A Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Melbourne

A Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia’s most European city, a lively, trendy, cultural and cosmopolitan city with something for everyone and within easy reach of some amazing natural beauty. The jury’s out about which city is cooler – Melbourne or Sydney so you will just have to visit both to make your mind up which you prefer…

Daily Backpacker Budget: AUD$60 – 80  or approx US$ 50 – 70

Top 5 Things to do in Melbourne:

  • Melbourne’s trams are iconic so hop on the free city circle tram to get your bearings and hop on and off between Melbourne’s most popular downtown areas and attractions, make sure to get off and check out the iconic Flinders Street Station
  • Take a free walking tour, meets everyday at 10:30am and 2:30pm in front of the State Library of Victoria, for an insight into Melbourne’s history and to be shown the lane ways, hidden shops, art, cafe culture and hidden bars. Don’t miss exploring these quirky, legendary lane ways, that make Melbourne the cultural capital of Australia.
  • Check out Federation Square, sometimes there are events on, if not just chill out, people watch or visit the free National Gallery of Victoria
  • Hang out at St Kilda Beach, go on the old fashioned fun fair at Luna Park, walk along the pier and admire the skyline of the CBD. Or venture further along the coast to Brighton to see Melbourne’s famous beach huts.
  • Melbourne is an eminently walkable city, stroll through the botanical gardens or along the Southbank of the Yarra River, you can often watch street performers down there too.
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Worth Splashing out on?

The Eurkea Skydeck boasts to be the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform and while it gives an incredible view of the city below (especially magical at sunset and with the lights twinkling below at night time). You can also go on a Neighbours Tour. 

The Best Backpacker Hostels in Melbourne:

Home at the Mansion is located within a grand, heritage building in the heart of Melbourne and is a really friendly and popular hostle. that has won many awards. Urban Central Backpackers on the Southbank has lots of freebies too like free BBQ, breakfast, rice and pasta. Space Hotel is a chic, centrally located hostel that also has a fun rooftop swimming pool. Also try Melbourne Central YHA on Flinders Street, or get closer to the ocean and enjoy the vibe at funky Base St Kilda.  

Read More: My Top 5 Backpacker Hostels in Melbourne

Where to Eat and Drink on a Budget in Melbourne:

As arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Australia, Melbourne has the best Asian food, check out Chinatown and especially try Victoria street in Richmond for amazing Vietnamese pho. There are also plenty of cheap eats if you know where to go.

Melbourne also has great coffee and you can’t visit without checking out the legendary laneway bar scene of Melbourne. If your hostel has a kitchen visit the Queen Victoria Market and save money by cooking your own food.

The Best Backpacker Cheap Eats In Melbourne 

Melbourne is at the forefront of Australia’s culinary scene, and home to Attica, voted the 32nd best restaurant in the world. While a night out at Attica might break the bank, there are plenty of great places where you can eat on a budget.

St Kilda Branch – Housed in an old bank, The Branch has so many specials that they’re almost impossible to miss. Sitting at the end of Acland Street in St Kilda, The Branch comes alive in Summer when everyone comes to enjoy the nearby beach. Visit on Monday for $10 burgers, Tuesday for 50c wings and Wednesday for $13 steaks.

Bimbo Deluxe  One of Fitzroy’s most iconic bars, Bimbo Deluxe is best known for its $4 pizzas and awesome rooftop bar. A two storey venue on Brunswick St, Bimbo’s bottom floor is dimly lit and filled with comfy couches. Walk up the stairs and you’ll find an open roof bar that is also the home to weekly DJ sets. Swing by for lunch on a weekday to enjoy a pizza and beer for $10. Happens between 12pm – 4pm.

Mr Scruff’s – Melbourne has a real affinity for dude-food; crazy burgers, fried chicken and loaded fries. Mr Scruff’s offers all of this in a hip multi-level venue on Smith Street. Swing by on Wednesday night when all their main menu is half price. That means burgers – some of the best in Melbourne – go for just $5. It’s always a busy night, so be prepared for a little wait, but it is well worth it.

See more cheap eats in Melbourne here.

The Best Backpacker Bars in Melbourne

As a backpacker, you want to be able to enjoy the best of Melbourne’s nightlife while also sticking to a budget. Thankfully, some of Melbourne’s best bars also offer amazing happy hours.

College Lawn Hotel – Just down from Chapel St, one of the city’s most prominent shopping strips, The College Lawn Hotel is nestled in the leafy back streets of Prahran and home to one amazing beer garden. Along with a bar, restaurant and accommodation, they also have their own bottle shop if you want to buy something to go. Visit on Friday between 5pm – 7pm for $7 wine, pints & basic spirits.

Lounge Bar – With a laid back balcony that overlooks Swanston Street, Lounge Bar is home to plenty of specials and regular DJ nights. On the weeknights it’s a casual bar, but come the weekend, the crowd packs in ready to party. When it comes to drinks, Lounge runs a weekday happy hour with $6 beer and wine and also $12 beer jugs. Simply visit anytime between 5pm – 7pm.

Father’s Office – Sitting opposite the beautiful State Library Of Victoria, Father’s Office is inspired by a 1920’s speakeasy. There’s a giant chandelier that hangs above the entrance and the staff are dressed as flappers. Father’s Office has one of the biggest list of specials in the city, with lots of cheap eats and happy hours. Visit on a Sunday when happy hour runs all day long.

See more cheap places to drink and more happy hours in Melbourne.

How to get to Melbourne:

Melbourne is well served by a large international airport and well connected by bus and train to the rest of Australia. For cheap flights search on Skyscanner to find the best deals. (I always search for whole month to find the cheapest day to fly and can save alot of money by being flexible with dates.)

Visas for Australia

Expect for New Zealanders, all visitors to Australia need to obtain a visa before travelling but don’t worry, this is an easy process. Tourist visas for Australia are known as Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa cover visits of up to 90 day and are quick to process and are electronically linked to your passport so there’s no need to send your passport away. The visa costs $20, apply online through the government website  or make the process even quicker and easier by using iVisa.

If you want to stay longer and work and travel in Australia for a year or more then download my free backpacker’s guide to see if you are eligible for a working holiday visa 

Where Next:

Just a few hours South of Melbourne starts one of the best drives in the world! Hire or buy a campervan and take your time to savour the epic Great Ocean Road.  The wineries of the Yarra Valley make a nice day trip from Melbourne and you can also see penguins on Phillip Island. Or head inland to discover more about Victoria’s gold rush past at Ballarat or Bendigo.

Also Read: Road Tripping the Great Ocean Road

the 12 apostles on the Great Ocean Road not far from Melbourne
the 12 apostles on the Great Ocean Road not far from Melbourne

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Tanya February 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I lived in Melbourne for over ten years and it does live up to the most livable city in the world. Not sure if it has won the title for this year though. Great list of things to do. A few other great places that are walking distance are Docklands which is South Melbourne. This is where the Melbourne Wheel was built although not sure if it is up and working yet. The ice skating rink is there during winter. Obviously it is a great spot on the waterfront with lots of restaurants. But the best part is all the discounted shopping!!! This is where Habour Town is and all the factory outlets. Also Lygon Street in Carlton which is North Melbourne. Again all walking distance or just jump on a tram. This is where all the trendy cafes are particularly anything with Greek or Italian heritage.

Southbank is just along the Yarra River on the outskirts of the CBD where all the restaurants and cafes are situated by the boardwalk. Crown Casino is also there for those who love shopping, clubbing or gambling. It is a nice walk to see the river lit up at night time. Then there is Brunswick and Collingwood neighbouring suburbs in North Melbourne. Again all the hip but affordable cafes are there. Along with great bric a brac stores with vintage finds. And the odd factory outlet.

But the biggest and best reason to visit Melbourne are the iconic Victoria Street Markets. There is always an event on here particularly in the evenings when they hold multicultural fairs with stacks of different cultural cuisines to eat while you browse all the market stalls with traditional entertainment. Plus nothing beats buying the fresh foods from the deli. The markets are always buzzing with crowds of people so it is definitely worth a visit. These are all within a backpackers budget and you can always splurge if you can afford to.

I’ve never had the stomach to visit the Eureka Skydeck as I hate heights. It is an awesome view though as you get to walk out onto a completely transparent glass deck that protrudes from the side of the building so you can see right down to the ground. Really for those who love a thrill. Then you can dine at the restaurant which has great 360 degree views with glass walls. Breath taking if you can stomach the height!

If you couldn’t tell I absolutely love Melbourne and miss it so much. Though India is just as exciting less the hip cafes. Thanks for sharing! I realise it is an older post but still always great to read.

Mick December 6, 2017 at 7:11 am

You just got me super excited planning my trip to Melbourne !!

Thanks for sharing!


Anna January 9, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Thanks, great to hear! Hope you have a great trip! 🙂

Don Schuldes November 14, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Thank you for posting this! I’m planning on going to Australia next year and I found this so helpful!

ALEX THOMPSON November 17, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Oh wow, this is a great guide! I hope I can visit Australia someday 🙂
Great photos too!

ALEX THOMPSON December 6, 2021 at 1:27 pm

Nice article, it helped us a lot to explore. I am an entrepreneur by profession and a traveler by heart. Your article made our stay exciting.

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