Moving to Australia

What’s on in Melbourne? Festivals and Events You Need in Your Life

Ah Melbourne, so much to do, so many places to go. Better get yourself a laneway espresso because you’re going to need that shot of energy!

The favourite of Melbourne events, the Melbourne Cup (Nov)

Arguably the most famous Melbourne event of them all for this beautiful city is the Melbourne Cup. It’s certainly Australia’s most prestigious thoroughbred horse race, a 3,200-metre race for horses aged three years and over. Every year, on the first Tuesday of November, the ‘race that stops a nation’ is held at 3pm. Total prize money is $7,300,000 and trophies valued at $250,000 are awarded.

Crowd attendance can reach 100,000 for this major event which is part of the annual Spring Racing Carnival. An important element of the day is the ‘Fashions on the Field’ event which awards generous prizes to the best-dressed man and woman. Flemington Racecourse is festooned with approximately 12,000 roses of 200 different varieties, all carefully and painstakingly nurtured to bloom in time for the big day.

Punters place bets on this day, even if they never gamble throughout the year, and some winners come away with small fortunes. It’s a day of celebration, good food and champagne, fashion, flowers and festivities.

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - what's on in Melbourne

Festivals in Melbourne that you should attend at least once in your life

White Night Melbourne (Feb)

This increasingly popular event, which began in 2013 makes Melbourne shine overnight! It uses the city as a canvas and projects upon some of the buildings jaw-dropping lighting displays. The dusk-to-dawn event showcases street performers, includes fashion experiences and celebrates culture and creativity. From 2019, White Night Melbourne is set to become a winter event.

Moomba Festival (Mar)

Four days of family fun on the banks of the Yarra River, with carnival rides, nightly fireworks, the crazy Birdman Rally, the Moomba Masters water sports, skate, scoot and BMX competitions, live music and the major event, the Moomba Parade. It’s Australia’s largest free community festival and attracts up to one million people!

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (Mar/Apr)

A foodie city since forever, Melbourne turns on the tastebuds at its annual Food & Wine Festival. It runs for 10 days and is designed to shine a spotlight on the region’s fantastic food and wine, highlighting Victoria’s reputation as a gastronomic epicentre. Visit lively food markets, enjoy a meal in award-winning restaurants, explore Melbourne’s quirky laneway bars, meet producers, discover new favourite ingredients and drink a salute to outstanding provedores.

The World’s Longest Lunch (Mar)

Of the 300 events that form the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, the biggest is The World’s Longest Lunch. A 500-metre table is set in an iconic Melbourne location and over 1,600 diners gather to dine on a sumptuous feast prepared by celebrity chefs.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Mar/Apr)

Three and a half weeks of belly laughs, giggles and guffaws! Melbourne’s pubs, clubs, theatres and outdoor venues play host to local and international comedic talent in this festival that has world-wide cred.

Melbourne Fringe Festival (Sep)

A multi-arts festival that embraces diversity, Melbourne Fringe is where you’ll find the weird, the misfits and the freaks. Its unbridled love for adventurous, risky and quirky is threaded through all exhibits. Thousands of artists from every possible discipline present over 450 works across 170 venues, from libraries and bookshops to cafes, bars and even the back seats of cars. The 360,000-plus audience delights in the chance to make incredible discoveries.

Melbourne International Arts Festival (Oct) 

A celebration of theatre, dance, circus, visual arts, multimedia and outdoor events – many of them free – and spread out over multiple venues. Endless creativity goes into the performances which could feature Middle Eastern dance-opera, a cacophony of 100 cheap plastic keyboards, virtual reality, lip-syncing, open flames or a 24-hour one-man show.

Melbourne events that celebrate Christmas

The CBD offers loads of activities at Christmas, many of them free. Christmas Projections involves illuminating city buildings with free animated shows. Gingerbread Village at Federation Square is a 560-kilogram gingerbread creation you can go along to see. Have your photo taken with Santa at Santa’s House in front of the Town Hall.

Myer Animated Christmas Windows (Dec) 

Every year, Melbourne’s CBD becomes awash with Christmas spirit. In particular, the windows of the Myer store in Bourke Street Mall are decorated with magical displays, always to a theme. Past years have featured ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, ‘How Santa Really Works’ and classic fairy tales including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty. Every display is an extravaganza of lights, animation and colour and people of all ages line up to see the breathtaking sights. A visit to Santa in his level six Santaland is a must.

Christmas Festival Official Tree Lighting Ceremony (Dec) 

Santa makes an exciting appearance at Federation Square for the lighting of the gorgeous, 16-metre city Christmas tree. Roving performers provide family-friendly entertainment and the festive buzz is everywhere! Throughout December, you can enjoy the beautiful sound and light show for free every night. You can even walk inside the six-metre-high Giant Christmas Bauble.

Carols by Candlelight (Dec)

Join ten thousand other revellers at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne to sing along to Christmas carols performed by celebrities.

Melbourne festivals that get loud

Melbourne International Jazz Festival (Jun) 

For 10 days over 25 venues, the festival plays host to more than 130 different events, all focused on jazz in all its forms and flavours. The event includes modern masters, Australian and international collaborations, late night gigs and opportunities for emerging artists to receive exposure.

Melbourne Music Week (Nov)

It’s a 9-day event held across various venues and features a long roster of local and international musical acts. Melbourne Music Week forms part of the fabric of the city’s cultural personality and is more than live music. There are free panels and discussions to attend which touch on topics such as sound healing and music therapy. The Live Music Safari is a night of free performances that take the audience on an adventure through 13 of the city’s iconic music venues. Think of it as a musical treasure hunt party and hear some of Melbourne’s best local talent. There are always unique performances to catch such as when bands on board the cabins of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, playing unplugged.

Melbourne is a city where something fun, fascinating or frivolous is always happening. It’s justifiably considered Australia’s cultural capital and every year, the number of events grows.


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