Top 10 museums, art galleries and cultural attractions in Melbourne

Experience Melbourne's fabulously creative character through an ever-changing calendar of art, theatre and cultural events.

The best way to get your head around all the facets of Melbourne's urban personality is to visit museums, art galleries, theatres and performance venues whenever you get the chance. Exhibition content is wide-ranging and not limited to indoor settings - in the laneways north of Federation Square, street-art has become a major city attraction.

1. Catch a performance at the Arts Centre

There's always something astounding on at the world-acclaimed riverside Arts Centre Melbourne in Southbank. Book tickets before you leave home to see a theatre, opera, dance or music performance; the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia are regulars here. There are also free exhibitions to check out, as well as an all-day market every Sunday. Next door to the complex is Hamer Hall, another top venue for live performances.

2. See 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' at the Princess Theatre

The most awarded show in the history of the UK's Olivier Awards, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a once-in-a-lifetime family theatre experience. It could easily be your number one reason to visit Melbourne this year. The play is a continuation of J.K. Rowling's final Harry Potter book. Harry and his friends are dealing with adult life and parenthood when their world is threatened by a new dark force. As you can imagine, it's a spellbinding production.

3. Explore the universe of film, TV, videogames & art at ACMI

Located in the heart of Melbourne's Fed Square, ACMI (formerly Australian Centre for the Moving Image) celebrates screen culture in its many forms – fostering the next generation of makers, players and watchers. Alongside its centrepiece exhibition showcasing the history of the moving image, ACMI has a vibrant calendar of exhibitions, screenings, commissions and festivals so there is always something new to see.  

4. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

The two NGV galleries (International and Australia) are located right in the CBD, just a short walk from each other. With masterworks by Dali, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and many more, a constantly evolving selection of touring art exhibitions and a focus on Australian and Oceanic art, this is a treasure trove for art lovers.

5. Discover the best street art

The Melbourne laneways are a modern art gallery that's constantly evolving. More than just graffiti, these edgy works display a huge range of technical skills and techniques. Melbourne's art streets are also a window into current political and social problems, giving voice to current issues. Take a Melbourne city street art tour or guide yourself with an online map from the Walking Maps website.

6. Explore the East End Theatre District

With a track record for entertaining people that stretches back to the gold rush years, the East End Theatre District includes six magnificent historic theatres - Her Majesty's, Princess, Comedy, Athenaeum, Regent and Forum. From rock concerts and comedy shows to Broadway-style musicals, the range of performances covers all tastes and preferences. Book early for the big productions.

7. Cruise to see contemporary art

Take a day trip along the Yarra River to the Melbourne art gallery that's a true indoor-outdoor experience - Heide Museum of Modern Art. It's set within 15 acres of gardens peppered with sculptures, so you could easily lose an entire morning exploring the grounds before heading indoors for lunch at Café Heide. Then spend the afternoon with Australia's finest abstract, realist, and expressionist artists.

8. Appreciate literature at the State Library of Victoria

Melbourne is a UNESCO City of Literature and home to Australia's thriving publishing industry. To investigate local literary culture, call into the State Library of Victoria. There's always something interesting on and the library's ornate, century-old dome is a great photographic opportunity. You'll also find a huge collection of Australian historic items - from Ned Kelly's suit of armour through to mementos from the 1860 Burke & Wills expedition.

9. Laugh until it hurts at the comedy festival

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is in the Top 3 of comedy festivals in the world, along with Edinburgh and Montreal. It happens every year, starting near the end of March. Of all the art events in Australia, this one is potentially the most entertaining of all.

10. See what's old and new at Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum does what all great museums do, by capturing the past for future generations. But it also displays new stuff that you won't be expecting - temporary exhibitions about fashion, toys, indigenous writers, storytelling, strange creatures, famous people and moments in history. Musing at the museum is always good use of your time.

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