The towering 162-metre spire might be the first thing to catch your eye in Melbourne Arts Precinct – especially when it’s lit up at night – but there’s plenty more to discover at Arts Centre Melbourne. This world-class complex alone spans such time-honoured venues as Hamer Hall, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and the Theatres Building, which are widely known as hosts for live music, dance, theatre, comedy and more.

But after dark isn’t the only time to check out the St Kilda Road landmark’s offerings . The day brings markets, tours and plenty of cafe options, all of which have a focus on Melbourne’s performing arts and culture scene.

Whether you’ve booked your tickets to a show, or just want to spend the day out and about with friends or family, there’s plenty to do at Arts Centre Melbourne. So before you head to Southbank and the iconic Princes Bridge, here are some more experiences to pop on your itinerary, including exploring the archive, pastries, dining experiences and themed cocktails.

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Power your morning with coffee (and pastries) at Protagonist

You can always tell when Protagonist is open for service: the cafe’s distinctive bronze curtain of mesh keeps it neatly sheathed during off hours, before it’s raised to unveil the space anew each morning. The coffee and tea options are topnotch, as is the selection of fresh pastries. If you’re feeling a bit hungrier, reach for a breakfast-friendly toastie or a convenient bowl of muesli or yoghurt. And even though you’re starting your exploration here, don’t be shy about circling back throughout the day for a pit stop involving either caffeine or something a bit stronger. Thanks to its location between the NGV and the Arts Centre, as well as its late hours for a cafe, this is also a prime meeting spot at any time of day.

Browse the Australian Performing Arts Collection’s massive archive

Once you’ve had the morning sipper of your choice, take a few steps inside to Hamer Hall to visit the Australian Performing Arts Collection, with items such as props, costumes, scripts and set designs, spanning circus, dance, music, opera and theatre. Hidden in Hamer Hall, delve into this treasure trove of more than 850,000 items – which have been collected since the 1970s – with a behind-the-scenes guided tour. You’ll learn about the acquisition and preservation process, plus the tales behind some of the most significant objects. The 75-minute tour runs on weekends (see ticket link below), granting a rare insight into Arts Centre Melbourne’s
crucial role in supporting and maintaining these cultural treasures.

Listen to Australia’s most iconic musical moments

The Australian Music Vault collects (and protects) some of the most cherished audiovisual moments in Aussie music history. With some sections of the collection changing quarterly – each visit is refreshingly different. The vault enshrines items closely tied to the careers of artists ranging from AC/DC and Divinyls to Baker Boy and Kylie Minogue. It’s free to visit and open year-round, with immersive and high-fidelity digital experiences transporting you to key musical events over the decades. This is very much a living cultural history, and you can absorb it right there in the room.

Do happy hour right with seasonal, signature cocktails and a daily cheese selection at The Barre

And of course, you need to end the day with a nightcap. Wrapped around the side of the Theatres building on street level, The Barre is a gracefully streamlined ballet-themed space, which balances seasonal cuisine and forward-thinking cocktails. There’s also a happy hour from 4pm to 6pm from Tuesday to Saturday, showing off house wines, local beers and more. You’ll find something for everyone on the dining menu with options for all dietaries. Being entertained is hungry work, so be sure to check out the special late-night menu from 8pm, which boasts smaller bites, cheeses and desserts to tuck into following the show.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Arts Centre Melbourne. See more of what’s on offer this season.