Wondering what to do in Melbourne while you’re here? We can help. Check out our guide below to all the fun things to do in Melbourne, including free attractions, art exhibitions, and so much more.
Bar, cocktails etc
Arbory Bar and Eatery, Melbourne
Arbory Bar and Eatery have brought back their famed floating bar and restaurant Arbory Afloat for the 2019/20 season. The giant floating pontoon has once again moored itself alongside Arbory’s permanent fixture beside platform 13 of Flinders Street Station. This year the bar will be taking inspiration from Miami in the ’70s, with a pastel blue and pink colour palette and palm trees aplenty. The upper deck has been extended so there will be plenty of room to kick back, grab a drink and celebrate in your own private cabana. Probably the most exciting part is the introduction of Arbory Afloat’s own pool, which will be located on the upper deck level. Don’t forget your bathers! As well as boasting 360-degree views of the Yarra River and the CBD skyline, Arbory Afloat has an extensive cocktail list (think fruit-driven cocktails served over ice for those hotter-than-hot days) and a Mediterranean-inspired wine list. Hungry? You can dig into American-inspired wood-fired pizzas like the New Jersey pepperoni, the cheesy Chicago and the Boss, with provolone, pork sausage and barbecue sauce. There are also Miami-inspired sandwiches and a seafood bar with oysters, ceviche, kingfish tiradito and build-it-yourself fish tacos. For the second year running the live entertainment aboard Arbory Afloat has been curated by Sky Lab and will feature some of the country’s buzziest DJs, who will be soundtracking your balmy evening.
KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness
Art, galleries etc
NGV International, Southbank
Even if you don’t know his name, you’re almost certainly familiar with Brian Donnelly’s (aka KAWS) larger-than-life sculptures and paintings. Kaws take icons from cartoons and pop culture and reimagines them in vulnerable and unexpected situations. His signature? Their hands are marked with sharp crosses. For several decades, KAWS has been one of the world’s most prolific contemporary artists and his work is equally in demand with major modern art galleries as it is with brands and pop artists. He’s collaborated with MTV (and redesigned their Moonman in his signature style), Nike and Uniqlo, designed album covers for Kanye West and Towa Tei, and crashed New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s website when they sold a limited edition KAWS action figure. This new exhibition at the NGV (which is running at the same time as the gallery’s Basquiat and Haring blockbuster) features paintings, sculptures, graphic design and product design, covering the full spectrum of his creative output. Central to the exhibition is a monumental sculpture, which is his largest work in bronze so far. And which characters should you expect to see? Well, definitely his take on Mickey Mouse, probably The Simpsons (or ‘Kimpsons’ in the world of KAWS) and maybe even Spongebob. Bringing your youngsters to the exhibition? Check out KAWS: Playtime, a brilliant interactive experience designed just for children.
Opera in the Bowl
Live music, free
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne
Most operatic scores are crafted to take advantage of the confines and acoustic properties of the world’s best opera houses. There is nothing like a full orchestra and ensemble filling every nook and cranny of a theatre with glorious sound. But there’s something about an alfresco night of classical music that really sets the heart racing. That’s why Opera Australia is returning to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on November 30 for a free concert of opera’s greatest hits. Orchestra Victoria will be joined by Opera Australia favourites, sopranos Stacey Alleaume and Anna-Louise Cole, mezzo Anna Dowsley, baritone Jose Carbo and Italian tenor Walter Fraccaro. The gates open at 4pm before the concert at 8pm, so get in early to nab a good spot. You’re welcome to bring your own food and booze (you can bring bottles, but glass drinking glasses are prohibited) or grab dinner from one of the food trucks on site.
The Queen Victoria Night Market
Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Spend your Wednesday nights surrounded by food at the Queen Victoria Market’s fantastic Summer Night Market. Expect rows and rows of street food stalls and festival bars as well as art, fashion, homewares and general knick-knack merchandise traders – there are 130 stalls to explore in total. The highlight of the 2019/2020 summer season will be the Palm Springs Bar, a pop-up watering hole filled with giant pink flamingos, desert plants and fruity perfect-for-summer cocktails. The summery fun continues with a full-sized beach volleyball court popping up within the market. You can play a match with your friends (or complete strangers), watch professional players in action or take part in a volleyball tournament or workshop. To kick off the summer season on Wednesday, November 20 the Queen Victoria Night Market is teaming up with Melbourne Music Week. A stack of musicians are taking over the city stage on Queen Street – on the line-up is Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, Sunnyside, Memphis LK, Loure, Pjienné and Toni Yotzi. Right in the heart of the city, the markets make a great dinner stop for anyone coming from work, or tourists looking to experience the famous markets after dark. The markets have a reputation for multiculturalism so no matter what cuisine you fancy, you’re likely to find something that sets your mouth watering. The specific food vendors for summer are still to be announced – watch this space. The Queen Victoria Summer Night Market is on every Wednesday.
Drinking History Tours
One of the best ways to learn about Melbourne is on foot, with an experienced guide pointing out nooks and crannies you might otherwise miss and telling entertaining stories about Melbourne’s colourful past. But walking and learning are thirsty work, no? Enter Drinking History Tours, which will take you on a tour down laneways, up alleys and through hidden parts of Melbourne or Fitzroy to teach you about the city’s hidden gems and secret histories. And most importantly, the tours include stops at three fantastic Melbourne bars along the way. The Melbourne tour takes in Federation Square, the Forum, the MCG, AC/DC Lane, the Old Treasury Building, Chinatown and more. The tour stops at three bars en route, and there are snacks at the second bar and a full dinner at the third. You’ll learn fascinating stories about Melbourne’s seedy past, including tales of murder, brothels and a centuries-old unsolved mystery. The Fitzroy tour starts at St Patrick’s Cathedral and includes the Royal Exhibition Building, the Spanish Club, Brunswick Street, Johnston Street and laneways in between. You’ll learn about Fitzroy’s seedier side, including the epic battle between Squizzy Taylor and his archrival, as well as fun facts about the suburb’s art and music scene. It also stops at three bars along the way: an old Melbourne stalwart, a reinvented hipster hangout and one of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars.