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Things to Do in Melbourne

Long in competition with Sydney for the title of Australia’s cultural capital, free-spirited Melbourne is often the people’s choice, consistently topping the list of the world’s most livable cities. There’s a lot to love, from its melting pot of inhabitants and distinctly European ambience, to its diverse foodie scene, cutting-edge art galleries, and eclectic nightlife. There’s also a lot more than meets the eye, so start your Melbourne discovery with a guided tour—on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus, on a regular bus, or on foot—of the city’s top stops, colorful neighborhoods, and hidden hot spots. Begin beneath the skyscrapers of the Central Business District, admiring landmarks such as Federation Square and Parliament House; browsing the stalls at the legendary Queen Victoria Market; and strolling around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Then, escape the tourist trail to explore the shops and cafés of Melbourne’s atmospheric laneways, catch a film or show at the Southbank entertainment complex, or scour the hip neighborhoods of St. Kilda, Fitzroy, and Carlton. If you need a break from the city, Melbourne’s scenic surroundings are ripe for day trips. Tour the Mornington Peninsula, watch the Phillip Island penguin parade, or taste award-winning wines in the Yarra Valley. Alternatively, head west along the spectacular Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most famous coastal drives, where highlights include Apollo Bay, the Twelve Apostles, and Great Otway National Park.
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Yarra River
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The Yarra River winds its way through Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) plus a number of suburbs. In the city, bars, restaurants, and parks thrive along its banks, bringing locals and tourists together. Numerous festivals and sporting events take place on the Yarra, including the famous Moomba Festival and rowing regattas.

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Melbourne Zoo
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The Melbourne Zoo has been open since 1862, making it Australia's oldest zoo. Modeled after the London Zoo, the Melbourne Zoo houses more than 300 species from around the world, from elephants and lions to Aussie natives like kangaroos and koalas. The zoo is also a conservation center dedicated to fighting wildlife extinction.

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SEA LIFE® Melbourne Aquarium
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See thousands of marine animals without leaving the city at the SEA LIFE Melbourne aquarium. Boasting more than 10 themed zones, the aquarium features penguins, sharks, rays, crocodiles, starfish, and much more. The ocean’s diversity and marine conservation efforts are the focus at this popular family attraction.

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Great Ocean Road
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One of the world's most famous driving routes, Victoria's Great Ocean Road offers scenic surprises at every fork in the road. In signature Australian style, endless stretches of white sandy beaches are flanked by dense pockets of rain forest, charming coastal towns, and canopies populated by koalas.

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Twelve Apostles
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Situated right at the end of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles are a set of eight rock formations—there used to be twelve—jutting out of the Southern Ocean. These limestone pillars were once connected to the nearby cliffs but have been eroded away into caves, pillars, and arches from the harsh conditions of the ocean.

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Werribee Open Range Zoo
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Australia might be famous for its kangaroos and koalas, but the Werribee Open Range Zoo offers all the excitement of an African safari on Aussie shores. Lions, rhinoceros, giraffes, and gorillas all roam freely in the park’s 494-acre (200-hectare) grasslands, affording visitors some incredible wildlife-watching opportunities.

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Melbourne Southgate
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Boasting a prime location on the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne Southgate is a shopping, eating, and entertainment complex. As well as offering one of the most diverse shopping experiences in the city, Melbourne Southgate is just a few minutes walk from Flinders Street Station and Arts Centre Melbourne.

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Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
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The largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the most famous sporting venues in Australia, Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is more than a Melbourne landmark. The legendary stadium has hosted the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, the annual Boxing Day Test Match, and Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final.

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Federation Square
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Federation Square, just across from Flinders Street Station, is Melbourne's beating heart and favorite meeting spot. Numerous city events take place here throughout the year, making it a must-visit attraction for all travelers. The square is surrounded by many bars and restaurants, and is home to the Ian Potter Centre, an Australian art museum.

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ArtVo
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Put yourself in the picture at ArtVo, the first immersive art gallery, or “trick art” gallery, in Australia. Spanning 21,528 square feet (2,000 square meters), the Melbourne gallery displays more than 100 interactive, large-scale paintings on walls and floors that allow you to become part of the art through photos.

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More Things to Do in Melbourne

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

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The Great Ocean Road is one Victoria’s most naturally stunning sights, and Loch Ard Gorge is a dramatic highlight of an already dramatic journey. It was at this spot in 1878 where a ship carrying settlers from England to Melbourne was tragically wrecked on the rocks. Of the 54 passengers aboard the ship only two of the passengers survived—a teenage boy who heroically rescued a fellow teenage girl. After spending the night in a coastal sea cave, the duo found help with local settlers after scaling the rugged cliffs. Today those cliffs have a set of stairs that lead to the golden sands, where a protected beach is tucked beneath the towering, time-sculpted bluffs. Though the weather can be spectacularly stormy in winter, summer days are an invitation for picnicking, swimming, and sunbathing, and the striated cliffs form a natural amphitheater of coastal beauty around you. The gorge is located just a ten minute drive from the famous Twelve Apostles, which are arguably the most popular and visited site on Australia’s Great Ocean Road. At the top of the cliffs above the gorge, a modest cemetery has a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Loch Ard shipwreck—just one of an estimated 700 ships that have sank off this southern coast.

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Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

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Get away from Melbourne’s bustling city center without actually leaving town at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. This 89-acre (36-hectare) park is home to more than 8,500 plant species, tranquil lakes, and lush lawns. Join guided walking tours, workshops, or presentations, or feel free to walk around the flourishing oasis on your own.

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Eureka Skydeck 88

Eureka Skydeck 88

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A signature Melbourne experience, Eureka Skydeck 88 is a 360-degree viewing platform set atop the 974-foot (274-meter) Eureka Tower. For the daring there’s the Edge, a cantilevered glass cube that slides out from the building, leaving you suspended above the city streets. Vertigo, a green-screen set-up, simulates falling from the building.

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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

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Located in the heart of Melbourne, St. Paul’s Cathedral is the only neo-Gothic building among a sea of modern structures in Federation Square. Built between 1880 and 1931 to commemorate the location of Melbourne’s first Christian service back in 1836, St. Paul’s features the 2nd-tallest Anglican spire in the world.

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Luna Park Melbourne

Luna Park Melbourne

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First opened in 1912, Luna Park Melbourne is a slice of theme park history. Enter through the mouth of Mr. Moon and ride historic attractions, including the Great Scenic Railway wooden roller coaster. Old-time favorites, such as a ghost train and hall of mirrors, offer thrills to kids, as do bumper cars, carousels, and modern rides.

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Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane

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Once forgotten but now an integral part of Melbourne’s cultural scene, Hosier Lane is home to some of the city’s best street art. The laneway, which cuts between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, exhibits regularly changing graffiti alongside a series of light boxes that exhibit the work of up and coming contemporary artists.

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Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market

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Queen Victoria Market is Melbourne’s premier farmers market. It’s filled with fresh fruit and vegetables from local farmers, regional meats and cheeses, gourmet items, handicrafts, and much more. Since 1878, the market has been a gathering place for locals and tourists to peruse the stalls and relish delicious treats from stallholders.

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Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

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Flinders Street Station is Melbourne’s most historic train station and a major transportation hub. Built in 1854, the station still features remnants of the past like the large clock on the facade, stained glass windows, and old-school flip displays for train departures. The station allows travelers to shuttle between the outer suburbs and the heart of Melbourne with ease.

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Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park

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Grampians National Park offers more than 646 square miles (1,673 square kilometers) of rugged sandstone peaks, with wildflowers, waterfalls, fern gullies, and vineyards. The park is known for its stunning natural landscape and many ancient Aboriginal rock art sites.

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Shrine of Remembrance

Shrine of Remembrance

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Stark and solemn, the Shrine of Remembrance is Melbourne’s memorial for all Australians who fought in a war.

The Shrine was originally built to remember those who fought in World War One and is now open to the public for commemoration and education about all Australian victims of war. Permanent exhibitions show medals awarded to soldiers and records of service men and women. Temporary exhibitions and free daily tours at 11am and 2pm also allow visitors a chance to expand their understanding of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts.

The unique shrine is easily recognised by the two identical porticoes supported by eight Doric columns and topped with a pyramidal roof inspired by an ancient Mausoleum. The result of combining the Athenian and Turkish architectural designs in a bold white structure is nothing short of stunning.

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Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

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See Melbourne from a different angle on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, the only attraction of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Towering 400 feet (120 meters) above the Docklands, the wheel offers passengers 360-degree views over Melbourne, and is one of the most popular activities in the city.

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Degraves Street

Degraves Street

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Degraves Street is a short, narrow laneway that runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane in the heart of Melbourne.

Though named for two pioneer merchants who moved from Hobart to Melbourne in 1849 – Charles and William Degraves – Degraves Street is more often attributed to William alone, who served as a member of Victoria’s Legislative Council. Degraves Street is one of Melbourne’s more unique arcades.

Bluestone cobbles and an otherworld charm are the characteristics of Degraves Street. Tall, old-style buildings frame the street, with shops, bars, cafes and more lining the ground level, and apartments up above. Dining on Degraves Street tends towards Italian. Degraves Espresso is said to be one of the most quintessentially Melbourne café experiences. The Degraves Street underpass was built in the 1950s, connecting Flinders Street Station with Degraves Street. The underpass, much like the street it connects to, is full of character. The Platform Artists Group calls the underpass home, and have a frequent turnover for their underground exhibitions.

Other big attractions on Degraves Street include the Parisian-style restaurant Majorca House, the stationary and paper shop Il Papiro, bakery Little Cupcakes and children’s bookshop The Little Bookroom.

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Melbourne Royal Arcade

Melbourne Royal Arcade

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Opened in 1892, the Royal Arcade is Melbourne’s oldest shopping arcade. It’s a visual feast, with a lofty glass ceiling that streams natural light onto the delicate Victorian metalwork, and home to a choice selection of boutiques, jewelers, chocolatiers, and cafes.

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Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary

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With more than 74 acres (30 hectares) of natural bushlands and hundreds of animal residents, Healesville Sanctuary is one of the best places in Victoria to spot native Australian animals. Kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, platypus, emus, and Tasmanian devils are just some of the many creatures that call the sanctuary home.

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