Some cities are what you’d call “48 hour cities”, which are essentially places where 48 hours is plenty of time to enjoy yourself, and then that’s probably enough. Melbourne is basically the exact opposite of that.
Often overlooked for buzzy Sydney, Melbourne is a destination which offers foodie heaven, beachfront lifestyle and bustling city all wrapped up in one package that can only really be described as caffeinated, curated hip living heaven; and the perfect city for a 48-hour layover in Melbourne.
As Australia’s second largest city, there are tens of flights arriving every day from overseas to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport – the cities largest airport. There’s also low-cost options coming to Melbourne Avalon Airport – the cities low-cost airport located at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road.
From Flinders Lane to the NGV, or Luna Park and Lune croissants; Read on to discover how to spend 48 hours in Melbourne –
Fuel up with a coffee
Melbourne runs on coffee! There are around 2,000 cafes across Melbourne’s CBD according to Tourism Australia. With these odds, you are sure to be within a short walk of a great brew.
The best place to go for a coffee in Melbourne include Degraves Street, Centre Place, Hardware Lane, and the top end of Collins Street.
I recommend these Melbourne coffee shops:
- Brother Baba Budan
- Hardware Societe
- Manchester Press
- Dukes Coffee Roasters
- St Ali Coffee Roasters
READ THIS NEXT: Melbourne’s Best Brunch Places [coming soon!]
Ride the City Circle Tram
All trams within Melbourne’s CBD are free to ride, making the city super convenient to get around. But if you have sometime, consider taking the historic No. 35 W-Class tram.
The tram includes recorded commentary when you pass points of interest, such as Parliament House, the State Library Victoria, the Immigration Museum, Flinders Street railway station, Federation Square, and St Paul’s Cathedral.
If you take the tram on the full loop, it takes around an hour to do. I highly recommend you get off at the State Library to head inside to the La Trobe Reading Room; one of the most photographic spots in Melbourne!
Take a Melbourne Street Art Tour
Melburnians love a laneway! From small bars to live music venues to restaurants, the cities laneways are a hub of creativity and art.
If you just want a quick peek at the cities street art, take a walk down the famous Hosier Lane, which is opposite Federation Square.
To really delve into the cities art scene, consider taking a Melbourne Street Art Tour. They take people through the streets of Melbourne and shows them who the artists of the street works are, what technical aspects are involved in spray painting, stencil art, and paste-ups, and what significant role the artists have made in making Melbourne one of the most important destinations in the world for Street Art.
Graze at the Queen Victoria Market
Known by locals as the ‘Queen Vic’ or ‘Vic Market’, the cities largest market has been serving people since 1878. A historic market which is spread over two city blocks, there are dozens of businesses selling fresh fruit-and veg, clothing, Aussie souvenirs, and gourmet goods.
The Market is open five days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Vic Markets also run foodie tours. Led by a local Market guide, you’ll discover the very best produce on offer, learn fascinating history, and uncover the specialty foods you can buy. Click here to book a tour today.
Be sure to check out if the Night Noodle Market or Night Winter Market is on. These fun evening events really see the city come alive as food trucks and entertainment descend on the market. Bring some friends along and make an evening of it!!
Eat Your Way Around the World in Melbourne
If you want to eat in town, I highly recommend you check out Supernormal (the lobster rolls are next level!), HuTong (for their Xiao Long Bao, aka: soup dumplings), ChinChin (casual south Asian dishes that will have your mouth watering), or Ombra (a brilliant Italian restaurant in the Paris end of town).
If you are near Chapel Street, consider heading down to Windsor to Tokyo Tina or Hawker Hall for an Asian feast.
For dessert, consider popping over to Carlton. This area, known by the locals as Little Italy, is where you will go to find incredible Italian treats. My top pick is Brunetti’s, a Melbourne institution for decadent Italian pastries and cakes.
Cakes aren’t your thing? Across the street, find Pidapipó. This small batch gelateria will have you dreaming of Italy with every mouthful!
Try a brunch cafe
Melbourne does a mean brunch! While there are plenty of places for avo on toast, there’s also a lot of other great dishes to try – like Top Paddock‘s famous Ricotta Hotcakes or AU79‘s Salmon Omelette.
If croissants are your jam, consider popping in to Lune Croissants. With multiple locations around the city, these croissants have been labelled the world’s best by the New York Times.
Looking for something else? These are my favourite brunch places in Melbourne:
- Top Paddock – probably Melbourne’s most instagrammable dish, the Ricotta Hotcakes aren’t only delicious but also gorgeous! They also do a great Eggs Benedict.
- The Kettle Back – come for the Ricotta Hotcake or the Chilli Crab Scrambled Eggs!
- Plain Sailing – located in the sea side suburb of Elwood, this is a much loved local. Be sure to try their Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Pulled Pork Benedict – yum!
- Auction Rooms – the French Toast of the North Melbourne cafe is delicious. If you are coming on the weekend be sure to arrive early as there is always a line!
- AU79 – in the trendy suburb of Abbotsford, come for the Salmon Omelette or the Truffle Scrambled Eggs daily til 4PM.
Get cultured at one of Melbourne’s Museums
It’s regarded as the cultural capital of Australia, so it’s probably no surprise that the best museums in Melbourne are among the best in Australia.
From interesting heritage, to thought-provoking art, there are museums dedicated to creative industries and museums that tell the fascinating story of Melbourne’s multiculturalism.
The oldest, largest and most popular museum in Australia is the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The NGV has more than 70,000 works of art that span thousands of years and present a huge range of styles and disciplines. There are the big European names like Cézanne, Monet, Picasso, and Rembrandt. But the Asian art collection is also impressive.
The NGV’s Australian art collection is housed in a special building at Federation Square called the Ian Potter Centre, a ten-minute walk from the main building on St Kilda Road with the international works. Entry to the permanent collection at both venues is free of charge.
Seven Melbourne museums to consider are:
- National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
- Immigration Museum
- Old Melbourne Gaol
- Melbourne Museum
- Australian Jewish museum
- Heide Museum of Modern Art
Walk the St Kilda Esplanade and Pier
St Kilda’s past is as colourful as its present. Long considered Melbourne’s seaside playground, it was first known for its elite holiday culture in the mid-19th century, before moving into its chapter as a red light entertainment district in the 1950s and ’60s.
Today, the suburb is a haven for artists, musicians and a diverse LGBTQIA community thanks to its carefree bohemianism that lingers to this day, attracting hordes of backpackers each summer and people from all walks of life year-round.
St Kilda is a fantastic place to enjoy a meal and do some people watching. Some of my favourite spots to eat dinner in St Kilda are Stokehouse St Kilda, Donovans, Radio Mexico, Sister of Soul (vegetarian and vegan) & Las Tapas.
Pick up a selection of sweet treats from one of Acland Street’s many famous cake shops, harking back to the summers of the 1950s when European holidaymakers would descend upon the suburb. Share them with friends on the St Kilda foreshore or at the nearby Catani Gardens or St Kilda Botanical Gardens.
If you come at sunset, be sure to head down to St Kilda Pier and Breakwater. The St Kilda Breakwater is home to a colony of Little Penguins (formerly called ‘Fairy Penguins’). Just before dusk, you can view the colony coming ashore from the promenade on the St Kilda Breakwater.
Have a night out on the town
After enjoying a meal, head back into the city for a few drinks.
A personal favourite is the Melbourne Supper Club and Siglo, hidden behind a small non-descript door on Spring Street. Melbourne Supper Club is a great spot to get cosy and have a few drinks with friends, while Siglo is a whisky and cigar lounge where you might be rubbing shoulders with some of the cities A-list chefs.
For something fun, consider Ponyfish Island which is located on an island in the Yarra.
A hidden bar more your style? Try Beneath Driver Lane for blues and great brews.
Looking for a bar with a view or a great place to celebrate? Book a table at Eau de Vie, a 1920’s prohibition-style bar which specialises in whiskey.
Where to stay on a Melbourne layover
PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport – Melbourne Airport, Arrival Drive, Tullamarine, VIC 3045 – with direct access to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, the PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport offers comfortable rooms for travellers who want to be a stone throw away from the terminals. They have a gym and pool on-site. The PARKROYAL hotel also offer day-rent rooms if you can’t stay long!
Check the price → HotelsCombined | Booking.com | Agoda
ibis Budget Melbourne Airport – Melbourne Airport, Caldwell Drive, Tullamarine, VIC 3045 – Within easy walking distance of Melbourne Airport’s terminals, this is an affordable choice for travellers on stop-overs. Each room features a flat screen TV, WiFi, and breakfast.
Check the price → HotelsCombined | Booking.com | Agoda
Novotel Melbourne South Wharf – 7 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf VIC 3006 – located next to the Convention Centre, and nearby South Wharf’s playground where you can dine and shop, the Novotel Melbourne South Wharf is one of the cities newest hotels. Within a short walk from the CBD, DFO shopping centre, Marvel Stadium, and Southern Cross Station.
Check the price → HotelsCombined | Booking.com | Agoda
READ THIS NEXT: Melbourne Hotel Guide: The Best Places to Stay
How to get from Melbourne Airport to the city centre
There are a few options to get into town from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, including taxis, rideshare (Uber and Ola are the most popular), and shuttles.
I choose to take the Skybus both ways for speed and convenience. The Melbourne City Express runs every 15-minutes from 4:30am to midnight, 7-days per week. Buses are comfortable, has space for luggage to be stored, and complimentary WiFi onboard.
To take Skybus are two departure points – one outside the Virgin Australia domestic terminal and another outside the Qantas domestic arrivals terminal; and these services run between Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station and Melbourne Airport.
I recommend pre-purchasing your ticket online to save, or if you plan to be using Melbourne as your base for your Australian consider buying a 10-ticket multi-pass.
READ THIS NEXT: How to get from Melbourne Airport to the city is by Skybus
Planning a trip to Australia? Read these next:
The Best Hotels near Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL)
Luxe for Less: The Best of Melbourne on a Budget
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