Ah, Melbourne. There’s a reason why my home city has been crowned the world’s most livable city multiple years in a row. Amazing museums, an array of international cuisine that would make any foodie’s eyes pop, lane ways 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. If you’ve been to Melbourne before, then check some more things off your Melbourne bucket list.
Got longer than 3 days in Melbourne? No problem – at the end of this post I have some additional ideas for how to spend a few more days in this city or you can check out my 5 days in Melbourne itinerary. Don’t have 3 days? My weekend in Melbourne guide has several itinerary ideas.
I’ve done my best to check that information in this blog post remains current in light of the uncertainty around the world, but please check with individual businesses before booking. If you see any errors, please let me know so that I can keep this article updated.
At a glance: 3 days in Melbourne itinerary
Day 1 – CBD: Street art, strolling and architecture
Day 2 – Collingwood and Fitzroy: Hipster neighbourhoods
Day 3 – St Kilda: The beach and penguins!
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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 usually packed with people watching a free concert or show. (Speaking of free, don’t forget to check out my guide to the best free things to do in Melbourne.)
There’s a visitor information centre here, so grab a free city map to orient yourself.
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 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 only 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 Federation 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 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entry is free. Walking tours run every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m. and cost $33 for an adult. The tours last for one hour.
- ACMI has just reopened after a huge redevelopment. It’s open daily and entry is free.
- The Ian Potter Centre is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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. Melbourne Street Tours runs a great street art tour, led by actual artists who can point out their own handiwork. The tours start at 1 p.m., however, so plan your day so that you can grab some lunch first. (P.S. I have a whole guide on the best Melbourne tours if you want to explore more options for day tours.)
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 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 $11.
Now stuffed with dumplings, slowly wander 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 every day 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:
- Mid-range: Simply wander downstairs from Rooftop Bar to either Cookie (Asian) or Mesa Verde (Mexican).
- Mid-range: Or, take the tram just a few blocks back down toward Fed Square for dinner at iconic Melbourne restaurants MoVida (Spanish) or Supernormal (Japanese).
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 tourist attractions, spend day two “doing as the locals do” and visit 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. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend in Melbourne.
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 overwhelmed by the cheeses, deli meats, fresh breads, and herbs and spices for sale.
If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday 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 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Specialty shops open at 9 a.m.
- 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.
- If your 3 days in Melbourne includes a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, then book a spot on the Ultimate Foodie Tour. It’s held Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and takes 2 hours. The price is $69 for adults and $49 for children and includes tonnes of samples, a branded shopping bag and a $5 voucher for the market. Tours depart from 65 Victoria Street, just near the corner of Elizabeth Street. Book a ticket online.
Collingwood and Fitzroy
Now, head over to Collingwood and Fitzroy. 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 Bimbo
- Mid-range: A pub meal from the Marquis of Lorne (try their potato cakes, they’re so good!) or some vegetarian food from Smith and Daughters or Transformer will tide you over
- Fancy: Cutler & Co and Charcoal Lane are both known for their great food that focuses on Australian ingredients – the latter is a social enterprise that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island youth learn hospitality skills (I got married here!)
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. This interactive tour is led by an Indigenous guide. The experience begins with a welcoming ceremony, 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 7.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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 daily and costs $35. It starts at 11 a.m. and goes for 1.5 hours.
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 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 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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.
For dinner, St Kilda has plenty of options:
- Mid-range: Lona Pintxos Bar or Supernormal Canteen for Spanish tapas and Japanese food respectively.
- 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. 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!
PS. If you want to save money while you’re in Melbourne, consider buying an iVenture Card. It can nab you up to 40% off major Melbourne attractions!
Itching to add more to your Melbourne in three days itinerary? I’ve got more ideas in this guide to the top 25 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 photo stop at the colourful bathing boxes.
- Ballarat – One of the Victorian goldrush towns, Ballarat is filled with history. | This day trip includes entrance to Sovereign Hill, a replica of an 1800s goldrush town.
- 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. | This day trip includes a fun trip on 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:
ibis Melbourne Central – This budget hotel is just behind Melbourne Central, so you know you’re staying in a great spot. The rooms may be on the small side, but they’ve got a minimalist design and are clean. Book a stay online | Read reviews of ibis Melbourne Central online
Novotel Melbourne on Collins – The rooms at the Novotel are spacious and the beds get top marks for comfort. Each room has a view over the hotel’s glass atrium or down onto Collins Street below. Book a stay online | Read reviews of Novotel Melbourne on Collins online
Adelphi Hotel – Because this hotel has only 34 rooms, you can be sure you’ll get first-class attention at one of the funkiest hotels in Melbourne. The rooftop pool has a see-through bottom so you can spy on the people walking in Flinders Lane below. Book a stay online | Read reviews of Adelphi Hotel online
There are plenty of Airbnb properties in Melbourne, including in the CBD. This apartment in the CBD is stylish and has amazing views, while this apartment is just incredible – it would be like staying in a magical forest!
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!
Is there anything else you’d add to this 3 days in Melbourne itinerary? Let others know your recommendations in the comments below!
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