The capital of compact Victoria, Melbourne is much more than just a gateway to the Great Ocean Road and the state’s numerous wine regions. Founded in 1835, the city formerly known as “Batmania” is Australia’s most multicultural, home to the biggest Greek population outside of Greece as well as sizable Italian and Asian populations.
This diversity has helped to foster Melbourne’s status as the country’s capital of culture: the arts scene here is thriving, the food and drink is second to none, there’s a festival for every reason and season, and there are plentiful attractions, many of which are free.
05.00: Melbourne is one of the few major cities in the world to allow hot air balloons into its airspace. As the sun comes up over the horizon passengers will sail above the city’s glittering steel and glass skyscrapers and take in its most famous landmarks. As if that wasn’t giddying enough, most experiences also include a champagne breakfast back in the Central Business District (CBD). Do Something Different offers a sunrise balloon flight with champagne from £290 per adult.
10.00: Victoria’s capital is perhaps most famous for its clusters of laneways, concealing all manner of speakeasy bars, designer boutiques, coffee shops and much-Instagrammed street art. Tour the open-air galleries that are Hosier and AC/DC Lane, and uncover more of Melbourne’s history in the safe hands of popular local outfit Hidden Secrets Tours. The trade-friendly company’s most in-demand tour is Melbourne Lanes and Arcades, which runs at 2pm every day.
14.00: Melbourne’s grid-plan CBD is easy to navigate on foot, but using the free City Circle Tram is a great way to break up a long day exploring. Not only do these historic trams offer a running commentary on the landmarks you pass, but they also allow clients to travel on the largest urban tram network in the world. Jump off at Queen Victoria Market for snacks or the sprawling Royal Botanic Gardens if it’s sunny.
18.00: Melbourne is foodie heaven. Those on a budget should go to Chinatown – the longest continuously running Chinatown outside of Asia – while upmarket options such as Chin Chin and Supernormal abound in Flinders Lane. Many local restaurants feature banquet menus, which offer great value, often priced at £30 to £40 for six to 10 courses. Take to the riverside precinct known as the Southbank or one of the city’s countless rooftop bars for a pre- or post-dinner tipple.
20.00: Sporting enthusiasts will already know Melbourne has been dubbed the sporting capital of the world, and is home to the largest sporting arena in Australia, the MCG – the birthplace of Australian rules football. In January the city hosts Australian Open tennis; in March the Australian Grand Prix; and in early November Melbourne Cup horseracing. Music aficionados, meanwhile, can enjoy the wealth of gigs, festivals and bars in a city that has more live music performances than any other in the world.
23.00: The CBD is without a doubt the best place for visitors to base themselves while in town, especially if only for a flying visit. Clients who prefer their hotels on the flashy side should book either the Metropol or Towers, which are part of the shopping, casino, cinema and restaurant complex that is Crown. For something more playful and boutique, suggest Ovolo Laneways, or the QT, the latter of which has a rooftop bar where DJs often hit the decks.