East Melbourne is known for hosting the Melbourne Cricket Ground and there simply is no separating East Melbourne from its relationship with top-flight Australian sport.
But sport is not all that is on East Melbourne’s scorecard. This Melbourne neighbourhood prides itself on a generous offering of green parks that give locals, and visitors access to the natural world – all within walking distance of the CBD.
East Melbourne also has an eclectic range of cultural sites, unique museums, and attractions that exist nowhere else in the world.
To help decipher this intriguing neighbourhood, here is the list of things to do when in East Melbourne.
Map of 12 Things to do in East Melbourne
Melbourne Cricket Ground
There is no better way to begin, no other way to start breaking down the top things to do in East Melbourne than with the landmark that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground – or the MCG, as it is colloquially known. The stadium is integral to the city of Melbourne as a whole, let alone just the East Melbourne suburb.
The MCG is the largest cricket stadium in the Southern Hemisphere. Contrary to its name, however, it hosts much more than just cricket matches. The MCG is also home to several Melbourne Aussie Rules teams: Collingwood, Hawthorn, Melbourne, and Richmond. Being a shared stadium among rivals makes the MCG an electric venue through the Aussie Rules season – April to September.
Then, come October, cricket season begins. Fans can attend everything from Twenty20 formats to annual international Test matches played by the national men’s and women’s teams.
As if cricket and Aussie rules weren’t enough, the MCG also sporadically hosts rugby fixtures – both international union and the domestic league – and football matches. Sports fans are truly spoiled for choice.
But it doesn’t stop there. Melbourne Cricket Ground also hosts a generous offering of non-sporting entertainment – world-famous bands and community events.
In essence, the MCG is nothing short of a foundational pillar of Melbournian culture. It exists at the epicentre of many friendships and relationships: groups of Richmond supporters, cricket enthusiasts that feed their love of the game during the winter season.
If there were ever anything considered non-negotiable when exploring East Melbourne, it would be visiting the MCG.
Melbourne makes a claim for itself as Australia’s ‘garden city’, and The Fitzroy Gardens exist in support of this statement.
26-hectares of landscaped gardens just 1.5km from the very centre of Melbourne’s CBD – that is what the Fitzroy Gardens provide to the city’s people. It’s here that people step back from the concrete monotony of the inner city. It’s here that families and friends meet, surrounded by the pleasantries of nature. The value of such proximity to open green spaces cannot be understated while still close to the city centre.
Few places in central Melbourne can even begin to equal the natural beauty of Fitzroy Gardens – it surely does separate itself as the park to visit near the CBD.
East Melbourne is famed for its hosting of major sporting events. But the central neighbourhood also earns significance as the home of Victoria’s Parliament – Parliament House being the epicentre of said Parliamentary district.
Travellers with architectural interest will appreciate Parliament House’s columned façade, perhaps the most defining feature of the building constructed in 1856.
History enthusiasts will find interest in the facility’s past. Melbourne’s Parliament House served as the meeting place for the Parliament of Australia between 1901 and 1927 – a period when Melbourne was the nation’s temporary capital. Though from 1928 to the present day, the building has remained just as the seat of the Victorian State parliament.
The free public tours that Parliament House hosts on non-sitting weeks are a great way to get a closer look at the inner workings of the Australian State parliament.
Cook’s Cottage: an English cottage deconstructed brick by brick and shipped to Melbourne in 253 cases and 40 barrels – now that is a unique story. Though, the intrigue does not end there. Previous to its grand voyage, the home was the family home of famous explorer James Cook – built and lived in by his parents, James and Grace Cook.
Cook’s Cottage is interestingly the oldest building in Australia – having been constructed originally in 1755 in Yorkshire, England.
Cook’s Cottage is an East Melbourne gem with its antiques, period-dressed volunteers, and depictions of Cook’s adventures. The Cottage nestles within the boundaries of Fitzroy Gardens.
The Scarred Tree (and The Fairies Tree)
Let’s stay in Fitzroy Gardens.
To prelude, when travelling Australia, it is greatly important to recognize the rightful and ancestral owners of the land – the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. That courtesy comes hand-in-hand with responsible and mindful travel.
Fitzroy Gardens’ resident Scar Tree allows visitors to participate in this recognition and appreciation. The Scar Tree is one of many that exist within Victoria. It survives as a remembrance of Aboriginal life – Aboriginal people caused scars on trees when making canoes or shields.
Fitzroy Gardens’ Scar Tree is a landmark that should be on every traveller’s itinerary.
Then comes The Fairies Tree – of less cultural importance but still a worthy East Melbourne landmark. The tree features a tapestry of intricate fantasy carvings ranging from fairies (of course) to gnomes, dwarfs, and even koalas and flying foxes.
In an effort to preserve The Fairies Tree, the already dead trunk was extracted from the ground and treated with chemicals. It then was re-rooted in a concrete base so it could continue serving as an East Melbourne attraction.
The Tippler & Co.
One of East Melbourne’s finest food and drink spots is The Tippler & Co. It’s one of the best spots for a pre-MCG fuelling or a midweek drink with friends.
Top tip: The Tippler & Co. holds happy hour from 5-7 pm during the week, and cocktails are a respectable $10 all day on Sundays.
From the StaffThe favourite food is our Pan Fried Gnocchi! Made from Jones’ regenerative potatoes, sweet potato, sage burnt butter, lemon, pine nuts, chevre (v). All for $22.
Come by on Wednesdays for our 1/2 Price Gnocchi Night.
– Gus at The Tippler & Co.
Fire Services Museum
A rather unique museum, the Fire Services Museum of Victoria opened to display the history of fire fighting in the state of Victoria. The museum holds Australia’s most extensive collection of fire bridge memorabilia – a collection of over 10,000 items. A visit to the museum accommodates both adults and children.
East Melbourne continues its offering of relaxed, green spaces with Treasury Gardens – one of Victoria’s oldest public garden spaces that dates from the 1800s. The gardens themselves hold heritage listings and are noted for the avenues of trees that cross the walking paths.
If you’ve already crossed Fitzroy Gardens off your itinerary, Treasury Gardens offer similar inner-city relaxation.
Heaven at the Hill
Melbourne is known for its cafés. But Heaven at the Hill has accrued recognition for itself as a coffee caravan.
You can find the not-for-profit social enterprise serving coffee and food on the corner of Gibson and Albert. Recognized as one of the top refuelling spots in East Melbourne by the Australian Good Food Guide, Heaven at the Hill is a reliable option for anyone in the area.
Australian Sports Museum
With East Melbourne’s affiliation with sport and the presence of the MCG, it’s only fitting that visitors to the neighbourhood should pay a visit to the resident Australian Sports Museum.
You can find the museum itself at the MCG, so the walk from sporting history to live sports is short. With the emphasis on onsite interaction, the museum is ideal for all ages to celebrate sport’s involvement in Australian society.
The city of Melbourne has a strong Italian presence, something owed to inter and post-war immigration. Carlton’s Lygon Street is the epicentre, but there are also Italian institutions further afield. East Melbourne’s Geppetto Trattoria is one of those institutions.
Since 1981, the family-run traditional trattoria has cooked authentic Italian dishes with fresh local ingredients.
With its good food and humble atmosphere, Geppetto’s success is rightfully earned.
The Johnston Collection
If arts and culture are on your mind when in East Melbourne, then visiting The Johnston Collection is a must.
The Johnston Collection is a multi-award-winning museum and exhibition space with numerous collections of decorative arts.
You can find the museum at its residence in Fairhall on Wellington Parade.
The presence of the MCG dominates East Melbourne. But with the stadium’s stellar offering of top-tier action, its notoriety is deserved. There are genuinely few things to do in Melbourne that produce the atmosphere that a one-day cricket international, or a Hawthorn vs Richmond Aussie rules fixture, does. Attendance to Australia’s largest stadium is recommended, even essential.
But in beautiful contrast to the electric intensity of the national sport, East Melbourne also offers several laidback green spaces to its visitors. With its size and onsite attractions, Fitzroy Gardens arguably hold the torch as the place to relax near the CBD. But you cannot forget places like Treasury Gardens either.
Bottom line, East Melbourne can often get lost amongst the ranks of Melbournian neighbourhoods due to its more easy-going demeanour. But the truth is, East Melbourne is an area of the city in perfect balance that warrants a visit all on its own.