Some of the best things to do in life come free. It doesn’t take a lot for a place to please me. Just as long as I can capture moments and certain feelings, I’m good to go. And most times they don’t cost much and who knows maybe that’s how you roll too. So if you want to explore Melbourne without breaking your bank, and dreaming of catching that “certain feeling” you get from a place— for free, here’s a self-guided walking tour that could be of good use to you.
Granted, Australia this year is ranked 10th happiest country in the world. On top of that guess which city is ranked the happiest in the world? Melbourne! At least according to Time Out City Life Index 2018. (If you were wondering where Malaysia stand, it’s #35 behind Singapore. See report here).
Melbourne is a global pot of multicultured urbanites, who loves to eat, chill out with friends, have drinks and live life to the fullest. For those that are just visiting, apparently, find Melbourne a place that’s easy to make friends. I mean, why not right? You can find the world’s tastiest cuisines, all conveniently within a stumbling distance of each other!
If you want to find Malaysian friends, walk into Laksa House, or want to make Koreans your pal, walk into a Korean restaurant, and if you feel like making Lebanese friends, there’s a high chance you’ll find someone in places like Zaatar Bakery. It’s a city you can discover on foot or a bike. And when you get on its tram and trains, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and yet, you will still have the whole world to say hi to in one seating.
In fact, after a few days of exploring its streets, I’ll be telling all that crosses my path, that Melbourne, is a city full of life, culture, offering an awesome week-long break.
Here’s how you should spend your time in Melbourne.
Go Cafe Hunting
The specialty coffee culture here is really about the love of producing (and the techniques used to brew) the coffee. It seems that everything from sourcing coffee beans, to roasting and perfecting the water-to-grind ration is taken into lots of care, consideration, and precision.
What my friend an I discovered here is that every cup of coffee sold in every cafe you walk into is usually a lot cheaper than hot chocolate or tea. You will realize that an average small sized coffee in Melbourne cost $AUD 3.72. If you’re lucky you’ll find some at $AUD 2.00 during happy hour. Depending on which cafes you end up in. So watch out for happy hour.
Hot chocolate or tea can sometimes cost $AUD 5.00.
Here’s a list of some cafes we found. They’re not overly promoted on various other blogs, but most of them we found by chance while walking (and while in a train).
Explore Melbourne’s Farmer’s Market
Hands up if you’re into shopping at markets like me! I manage to only visit two markets while in Melbourne. But I’m going to throw in the third so you can have more markets to wander in.
| Prahran market is a foodie’s market. It’s located just around the corner of the bustling Chapel Street. It’s easy to find if you ride the train. All you need to do is get on the Sandringham line and stop at Prahan station. After that, have a breezy 700-meter walk to reach.
The market offers various hard to find organic specialties with a great selection of heirloom produce such as cheese, small goods, artisan products, certified organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood. You’ll find fresh plants and flowers sold in this market too. If I could bring the flowers back home I would. They’re so fresh and colourful.
The traders here are amazing at providing expert advice on your purchases; what is best for what season, where they are from, how much to buy, how much to prepare and ways to use the produce for your cooking. They’re really big on making sure you can find all your cooking and baking essentials here. If you explore further, Prahran market is sectioned by fresh seafood, essentials, fresh vegetables, and fruits. The market is also not short of tasty delights for you to grab a bite and take a break.
| The Creator’s Market showcases some of the best Australian handmade and homemade creators as well as designers offering food, lifestyle, fashion, and homeware brands.
Their events have been running since 2015 and are usually held in places such as Ballarat, Melbourne, Bendigo, The Mornington Peninsula, and the Bellarine Peninsula. It’s an avid supporter of local Australian brands and budding entrepreneurs who are just starting out their product’s journey.
| Queen Victoria Market. Word has it that it is Melbourne’s most iconic market because you can wander through their heritage laneways and discover sheds where clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, and seafood are too good to pass.
My market escapade was rather short-lived. Completely lost track of time with QVM. When we arrived all the traders had already started packing. So don’t miss this market (like I did), get there early. It opens every day except Mondays and Wednesdays (sometimes it opens from 5pm to 10pm).
See opening hours here.
Souvenir Hunt at Spencer Outlet Centre
Stop at Southern Cross station. If I were to compare Southern Cross station with any station in Malaysia, it would be KL Sentral. You can get anywhere from here; the airport, or change lines if you feel like getting out a bit further than Melbourne city.
Then, there’s Spencer Outlet store. Here you can shop at over 100 stores offering you trendy fashion, homewares and specialty shops selling gifting items and handmade crafts to make a decent souvenir for people back home.
If you feel like dropping by Spencer Outlet, don’t forget to grab a copy of your VIP Tourist Rewards booklet at the management office. You can use the booklet for special offers and discounts on items you buy there.
Get Lost Finding Tram 19 stop Location. True story
Melbourne has the world’s largest operating tram network turning big data, the cloud, mobile, and analytics to transform its services for a better metropolitan living. As much as that sounds appealing and smart, it can also be confusing for first-time tram users like us.
There are only two things to that; it’s either the how to use manual for the Melbourne tram is not clearly lined out for people to use (It doesn’t exist). Best bet is the PTV info counter if you can find one). Or perhaps my friend and I are super slow learners.
Hint: There’s a PTV counter at Flinders Street Railway Station or if you like go ahead and ask a random Melbournian)
Since we were based in Coburg, all we need to do is get on Tram 19: North Coburg – Flinder’s Street Station (city). That will basically lead us to Melbourne’s Central Business District and back to Coburg. So far that went well from Coburg. Manage to get to the city like pros.
So we thought from the city, it will be just as easy; not until we start wandering around, turning at every corner of the street because we found shops we want to enter or because the smell of strong cinnamon churros and coffee is calling for us. Eventually, we forget where we last got off (or suppose to hop-on when we want to go home).
It took us about an hour when we finally stumbled upon Tram 19 at Flinder’s street. Felt like we did a walking marathon just looking for it. The confusion was when the PTV app had led us to various Tram 19 stop locations and every time we got there, there was no Tram 19 in sight. Asking random Melbournians and showing them the app didn’t do any good either, because apparently nobody knows how to read it.
On top of that, we were worried that the trams would stop operations by midnight. Lucky for us it was a weekend and tram operations end at 2am.
The next day, we decided to try the train instead. We quickly realized that taking the train was much less complicated and the lines, plus stops were more straightforward.
|Tip #1: If you want to get around using Melbourne’s public transportation, getting the Myki card is essential. You can find them at various convenient stores, 7-Elevens, pharmacies or any stores you see where there’s a Myki Card Sold Here sticker. You can top-up the card too. The card itself costs $AUD6 non-refundable.
| Tip #2: The PTV app is not the best app to use. I personally prefer to use Google Maps for train lines because it’s very straightforward and easy to understand. But if you are still keen on using the tram, try Citymapper Transit Navigation or Tripview Lite
The difference between these apps and the PTV app is that they both tell you which tram stop you need to get to and shows you how to get there. The PTV app only tells you which stop you need to get to but doesn’t actually give directions to get there.
Nonetheless, getting lost looking for Tram 19 was a good misfortune. You get familiar with the streets pretty quickly after a while.
Sunset Walks at Brighton Beach
Head to the beach. With lots of things to do in the city, it’s easy to forget that beaches like Brighton are easily accessible from Melbourne central business district. One might think that a beach visit is only summer-worthy, but I’d like to contest to that because this place is not too bad in Autumn. It’s colder, but if you take a minute and soak up the ocean breeze and watch the sun disappear, you’ll never want to leave.
Brighton is the wealthy suburb side of Melbourne. In Coburg, you’ll see lots of old Victorian style homes, while the Brighton neighbourhood, presents itself with mansions that have modern designs, each with its own character. It’s easy to tell how luxurious this place is when you walk through its neighbourhood. You get an upper-class vibe from the people in the area too.
Discover Melbourne’s Street Art
Frankly, you don’t necessarily need to go to Hosier Lane to see street art. Street art is everywhere in Melbourne. You just have to be super attentive to your surroundings to spot them.
Soak Up Some Ocean Breeze at St Kilda
The Melbourne suburb that oozes a perennial party vibe where you’ll find an eclectic mix of people like backpackers sporting the United nation of accents, Melbourne suits looking to relax and unwind, daytime drinkers and pale-skinned city dwellers looking for some sun along the coastline of this beautiful state. St Kilda, even in fall, has some worthy character left in it. You know me, I love snapping photos of places even when it seemed like nothing is going on. While you’re here, walking the St Kilda Pier and having evening tea at the Little Blue cafe will set your day for you.
Now you know some of my favourite things to do in Melbourne, why not discover what you can do outside of Melbourne!