By Experience Oz

Melbourne in a Day - A Suggested Itinerary

By Chloe · August, 2023 · 4 min read
Melbourne's famous for a number of major traits that separate it from its other brother capital cities throughout Australia, notably its artistic bent, gourmet dining culture and easily navigable central CBD and surrounding area. It's also renowned as a cultural hotbed with some impressive architectural features and numerous galleries sure to satisfy those with an eye for art or history, and has a massive sporting influence to boot.
With all these different things to see and do, a first time visitor to Melbourne – particularly if they're short on time – can quickly feel overwhelmed when choosing an itinerary. Thus we've put together this short-yet-comprehensive guide on how to best see Melbourne in one day that we feel provides a good overall balance for all people regardless of personal interest.

1. Take the City Circle Tram

Melbourne's free City Circle Tram system is, simply put, one of the best features of any Aussie capital city for first-time visitors. As you might guess from its name, it operates on a circular route through the Melbourne CBD and covers all of the essential stops you'll need to visit in order to see Melbourne, and all in one day. We suggest starting at Flinders Street Station, which is an attraction in itself! Did we mention the City Circle Tram is entirely FREE as well? The tram runs in both directions, with stops approximately every 30 minutes, making it a convenient way to navigate the city and discover the local history and top landmarks. Keep a look out for Route Number 35 City Circle Tram service.

2. Explore Flinders Street Station

More than just a mere transportation hub, Flinders Street Station is over 100 years old, the building is impressive in size and oozes charm, and serves as a good initial sign of things to come for first-timers to Melbourne. The characteristic dome, series of analogue clocks, prominent tower and distinct Edwardian style make it a standout feature of the city, and its proximity to plenty of nearby attractions make it a great place to base your Melbourne adventure out of. The interior of the station itself is well worth a look as well, as its intricate insides are home to impressive stained glass features and plenty of spots to grab a quick bite to eat. Of course, you'll want to follow it up by...

3. Grabbing a morning coffee

Melbourne simply wouldn't be Melbourne without its coffee, and the city is literally bursting with cafes; in fact, it boasts the highest density of cafes and restaurants per capita in the world. It's often said that “the Yarra River runs brown”, and coffee is definitely the lifeblood that keeps the city pumping, and thus it's an essential item for your itinerary. The area around Flinders Street Station is based around the banks of the Yarra River and offers a variety of places to grab a cup of the warm stuff, but our personal pick is Cup of Truth, a fairly hidden little gem in a corner of the Flinders Street subway that's famous for its' flat whites featuring textured milk sourced from local dairy farmers. Pay them a visit; if you're a coffee fan you won't regret it!

4. Walk to Eureka Skydeck

After you've downed your coffee, take the footbridge across the Yarra River to the Southbank area where you'll be able to see the towering spectacle of the Eureka Tower, the highest point in the city and a great way to orientate yourself and get your bearings on the city's layout. While it might seem like a bit of a “token” experience, the tower's Eureka Skydeck is the tallest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere and if you're wanting to get outstanding, 360 degree views of not only the city but further out to the greenery beyond, then this is the place you'll want to visit – plus, being Melbourne, there's also a cafe where you can enjoy a drink and admire the spectacle from on high (you can purchase tickets to Eureka Skydeckhere. After descending back down to ground level, head right twice down St. Kilda Road, and after approximately a 10 minute walk you'll come to the...

5. National Gallery of Victoria

Art plays a big role in Melbourne's culture, and there are few better places in the country to take in some of its greatest offerings than the NGV. Part gallery, part museum, part garden and all cultural hub, it's a truly expansive facility featuring an eclectic mix of art and exhibits ranging from ancient Egypt all the way up to post-modern impressionism. Entry for general access is FREE (always a good thing), and it's quite possible to spend multiple hours here; although if you're operating on a “one day” schedule an hour should be enough to give you a taste. Once you've had your fill of the artwork, cross back over the foot bridge to the north side of the river, head right on Flinders Street and you'll come to...

6. St Paul's Cathedral

If you're looking for perhaps the finest example of architecture in the Melbourne CBD, then St. Paul's will likely be atop most people's lists. It doesn't take a religious mindset to appreciate its beauty; the majestic structure is impressive both outside and in, with its striking Gothic design and sheer aura of peace inside all amongst the hustle and bustle of one of Australia's largest cities. Expertly coloured stained glass abounds, and the intricately crafted pews and other features round out the experience nicely. Once you've revelled in its majesty for long enough (and made a donation, if you so choose), hop back on the City Circle Tram and head around to...

7. State Parliament House

Overall, Australia is fairly lacking in regal buildings due to its nature as a “young country”, but Melbourne's State Parliament House is another architectural feature that has played a significant role in the country's past. Regular free guided tours are available at multiple sessions daily – except when parliament is in session – and provide a glimpse into both the construction of the edifice and the day to day workings of Aussie state governments. While it's not exactly the most adrenaline-pumping experience, it's a fine opportunity to get a first-hand look at a still-functioning slice of Aussie history. Once you've checked out Parliament House, it's time for...

8. Lunch on Bourke Street or in Chinatown

Both of these are major hub streets in Melbourne, and both offer a ridiculously impressive array of dining experiences, with your choice of which one to patron entirely dependent on whether you're feeling a hunger for Asian or Western cuisine. Bourke Street is one of Melbourne's commercial and shopping hubs, full of shopping options of all kinds that make for a great little detour if you're wanting a dose of retail therapy, and along with a series of standalone cafes and restaurants, its feature Bourke Street Mall has other dining experiences available inside the likes of retail giant David Jones. Chinatown, meanwhile, offers the chance to grab some extremely reasonably-priced food from the Far East while taking in all the vibrant spectacle of the Chinese-themed street decorations and vendors. After you've eaten your fill and re-energised, hop back on the tram at Parliament Station and head further along before disembarking at...

9. The Queen Victoria Market

While Bourke Street can provide an adequate taste of shopping, it's the Queen Victoria Market that is the true drawcard for retail junkies and a huge part of the reason why Melbourne is considered to be Australia's shopping Mecca. The massive, open-air market is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is truly comprehensive, featuring every kind of good that someone on the prowl could ask for: everything from food to clothing to hand-crafted jewellery and leather goods can be found at the QVM, and its various shops and stalls are run by spirited operators from all over the globe. The Queen Victoria Market is open five days a week including Tuesday then Thursday through Sunday, with all days of operation kicking off at 6:00am except Sunday which starts at 9:00am. While it's easy to get lost here depending on your level of passion for shopping, after you've grabbed yourself enough bargains, it's time to re-board the tram and...

10. Explore the waterfront

The early evening in Melbourne is a great time for a stroll along the banks of the Yarra River, which meanders its way through the heart of the Melbourne CBD and divides its commercial and tourist hub from the slightly more suburban Southbank area. Numerous attractions call the waterfront of the Yarra home including Batman Park,Melbourne SEA LIFE Aquarium, Federation Square and the aforementioned Flinders Street Station, while the city's impressive casino sits on the southern side. Take the time to chill out and take a leisurely walk while observing the sections of parkland and public art displays that add to the charm of the waterfront and represent examples of artwork created by peoples of a variety of ethnic diversities. After your legs have been stretched and your stomach has started to rumble once again, it's time to cap the day off with...

Dinner on the Yarra River

The Yarra River is to Melbourne what Sydney Harbour is to Sydney; in both spots, dining on the water as the glow of the city lights reflects its sparkling hue is a charming experience, and while the Yarra perhaps can't boast such unique architectural features as the Sydney Opera House, it's still a great night view in its own right. Dining offerings on the waterfront tend to be quite high-end, and some of Melbourne's most highly regarded restaurants can be found in the Southbank precinct that cover cuisines ranging from French, Italian, Japanese teppanyaki and more traditional steak-and-seafood offerings. Dinner cruises on the Yarra are also highly popular, and serve as a way to combine dining and sightseeing into a single enjoyable package. Simply put, you'll be spoiled for choice here, and given the range of both meal and budget options you'll be sure to find a spot that best suits your ideal balance of both to enjoy dinner.

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We acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians of Country and their connections and continuous care for the skies, lands and waterways throughout Australia.