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. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

The two NGV galleries 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.

2. See 'Mandela: My Life' Exhibition 

This extraordinary exhibition follows the journey of inspirational leader Nelson Mandela. His story is brought to life through carefully curated original artefacts, as well as film and audio archives. The world-first opening is at the Melbourne Museum in September 2018.

3. 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.

4. Catch the School of Rock

This Broadway hit from Andrew Lloyd Webber is based on the hit movie of the same name. A failed rock star poses as a relief teacher, then turns his class into a rock band. Will they make it to the Battle of the Bands? School of Rock opens in Melbourne in January 2019 - plan a trip and wait list your tickets now!

5. 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.

6. Discover 'Vikings: Beyond the Legend' 

Vikings have long had a reputation as fierce plunderers in horned helmets, but the reality is way more complex. Discover the truth at 'Vikings: Beyond the Legend', which provides a fascinating insight into the Viking culture. With 500 artefacts, it includes skeletal remains of a genuine Viking longship. Exhibition opens March 23 at Melbourne Museum.

7. Go to Wonderland 

Lewis Carroll's timeless classic 'Alice in Wonderland' has inspired music, films, cartoons, and generations of bedtime stories. Opening on April 5, the 'Wonderland' exhibition at Australia Centre for the Moving Image invites you to go through the looking-glass. You'll discover a curious selection of fascinating displays that honour one of the world's most famous children’s books.

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 April. 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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