When is the best time to visit Melbourne? If you’re a fan of street festivals, dancing, food trucks and warm weather, summer is the perfect time to come. For lovers of wine, literature, art, markets and movies winter is a treat. Spring is the season for sports lovers with the AFL Grand Final and Spring Racing Carnival bringing a buzz into the city. Fans of music and comedy shouldn’t miss autumn as events like Moomba, the Brunswick Music Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival create an atmosphere of excitement, laughter and joy. This article provides a month by month rundown of the best festivals and events happening in Melbourne.
The Australian Open
January in Melbourne kicks off with one of the worlds greatest sporting events, the Australian Open. Tennis lovers come from across the globe to watch the stars compete. Don’t have a ticket? You can still watch the games in Federation Square and Birrarung Marr.
Midsumma is a family-friendly LBGTQ celebration of arts and culture spanning 22 days. Festival highlights include the pride march and Midsumma carnival with free entertainment, performances and carnival rides along the banks of the Yarra River and Alexandra gardens.
Vida Melbourne Latin Summer Festival
Alexandra Gardens comes alive in January over two weekends for the Vida Melbourne Latin Summer Festival. This free event sees over 40,000 attendees each year with films, salsa classes, live music, south American food trucks and kids entertainment. This festival is the best place to put on your dancing shoes in January.
St Kilda Festival
Each year Melburnians flock to the St Kilda foreshore for Australia’s largest free music festival. St Kilda festival features huge international and Australian bands as well as smaller local musicians across 6 different stages. The all-ages event also has market stalls, food trucks, carnival rides and cultural exhibitions.
The Greek precinct of Melbourne, located in Lonsdale street transforms in the last weekend of February for the Antipodes Festival. With over 100,000 attendees celebrating Greek culture, food, dancing, music and more, this free event is great fun for the whole family. Melbourne actually has the largest Greek-speaking population in the world outside of Greece, making the Antipodes festival one of the most vibrant and exciting events of the year.
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Brunswick Music Festival
The Brunswick Music Festival is a two-week celebration of local venues and local musicians. The highlight of the festival is the Sydney Road Street Party where 6 stages host a variety of cultural performances from Melbourne and around the world. Of course, the street is filled with local food vendors, artisan beverages, community stalls and entertainment for all age groups.
Moomba is Australia’s largest community festival, running for three days over Labour day weekend. Highlights of the festival include the Moomba parade, carnival, fireworks, live music and the most entertaining birdman rally. The birdman rally is the only time of year where people voluntarily jump into the Yarra river, attempting to fly in giant bird-like costumes.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the largest stand-alone comedy festival in the world. Over four weeks the comedy festival hosts over 6000 performances including stand up, cabaret, sketch shows and improvisational theatre. If you’re a comedy fan, April is one of the liveliest months to visit Melbourne.
Visit the Theatre
May is a quiet month for Melbourne festivals, but it’s always a good time to watch a show at one of the city’s magnificent theatres. As autumn brings chilly temperatures, take solace in the Princess Theatre with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or perhaps see Come From Away at the Comedy Theatre. Cheap tickets to Melbourne shows can be found at Halftix.
Queen Victoria Winter Night Market
The night market is a highlight of winter in Melbourne. With market stalls, live music and mulled wine, the night market is a brilliant way to immerse yourself in Melbourne culture during winter. The Winter Night Market is open every Wednesday evening from June until the end of August.
Melbourne Writers Festival
July is the perfect time to rug up with a good book in the library. Did you know Melbourne is officially the UNESCO world city of literature? Each year the Melbourne Writers Festival features a showcase of international authors sharing their stories and experiences as writers.
Melbourne International Film Festival
If you’re a film buff rather than a bookworm then we suggest attending the Melbourne International Film Festival, or as the locals call it MIFF. MIFF is actually one of the oldest film festivals in the world alongside Cannes and Berlin film festivals. MIFF is an iconic cultural event in Melbourne, aiming to showcase the world through “curated and unforgettable screen experiences”.
Comic-con is the event of the year for entertainment and pop culture in Melbourne. The convention showcases the latest comics, anime, cosplay and video games. Attendees have the chance to meet celebrities and guest speakers and access premiers for exhibitions and studio activations.
NGV Friday Nights
It’s like night at the museum, except in an art gallery and none of the paintings come alive. NGV Friday nights is an event which allows exclusive access to the latest exhibition at the national gallery. Art is accompanied by DJ’s, music and wine. NGV Fridays run both summer and winter sessions in July and February.
Melbourne lights up in August for White Night, an interactive arts festival with performances taking over the streets. During White Night, Birrarung Marr, the Treasury Gardens and the Carlton Gardens come alive with projection art and immersive installations. The family-friendly event is a thrilling experience for people of all ages.
The AFL Grand Final
Grand final day is the day of days for AFL fans. We love our footy so much that the day before the game is a public holiday for mental and physical preparation. The Grand final friday public holiday features a parade through the streets of Melbourne. Then on Saturday 100,000 footy fans head to the MCG to watch the final match of the season. Don’t have a ticket to the game? You can watch the grand final in Federation square or go to a pub.
Royal Melbourne Show
The Royal Melbourne Show brings the country to the city for September school holidays. The show has been running since 1948 and is a highlight event for families with agricultural exhibitions, food, carnival rides, entertainment and show bags. Getting to the showgrounds is easy and convenient with specialty train services leaving Flinders Street Station regularly throughout the event. Unlike many other events on this list, the show isn’t free costing around $80 for a family of four.
Spring racing carnival
The Spring racing carnival is a series of annual horse racing events across Melbourne in October and November, famous for fashionable people wearing fashionable outfits and hats. Highlight events include the Caulfield Cup, Oaks Day, Stakes Day and of course “the race that stops the nation”, The Melbourne Cup. Victorians even get a public holiday to watch the horse race!
Melbourne Music Week
Melbourne music week features a showcase of local musicians playing shows across the city’s best venues. Melbourne Music Week celebrates independent artists and unique local talents with over 2,000 live performances in the city’s most iconic spaces. This City of Melbourne initiative includes many free shows to catch some of Australia’s best acts.
Melbourne Fringe Festival
The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an independent arts festival hosting over 300 shows with everything from theatre, comedy, music and performance art to film, design, cabaret, digital art and circus. With such a wide variety of performances, there is a brilliant cultural experience to be had for anyone at the fringe festival.
You won’t be getting a white Christmas in Melbourne any time soon but you can spend the warm summer nights leading up to the holiday exploring the streets of Melbourne. From late November the city is transformed into a Christmas wonderland including Santa’s house, a giant Christmas tree and projections across iconic Melbourne buildings like the State Library Victoria and Town Hall. You can also admire the famous Myer Christmas windows if you’re brave enough to tackle Bourke Street Mall during the busy Christmas shopping period.