The fascinating and often fraught history of Chinese people in Australia is showcased in this wonderful little museum in the heart of Chinatown. Start on level 3, which features displays and artefacts relating to the gold-rush era and the xenophobic White Australia policy. Work your way down to the basement, where there are recreations of the hold of an immigrant boat, a temple and a typical house. Then follow the dragon's tail up to the Dragon Gallery on the ground floor.

The astounding 63m-long Millennium Dragon bends around the building and is the largest processional dragon in the world. In full flight during Chinese New Year, it needs eight people just to hold up its 200kg head and more than 200 to operate it for the whole procession.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Melbourne attractions

1. Chinatown

0.11 MILES

For more than 150 years this section of central Melbourne, now flanked by five traditional arches, has been the focal point for the city's Chinese…

2. Tolarno Galleries


Tolarno was an integral player in Melbourne’s most famous midcentury artistic marriage: that between Georges and Mirka Mora. The gallery was once…

3. West Space

0.21 MILES

One of Melbourne’s oldest nonprofit, artist-run galleries, West Space has a varied exhibition schedule featuring young and emerging artists. Expect a…

4. State Library of Victoria

0.21 MILES

This grand neoclassical building has been at the forefront of Melbourne's literary scene since 1856. When its central La Trobe Reading Room was completed…

5. Parliament House

0.24 MILES

The grand steps of Victoria’s parliament (1856) are often dotted with tulle-wearing brides smiling for the camera as well as placard-holding protesters…

6. Old Melbourne Gaol

0.29 MILES

Dating back to 1841, this bluestone prison was in operation until 1924 and decommissioned in 1929. It's now a museum where you can tour the tiny, bleak…

7. Collins Street

0.31 MILES

The eastern end of Collins St is lined with plane trees, grand buildings and luxe boutiques (hence its ‘Paris End’ moniker). Ornate arcades also lead off…

8. Century Building

0.32 MILES

Built between 1939 and 1940, this Streamline Moderne high-rise is an important Melbourne landmark. It was the first office block in the city to have air…