Distinctive shopping, time-honoured traditions, and new ways to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year: Melbourne does Christmas like nowhere else. Here’s our guide to making the most of the festive season in one of the world’s most liveable cities.
Christmas tree and nightly shows
The centrepiece of Christmas Square at Federation Square is the giant tree. At 16 metres high, it’s bigger than ever! Behold the 192 individually-programmed LED branches and a star perched atop the tree twinkling in the night sky. Make sure you get there to see its nightly multi-coloured light shows.
Generations of Melburnians have pressed their noses to the Myer Christmas windows, whose enchanting theme changes every year. This year’s Myer Animated Christmas Windows in the Bourke Street Mall are taking on a whimsical theme, inviting Alice and her Wonderland crew to the party.
Then take a look back at windows past at Melbourne Museum for Make Believe: The Story of the Myer Christmas Windows. This exhibition’s sketches, prototypes, props and animatronics celebrate more than 250 characters from windows past. Marvel at the skill and artistry that have been bringing a book, nursery rhyme or film to life every year since 1956.
Another holiday tradition associated with former Melbourne retail mogul and philanthropist Sidney Myer is Carols by Candlelight at the Myer Music Bowl. Now in its 81st year, this heart-warming Christmas Eve event gathers thousands of voices, young and old, singing with joy and hope. All funds raised go to Vision Australia, to help children who are blind or have low vision.
Make sure to spend a while shopping for a Yuletide feast at the Queen Victoria Market. There are hundreds of stalls to choose from, but ham, cheese and wine from ReWine is a good start. Get alfresco celebration tips at a ‘Whack It on the Barbie’ class, and more inspiration, or gorgeous gifts, from Books for Cooks. Purchase one of their selected summer cookbooks during December and receive a market voucher!
Christmas party style
From cocktail parties to a family barbecue on Christmas Day, the festive season is party time. Shine bright with some distinctive pieces from Melbourne’s fashion boutiques, such as Lucy Folk. This little shop in the historic Crossley Street is best known for handmade jewels and luxe accessories – even Beyoncé loves a bit of Lucy Folk!
Beautiful yet practical wearables await at Obus, which is noted for using natural fibres and exclusive prints. This year find features dresses, tops, shorts, swimwear, sandals, socks, nail polish and more in their iconic print stories.
For more summer style with a local twist, head to Kuwaii. The garments, shoes and accessories here are made to last, both in terms of durability and design. They’re made in Melbourne too, so shopping here means helping locals have a merry Christmas.
Not to say that you can’t also add a little Swedish style to your holiday wardrobe. Australian design company Funkis brings Scandi influences to Melbourne with proudly ethically-made pieces. Explore their own collection of clothing, shoes and accessories alongside labels like Marimekko, Rodebjer and Veja, homewares from Iris Hantverk, Normann and Littala.
The art of Christmas shopping
Shop among the city’s internationally renowned street art, which flourishes in secluded alleyways such as Hosier Lane. Take a coffee break here at Good 2 Go, and buy some second hand goodies for that Melbourne touch. Every penny spent at this Youth Projects enterprise helps young people experiencing homelessness and other disadvantages.
After all that running around to make the festive season special for everyone else, reward yourself with a gift too! Perhaps something from the NGV Design Store, where luxe, limited-edition design commissions sit alongside playful pieces from local designers and makers.
Or gather some hard working mates for a refresh at the tranquil Botanica Day Spa. Try the Botanical Escape, which features a foot soak and massage, followed by a hot-stone back massage and an anti-ageing Elemis facial.
Whether you’re into movies or murder mysteries, there’s a tome waiting for you at Hill of Content Bookshop. The staff are keen readers, so if you’re in a hurry be sure to ask for advice. Or just make a beeline for the mesmerising front window display of new releases.
Wax Museum Records is a must if you like listening to music the good old-fashioned way. Make that ways, because they stock vinyl, CDs and tapes, both new and used, as well as turntable accessories. No time to decide? Get a voucher and treat yourself in the new year. And while you’re chilling underground in Campbell Arcade, there’s no reason not to visit uber Melbourne shops The Cats Meow or Corky Saint Clair.