Where to stay, what to eat and what to do in-between shows, no matter your budget.
It's no secret that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has landed in Melbourne (insert excited fangirl squeal here). It's also no secret that its season at Melbourne's Princess Theatre has been extended until June 2020. And rumour has it that it'll be extended even further.
We're Stef and D, a pair of married jetsetters. Together, we've visited over 50 countries - though we're determined to see even more. All while working full time and paying off a mortgage. We count our dollars at home and away and are here to share our tips on how you can travel on budget.
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If you're an impatient muggle like me or a Potterhead like my husband you'll want to see it sooner rather than later. Which is why after booking a cheap flight surprise trip from Sydney to Melbourne for my husband I tacked it on as a bonus present for him (and me, of course).
But with theatre tickets starting at $130 per person to see Parts One and Two, it's not a cheap date. Our weekend totalled around $1,200 and we were working on a mid-range budget. We flew low-cost, stayed in a 5-star hotel (complimentary), had C-reserve seats to Harry Potter and ate at a mixture of restaurants.
So to keep your holiday costs down, I've nutted out a guide to take on the city and witness the magic of Harry Potter on a low, mid and luxe budget.
Your basic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Melbourne weekend itinerary
The play is performed in two parts on both Saturday and Sunday. Part One runs from 2pm to 4:30pm and Part Two from 7:30pm to 10pm.
This lets you attack it in two ways: you can see it all on one day, or split it across two by seeing Part One on Saturday and Part Two on Sunday. There's no cost difference, so it's up to what suits you best.
If you're flying in on Friday night or Saturday morning and flying home on Sunday night your only option is to see both on Saturday. This is because the last domestic flight departs Melbourne Airport at 10:50pm and Avalon Airport at 8.30pm. So you'd have to cut the play short to make either.
If you're flying home on Monday morning, you can see it all on Saturday, Sunday or across both dates. But you'd have to take Monday off and that might not work for everyone.
Running with your first option, here's what your itinerary looks like:
|Time||Saturday (day one)||Sunday (day two)|
|Morning (6am to 1pm)||Fly into Melbourne (if you haven't flown in on Friday night), morning activity and lunch||Breakfast and free time for activities|
|2pm||Watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part One||Lunch and more free time for activities|
|4:30pm||Eat dinner||Eat dinner and catch your flight home|
|7:30pm||Watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part Two||-|
Fly on Saturday morning instead of Friday night. Flights from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart can get you in mid-morning to catch the 2pm show and you'll save on a night's accommodation. Saturday morning flights are generally cheaper than Friday night ones, too.
When should I visit Melbourne for Harry Potter?
Unless you have kids or are a teacher, flying outside of the school holidays and long weekends will increase your chances of seating options and keep flight and accommodation costs down.
We arrived in late April when the weather was starting to turn chilly, but it was still pleasant enough to get away with a light jacket.
To "Potter it up" visit over Christmas for the ultimate magical experience with your loved one. Though bear in mind these are peak periods.
If you're not wedded to travelling on specific dates (this is the stuff special occasion gifts are made of), book your Harry Potter tickets before your flights to avoid overpaying. Cheaper seating tiers sell out early and you don't want to be stuck with $270 premium seating tickets as your only option.
Where to stay in Melbourne for Harry Potter
The Princess Theatre is on the eastern edge of the Melbourne CBD. It's a short walk from Parliament railway station and is moments from the City Circle tram line so no matter where you're staying in the city getting to and from the theatre isn't an issue.
For a trule Harry Potter experience book a stay at The Hotel Windsor's Wizard’s Suite. The heritage hotel has transformed it into a realm of magic in honour of the play featuring vintage luggage trunks and plush rugs. It'll set you back $699 for a midweek stay and $899 for a weekend stay.
If that's too steep for your muggle pockets, other options are:
- Low-cost budget: Most low-cost stays are in the north or the west of the CBD. I recommend Melbourne Central YHA as it's close to Southern Cross railway station which is where the SkyBus shuttle from the airport drops you off. It's clean and has a good vibe. Rooms from $92.
- Mid-range budget: The city is littered with apart-hotels and mid-range hotels, many of which are in the centre. One of the best-value chains is the Ibis Melbourne Central which starts from $104 per night.
- High-end budget: The Marriott Melbourne is a modern 5-star hotel a few blocks from the Princess Theatre and is where we chose to stay on our luxed-up trip. The service is friendly and even the most basic rooms include a living space. Rooms start from $300 per night.
Trams are free to ride throughout the city centre so if cost is more important than location, staying on the other side of the city to the theatre will only cost you time to get to the show, not money.
What to do in-between Harry Potter shows in Melbourne
If you're only in Melbourne for the weekend, you won't have time for a day trip so all your activities have to be centred around the city.
For first-timers I suggest spending a few hours walking the city streets and exploring its graffiti lanes, coffee culture and bar scene.
For those seeking something magical, one of the most popular Harry Potter experiences in the city is a themed escape room in TRAPT Bar. It's called Alchemy and sees you hunt down the elusive philosopher's stone.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Low-cost budget: Check out the famous graffiti street Hosier Lane and watch artists in their element, gaze at the beauty of the State Library of Victoria's historical dome, walk through the beautiful Botanic Gardens and check out the exhibits at the National Gallery of Victoria. All are free.
- Mid-range budget: Get snap happy at truck art gallery ArtVo ($28pp), take a history lesson at Melbourne Museum ($15), get spooked at Old Melbourne Gaol ($28) and take a ride in the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel ($36).
- High-end budget: Hang with penguins at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium ($42pp), access the cube and catch panoramic views of the city from the Eureka Tower ($28 + $12 to access the glass cube) and play with the high rollers at the famous Crown Casino.
Where to eat and drink in Melbourne
Melbourne is not short on food options. It has much-heralded coffee joints, Insta-worthy dishes, hipster bars and ethnic precincts such as Lygon Street (Italian) and Chinatown.
You'll also find no shortage of magical bars either. Beneath Driver Lane is a basement bar with an old-worldly charm and melted candle decor while the secret cocktail bar at the back of Pizza Pizza Pizza is all theatrics. Enter via the thick black curtain and expect intimate booths and classic cocktails.
Seeking more noms? We recommend:
- Low-cost budget: Queen Victoria Markets is great for fresh local produce and a few cheeky samples. I'm also a sucker for some of the big names that have made it to Sydney like Huxtaburger, Belles Hot Chicken and 8Bit which are scattered throughout the city.
- Mid-range budget: Hardware Societe is a favourite of mine that serves high-quality modern Australian fare. But honestly, any cafe in that end of Hardware Lane is a winner. We went to Hash Specialty Coffee for brunch and left happy. Try the fairy floss hot chocolate/matcha for some theatrics.
- High-end budget: For that time in-between plays, explore Punch Lane and its trendy fare. We landed in SPQR which boasted Neapolitan pizza done right. Watch your dollars though, we spent $80 on 2 pizzas and 2 beers. During our stay we also splurged at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. At $140 for a 3-course it was worth every penny. Don't be afraid to each order the meat fruit because it is seriously good.
When making a booking for Heston, call instead of going through the online booking process. When we looked online only a midday slot was free for a table for two, but when we called we were given a world of choice for our lunch date.
How much did we spend?
- Flights: $167 return (or $83.50 each) flying on Jetstar.
- Accommodation: Not applicable as we were guests of Marriott Melbourne. Had we paid, this would be $300 extra per night.
- Transport: $82 (or $41 each) for SkyBus shuttle passes and tram rides out of the city centre.
- Meals and drinks: $557.40 (Heston blew out our budget).
- Souvenirs: $25 for the Harry Potter programme.
- Activities and experiences: $380 (or $190 each) for Harry Potter tickets.
- Annual leave days taken: None. We were in Melbourne for the weekend only.
Total: $1,211.40 (or $1,511.40 had we paid for a night's accommodation).