City Guide: Melbourne — Australia’s Cultural Capital


Few superlatives do justice to Australia’s illustrious and artsy city, Melbourne. Once one of the world’s largest and wealthiest cities thanks to the gold rushes of the 19th century, Melbourne has since emerged as Australia’s cultural and artistic heart — a fact best reflected in its ranking as the world’s most liveable city.

 Located on the southern coast of Victoria, some 443 miles from Sydney, Melbourne was one of the first settlements to be colonised in the 18th century, which may explain its tangible European feel. The city boasts beautiful colonial-era architecture in abundance, and this, coupled with a thriving café culture which goes beyond that offered in some of Europe’s finest capitals, place it among the most cosmopolitan destinations in the Southern Hemisphere.

For those planning a trip to Melbourne as part of an unforgettable Australian cruise break, here we offer a guide on what to see, where to eat and how to get around this most cultural and enriching of cities.

Getting Around in Melbourne

Given it’s the second largest city in Australia, finding your way around Melbourne can feel like an intimidating task. Thankfully, the city boasts an efficient public transport system made up of trains, trams and buses, so you can easily negotiate the entire city, even if you’ve only got limited time at your disposal.

What’s more, if you purchase a myki card before or during your visit to the city, you can hop on and off different transport across the city with a single card ticket, so you don’t have to worry about how much single trips are likely to cost. The Melbourne myki card can be used on all trains, trams and buses in the city, and we’d recommend buying one before your journey so you can take advantage of it from the moment your ship cruises into Melbourne harbour. You can order your myki card by visiting the Public Transport Victoria website.

One thing to remember about Melbourne’s tram system is that some zones offer free travel, helping tourists and commuters alike get around the city more affordably. It’s actually possible to explore some of the city’s most popular visitor districts as part of the Free Tram Zone scheme, including Flinders and La Trobe Street, so make sure you listen out for the announcements which let passengers know when they’re entering a free zone.

Melbourne transport

Must-See Attractions

As the cultural, culinary and sporting capital of Australia, Melbourne offers plenty to see and do, regardless of your taste and budget. There’s also a wealth of must-visit attractions for younger visitors, so the whole family is guaranteed a stimulating and exciting visit.

For sports fans, a visit to the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground is an absolute must. Known simply as ‘The G’, this 100,000-capacity cricket ground is the 10th-largest sports stadium in the world, and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Since it was built in 1853, the venue has played host to some of the world’s biggest sporting tournaments, including the Summer Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, two Cricket World Cups, and of course, The Ashes. Such is the adoration for the stadium that, in 2003, journalist Greg Baum called it “a shrine, a citadel, a landmark, symbolising Melbourne to the world.”

If you’re travelling with youngsters in tow, or simply have a penchant for exotic wildlife, we’d recommend a visit to Melbourne Zoo. No ordinary zoo, the Royal Melbourne Zoological Garden is the third oldest zoo of its kind in the world, and is thought to have been modelled on London Zoo. Today, the site plays host to more than 320 animal species from across Australia and the wider world, and is easily accessible from the centre of Melbourne via the 55 and 19 tram routes.

Once you’ve become acquainted with the various exotic animals of the zoo, why not sample some of the art and culture on offer in Melbourne? From the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and NGV International to the Melbourne Museum and the Old Gaol; the city is home to a wealth of cultural highlights, so you can get to grips with the indigenous and colonial heritage of southern Australia.

Melbourne zoo

Where to Eat

Melburnians are fiercely proud of their distinct native cuisine, and the huge mix of eateries showcased here have led to the city becoming Australia’s undisputed epicurean heartland. Such is the quality and variety of the food on offer here that Melbourne cuisine, and the café culture which comes with it, is now exported (but rarely bettered) in cities across the globe.

So, with a near unfathomable array of eats to pick from, how do you go about choosing one to visit during a brief stint in the city? Well, it all depends on your time, taste and budget.

If you’ve time and money to spend, we’d recommend Maha, a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. With a menu of authentic dishes, including saffron braised chicken, swimmer crab bastille and Turkish red lentil dumplings, this is the perfect choice for those looking to sample colourful non-native food prepared using the freshest local produce.

Alternatively, if it’s quick and affordable street food you’re after, pay a visit to Melbourne’s historic Queen Victoria Market. Affectionately referred to as ‘the Queen Vic’, this vast food and produce market has been at the centre of Melbourne’s culinary renaissance for over 100 years, and offers a range of food vendors to suit any appetite — from Asian street eats to belly-filling burgers.

If Melbourne is famous for anything, it’s coffee, and nowhere does a cup of Joe come tastier than Breakfast Thieves, a stylish café in the city’s hip Fitzroy neighbourhood. With coffees ranging from A$3.50 and up per cup, the place isn’t what you’d call cheap, but you will enjoy the comfort of knowing that all the beans are 100% ethically sourced and roasted by hand on site. There are some tasty breakfast and brunch treats available too, including Ms. Omega, which comprises of citrus-ocean trout on fragrant sourdough, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise.

Enjoying coffee and tea at a cafe in a laneway, shallow depth of view

Interested in visiting Melbourne as part of your next ocean cruise? Check out our complete range of upcoming cruise breaks in Australia, and start planning your dream holiday down under today. Need help making a booking or require further information? Give us a call on 0808 2746 777 and we’ll be happy to help you.



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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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