If you have 24 hours in Melbourne CBD – that’s Central Business District to fellow non-Aussies – you’ll find it is a conveniently compact grid system, ideal for exploring on foot. Melbourne CBD contains the perfect concoction of interesting old buildings, modern shopping centres, trendster bars and all manner of food options from top-class restaurants to cheap eats. It’s not my favourite area in Melbourne (I’d rather spend time in Fitzroy or East Brunswick), but then what city’s commercial heart is ever the highlight? Oxford Street in London kills me. In contrast, I love that Melbourne CBD is relatively calm and a free public transport zone. Here’s what I’d do if I had 24 hours in Melbourne CBD to fill:
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
ARCHITECTURE | if you look up you’ll see some pretty impressive architecture on your travels in Melbourne CBD. It’s no New York skyline, but what it does do is blend very modern with very old in an interestingly eclectic way. I’m no expert in this area, however French Renaissance Flinders Street Station, gothic St. Paul’s Church, as well as Town Hall and the former GPO building which have French Second Empire influences (I’ve clearly been on Wikipedia!) are all worth visiting. The architecture of Federation Square is probably the most dividing of public opinion. My favourite is the Manchester Unity Building, as I’m typically a fan of Art Deco influence. The Forum Theatre has an unusual Moorish Revival exterior.
Also check out: Melbourne’s now annual White Night was an incredible opportunity to see buildings like the Royal Exhibition Building lit up with projections and story-telling.
GREAT DINING | both Melbourne and Sydney are held in high worldwide regard for their flourishing culinary scene, and Melbourne CBD is home to many of the city’s finest restaurants. Frustratingly my meagre budget means I haven’t been able to try many except Chin Chin, where we went for Jack’s birthday in January and had the ‘Just Feed Me’ sampling menu. For $69 per head we were stuffed and it was totally delicious. Or try Pelegrini’s for something a little different at lunch: super authentic Italian.
STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA | I really love this place! It’s great to see a library getting so much use from students and the public, whilst obviously retaining an overall sense of calm and learning that you would expect. There’s free WiFi and the central reading room is beautiful if you want to get your head down in work for a few hours.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
LANEWAYS | I have a love/hate relationship with Melbourne’s famous Laneways. OK, maybe not that strong. In nearly 3 months of being here though, I feel like I’ve failed to ‘find’ them. I’ve taken pictures of the obvious contenders, like the Hosier Lane graffiti, AC/DC Lane named after the country’s famous rock export, and Dame Edna Lane complete with light bulbs. Either they’re a little over-hyped, or I just need to go and ‘get lost’ in them as so often instructed by every guidebook and tourist pamphlet.
CURTIN HOUSE | yes, it’s pretty commercial, but I do rate this place for having a little bit of everything in one building block. It also offers great aerial views for your 24 hours in Melbourne CBD. I’m yet to make it to a Rooftop Cinema night, although it’s on my radar. The rooftop bar itself is great in the summer, as it is difficult to find outdoor drinking space in this part of town. On level 2 is The Toff In Town and level 1 is Cookie, which I admit is pretty cool for cocktails and food even though Melbourne friends took me there one too many times when I used to visit years ago! Somewhere else, puuurleeeease 😉
Also check out: I’ve not been out drinking much in the CBD, preferring to stick to Fitzroy and Collingwood, but I’ve been told to try Siglo and Ferdyduke by my housemate – a Melbournian born and bred. Section 8 and Carlton Club are also good choices.
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET | it would be awesome to be able to do your weekly grocery shop at this market: they have the freshest veggies, fruit, meat and seafood on offer at pretty reasonable prices. Instead if you have 24 hours in Melbourne CBD, it’s fun to come and have a nosey. There are more stalls at the back, but I wouldn’t waste your time wading through the knock-off hoodies, boomerangs and koala magnets: Queen Victoria Market is all about the produce.
Also check out: The Borek Shop is somewhat of an institution, made famous by its $3 Turkish filled pastries.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
BOURKE STREET MALL | I don’t like shopping and I definitely don’t like high street crowds. Melbourne isn’t even particularly big or busy as far as cities go, but I still find this area stressful. Personally I find Australian clothing brands pretty expensive or too dressy and now an increasing number of global mega-brands like H&M dominate the sidewalk – which you can buy anywhere.
SOUTHERN CROSS STATION END | this is the grotty part of the CBD, with fewer shops, cafes and restaurants yet more car parks! The station itself is modern and efficient, serving as the major connection point for travel both around the city loop, and to most northern and western Victorian towns: that’s the only reason you’ll need to venture this way.
CHINA TOWN | the eastern end of Little Bourke Street is Melbourne CBD’s China Town. It’s mainly occupied by cheap eat places: you’ll find many ‘every meal $6.90’ establishments, so it’s spot on for the budget traveller! Personally I don’t have any big interest in China Towns as I’m not really a fan of the food and the penchant for selling plastic tat. Take me for tasty Vietnamese on Victoria Street, Richmond any day!
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
FREE TRAM | the whole area is actually a free tram zone, which is great for sightseeing and tired feet when you only have 24 hours in Melbourne CBD. I want to jump on the cute old-style tram that does a free city loop, complete with booming audio commentary so you can ride and learn. Winning.
AND KNOW THIS: Before Melbourne was Melbourne, it was called Batmania for John Batman, the Australian-born colonist who was one of Melbourne’s founding fathers. If only it had stuck!