Things To Do in Melbourne and Sydney

In Melbourne:
When you're not watching the best tennis in the world at Melbourne Park here are some of our favorite things to do.

Melbourne is often described as the most ‘European’ of all the cities in Australia, and it’s not difficult to see why. Melbourne is an edgy multicultural city, known for producing talented artists, musicians and fashion designers. It may not be the capital of Australia, but it’s certainly the capital of culture, known for its shopping, fine food, festivals, museums and lively bar scene. Trams run through streets lined with Victorian buildings and the outdoor café culture adds to the ‘European’ vibe. The city lies on the estuary of the Yarra river, and bridges connect the main city centre with the Southbank and St.Kilda. Melbourne is also the ideal base from which to explore the rest of Victoria, including The Yarra Wine Valley, Phillip Island, and the Great Ocean Road. With many airlines offering cheap flights to Melbourne, it is a great place to begin your trip in Australia.

1. Federation Square- If you arrive into Melbourne by train at Flinders St. Station, you’ll see a large public square opposite. The concrete square lies in the middle of the city between the business district and the Yarra river and can hold thousands of people. It is the ideal meeting place for city workers, Melburnians and tourists to sit outside with a drink and watch live sports on the big screen. Fed Square also hosts many events including festivals, exhibitions and event launches.

2. Ride on the City Circle Tram- This is a free tram service that takes you round the central business district in the city and you can hop on/hop off at places of interest. It’s the best way to see the main attractions and familiarise yourself with the city without spending any money. The historic tram takes you to sights such as the Immigration Museum, Federation Square and the Docklands area and is a novel way to travel around.  The vintage trams also have audio commentary so you can learn all about the city as you ride around. It can get a little crowded sometimes, but did I mention it’s free? The tram runs from 10 am till 6pm, or 9pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

3. Botanical Gardens- These landscaped gardens provide an oasis of greenery in the middle of the urban landscape. You can stroll through the gardens, take a picnic and make a day of it, and best of all, entry is completely free of charge. The Botanical Gardens cover over 35 hectares of land and contain over 50,000 plants. The gardens are open 7:30am till sunset every day of the year, whilst the Visitor Centre is open from 9am until 5pm on weekdays, and 9.30am till 5pm on weekends and public holidays.

4. Queen Victoria Markets- Queen Victoria Market is a large open-air market that has been around for over 130 years. Here you can buy fresh produce such as fruit, veg, meet, chicken, fish and delicatessen products as well as speciality items such as clothing and DVDs. The busy market attracts millions of visitors per year.

5. Melbourne Cricket Ground- The Melbourne Cricket ground was founded in 1838 and is one of the best cricket venues in the world. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about the history of the cricket ground and stand on the hallowed turf. It is not only used for cricket, but also for the AFL (Aussie Rules Football)- a sport which Melburnians are particularly passionate about.

6. National Gallery of Victoria- The National Gallery is Australia’s oldest public art gallery and celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2011. It is free to enter the gallery but you must buy tickets for the special exhibitions. Items of note in the art gallery collections include works by Constable, Auguste Rodin, George Stubbs, J.M.W Turner and Camille Pissaro. The gallery has two locations; one in Federation Square and one on St.Kilda Road. ‘The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia’ is in Federation Square and is the home of Australian art, including indigenous and non-indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day. The ‘NGV International Gallery’ on St.Kilda Road houses works from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania.

7. Southbank- If you cross the river via the bridge to the Southbank you’ll find the Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct, which is Melbourne’s main entertainment precinct. It offers waterfront shopping, dining and an entertainment complex complete with Crown casino. Spend an afternoon strolling alongside the river and stop for something to eat or drink in one of the bars and restaurants. It’s a perfect spot for enjoying the sunshine and taking photos of the Yarra River and the Melbourne skyline.

8. Flinders St. Station- Flinders St. Station is probably the most well-known landmark in Melbourne because of its central location. It is Melbourne’s central railway station and you’ll probably use it if you catch a train to the suburbs in Victoria. This iconic building has a row of clocks above the main entrance showing the departure time of the next train on each line. The flight of steps outside the main entrance is a popular meeting place and a perfect spot to watch the trams trundling by.

9. The Melbourne Grand Prix- If the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix happens to be taking place when you’re visiting Melbourne, this is a great day out, even if you’re not into cars. It is usually held every year in March at Albert Park, and runs over four days. Enjoy live music in the opening and closing concerts, try to grab an autograph from one of the drivers on the autograph stage and enjoy the buzz from the crowd as the cars whizz around the track. As well as the main Formula 1 race, there are other car races including Formula 5000, the Lexus celebrity challenge, the Porsche Carrera cup, the V8 supercars and the Ultimate Speed Comparison. You can also take a look at the vintage cars and race cars on display, or simply relax in the sun with a pint of beer and a burger.

10. Relax on the beach in St.Kilda- St.Kilda is Melbourne’s closest beach town so if you’re in need of your Vitamin D fix and you want to top up your tan, St. Kilda is just a tram ride away from the city centre. Take a walk along the pier, sunbathe on the beach, or take your pick of the lively bars and restaurants on Fitzroy street. This lively suburb also has a number of backpacker hostels and in the summer months attracts thousands of city dwellers and tourists looking to escape the city heat. An attraction worth visiting is Luna Park, and old amusement park featuring a retro wooden roller coaster.


In Sydney:
We've designed our tours to give you plenty of time to explore this amazing city. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Art Gallery of New South Wales
“Australia’s most comprehensive collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.”—Anne Matthews, author, Fodor’s Sydney’s 25 Best. Fine art museum on the grassy Domain, east of downtown. Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney; tel. 61 2 9225 1744. www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au

2. Bondi Beach
Sun, sand, and surf at Sydney’s world-famous beach (always swim between the flags). The bars, restaurants, and surf shops along Campbell Parade are also worth exploring. Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach; tel. 61 2 8362 3406.www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/things_to_do/beaches_and_the_coast/bondi_beach

3. Darling Harbour
Eternally popular tourist hub adjacent to the city center: maritime museum, aquarium, wildlife park, bars, restaurants, shops, harbor tour operators, street performers, and an IMAX cinema. Darling Harbour; tel. 61 2 9240 8788.www.darlingharbour.com

4. The Rocks
Site of Sydney’s first European settlement, between Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Heavily touristed but historically engaging, with great pubs, galleries, and weekend street market. The Rocks; tel. 61 2 9240 8788.www.therocks.com

5. Royal Botanic Gardens
“Find a shady spot and enjoy postcard-perfect views.”—Peter Dragicevich, author, Lonely Planet’s Sydney City Guide. An antidote to Sydney’s downtown hustle: trees, ponds, lawns, and flowers. Joggers pound the harborside pathways. Mrs. Macquaries Road; tel. 61 2 9231 8111. www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

6. Sydney Aquarium
“As close to a grey nurse shark as you’d want to get!”—Meg Worby editor, Lonely Planet’s Sydney Encounter and Sydney & New South Wales guidebooks. Sharks swim above underwater acrylic glass visitor viewing tunnels stretching 525 feet (160 meters); more than 12,000 Australian sea creatures. Long lines, so visit early. Aquarium Pier, Darling Harbour; tel. 61 2 8251 7800; fee.www.sydneyaquarium.com.au

7. BridgeClimb, Sydney Harbour Bridge
The BridgeClimb over the beloved “coat hanger” is unforgettable. Tip: “If you can’t afford the climb, walk or cycle across instead—views from a car are limited.”—Meg Worby. 5 Cumberland Street, The Rocks; tel. 61 2 8274 7777; fee.www.bridgeclimb.com

8. Sydney Opera House
“Epitomizes the free-spirited nature of this young and vibrant harbor city.”—Anne Matthews. The Opera House is Sydney’s essential highlight, and Australia’s most recognizable icon. Guided tours daily. Bennelong Point, Circular Quay East; tel. 61 2 9250 7111; fee. www.sydneyoperahouse.com

9. Sydney Tower & Skywalk
“The 360-degree views are incredible.”—Anne Matthews. Unravel Sydney’s complex geography from atop this 820-foot-high (250-meter-high) observation deck. “Skywalk” takes you onto glass-floored outdoor viewing platforms. 100 Market Street; tel. 61 2 9333 9222; fee. www.sydneytower.com.au

10. Sydney WildlifeWorld
The newest of Darling Harbour’s big-ticket attractions. Wallabies, birds, koalas, and reptiles live in meticulously constructed natural environments; guided tours and feedings throughout the day. Aquarium Pier, Darling Harbour; tel. 61 2 9333 9288; fee. www.sydneywildlifeworld.com.au