Top 12 Places To Visit In Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is Australia's undisputed cultural capital. While the other large cities in the country may have their Melbourne-style cafes, laneways, bars and theaters, only Melbourne has the real deal and, what's more important, all these attractions are dotted all around the city.

Melbourne, Australiaflickr/Alan Lam

Located on shores of the natural bay of Port Phillip, near the estuary of the Yarra river, Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and extends over an area of more than 9,900 square kilometers (3,800 square miles), having a total population of 4.5 million. Founded in 1835 by English settlers, the city quickly grew, becoming one of the most important cities in Australia, rivaling Sydney. The city is a leading center for the performing arts, visual arts, cultural scene, research, technology, sports, education, entertainment and tourism. Melbourne is world renowned as a focal point for street art and it has been recently recognized as a UNESCO World City of Literature and is home to many cultural icons, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Royal Exhibition Building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Melbourne is a city jam-packed with attractions and events, it features a tremendous cultural variety and multiple landmarks, making it a major tourist attraction. Here is a list of the top 12 places to visit in Melbourne:

1. Melbourne City Circle Tram

Melbourne City Circle Tramflickr/Terrazzo

Aimed specifically at tourists, the Melbourne City Circle Tram is one of the main attractions in the city, mainly because it passes near many of the city's landmarks. Running a full circle around the central business district of Melbourne, the tram is zero-fare, providing free transport for tourists and also features a running commentary of the main attractions along its route. The tram stops at fixed intervals, so you can easily get off and visit any particular attraction. The route follows the outer edges of the Hoddle Grid, going on the Flinders Street, La Trobe Street, and follows the Bourke Street, before going along the Victoria Street, where many of the attractions are located. One of the most interesting locations is the junction of La Trobe Street and Harbour Esplanade, shortly before the terminus point at the Waterfront City.

2. Flinders Street Railway Station

Flinders Street Railway Stationflickr/Pascal

Located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets, the Flinders Railway Station is the main railway station in Melbourne, serving the entire area. The building and complex covers two city blocks and overlooks the Yarra river. Built in 1909, the railway station was the premier station in the country for decades and was the busiest railroad station in the world in the 1920s. A cultural icon and landmark for Melbourne, the building is noted for its spectacular dome, stunning tower, arched entrance and delicate architectural details. Some of the most recognizable features of the building are its clocks, from where the expression “I'll meet you under the clocks” comes from. The row of clocks located above the entrance informs travelers about the departure times of each train line. Another idiom originating from this railway station is “I'll meet you at the steps”, referring to the impressive staircase that is located just underneath this row of clocks.

3. 12 Apostles at Great Ocean Road

12 Apostles at Great Ocean Roadflickr/danwalker90

These giant rocks rising majestically from the Southern Ocean and known by their local, Twelve Apostles, are an important natural landmark of the Port Campbell National Park. The breathtaking rocks were created through constant erosion of the limestone cliffs, which were separated from the mainland some 20 million years ago. The constant powerful gusts of wind and high humidity eroded the rock and formed caves inside the cliffs. Some of the caves have collapsed because of erosion, creating the spectacular rocky stacks, some reaching a maximum height of 50 meters (150 feet). The location is a hotspot for photo enthusiasts which flock to the area from around the world to experience the wonderful landscape.

4. Puffing Billy

Puffing Billy Australiaflickr/Stephen Edmonds

Puffing Billy is a fabulous attraction for the railroad fans coming to Melbourne. The oldest surviving railroad in the country, Puffing Billy is still used mainly as a tourist attraction, welcoming thousands of guests each month. The journey takes visitors through lush forests and beautiful grasslands and extends over 25 kilometers. Located just a stone's throw away from Melbourne, the railroad passes the Emerald Lake Park, a natural reserve offering a quiet retreat from the hectic city. The train offers first class travel conditions, including a dining car where you can enjoy Australian cuisine, exquisite tea and wine.

5. Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuaryflickr/Robyn Cox

Getting close to the Australian bush has never been closer than at the Healesville Sanctuary, a natural park located at the foothill of the Yarra Ranges. It introduces visitors to the exotic sights and sounds of the Australian outback and gets them close to over 300 species of Australian wildlife, such as koalas, emus, platypus, wombats, eagles and the rare Tasmanian devils. Daily treks are done under the supervision of a guide and regular meetings are held by the keeper of the park, where visitors are encouraged to learn about the animals, understand their environment and even interact with them. The park is open every day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

6. Penguin Parade

D30_0829flickr/Yasser Alghofily

Australia's most famous and popular wildlife attraction, the Penguin Parade is home to the largest colony of Little Penguins in the world. The park, located on Phillip Island, just an hour away from Melbourne, covers more than 1,800 hectares of protected natural wildlife reserve, featuring many viewing spots. The Penguin Parade is the park's main attraction, where Little Penguins are emerging from the sea to march across the beach, to reach their burrows. This process happens every sunset and attracts hundreds of visitors coming from around the world for this impressive natural phenomenon. Other interesting sights in the park include the Nobbies Center, a place where tourists can view seals, sharks and dolphins in their natural habitat.

7. Yarra Valley Wineries

Yarra Valley Wineriesflickr/>littleyiye<

Let's face it, Australia is a haven for wine enthusiasts from around the world. Its sunny slopes, mild weather and vast agricultural land is ideal for wine making and the country consistently receives awards for its delightful wines. The most famous wine making region of Australia is located just nearby Melbourne, and it extends over the Yarra Valley, where there are hundreds of privately owned wineries. The region offers a huge selection of wines, carefully stored behind cellar doors. Also, the area is dotted with restaurants that serves Australian inspired meals which blend greatly with these prestigious wines. The choices are literally astonishing, there multiple wineries, tasting locations, gourmet outlets, roadside stalls and farm gates, guaranteeing that any wine enthusiast will be pleased.

8. Warrook Cattle Farm

Warrook Farmflickr/Justin Otto

Australia's history and heritage is deeply linked with its agricultural background and Warrook Cattle Farm provides tourists with an occasion to witness and take part in this wonderful lifestyle. The farm is conveniently located, just an hour's drive away, just near Phillip Island.Visitors can spend time and enjoy the company of animals such as wombats, kangaroos, sheep and can even feed them. Also, you can even touch or pat some animals, under the supervision of a trained specialist. The farm also features an Australian restaurant where visitors can taste their award winning apple pies and astonishing country cooking, complete with a dash of local wine.

9. Peninsula Hot Springs

Peninsula Hot Springsflickr/ThinkGeoEnergy

The first natural hot spring and spa center in Victoria, the Peninsula Hot Springs, is located just one hour away from the city center and offers a natural relaxation environment after a long day of traveling. Its natural mineral waters flow into multiple pools which have different temperatures, thus ensuring an incredible experience. Private baths, saunas, massage rooms and yoga sessions complete this heavenly establishment, making it a top choice for any tourist.

10. The Famous Melbourne Cafes

Melbourne Cafesflickr/Alpha

Coffee is a central element in the everyday life of Melbournians, and you can find a cafe at every street corner, especially in the city center. The cobblestoned alleys are dotted with enticing aromas coming from each coffee shop and you must try at least one cup, just to know what coffee tastes like in Melbourne. Simply put, visiting Melbourne without tasting its incredible coffee is a big loss. The coffee culture first arrived in Melbourne during the Victorian era, when coffee palaces where popular and Italian immigrants devised their own coffee making techniques, which proved immensely successful. An interesting fact is that Starbucks is literally absent from the cafe scene in the city, mainly because the local coffee shops are so well ingrained in local culture.

11. Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Marketflickr/Yun Huang Yong

A must visit tourist destination in Melbourne, the Queen Victoria Market is the central market in the city, offering a spectacular variety of vegetables, fruit, local delicacies, meat, seafood, poultry and a selection of gourmet foods. Located nearby is a non-food market which is dotted with shops selling jewelry, handmade arts and crafts, bookstores, clothes shops and multiple other attractions. The wonderful and enticing element in this market is the friendly relationship behind the stall owners and the buyers which oozes charm and draws millions of visitors every year. The market is open everyday of the week, except on Mondays and Wednesdays, so make sure to check your schedule beforehand.

12. Harbour Town

Harbour Townwikimedia/Lakeyboy

An exciting mix of specialty stores, entertainment venues, direct outlets and multiple attractions, the Harbour Town area is the central shopping area of Melbourne. It offers a huge variety of merchandise, from basic houseware, gifts, fashion items, sportswear, to high end technology products, jewelry and premium brand stores. The complex has more than 200 stores and venues, attracting tens of thousands of visitors daily.