Cultural Experience | Melbourne

Must Do in Melbourne: Celebrate White Night

An eventful night full of light, music, and good company.

I’ve been in Melbourne on my semester exchange for about three weeks now, and if I had to choose my favorite memory so far, it would have to be experiencing White Night.

According to the White Night informational website, “The original concept for White Night (Nuit Blanche) was conceived in Paris in 2002, in a bid to make art and culture accessible to large audiences within public spaces.”

In only three short years, White Night in Melbourne has become more populous than New Years Eve. Locals and tourist came together to celebrate everything that this beautiful city has to offer.

Skyline Yarra River White Night image

Beautiful view of the Yarra River.

The third annual Melbourne White Night took place on a Saturday, February 21st, when crowds gathered in the center of Melbourne starting at 7 PM lasting until 7 AM the next morning. The majority of the crowd attended during the peak hours of 9-11:30 PM. The trams stopped running and traffic was blocked off so that people could stroll through the streets and embrace everything that was happening around them.

Many major organizations, including the Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, and the State Library of Victoria offered cultural programs throughout the entire evening.

Although it is difficult to put this annual event into words, here were a few of the things that made it different from any average night.


What is probably known as the main attraction of White Night are the light shows. Colorful lights were projected onto prominent buildings in Melbourne creating a beautiful design. Some of the buildings that were lit up include the Royal Exhibition Building and Flinders Street Station. There were also different colored lotuses that peacefully were floating peacefully along the Yarra River for all to enjoy.

Lotus flower Yarra River White Night image

Bright lotus flowers float across the Yarra River.


Light displays on building White Night image

One of the many lights displays.


The air was filled with all sorts of beats of music ranging from individuals playing covers of songs to bands playing alternative music. Whether they were in the middle of the street or on a stage, people of all ages stopped to listen before continuing on their way.


In addition to music, there were various street performers specializing in stand-up comedy and freak show performances. There were also caricature artist sketching portraits for people and vendors selling small souvenirs. No matter what interests you, it wouldn’t be hard to find during White Night.

Drink specials:

After we explored the city for a while, we decided to take a break and check out the bar scene. White Night attracts a lot of people to the city, and is a great night for bar owners to make money. In return, many places offered drink deals or had a new special for the night. The deals were more frequent earlier in the night, and helped ever so slightly to take the edge off of Melbourne’s high alcohol prices.

White Night’s purpose was to bring together the people of Melbourne and show appreciation for the diverse culture that lies among the city and it’s community. The event highlighted the art, music, film and theater components that all fit together to make up the city.

Even before this took place, it wasn’t hard to tell that Melbourne is a unique city from it’s intricate street art and quaint laneway bars. But White Night exemplified everything, and made me truly appreciate that I can call this city my home for a semester.

Even though I’ll always rank my hometown Chicago as number one, but Melbourne is definitely a close second.


Shannon Kelly

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | 10 stories

Shannon Kelly is a Journalism major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is involved with the student newspaper, new student programing, and greek life on campus. She has a passion for travel, loves animals, and never turns down an adventure. Always looking for a reason to laugh and be spontaneous, Shannon also enjoys music and movies.

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