Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne, is full of fantastic things to see and do, from spectacular museums and galleries, beautiful outdoor landscapes and impressive architecture, to some of the best food and drink spots in the country. Whether you’re visiting the city for a couple of days, or you’ve just started studying in Melbourne and need a little weekend inspiration, here are the best places to visit in the Victorian capital.

Friday evening

Head to Melbourne’s hip and happening Fitzroy, which lies just north of the city. Catch the number 11 tram from the city to Fitzroy’s main strip, Brunswick Street, and hop off at the bottom of the street so you can take in the buzzing atmosphere on foot.

For dinner, there are plenty of great eateries along Brunswick Street. However, it’s worth checking out some of the meat-free options along the strip – they’re some of the best Melbourne has to offer. Smith & Daughters is a Melbourne institution serving incredible vegan food, with a menu that rotates between different cuisines every few months. Vegie Bar is another great vegan and vegetarian restaurant with a diverse menu covering a number of cuisines. The adjoining ice cream shop, Girls & Boys, does frozen treats that are entirely free of animal products (although you’d never be able to tell!).

Finish up your night by taking part in some gaming on nearby Smith Street. Play a bunch of old-school arcade games at Pixel Alley, or, if board games are your thing, head to Queen of Spades. Here, you’ll find hundreds of different board games, and you can play as many of them as you like for only $5 per person. You can also enjoy a game of pool and a milkshake at Melbourne icon Red Triangle, which is just off Brunswick Street and open every day until 2am.

Alternatively, if you’re keen to make your Friday night a little more educational, head to Scienceworks in the inner-west suburb of Spotswood. The museum is home to an amazing array of science and technology exhibits and hosts really cool Planetarium Nights every Friday, complete with film screenings.

Saturday morning

Start your day off with a cup of coffee – Melbourne is famous for it, so it’s an experience you won’t want to miss. In the CBD, try Higher Ground, Kinfolk, Market Lane or Seven Seeds. If you’re hungry, head to Lune Croissanterie (pictured above) on Collins Street for the best croissants in Melbourne (and maybe even the world). Otherwise, if you’re staying in or near St Kilda, grab a table at one of the famous bakeries along Acland Street and start your day off with coffee and a slice of cake.

Next, head to the inner-city Docklands area. Take in a bird’s eye view of the city on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel (pictured below), learn about Victoria’s crime and police history at the Victoria Police Museum, or indulge in some retail therapy at The District

Saturday afternoon

Next, it’s time to enjoy Melbourne’s greenery. There are plenty of lovely gardens dotted around the Melbourne CBD, including Carlton Gardens (pictured below – make sure to check out the natural history collections at Melbourne Museum while you’re there), Fitzroy Gardens, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. All are equally great for snoozing away the afternoon. Or, take the bus to Abbotsford and explore the tranquil Yarra Bend Park. Even though you’re only a short distance from the city, it truly feels like you’re in the middle of the bush here. You can even spend the afternoon playing outdoor mini golf at Yarra Bend Golf.

Saturday evening

There are honestly too many fun areas to explore in Melbourne, so you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to figuring out your Saturday night plans. However, there are a few highlights in all directions from the CBD.

In Melbourne’s inner west – and only a short train ride from the city – you’ll find the multicultural suburb of Footscray. Enjoy some authentic African or Vietnamese food at one of the many great eateries before hopping on the train to nearby Yarraville. Here, you’ll find the Sun Theatre, one of the loveliest cinemas in Melbourne showing new releases and arthouse films (fun fact: acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino is quite a fan of the family-run cinema).

If you’d prefer to venture south, head to vibrant Chapel Street, which runs from South Yarra to Windsor. You’ll find hundreds of places to eat, drink and hang out along the street, but highlights include Yoku Ono Ramen + Sake (pictured below), Hawker Hall and Tokyo Tina for dinner, and White Oaks Saloon Bar & Dining on adjacent Greville Street for drinks and bar food. Hot tip: if you’re in Melbourne to shop, Chapel Street is also a great retail strip by day.

To experience Melbourne’s hip side, travel north to Brunswick or Northcote. Both suburbs are home to top bars, restaurants and pubs and a very cool atmosphere. You’re bound to find live bands at one of the area’s many music joints, including Howler, the Spotted Mallard, the Retreat Hotel and The Penny Black in Brunswick, and Northcote Social Club in Northcote.

Sunday morning

Start the day off with a walk around the Tan Track, which circles the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s a really picturesque walk loved by plenty of locals. Or, do as Melburnians do and hire a bike to ride around the city. There’s no better way to take in views of the CBD.

No trip to Melbourne would be complete without a walk through the CBD. Check out the beautiful old arcades (Cathedral Arcade, Royal Arcade, and the Block Arcade are all worth checking out) and winding alleyways, which are filled with shops, cafes and street art. The CBD is a great place to get your shopping hit, with plenty of local and international brands dotted throughout.

To finish up your Melbourne weekend, you must head to the CBD’s museum precinct, which encompasses two National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) buildings and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Soak up both Australian and international art at the NGV and learn about the history of film, TV, gaming and technology at ACMI.