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How Does Melbourne Celebrate Christmas?

From November 12th to December 25th, the city of Melbourne will host a variety of Christmas-themed activities, pop-up shops, and special discounts at retail stores.

The holiday season is the best time to celebrate at rooftop bars and enjoy meals under the twinkling lights. Find the best Christmas presents by following the decorations along little alleys and arcades. Get yourself to Fed Square in time for Santa's arrival by waiting besides the large tree.

Take the kids and relive your childhood at Myer's Christmas Windows, where projections light up the city streets.

While Melbourne isn't exactly a winter wonderland, we make up for it with our excellent barbeque, seafood, lengthy lunches, and Christmas city lights. Discover the best places to get a real tree for the holidays, see the best holiday displays, and shop for unique wares.

FAQs About Melbourne

Carols by Candlelight is an annual Australian Christmas tradition that originated in southeastern Australia in the 19th century and was popularised in Melbourne in 1938. The tradition has since spread around the world. It involves people gathering, usually outdoors in a park, to sing carols by candlelight, featuring live performances by national and international celebrities accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

Carols by Candlelight, held in Melbourne, Victoria, was introduced in 1938 by radio announcer Norman Banks of Melbourne radio station 3KZ. Whilst walking home from his night-time radio shift on Christmas Eve in 1937, he passed a window. He saw an older adult sitting up in bed inside listening to Away in a Manger being played on the radio and singing along with her face lit by candlelight.

Wondering how many others spent Christmas alone, he had the idea to gather a large group of people to sing Christmas carols together by candlelight. The first-ever event was held in Alexandra Gardens the following Christmas in 1938 and was attended by around 10,000 people.

The average high-temperature, in December, in Melbourne, Australia, is 23.7°C (74.7°F), while the average low-temperature is 12.7°C (54.9°F).

On December 24 each year, Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl lights up as families and friends gather to celebrate the festive season while raising funds for Vision Australia's children's services.

December is warm or hot almost everywhere in Australia. Tasmania experiences the coolest temperatures, with average December highs in Hobart of 68° F (20° C).

Average December highs in Adelaide, Canberra, and Sydney are 79° F (26° C), and in Melbourne 77° F (25° C). Perth, despite being on roughly the same latitude as Sydney (but on the opposite coast), is hotter, with average highs around the same as Brisbane, 84° F (29° C). In short, you can expect hot weather in Australia in December, wherever you go.

Carols by Candlelight

Australia is the home of Carols by Candlelight, a tradition started by radio announcer Norman Banks Melbourne's 3KZ in 1937. After Banks saw a woman listening to carols alone by candlelight, he decided to relieve the loneliness and isolation some feel during the holidays.

Ways To Enjoy Christmas In Melbourne

how does melbourne celebrate christmas

Christmas Lights

Melbourne’s iconic buildings will light up in all their Christmas finery in December, including the State Library, the Melbourne Star, the Arts Centre, the MCG and the Royal Exhibition Building. The most impressive may be the Melbourne Town Hall, which will display its Christmas Projections, set to The 12 Days of Christmas, every night from 9 pm to 10:30 pm until Christmas is over. The animated lighting, made especially for the building, is an amazing thing to see.

The Lego Christmas Tree

The Southern Hemisphere's tallest Lego Christmas Tree is on display in Melbourne this holiday season. Over a two-story home, this tree towers. It has some very Australian touches, such a Lego Santa holding a surfboard at the bottom and a koala and a kookaburra perched on its tallest branches. Even while the tree is enjoyable to see during the day, it truly comes into its own when illuminated at night. Federation Square is hosting it until December 27.

The Myer Windows

To mark the holiday season, Myer has featured elaborate window decorations for the past 60 years. Melbourne residents have made it an annual event to wait in line at Bourke St Mall to see Christmas tales and fairy tales brought to life through the use of puppets and moving scenery.

This year's windows are based on an Australian children's novel, Little Dog and the Christmas Wish. The plot centres on a little puppy that gets lost in 1950s Melbourne, a time and place that has been meticulously recreated by the artists who have spent a whole year working on this production.

Crown’s Atrium Spectacular

For a quick burst of Christmas cheer, head to Southgate and the Atrium at Crown to see the Christmas Spectacular lighting and music display. Featuring animatronics, dancing fountains, and a well-utilised crystal-filled ceiling, the show plays out every half hour from 10 am to midnight. 

The family-friendly Christmas Spectacular has been running for over ten years, and this year’s display can be seen until January 3 2016. The Atrium can be found just inside the entrance closest to Queensbridge Street.

The Gingerbread Village

Epicure's chefs have built a gingerbread hamlet for the fifth year running, and this year they've stuffed it with hidden references to Melbourne and delicious sugary surprises. This year, they've got a food-themed Melbourne Grand Prix. It’s open at the Melbourne Town Hall from December 1 to December 24. There will be a gold coin donation at the door with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Christmas Carols

Carols always complete the holiday season. Fortunately, there are many different ways to hear them sung live around the city. The Australian Girls’ Choir will be performing carols with special guests at Christmas Square on December 18 and will wander around Collins Street singing carols from December 21 to 23. Meanwhile, the Salvation Army carollers will take to the Southgate stage every Saturday in December to sing festive songs.

Giant Theremin

For the music of a very different kind, head to the north bank of the Yarra River, right behind Flinders Street Station, and seek out the mysterious orange metal pyramid. The Giant Theremin is an art installation and an unusual musical instrument. It doesn’t need to be touched to be played. All it needs is movement. 

The Theremin responds to nearby running, dancing, jumping, or even simple arm-waving with sounds, creating curious symphonies. The Giant Theremin has been reinstalled for Christmas and will disappear again at the end of January.

QV Outdoor Cinema

One of the benefits of a hot Christmas is that Melbournians can appreciate the outdoors at Christmas time. The QV shopping mall is hosting a pop-up cinema in its outdoor square all summer and is showing good themed films in the lead-up to Christmas. Each ticket holder is issued a deck chair and a personal set of headphones, so cinema-goers can chill out and won’t be distracted by the festive mayhem going on around them.

The Art of Christmas at Melbourne Central

The Melbourne Central Shopping Centre is extending shopping hours and putting on events to celebrate the time of year. Workshops include Christmas present wrapping tutorials, iced tea classes, cupcake decoration and Kit Kat creation. 

But you don’t have to go shopping to enjoy the festivities. The iconic central cone and the shot tower will be lit up in a winter-themed lighting show from 8 pm to 10 pm until December 23. There’s also the opportunity to create awkward Christmas photos with family and friends- terrible sweaters and ironic props are supplied.

Five Other Things to Do on Christmas Day in Melbourne

There isn't much of a set plan for Christmas Day if you don't have a Christmas lunch planned, when you can feast on five different kinds of roast meats. No, your favourite coffee shop probably won't be serving coffee, brunch probably won't be occuring, and you can forget about stopping by Woolworths to pick up some milk and a six pack.

Don't worry, though; events will go on as scheduled, public transportation will operate as usual (at no extra cost to riders), and 7-Eleven will remain open for any last-minute need. And if you're in town and bored, don't celebrate Christmas, or just don't care about the holiday, we've compiled a list of things to do as our present to you.

Inhale A Bowl Of Noodles

Although they don't have a day dedicated to their greatness, the humble bowl of noodles is available all year round and makes a very viable Christmas Day dining option. 

Especially because Hakata Gensuke's Russell Street and QV outposts will both be open for noodle-slurping purposes on December 25. While the rest of the city can be a bit dead on Christmas Day, Chinatown is always lively and bustling, with plenty of options for a feed. 

If noodles or dumplings aren't your vibes, North Melbourne's Auction Rooms, Bentwood cafe in Fitzroy, the CBD's Cafe Lafayette and South Melbourne's British-Indian pub Mr Brownie are just some of the other spots that'll be open and serving up the goods on Christmas Day.

Have A Picnic

They can take our ability to go to the supermarket or get pizza, but they'll never take our freedom to languish in public parks. While you may find it tricky to buy edible supplies on Christmas Day, you can certainly picnic to your heart's content because most parks are open all the time, including the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

Organise your food situation on Christmas Eve, then pack a picnic rug and a bottle of champagne and — weather permitting — have yourself a dreamy day in the gardens or at one of these lovely picnic spots.

See A Movie

Seeing a movie is never a bad idea — think of the price of the movie ticket, large popcorn and Diet Coke as a Christmas gift from you to you. How sweet. With Lido in Hawthorn, Cameo in Belgrave, Cinema Nova and more open on Christmas Day, you can settle in with a good flick while avoiding the Boxing Day release mayhem. 

If you haven't seen it yet, catch the multi-award-winning nuanced teen drama Babyteeth, take the heart rate up a notch with Christopher Nolan's mind-bending action-thriller Tenet, or see Saturday Night Live's Pete Davidson as Judd Apatow's The King of Staten Island.

Hang Out With Animals

If you're looking for a reason to see some furry (or scaly) pals this holiday season, the Melbourne Zoo's extended hours are just what you need. The zoo is a great place to spend a day because it houses some of the cutest baby elephants, meerkats, crocodiles, frogs, and odd reptiles you've ever seen.

Sea Life Melbourne is open on Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., so if you've been meaning to see the glowing jellyfish display, now's your chance!

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Soak In These Hot Springs

If you find yourself with nothing to do on Christmas Day, consider making the trek out to the Mornington Peninsula, where the Peninsula Hot Springs retreat is open nonstop. Depending on your mood, you may spend the day relaxing in the underground sauna, exploring the ice cave, or soaking in one of the many hot spring pools.

There is so much to do and see here (with glamping now available on site) that you may want to spend the night. This includes anything from wellness therapies and spa treatments to holistic experiences, culinary options, and a wide range of geothermal bathing possibilities.

Free Christmas Events in Melbourne for Kids & Families

This year the City of Melbourne is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, featuring a very merry line-up of entertainment and events for all ages.

Myer Christmas Windows

The Myer Christmas Windows display was almost not going to be happening this year, so we're thrilled with the theme of the 65th year of this Melbourne Christmas tradition. Be warned. It's a tear-jerker!

Myer Santaland

After seeing the Myer Christmas Windows, head down to the basement for your one-stop Christmas shop and even catch the virtual express train to meet Santa! Note fees apply for photography, and there is an online booking system.

  • Myer Santaland, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne

Magical Christmas Quest

Join in the Christmas Quest and rediscover the city! Each Friday in December, five new clues will send you on a jolly quest as you navigate through Melbourne’s laneways, arcades and CBD streets to find the answers.

To enter, decipher all five clues, and you’ll go in the draw to win weekly prizes of $250 vouchers to spend in the city, as well as the ultimate Melbourne Prize pack for the whole family.

  • Magical Christmas Quest, Melbourne

Christmas Square

The hub of the Christmas Festival, Christmas Square is a lush wonderland of festive cheer. See the 16m giant Christmas tree, Santa’s Workshop and enough sparkling lights to compete with the stars themselves.

It’s Melbourne’s official Christmas destination, open until Christmas Day.

Christmas Square, Federation Square, Melbourne

Piazza di Natale

Argyle Square has been transformed into a sparkling Christmas wonderland in the heart of Lygon Street. Pick up provisions for a picnic from Lygon Street’s delicious delis or restaurants and enjoy the gelato-hued play area for kids!

  • Piazza di Natale, Argyle Square, Carlton

Christmas at Crown

Christmas lights up with an animatronic Christmas Spectacular show and displays in The Atrium, Crown Towers. Bring the kids and look out for the roving Santas in the food and beverage venues on all weekends in December, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Note that this year there will not be the ArtVo 3D Christmas Walls.

  • Christmas at Crown, Whiteman St, Southbank

Make Merry at QV

Visit our giant Christmas tree, shop and dine in open-air laneways and snap a selfie for the chance to win a $500 QV Gift card!

  • Make Merry at QV, QV Melbourne, Cnr S
    wanston St and Lonsdale St

Christmas at the Melbourne Star

At night Melbourne’s brightest Star puts on a glorious Christmas-themed show spreading joy, love and peace with a dazzling light display and recordings of carols to serenade one and all.

Christmas at Queen Victoria Market

Soak up the festive fun this Christmas as Queen Vic Market hosts festive cooking demonstrations, eco-friendly workshops and the first-ever Festive Food Truck Stop.

Eco-friendly Christmas Workshop – Join Queen Vic Market’s Sustainability Ambassador Erin Rhoads as she hosts her eco-friendly Christmas workshop. Participants will learn tips and tricks to help you plan, shop, wrap and decorate using eco-friendly alternatives.

  • Sunday 6 December, 11 am. Bookings essential.

Christmas Cooking Demonstration – Join Queen Vic Market Ambassador Karen Martini to create two of her favourite festive recipes using market-fresh produce. All participants will receive recipe cards.

  • Sunday 6 December, 12.15 pm and 1.45 pm. Bookings essential.

Festive Food Truck Stop at Queen Vic Market – This December, the Market will host its inaugural Festive Food Truck Stop showcasing an all-star line-up of food truck treats, including bao buns, burgers and tacos and smoked barbecue meats.

  • Wednesday 2, 9 and 16 December, 5 pm-10 pm

Santa Visits Santa will pull up his sleigh and visit the Market, roaming the historic sheds with his trusty elf friends to wish market-goers a Merry Christmas. Bring the kids along to say hi and put in their final wish lists.

  • Saturday 19, Sunday 20, Tuesday 22 and Thursday 24 December, 10 am-2 pm.

Christmas Projections

See City of Melbourne’s annual Christmas Projections at three locations in the city.

Melbourne’s famous Christmas projections return. Stroll Swanston Street to see animations at State Library Victoria, and gorgeous static displays light up Melbourne Town Hall and Princes Bridge. The projections at State Library Victoria feature a thank you tribute to some of Melbourne’s frontline heroes.

  • City of Melbourne Christmas Projections, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Town Hall, Princes Bridge 


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Fed Square Christmas

Don’t miss the very first North Pole University, a virtual Christmas workshop extravaganza, live-streamed from Deakin Edge Theatre.

Get loved up with Fed. A nod to the doorstep scene in the movie Love. You can submit your messages of (unrequited) love, friendship or joy directly to us, and we’ll display them on the big screen for everyone to see.

And back for young and old is Koorie Krismas featuring Koorie Klaus himself. Meet the larrikin Aussie character while you explore the history, art and records of the Koorie Heritage Trust.

Cap off your visit with a wander through Sky Castle – a dreamy, interactive sound and light installation formed by a cluster of inflatable arches that span in colourful symphony across Fed Square.

  • Fed Square Christmas, Federation Square, Melbourne

Santa’s Spectacles

This Augmented Reality (AR) digital experience enables your device to become a window into Santa’s magical world, secretly hidden within our own.

Designed for the whole family, Santa’s Spectacles will transport you to the North Pole via Melbourne’s most iconic locations: Federation Square, State Library Victoria and Bourke Street Mall. Use your device to encounter the playful ice skating penguins, storytelling snowmen, snowball-throwing elves and even selfie-loving Santa himself.

Grab the kids, look for information on lamp posts at each location and follow the map for a memorable family Christmas adventure.

  • Santa’s Spectacles, Christmas Square, Fed Square

Santa's Big Workshop

Please visit Santa in his Melbourne workshop where he will be busy making toys. Santa is too busy this time of year to sit down and have a discussion with the kids because he is surrounded by tools and machines in his workshop. Worry not! Santa is happy to wave and smile for pictures from afar.

  • Santa's Big Workshop, Christmas Square, Fed Square


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