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City Circle Tram in Melbourne | © Terrazzo/Flickr
City Circle Tram in Melbourne | © Terrazzo/Flickr

10 Things To Do & See In Melbourne's Central Business District

Picture of Sue Roe Lim
Updated: 27 October 2017
Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and Melbourne Central Business District is the heart of Melbourne. CBD is offers more than a hundred attractions, and it is not easy to navigate for those seeking the true essence of Melbourne. The Culture Trip decided to make things easy and narrow those attractions to ten.

Take Vintage City Circle Tram

If you are thinking about taking a tour around the city but can’t figure out the most convenient route, just take the City Circle Tram 35. This vintage tram goes around the city, stopping at almost all the major attractions of Melbourne CBD. More than just a way to the city’s attractions, these are heritage trams and completely free! Word of warning: these trams are authentically vintage, being over 50 years old, which means no air conditioning is installed in them.

Watch Street Performances

Street performances are among the defining features of Melbourne, and there is no greater concentration of street performers in Melbourne than in the CBD. Walk along Bourke Street Mall for the biggest performances in front of the General Post Office. The streets of Melbourne CBD are actually good places to discover new talent, since many of the artists also have CDs and YouTube channels.

Honeywell Brothers performing by the streets © Lim Sue Roe

Honeywell Brothers street performing © Lim Sue Roe

Follow Melbourne’s Historical Trail

Melbourne may be a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, but it is also littered with Victoria’s oldest buildings. The General Post Office and the Parliament House were both built in the 1850s, while the Old Treasury Building is more than 150 years old. If you wish to delve even deeper into the history of Melbourne, then head to the Immigration Museum and the Shrine of Remembrance. Or if you wish to explore the darker side of Melbourne, the Old Melbourne Gaol (1853) is satisfying.

General Post Office, 338-352 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9290 0200
Open: 9:30am – 7pm

Parliament House, Spring St, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9651 8911
Open: 8:30am – 5:30pm

Old Treasury Building, 20 Spring St, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9651 2233
Open: 10am – 4pm

Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 13 11 02
Open: 10am – 5pm

Shrine of Remembrance, Birdwood Ave, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9661 8100
Open: 10am – 5pm

Old Melbourne Gaol, 377 Russell St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 8663 7228
Open: 9:30am – 5pm

Parliament House built in 1855 © Lim Sue Roe

Parliament House (1855) © Lim Sue Roe

Explore Graffiti Lanes

Graffiti lanes are another unique characteristic of Melbourne. These are not just instances of random, rebellious vandalism but respected and much appreciated forms of art. Croft Alley in Chinatown and Caledonian Lane off Little Bourke Street are filled with creative wall paintings. The truly unmissable place is Hosier Lane, opposite ACMI, possibly the most photogenic location in Melbourne CBD. You have not really been to Melbourne CBD if you have not seen Hosier Lane.

Go Food Hunting

Melbourne has always been famous for its brunch cafés. However, for a truly rewarding food experience, you must dig deeper. Melbourne attracts people from all around the world, and, as a result, food from all around the world. In CBD, there is no need to travel an hour for good food; just about any type of cuisine (Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, or Mexican) and even fusions (Chin Chin) are available, but you have to learn to spot the best of the best.

Chin Chin, 125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 8663 2000

Open: 11am – 11pm

Different cuisines in a laneway © Lim Sue Roe

Laneway Cafés © Lim Sue Roe

Enjoy a Theatrical Show

Australia is no historical London, but it still knows how to enjoy a good, luxurious theatre. There are theatres surrounding the CBD, from the Forum to Regent Theatre to Her Majesty’s Theatre. From The Lion King to Cats to Kinky Boots, the best musicals are always in the CBD.

Forum Melbourne, Flinders St & Russel St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia + 61 03 9299 9860

Regent Theatre, 191 Collins St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 1300 111 011
Open: 9am – 5:30pm

Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 8643 3300
Open: 9am – 9pm

Forum Theater © Lim Sue Roe

Forum Theater © Lim Sue Roe

Go Bar Hopping with Friends

Although most shops close at 5 or 6pm, the night in Melbourne CBD is still young thanks to the bars and pubs. The one thing people of Melbourne might enjoy more than a hot coffee in the morning is a cool drink in the evening. There are two things that make for an evening well spent: the people you drink with and the bar you drink in. CBD is full of quirky or classy, cool bars. Drinking in only one bar is not enough to experience Melbourne after nightfall, so go bar hopping with your friends to the coolest bars in CBD and you will never regret it.

Shop at Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market is the only surviving 19th century market in Melbourne CBD, open since 1878. Queen Victoria Market sells everything from vegetables to clothing to the most authentic Melbourne souvenirs. Its long and continued existence is evidence of Melbourne’s organizational skills.

Queen Victoria Market, Corner of Victoria St and Elizabeth St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9320 5822

Open: 8am – 3pm

Tour the State Library Victoria

Melbourne’s public library since 1954, State Library Victoria is the oldest library in Australia and one of the first free public libraries in the world. Just like many other historical buildings in Melbourne CBD, the architecture of State Library, both exterior and interior, is a sight to behold. Entering the State Library is equivalent to entering a sacred land in the sea of knowledge. The sheer number of books it has to offer is intimidating. Aside from recorded knowledge, there are also a number of gallery halls in the State Library which present free exhibitions.

State Library Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 8664 7000

Open: 10am – 9pm

State Library Victoria © Lim Sue Roe

Quiet Reading Area in the center of State Library Victoria © Lim Sue Roe

Visit Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Botanical gardens are an important part of every developed city. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is the most calming and peaceful part of Melbourne CBD, the perfect place to unwind after a day in the busiest parts of the city. The garden offers indigenous guides for an Aboriginal Heritage Walk and traditional punt tours over Ornamental Lake, where you will have a chance to learn more about the environment of Victoria.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Birdwood Ave, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia +61 03 9252 2300 

Open: 7:30am – sunset

Trailing through the Gardens © Lim Sue Roe

Trailing through the Gardens © Lim Sue Roe