Melbourne is the second-largest capital city in Australia and a serious contender for Sydney in the popularity stakes. If you are keen on some Melbourne sightseeing for the first time, choosing where to start might be a bit of a challenge. To get you started, I have found the best way to spend 2 days in Melbourne.
The Best Way to Spend 2 Days in Melbourne
I have visited Melbourne many times with different purposes and you could spend a lot more than two days but there are some essential Melbourne experiences 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 Melbourne climate, which tends to change quickly, so much so that you can sometimes expect four seasons in one day. Here are some fun things to do in Melbourne for couples or solo travellers.
As a first step, I recommend visiting the Melbourne tourist information centre to pick up a Melbourne tourist map so you can get your bearings.
Where to Stay in Melbourne
There are many places to stay in Melbourne, but if you are limited in time, I recommend choosing a central location and maybe trying to get a bit of a view. I selected these hotels based on location, views and budget.
Melbourne Boutique Hotels
With its high rises buildings all over the city, Melbourne has a lot of very standard hotels and it’s easy to get lost in the choice… Jazz Corner Hotel is a stylish jazz-themed hotel with great views. It’s near Flagstaff Gardens and only 10-15 mns from the heart of the city.
I stayed in that area on my last trip and it could be the best place to stay in Melbourne as it’s within walking distance of the many restaurants, Southern Cross station and yet it’s pretty quiet.
Best Melbourne Hotels for Views
Located between Queen Victoria Market and Old Melbourne Gaol, in a quiet area of town, Imagine Lighthouse has some stunning views from the top floors.
If you want a good location, hotels in Southbank across the Yarra River, are pretty similar to the ones in the CBD. A high-level room with a view at Imagine Marco should be a treat.
Located on the other side of Southern Cross Station, the Docklands area is popular with business travellers and have great views of the city. Very close to the station, Travelodge is a good option. A bit more expensive is Peppers Docklands, great location and spacious rooms.
Luxury Hotels Melbourne
A short stay in Melbourne, with all the great restaurants and shopping, should be a bit of treat. For special occasions, the Langham Hotel in Southbank, on the Yarra River. It’s a classic hotel and still fairly reasonable.
The QT Melbourne is in the city, in an excellent location close to restaurants and laneway bars. It’s modern, stylish and has big rooms.
If you like self-contained accommodation or are planning to stay more than 2 days, there are plenty of services apartments in Melbourne. Adina on Flinders is mid-range and close to restaurants and bars, with spacious apartments.
For a quiet location and very good prices, Docklands Private Collection of Apartments is ideal.
Cheap Accommodation Melbourne
If you are on a budget, I have a couple of very well priced options in the CBD. The Space Hotel is near Melbourne Old Gaol. It’s a hostel with a bar, gym and roof terrace. Small dorm rooms for 6 are clean and very reasonably priced.
City Tempo is near Queen Victoria markets and Flagstaff Gardens. Very clean studios, great prices and location.
Wander the Laneways
The laneways in Melbourne are famous. 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 the city and should definitely be on your Melbourne itinerary. That’s where the 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…
Degraves Street is one of the best Melbourne laneways. It goes from dead quiet in the morning, which is great for viewing street art, to bustling with Melbourne laneway cafes, restaurants and bars open late at night.
In my opinion, the best laneways in Melbourne have great charm because they mix 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 laneways 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…
To learn more, I recommend taking this Melbourne laneways walking tour to 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.
Melbourne walking tours also include the arcades. 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 time in Melbourne but it was worth a few photos…
Melbourne can now compete with New York and Chicago when it comes to heights…
Soar at the Eureka Skydeck
Speaking of tall buildings, 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. I didn’t actually hesitate to do this fairly touristy thing, I can comfortably say it’s one of the best things to do in Melbourne at night. The best time to visit is just before sundown. I loved seeing the city turn on its evening lights although the amount of light inside the Melbourne observation deck made it a little difficult to take good 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. It’s a bit like the one on the Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps. 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 on top of the Eureka Deck price.
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
I’m very pleased to include the Eureka Tower in this Melbourne travel guide. Check out additional information and current prices for Eureka tower tickets.
Explore the Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is a major landmark in Melbourne and the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Also known as “Vic Market” or “Queen Vic”, it was built on the site of the Old Melbourne Cemetery between 1860 and 1936, and is now the largest and the most intact 19th-century market.
A Rich and Diverse Market
Living in Sydney, I am actually very envious of this market. It’s one of the best places to shop in Melbourne when it comes to food. The choice of produce is excellent, there is a real-life in and around the market, and you do travel back in time. The market is on the corner of Victoria and William St, just north of the CBD. Queen Victoria Market occupies two city blocks and lies over 7 hectares, so you would need several hours to see it all.
All in Art Deco charm, the Dairy Produce Hall has a fantastic range of
If you are wondering where to go in Melbourne for a tasty breakfast and coffee, why not try the markets? It’s 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.
Queen Victoria Market Hours
Queen Victoria Market opens daily except Mondays and Wednesdays. There is a Victoria night market and summer markets on Wednesdays.
- Fri: 6 am to
- Sun: 6am to 4pm
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 Heritage List. In the meantime, it’s one of the great places to see in Melbourne.
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! The Old Gaol in Russell Street in one of my new Melbourne places to visit.
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 and one of the great Melbourne highlights.
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.
You can join the Melbourne gaol tour, check out additional information and current tour prices. And if you are game, there is even a Melbourne gaol ghost tour.
Shopping in Melbourne is really good and that was a focus of my first visits several years ago. Again comparing to Sydney, the Melbourne boutiques are really good. Some good Melbourne shopping streets are: Chapel Street in South Yarra, Bridge Road in Richmond or Sydney Road in Brunswick. The city is also where you will find some of the best shopping in Melbourne
The Victorian arcades have some of the best Melbourne fashion boutiques. I would say that the main difference the other Australian capital cities is the fact that Melbourne shops tend to have plenty of private labels and 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 the atmosphere, I recommend trying one of the places to eat on Southbank while enjoying the view over the Melbourne skyline. There are also many bars in Southbank
Search for Melbourne 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.
Wall art in Melbourne is lively and raw and in some places, you can see Melbourne street artists at work. Some of the best street art in Melbourne is in the CBD.
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 is Hosier Lane, a very famous Melbourne street for wall art. Rutledge Lane is off Hosier Lane and wraps around a block. Some of the best Australian street artists do some work here!
Hosier Lane street art changes often as graffiti artists come in and do their work.
Between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane.
During the day, Degraves Street is full of laneway 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 tours are a good idea if you don’t have a lot of time. Check out additional information and current tour prices. Alternatively, you may be able to find a Melbourne street art map at the tourist office.
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.
The Flagstaff Gardens are in the Northern part of the city, not far from 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 Melbourne trip wouldn’t complete without a ride on the tram. The great thing is that trams within the CBD are free. If you wish to travel further afield, the best way is to use a rechargeable Myki card.
Tram 35 is a free 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. These day trips from Melbourne can also be extended into longer weekends. Geelong is only an hours’ drive and a nice coastal town.
If you are wandering further, Victoria’s Silo Art Trail is a fantastic road trip.
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road 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.
If you are driving, you only need to buy the entry ticket. Check out current 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.
I actually combined my tour of the Grampians with a cookie-decorating class with Miss Biscuit, which was fun!
Old Melbourne Gaol
Grampians National Park, Victoria
Great Ocean Road
Is this enough for you to do in Melbourne? Or would you have other suggestions? Please tell me in the comments!
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48 thoughts on “The Best Way to Spend 2 days in Melbourne”
Great informative post! Wish we had this when my boyfriend went to Melbourne! He had no idea what to do haha
Hi Carlinn, Melbourne is good just to wander around, it’s easy to find interesting lanes and cosy restaurants!
Fabulous post – can’t believe I leave this beautiful city tomorrow, it’s one of the few cities where I’ve felt at home. Although you did miss my favourite spot – St Kilda 😉
Hi Lauren, I didn’t have enough time to make it to St Kilda in just 2 days in Melbourne. I will make some time for it next time!
What a great guide, so many awesome things to do! I love Australia and can’t wait to be back in a couple of months. Hopefully we will have time to spend a few days in Melbourne 🙂
Hi Charlotte, Melbourne is a really interesting place, I’m sure you will enjoy it!
So many amazing things to check out in Melbourne! Thanks for all the great tips!
Thanks Kelly, Melbourne is a great city break, I look forward to sharing more tips!
Melbourne seems like the goal to which modern hipster cities strive for with street art and walking tours. I imagine their food scene is off the charts too. I wonder how GPS reception is in those walkways and arcades. If the signal isn’t boosted I don’t think you’re unit will see very many satellites.
The food scene is indeed excellent in Melbourne. However, many restaurants don’t take bookings so it can be difficult to get into the really popular ones. The street art scene is constantly evolving and it’s not unusual to see artists at work. As for the GPS signal, it’s actually very good, including in the lanes.
Melbourne is such a beautiful city. You bring alive the city in all its vibrant colour to life through your pictures and narrative. There is so much to see and experience in Melbourne. Two days there seems to be a really eventful experience without a single dull moment. Your itinerary is really expansive and along the lines of what we really like. Out of the many sights the glittering street art of Melbourne is something we would absolutely love to see.
Hi Sandy, there is indeed so much to do in Melbourne. I agree that street art is absolutely fantastic, it’s in many little lanes around Melbourne. It’s a really cool place with a lot happening!
I cant after dozens of visits I still haven’t been to the Gaol! Have a trip booked for August so I’m definitely putting it on the list this time!
Hi Sandy, the gaol is really interesting! You really feel as though time has stopped when you’re inside. Of course, it’s not the happiest of places, some of the stories are really sad, but it’s very good place to learn more about Melbourne and its history. And there is plenty of stuff relating to Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous bushranger!
This truly is the ultimate and perfect guide to Melbourne. You have me quite excited to visit! I LOVE those views from the Skydeck and I agree with you that dusk is the best time to visit. I love the lighting in your photos. Also The Block Arcade would be a must with me. I love that it has several arcades though. They’re fascinating to me. You have me 100% with the street art! I am a HUGE fan of street art. Thank you for giving us the locations of where they all are. Nothing is more frustrating when you’re trying to find the street art and can’t and there’s no location given. Great job!
Hi Heather, I love Melbourne’s urban culture, a mix of architecture, shopping, food and street art. The arcades and street art are quite unique to Melbourne. I had a great time wandering the streets and looking for the murals, however they change quite often!
Melbourne looks AMAZING! I have always wanted to drive The Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles. The city looks like a wonderful place to explore with the laneways, trams and arcades. I have also heard (from when my daughter visited) that the food scene is pretty awesome.
Melbourne is indeed amazing and the Great Ocean Road isn’t that far at all so it makes it easy to do as a side trip when you visit. As for the food scene, I think it’s actually better than Sydney at the moment. There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes, and they are all trying to outdo each other in the good food stakes!
I would love to check out the food scene and all the historic spots. I like the itinerary as it covers quite a bit of ground and different areas. One day we will make it there!
Melbourne has this very hype image with incredible skyscrapers and street art, but there is also a historical side. That’s why I recommend visiting the Old Gaol. And when you’re done with all the visiting and walking, enjoy a great meal at a restaurant!
I really enjoy the laneways and arcades in Melbourne. I like how close they are to the street art and Southbank. Melbourne is my ‘go to’ place for a weekend getaway or shopping.
I remember dying to go to Melbourne just for the shopping… I wasn’t disappointed, it was so much better than Sydney. I felt there was a great culture around shopping and socialising in cafes in Melbourne.
Melbourne Arcade’s mosaic floor looks amazing. The buildings look fantastic. The street art and food, well everything is so appealing and would make anyone plan a trip there soon!
Hi Ketki, the arcade floor is a reminder that these spaces were very popular in the Victorian era and a sign of wealth as well. It still works today, it’s a great shopping experience!
Laneway, the market spots, and the street art are my cup of tea. I’m learning more and more that I’m not really interested in modern urban architecture, although some buildings can be interesting.
Mirela, that’s fair enough… The good thing about Melbourne is that there are plenty of other things to do if you’re not into architecture. I’m not big on museums in the new world, I tend to find them a bit boring, so I stick to what I like best.
As someone who (unfortunately) has not yet been to Australia, this was a really great introduction to a city I basically only knew by name. The skyline looks so picturesque, especially from the Eureka Skydeck. I am pretty sure I could spend two whole days exploring all the bars, restaurants, and cafes in the laneways, which look like they really are the heart and soul of the city. You mention that you might get all four seasons in one day – does Melbourne get really cold? Do you recommend layering clothing while there to be ready for anything?
Hi Kevin, the thing Melbourne getting four seasons in a day is actually true, the weather changes very quickly. Winter can get really cold in Melbourne, so it’s important to be mildly ready for it. Layering clothes is a good idea, as well as having a light coat. The good news is that there is a place to retreat from the weather and have a warm drink!
I’ve been to Melbourne just once and absolutely loved it! I’ve always known that I’ll go back and spend much more time there as I was literally only there for 2 days. I can see from your post that there are loads of things that I missed. I really loved the Laneway culture and the old gaol was very interesting as well.
Hi Emma, I did all these things in two days so I was busy but I was also working for some of that time… Melbourne is a great city, with plenty to experience. I want to go back to experience more street art !
Melbourne is one of my bucketlist travel destinations and this post made me want to go even more so! The city views at night, and the street art look so amazing! The whole city looks like a dream! If I eve make it to AUS I will use this post to guide my adventures in Melbourne.
Thanks Karen, Melbourne is worth at least two days but you can see a lot in that period of time… Don’t forget to venture beyond Melbourne too!
We skipped Melbourne when we traveled to Australia, but we would definitely include it next time around. The city seems to boast an interesting mix of old architecture and modern high-rises. Queen Victoria Market would be a cool place for a stroll and trying some of the fresh produce and meat there!
It’s hard to include everything in one trip when you visit Australia. I love Melbourne for work trips or a weekend. I enjoyed a simple breakfast at Queen Victoria markets, it’s such a Melbourne thing to do!
Looks like I missed a lot when I was in Melbourne, at least I have additional reasons to visit again
It’s hard to see everything in Melbourne in just two days. Those are my favourite things but there are other options like the zoo or the aquarium!
I have always wanted to go to Melbourne. My family would love to go on the Eureka Skydeck and see the views from above. This is a fantastic itinerary.
Thanks Wendy, I’m pleased you like the itinerary. It’s a busy two days but Melbourne is so exciting, you can pack a lot in!
I think you just planned the perfect 2-days for me! Thank you! From the Laneways to the Arcades to the QE Market to the city streets with graffiti to the shopping and ending the night in the Tower to take in those beautiful cityscape views, especially at night. I love the modern architecture too. I would love to travel to Melbourne.
Melbourne at night is especially good, with all the secret bars in the laneways. And you get to see it from the Eureka Deck, it’s stunning!
I´ve yet to visit Australia, but Melbs has always been the top city I want to experience there. Gorgeous street art, amazing coffee culture and historical markets. Love this itinerary, definitely saving it for when I FINALLY make it to Aus 🙂
Hi Erica, if you already call Melbourne “Melbs”, you’re halfway there. The coffee culture is very strong in Melbourne, it’s a great reason to go.
Melbourne looks like the perfect city, culture, great food, and beautiful sceneries.
Thanks Alice, Victoria is a great state to visit and Melbourne has a great vibe.
I love how thorough this is! I’d definitely want to explore the murals, and the Old Melbourne Gaol seems fascinatingly spooky!
Hi Sage, the Old Melbourne Gaol is indeed spooky and fascinating. There is so much history there and yet it now sits in the middle of very modern architecture… Melbourne is great that way that it mixes the old and the new very well…
For me Melbourne is a big travel dream. Hope to go there one day… Now I can only read articles and look at beautiful photos.
Hi Mirek, thank you for your message. I hope you get to Melbourne someday, it’s a really cool place!