From the shopping precincts of Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne Central and the glitzy Paris End of Collins Street, to the markets and galleries of Federation Square, the CBD is a hotbed of activity.
Jump on the free City Circle tram if you’re a newb, which will trundle you past sights like the Melbourne Aquarium, Old Melbourne Gaol and Parliament House – and of course you’ll want to jump out and explore the coffee, boutiques and street art of the laneways and old arcades.
So do the time-honoured thing: meet someone under the Flinders Street Station clocks and explore.
The best restaurants in the CBD
The best bars in the CBD
The best hotels in the CBD
Grand Hyatt Melbourne
There are some travellers that love staying in the heart of a city and walking the town. Admittedly, it’s a favourite past-time of ours here at Time Out and if you haven’t explored Melbourne by foot, there’s never been a better time to do so than now. Located at the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street, thanks to many high-end French fashion labels that call this part of town home, Grand Hyatt Melbourne is ideal for the bar hopper, shopper and urban adventurer alike. The hotel is looking the finest it has ever been following an extensive refurbishment to the lobby areas, bars, restaurants and a number of rooms, and its club lounge is up there with the best in town. Absolutely request one of the newly-renovated, Joseph Pang-designed rooms which are as equally comfortable for singles, couples and families alike. The couches in front of the windows - even in the standard guest rooms - means some canoodling, snogging or perhaps more with one of the best views in town.
InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto
Proving that grand is what 5-star hotels are all about, this property has been redefining what the ‘traditional’ hotel experience should be. InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto doesn’t just also boast a brilliant location in the heart of the CBD, it can also lay claim to be one of Australia’s greenest buildings - when it opened in December 2008 after a huge refurbishment and transition from Le Meridien, it was the first hotel in the world to be Green Globe rated. Now, you could be forgiven for thinking you're staying in a building lined with jail cells thanks to the classical architecture inside the main atrium, but once inside the rooms, you'll find contemporary, spacious digs with the latest technology and top of the line beds. The rooms are comfortable and the grandeur adds quite a romantic feel to any stay - whether it be someone special or a companion you met in a Flinders Lane drinking den a few hours before.
Before you even enter this 1883 grand dame, you know you’ve stumbled upon something special. Located opposite Parliament House on Spring St in all its nineteenth-century splendor, The Windsor has played host to Muhammad Ali and Sir Laurence Olivier to name a few. Even if you're not a hotel guest, stop by for afternoon tea - it's a must.
More great venues in the CBD
By now you’ve probably heard about the big guns: there’s Japanese casualwear giant UNIQLO, the multi-level Topshop Melbourne flagship and the oh-so-fancy café court. But if you’re going to do Emporium, you might as well do it properly, because there are lots of little surprises hidden within its six floors and 48,000 square metres of retail space. Our tip: start at the Lonsdale Street entrance. You’ll get a little pang of nostalgia as you walk through the grandiose 1911 Myer façade, chased with a futuristic hit from the monolithic concierge desk devised by Qantas A380 interior designer David Caon. This is the ground floor, and it’s home to a mixed bag of old favourites like Nine West, Peter Alexander and Swarovski, as well as newbies like Austrian enamel jeweller FREYWILLE. You'll also find top-tier brands include Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, Oroton, Furla and Chanel. A ground floor hero also has to be Superglue: a double-storey buffet of brands that's also home to a denim specialist, cafe, lolly pop machine and lots more. As a hub for youth and urban wear, the ground level level is part hipster-tastic, part sport-chic. Delve deep into the darkly-lit Superdry store for some Americana-meets-Japanese-graphics street wear. Turn right toward David Jones, where you’ll find Industrie, Capsule and Mag Nation. The Waiting Room by Dr. Denim – the first stand-alone store in Melbourne from the Swedish jeansmiths – will deck you out in clothes befitting a morning spent with a long
State Library of Victoria
Step into the Dome Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria, and you can almost hear the cogs turning in the minds of visitors. People are studying, examining old books, and expanding their knowledge on anything from rare birds to architectural history. But there’s more to the library than first meets the eye. Time Out is taken on an hour-long tour of the library by Cathy Miller, volunteers and tours manager, who has been working there in various roles for over 30 years. (We’ve dubbed her Melbourne’s ultimate book worm.) The library is full of surprises, and you can discover them on the free daily 2pm tour. A guide takes visitors to the far reaches of the library, even to places not open to the general public. We start off in the Queen’s Hall, a grand old reading room that is currently closed off to regular visitors. Miller explains that when the library first opened in 1856, the books had only arrived the night before. “Sir Redmond Barry [the library’s founder] took responsibility for ordering all the books from England,” she says. Here in Queen’s Hall, “Redmond was up all night unpacking books with his sleeves rolled up”. Miller tells us there is allegedly a ghost who plays the piano at night, even though no one has ever died in the library. “I have been told by the managers that they have seen her," she says, "and the electricians never come in here at night.” The domed La Trobe Reading Room is the most extravagant room at the library. It’s so peaceful; every page
What's on in the CBD
Fed Square Book Market
At Fed Square's weekly book market, bibliophiles and the generally curious can browse a vast selection of new and second-hand titles encompassing all the genres, presented by a revolving cast of veteran Melbourne booksellers. Tweed jackets are encouraged, but not compulsory. After finding something interesting, stroll upstairs to the Ian Potter Centre for Australian art to round off a satisfyingly cultural Saturday.