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Melbourne is the second largest capital city in Australia and a serious contender for Sydney in the popularity stakes. If you are discovering Melbourne for the first time, choosing where to start might be a bit of a
I have visited Melbourne many times with different purposes and you could spend a lot more than two days but there are some essentials you shouldn’t miss.
You may have heard a few things about the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry. It does exist, which I find a little puzzling, since both cities are so different. Melbourne is known for its cool architecture, its hip cafés and thriving food scene. Street art is a major aspect of Melbourne’s busy cultural life.
Generally, Melbourne has a more urban and cultural feel than Sydney, but it is full of charm and energy. The only downside might be the weather, which tends to change quickly, so much so that you can sometimes expect four seasons in one day. Here are the Melbourne highlights not to miss:
2 Days in Melbourne: Wander the Laneways
Melbourne is famous for its laneways. As a matter of fact, the laneways are that good, more things happen in there than on the main streets! The laneways are the heart and soul of Melbourne, where its cultural vibe and nightlife is. You can do a lot in the Melbourne lanes, from shopping for unique fashion, having a casual but delicious breakfast or fine dining, enjoying a coffee at the end of the day, discovering newly painted street art or simply taking in that cool Melbourne vibe…
One of my favourite Melbourne lanes is Degraves Street. It goes from dead quiet in the morning, which is great for viewing street art, to bustling with restaurants and bars open late at night.
In my opinion, Melbourne lanes have great charm because they mix the local life so well. It is the territory of hospitality workers having a cigarette break, of students having a chat sitting on milk crates, and of dressed up professionals waiting at the door of a swanky bar. The laneways are the cosy heart of Melbourne, where you can seek shelter from the famous cold and rain that may appear at any moment.
I was taken aback by the best laneways of Melbourne on my first visit, they were so cool and European. They had that slightly louche vibe, which makes you hesitate a bit when knocking on a dark door to be let into an equally dark bar… And in true prohibition style, the light shines and the place is bustling and swinging…
For a true Melbourne lanes experience, you could take a tour including lunch and get all the secret stories. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
Go Back in Time in the Arcades
The arcades are another unique feature of the Victorian capital and should definitely be on your list if you only have two days in Melbourne. In a way, the arcades are the more upmarket and Victorian version of the laneways. And sometimes, they mix quite well. Indeed, you may walk through the elegant gate of a Victorian arcade and walk out through a laneway covered in graffiti…
The Royal Arcade is at 331-339 Bourke Street and was built in 1869. It connects Bourke Street Mall, Little Collins Street and Elizabeth Street
The Block Arcade is the grandest and most beautiful Melbourne arcade. At 280-292 Collins Street, it is home to the Hopetoun Tea Rooms and Haigh’s Chocolates. The arcade is modelled on Milan’s grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and was built around 1891-1893. The floor mosaics are beautiful and this arcade is the perfect place for a high tea…
The Walk Arcade is at 309-325 Bourke Street, and connects Bourke Street Mall and Little Collins Street. Going across the arcade will take you to a laneway called the Causeway.
Finding the best Melbourne lanes and arcades can be a little confusing for first time visitors so why not take a tour? Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
Crane Your Neck at Melbourne’s Skyscrapers
Coming from Sydney, where nothing is really that high, spending 2 days in Melbourne nearly gave me a sore neck! Some say that Sydney is asleep when it comes to daring, modern architecture and I have to agree.
There are some stunning buildings in Melbourne… I wasn’t looking for anything like that when I spent 2 days in Melbourne but it was worth a few photos…
Melbourne can now compete with New York and Chicago when it comes to heights…
2 Days in Melbourne: Soar at the Eureka Skydeck
Speaking of tall buildings, if you have 2 days in Melbourne, it’s hard to miss the Eureka Tower… Finished in 2006, it stands at 297m and is the second tallest building in Australia. The Eureka Skydeck is a 360 viewing platform over Melbourne and its surroundings.
First, I’ll give you a few figures to dazzle you:
- 360 views over Melbourne
- 285m above ground
- 88th floor
- 38 seconds, that’s how much time the lift needs to take you there…
The Best Views of Melbourne
After the quick shot up the tower, you can get around the space freely, there is a cafe, toilets and a desk where you can collect your photos. With only 2 days in Melbourne, I didn’t actually hesitate to do this fairly touristy thing. I went after work, just before sundown in order to see the city light up. The lights were indeed beautiful but beware of the reflection on the windows. There was a lot of light coming from inside the viewing platform and after a while, it wasn’t really possible to take photos.
The other attraction at the Eureka Skydeck is the Edge. It’s a glass cube that literally edges off the side of the tower and hangs almost 300m above Melbourne streets. They make a big deal out of it with spooky noises when you’re in the cube so make sure that this is something you are comfortable with. You get great views and yes, the ground is a long way away when you look between your feet. There is an extra charge for this attraction.
Apart from feeling a little dizzy from the height and slightly embarrassed to be in such a tourist thing, I liked the views but you get the same ones from the viewing platform, really. The one thing I didn’t like was that cameras weren’t allowed in the cube, not even phones. They do offer to take a photo of you, which you have to pay extra for. So don’t feel bad if you don’t do this part of the Eureka Skydeck.
It’s Cold Up There!
A portion of the viewing platform is open air, protected by a net so things or people can’t fall off. The wind and the temperature were very different at 300m than they were at ground level but what a sight!
I don’t regret visiting at dusk, the changing colours were beautiful however I wish I had arrived a little earlier. Most of the photos were taken around dusk and night time and I’m sure it’s worth visiting during the day.
If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on the best light hours during the day and at night, there
The Eureka Tower is worth including in your Melbourne highlights! Check out additional information and current ticket prices.
Explore the Queen Victoria Market
A Rich and Diverse Market
Living in Sydney, I am actually very envious of this market. The choice of
All in Art Deco charm, the Dairy Produce Hall has a fantastic range of
If you have many other things to fit into your Melbourne sightseeing, it’s worth heading to the market early and enjoy breakfast there. It’s a great to experience the Melbourne culture, with people playing music and enjoying a coffee…
For a more in-depth experience, you can take a foodie tour.
The Queen Victoria Market opens daily except Mondays and Wednesdays. There are night markets and summer markets on Wednesdays.
The Queen Victoria Market’s reputation goes well beyond Melbourne, there is no equivalent in Sydney. In fact, the market is on the Victorian Heritage Register and on its way to join the UNESCO World
When To Go?
Opening times are:
- Fri: 6 am to
- Sun: 6am to 4pm
Be Spooked in the Old Melbourne Gaol
My first trips to Melbourne were about cool cocktail bars and boutique shopping. Living in Sydney, I thought I had all the historic buildings back home… Wrong! With only 2 days in Melbourne, I made time to visit the Old Melbourne Goal, on Russell Street.
The Old Melbourne Gaol Building
A bluestone building with a courtyard, next to the City Police Watch House and the City Courts Building, the Old Melbourne Gaol has been a prison since the early days of the colony.
From the outside, the building looks small and out of place in the streets of modern Melbourne, but it must have cast a mighty shadow in its heyday. Victorian society, in England and its colonies, was obsessed with criminals and how to reform them.
Inside the Prison
Between 1842 and 1924, the prison housed Melbourne’s most dangerous criminals, petty offenders but also the homeless and the mentally ill. Even children as young as three spent time in Old Melbourne Gaol. Also, no less than 135 people where hanged at the prison, including the famous bush ranger Ned Kelly.
Some areas of the gaol are now part of the RMIT University Campus and not all is open to the public. The section open to visitors is the main gaol, on three levels.
The prison is dark and daunting, and the blue stone has an eerie sheen. Visitors are encouraged to stay quiet and respect the place and its painful history.
The cells are small and claustrophobic, however the gaol is remarkably well preserved and there are plenty of displays to tell the sometimes sad and moving stories of the people who came to stay in the prison, and those who were hanged in the gallows.
The fascination most Australians have for their criminal past can be puzzling to visitors, however I found the Old Melbourne Gaol to be a really vivid account of what life was like in the young colony of Victoria.
If you have more time in Melbourne, you can take a tour of the City Police Watch House, which will give you an idea of what it was like to be arrested in put in jail…
The City Courts Building, which was in operation between 1911 and 1994, is also open during Victorian school holidays. And if you are into jails, there is a very good specimen in Fremantle, in Western Australia.
2 Days in Melbourne: Do Some Shopping
Melbourne has really good shopping and that was a focus of my first visits several years ago. Again comparing to Sydney, Melbourne has some really good shopping precincts, like Chapel Street in South Yarra, Collins Street in the city, Bridge Road in Richmond or Sydney Road in Brunswick.
The Victorian arcades and Melbourne lanes have some great shopping. I would say that the main difference between Melbourne and the other Australian capital cities is the presence of plenty of private labels and boutiques with unique items.
Away from mainstream fashion, Melbourne offers a diverse and exciting shopping experience. Not only the shops are good, but Melbourne has the right culture around shopping. I felt that shopping was an experience that people value and enjoy, as opposed to a practical and rushed endeavour.
Relax at Southbank & the Yarra River
The Yarra River runs through Melbourne, just south of the CBD, and Southbank is a good area for nightlife with great views over the city.
In order to soak up
2 Days in Melbourne: Search for the Best Street Art
Melbourne is famous for its street art, which is becoming very popular around Australia, including in Perth. As it turns out, street art is so prevalent in Melbourne that it will be hard to avoid it.
The main areas of Street Art in Melbourne CBD are:
Near 104-106 Franklin Street
Cnr of Little Bourke Street
Cnr of Little Collins Street
Between Lonsdale Street and Little Bourke Street
Between Bourke Street and Little Bourke Street
Between Bourke Street and Little Collins Street
Off Flinders Lane, it wraps around a block
Between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane
Between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. Rutledge Lane is off Hosier Lane and wraps around a block.
Between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane.
During the day, Degraves Street is full of cafes and restaurants with tables lined in the middle of the street. Therefore, the best time is to visit in the morning. Indeed, there are some interesting displays along the way and in one small lane just off the street.
Off Russell Street
Rankins Lane & Warburton Lane
Off Little Bourke Street
Off Little Bourke Street
Between Lonsdale Street and Little Bourke Street
Melbourne street art is very much alive and you may even get the opportunity to see it in action. As part of my Melbourne sightseeing, I saw several artists in the process of spraying the lane walls, which is an interesting process.
Visit a Park
Whilst the centre of Melbourne has a very urban feel, there are some spacious and green parks around, where Melburnians like to enjoy a walk or a picnic. However, during my 2 days in Melbourne, I only had time to walk across the Flagstaff Gardens.
The Flagstaff Gardens are in the Northern part of the city, not far from the Queen Victoria Market and are the oldest park in Melbourne. First established in 1862, they are a popular and well maintained garden, with a broad range of tree essences and flowers.
Take a Tram
Melbourne has a very efficient network of trams. A must-see in Melbourne, trams within the CBD are free. If you wish to travel further afield, the best way is to use a rechargeable Myki card.
If you only have 2 days in Melbourne, you should expect to walk a lot however the Tram 35 should be on your list. This free tram is a hop-on, hop-off service which loops around central Melbourne. There is an audio commentary pointing out the main landmarks and attractions, and you get to travel in a heritage tram!
If you want to explore further afield after 2 days in the city, I strongly recommend adding some Melbourne day tours to your itinerary. Geelong is only an hours’ drive and a nice coastal town.
The Great Ocean Road
This is one of the
Southeast of Melbourne is Philip Island, a pristine haven for wildlife. There is a day tour from Melbourne that combines a food tasting adventure with wildlife watching. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
The Prom, as it is known locally, is a fairly long drive from Melbourne but you will be blown away by the gorgeous scenery and the pristine beaches. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
I came across Sovereign Hill almost by accident and had a wonderful time visiting this preserved Goldfields town. It’s only two hours west of Melbourne near Ballarat so it’s easily done as a day trip. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
Grampians National Park
I visited the Grampians National Park when seeking an escape from Melbourne and it was an adventure! You can see the highlights as a day trip from Melbourne. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.
Is this enough for you to do with just 2 days in Melbourne? Or would you have other suggestions? Please tell me in the comments!