Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you’ve gone all the way to Australia and you’re looking to spend 24 hours in Melbourne Victoria, getting to know the cool street art and whatnot? (I realize I am assuming that you ordinarily live far from Australia, which is quite an assumption. For all I know, you live in New Zealand. I don’t know your life, Internet Stranger!)
Anyway, Melbourne is a large city with many different and exciting neighborhoods, but let’s face it. If you’ve only got 24 hours in Melbourne, you should spend it in the City Centre. You should also get used to the fact that Australians spell Centre the backwards way.
24 Hours in Melbourne
Where to Stay?
I cannot recommend the exact hotel where I stayed in Melbourne. That’s because they accidentally charged my debit card for the full price of the hotel TWO times and the extra charge didn’t drop for a week. I almost had a nervous breakdown. But if you’re looking for a centrally located place, I suggest Federation Square. It’s near many of the major tourist attractions, like the National Gallery of Victoria. You can’t go wrong!
And if you want to find a great collection of over 3,000 places to stay in Melbourne, just click here!
24 Hours in Melbourne
What Should I Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Melbourne is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re not from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. Australian electrical outlets don’t work with American or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Melbourne
Morning: The National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria is a fantastic collection of Australian art smack in the centre of town. It is more commonly known as the NGV, although that word seems hard to pronounce to me because there are no vowels in it.
You could easily spend a whole day in the gallery, but we have other things to do, so allow me to recommend simply
Approximately top 5: the ngv
1) Have breakfast at degraves espresso bar
Melbourne is famous for its cafes and Degraves has excellent coffee. Clearly the thing to get here is the flat white, which is a short Australian version of a latte. I think it’s so sad that Starbucks has brought the flat white to the USA because it is no longer cool to know what a flat white is.
To eat, just get whatever pastry looks good to you. This itinerary has a big lunch and snacks included, so you don’t want to fill up too much.
2) View the contemporary indigenous art collection
Many of these works have the word “dreaming” in the title. In indigenous Australian art, a dreaming is a sacred story that belongs to one particular group. It is passed on from one member of that group to another, and it is forbidden to tell the story to someone outside of the group.
I found it very interesting that the work of so many indigenous Australian artists resembles abstract contemporary art, but it makes sense when you understand that many of these works are related to dreaming and a dreaming is not supposed to be told to outsiders. But when it comes down to it, can we really ever understand a work of art, abstract or not?
3) see the 19th-20th century Australian art
A lot of colonial Australian art is landscape paintings of the Australian wild, aka the bush. Many of the paintings were gorgeous, but I found myself eventually wishing that I could leave the museum and go look at the actual Australian bush, instead of spending all day staring at landscapes.
It was perhaps for that reason that my favorite painting was “Collins St., 5 PM” by John Brack. I was so excited to see a depiction of Australia that wasn’t bushy. Also I love how the people in the background look like faceless worker drones, but that those same people gain a distinct humanity when you see their widely varying faces up close.
Plus you get to see the architecture in Melbourne in the background, and even in earth tones, the buildings in Melbourne are quite lovely.
4) Have lunch at the Mitre Tavern
The Mitre Tavern is the oldest building in Melbourne, which means that it dates to 1975. Just kidding! It’s really from the mid 19th century. I have to say, that is not especially old for the oldest building in the city. I mean, I don’t judge you, Melbourne, but I hope you don’t expect Cairo or Rome to be impressed with that.
The Mitre Tavern is, I assumed, named after the Mitre in London, and it is completely adorable. You order at the counter and take a number, and then you will have your lunch delivered to you. That way there’s no chuffa with the check at the end of the meal. I was feeling Very British, so I ordered the ploughman’s lunch.
The ploughman’s lunch is one of my top five favorite kinds of lunches of all time. It is just a glorious collection of bread, meat, cheese, and pickles. This particular ploughman’s lunch also came with grapes, which I assume magically makes it healthy. Chowing down on this spread made me feel like I had just taken a break from gold mining for some hearty grub. Although the ploughman’s lunch at the Mitre costs 22 dollars, so I would have to be a really successful gold miner.
24 Hours in Melbourne
Afternoon: Street Art Tour
In any good travel itinerary, I like to spend the time after lunch walking around and seeing smaller sights. One great way to do this is to take a walking tour led by a local (or knowledgeable transplant). One amazing such tour is the Melbourne Street Art Tour. This tour leaves every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 1:30 PM from Federation Square. You can book it here.
What is special about these Street Art Tours is that they are led by practicing street artists themselves. Our guide was named Daniel and he creates works out of “junk” as a commentary on consumer waste.
24 HOUR TIP
Be mindful that the word street is in street art for a reason. You might encounter some denizens of the street on this tour. Nothing unsafe will happen, but one inebriated gent did berate poor Daniel with many creative curses for some time. I am from NYC, so this only happens to me about five times per day at home.
Anyway, enough with the drunkards, on to the fun stuff: knowledge!
APPROXIMATELY TOP 5: STREET ART IN MELBOURNE
1) THE ARTISTS AT WORK ON HOSIER LANE
So much painting happens here that no work stays up for very long. Every blank space on this street is covered with paint. We even watched one group of artists put up this portrait.
I have proof that we saw them do it! You can even see the paint cans right there in the photo.
2) SPOT THE PASTE UPS
Daniel’s not the only street artist who uses materials other than paint. A wide variety of stuffs are used. Some artists paste on designs made out of paper because they are so easy to slap on the wall quickly without getting caught.
It looks like some people have stenciled over Ned Kelly. :(>
Some artists even use fabric, like whatever the hell this is. I think it’s what you would get if Magic Mike became a werewolf.
3) SEE THE POLITICALLY THEMED STREET ART
We saw quite a few works criticizing Tony Abbott, the former, and some would say notoriously stupid Prime Minister of Australia. Lest you think I am being culturally insensitive, I would like for you to know that even Australians nicknamed him Tony Dum-Dum. I urge you to watch this John Oliver clip to learn more about this ridiculous man. I’ll wait.
4) ENTER THE DRAGON
My favorite work was this dragon because he looks like Falkor the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story, and that is one of my favorite books.
5) WAIT, WHERE’S THE BANKSY?
But you don’t care about any of this, do you Internet Stranger? You just want to see a Banksy, right? Fine, here it is:
There. I hope you’re happy now.
6) TOUR A STREET ART STUDIO
At the end of the tour, we got to tour the studio belonging to the street artists. It is decorated just as you might expect.
We finished up with wine, finger food, and cupcakes in the studio. It was all very convivial until one English lady got snippy with me for talking too long to her husband. FYI: your husband was not cute, English Lady! I was just being polite.
24 Hours in Melbourne
Late Afternoon: Lanes and Arcades
Melbourne is famous for its lanes and arcades. I became confused the first time I heard that because lots of cities have lanes, and I didn’t think that arcades had really been popular since the heyday of Pacman.
Anyway, it turns out that the lanes and arcades are really the amusing little side streets and shopping arcades that thread through the Melbourne City Centre. These exist because Melbourne was designed by English people during the Victorian era, so they planned the city to be as roundabout and counter-intuitive in design as London. (Supposedly the lanes were to make it easier for service horses to pass, but I don’t believe the reason is anything so sensible.)
Anyway, whatever the motivation for the creation of the lanes, they make an excellent area for exploring. I refuse to give more specific instructions than that. This is the free exploration portion of the itinerary, so you will do whatever you please, just as I am telling you to do. If your feet hurt, you can go back to Federation Square and people watch until it is time for dinner.
24 Hours in Melbourne
Now that we’ve had a trendy day full of street art and coffee, it’s time to have an even trendier dinner with tapas at MoVida. I am not a fussy eater, so I just let the waitress pick for me, and I approved of all her choices. Five plates was enough for me, but keep in mind that I am a five foot five woman who can eat her weight in food. You might not want so many.
I was a silly creature and didn’t photograph my dinner, so instead I will have to hope that my restaurant review that looks like a menu will suffice.
After dinner I went home (to my hotel) and went to sleep. Some of you might prefer to go out clubhopping after dinner or whatever the cool kids are doing these days, but I always think I’m going to get my purse stolen in one of those places.
Further Reading: 24 Hours in Melbourne
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Melbourne right now? Then let me help you get started with some more reading suggestions. I like the Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne for more ideas for attractions. They divide the book into chapters based on neighborhoods, which is very helpful.
And if you want to understand all those Ned Kelly references better, I’ve got both a fiction and a nonfiction option. If you get the fiction book, True History of the Kelly Gang, you can read Peter Carew’s imagining of Ned Kelly’s thrilling life from the man’s own point of view.
And if you’d rather nonfiction, get Peter FitzSimons’ Ned Kelly, a fascinating telling of Ned Kelly’s life from a more historical perspective.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Melbourne. If you have an extra 24 hours in Melbourne, try the Royal Botanic Gardens and this itinerary. And if you’d rather visit Sydney, I’ve got you covered here.