Arguably one of the most anticipated horse racing carnivals in the world, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is a four-day event at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. It’s held every year at the end of October or start of November, usually attracting around 300,000 punters.

There are dozens of races to watch, but the big four are the Victoria Derby ('Derby Day'), the VRC Oaks ('Oaks Day'), the Mackinnon Stakes ('Stakes Day') and the jewel in Australia's horse racing crown, the Melbourne Cup, also known as the 'Race That Stops The Nation'. Literally, in Victoria's case: Melbourne Cup Day is a state public holiday. Here's everything you need to know about getting to, and around, the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

The home of the Carnival is the historic Flemington Racecourse, a 10-minute drive northwest of the city centre on the Maribynong river. It's been the home of Victorian horse racing since 1848 and has a capacity for around 120,000 people, but there's usually 80,000 to 90,000 attendees on any given day of the Carnival.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival runs over four days, although they're not held consecutively. The Melbourne Cup ('The Cup') takes place on the first Tuesday of November. Derby Day is the Saturday beforehand, while Oaks Day is the following Thursday. The Carnival ends with Stakes Day, which falls on the Saturday after the Oaks. You can check the VRC website for all the current dates.

Fashions on the field

Victorians take their race-day fashion very seriously, and the Melbourne Cup Carnival is no exception. Our tip? Dress to impress.

Each of the four days also has its own 'dress code'. Derby Day, for example, is strictly black and white, while Melbourne Cup Day is renowned for its glamour and 'out there' style. Oaks Day, also known as Ladies Day, is where punters turn to pastels and florals. Finally there's Stakes Day, which is more laid-back and family-friendly. If in doubt, check the VRC website.

The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is one of the most famous horses races on the planet, dating all the way back to 1861. It's the centrepiece of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival and, of course, the Melbourne Cup Carnival. It's also the richest 'two-mile' handicap event in the world, with a total prize pool of $8 million. The Melbourne Cup has bred some true horse racing legends, including trainer Bart Cummings (12 wins), jockey Damien Oliver (3 wins), and horses like Phar Lap, Makybe Diva, Might and Power and Subzero. In 2022, the winner was Gold Trip.


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Getting around

Getting to Flemington Racecourse couldn't be easier. It's a quick 10-minute taxi from the CBD, or you can jump on a train, tram or bus.

By car

Taxis and rideshare cars will drop you at either Flemington's Main Gate or the Hill Gate. Both these entrances have taxi ranks, when it's time to catch a lift home. Just be warned: they get very crowded on race day, and it might be faster to simply walk to Flemington Racecourse station.

By train

Trains run directly from Melbourne's CBD to Flemington Racecourse station, which is only open on race days. Just catch the Flemington Racecourse railway line from Flinders Street or Southern Cross. There are usually plenty of trains running during the Carnival, and the journey only takes about 17 minutes.

By tram

The No. 57 tram runs up Elizabeth Street in the CBD all the way to Flemington Racecourse. You can jump on outside Flinders Street Station. Just be aware, you'll need a valid Myki card (which can be purchased at the station). The journey via tram takes about 34 minutes.