My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Understand
Melbourne is arguably Australia's most livable city and will convince you with its clean and efficient city layout and a coffee and brunch culturelike no other. Locals seem to be constantly on the hunt for a better breakfast and coffee place, as the sheer amount of excellent coffee shops will overwhelm you (and it even did for yours truly, a big coffee fan).
Australia is expensivefor Americans, given the 1:1.2/1.3 exchange rate, and Melbourne is no exception.
Locals are generally friendly - a little more so than in major American cities. In general, life seems very comparable with its European influences than what you'd expect in most US cities. Everything is seemingly well sorted out and the Aussie accent shouldn't be a big issue either.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Get Around
A big portion of the inner city is a Free Tram Zone. There is no payment required and there is no need to buy one of the myki cards usually required for payment on Victoria's public transport. The crowds show that this is a popular way to run inner-city public transport.
Uber is in town and most rides are under AUD$10. However, rides can get expensive quickly and airport rides are AUD$40+.
Renting a car is not a good idea here, unless you have a place to park.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Safety
Melbourne seemed exceedingly safe to me. The inner city seems very safe and the biggest danger is from getting in an accident with the cars and trams coming at you at unexpected angles (yes, even if you are used to traffic on the left).
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Connectivity
T-Mobile's Simple Plan allows for free roaming here. SIM cards are easily available too and many places offer free WiFi that is reasonably fast. There is also a city-wide WiFi that is somewhat fast.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Sights
Melbourne is blessed with too many must-do sights; this might be good or bad, depending on what you are looking for.
Yarra River Walk
The Melbourne river walk along the Yarra River will remind you of Singapore's Clarke Quay.
It comes alive after sundown and has a number of decent nightlife options at affordable prices. The view is lovely and the vibe is chill.
I actually did not get to go but reviews suggest this is one of the better places to visit.
Royal Botanic Gardens
I also didn't have time to visit the popular Royal Botanic Gardens unfortunately. Said to be one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world, this inner-city oasis has more than 10,000 plant species and featuresthe 19th-century Melbourne Observatory. There's even outdoor cinema and theater performances in the summer and it seems to be afantastic place for people of all ages.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is on way too many 'must-do' lists - I found it touristy and the food and shops boring. Come here if you are looking for something cheap or tacky, otherwise avoid.
South Melbourne Market
South Melbourne Market is a lively fresh market with lots of healthy eating options. It is bustling with people every weekend and for a good reason - you can sample your way through so much fresh produce and other food in just two hours.
Great Ocean Road Drive
Located about a 3-hour drive from Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road - Australia's version of Big Sur. Go on a clear day and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. I did not go, as the winter days were rather dreary during my stay.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Eat & Drink
Melbourne is world-famous for its brunch food culture. You could spend months here and make it a game to go to a different excellent-rated brunch place or coffee shop every day and you would still have places to spare. Every neighborhood has a dozen or more of these. The quality of espresso drinks and the food served is exceptional but it's not cheap; expect AUD$30+ for a (smallish) meal and espresso drink (this includes tax and service). There is often a wait on the weekends for the most popular places.
Beyond coffee and brunch, Melbourne doesn't have as many options as you would expect, coming from the US. Ethnic food is there but it is often not as flavorful or refined as many US cities have now. Eating a lot for brunch is a good idea and skimping on dinner is the way to go. In general, the quality of food is high and it is hard to be really disappointed.
Archie's All Day
This is likely as close as you can get to a 'typical' Melbourne coffee shop, with fantastic smashed avocado toast and a menu full of delectables. It gets really busy and even on a Monday morning you will have to wait for a brunch table. Bring your credit card - coffee and toast will set you back AUD$30 (service and tax is thankfully included).
Di Bella Roasting Warehouse
Di Bella focuses a bit more on high-end coffee (not that coffee was bad anywhere else that I tried) and has several different single origin espresso options for you to choose from. I tried the avocado salad, which was finger-licking delicious, and I have no doubt the rest of menu is equally good.
Twenty & Six Espresso
This smaller neighborhood coffee shop has more of a hipster attitude. It also has a fantastic patio for summer days and makes top-notch food and coffee and it is a few dollars cheaper than similar places.
Rustica Canteen is another brunch/lunch place with fantastic sandwich creations. The menu is creative and the food is fresh. It was hard to be disappointed by any of the items we tried.
Dead Man Espresso
Despite its name, there are no dead people and not even a focus on espresso here. Instead, you'll find one of Melbourne's best brunch menus, with fantastic waffles and smashed avocado. The coffee is top-notch as well. As usual in Melbourne, it does not come cheap but the quality is worth it.
Padre Coffee (multiple locations)
Padre Coffee specializes in upscale coffee without a brunch menu. This would be normal in many cities but in Melbourne it is the exception. I started to prefer it because it is cheaper and you are less tempted to eat those AUD$25 entrees every morning.
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts
If you crave artisan donuts, Shortstop will help you out, incl. with my favorite matcha green tea donut.
Likely the best pizza in Melbourne, it comes with a sample menu on the wall and friendly service. AUD$28 isn't cheap but the margherita pizza is as good as it gets.
Rice Papr Scrs
Rice Papr Scrs will make you wish you could play the popular game of rock paper scissors for a table. Even on a Monday night at 6PM the line was a solid 60 minutes in reservations. I did not get to try in but the menu looked like yummy modern Vietnamese creations done in stylish ways.
Gazi is upscale, modern, Greek food in a retro disco environment. If this all sounds a bit too much, you are probably right but they pull it off and prices are somewhat low (portions are small, though).
Located right at the Melbourne Yarra riverfront, this is a great place to try some local IPAs. To order a flight of beers, walk up to the bartender and order a 'paddle' (no, you are not kayaking) and present a list of the beer you want included. You'll get a lot of beer for AUD$10.
The Boatbuilders Yard
Also located along the riverfront, this bar manages to be both cozy and huge. It spans several buildings and huts (some of them heated) along the river.
Mr Wow's Emporium
Mr Wow's is a friendly bar with a lot of entertainment options including indoor boccia.
Cookie may be trying to mislead you a bit as this is actually a huge bar and cookies are hard to come by here. The selection of beers is surprisingly limited but the food menu seems popular (though I did not eat here).
My Favorite 17 Things to do Melbourne, Australia - Where to Stay
Melbourne has no shortage of chain hotels, with the Park Hyatt Melbourne and the Grand Hyatt Melbourne being the premier options. I chose the newly-built Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne in the built-up Docklands area.