Melbourne/City Centre

The city centre of Melbourne represents the city's cultural, entertainment and financial heart. Locally called the Central Business District, the CBD or simply the City, it is where international and interstate visitors spend the bulk of their time. Most must-see attractions sit within the city's grid-planned centre, as is much of the accommodation and nightlife.

Understand

Tourist information

The main visitor information centre is in Federation Square, right near the intersection of Swanston and Flinders Streets. Another information centre exists near Cooks Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens, and a small information booth is in the Bourke Street Mall. Additionally, volunteer city ambassadors dressed in a distinctive red uniform are stationed along Swanston St to help tourists with enquiries and directions.

Precincts

There are also a number of cultural precincts outside the city centre, including Melbourne's Little Italy in Lygon St (Inner north) and various others.

Get in

The City Centre is Melbourne's hub of public transport. Every train line and most tram routes pass through or terminate in the city. All suburban trains will stop at the city's busiest interchange, Flinders Street Station. Country trains terminate at Southern Cross Station. Trams mostly run east to west along Bourke and Collins Streets, and north to south along Swanston Street.

Much of Melbourne's freeway network is also designed around moving cars into the city, with the major citybound freeways being the Eastern, Monash, West Gate and CityLink. Most locals opt to leave the car at home and use public transport to reach the city centre, owing to often all-day congestion, very high parking rates and the ease of getting to the city by other means.

Get around

The   PTV Hub. (M-F 7am-7pm, Sa-Su 9am-6pm). is located at Southern Cross Station, and is able to assist with any transport or myki related enquiries, including the sale of tourist packs.

By tram

The simplest and most traditional way to get around the inner city is by tram. Most major thoroughfares are serviced by a tram. The north-south routes with trams are Spencer, William, Elizabeth, Swanston and Spring Streets. La Trobe, Bourke, Collins and Flinders Streets are the major east-west tram routes.

If travelling only within the central grid, there is often no need to work out what tram route or number you need to catch. Trams typically travel along the entire length of a street in the city centre, and do not turn (apart from the edges of the grid at Spencer, Spring, Flinders and La Trobe Streets). Therefore, simply get on a tram that is going in the direction you want to go, and get off at the stop you need.

Although the frequency of trams is high, they can be very slow for even a short distance. In busy periods, you may see pedestrians moving faster! Experiencing congestion inside a tram is more than likely; just make sure you hold on to the rails, as the trams often accelerate and brake suddenly.

Most of the City Centre sits within the Free Tram Zone, where you can catch trams for free and do not need to touch on your myki. The zone stretches to Docklands in the west, Spring St in the east, up to Queen Victoria Market in the north and only as far south as the Yarra River. Be cautious, as you must touch on your myki if you leave the zone, and many attractions such as Crown Casino, the Arts Centre and Cooks Cottage lie just outside the boundary.

By foot

Melbourne has an excellent network of footpaths and crossings, making it safe, simple and easy for people of all ages and abilities to walk around the city centre. Jaywalking is a major issue in the city, and you should only cross at marked crossings or risk an incident with a car or tram. The Melbourne Visitor Centre has seven self-guided walking tours which are useful to discover the city and its history.

By bicycle

Over the past five years, Melbourne has had a major shift towards becoming a bicycle friendly city. New bike lanes and infrastructure are constantly under construction in the inner city. The main bike routes in the CBD are:

The Melbourne Bike Share scheme makes it fairly straight forward for visitors to borrow a bike to travel around the city with. There are just over 50 bike stations and 600 bicycles around the city centre, recognisable by their distinct blue branding.

To borrow a bike, you will need a valid credit/debit card; cash is not accepted. Simply follow the instructions at a station. You are also legally required to wear a helmet, sometimes available to share for free on the bikes, or else can be purchased for $5 from vending machines at Southern Cross Station or Melbourne University (can be returned for $3). Apps such as Spotcycle (iOS/Android/BlackBerry) and bcycl (Windows Phone) assist in finding the nearest bike stations.

There is an inescapable, base cost of $2.90 to subscribe for a day, or $8 for a week, along with a refundable $50 deposit. Then, there may be an additional cost depending on the time you use a bike between stations. If you hire and return a bike within 30 minutes, there is no additional fee. If you spend up to an hour, it is an extra $2; up to 90 minutes, $7, before it starts becoming fairly expensive. The cheapest option is to simply return the bike every 30 minutes, meaning you will only pay $2.90 for the day. After docking a bike, you are free to rehire a bike after waiting 2 minutes by reinserting your credit card at no extra base cost.

By train

The City Loop forms the backbone of the entire Melbourne train network and serves the city centre. It runs around the edges of the grid layout, with a mix of sunken, elevated and underground sections. The iconic Flinders Street Station in the south serves as the hub of all suburban rail travel throughout Melbourne, while the also iconic Southern Cross Station in the west is the hub of rural rail and bus travel. Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff stations are all underground, located in the east, north-east and north-west respectively. Melbourne Central is built into a major shopping centre, while Flagstaff is closed on weekends and public holidays.

There is no single service that continually runs around the Loop, but rather a selection of suburban services which pass through. Each station in the CBD has a TV display of popular stations, including the next two train services and the platform they depart from. Trains are frequent enough that there isn't a need to plan inter-CBD travel and you won't have to wait more than 5 minutes.

By car

The design of the city centre's roads may look straightforward on a map, but it is a fairly different situation on the ground. The abundance of trams means that at many intersections, vehicles have to make right-hand turns from the far left lane. Cars in the turning lane must wait until the traffic light of the street they are turning into changes to green before they can finish their turn. This infamous manoeuvre has come to be known as the hook turn, and is sometimes touted as a unique Melbourne experience.

Other important things to note are to stay clear of the centre tram lane, watch for wayward pedestrians and bikes, and that most of Swanston and Bourke Streets are permanently closed to car traffic in favour of trams, bikes and pedestrians. Parking is mostly provided through multi-storey or underground garages, with some on-street parking, but can be very expensive on weekdays. Parking in Docklands is more reasonable, with $10 parking all day at Harbour Town and the option to catch a free tram into the city from there.

See

Historic sites

Modern attractions

Galleries and the arts

Museums

Parks and nature

Do

Buy

Melbourne’s vibrant retail scene thrives with alluring labels, products and shopping experiences. It's an eclectic mix of high end fashion, funky boutiques and mainstream stores, all of which have a home in the city’s laneways, retail centres and tree-lined streets.

Fashion

Laneways and arcades

Shopping centres

Usually native to Melbourne's suburbs, a few new shopping centres (or malls) have been popping up in Melbourne's CBD. Emporium, Melbourne Central and QV are all located in the same area at the top end of Swanston St, connected by various walkways or crossings.

Souvenirs

Art

Eat

Cafe

Journal Cafe

Between Degraves St and Centreplace (which link Flinders St to Collins St, between Swanston St and Elizabeth St), you will find several breakfast restaurants. Most open from 7AM and serve all kinds of breakfasts. Competition is strong and keeps quality up so the range of choice is impressive.

Chinese

Melbourne's Chinatown district centred on Little Bourke St is filled with cheap Chinese options and some well-hidden (but excellent) Japanese alternatives. Search Tattersall's Lane for deliciously cheap dumplings. The CBD is also suffused with postmodern Oriental restaurants catering to the large Asian student market.

Indian

Vegetarian

Greek

Others

Drink

Coffee

The CBD holds some hidden gems as far as coffee is concerned. Once again, Degraves Lane is the most popular destination while those seeking a little bit more style can head to the many malls for their fix.

Bars

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Wi-Fi is plentiful throughout the CBD. Federation Square and the Melbourne Visitor Centre have free Wi-Fi, as does Flinders Street Station, the Crown Casino Complex, City Library and the State Library of Victoria. McDonalds outlets throughout the city will also offer free Wi-Fi with some moderate censoring. Local bars, cafés and restaurants sometimes offer their own password-protected Wi-Fi, which can be accessed on request (if you're a paying customer, of course). The City of Melbourne keeps a list of retailers with Wi-Fi access.

The State Library of Victoria has a number of internet-connected computers available that can be used for free without registration. Some may be used on-the-spot for up to 15 minutes, while it is also possible to book a computer for up to an hour in advance.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.