I have been living for over 10 years in this city and, although I am travelling a fair bit, whenever back at home I am always around looking for the best Melbourne hidden gems.
Admittedly, there are many places to explore in the city. The most popular attractions, favoured by kids and family, are the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, the Melbourne Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Check the latest info on their website, they have so many things going on that only checking the published calendar will give you an idea of the extent of activities.
But, beside the common places, suggested by many guides and websites, what could be the other attractions that stand out and make a difference to your trip? What are the hidden gems in Melbourne that will make your travel to the most liveable city in the world a fully unique experience.
I have spent my last week exploring once again the city, looking for new places, hidden corners, unusual sites, quirky experiences.
For this post I have used 2 super valuable apps (by the way, you may check the full list of my suggest travel apps here)
The first one is Suncalc.org. It’s my reference app when I go for some photography in new places. It tells me all about sunset, sunrise, moon and when is the best light for my photography.
The second app is the newly rebranded Trip.com. It suggests new places to explore, new food to experience, new hidden corners to discover, all based on my personal preferences with the help of a predictive technology. (Check out the web version here)
So, when I am around the city at 10pm it doesn’t suggest me the top 10 places to have a coffee but instead unkown cocktails bars to explore, as the Bar Americano you will find later in the post. It’s basically like a local friend that helps me finding new hidden places to visit in Melbourne
I like to start this list with one of the most unusual bar I have seen and experienced in my life.
What can man do with few unused railway carriages?
Why not refurbish them as a bar/restaurant?
Ok, that’s easy and maybe not that unique. But what if these railway carriages are parked on top of a building with a spectacular view to Collingwood, Fitzroy and the city CBD.
This is the Easey’s bar/cafe/restaurant.
Sometime it pays off to look up in the sky.
This is for sure an unusual architectural decision and the impact is really amazing.
Surely is one of the best hidden restaurants in Melbourne, mostly american burgers. Beside the food, you walk up there for the trains and the amazing view.
It can be quite busy in the weekend
I was in this bar once, around 5 years ago.
I loved it. It was like stepping back in time, in the 30s.
Lately I thought about re-visiting the place, but no way. I could not remember where it was.
No wonder, it’s probably one of the most hidden bars in Melbourne. Around the corner of a small dark alley that cross a tiny lane.
This is where the Trip.com app helped me. I was walking in the area and here it is, suggested based on my likes (cocktails and bars 🙂 ), not just a top 10 bla bla.
It is super tiny, in fact only around 10 people at time can go in. It has been furbished with wood pannels and furniture from a antique trendy bar in Italy, all imported to Melbourne. Really spectacular.
There is a small selection of cocktails, made as it used to be. For example the ice is not provided in small cubes. It is instead presented as a single ball in the glass to preserve the cocktail flavor as long as possible.
Beside the cocktails, you will find another interesting thing of Bar Americano. The amazing art pieces glued on the wall of the dark alley, called Presgrave Place. Definitely a great subject for some photography.
I can without any doubt define Rutledge Lane as THE open air gallery for street art.
This is most definitely one of the hidden gems to visit in Melbourne in 2017 especially if you love graffiti….who doesn’t 🙂
Rutledge Lane gives its best at night.
Yes, it may seem a bit intimidating. It does not smell great and there are lots of bins around, all with graffiti as well 😮 but the experience itself is unique and it’s safe too. I visited this place multiple time in my photography workshops and I never had a single issue.
Rutledge Lane is nested behind Hosier Lane, probably the most popular graffiti lane in Melbourne. It’s actually quite amazing how many people people visit Hosier and miss Rutledge Lane.
Another tip I can give is to visit the nearby multilevel garage and have a view from the top
Go back to Flinders street, turn right and enter the Flinders Gate Carpark. Take an elevator to the second last floor and walk to the edge in front of you for the unique view (there is a net, it’s rather safe, no worries).
Visit the area in the night for your best photos.
Many reasons, the colours will pop up, less people around, almost the area for yourself, graffiti photos have a great contrast with low light.
Try also few photos looking up to the sky (see photo below).
Why visiting the State Library of Victoria?
Because the old dome view from the 6th floor is really unique
You can wander around this beautiful building, read the newest magazines , access free internet (even the computer is provided), visit the Library cafe, one of the best in Melbourne. Do you want more excuses? Check these photos.
There are few free art exhibitions as well. Check the program on the State Library of Victoria website.
The place to be is the Dome. Once you enter through the main door, pass the security check and take the elevator on your right side to the top level. The view of the Dome is magnificent. You can walk down through the levels to enjoy other points of view
It has been a long day, it’s almost sunset and I am close to Federation Square.
Well….it’s the right time to have a short walk to the Birrarung Marr Park where you can experience the best colours and view of the city on sunset time.
The Yarra will be on your left side and the city on your right side.
Wait to take the photos of the Birrarung Bridge till the blue hour, just after sunset. The city lights will be all on and the view will become really magnificent.
Use the bridge as lead-in lines for more impact (see the free tutorial How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography for more info)
Obviously the NGV is a well known gallery, I can surely say that it is the most famous gallery in Melbourne. What probably many people do not realise is that a substantial part of the National Gallery of Victoria is actually free to enter. There are as well areas dedicated to the kids, making a great introduction to the art world
The National Gallery of Victoria is located in St.Kilda Road. Beside the main exhibition, which has usually an entrance fee, everything else is free. The website gives enough info and floor plans to organise your tour.
Moreover, if you are visiting Melbourne on a weekend trip in summer, you should not miss the concerts in the backyard, a great place to relax and have a coffee.
The Ian Potter Center has a similar concept of free and pay-for exhibitions. This is the gallery where I had my best art experience in Melbourne. I saw some great exhibitions of new artists. I had also the possibility to interview Ian Strange (Kid-Zoom) a new raising Aussie artist now living in USA.
There are some great corners to take photos in the NGV. The Great Hall with glass ceiling by Leonard French (see photo above) is the place to be.
Use your wide angle lens or your mobile with the stitching feature to have a great panoramic photo including part of the ceiling.
Move to the external backyard for more shots, you will find some interesting and different corners there. Have some abstract shots around the NGV (see photos below)
Finished to built in 1880, the Royal Exhibition Building is today World Heritage Site-listed.
It is often used for small exhibitions in the weekend,
To enjoy the grandeur of this building however I suggest you to visit it when empty. Check the website for more information and guided tours as well.
This is obviously a well known place however almost nobody knows that you can book your own private exploration, and you will not be disappointed with your photos either 🙂
Yes, I live in Melbourne, and more specifically in St Kilda. Because of my work, photography, and the fact I have travelled a fair bit, I have quite often friends coming to visit me.
Whenever possible I apply the “My home is your home” motto, however sometime this is not possible. Here below the hotels/boutique accommodation I usually suggest, based on past experience, feedback, from friends staying there, and uniqueness of the hotel.
If the budget is not your first priority, then I suggest the Adelphi Hotel. It’s like spending time, and sleeping, in a modern art museum where every single detail is well looked after.
The Adelphi Hotel is right in the CBD, perfect location for a weekend in the city.
Another hotel I also suggest is Punthill Northbank . Great location next to the Yarra River and the price is so economical for Melbourne.
Why visiting this place?
Because this is definitely an iconic Melbourne place. Anybody that has visited the city but has not come to Federation Square and Flinders Station has missed something.
The building has been completed in 1909 and it is one of the city’s most recognisable landmark.
Walk around the station through the tunnel between Elizabeth Street and Southgate and experience some of the most beautiful tiles graffiti. Really a remarkable area to visit
Based on my experience there are two ways to have a better photo at Flinders Street Station.
First, check around for a high point of view, this could be a building closeby (see photo below) or even better a multi-storey car park.
Second, if you are in a city, check for the light reflected by any skyscraper around.
In the case above I waited for the light coming from a closeby glass building which worked as a gigantic light reflector, around 2 hours before sunset.
Flinders Street Station is also a great place to capture some Street Photography shots. For this reason I like to go there around 8am and 5pm when the commuters come and go. That gives any photographer many opportunities (see photo below)
From Federation Square grab any tram (except #1) direction St.Kilda and stop at Kings Domain for the next Melbourne attraction
There are two good reasons to visit the Shrine of Remembrance.
The first is to have a moment of reflection and read about how cruel can be the war. This is a memorial built for the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, now dedicated to all Australians who have served in war.
The second one is about the best view of the city that you can have from the first level, outstanding.
You cannot miss the Melbourne Cricket Ground during your stay. This is the biggest stadium in the southern hemisphere, with over 100 thousand seats. It’s a majestic building that will definitely stand out as one of the top places to visit in Melbourne.
It’s also possible take a guided visit through the stadium and you can also enjoy the National Sports Museum.
This place will be surely liked by adults and children as there are dedicated sections to everybody. It’s for every sport with relations to Australian events.
You will find the motorbike of Stoner that won the MotoGP, the bicycle of Cadel Evans used at the Tour De France, there is a full section about the Olympic games with memorabilia of the Australian Olympians and so much more.
How much freedom do you have moving around the MCG? Probably not as much as you would like but you have few opportunities. The place is enough interesting to forget about photography anyway 😀
And remember this place has always a big crowd when AFL is on, most of the Saturdays and Sundays. The Australian Football League is a real event, especially in Victoria, not to be missed.
One of the most underrated walk in Melbourne is definitely on the right side (downstream) of the Yarra River. You can start your walk from the Birrarung Bridge and finish in Docklands. Best time is night time with the city and Southgate lights turned on.
Except for the Jim Stynes bridge, where the sunset is definitely the best time to be there, all of the other sites come out great in night time. In summer this is the perfect spot to be, fresh and cool.
The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel is the biggest one in the southern emisphere.
It is probably one of the best viewpoint of the city, really awesome.
In the area you have places where you can eat. Nearby there is also an indoor playground, a wide shopping area and, if you are keen, have a try with some ice skating.
This is really a unique experience in the city, if you can find this place. And surely it is one of the most hidden places in Melbourne
What is the name?
The Graffiti Chamber located….well….under South Yarra.
Hard, if not impossible, to find it on any other guides. It is basically a subterranean chamber in a huge storm drain network which you can access from the Yarra river.
DO NOT go there after a storm obviously or few rainy days, it’s just a dangerous place to be in that days.
Should you add it in your bucket list?
It’s really your call. It’s underground and definitely you should not visit it alone. Some of the photos below will give you an idea.
Melbourne is a popular tourist destination, no question about.
Is it possible to still find some hidden gems in Melbourne?
I think so and in this post I hope I gave you some good ideas
Enjoy the city and let me know your comments, your plan, your photos.
It will help me to improve and write a newer and better list of places to visit in Melbourne