10 Things to do and see in Melbourne’s Central Business District

Rowers enjoying the spectacular skyline of Melbourne's CBD
Rowers enjoying the spectacular skyline of Melbourne's CBD | © martin berry / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sue Roe Lim
7 August 2020

Melbourne’s Central Business District is at the heart of the city. The CBD offers more than a hundred attractions, from learning history at the Old Melbourne Gaol, to watching a show at Regent Theatre. Culture Trip has narrowed down the top 10 things to do in the area.

Take the vintage City Circle Tram

If you are thinking about touring the city but can’t figure out the most convenient route, just take the City Circle Tram 35. This vintage mode of transport goes around the city, stopping at almost all the major attractions of Melbourne CBD. The heritage trams are more than just practical transport, and are completely free. Word of warning: remaining historically authentic, the trams have no air conditioning installed in them so consider taking water on board.

Watch street performances

Street performances are among the defining features of Melbourne and there is no greater concentration of them than in the CBD. Walk along Bourke Street Mall for the biggest performances in front of the General Post Office. Wandering around the streets is a great way to discover new talent. Many of the artists also have CDs and YouTube channels.

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 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. If you wish to explore the darker side of Melbourne, the Old Melbourne Gaol (1853) is worth a trip.

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. However, the truly unmissable place is Hosier Lane, opposite the ACMI, possibly the most photogenic location in Melbourne’s 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 cafes. However, for a truly rewarding food experience, you must dig deeper. Melbourne attracts people from all around the world. As a result, you can find global cuisine in abundance. In the CBD, there is no need to travel far 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.

Enjoy a theatrical show

There are theatres surrounding the CBD, including the Forum, Regent Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre. From The Lion King to Kinky Boots, the best musicals are always in the CBD.

Go bar hopping with friends

Although most shops close between 5pm and 6pm, the night in Melbourne CBD is still young. The CBD has a wide range of cool bars, both eccentric and classy. Drinking in one bar is simply not enough to fully experience Melbourne after nightfall, so go bar hopping with your friends to the coolest bars in the CBD – you won’t regret it.

Tour the State Library Victoria

Map View
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne VIC
Melbourne’s public library since 1854, 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 the CBD, the architecture of the State Library, both exterior and interior, is a sight to behold. The sheer number of books it has to offer is vast. There are also gallery halls within the building which present free exhibitions.

Visit Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Botanical Garden
Map View
The Royal Botanic Gardens are home to many beautiful sights
© Peter Scholey / Alamy Stock Photo
The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is the most calming and peaceful part of Melbourne’s CBD, the perfect place to unwind after a day in 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.

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