If the Lexus Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation, then the AFL Grand Final is the match that stops Melbourne.
By Visit Victoria and Simon Webster
Australian football – also known as Aussie rules, or AFL, as in Australian Football League – is played right across Australia. But in the sport’s heartland of Melbourne, it’s more than just a game. It’s a religion, an obsession, a way of life. In short, the locals are absolutely mad for it.
Each September, the AFL Grand Final, pits the two best teams against each other to decide the premier in an end-of-season showdown. Footy fever is so strong in Melbourne that there is even a state-wide public holiday on the Friday before the Grand Final.
If you haven’t got tickets, you’re too late. But not to worry. For the whole weekend, the entire city will be even more footy crazy than usual, which means there will be opportunities galore to soak up all the atmosphere, fun and colour of a uniquely Australian event.
After a weekend like this, you’ll be an Aussie rules addict for life.
Grand Final Friday – 28 September
9:00am: Kick-start the day with coffee
Not many cities take their coffee as seriously as Melbourne does.
Here, the bean and beverage are almost as sacred as the AFL Grand Final itself, which is good news for fans of caffeine.
Professional baristas will happily talk beans and machines, or perhaps the player most likely to kick the first goal, while carefully tending to a takeaway or dine-in brew.
If you love coffee, then take a journey around Melbourne to discover some of its best cafes and roasteries in the city.
11:00am: AFL Grand Final Parade and Live Site
The city comes to life just before lunch, as hundreds of thousands of people descend on Melbourne’s streets for the annual AFL Grand Final Parade starting from 12.00pm.
Festivities commence outside the Old Treasury Building on Spring St, before travelling on Spring Street and Wellington St and in to Yarra Park.
The competing teams are presented to the masses at the AFL Grand Final Live Site, with visitors able to indulge in meet-and-greets with players, live music and Melbourne's best food trucks and bars in the shadows of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
5:00pm: Unwind with a drink by the Yarra River
Visitors can meander back to the city from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, stopping in for a locally brewed ale or glass of prosecco as you prepare for that one day in September – the AFL Grand Final.
From Arbory Bar and Ponyfish Island to Riverland, Fatto Cantina and the numerous bars and restaurants of Southbank, there’s plenty of great options to unwind from a big day along the banks of the Yarra River.
Grand Final Saturday – 29 September
10:00am: Brunch or watch the Fox Footy Longest Kick
From a big breakfast to an early lunch, variety is the slice of life when it comes to brunch in Melbourne.
For those who want the full AFL experience, be at the Yarra River by 10.30am for the Fox Footy Longest Kick event, to watch AFL stars try to boot a ball across to the other bank.
12:00pm: Footy festival fun at the AFL Grand Final Live Site
The AFL Grand Final Live Site in Yarra Park is possibly the next best thing to being in the stadium. It’s right next to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, so if you want to be close to the action, this is the right place.
Pick up a scarf, a hat or a jersey (team shirt) and get those vocal chords warmed up with live music, plenty of great dining options, football games and clinics and genuine excitement filling the air.
2:30pm: The pub is the place to be
A coveted ticket to the AFL Grand Final is rare, with most Melburnians joining friends and family at the city’s live sites or pubs for the big game. There are hundreds of options in the central business district and on Melbourne’s fringes, including Melbourne’s famous Federation Square, with its big screen, food stalls and surrounding bars and cafes.
Choose a venue via Time Out’s preview of the best pubs for the AFL Finals.
Grand Final Sunday – 30 September
10:00am: Melbourne Cricket Ground Tour and the National Sports Museum
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (more commonly known as the MCG – or just “the G”), is the undisputed home of Australian sport, so visitors should take time to step through its history via a tour of the stadium and a stop at the National Sports Museum.
Highlights of this must-see tour include the famous Melbourne Cricket Club Long Room, the Melbourne Cricket Club Library, player change rooms, cricketers' viewing room, portraits of Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar and a walk on the same hallowed turf as Australian football greats.
Australia’s largest sporting collection is housed in the National Sports Museum. This contemporary space boasts interactive zones, 3D holograms, displays and memorabilia from some of Australia’s biggest sporting heroes. Ranging across the Olympics, Australian football, cricket, horse racing, and much more, the National Sports Museum is a must for fans of any sporting code or endeavour.
1:00pm: Refuel and get eventful
After a full weekend treat yourself to a recovery lunch. From cheap eats to long lunches, Melbourne's awash with quality cafes and restaurants to satisfy every midday appetite and budget.
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