Streetscapes: Melbourne CBD

Melbourne’s City Centre breathes life into historic architecture.

Melbourne’s Central Business District is the heart of the city. Melbournites and tourists mill through the area’s popular streets, including Burke, Elizabeth and Flinders, while trams shuttle more pedestrian hordes from one end of the CBD to the other. The urban centre pulses with an excited energy, with winding lanes decorated wall-to-wall with graffiti are home to popular restaurants, cafes and bars, and buskers lining nearly every street corner.  

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There is always something happening in Melbourne — from festivals to markets, protests to parties. And although the expansive city boasts many suburbs, upon entering the metropolis’ downtown one feels like they have entered a gothic novel set in contemporary life. While the signs of modernity are prevalent amongst the crowds, with passersby calling, texting and snapping photos on their phones, tram stations filled with shoppers bogged down by heavy bags filled with goodies from the Melbourne Central or Emporium malls, and homeless individuals huddled in cardboard shelters outside shop windows and park benches, the bones of the city speak to its history.

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The CBD was established in 1835, and while today the area includes redeveloped communities such as the Docklands and Southbank, the core of Melbourne’s downtown encompasses the two oldest areas in Melbourne: the Hoddle Grid and Queen Victoria Market. The former is a grid of streets spanning from Flinders to Spencer, creating Melbourne’s first formal city plan in 1837 — but two years after Melbourne’s first settlers claimed the city as their home.

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The latter is a popular tourists destination and renown city landmark — built on top of Melbourne’s first official cemetery. An estimated 10,000 early settlers were laid to rest beneath the market.

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Another key player in Melbourne’s urban identity is the old General Post Office. A striking building, with Roman-esque pillars, expansive arches and a soaring belltower, the GPO was constructed in the mid-1800s and closed in 1993. Eleven years later, the building went under redevelopment into a retail district — providing space for cafes on the ground floor — and four years ago the building welcomed Melbourne’s first (massive) H&M to the city.

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The GPO’s steps act as an unofficial town square, with Melbournites congregating to grab a coffee and read the paper, wait for a tram, or watch a musician perform outside the historic building.

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