No matter where you are in Melbourne, you’re never far from something wonderful: a laid-back corner cafe with exceptional coffee, a top-class wine bar, a restaurant so good you’ll want to tell the world or a tangle of labyrinthine laneways begging to be explored. The rest of the country might not like to admit it but Melbourne’s title as Australia’s most cultured city is richly deserved.
When it comes to weather, the old adage of “four seasons in one day” fits this city to a tee – it’s unwise to leave the house without an umbrella, no matter the season. That’s why Melburnians are so good at looking cool wearing layers (and if you like eating layers, Lune Croissanterie is an absolute must).
Though the city’s day-to-day weather can be unpredictable, it does have distinct seasons. In summer, temperatures average about 25°C in the day, often peaking at 30°C during January and February. Summer is also when Melbourne hosts the Australian Open and athletes have been known to remark on the brutal on-court heat.
Don’t expect to find a city in hibernation come winter. Locals know how to dress for the cold so lows of 7°C and highs of 14°C aren’t a deterrent for getting out and about. Some of the city’s cosiest corners come to life with the chill – Fitzroy North’s Neighbourhood Wine and Collingwood’s Le Bon Ton both have roaring fireplaces (the latter boasts a wood smoker, too).
So when should you visit the vibrant Victorian capital? Scroll through our seasonal guide to find out.
What’s on in summer
From the serves at the Australian Open to the cricket tradition of the Boxing Day Test, there’s something for almost every sports fanatic during Melbourne’s summer. If you don’t manage to secure tickets to a tennis match, the city does a great job of including spectators outside the stadium, with viewing screens at Federation Square and inside the Melbourne Park venue, where you can lay out a picnic blanket and soak up the atmosphere.
The city’s rooftops are transformed into playgrounds as the days warm up. You’ll find everything from open-air cinemas (Lido on the Roof in Hawthorn and Rooftop Cinema atop Curtin House in the CBD) to places to cool off – Adelphi Hotel's Miami-style rooftop pool is open to non-guests for a daily fee. There are some stellar bars for sundowners, too; the newly opened Fable is one of the highest in the city and, in summer, aperitivo hour begins at a sunshine-friendly 2pm.
What’s on in autumn
In May every two years, the Yirramboi Festival takes over Melbourne with a packed program of First Nations-focused performances, ranging from dance to music, film and theatre. Over 10 days, events are held in arts venues, public spaces and laneways.
Live comedy comes to town in March and April for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where comics such as Wil Anderson, Ross Noble and Hannah Gadsby have previously graced the stage alongside up-and-comers.
What’s on in winter
You could come to Melbourne without attending an AFL game but why miss out on something so essential to the city’s identity? The premiership season peaks in winter; the MCG is like a church for AFL worshippers and if you can secure tickets to a game here, you’re practically in the club.
June sees the city come to life over 12 nights with public art installations, live performances and music in the epic new festival Rising.
On the last weekend of July, more than 150 buildings across the city throw open their doors as part of the annual Open House Weekend, inviting visitors to explore Melbourne’s architectural heritage, free of charge. Past sites have included former tram depots and the St Kilda Foreshore Vaults.
What’s on in spring
There are almost nine hectares of laneways in Melbourne – the most famous splashed with aerosol art. Spring is a temperate time to explore the newest City of Melbourne initiative: the Green Your Laneway program is an effort to create “pocket parks” in the CBD. Guildford Lane and Katherine, Meyers and Coromandel places were all funded to go green so make sure to check them out.
The Melbourne Cup halts the nation every year (and is a public holiday in Victoria), whipping the city into a frenzy as part of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival. From August to November, expect a jam-packed calendar that includes the most internationally acclaimed races.