Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you’re looking for a perfect 24 hours in Melbourne itinerary? Sydney may be the biggest city in Australia, but when people give their favorite Australian cities, it is Melbourne that tops the list. Do you like beautiful Victorian architecture? Melbourne has that. Do you like cutting-edge street art? Melbourne’s got you. Do you like ethnic foods ranging from Spanish to Turkish to British? Good on ya, mate! (I’m not really sure what that means, I’ve just always wanted to say it.)
Fun fact! I actually completed this itinerary on Christmas Day, so if you ever happen to be touristing in Melbourne on Christmas, just know that all these places will be open, especially the Royal Botanic Gardens. But the itinerary works any day.
A Perfect 24 Hours: Melbourne Itinerary
Where to Stay?
I wish I could recommend the hotel where I stayed when I was researching my Melbourne itinerary. But I make it my policy to never post a negative review on this blog, so the hotel in question will have to remain nameless. The next time I visit Melbourne, I plan on booking a hotel near Federation Square. When I travel solo, I always try to stay in a centrally-located hotel. That way the hotel can help me in an emergency, and it’s usually safe to walk by myself at night.
If you’re looking for a collection of over 3000 places to stay during your Melbourne itinerary with some pretty amazing deals, just click here!
24 Hours: Melbourne Itinerary
What to 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: Melbourne Itinerary
Morning: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
I’m a little confused with all this royal business in Melbourne. Is Australia still an English colony? Does Queen Elizabeth II rule the Royal Botanic Gardens with a fist of iron? I sure hope so!
I was lucky enough to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens on Christmas Day, as it was one of the few attractions in Melbourne that was actually open. The Royal Botanic Gardens gift shop and cafe were be closed, and no tours were given, but I could still roam the lovely grounds to my heart’s content.
Of course I prefer taking a tour of a botanic garden so that I can give you three fun facts, or at least watch an old lady almost poison herself to death, which happened to me once in Vancouver. However, if none of those things are available, I like to practice my photography.
When it comes to photography, I definitely put the “eu” back in amateur. About 80% of my shots come out weird and blurry or oddly framed, but the Royal Botanic Gardens are so pretty that it’s hard for even a photographer like myself to ruin them. In any case, I took enough pictures to give you…
Approximately top 5: Royal Botanic Gardens melbourne
1) many beautiful flowers
I’m not a flower expert, but the Royal Botanic Gardens collection includes roses, camellias, orchids, and many flowers native only to Australia and/or New Zealand. That’s impressive enough for this simple American girl!
2) an arid garden
This section is full of desert plants. If you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, like me, and come to Australia in our winter, this section will remind you of your loved ones back home freezing their tushies off and you will laugh at them as you celebrate Christmas alone in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
3) A not arid garden
Remember, Melbourne is famously on the Yarra River and there is a whole section of plants from the Lower Yarra River in the Botanical Gardens. It’s amazing how much more interesting everything is when you travel. I was so excited to see the exotic plants in the gardens here, but I almost never notice the plants back home. In fairness, I am from New York City and the only plants we have back home are the plastic bags that flutter in the branches of trees sometimes.
4) this symbol of love
My favorite thing in the whole RBGM, Anglophile that I am, was this plaque demonstrating that this amusingly named “Kanooka” tree was planted by the Duke of York for his Duchess. As everyone knows, this young stammering Duke would go on to conquer his stammer, become King George VI of England, help save the world from Hitler, father Queen Elizabeth II, and win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Fun Fact! This tree is only about sixty years younger than the oldest building in Melbourne.
5) get lunch at Mama’s Gozleme in Federation Square
It is even harder to find a place to eat when you’re trying to enjoy your Melbourne itinerary on Christmas than it is to find an open tourist attraction. I figured my best bet would be to walk down to Federation Square and see if any food trucks were open.
Sure enough, I found a young woman selling gozleme for less than ten dollars in a food truck called Mama’s Gozleme on the river side of Federation Square. Gozleme is a kind of Turkish stuffed flatbread. I got mine filled with spinach and cheese, which is also known as the original. The gozleme was fresh off the grill, and the filling was pungent and satisfying, but mostly I was just really grateful that I wasn’t going to starve to death on Christmas. The good news for you is that you can have this yummy treat any day of the year!
After lunch, if it’s Christmas, you can sit and watch It’s a Wonderful Life being projected in Federation Square. For me there is never a bad time to watch this movie, but I was distressed to see that Australians were getting the colorized version.
Every time someone shows this movie in color, an angel loses his wings.
24 Hours: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Afternoon: Melbourne Aquarium
The Melbourne Aquarium is quite an expensive investment, but it is worth it to have something to do on Christmas. I suggest booking online because you will save 8 dollars that way. As you would expect, the Aquarium has an amazing collection of marine life native to Oceania. No humble tuna or salmon for these Aussies!
You can spend all day here if you wish, but why not start with…
Approximately top 5: the melbourne aquarium
The best thing at this aquarium, or indeed any aquarium that doesn’t have sea otters, was the penguins. I guess the penguin feeders don’t get off for Christmas because we got to watch the trainers give their nattily-tuxedoed charges their fishy snacks.
Those red-beaked little fellows are Gentoo penguins, and they are apparently really fast swimmers. It is fun to watch them in action! Just be careful as a single adult watching the penguins because there’s going to be a whole bunch of kids around and they will push you to try to get a better look at the penguins, which is not fair because you can’t push them back because everyone will think you are mean.
2) find the world’s ugliest sea creature
I don’t know what that is, but it sure is ugly.
3) feast your eyes on the plants of the sea
Which is more interesting: sea plants of Australia or the Duke of York’s TREE OF LOVE?
4) get attacked by a crocodile
I mean, that’s what the sign says and I always believe Australian signs.
24 Hours: Melbourne Itinerary
Evening: Dinner During a Movie at Crown Melbourne
Crown Melbourne is a violently tacky entertainment complex/casino (ugh) on the South Bank of the Yarra River, just a short walk from the aquarium. Everyone knows that the only thing worse than a casino is the Greyhound Bus Station in Richmond, Virginia. The only reason I went there is because I was ready to settle down with a nice movie at this point in my Melbourne itinerary, and there is a movie theater inside the complex.
There was only one movie playing that I wanted to see, but I was shocked to find that the ticket cost thirty dollars. I looked more closely and saw that it was something called a Gold Class ticket. I didn’t understand what that could possibly mean. Was it like First Class on an airplane? Would they give you champagne and moist hand towels? The possibilities were endless.
Anyway, I bought my customary movie companions, Diet Coke and chocolate candy, and went to wait to be seated. A ludicrously tall, dark, and handsome young man with teeth as white as a marshmallow doing cocaine in a blizzard approached me and asked if I wanted to take a look at a cocktail menu. Huh?
It turns out that Gold Class is like a cross between a movie theater and a restaurant. You get a menu while you are waiting in the lounge, and you can order your dinner. Mr. Universe took one look at my soda and chocolate and told me that I could order more sweets if I wanted, and then he chuckled in lilting Australian tones. I wanted to sink into the floor and die. Did I look like someone who wanted to eat TWO boxes of candy in one sitting? Then I got over my shame and ordered a fully loaded burger.
24 hour treat: gold class dining
Inside the theater, you get a reserved seat at a plush reclining chair and a table of your very own to upon which to dine. About half an hour into the movie, the waiter brings you your food. I was loving this whole fancy dinner + movie experience, up until the point when the movie took a turn for the sad, and I started to cry into my fancy hamburger. Even though no one could see me, I felt as self-conscious as if I were crying at a restaurant. Well, after public weeping, I always say it’s time to call it a night!
Further Reading: Melbourne Itinerary
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Melbourne right now? Then let me help you enjoy your Melbourne itinerary with some further 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.
If you want to know more about Melbourne’s history and the founding of Melbourne, check out 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia. If you’re an American, like I am, there’s a very good chance that this will be your first exposure to Aussie history, since we don’t get any in school.
And if you want to be introduced to an AMAZING mystery series set in 1920s Melbourne, check out the Phryne Fisher series starting with Cocaine Blues. Yes there’s a TV series available on Netflix, which is also amazing, but you’re going to want to begin with the books.
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 that place. If you’re lucky enough to have two days in Melbourne, try this itinerary as well. And if you can add 24 hours in Sydney, click on this itinerary. If you’d rather try another place famous for natural beauty, check out my itinerary for Cape Town, South Africa here!