A gondola in the Yarra River with Melbourne city views in the background.

3 days in Melbourne: an itinerary for first-time visitors

Planning a trip to Melbourne? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Veriu Queen Victoria Market

Walking tour: Complete Melbourne

Food tour: Foodies Bucket List

Experience: Melbourne Cricket Ground tour

Day trip: Great Ocean Road

To put it simply, Melbourne is an incredible city to visit.

Recognised as the cultural capital of Australia, it offers everything from world-class museums, art galleries, and an excellent nightclubbing scene to top-notch dining, numerous historical landmarks and plenty of outstanding natural beauty. On top of that, there are no less than 22 professional ball sports teams based in the city.

And that barely scratches the surface!

So, if you aren't sure where to begin, this three-day itinerary will give you an unforgettable introduction to this captivating city.

Colourful buildings on Brunswick St in Fitzroy, Melbourne

How long should I spend in Melbourne?

Ideally, the more time you spend in Melbourne, the better - you won't run out of things to do or see. However, as a general guideline, spending at least three to four days in the city is recommended for those coming here for the first time.

This will give you a decent taste of the Melbourne experience by exploring the city's iconic landmarks, enjoying its rich culture, savouring its diverse culinary scene, and even venturing on a day trip to the Great Ocean Road.

If you have more time, you can delve deeper into Melbourne's neighbourhoods, discover its vibrant arts and music scene and engage in local experiences.

Irrespective of what you are into and where you decide to go, Melbourne offers a variety of attractions and activities to satisfy the curiosity and preferences of all visitors.

Cars and a tram outside Flinders Station in Melbourne

Day 1: Exploring Melbourne's iconic sights

Start your first day in Melbourne with a quintessential Australian breakfast at one of the city's many cafes. Melbourne is renowned for its coffee culture, so make sure to enjoy a cup of flat white or cappuccino.

Head to Degraves Street or Centre Place, two charming laneways filled with cafes, for a delicious start to your day. The Quarter and Aix Cafe are good places to go, respectively.

Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St. Paul's Cathedral

After breakfast, take a short walk to Federation Square - often called 'Fed Square' by locals.

This iconic meeting place is home to various cultural institutions, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

Take some time to explore the square's unique architecture and enjoy the outdoor art installations.

From Federation Square, walk across the street to the historic Flinders Street Station, an iconic Melbourne landmark. The station's stunning architecture and distinctive yellow façade make it a must-visit photo spot.

Right next door, you'll find St. Paul's Cathedral - a beautiful Gothic-style building worth visiting for its intricate stained glass windows and peaceful interior.

Melbourne CBD with the Yarra River in the foreground

Southbank, Eureka Skydeck 88 and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

Make your way towards Southbank, a bustling waterfront precinct along the Yarra River. Here, you'll find plenty of lunch options, ranging from Japanese and Italian to French and Chinese.

Many of these venues offer al fresco dining that lets you enjoy delicious meals with sparkling views of the river and Melbourne's impressive skyline.  

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll along the Yarra River to the Eureka Tower.

Standing proudly as the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere, the Eureka Skydeck 88, as its name implies, offers breathtaking panoramic views of Melbourne from 88 floors up.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. If you are not afraid of heights, don't forget to experience The Edge, a glass cube that extends from the building - giving you the sensation of floating above the city.

Then return to Federation Square and visit the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). It's Australia's oldest public art gallery and houses an impressive art collection, including works from renowned international artists including Constable, Gainsborough, Pissarro and Renoir.

Before you go, make sure you refer to the NGV's website for any special exhibitions or events scheduled during your visit.

Dinner in Chinatown

For dinner, head to Melbourne's vibrant Chinatown, which resides on Little Bourke Street in the heart of the CBD. There, you'll find a plethora of restaurants serving delicious Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines.

Whether you prefer dumplings, sizzling hot pot, or Peking duck, Chinatown has a variety of options to satisfy your cravings. There are also some lovely shops you can check out too.

After dinner, you can walk off what you ate by strolling through Melbourne's famous laneways.

Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane are known for their ever-changing street art and graffiti. Exploring them is a great way to experience Melbourne's artistic side and capture some great photos.

If you're a fan of live music, you can also check out some of the city's live music venues for a memorable night out.

People wandering through the food section of the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.

Day 2: Cultural Immersion and Shopping

Start your second day with breakfast at Hardware Lane - another charming laneway in Melbourne's CBD. The lane is lined with cafes offering a range of breakfast options to suit all tastes. So you can enjoy your meal while soaking in the laneway's European-Melbourne atmosphere.

Melbourne Museum

After breakfast, head to Carlton Gardens. There, you'll find the Melbourne Museum. This terrific museum is an excellent place to explore Victoria's cultural and natural history.

Inside it, you'll find a range of exhibits displaying everything from dinosaur skeletons to cultural artefacts that date back centuries.

Overall, the museum offers a wide range of interactive areas, themed displays and IMAX cinemas that are sure to fascinate visitors of all ages.

Lunch at Queen Victoria Market

After the museum, take a short tram ride to the Queen Victoria Market. This historic market has been a Melbourne institution since it opened in 1878. It covers more than seven hectares, making it the largest open-air marketplace in the Southern Hemisphere.

Overall, it is an excellent place to browse the various market stalls, selling everything from funky clothing to eclectic souvenirs. It is also a lovely place to enjoy international street food, fresh seafood and gourmet sandwiches, among other delightful food options.

The historic Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia.

Royal Exhibition Building and shopping on Bourke Street

Adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market, you'll find the Royal Exhibition Building.

This UNESCO World Heritage-listed building is a stunning example of 19th-century architecture and is often used for exhibitions and events.

Even if there's no exhibition during your visit, you can still admire the building's grandeur from the outside. It is also a terrific place for people-watching.

Head back to the CBD and indulge in some retail therapy on Bourke Street. This bustling shopping district boasts plenty of high-end boutiques and popular chain stores.

If you are looking for fashion, electronics, crafts or souvenirs, Bourke Street has plenty of options to satisfy your shopping cravings.

Dinner in Fitzroy

For dinner, venture to the trendy neighbourhood of Fitzroy - known for its eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and street art.

Whilst there, you can choose from a wide variety of dining options, including Rice Paper Scissors (Asian) and Mukka (Indian), two of the most popular venues in town.

After you have eaten, Fitzroy's unique atmosphere and creative energy make it a great place to explore after your meal.

Melbourne is renowned for its thriving cultural scene. So why not consider catching a live performance in the evening?

Check out what's playing at one of the city's theatres or live music venues. On any given day, there are usually plenty of options for plays, concerts and comedy shows. So you should not have trouble finding an entertainment option you'll be interested in.

The 12 Apostles along Australia's Great Ocean Road.

Day 3: Great Ocean Road

On your final day in Melbourne, embark on a day trip to the Great Ocean Road - one of Australia's most scenic coastal drives.

Book a guided tour in advance or rent a car for the journey. If you intend to drive from Melbourne, the transit to the Great Ocean Road takes about three hours - so an early start is essential.

As you make your way along the Great Ocean Road, stop for lunch in the charming coastal town of Apollo Bay.

There are several cafes and restaurants there that offer delicious seafood, which you can enjoy with stunning ocean views - either at the venues themselves or one of the picnic tables at the beach.

Explore the Twelve Apostles

Continue your drive along the Great Ocean Road to the iconic Twelve Apostles. These majestic limestone rock formations - rising imperiously from the Southern Ocean - are a must-see.

Take a stroll along the viewing platforms and admire the dramatic scenery. Walk down the Gibson Steps for an even more breathtaking view of some of them.

A short drive from the Twelve Apostles, you'll find Loch Ard Gorge. This natural wonder is named after the ship Loch Ard - which ran aground nearby in 1878.

Whilst there, you can explore the gorge's beautiful beach and limestone cliffs, providing a serene and picturesque backdrop for Instagram selfies.

Make your journey back to Melbourne in the late afternoon, enjoying the scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road once more. The return trip will take around 3 hours and enable you to see the sun starting to set - so plan accordingly.

Arriving back in Melbourne, you'll have time for a final meal in the city. Choose a restaurant or eatery that you haven't had the chance to visit yet, or revisit one of your favourites.

Loch Ard Gorge on Great Ocean Road, Australia

If you have more time in Melbourne

If you have more than three days to spend in Melbourne, you'll have the opportunity to explore the city in greater depth and venture beyond its immediate surroundings. Here's a list of additional attractions and experiences to consider during your extended stay:

  • Royal Botanic Gardens: Take a leisurely stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens - a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. Marvel at its lush landscapes and the various themed gardens that have been beautifully and skillfully cultivated by the team there.

  • St Kilda: Take the tram to St Kilda and spend the day in Melbourne's most popular beachy suburb. Relax on the beach, go to the iconic Luna Park, and watch the adorable penguin colony at sunset.

  • Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): Sports fans may want to catch a cricket or Australian Rules Football (AFL) game at the MCG - Melbourne Cricket Ground. You can even take a guided tour of this iconic stadium.

  • Phillip Island: Head to Phillip Island to witness the famous Penguin Parade - where gorgeous little penguins tootle back to their nests after enjoying a day in the sea. You can also visit the Koala Conservation Centre and enjoy the island's beaches.

  • Wilsons Promontory National Park: Travel to Wilsons Promontory, Victoria's largest coastal wilderness area. It offers pristine beaches, hiking trails and abundant wildlife - making it a true nature lover's paradise.

  • Grampians National Park: For a more extended adventure, visit the Grampians National Park. It is known for its rugged landscapes, hiking trails, waterfalls and remarkable Aboriginal rock art. Plan to spend two days here to really appreciate its wonders or if you're really pressed for time, you can visit as a day trip from Melbourne.

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Spencer Samaroo

Author - Spencer Samaroo

Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience in producing written content for tourism-related blogs and businesses. A thalassophile who was afflicted with wanderlust from a young age, he has visited over 40 countries in the world.

An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations. Specialising in writing about beach destinations around the world, he would probably bleed sand if you cut his arm open

Last Updated 3 March 2024

Uluru at sunset


Straddling the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, Australia has diverse landscapes, a fascinating indigenous culture and uncommon wildlife.