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Our One-Day Melbourne CBD Itinerary to See All the Sights!

Our One-Day Melbourne CBD Itinerary to See All the Sights!

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Planning a quick 24-hour trip to Melbourne? We know how stressful it can be to have just one day in a city. Especially in a city like Melbourne, where there are simply too many good things to do!

We’ve traveled here tons of times, and Bailey even lived in the city for a bit! So we know the best place to make the most of your time is in the Central Business District (CBD). 

To relieve some of that planning pressure, we put together this perfectly streamlined one-day CBD itinerary, including the top sights and even a recommended schedule. This will let you see as much as possible in just one day!

Overview and Getting Around Melbourne on This Itinerary

Map of the Melbourne CBD itinerary with all the best stops
Map of the Melbourne CBD itinerary with all the best stops
  • Time needed: Full day
  • Total distance walked: 5.7 kilometers but this can be shortened with the free city tram (details below).
  • Highlights: Queen Victoria Market, Old Melbourne Gaol, State Library of Victoria, ACDC Lane, The Block Arcade, Flinders Station, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Skydeck and Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise.

True to its name, the sights in Melbourne’s CBD are all centrally located. Most of this one-day itinerary can be completed by walking, so be sure to wear comfy shoes! To fit everything in, we’ve laid out a general timeframe for how long each activity will take and when you should move on to the next. But since everything is so close together, you can go at a relaxed pace and won’t have any trouble hitting every attraction on this list. 

There is one certain area where you should use the free City Circle Tram. This will save you some walking, and it hits a handful of sights in a convenient route (I’ll explain in detail below). Plus, the trams are historic and have that old-time charm, so you’ll definitely want to hop on one for a ride!

Breakfast: Operator25 (8:00 am)

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

Be sure to start this itinerary around 8 am to make sure you can move on to the next item in time. I’m always jonesing for breakfast so it’s pretty easy to get me out the door early, especially when it comes to Operator25!

Operator25 is one of the best breakfast joints in Melbourne’s CBD. It’s located in the old telephone exchange building, hence the name! They keep up with the telephone theme with cheeky signs such as “order hear” and “hold the line” – but it makes for a cute and cozy decor. Perfect for brunch!

But the best part is their Asian twist to all of the dishes. The char siu eggs benedict are my absolute favorite, but the matcha hotcakes and french toast were also calling my name! They also offer a lot of tasty vegetarian and vegan options, have a great coffee bar, and serve alcoholic breakfast drinks – mimosa anyone?

Operator25 opens at 8 am and I highly recommend making a reservation to keep with this schedule. They don’t take reservations on the weekends or public holidays, so you’ll have to get up a little earlier to line up before they open (and there will be a line!). You can book a table here!

Stop 1: Queen Victoria Market (9:30 am)

Bailey walks the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia
It takes a while to explore the entire market!
Bailey and Daniel pose for a picture in front of the Queen Victoria Market Melbourne Australia
Such a fun place!

Our first official stop is just a 7-minute walk from Operator25, so head here around 9:30 am. The Queen Victoria Market is a staple in Melbourne’s history and it’s quite large – plan on spending about 1-1.5 hours exploring. 

This market opened in 1878 and was the first official fruit and veggie market in the city, so it’s quite impressive that it’s still going! Vic Market (as locals like to call it) has certainly changed over the years though, and it now has over 600 vendor stalls. There is so much to see, we always end up spending more time than we plan.

You can find anything under the sun at the market – fresh produce, flowers, specialty shops, homemade goods, even tech stores, book shops, and clothing! But, our favorite is all of the food trucks! There is SO much good food, you might need to eat a light breakfast so you can snack here. 

There’s an array of international cuisines, like Japanese, Indian, Italian, and Greek. The American Doughnut Kitchen is a great stop for the morning, and there are a ton of coffee shops here. If you want to take a treat home, grab some chocolates at Koko Black!

Whether you grab some food or souvenirs or simply like to explore and check out the shops, the Queen Victoria Market is a quintessential Melbourne stop! (Check out our other can’t-miss things to do in Melbourne here.)

Stop 2: Old Melbourne Gaol (11 am)

Prison cells inside the Melbourne Gaol
It’s a scary place!
Old Melbourne Gaol 1
I would not have wanted to stay here!

Melbourne is full of history, and the Old Melbourne Gaol is one of the most fascinating parts!

This is just a 12-minute walk from Queen Victoria Market and you can plan on spending about 1.5 to 2 hours here. (Not 25 to life like some other unfortunate visitors!).

The Old Melbourne Gaol (pronounced “jail”) is full of shady tales from the city’s past, and we learned all about these stories and residents of Victoria’s oldest prison. This is where the most infamous criminals were locked up, such as Ned Kelly (the legendary outlaw and gang leader) and Frederick Bailey Deeming (who was suspected to be Jack the Ripper). 

We love that there is a self-guided audio tour included with admission. As we wandered around we had our guide in our ears, but could move at our own pace! There is also an Escape Artists tour to learn about all the ways prisoners attempted to flee. This tour is led by one of the Gaol tour guides and is $5 AUD, there are multiple departure times throughout the day that should fit into this schedule. 

This place definitely sent shivers down my spine, and it was super fascinating to explore! The Gaol is open from 10 am until 5 pm daily and general admission is $35 AUD.

Stop 3: Victoria Library (1 pm)

Inside the Victoria State Library in Melbourne Australia
It’s pretty impressive!
Daniel poses with the Ned kelly Armor inside the Victoria State Library in Melbourne Australia
Ned Kelly’s armor!

Just a 4-minute walk around the corner is one of the most beautiful buildings in Melbourne – the State Library Victoria! You only need about 20 minutes here, but the architecture is so ornate that it’s a necessary addition to the itinerary.

The library’s collection dates back to the 1850s, so it’s pretty massive. My favorite part of the entire library is the La Trobe Room, which is six stories high and has a stunning domed roof. It also has over 30,000 books, so all I wanted to do was curl up and read in this beautiful room. If only we had more than one day in the CBD!

This is more than just a library, in fact, we saw the armor that Ned Kelly wore during his final shootout with law enforcement. Since we just came from the Old Gaol, this was even more impressive! The Victoria Gallery is another notable room to explore, as they have some interesting rotating exhibits that come through.

It is free to visit the library and you don’t need a ton of time here. It’s located within the free tram zone, so when you finish up, head to the Melbourne Central Station tram stop and hop aboard. 

Related Read: After your day in Melbourne’s CBD, take a day trip out to Phillip Island on our favorite tour – check it out here!

Stop 4: AC/DC Lane (1:40 pm)

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

Our next stop is an iconic laneway, located just off of Flinders St. Take the free City Circle Tram (or walk) from Melbourne Central Station and get off at the Russel St/Flinders St stop. Since these sights are in the “free tram zone” you don’t need to purchase a Myki card and can simply hop on and off within this specific area. The map above in the overview shows us walking but many may want to tram.

Melbourne is full of artsy laneways, and one of my favorite things to do in the city is explore them. None is more famous than AC/DC Lane though, so spend about 15 minutes wandering through this inspired alley.

This alley used to be the location of the famous Cherry Bar, where AC/DC and other rock bands got their start. The band became huge in Melbourne and Sydney, so paying tribute to them in the laneway only makes sense. The murals and art are seriously impressive, as you can see in the photo above! Best of all, the laneways are one of the few areas where artists don’t need a permit to paint and there are hundreds of beautiful murals. 

Lunch: The Block Arcade (2 pm)

Bailey poses for a photo inside the The Block Arcade in Melbourne Australia
The Block Arcade is stunning!
Haigh’s Chocolates inside the Block Arcade in Melbourne, Australia
Haigh’s Chocolates inside the Block Arcade in Melbourne, Australia

Just a 12-minute walk from the laneways is another iconic Melbourne CBD area – The Block Arcade! Arcades are historic alleyways that are covered, decorated, and oh-so-charming. They are full of cute cafes, shops, and restaurants, and are a local favorite spot.

By now, you’re probably pretty hungry, so we’ll stop for lunch before exploring. I can’t think of a better lunch spot than Vespa Rossa! This quaint Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is the perfect place to relax over yummy food (and maybe a cocktail!).

We split the wood-fired prosciutto pizza and the chicken risotto. Both were incredibly flavorful and fresh, thanks to the recommendation from our server! I highly suggest sitting on the patio, the vibe is perfect. 

After lunch, spend some time exploring The Block Arcade. We enjoyed simply wandering around, and checking out the shops and gorgeous mosaic tile floors. If you need an afternoon sugar rush, head to Haigh’s Chocolates for some of the best truffles I’ve ever had! The Tea Room 1892 is another historic part of the arcade and a good spot to pick up a tea or coffee to go.

With lunch and time to wander, we spent about 1.5 hours here, so be sure to allot that much time.

Stop 5: Flinders Street Station (3:30 pm)

Flinders Street Station in Melbourne Australia
Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia

This next activity is a quick photo stop along your route. Flinders Street Station is a 5-minute walk from The Block Arcade, and once you see how beautiful this building is you can’t resist whipping out your phone for some photos!

This was the first steam engine rail system in all of Australia, and today it’s one of the busiest train stations in the Southern Hemisphere! But the impressive part is the exterior design, which has a huge domed roof and a gorgeous clock at the top. The inside isn’t really worth a look if you ask me, but it’s a good spot to take a photo as you continue exploring!

Stop 6: National Gallery of Victoria (3:40 pm)

National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne exhibit with paintings
Photo credit: National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne exhibit
Photo credit: National Gallery of Victoria

After your photo op, take a 10-minute walk across the river – we are covering new territory! The National Gallery of Victoria is perfect for our art lovers out there. I recommend spending about 1 hour here, our next stop is time-sensitive so you don’t want to be late!

This art gallery is actually Australia’s oldest and most visited museum, dating back to 1861. It’s full of international and local art, as well as many exhibitions and events that are fun to check out. With a collection of over 76,000 pieces, we just began to scratch the surface!

I also love how they have history blended in with art. So even if art isn’t exactly your thing, there are a lot of beautiful artifacts, sculptures, mixed media, and interactive exhibits too. Plus the building itself is a piece of art, so it can’t be missed. 

The best part is admission to the National Gallery of Victoria is free! However, there are always some unique exhibits that I want to check out, and those are usually a separate ticket price.

Stop 7: Melbourne Skydeck (5 pm)

View of the Australia 108 building from the Melbourne Skydeck
You go so high up!
Daniel poses for a photo at the Melbourne Skydeck
The outdoor deck is cool!

This one day in Melbourne’s CBD is quickly coming to a close! Our second-to-last activity is a 10-minute walk from the art gallery. Be sure to hit this activity right at 5, as you’ll need 1.5 hours to complete it and you don’t want to be late for our final experience tonight. 

The Melbourne Skydeck is a staple in the skyline and gives some of the best views of the city! It is the tallest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere and there are a couple of fun ways to experience it.

We got tickets for The Edge Experience, which quite literally got us out on the edge of the building. A glass cube sticks off the Skydeck’s side, so we could look down and see the cars below – it was a bit freaky! This was $43 AUD and honestly such a fun way to experience the Skydeck.

There is also a VR Experience where you can virtually explore Melbourne’s top sights, even a zipline! This VR package is $49 AUD. I also loved the Cocktails in the Clouds Experience, where you can enjoy the VR theater and a cocktail from the fabulous Bar 88 for $50 AUD.

However, we still hit the bar and enjoyed a cocktail with a view – probably the best view Melbourne has! They have a great 2-for-1 happy hour that you can catch from 4 to 8 pm. 

Check out our full guide to visiting the Skydeck here to get the full scoop before you go!

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: Sunset Dinner Cruise (7:30 pm)

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!

Let’s finish off this Melbourne CBD Itinerary with my favorite thing we did! You’ve likely passed by the Yarra River plenty of times today, so now’s your chance to get on it with a sunset dinner cruise. This experience sets sail promptly at 7:30 pm and lasts for three hours, so be sure to wrap up all of your city explorations in time to put on your fancy clothes and get to the docks.

The Spirit of Melbourne sunset dinner cruise is the most relaxing way to finish off the night. The views of the city were so beautiful, and I have to rave about the delicious 4-course dinner. We were absolutely blown away by the food, the chargrilled beef filet was as good as the top steakhouses I’ve been to. Oh, and the bottomless drinks were certainly a perk!

Even with only one day in Melbourne, this is a can’t-miss activity. We loved that we had a full three hours on the boat, which let us see the golden hour turn to sunset, and then see the skyline light up! Check out our full review of the cruise here before you go. Spoiler alert: we highly recommend it to everyone, and we aren’t the only ones who enjoyed this experience – read the 1,200+ glowing reviews here!

This experience is $185 AUD and includes dinner, drinks, the cruise, and the views are complimentary! They also offer free cancellation up to 4 days before you go, which is always nice to have flexibility. Our little secret tip is to reach out to the company when you book on Viator and request a table by the window. We did this and had amazing views, it made the whole night just a bit sweeter!

Related Read: If you love tours as much as we do, check out our top Melbourne tours to add to your bucket list!

Other Things to do While You’re 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. 
  • Explore the Melbourne Gardens – The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is another great way to escape the city, without leaving city limits. This huge 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!
  • Take a food tour – We love a good food tour, and Melbourne just so happens to have a killer food scene. This 3-hour walking food tour highlights the city’s diverse restaurants, from the trendy laneway bars and Melbourne’s famous coffee to Chinese dumplings and sweet pastries! Food and drinks are included for $119 AUD per person.
  • 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 take photos with koalas!

Where to Stay in Melbourne

The Langham Melbourne room
Photo credit: The Langham Melbourne

There are a ton of great hotel options in Melbourne’s CBD. Let us help narrow down your options! These are our top picks from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels.

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 and Daniel take a selfie at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne Australia
Thanks for reading!

Melbourne’s CBD has some of the best sights of the city, in my opinion! We hope you found this guide helpful as you plan your one day in the city. There is a lot to see here, but if you follow our suggested stops and times, you should be able to squeeze it all in!

If you liked this guide, keep exploring our blogs. We have even more blogs about Australia full of travel tips, our favorite places, and our top tours! Here are a few related posts that might be helpful as you plan:

Great Ocean Road Tours from Melbourne – the 5 BEST Tours for this Scenic Drive!

How to Spend a Weekend in Sydney, Australia!

12 BEST Day Trips from Melbourne