paris again.
Things to do
With only 48 hours, you won’t be able to see and do everything that Melbourne has to offer, plus, if you’re like me, you will need to allow plenty of time for sampling the city’s restaurants and bars. Here are a few good spots to put on your itinerary.
Try to arrive in Melbourne in the morning so that you can check into your hotel around lunchtime and then spend the afternoon exploring the city. Make your way to Degraves Street and try out one of the great cafes for lunch. I ate at The Quarter which did some amazing baguettes and a really good cup of coffee.
Flinders Street Station – A short walk from Degraves Street will bring you to Melbourne’s most iconic building, the stunning Flinders Street Station. Inside it is a modern railway station, but the 1909 exterior is beautifully preserved. It is one of those iconic sites that you shouldn’t miss in Melbourne.
Federation Square, Yarra River and Southbank – Across the street from Flinders Street Station is Federation Square, Melbourne’s culture hub and home to lots of events and art exhibits. From here you can wander down St Kilda Road and over the bridge across the Yarra River where you can get a great view of the river meandering through the city. On the other side of the river is Southbank, another of the city’s cultural areas, home to art galleries and lots of restaurants. On this side of the river you can also explore Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Hosier Lane – Wander back across the river and along Flinders Street past St Paul’s Cathedral. Not much further on you will come across Hosier Lane, home to some of Melbourne’s best street art. Melbourne’s laneways are filled with amazing street art, but this is the most famous. Wander through and admire the interesting artwork covering the walls.
This will be more than enough to fill your afternoon. Wander along Flinders Lane where you can find lots of restaurants and bars for a drink and some dinner. I wandered down to the corner of Flinders and Swanston Street and had a beer at Young & Jackson with a view of Flinders Street Station. Later, I went back to Flinders Lane and headed to The Mill House for an amazing espresso martini (or two) and a pizza.
Queen Victoria Market – Try to time your visit to Melbourne to include a visit to the Queen Victoria Market, which is open every day except Monday and Wednesday. You can head there early for breakfast at one of the eateries and then wander around for some great shopping among the stalls. Try Tribel Cafe which did an amazing breakfast roll filled with bacon, chicken, chorizo, egg and other yummies.
Old Melbourne Gaol – Head down Victoria Street to the Old Melbourne Gaol for a taste of Melbourne’s colonial past. Only a part of the Gaol still stands but it is interesting to visit and explore. A lot of people were hanged at the Gaol during its history between 1842 and 1929, including the most infamous bushranger in Australian history, Ned Kelly. You can also visit the Watch House next to the prison which operated between 1909 and 1994. You get to take part in an interactive experience where you are arrested and the Charge Sergeant takes you through the process and locks you up in a cell. It was a lot of fun.
City Circle Tram – Head down Russel Street to La Trobe Street where you can hop on the free City Circle Tram (route 35). It is a wonderful old vintage tram and you won’t be able to miss it. Hop on and go for a ride around the city.
Docklands and Harbourtown – The Circle Tram will take you down to the docklands area. Hop off and wander along the waterfront where you will find some nice restaurants. I ate at Cargo which sits in a stunning setting out over the water with views of Melbourne’s CBD. The vegetable paella was delicious. Walk north from the waterfront to Harbour Town for a fix of outlet shopping, plus plenty of cafes for a coffee. The trams, including the circle tram stop here and you can hop on to head back to your hotel for a siesta, or anywhere else you would like to visit in the CBD.
For dinner, head to Hardware Lane, situated between Lonsdale and Little Bourke Street. There is a good range of excellent restaurants here to choose from in this little pedestrian only laneway. I ate at Max on Hardware which serves some very nice Italian cuisine. After dinner, head down the lane to the corner and have a glass, or share a bottle of wine at Kirk’s Wine Bar, a wonderful way to end your time in Melbourne.
Depending on what time you fly out, you could enjoy a breakfast at one of Melbourne’s fantastic cafes the next day before heading to Southern Cross Station for the shuttle bus to the airport.
This is how I spent my time in Melbourne but there is plenty more that you could do, particularly if you had more time. For me, this was a great taste of what the city has to offer. It left me wanting to come back again to explore further.
Have you been to Melbourne? Do you have any tips or suggestions for things to do and places to eat?
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