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How to Spend 1 Day in Melbourne: A 24-Hour Itinerary

How to Spend 1 Day in Melbourne: A 24-Hour Itinerary

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Trying to plan a 1-day itinerary in Melbourne can be difficult, there is simply too much to see! If you’re anything like us, you might know “the fear of missing out” with short stints in new places. 

Luckily, we have traveled to this city a handful of times and have found a strategic way to experience as much as possible! Strap on your walking shoes, because you’ll cover some ground if you follow this itinerary step by step. Check out historic buildings, art-filled laneways, and even a sunset dinner cruise!

24 hours can still show you the best parts of Melbourne, so let’s get into it!

How to Spend One Day in Melbourne

Breakfast – Operator25

Eggs at Operator25 in Melbourne Australia
Photo credit: Operator25
French Toast at Operator25 in Melbourne
Photo credit: Operator25

Let’s dive into a full day of exploring Melbourne in the best way possible – brunch! Since we are maximizing our time today, brunch will be served with a twist of history. Operator25 is located in the heart of the city’s downtown area and is a gorgeous old building that once held the old telephone exchange. So instead of being the workplace of operators saying, “How may I direct your call?” you’ll be greeted with the smell of sizzling bacon and freshly brewed coffee!

We love this place because they have an Asian-inspired menu. The char siu eggs benedict and yuzu avocado toast were to die for, and the coffee hit the spot. They also offer brunch cocktails, but we have a busy day ahead so we opted to stick to caffeine! Operator25 opens at 7 am on the weekdays and 8 am on the weekends, stop by to fuel up for the day. 

Morning – Go on a Free Walking Tour

Exploring Melbourne on a walking tour
The views are amazing!
Exploring Melbourne on a city tour
It’s a great free introduction to the city!

One of our favorite ways to get to know a city is by taking a walking tour, especially if you’re short on time. The local guides give you a rundown of the city’s past history and current hot spots! So we joined Melbourne’s I’m Free Walking Tours, which is a pretty descriptive title if you ask me. 

On this free walking tour, our local guide took us all over the city. We spent three hours passing by iconic city sites (Fed Square, Melbourne Gaol, Flinders Station) as well as hidden gems, like our guide’s favorite coffee shop and a historic record store! This tour takes off at 10:30 am and they ask you to reserve your spot in advance so they have a headcount, but it was really easy to sign up online. And while it’s a free tour, the guides do accept tips if you loved your experience like we did. 

There is also a fantastic guided tour that takes your experience to the next level. The guides on this organized walking tour have a true passion for history and all things Melbourne. I’d recommend this option if you’re a history or architecture buff, as you’ll get the whole story on the most significant areas of the city. The three-hour tour includes your guide, admission fees, and even an alcoholic drink (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?). 

You can reserve your spot on this tour here for $99 AUD. It departs at 11 am, so its best to book it before it fills up!

Lunch – Enjoy a meal on one of the laneways

Seafood pasta at Vespa Rossa in Melbourne
Photo credit: Vespa Rossa
Chicken dish at Vespa Rossa
Photo credit: Vespa Rossa

We’re already halfway through the day, and after all that walking I was ready for lunch and a little break. Our next activities will be in the historic Arcades and Laneways, and you’ll find tons of restaurants to choose from. Too many, in fact, so to help you out a bit I recommend going to Vespa Rossa! Vespa Rossa is located in The Block Arcade, one of the most beautiful parts of the city, and has a super tasty Mediterranean-inspired menu. 

Everything on the menu looked good, but we were easily swayed by the wood-fired pizza. So we split the Italian prosciutto pizza and seafood linguini and it was the perfect amount of food for lunch. I also loved its cozy vibe, and it felt like a bit of a hidden gem because it’s tucked away in an alley of the arcade. It was a much-needed rest, but we were quickly ready to continue exploring!

Related Read: If you have a bit more time in the city, check out our best day trips from Melbourne. There are a lot of great outdoor surroundings, so get out of the concrete jungle for a day!

Afternoon – Walk the Lanes and Arcades

Bailey poses for a photo inside the The Block Arcade in Melbourne Australia
The Block Arcade is stunning!
The Royal Arcade in Melbourne Australia
The Royal Arcade in Melbourne Australia

Let’s keep walking through one of the most unique parts of the city: the lanes and arcades! Since we are fresh off lunch, we’ll start with The Block Arcade. Now I’ll admit, this is my favorite of the famous arcades because it’s the most beautiful! Arcades are covered walkways, and there are a handful within the city. They are full of intricate designs and boutique shops, I always feel a bit posh exploring here!

The Block Arcade stands out because of the mosaic tile design on the floor – you won’t miss it! The shops are fun to wander around, we picked up some truffles from Haigh’s Chocolates (that didn’t last long in our hands). The Tea Room 1892 is an iconic stop in The Block Arcade, as it’s been serving Melbourne’s best high tea since 1892 (hence the name!). 

The Royal Arcade is just next door, and this one is even more historic, dating back to 1870. The history makes this one unique and we were interested to see how each arcade differs. Caffé E Torta is a great spot to grab some authentic Italian treats, and Kit Espresso has some of the best coffee on this side of town. I also thought Paint n’ Powder was interesting, as it made rare types of perfume – neat!

Bon scott mural in ACDC lane in Melbourne, Australia
The art is really impressive!
Bailey sits on a bench in ACDC lane in Melbourne
Exploring AC/DC Lane!

Once you finish up at the arcades, take a 12-minute stroll down the street to reach AC/DC Lane. I love how starkly contrasting the lanes and arcades are – one is a high-end shopping area, and the other is street art and rock n’ roll! 

The laneways are a series of alleys where artists paint all sorts of murals. They are all quite impressive, but the most notable and famous is AC/DC Lane. Located just off Flinders Lane, this alley was home to Cherry Bar, one of the most important music venues in Melbourne’s music scene and where the iconic AC/DC got their start. So the artists paid tribute to the band by covering the lane in AC/DC art, and it’s quite stunning!

We enjoyed strolling through all of the laneways, just to see what we could find. It gave a totally different perspective on Melbourne’s popular culture!

Afternoon – Melbourne Skydeck

The Yarra River as seen from the Melbourne Skydeck
What a view!
Daniel poses for a photo at the Melbourne Skydeck
The outdoor deck is cool!

You can’t spend a day in Melbourne without heading to the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. Standing at 300 meters (975 feet) tall, the Melbourne SkyDeck offers incredible views of the city below. It makes my heart race from those incredible heights! 

This isn’t your average observation deck, there are a few unique experiences you can have here! We booked tickets to the Edge Experience, which let us stand in a glass cube extending over the tower’s edge. It was a bit freaky, I can’t lie, but the experience was totally worth any butterflies in the stomach! Tickets for the Edge are $43 AUD.

Another unique way to experience the SkyDeck is with the VR Experience. Put on a virtual reality helmet and you can experience Melbourne’s best sights and even ride on a virtual zipline, all from the comfort of your seat! This is $49 AUD, and for just $50 AUD you can have “Cocktails in the Clouds”. This includes the VR, admission to the SkyDeck, and a drink at the SkyDeck’s bar.

While these other experiences looked like a lot of fun, we simply chose to hit the bar on our own. The views were just as good as the cocktails, especially because we hit the 2 for 1 happy hour from 4 to 8 pm. 

For the most memorable way to experience Melbourne’s SkyDeck, you can have dinner above the clouds at Eureka 89. This fine dining restaurant takes luxury seriously, starting with its 6-course tasting menu for $190 AUD. Unfortunately, we didn’t try this (due to other dinner plans) but if you’re in town to celebrate or love a fancy dinner option, this will not disappoint! Just be sure to make reservations, as it’s a popular experience. 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Dinner/night – Enjoy a dinner cruise on the Yarra

Bailey cheers her wine on the spirit of melbourne dinner druise
This was such an amazing cruise!
Steak dinner on the spirit of melbourne cruise
So good!

To wrap up one full day of exploring, we are setting sail on the Spirit of Melbourne dinner cruise. This was easily one of our most memorable activities in the city, and it is simply the cherry on top to finish this one-day itinerary! 

This 3-hour dinner cruise down the Yarra River gave us amazing city views. We loved seeing some of the areas we explored by foot today but from the water! It took off at 7:30 pm, so we were able to enjoy the golden hour turn to sunset while sipping cocktails on the deck. Oh yeah, it comes with bottomless drinks!

The 4-course dinner was even better than I expected, just mirroring Melbourne’s incredible food scene! We had the chargrilled beef filet for the main course, but you can also choose between chicken, lamb, fish, or vegetarian – all of it looked amazing. To finish off this tasty meal, they had a variety of dessert options paired with port wine, as if this could get any better!

To make this experience even more memorable, we requested a table by the window so we could enjoy the views the whole time. Just reach out to the tour operator when you book on Viator and request this too, it’s really easy! We finished off the experience completely full and satisfied. It truly was the perfect way to end our time in Melbourne. You can read our full review of the Spirit of Melbourne dinner cruise here

This experience is well priced at $185 AUD and includes drinks, a gourmet dinner, and the cruise. They also offer free cancellation 3 days before departure, so I recommend booking this early to secure your spot, and know you still have flexibility!

Other Things to do in Melbourne

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at the twelve apostles on a great ocean road tour australia
The Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road – what a great day trip!

If you have a little extra time in your itinerary, perhaps a full weekend in Melbourne, we have even more epic Melbourne activities. The truth is, there is too much to do in this city, so make the most of your time by exploring a bit. Here are a few more of the most memorable things we did in Melbourne!

  • Drive the Great Ocean Road – This 240-kilometer (150-mile) scenic drive follows the southern coastline and is one of the most epic things to do in Melbourne. We joined this guided tour so we could stop at the iconic areas, like the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Apollo Bay, while someone else did the driving so we could enjoy the views! This day trip from the city was our favorite Melbourne experience, it’s stunning and a great break from the bustling city life. 
  • Explore the Melbourne Gardens – The Royal Botanic Gardens – Melbourne Gardens were another great way to escape the city, without leaving the city itself. This 38-hectare garden is home to over 8,500 species of plants and has been around for over 170 years. It’s simply gorgeous, and spending a few hours strolling through the gardens makes for a lovely afternoon. There are often special events going on, so check the website here before you go!
  • Rent a boat and float down the Yarra River – If you haven’t seen enough of the Yarra River yet, rent a boat and explore it for yourself! That’s right, you can be the captain of your own ship (more like a dingy) and spend 1 to 4 hours cruising the river. On a Boat rents the boats and they are really easy to use, you don’t even need a boating license!
  • Explore St Kilda – This cute beach town is just 15 minutes from downtown Melbourne, and is a great place to grab a coffee and take in those ocean views! St Kilda is famous for its coffee scene, there are many to choose from – but our favorite is Galleon Cafe. If you’re visiting on the weekend, check out Esplanade Market for some unique souvenirs or Luna Park, super fun for families!
  • Day trip to Phillip Island – Phillip Island is another one of our favorite day trips from Melbourne because you can see the world’s largest Little Penguin Colony! Famous for their “Penguin Parade” taking a day trip here allows you to see hundreds of Little Penguins waddling back to their burrows. We took this organized tour, which also included stops at the Brighton Boxes and the Moonlit Sanctuary, where we got to hand-fed wallabies and koalas!

Where to Stay in Melbourne

The Langham Melbourne room
Photo credit: The Langham Melbourne

Even with just one day in Melbourne, you’re going to need somewhere comfy to call home! There are a lot of accommodation options to fit every budget, so check out our top picks from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Here’s what you need to know!

The Langham Melbourne – $$$

For an elegant stay – think marble staircases, fountains, and chandeliers – The Langham Melbourne is the perfect place. The hotel is in the middle of Melbourne overlooking the Yarra River. You’ll get beautiful city views from the hotel’s restaurant and from the indoor pool. It’s also within walking distance of a number of top attractions.

Rooms here start at $300 – $400 AUD per night. Check availability and reserve a room here.

Grand Hotel Melbourne – $$

Stay in the Melbourne Central Business District at this historic hotel that has plenty of character. The studios and apartments at the Grand Hotel Melbourne give you more space than a typical hotel and even include a kitchen. You can also take advantage of the heated indoor pool and the fitness center with a sauna. Plus, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to Crown Casino, Southbank, Docklands, and more.

A studio starts at around $200 AUD per night and can be reserved through Booking.com here.

Space Hotel – $

You don’t have to sacrifice style for money at this hostel. The Space Hotel is a modern hostel with lots of extra guest amenities like a gym, a hot tub, and even a mini-theater. You can head to the rooftop terrace to relax and enjoy the views. The hostel is conveniently located in the Central Business District and is not far from the Queen Victoria Market and Chinatown.

Accommodation options include both private rooms and shared dorm rooms. A bed in a dorm starts at $55 AUD and private rooms begin at $100 AUD. You can reserve a spot in advance through Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Renting a Car in Australia

Driving through the outback in a rental car in Australia
Outback Australia!

With many must-see destinations in Australia outside city limits, one of the best ways to get around is in a rental car.

Australia is a huge country and traveling between cities or getting to some of the most scenic spots requires driving. While public transit is sometimes an option, it often adds a lot of time and planning. Plus, we love the freedom of a rental car to stop wherever we want and not have to stick to a set schedule.

Car rental in Australia is super affordable, especially if you choose a smaller vehicle. We use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine that compares multiple car rental companies for you – saving you from visiting each website individually.

If you plan to be based in a main city like Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth and do a few day trips while returning your car to the same location, we’ve booked rentals for as cheap as $25 AUD a day! Full coverage insurance can be added for around an extra $12 AUD a day too. The price will vary depending on the time of year, type of car, and if you’re able to pick up and drop off at the same location.

Discover Cars also offers handy filters so you can search for cars that offer features like child seats, GPS, or let you have an additional driver. There are also free cancellation options if your trip changes. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

Check out the selection and book your car rental online here!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiling on the deck of the spirit of melbourne dinner cruise
Thanks for reading!

While I hope you get more time to enjoy this amazing city, one day in Melbourne will still show you the highlights! With so much history, art, culture, and things to do, you definitely won’t be bored while exploring. We’ve spent a lot of time in Melbourne and always look forward to our return, and I’m sure you will too.

Thanks for following along! If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out our other blogs about Australia. As a Perth native, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling the country. Here are a few more resources to help plan your travels:

5 Tours in Melbourne That Made Us Fall in Love With the City! 

How to Spend One Day in Sydney: An Ideal 1-Day Itinerary

25 Things to do in Melbourne for First-Time Visitors