Melbourne: Main Sights

Australia's multicultural hub

Melbourne Main Sights

Melbourne's standing as the cultural capital of Australia is authenticated in a non-stop program of festivals, major art exhibitions and musical extravaganzas. The city boasts a vast array of cultural landmarks and places that exhibit the region’s rich heritage as well as many sporting spectaculars and a range of crowd-pleasing events, from the high-octane excitement of the Australian Grand Prix to the beautiful floral displays of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. When you venture outside Melbourne, diverse regional areas and attractions proffer dramatic coastal vistas, ski slopes, outback wilderness, vineyards, rugged mountain peaks and enthralling wildlife. Attracting visitors from all four corners of the globe. All attractions are easily accessible, ensuring your Melbourne experience is even more rich and rewarding.

Chinese Museum

The Chinese Museum was established in 1985 to preserve and display the history of Chinese Australians since the mid-1800s. It has become a living part of Melbourne’s modern Chinatown, with its five levels of galleries, showcasing artefacts and photographs depicting the life and culture of Chinese Australians. The museum is also the home of Dai Loong, the world’s largest dragon. There are numerous other museums catering to different national cultures in the heart of Melbourne.

Cooks’ Cottage

This cottage was originally built in the village of Great Ayton in Yorkshire, England, in 1755 by James and Grace Cook, the parents of Captain James Cook. When the cottage was offered for sale in 1933 it was bought by a prominent Melbourne businessman, Sir Russell Grimwade, for 800 British Pounds. He arranged for it to be taken apart brick by brick and transported via ship and train to Melbourne. In early 1934 the cottage was rebuilt on its present site in Fitzroy Gardens, East Melbourne. Today it provides visitors with the opportunity to glimpse what life was like in 18th century England.

Eureka Tower

The Eureka Tower is the tallest building in Melbourne and the tallest residential building in the world, standing at just over 300m tall, offering 360-degree views over the city. There is a public observation deck on level 88, the Skydeck, which affords visitors with a head for heights a testing experience: a chance to be suspended above the city in a glass cube (The Edge) that extracts itself from the building by 3m to hang out over the city far below. On entry into the cube, the glass is frosted and moves out over the edge of the building, but as soon as the cube is in place the glass thaws to the sound of smashing glass.

Federation Square

Occupying a whole city block, Federation Square is one of Melbourne's major attractions. A cultural nucleus, Federation Square hosts over 2000 events a year, in its outdoor public spaces, St Paul's Court and The Square and vibrant covered space, the Atrium. Renowned for its unique design, the triangular shapes that characterise Federation Square actually create an abstract map of the Australian Federation. Affording spectacular views of the city, Southbank and the Yarra River, visitors can not only explore the peculiar design of this cultural precinct, but also visit the many galleries, cinemas, museums, restaurants and shops that surround it, most notably the Ian Potter Centre and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Government House

Government House is the official residence of the Governor of Victoria, located within the Botanical Gardens. The house is built in the style known as Italianate, and is one of the finest examples of this type of architecture in Australia. The house was built during the gold rush and is said to be the grandest house in Victoria. Tours of the state apartments start from La Trobe’s Cottage (home of Victoria’s first Lt Governor, Charles la Trobe) on the corner of Birdwood Avenue and Dallas Brooks Drive, South Yarra.

Melbourne Museum

A fascinating museum complex situated in the Carlton Gardens, the Melbourne Museum is the largest in Australia, with over 30 different exhibits covering history, culture, science, animals and more. Its most notable galleries include the Bunjilaka, which explores the history of Aboriginal culture in Victoria, the Science and Life Gallery, focusing on insects and spiders, the marine world and Australia's local flora and fauna; and the Children's Museum, housed in a tilted cube, which offers colourful and interactive displays. Opened in 2000, the Melbourne Museum is a showcase of modern exhibition standards, with a three-dimensional Imax theatre screening documentary films and a resourceful public research centre, where visitors can investigate any subject they wish.

Melbourne Zoo

Housing more than 350 different animal species, Melbourne Zoo is a worthy stopover, in a country famous for nature conservation and interesting diversity of animals. Built in 1862, certain areas of the zoo have been preserved as historic zones, demonstrating to visitors the significant changes the zoo has undergone. Famous for its endemic inhabitants such as the kangaroo, wallaby, koala and wombat, the zoo also has elephants in the Asian Rainforest area, a gorilla exhibit, Orang-utan Sanctuary and Butterfly House. Only four kilometres from Melbourne city centre the zoo is situated in a breathtaking botanic garden setting that extends 55 acres, covers over four different ecosystems and has a biodiversity of 70,000 plant specimens.

National Gallery of Victoria

The National Gallery collections are divided between the redeveloped gallery at St Kilda Road, which houses Victoria's impressive international collections (including Picasso's Weeping Woman) and the Ian Potter Centre, the spectacular new home for the country's most important Australian collection.

Old Melbourne Gaol

Victoria's oldest surviving remand prison gives visitors a chilling insight into prison life in a model 19th-century gaol. Behind the thick and forbidding walls Ned Kelly, the infamous bushranger, was one of 135 men and women who were hanged on the gaol's scaffold. Visitors can view the Hangman's Box, the Particulars of Execution book and other exhibits relating to this grim period of Victoria's history, as well as the death masks used in the study of phrenology to predict criminal behaviour. The Women in Prison exhibition reveals the fascinating stories of the crimes committed by the female inmates. There are free performances every Saturday of The Real Ned Kelly Story - Such is Life at 12.30pm and 2pm, and night performances on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with hangman 'Michael Gately' as he recounts stories of the gaol by candlelight (not for the faint hearted or children under 12 years of age).

Queen Victoria Market

If you are planning a picnic at Birrarung Marr or the Botanic Gardens or just looking for some affordable souvenirs, head to the Queen Victoria market, one of the largest open-air markets in the Southern Hemisphere, with almost 50 percent of the market dedicated to the sale of fresh produce, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, seafood, cold cuts and cheese. A popular meeting place for locals and foreigners, this cosmopolitan market is best visited on a Sunday when adjacent Queen Street is closed down and converted into a sidewalk café area, where buskers entertain passers-by and children's rides are available. Officially opened in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market has been affectionately frequented by Melbournians for more than 125 years and still proves to be the best place for perusing a myriad of clothing, shoes, jewellery, bric-a-brac, antique and toy stalls.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Established in 1846 by the first Governor of Victoria, Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens are considered one of the worlds finest. They contain extensive landscaped gardens covering 35 hectares (86 acres) and are home to more than 51,000 individual plants, representing over 12,000 different species. The gardens have become a natural sanctuary for native wild life including black swans, bell birds, cockatoos and kookaburras, filling the air with their distinctive song. Free guided walks are available.

Yarra River

A visit to Melbourne would not be complete without a good look at its main river system, the Yarra River. Often the centre of many jokes due to its brownish colour, it is actually not dirty, just muddy. The Yarra has become the focus of much development in the central business district, with many new buildings, walks and parks having been created along its banks in recent years, including the relatively new Riverside Park. For the best view of the Yarra River walk to Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road, or take a cruise along the river from Princes Walk