Central Melbourne

The City of Melbourne represents the city's regularly grid-planned Central Business District and historical core, located on the north bank of the Yarra River. South of the river is the Southbank cafe and shopping precinct.

Officially established in 1837, the city of Melbourne was quickly (by 1838) laid out in the regular grid pattern that marks the CBD out on today's maps.

Central Melbourne Attractions

Central Melbourne (the Central Business District (CBD) and nearby) attractions are arranged here on a route starting in the south-west, proceeding east along Collins St, covering Swanston St from the Yarra River to Victoria St in the north, then going through Chinatown to Spring St and finishing at the south-east corner of the CBD.

  • The Docklands precinct is the lynchpin of Melbourne's urban planning vision for the next fifty years. The old shipping yards and industrial neighbourhood just west of the CBD, is being developed into a lively residential, commercial and entertainment district that hopes to refocus Melbourne's attention to the waterfront.
  • Southern Star. a wheel giving a 30 minute “flight” over the area. The bubbles are stable, and air-conditioned, and offer a view across Melbourne. The Southern Star is currently closed due to heat stress caused by Melbourne's 2008-2009 heatwave. The Star is currently being taken down. $26.
  • Victoria Police Museum, Victoria Police Centre, Concourse Level, 637 Flinders St, west of Spencer St. M-F 10AM-4PM. Free.
  • Melbourne Aquarium, cnr King St and Queens Wharf Rd (on the banks of the Yarra River). Every day 9:30AM-6PM (last admission 5PM), 1-27 Jan 9:30AM-9PM. $22 adult, $12 child. Home to over 10,000 aquatic creatures, the Melbourne aquarium is the newest and largest aquarium in Australia.
  • Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders St (between William St and Market St). Every day 10AM-5PM except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Located in the restored Old Customs House, it covers customs history as well as immigration. It is interesting to learn of the racist attitudes that influenced past immigration policy only to realise that the Australian government still has a very contentious policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. $6 adult, children and concession free.
  • Rialto Towers, 525 Collins St (corner of King St). Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM. This is the tallest reinforced concrete structure and the tallest office structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The Melbourne Observation Deck on the 55th floor gives an excellent 360-degree view of the city. $11.80 adult, $6.80 child.
  • ANZ Banking Museum, 380 Collins St (cnr of Queen St). M-F 9:30AM-4PM excluding bank holidays. Housed in the late-19th century Gothic Revival ANZ Bank building. Free.
  • Block Arcade, runs between Collins St and Elizabeth St. Historic shopping arcade built in 1891.
  • Scots' Church, cnr Collins St and Russell Rd. Gothic church built in 1873.
  • St Michael's Uniting Church, cnr Collins St and Russell Rd. Romanesque style church built in 1866.
  • Flinders Street Station, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd, beside Princes Bridge. This Melbourne icon is one of the city's major train stations and was designed in an 1899 competition. The station's front steps, below a row of clocks announcing train departure times, are also a popular meeting point for locals. A government plan to replace the ageing, and usually inaccurate, clocks with digital contemporaries was shelved after howls of protest from residents who had grown up meeting friends “under the Flinders St clocks”.
  • St Paul's Cathedral, cnr Swanston St and Flinders St. Gothic Revival cathedral currently undergoing restoration in stages.
  • City Square, Swanston St between Flinders Lane and Collins St. Car free zone which makes for a great pedestrian mall.
  • Melbourne Town Hall, cnr Swanston St and Collins St. Free tours M-F 11AM and 1PM, first Sa of the month 11AM, noon, 1PM and 2PM. You need to book tours one day ahead on phone 9658 9658. Built in 1870.
  • Manchester Unity building, cnr Swanston St and Collins St. This 1930s Gothic building was once Melbourne's tallest building.
  • Bourke St Mall, between Swanston St and Elizabeth St. Melbourne's main department stores are located here and street performers and buskers perform in the mall.
  • Royal Arcade, south side of the mall. Built in 1870, it is a historic shopping arcade that runs between Little Collins Street and the Bourke Street Mall, with entrances also off Elizabeth Street. The mall has some classic features but unfortunately has not been lovingly restored and modernised like the Block.
  • State Library of Victoria, Swanston St between Little Lonsdale and Latrobe St. M-Th 10AM-9PM, F-Su 10AM-6PM, except public holidays. Built in stages starting in 1854, it has an impressive classical revival facade. Renovation of the La Trobe Reading Room was completed in 2003. Includes a good newspaper reading room, genealogy room and an art collection. Internet terminals are provided for research only, not email, and usually need to be booked because of high demand. Coin-operated lockers are available just off the lobby, with staff in attendance - large bags are not permitted in the library proper.
  • Melbourne City Baths, cnr Swanston St and Franklin St. The Edwardian (1903) building still function as a health and fitness centre with a gym and other facilities complementing the swimming pools. Casual rate for a swim is $4 adult, $3.20 student, $2 pensioner.
  • Queen Victoria Market, 513 Elizabeth St, cnr of Elizabeth St and Victoria St. Tu, Th 6AM-2PM, F 6AM-6PM, Sa 6AM-3PM, Su 9AM-4PM. Over 1000 stalls, selling food along with low priced clothing, toys, souvenirs, trinkets. The earlier you arrive, the better the quality of fresh produce. Aside from food items, other goods on sale lean towards low-cost items and those aimed at tourists.
  • Old Melbourne Gaol, Russell St between Victoria St and La Trobe St. Every day 9:30AM-4:30PM except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Night tour performances W, Su evenings (suggested age 12 years plus). Built in 1841, it is now a penal museum. Bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged here in 1880. The scaffold on which he and many others were hanged is displayed, as is Kelly's armor. There are other displays in many of the cells. Allow an hour or so for your visit. Day $12.50 adult, $7.50 child; night performances $18.70 adult, $11 under 16 years.
  • National Post Master Gallery, 321 Exhibition St (enter from La Trobe St). Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-M noon-5PM. The collection includes Australia's National Philatelic Collection. Free.
  • Chinatown, Little Bourke St between Swanston St and Spring St. Melbourne's Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world. It dates back to the gold rush days of the 1850s and is one of the most popular and distinctive areas of Melbourne.
  • Chinese Museum (Museum of Chinese Australian History), 22 Cohen Place. Su-F 10AM-4:30PM, Sa noon-4:30PM, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day. $5 adult, $3 child. The museum runs 2-hour walking tours of Chinatown by appointment ($15 adult, $10 child).
  • “Little Greece”, Lonsdale St adjacent to Chinatown. It is often said Melbourne has the third-highest Greek population in the world. This stretch of Lonsdale St boasts many lively Greek cafes, nightclubs and shops.
  • Parliament House of Victoria, Spring St opposite Bourke St. Free half-hour tours M-F when parliament is not sitting, 10AM, 11AM, noon, 2PM, 3PM, 3:45PM. Built between 1856 and 1879, the federal parliament sat in this impressive building from 1901 to 1927.
  • Windsor Hotel, Spring St between Bourke St and Little Collins St. Opened in 1883 as The Grand, it is indeed the city's grandest historic hotel.
  • Hotel Sofitel, 25 Collins St (the eastern, Paris end of Collins St). The floor-to-ceiling windows of Le Restaurant on the 35th floor offer excellent views of the city.
  • Old Treasury Building and Gold Treasury Museum, cnr Spring St and Macarthur St. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4PM, closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Built in 1858, it was the city's first Italian Renaissance building and many consider that its elegance has not been surpassed by anything in Melbourne since. Contains displays on the history of Melbourne as well as history of gold in Victoria. The volunteer attendants are very helpful albeit in a fussy way. $8.50 adult, $5 child.
  • Treasury Gardens, behind the Treasury Building. Features a memorial to John F Kennedy.
  • Fitzroy Gardens, on the other side of Lansdowne St from the Treasury Gardens. Features Captain Cook's Cottage which is the cottage that belonged to Captain James Cook's parents and was transported from Yorkshire to Melbourne in 1934.
  • St Patrick's Cathedral, cnr Gisborne St and Cathedral Place (between Macarthur St and the north end of Fitzroy Gardens). The original part of this Gothic Revival cathedral was built in the 1850s. It was consecrated in 1897 and the spires added in 1939.
  • Fire Services Museum Victoria, 39 Gisborne St, cnr of Victoria Parade. F 9AM-3PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Free.
  • Polly Woodside Maritime Museum, Closed for renovations May 2006 - late 2008 Lorimer St East near the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Every day 10AM-4PM except Good Friday and Christmas Day. The museum features the restored 1885 sailing ship “Polly Woodside”. $10 adult, $7 child.
  • Melbourne Exhibition Centre, 2 Clarendon St. Australia's premier convention centre, it is home to an ongoing array of exhibitions and conventions.
  • Crown Entertainment Complex including the Crown Casino, 8 Whiteham St. Open 24 hours except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day when it is closed 4AM-noon. A Las Vegas-style gambling palace, also containing restaurants, upmarket boutiques, nightclubs, two hotel towers, a cinema complex, and floorshows.
  • Southgate Plaza. Can be reached from the CBD by an arched footbridge from behind the Flinders Street Station. Three levels of restaurants, cafes and bars overlooking the river.

Yarra River

  • Melbourne River Cruises leave from Princes Walk, just east of Princes Bridge (Swanston St), and from Southbank Lower Promenade. The timetable is subject to tidal conditions and river closures. $16.50 adult, $8.80 child.
  • A popular walk is from the corner of Batman Ave and St Kilda Rd (near the Princes Bridge and Federation Square) eastward along the riverbank then crossing the Morell footbridge and returning to Princes Bridge either along the riverbank or through the Botanic Gardens and Alexandra Gardens.

Arts precinct

The arts precinct on St Kilda Rd immediately south of Princes Bridge and adjoining Southgate contains:

  • Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, nearest the Yarra. M-F 7AM-late, Sa 9AM-late, Su 10AM-5PM. The Centre consists of:
  • Melbourne Concert Hall.
  • Theatres Building including the State Theatre.
  • National Gallery of Victoria. The original gallery, it now houses the gallery's international collection. The Australian collection is at the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square.
  • Victorian College Of The Arts (VCA).

On Sturt Street west of St Kilda Road is:

  • ACCA - Australian Centre of Contemporary Art.
  • Malthouse Theatre.

Gardens and parks

Between the east side of St Kilda Rd and the Yarra River is a series of gardens and parks.

  • Alexandra Gardens.
  • Queen Victoria Gardens. Features memorials to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, sculptures and a floral clock of 7000 plants.
  • Kings Domain. Contains:
  • Shrine of Remembrance war memorial.
  • Governor La Trobe's Cottage. M, W, Sa, and Su 11AM-4PM except Christmas Day. Charles La Trobe brought this prefabricated house when he came to Australia in 1839.
  • Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Built in 1959, it is used for concerts and in winter as an ice-skating rink.
  • Government House. A landmark but rarely open to the public.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Ave, 15 min walk from CBD. Every day Nov-Mar 7:30AM-8:30PM, Apr-Oct 7:30AM-5:30PM. recognised as one of the world's finest botanic gardens, with over 10,000 species and 50,000 individual plants in the 38 hectare gardens.

Federation Square

Federation Square, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd, opposite Flinders Street Station. Recently built over the rail yards, it includes an open space, an atrium with restaurants and cafes, an amphitheater and somewhat controversial asymmetrical architecture. It includes the following centres:

  • Melbourne Visitor Centre, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd. Every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day, 9AM-6PM. Most of the centre is below ground level. Free.
  • Australian Racing Museum, Now moved from Federation Square to its new home at the National Sports Museum at the MCG.
  • Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, cnr Flinders St and Russell St extension. Open daily 10AM-5PM, F 10AM-9PM, closed Monday, ANZAC Day opens 1PM, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day. Houses the National Gallery of Victoria's collection of Australian art. Free. Note- The NGV's international art collection is housed in the original NGV building south of the Yarra.
  • Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Screen gallery is open daily 10AM-6PM. A museum of television, film and digital media. Entry is free for much of the Centre, although charges apply for cinema screenings and certain programs and exhibitions.

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