Wondering how to spend 3 days in Melbourne? This itinerary covers the best things to do, see and eat, all planned neatly in a day-by-day guide.
Melbourne. What a city. There’s a reason why my home city has been crowned the world’s most livable city multiple years in a row.
We’ve got amazing museums, an array of international cuisine that would make any foodie’s eyes pop, laneways filled with super-cool street art, a coffee culture that beats the rest of the world.
If you’ve only got 3 days in Melbourne it’ll be hard to see and experience all of this. So, what’s the best way to make the most of your time?
Here, I’m sharing a few ideas for crafting a 3 day Melbourne itinerary that captures the best the city has to offer – sights, food, drinks and culture. Day-by-day, I’ve got recommendations for what to see, do and eat. This is a great itinerary for first-time visitors to Melbourne.
I’m a Melbourne local, so this itinerary draws on the countless hours I’ve spent pounding the pavements across this city.
This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).
At a glance: 3 days in Melbourne itinerary
Here’s what’s happening each day in Melbourne. I’ve selected the best areas to visit in Melbourne and I’ll highlight what to see and do.
Day 1 – CBD: Street art, strolling and architecture
Day 2 – Queen Vic Market, Collingwood and Fitzroy: Hipster neighbourhoods and iconic markets
Day 3 – The Royal Botanic Gardens, NGV International, St Kilda: Gardens, galleries, the beach – and penguins!
Melbourne itinerary mapped out
Everything listed in this Melbourne 3 days itinerary is also plotted out on the map below – and conveniently colour coded so you can see where you’ll be hanging out each day!
Of course, you can mix up the days depending on where you’re staying in Melbourne and to coincide with any activities that only operate on certain days of the week.
Also, while I have a guide to the best restaurants in Melbourne, I’ve also included some suggestions throughout this post so you’re not scrambling to figure out where to go when the hunger hits.
Day 1 – Check out the CBD
Melbourne’s CBD – that’s the central business district – is conveniently organised in a grid system, so it’s very easy to find your way around and very walkable. In the CBD, you’ll find many of the major Melbourne tourist attractions, along with tonnes of great places to eat and drink.
This is a fairly packed day, so put on some good walking shoes!
Federation Square (or Fed Square, in our typical Aussie way of shortening absolutely everything) is a great place to start your three days in Melbourne. This open-air venue has art galleries, museums, shops, cafés and bars.
Every weekend in Melbourne (in summer especially), it’s packed with people watching a free concert or show or enjoying a festival. (Speaking of free, don’t forget to check out my guide to the best free things to do in Melbourne.)
At Fed Square, visit ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, where you can experience video and sound art and interactive spaces.
The Koorie Heritage Trust is the place to go to learn more about First Nations culture – the oldest continuous living culture in the world. The Trust has a huge Koorie art collection and you can buy art and handcrafted goods (and know that they’ve actually been made by Indigenous people). The Trust also runs regular walking tours, and I can recommend it as an opportunity to really delve into the culture.
Also at Fed Square is the Ian Potter Centre. This gallery features Australian and Aboriginal art.
You can also get a good look at Flinders Street Station from here. This station is the main hub for Melbourne’s public transport system, and an iconic and historic building itself.
Tips for visiting Fed Square
- Fed Square is located at the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets. It’s open 24 hours and always free to enter. Check the website for upcoming events, including regular meditation and fitness sessions, as well as screenings of sporting events like the Australian Open.
- The Koorie Heritage Trust is open 7 days a week (except public holidays), from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free. Walking tours run weekdays at 1pm and cost $33 for an adult. The tours last for one hour.
- ACMI is open daily and entry is free.
- The Ian Potter Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is free to enter.
Stroll the streets
After wandering through Fed Square, spend some time exploring the rectangle of the CBD that is bordered by Flinders, Swanston, Lonsdale and Elizabeth Streets. In this easily walkable area, there’s plenty to see.
At the top of Swanston Street, you’ll pass St Paul’s Cathedral. Entry is via Flinders Street, and there are information guides available so that you can do a self-guided tour. If you visit outside of the regular services, you’ll be able to explore more of the cathedral.
Keep walking until you hit Bourke Street. The Bourke Street Mall is a pedestrian-only block with plenty of shopping options, including Australia’s iconic department stores, Myer and David Jones. From here you can also check out the beautiful Royal Arcade and Block Arcade. These arcades were designed with the spoils of Melbourne’s huge wealth during the Gold Rush of the 1800s.
Check out street art
In the CBD, there’s also a labyrinth of laneways to discover. Originally used for horse and cart access, these alleyways are now bursting with cafés, bars and boutiques – as well as an outdoor gallery for some of Melbourne’s best street artists.
Melbourne’s street art scene is world famous, so make sure to pop into a few of the popular laneways to check out the work of local and international artists. Some of the best are Hosier Lane, ACDC Lane and Centre Place.
You can either explore these alleyways by yourself, or join a street art tour to get a bit more background on the art that you’re seeing. I think the tours run by Melbourne Street Tours are great. They’re led by actual street artists who can point out their own handiwork. The tours start at 1.30pm, however, so grab some lunch first.
Continue wandering down Swanston Street to Chinatown. While not as large as some other cities’ Chinatowns, here you’ll find the Museum of Chinese Australian History, along with plenty of food options.
Grab a table at Shanghai Village, Shanghai Dumpling House, HuTong or ShanDong Mama.
Tips for visiting Chinatown
- Chinatown runs along Little Bourke Street, between Swanston and Spring Streets.
- The Chinese Museum is located at 22 Cohen Place. Adult tickets cost $12.50. The museum’s open daily from 10am to 4pm (closed public holidays).
Satiated by dumplings, if you’re not heading back to Hosier Lane to take a street art tour, then make your way down Swanston Street to the State Library.
Even if you’re not that into books, you’ll be blown away the grandeur of one of Melbourne’s most beautiful buildings.
Inside, check out the La Trobe Reading Room – probably the most photographed room in the whole library – the newly reopened Queen’s Hall and Ned Kelly’s armour, which is on display in the Victoria Gallery. Funnily enough, the judge that sentenced Kelly to death by hanging was a key player in the founding of the library. I wonder how he’d feel today knowing that his armour now takes pride of place here!
There are also regular special exhibitions.
Tips for visiting the State Library Victoria
- The library is at 328 Swanston Street. It’s open daily. Visit their website for details of special exhibits.
- The library runs free tours on selected days of the week, which are a great way to learn more about the history of the library.
- No food or drink is allowed in the library. If you’re carrying a big bag, there are self-service lockers at both entrances. There are public toilets at the library.
Beer at a rooftop bar
After all that walking and exploring, you’ve definitely deserved a beer! And one of the best things to do in Melbourne as the sun goes down is to enjoy that beer on a rooftop. Rooftop Bar is – unsurprisingly – a bar on the rooftop of Curtin House. Brave the creaking lift or take the stairs to the top.
For dinner tonight, there are several options nearby:
- Simply wander downstairs from Rooftop Bar to either Cookie (Asian) or Mesa Verde (Mexican).
- Or take the tram just a few blocks back down toward Fed Square for dinner at iconic Melbourne restaurants MoVida (Spanish) or Supernormal (Japanese). These two are some of my fave restaurants in the whole of the city.
I’ve got a whole lot more Melbourne CBD restaurant recommendations so you can plan your dinner.
Day 2 – Hit up the hipster hoods
Now that you’ve ticked off some of the top Melbourne CBD tourist attractions, spend day two visiting some of our coolest neighbourhoods.
The hip neighbourhoods of Fitzroy and Collingwood are on the city’s northern fringes, and are perfect for chilling out, grabbing a cold craft beer, browsing local boutiques and tasting great food.
Queen Vic Market
First up, though, let’s visit the Queen Victoria Market. Established in 1878, the market sits on 7 hectares and is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. I love visiting markets in foreign cities and countries to get a glimpse of local life, and Melbourne’s Queen Vic Market is no different.
Spend some time wandering the shops along String Bean Alley (no prizes for guessing what was originally sold in this section!), grab a coffee and check out the locally made goods. Continue along the outdoor sheds and explore the undercover specialty shops and fruit and veg stands.
At the end of I Shed, join the queue to purchase some fresh, piping-hot jam doughnuts from the American Doughnut Kitchen van. This van has been operating here since the 1950s – and is still in the hands of the original family. Just be careful – wait for the doughnut to cool slightly before biting in, you don’t want to spend the rest of the day with a burnt tongue! (Every Aussie kid has experienced this at some stage!)
Head inside to the Dairy and Produce Hall to be wonderfully overwhelmed by the cheeses, deli meats, fresh breads, and herbs and spices for sale.
If it’s a Thursday, Friday or Saturday when you visit Melbourne, then consider joining the Ultimate Foodie Tour, a 2-hour tour that explores the market’s food and history. There are plenty of samples on the tour, so come with an empty stomach!
Tips for visiting the Queen Vic Market
- The Queen Vic Market is at the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, and is within the free tram zone. Tram routes 19, 57, 58 and 59 stop out the front or nearby, or it’s a short walk from Melbourne Central or Flagstaff train stations.
- The market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6am to 3pm, Saturday 6am to 4pm and Sunday 9am to 4pm. Specialty shops open at 9am.
- There are seasonal night markets on Wednesday evenings, take a look at the website to see what’s going on when you visit Melbourne.
- The Queen Vic Market is plastic bag and straw free, so pack a reusable bag if you’re planning to make some purchases.
- During your 3 days in Melbourne book a spot on the Ultimate Foodie Tour. It’s held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10am and takes 2 hours. The price is $99 for adults and $59 for children and includes tonnes of samples and a branded shopping bag. Book your tour online.
Collingwood and Fitzroy
Now, head over to Collingwood and Fitzroy. You can head over my full guide to the best things to do in Fitzroy, or read on for the highlights to these two neighbourhoods.
If you’re still hungry – even after the sampling extravaganza at the market – grab a burger inside an old train carriage on a rooftop (I told you Collingwood was super hipster) at Easey’s. Or the Vegie Bar serves up delicious vegetarian food that even carnivores will love.
Spend the afternoon exploring the area, strolling down Smith Street (voted the coolest street in the world!) and Brunswick Street. If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, the Rose Street Market will be taking up several blocks. More than 100 vendors sell handmade earrings, clothing, handbags and artworks.
If you feel like walking a bit (or grab an Uber), head over to the Abbotsford Convent. This former convent and orphanage is now an artsy community hub located on lush grounds. You can wander through the studios and galleries.
In the afternoon, stop for a pint at Stomping Ground Brewery or Fixation.
In the evening, there are plenty of options for dinner:
- Budget: Grab a $5 pizza from Kewpie
- Mid-range: A pub meal from the Marquis of Lorne (try their potato cakes, they’re so good!) or some vegan food from Smith and Daughters or Transformer
- Fancy: Cutler & Co, known for great food that focuses on Australian ingredients
Getting to Collingwood/Fitzroy
After you leave the Queen Vic Market, walk about 7 minutes to the corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets. From here you can take the number 12 tram to Smith Street. You’ll get off at the bottom of Smith Street and need to walk (don’t miss the Smith Street stop otherwise you’ll end up heading toward Richmond).
For less walking, from Queen Vic Market, take tram number 19 from Elizabeth Street (out the front of the market), go two stops and get off at the Bourke Street Mall. Then take the number 86 tram from Bourke Street/Elizabeth Street all the way to Smith Street.
Day 3 – Head to the beach
The final day of your Melbourne in 3 days is a super relaxed and gets you out of the CBD. We’re off to the beach!
To start the day, visit either the Royal Botanic Gardens or the National Gallery of Victoria. Both are great spaces to explore. So, you can make your decision based on whether you’re up for an indoor or outdoor kind of morning – and see what the weather’s doing.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Before you hit the beach, start at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Over 36 hectares of gardens make up this lovely relaxing spot in the middle of the noisy city.
You could easily spend a few hours wandering through the gardens yourself, but I highly recommend booking a spot on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. The experience begins with a welcoming ceremony led by an Indigenous guide, followed by a walk through the gardens and a yarn over cups of lemon myrtle tea. This is one of the best ways to learn about First Nations history and traditions.
If you’d like to learn more about Aboriginal Australia culture and history, my guide to Indigenous Melbourne lists several more things to do.
Tips for visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens
- The Royal Botanic Gardens is located at Birdwood Avenue. It’s open daily from 7.30am to 5pm (7.30pm during daylight saving). Entry is free.
- To get here, take a tram to stop 19 (Shrine of Remembrance/St Kilda Road). Tram routes 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72 go past the gardens. Otherwise, it’s a nice and easy walk from the CBD, directly down Swanston Street (which turns into St Kilda Road over the Yarra River).
- The Aboriginal Heritage Walk can be booked online here. The tour is held Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and costs $40. It starts at 11am and goes for 90 minutes.
National Gallery of Victoria
If you’d prefer to stay indoors – especially if it’s one of those days where Melbourne hasn’t quite made up her mind about what’s she’s doing with the weather! – head to the National Gallery of Victoria instead.
The NGV is free to enter, although special exhibitions have an entry fee. This iconic Melbourne museum is Australia’s oldest, largest and most visited gallery. It’s one of the best places to visit in Melbourne for art lovers.
You’ll probably need around 1-2 hours to wander through the museum’s free exhibits. Longer if you’re visiting a paid exhibition as well.
Tips for visiting NGV
- The NGV is located at 180 St Kilda Road. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is free to enter.
- Tram routes 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72 stop out the front of the NGV.
- There’s a secondary site, the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, at Federation Square. This gallery features only Australian art, including a large collection of Aboriginal art and artefacts.
- There are regular free tours (check the website for details).
Jump on a tram to St Kilda. By the time you arrive in St Kilda, you’ll probably be starving, so grab lunch.
- Mid-range: Fitzrovia is great for brunch or lunch.
- Mid-range: Try Babu Ji, known for its delicious Indian food.
After lunch, stroll around St Kilda. If it’s a Sunday, the St Kilda Esplanade Market will be on, so you can spend some time wandering through the arts and crafts stalls.
Wander along the St Kilda Foreshore, sunbathe on St Kilda beach, watch the kitesurfers on the water, and walk out along the St Kilda Pier. This area is one of the most popular Melbourne attractions for locals and visitors alike, so it’ll be packed on a sunny day.
If you want to have some old-time fun, head to Luna Park. Brave the rickety rollercoaster, which is more than 100 years old! Luna Park is free to enter and there are some fun rides and games inside. It’s one of the best things to do in Melbourne with kids – but adults will have just as much fun.
As the sun goes down, head back to the St Kilda Pier to watch the cute Little Penguins waddle out of the water at dusk. There’s a viewing area above the breakwater at the end of the St Kilda Pier. No flash photography is allowed.
Update: The penguin viewing area is currently closed while St Kilda Pier is redeveloped.
For dinner, St Kilda has plenty of options:
- Mid-range: Lona Pintxos Bar for Spanish tapas.
- Fancy: If you’ve got some cash to burn, try the multi-course tasting menu at Attica. It’s regularly voted one of the world’s best restaurants. I’ve eaten here and it’s incredible (but expensive)!
After dinner, if you’ve still got some energy, head to The Espy for another drink or to catch a gig. Or see if there’s a show on at the Palais Theatre. This iconic Melbourne venue has hosted huge international acts like The Rolling Stones, and regularly has great Aussie acts.
Getting to St Kilda
You’re heading out of the free tram zone when you go to St Kilda, so you will need to have a myki card. I’ve got information about those and how to purchase one at the end of this article.
From the CBD, take the #16 tram from Swanston Street, the #96 from Bourke Street or the #12 from Collins Street.
Got 5 days in Melbourne?
Got more than just 3 days in Melbourne? I’ve got a 5 days in Melbourne itinerary to help you plan!
Itching to add more to your Melbourne in three days itinerary? I’ve got more ideas in this guide to the top 30 things to do in Melbourne.
Day trips from Melbourne
Alternatively, if you’d like to get out of the city on one of the days during your 3-day Melbourne trip, swap one of the days above for a day trip from Melbourne. You can rent a car to do any of these day trips, or below I’ve linked some day tours you can book.
- Yarra Valley – Just a short drive from Melbourne is one of Australia’s premier wine regions. This is one of the most popular places to visit near Melbourne. | This full-day tour includes visits to wineries, cheese producers and a gourmet lunch.
- Healesville Sanctuary – This is where you can see Australia’s cute and cuddly animals. | This day tour combines a visit to the wildlife park and a ride on the Puffing Billy train, so it’d be a great trip if you’ve got kids.
- The Great Ocean Road – An iconic Australian road trip. In my opinion, you need at least 2 days to do it properly, but you can see the highlights on a day trip. | This day tour runs the opposite way that most tourist buses do. You’ll see the 12 Apostles and maybe even some cute koalas.
- Phillip Island – If you loved seeing the penguins at St Kilda, head to Phillip Island for even more cuteness. | On this day trip, you’ll get to see penguins and kangaroos and koalas.
- Mornington Peninsula – This area just outside of Melbourne is known for its beaches, great short hikes and wineries. | This day trip includes a soak in the famous Peninsula Hot Springs.
- Ballarat – One of the Victorian goldrush towns, Ballarat is filled with history.
- Dandenong Ranges – Close to Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges are a lush forested area with hikes like the 1000 Steps trail and family-friendly activities like riding Puffing Billy.
If a day trip just wasn’t long enough, plan a few days away with my guide to the best Airbnbs in Victoria. They’re all within 1-4 hours’ drive of Melbourne.
Where to stay during your 3 days in Melbourne
I’ve got a whole guide on where to stay in Melbourne. But for this itinerary, the CBD is probably the best place to stay.
In the CBD, there are plenty of hotel options. Check out my full Melbourne CBD accommodation guide, or take a look through these recommended ones:
Brady Hotels Jones Lane – This hotel is a rare find. Affordable and stylish? Rooms have lots of natural light and openable windows. There’s a nice cafe downstairs. Check rates with Booking.com | Expedia
Le Méridien – If you’re in Melbourne for a special occasion, stay at Le Méridien. This 5-star gem gets ticks from me for spacious rooms, friendly service, and comfortable, modern rooms. Check rates with Booking.com | Expedia
So, that’s everything you need to know to plan an awesome fun, food and culture-filled 3 days in Melbourne itinerary. Enjoy your visit!
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Is there anything else you’d add to this 3 days in Melbourne itinerary? Let others know your recommendations in the comments below!
Before you go… you might like these articles:
- The ultimate Melbourne bucket list: 101 things to do
- How to spend 5 days in Melbourne
- The perfect weekend in Melbourne: 4 itinerary ideas
Best Melbourne resources
- Check out my Melbourne travel guide for everything you need to know about planning a trip to Melbourne
- Look for flights to Melbourne on Skyscanner.
- Book accommodation on Booking.com or Expedia for your Melbourne trip. The Ovolo Laneways Hotel is a good choice in the CBD.
- You won’t really need a car in Melbourne, but if you do want to get out of the city, then rent a car through DiscoverCars.
- Pick up a copy of the Lonely Planet Pocket Melbourne to help plan your trip.
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