Melbourne is a city of art and artists, boasting more than 100 galleries - from large public institutions to small commercial galleries and artist-run initiatives. Melbourne’s no slouch in the performing arts either, with everything from mainstream musicals to experimental works and the home of the Australian Ballet.
National Gallery of Victoria
Victoria’s jewel in the crown of art galleries, the NGV displays the city’s prized collections of European, Asian, Oceanic and American art, and best of all, entry to the permanent collection is free. Make sure to check if any major travelling exhibitions are in town.
Arts Centre Melbourne
A landmark on the Melbourne skyline, the performance spaces beneath the magnificent spire present a dizzying array of dance, musicals, opera, concerts and plays. Take a backstage tour behind and below the scenes and learn how sometimes there’s more drama off than on the stage.
Ian Potter Centre
Part of the NGV, the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square is dedicated solely to Australian art, with both indigenous collections plus early colonial artists through to the present day. There is more Australian art on display here than any other gallery in the world.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
At the other end of the spectrum, the ACMI is a mind-blowing journey of the moving image in all its forms, from film to television, to the digital society. Film buffs will love the permanent Screen Worlds exhibit; however special exhibitions change all the time.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Australia's leading contemporary art space has an international reputation as one of few galleries around the world producing new artworks by living artists. Its focus is on commissioning rather than collecting, and each exhibition is accompanied by a program of free talks, tours and workshops.
Flinders Lane is the heart and centre of Melbourne's commercial gallery scene, with Australia's largest concentration of galleries crammed down the laneway. Some of the most popular are Flinders Lane Gallery; fortyfivedownstairs, Anna Schwarz, and Craft, which sells works by local arts and crafts people.
Located in the Carlton Gardens, next to the historic Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s definitely worth a visit, even if just to take a peek at the preserved racehorse Phar Lap, and other historic memorabilia.
Grand old theatres
Melbourne’s grand old theatres are artworks themselves. The flamboyant Princess Theatre opened in 1857 and has staged many international productions, including Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Cats. There’s one seat you can’t book on opening nights - it’s reserved for the theatre’s ghost.
Since the 60s, La Mama has been known for its cutting edge, contemporary theatre. Its list of alumni reads like a who’s who of Australian theatre including such greats as David Williamson and Cate Blanchett. Prepare to be challenged with works way beyond the mainstream.