Where to go in Melbourne to get your culture fix

We explore the creative side of Melbourne, where you can learn about film, witness a theatre show, soak in an art exhibition, or browse handcrafted jewellery.

The Art-Deco State Library of Victoria.
  • Michael Harden
  • November 2018

Many people consider Melbourne to be Australia’s culture capital and with good reason: on any given day you can choose to browse world-class art collections, attend an insightful books talk or see an array of theatre productions. Here’s a list of must-dos for creative minds.

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State Library Victoria

The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas is part of the reason Melbourne was named a UNESCO City of Literature. Housed in the southern wing of the State Library Victoria, the centre runs a year-round program of events, debates and awards hosting the likes of literary heavyweights Peter Carey, Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan, and young-adult superstars such as Veronica Roth (of Divergent fame). There are lunchtime and evening talks and ongoing themed series that explore topics such as racism, death, podcasts and the media, and many of the events are free.

Lyon House Museum

Art collectors Corbett and Yueji Lyon designed their house in Kew as a unique hybrid of private residence and museum for their impressive collection of contemporary Australian art, which features major works by Patricia Piccinini, Callum Morton, Howard Arkley, Polly Borland and Brook Andrew. Lyon House Museum, itself an architectural masterpiece, will be joined next year by a AUD $14.5 million gallery with space for the Lyon collection alongside visiting local and international exhibitions. Book well in advance as the museum tours, all hosted by family members, sell out fast.

Lyon House hosts the latest playful exhibitions.
Lyon House hosts the latest playful exhibitions.

Gallery Funaki

Galleries are thick on the ground in Melbourne’s CBD but few are as precisely focused as Gallery Funaki. Established by jeweller Mari Funaki in 1995, this repository of contemporary jewellery showcases artists from across the globe, displaying their work in the tiny white shopfront. Hosting solo and curated group exhibitions, the space is a minimalist treasure trove with banks of slim drawers that slide out to reveal gorgeously crafted treasures in a wide range of materials including gold, diamonds, steel and plastic. Be warned – it is addictive.

Discover funky Funaki jewellery to take home.
Discover funky Funaki jewellery to take home.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image

The ACMI is not just a theme park for hard-core cinephiles – there’s a lot more going for it. ACMI’s rotating collection of more than 200,000 moving image works is augmented by regular feature exhibitions highlighting the works of David Bowie, Martin Scorsese, Pixar and Tim Burton –often the hottest tickets in town. If you need more reason to visit, there are two state-of-the art cinemas running the something-for-everybody gamut from obscure Argentine auteurs to Australian classics, and the shop also offers an inspired collection of hard-to-find films and collectable memorabilia.

The ACMI is a must for movie-lovers.
The ACMI is a must for movie-lovers.

The Butterfly Club

Could there be anything more Melbourne than a tiny theatre at the end of a city laneway, drenched in carefully curated kitsch and featuring cabaret, burlesque and more eclectic live musical performances than you can shake a (sequinned) stick at? The Butterfly Club has seen both Tim Minchin and Eddie Perfect perform, joining a thousand fabulous wannabes watched by crowds fuelled by excellent cocktails procured from the club’s cosy foyer bars. With up to 50 shows a week, it can be hard to make a decision. The best approach is to turn up, grab a stiff drink, relax and let the Butterfly surprise you.

The small Butterfly Club packs a performance punch.
The small Butterfly Club packs a performance punch.