Choosing to visit Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria, Australia, for a nice respite won’t leave you disappointed. This popular cultural hub boasts many accolades and offers a multitude of exciting destinations to visit. One of the best areas to explore is downtown Melbourne.
Downtown Melbourne almost completely surrounds the Port Phillip Bay and has the perennial Yarra River running through it and into the bay. It’s also where Melbourne was first established by settlers in 1835. Suffice it to say, this coastal town with 4 million residents has many attractions to visit within its downtown area, yet to narrow it down some, let’s explore four great ways to experience downtown Melbourne Australia.
Shop, Eat, and Appreciate Art at the Centre Place Laneway
The Centre Place Laneway is one of the many exciting destinations to visit in the heart of downtown Melbourne. The lively blue cobblestone laneway is designated as a pedestrian district where visitors can enjoy the unique shops, cafes, and artwork on their way to other close-by downtown Melbourne destinations. The local feel is palpable when walking through Centre Place, as apartment balconies above the shops rise multiple stories high, locals take their favorite spots at the cafes and bars, and ever-changing artwork depicts the native cultural flavors.
When you’re done with your coffee and crepes at a quaint Centre Place cafe, you can move on to explore the many small and large destinations within the downtown Melbourne area. Some of the most noteworthy are Flinders Street Railway Station, Yarra River, Degraves Street, Campbell Arcade, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square, and Princess Walk.
To get the full experience, you’ll want to spend at least a day or two in this area of Melbourne. You can start with a visit to the Centre Place laneway, then move a block south towards the Yarra River and experience the underground Campbell Arcade and Flinders Street Railway Station, where your City Circle Tram awaits.
Take the City Circle Tram Tour
Another great way to experience downtown Melbourne is by riding on the City Circle Tram. You can get on the largest urban tram network in the world at Flinders Street Railway Station and fast-track your exploration of downtown Melbourne. The City Circle Tram tour is free and runs throughout the day, allowing passengers to get on and off quickly to explore different parts of the city. There are two types of trams that service the City Circle Tram route, including the retro heritage maroon colored trams with gold trimmings and the standard modern trams with green and white colors.
Instead of driving, taking a taxi, or walking around the large downtown area of Melbourne, you can use the trams to get around with a great view and in local style. Besides being an experience in itself, the City Circle Tram offers local information and maps for destinations, events, shops, restaurants, etc.
Perhaps, after enjoying the morning at Centre Place, you can hop on a City Circle Tram and travel a mile west to visit Docklands Park or watch a soccer event at Marvel Stadium; or, you could travel southeast about a half a mile over the Yarra River to visit the historic Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
Experience the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Any vacation to Melbourne should include a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, which is one of the area’s biggest and most historic attractions. This is a special reserved area covering 38 hectares (118 acres) of land and drawing in over 1.8 million visitors a year. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria was preserved by the early settlers of Melbourne back in 1846; this large green area in the midst of downtown Melbourne creates an intriguing contrast between the brick and concrete of the city and the neatly carved out natural beauty of the botanical gardens.
There are many interesting sections of the gardens to explore; if desired, you could make this relaxing destination a day-long affair. After exploring the busy downtown area, you’ll appreciate the calm, beautiful environment the gardens offer, including small lakes, 12,000 species of plant life, large scenic lawns, various trees, wooden walkways, and much more.
You can also sit down at one of the two cafes located within the garden: The Terrace and Jardin Tan, where you can get organic, French-Indochina flavored food while enjoying the lush tropical surroundings. Afterward, you can decide whether to take a guided tour, shop for souvenirs, take a nap on the Eastern Lawn, or get back on the tram to visit the next location, perhaps the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Check Out the Melbourne Cricket Ground
If you really want to get a taste of Melbourne, you’ll have to visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground, (a.k.a. “the G”). Even if you’re not interested in Australian Rules Football, cricket, tennis, or rugby, you’ll enjoy the historical significance associated with one of the largest and oldest sports stadiums in the world.
The G was built in 1853 and has a seating capacity of around 100k, making it the 10th largest sports stadium in the world. Notably, this is the home of Victorian sport, a major part of Australia sport, the birthplace of cricket in 1877, the home for Australian football since 1859, and the location of the National Sports Museum. The entire area around Melbourne Cricket Ground is sports oriented and full of notable destinations. This includes Melbourne Park, which is where the Australian Open tennis tournament is held; also, Richmond Football Club Museum, Olympic Park, Rod Laver Arena, Tennis World (National Tennis Center), and more.
The center of it all is the G, which offers visitors more than just sports, including cinema night, concerts, guided tours, museums, cafes, pubs, beer gardens, and souvenir shops. This special destination in downtown Melbourne offers you a great way to experience the best of Australian sports, and with the G located just west of Flinders Street Railway Station, you’ll find it easy to circle back around to where you started on your City Circle Tram ride.
These four great ways to experience downtown Melbourne should give you a rough outline for your adventures. Along the way, you can fill in the blanks with a multitude of additional unique and exciting destinations, cafes, shops, and activities. In the end, experiencing the heart of downtown Melbourne will give you a greater understanding of what this unique city in southeastern Australia is all about.