Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Laneways, Melbourne, Victoria © Tourism Australia
10 of Melbourne's best museums, galleries and theatres
Get your art and culture fix in Australia’s creative capital.
By Sophia Watson
Do you consider yourself something of a culture vulture? Then do yourself a favour and make Melbourne’s arts scene a focus of your Victorian adventure.
From traditional collections and the latest word in modern art through to all things Australian sport and science, you’ll be spoiled for choice in what is arguably Australia’s most culture rich city. Journey through these iconic galleries and museums to experience the city like a local.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA (NGV)
Where: St Kilda Road, Southbank
As the oldest and most visited gallery in all of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) never fails to impress. Situated over two magnificent buildings – NGV International and NGV Australia – the Gallery hosts a wide range of international and local artists, exhibitions, programs and events: from contemporary art to major international historic exhibitions, fashion and design, architecture, sound and dance. Founded in 1861, today the NGV holds the most significant collection of art in the region; a vast treasury of more than 70,000 works that span thousands of years and a wealth of ideas, disciplines and styles. It is a collection that is yours, and it’s free! Simply put, the NGV is pure magic; a brilliant way to spend a day in Melbourne.
Where: Nicholson Street, Carlton
A visit to Melbourne Museum is a rich, surprising insight into life in Victoria. Inside you’ll find Victoria's intriguing permanent collections alongside brilliant temporary exhibitions from near and far. You'll see Victoria’s natural environment, its cultures and history through different artistic perspectives. An excellent one-stop-shop for those that don’t have a lot of time on their side and want to experience and encounter as much as possible. Be sure to explore the Milarri Garden trail to learn about the indigenous flora and fauna significant to Aboriginal people of south-eastern Australia.
ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image)
Where: Federation Square, Melbourne
Navigate the epically cool universe of film, TV, videogames, screen art and digital culture with a day at ACMI. ACMI celebrates the wonder and power of the world’s most democratic artform as well as fostering the next generation of makers, players and watchers. A great one for families of all ages; you are sure to come across something to spark the curiosity of everyone from ages one to 100 at this iconic Melbourne institution.
Where: Alexandra Parade, Clifton Hill
If you’re on the hunt for a more edgy, highly experimental experience, look no further than Grau Projekt. Founder Matt Bax believes that the commercial art gallery model is “broken”. In response, he created Grau Projekt; a 1050-square metre space that has become a stunning hub for local and international contemporary art – but there’s a delicious twist! Alongside every monthly installation comes a curated five-drink menu that reflects the exhibition’s overarching theme in close collaboration with the artists themselves. Best part? Drinks are made by owner and mixologist extraordinaire Matt Bax himself.
AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (ACCA)
Where: Sturt Street, Southbank
Since the early 80s, the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art (affectionately known as the ‘ACCA’) has played an inspirational and critical role in the progression of local and national art communities. At the ACCA, you’ll discover the work of exciting artists, old and new, from around the world as well as Australia’s own. The space is a reliable haunt for those looking for curatorial, education and public programs including talks, lectures, symposia, performances, screenings, music and events. It’s definitely a must if you’re keen to take your culture-vulture status from amateur to pro.
MELBOURNE STREET ART
Where: Various locations throughout Melbourne
Melbourne is one of the world’s biggest living art exhibitions. Just walk down any street or laneway and you're likely to find a brilliant spectrum of graffiti and street art gracing the building exteriors. Hosier Lane, opposite the landmark Federation Square, is arguably the cobblestoned epicentre of Melbourne street art culture. A creative mark, both gigantic and miniscule alike, has been left on almost every square-inch of surface area, including the street bollards and foot paths. And it's constantly changing. You may even spot an artist at work as you stroll any of the city's graffiti-covered laneways including: Centre Place, AC/DC Lane, Croft Alley, Duckboard Place, and Rankins Lane. Or explore the best spots with Melbourne Street Tours, led by a local street artist.
HEIDE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Where: Templestowe Road, Bulleen
The Heide Museum of Modern Art is an interesting combination of art, architecture, social history and landscape. Set within 16-acres of heritage-listed gardens and a sculpture park, the modern and contemporary art exhibitions sit across three exhibition buildings throughout the property. Heide is an interesting experience because the gallery itself is just as fascinating as the art it houses. The museum occupies the site of a former dairy farm owned by prominent arts benefactors John and Sunday Reed and was the gathering place for the Heide Circle (which included Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester).
SILO ART TRAIL
Where: Wimmera Mallee Region, Victoria (a four-hour drive north-west of Melbourne)
Conceived in 2016 after the success of the first silo artwork in Brim, what started as a small community project resulted in widespread international media attention and an influx of visitors to the region. Stretching over 200 kilometres (125 miles) the Silo Art Trail links Brim with neighbouring towns Lascelles, Patchewollock, Rosebery, Rupanyup and Sheep Hills. Aside from the sheer brilliance and scale of the artwork, what you’ll love is the insight into the true spirit of the Wimmera Mallee region. You’ll get to experience an iconic pathway through regional Victoria that recognises and celebrates the region’s people through a series of large-scale mural portraits painted onto grain silos, many of which date back to the 1930s.
AUSTRALIAN SPORTS MUSEUM
Where: Melbourne Cricket grounds (MCG), East Melbourne
Home of the largest collection of sporting memorabilia, the Australian Sports Museum is a must-experience for any sports fan, from the novice to the downright fanatic. This is no ordinary museum. From interactive exhibits to sporting challenges, there’s so much to experience. You’ll also find a number of iconic faces sharing first-hand accounts of their sporting story, the highlight of which are life-sized 3D holograms of dual AFL Premiership and Richmond Star Bachar Houli and Carlton AFLW Star Tayla Harris.
Where: Booker Street, Spotswood
A classic Melbourne family favourite, Scienceworks is a place that links Melbourne’s scientific industry, community, applied technology and heritage all in one unbelievably fun environment. Scienceworks is bursting with things to challenge curious minds of all ages. In just one visit, you can stroll among the gigantic machines that keep the city running, enjoy electrifying theatre in the Lightning Room, let your little ones roam safely in enclosed spaces, wander through the many immersive exhibitions and drop into deep space in the Melbourne Planetarium. The possibilities to tickle your scientific fancy are endless.