People who are not from Melbourne love to rib the city about its weather. We’re not taking sides, but even Melburnians admit they can wake up warmed by the sun and go to sleep cold and wet, having experienced another two weather events in between.
But who cares? Melbourne is a city of wonderful indoor experiences – swank malls, world-class museums, lazy lunches, indulgent spas, live performances… and real-life room-escape games! Here’s our pick of the best things to do if you find yourself in the city on a rainy day.
Check out historic architecture
Melbourne is dotted with historic buildings and a rainy day is a great opportunity to explore them. Spend a few hours at State Library Victoria – established in 1854, it is the oldest public library in Australia and one of the world’s first free ones. Or explore the Manchester Unity Building – a 1930s new-gothic Art Deco-style high-rise right in the CBD. St Paul's Cathedral and The Nicholas Building are other city-based attractions, while further afield (about 30 minutes drive from the CBD) there’s Werribee Mansion, a 19th-century estate with Italianate-style architecture and Victorian-period interiors. It is set on 10 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens, but those you can leave for a sunny day.
Relax in a spa
There’s a plethora of indulgent, luxe day spas in Melbourne and spending a few hours at one of them when it’s raining is – in our book – the best thing you can do. Imagine sinking into a hot bath or relaxing in a steam room when it’s cold and wet outside. If you’re after a city-based spa, your best options are: Miss Fox, Chuan Spa at the Langham and Isika Day Spa and Crown Spa at the Crown. But we also recommend Aurora in St Kilda and Body Freedom in South Melbourne.
Catch a matinee
Melbourne is home to a few fantastic theatres – among them, the Regent, Princess, Her Majesty’s, the Comedy and the State Theatre. And they all have matinee shows – from Australian productions such as Georgy Girl – The Seekers Musical (currently playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre) to Broadway smash hits like The Book of Mormon opening at Princess Theatre in January 2017 (tickets are on sale now!).
Enjoy a long Melbourne lunch
Melbourne’s restaurant and café scene is outstanding—perfect for long, leisurely lunches or brunches. Café Di Stasio, Epocha and Movida are the obvious choices. But also consider Supernormal, where food ranges from dumplings and Asian-inspired salads to delicious meat and fish dishes.
Take in some art
The National Gallery of Victoria hosts some of the country’s finest exhibitions. Big-ticket attractions this year include Andy Warhol — Ai Weiwei (until 24 April), Luminous Australian Watercolours 1900-2000 (May to August) and Subodh Gupta Everyday Divine (May to October). Also visit Melbourne Museum and check out Jurassic World: The Exhibition! (March to October) and Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
Catch a movie
Melbourne is home to some spectacular cinema halls, such as the Astor Theatre – the last single-screen cinema of its kind, which has been in operation since opening in 1936. Then there’s Lido – an eight-screen multiplex showing both commercial and art house movies in Hawthorn. Or make your way to the architecturally striking Palace Westgarth in Northcote.
Visit a market
Some of Melbourne’s best markets are under cover, which means the show goes on come rain or shine. Explore Queen Victoria Market in the city, or make your way to Prahran Market or South Melbourne Market.
Enthrall the kids
There are loads of family-friendly experiences– from Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium in the city to the planetarium at Melbourne Museum. Also make the most of the ice-skating rink at O’Brien Group Arena in the Docklands area and IMAX – the world’s second-largest IMAX screen – in Carlton.
Chadstone Shopping Centre is iconic and Eastland in Ringwood is looking brighter than ever thanks to a recent makeover. But make sure to visit the recently opened multi-level Emporium Mall, spread over 48,000 square metres in the heart of the CBD. Must-check-out stores include: Superdry, Diesel, Calvin Klein and Zimmerman.
Play a game
Real-life room-escape games are gaining popularity all over the world. And Melbourne is no exception. They work like this: two or more people are locked in a room together where they solve puzzles and attempt to escape before time runs out. There are about a dozen escape-room game venues in the city, from Orz Escape and Trapt in the CBD to Escape Room in Flemington.