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How to spend one day in Melbourne

Like increasingly more things in my life, our one day in Melbourne was driven by my desire to see kitties.

I haven’t been able to have one myself as I have been either living abroad or traveling over the last 18 years, which I think has made me a tad obsessive over every cute kitty I see.

I think the main reason I loved Turkey and Greece so much was because of the prevalence of well-treated street cats that were happy to get a pat or a cuddle. Seriously, I think I have a problem.

I am obsessed with cats.

How to Spend a Perfect Day in Melbourne - visit a cat cafe

I have even been called a crazy cat lady by friends and as I don’t actually own a cat, that has to be pretty telling right?

I had read somewhere that Melbourne had opened the first Cat Café in Australasia so ever since then I have been plotting my return to the culture capital of Australia. (Update 2022 – there are now numerous Cat Cafes in Australasia – what a wonderful world we live in!)

The opportunity for a revisit arose when we planned to spend Australia Day weekend driving the Great Ocean Road for three days with Melbourne-based friends. Adding on one day in Melbourne was a no-brainer.

Obviously, a day in Melbourne is not a lot of time – there are so many fun things to do in Melbourne that you could spend weeks here and not see or experience it all. But 24 hours is all I had to work with this time, unfortunately.

Luckily I have spent some time in Melbourne on a couple of earlier trips so as I have done all the touristy bits over those trips, I wanted to focus on the things that make me really happy this time around: Markets, good food, great coffee, walking, and cats. We hit all of those things during our short time in Melbourne. 

The first thing I did (after booking a time slot at the Melbourne Cat Café, of course) was research where we were going to go to get our morning caffeine fix.

As Melbourne is consistently rated as one of the (if not the) best cities for coffee in the world, there was a lot of pressure to find the right Melbourne café to partake in the coffee imbibing culture. I would have been so disappointed if my only cup of coffee in Melbourne was a crap one.

Luckily we have a couple of discerning coffee-addicted Melburnian friends who gave us a list of top spots – we were ready to spend an action-packed day out in Melbourne.

How to Spend One Day in Melbourne

One Day in Melbourne Map

Check out my interactive one day in Melbourne map here.

We ended up going with the highly-rated Seven Seeds Specialty Coffee, hidden away in the quiet streets of Carlton. I loved the industrial but homey space and friendly service but the coffee won out above all.

I had a perfected flat white that was velvety smooth and delicious. It wasn’t the best coffee in the world, but it was very, very good. I really miss good coffee! 

Coffee at Seven Seeds in Carlton - one of the best cafes in MelbourneDrinking coffee at Seven Seeds in Carlton is part of the perfect one day in Melbourne Itinerary

Patting All the Kitties at the Cat Café Melbourne

The main event of the day was the Cat Café Melbourne. More like a house full of cats that serves some small snacks and hot drinks rather than a cafe, the Cat Café requires you to book a one-hour reservation at $16 per person including a drink. It may seem steep but if you love cats as much as I do, it’s worth it.

We entered via the gift shop (where I got a cute blue kitty scarf) and signed a disclaimer before washing our hands and entering the floor upstairs where the cats were. When we visited, there were eleven cats in total and their pictures and profiles were plastered around the walls.

Cats lounged around on elaborate cat castles made of carpeted platforms and small cubby holes. They lay on the floor, happy to be petted. There were wands with long feathers attached to drag in front of the cats to initiate play.

Visiting the Cat Cafe Melbourne - part of the perfect one day in Melbourne ItineraryThe Cat Cafe Melbourne

It was some kind of heaven.

There were only about eight other people there as well as one staff member. The cat area was made up of three rooms, furnished with couches and coffee tables as well as the cat castles.

There was no smell of cat pee or litter boxes in sight; I imagine they were in the staff-only room that cats could enter via a cat door.

By the end of the hour, most of the cats had retreated into the staff-only room, probably to get away from my maniacal attentions.

One of the cats at the Cat Cafe Melbourne The hour was up too fast and it was time to leave. I was tempted to grab one of the remaining cats that I hadn’t scared away and smuggle it out under my dress, but then I remembered that there were security cameras everywhere. Damn.

I had to drag myself away, then we headed over the road to check out the historic Queen Victoria Market.

How to Spend One Day in Melbourne - visit a Cat Cafe

Visiting the Historic Queen Victoria Market

Officially opened in 1878 (that’s very old in these ‘New World’ parts), the Queen Vic Markets are a great place to head to buy fresh produce, gourmet foods, fresh fish and meat, and other general merchandise.

We browsed the general merchandise stalls and to be honest, most of the stuff was cheap crap, but I loved the food sections of the market. Fresh fruit is really cheap and there is a massive range of delicious cheeses in the beautiful Art Deco Deli Hall.

Shops at the historic Queen Vic Market in Melbourne AustraliaExplore the historic Queen Vic Market during your one day in Melbourne

We picked up a couple of their smelliest (i.e. best) cheeses for the road trip. There was also a donut food truck – American Doughnut Kitchen. Needless to say, I was on that. Best donuts I have had outside of North America. Hot, sugared, and with oozy jam in the middle.

Lunch in Melbourne’s Chinatown

Full of donuts and free cheese samples, we wandered through the city and over to Melbourne’s fantastic Chinatown, one of the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, for lunch.

I like the vibe of Melbourne’s CBD. It feels less seedy than George Street in Sydney and there are a lot of beautiful historic buildings. It reminds me a lot of Boston, one of my favorite North American cities.

Exploring the historic buildings downtown in Melbourne Exploring the historic buildings downtown in Melbourne

Along with amazing coffee, Melbourne is also known for its incredible dining scene, so I also did a little bit of research with friends about where we should go for lunch.

I have been madly obsessed with dumplings for years and I had heard that Melbourne is known for incredible dumpings so we headed to HuTong Dumpling Bar on the recommendation of our friend Jolie. Another fabulous find, we got the last table and it was only 12pm.

We shared a couple of dishes including Xiao Long Bao which is a definite favorite of mine, filled with pork mince and a fragrant soup that you slurp out (or tear the dumpling and spill all over the table if you are like me).

Dumplings at HuTong Dumpling Bar in Melbourne's China TownDumplings being made at HuTong Dumpling Bar in Melbourne's China Town

They were so good but the stars of the show were the dumplings in chili sauce. I was worried they would be too hot for me but they were perfect and the chili sauce was so flavorsome.

HuTong was definitely worth the hype and it was a bonus to be sitting at a table right by the glass window into the kitchen, where we could see them making the dumplings from scratch.

So with the great coffee, good food, cats, and markets ticked off our list, it was time for the walking part of the day.

Walking the Coastal Path From Brighton Beach to St Kilda

We took the train out to Brighton Beach which is linked to the grungy suburb of St Kilda by a 7.5km seaside pathway that we planned to walk. Melbourne is all about the culture and is not known for its beaches for a reason: in a country that does beaches so well, Melbourne’s aren’t the nicest.

They are still worth checking out but the water was very murky looking and there were lots of jellyfish and seaweed washed up on the beach.

An unusual sight was the flocks of black swans swimming close to shore and eating what looked like seaweed. I don’t think I have ever seen swans in saltwater before so that was interesting.

Black swan at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, AustraliaHiking the coastal trail from Brighton Beach to St Kilda in Melbourne

The beaches may have been a tad disappointing but further along the trail at the Brighton Beach bathing sheds, the walk was redeemed. The sheds are gloriously colorful and fun to photograph.

Colorful beach huts at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia Colorful beach huts at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia

We sunbathed for a bit on Brighton Beach, exhausted from an early start and the hot sun, before finishing the rest of the walk and arriving in the seaside suburb of St Kilda.

Go to Brighton Beach during your one day in MelbourneIt was a pleasant walk all in all and I felt better for the exercise. Walking by the seaside always seems to revitalize me. In the future, I may even take out an e-bike in Melbourne instead, that way we could go further along the coast.

An Afternoon and Evening in St Kilda

In St Kilda, crowds of people lay along the beach and on the grassy strip adjacent. After recharging with a fresh juice and cookie, we hit St Kilda’s streets. I love the shops in St Kilda with their alternative fashion, hippie jewelry and so many restaurants with cuisine from all around the world.

I mostly browsed but I did end up buying a new tragus earring for a lot cheaper than the place I go in Sydney.

Doing the coastal walk from Brighton Beach to St Kilda in Melbourne We finished our day with drinks in the beachside courtyard of Republica with friends while listening to live Latin music, before heading out for dinner. There are numerous options in St Kilda and the options have changed a lot since I was there last so check out this post for St Kilda dining suggestions.

After dinner (or before if you are traveling in winter) visit the Melbourne colony of little penguins that live under the St Kilda pier. You can usually catch them coming in for the day around dusk so grab a spot and be patient. I was a Penguin Warden in Sydney for a year and it’s worth trying to see these cute little things if you have the time.

Somehow I managed one of those mythical ‘perfect’ travel days that we imagine that all of our travel days will be like but that rarely materialize in reality.

Melbourne: hold onto your kitties, I will be back!

Doing the coastal walk from Brighton Beach to St Kilda in Melbourne

How to Plan Your One Day in Melbourne

Where to Stay in Melbourne

For a great budget option, stay at The Mansion Melbourne which is centrally located, has a big courtyard with sun loungers and a ping pong table, and offers dorms and private rooms.

If you like serviced apartments, then the Tyrian Serviced Apartments in Fitzroy is a great choice, and they come with a sitting area, balcony, and kitchenette.

For luxury go for Shadow Play by Peppers which offers sleek modern one and two-bedroom apartments, a rooftop pool, and an onsite cocktail bar and restaurant.

Visit Brighton Beach during your one day in Melbourne, Australia

If you prefer to get a vacation rental, these are my picks for the most highly rated, well-located, and affordable options:

The Best Travel Insurance for Your Melbourne Trip

Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with. 

Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.

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13 Comments on How to Spend One Day in Melbourne

  1. I have been following your blog for a long time, you have a chic style and presentation of the material! A cafe with cats is very cool and I also love Turkey and East Europe precisely for this. I come from a city where, thanks to the climate, cats are part of the ecosystem. And every time I meet cats on my travels, it brings back fond memories of my childhood.

    Good weekend

  2. Another great read thanks to you Katie! I am always amazed at how you are able to write and make your readers feel that they are just talking to a friend. Keep writing please!

  3. Looks like a pretty great day. I’m not sure about the Cat Cafe, to be honest, but I know my wife would freakin’ love it there. We’re heading to Melbourne later this week. Thanks for the tips!

    • Not a bad way to spend the day in Melbourne for sure. Haha I can see how the Cat Cafe wouldn’t be for everyone. My fiance wouldn’t have gone either if it wasn’t for me. Have an awesome time in Melbourne!

  4. WOW, I first heard of these cafe’s in Japan where they have all sorts even an Owl one!! I love good coffee and yes it can be difficult to find a great place when visiting a new city or town. Lucky for us here in Santiago we have found one that fuels the addiction, sorry no cats though.

    • I have seen pictures of the Owl café in Japan and I definitely want to go there one day too! I have heard good things about the café culture in Santiago, I hope to visit there in a few years 🙂

  5. Cat Café – what a concept! I know a few cat crazy friends and had no idea this was a thing, can’t wait to tell them!
    SO glad you got to Hu Tong too, their dumplings are some of my favourites!!

  6. Oh this makes me SO nostalgic for Melbourne! When I lived there back in 2010-11, I used to do my weekly shopping at Vic Market. Such an amazing place! Gutted they didn’t have the cat cafe there then. There’s always something relaxing about hanging out with pets. Glad you had an amazing day in the best city in the world 🙂

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

    • What a great place to do your weekly shop! If I lived close to Vic Market I could imagine I would be eating a lot of cheese. There is definitely something to be said about the benefits of being around animals 🙂

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