Melbourne City Centre

Melbourne City Centre (also known colloquially as simply "The City" or "The CBD"[3]) is the central built up area of the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, centred on the Hoddle Grid, the oldest part of the city laid out in 1837, and includes its fringes. It is not to be confused with the larger local government area of the City of Melbourne which includes this area and the inner suburbs around it.

The boundaries are not precise as it is not currently an official area, but the area of boundaries of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Statistical Area Level 2 'Melbourne'[4] represents the commonly understood area of what is usually meant by 'the CBD' or 'the city'; this includes the Hoddle Grid, plus the area of parallel streets just to the north up to Victoria Street including the Queen Victoria Market, but not the Flagstaff Gardens, and the area between Flinders Street and the Yarra river.

The Central City is the core of Greater Melbourne's metropolitan area, and is a major financial centre in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. It is home to Melbourne's famed alleyways and arcades and is renowned for its distinct blend of contemporary and Victorian architecture,[5] and home to five of the six tallest buildings in Australia. In recent times, it has been placed alongside New York City and Berlin as one of the world's great street art meccas, and designated a "City of Literature" by UNESCO in its Creative Cities Network.[6]


Artist's impression of the signing of Batman's Treaty

Batman's treaty

In April 1835, John Batman, a prominent grazier and a member of the Geelong and Dutigalla Association (later Port Phillip Association),[7][8] sailed from Launceston on the island of Van Diemen's Land (now the State of Tasmania), aboard the schooner Rebecca, in search of fresh grazing land in the south-east of the Colony of New South Wales (the mainland Australian continent). He sailed across Bass Strait, into the bay of Port Phillip, and arrived at the mouth of the Yarra River in May.[9] After exploring the surrounding area, he met with the elders of the indigenous Aboriginal group, the Wurundjeri of the Kulin nation alliance, and negotiated a transaction for 600,000 acres (2,400 km²; 940 mi²) which later became known as Batman's Treaty.[10] The transaction, which is believed to have taken place on the bank of Merri Creek (near the modern day suburb of Northcote),[11] consisted of an offering of: blankets, knives, mirrors, sugar, and other such items; to be also tributed annually to the Wurundjeri.[10] The last sentence of Batman's journal entry on this day became famous as the founding charter of the settlement.[7]

So the boat went up the large river. And, I am glad to state about six miles up found the river all good water and very deep. This will be the place for a village.
— Journal of John Batman (8 June 1835).[9]

Upon returning to Van Diemen's Land, Batman's treaty was deemed invalid by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke, under the Proclamation of Governor Bourke in August 1835.[12] It was the belief of Governor Bourke, as well as the Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Sir George Arthur, that the Aboriginal people did not have any official claims to the lands of the Australian continent. The proclamation formally declared, under the doctrine of terra nullius, that The Crown owned the whole of the Australian continent and that only it alone could sell and distribute land.[12] It therefore voided any contracts or treaties made without the consent of the government, and declared any person attempting to rely on such a treaty to be trespassing.[12] However, at the time the proclamation was being drawn up, a prominent businessman from Van Diemen's Land, John Pascoe Fawkner, had also funded an expedition to the area; which sailed from George Town aboard the schooner Enterprize.[13] At the same time, the Port Phillip Association had also funded a second expedition; which sailed from Launceston aboard the Rebecca.[7]

Fawkner's fait accompli

The settlement party aboard the Enterprize entered the Yarra River, and anchored close to the site chosen by Batman, on 29 August.[14] The party went ashore the following day (near what is today William Street; and is now celebrated as Melbourne Day) and landed their stores, livestock and began to construct the settlement.[13] The Association party aboard the Rebecca arrived in September after spending time at a temporary camp at Indented Head, where they encountered William Buckley – an escaped convict, believed dead, who had been living for 32 years with the indigenous Aboriginal group, the Wathaurong of the Kulin nation alliance.[15] Batman was dismayed to discover the settlers of the Enterprize had established a settlement in the area and informed the settlers that they were trespassing on the Association's land. However, according to the Proclamation of Governor Bourke, both the parties were in fact trespassing on Crown land.[12] When Fawkner (who was noted for his democratic nature)[13] arrived in October, and following tense arguments between the two parties, negotiation were made for land to be shared equally.

As Fawkner had arrived after the two parties, he was aware of the Proclamation of Governor Bourke, which had gained approval from the Colonial Office in October.[12] He knew that cooperation would be vital if the settlement was to continue to exist fait accompli. Land was then divided, and the settlement existed peacefully, but without a formal system of governance.[14] It was referred to by a number of names, including: "Batmania" and "Bearbrass"[9][16] of which the latter was agreed upon by Batman and Fawkner.[16] Fawkner assumed a leading role in the establishment of Bearbrass;[13] which, by early 1836, consisted of 177 European settlers (142 male and 35 female settlers).[14] The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Charles Grant, recognised the settlement's fait accompli that same year, and authorised Governor Bourke to transfer Bearbrass to a Crown settlement.[14] Batman and the Port Phillip Association were compensated £7,000 for the land.[7] And, in March 1837, it was officially renamed "Melbourne" by Governor Bourke in honour of the British Prime Minister of the day, William Lamb (the Lord Melbourne).[14]

Boundaries and geography

Borrie Report Zoning map 1964 showing the area first described as the CBD.

The Melbourne City Centre does not have current official boundaries, but rather is commonly understood to be the Hoddle Grid plus the parallel streets immediately to the north, including the Queen Victoria Market, and the area between Flinders Street and the river. There are a number of officially demarcated areas which are similar, but all differ slightly. Some that are larger still use the term 'Melbourne', which leads to some confusion.

The boundaries of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Statistical Area Level 2 'Melbourne' is a good representation of the commonly understood area of 'the CBD'; it includes the Hoddle Grid, plus the area of parallel streets just to the north up to Victoria Street including the Queen Victoria Market, but not the Flagstaff Gardens or the streets to the west of it, and the area between Flinders Street and the Yarra river west of Swanston Street. A map can be found here. This is not to be confused with the State Suburb level area, also called Melbourne, which is a larger area.

The area of the postcode 3000 is very similar, but also includes the area to the east of Flinders Street Station, and a leg up northern Elizabeth Street. A map of this can be found here and here.

The locality (suburb) of Melbourne is an official area,[17] but is larger; it is the area of postcode 3000 combined with the area of postcode 3004 (an area to the south of the central city, including the Domain and Botanic Gardens parklands, and the east side of St Kilda Road) and both of these postcodes are known as Melbourne.

The term Central Business District, or 'CBD', was first used in the Report on a planning scheme for the central business area of the City of Melbourne by town planner E.F. Borrie, which was commissioned by the City of Melbourne, and published in 1964. The maps used in the report show the CBD as just the Hoddle Grid, plus the parallel streets immediately to the north, and the area between Flinders Street and the river, very similar to the ABS area.

Since 1999, the Melbourne Planning Scheme has included a 'Capital City Zone' which is is a much larger area, including the former CBD, minus the RMIT area, but including Southern Cross Station, much of Southbank down a line along the Westgate Freeway, Kingsway, down to Coventry Street, South Melbourne, and the north wharf area and the South Wharf area. A map of the CCZ can be found here. The area described as 'the central city' in Clause 21.08 of the Melbourne Planning Scheme is similar, but also includes the Docklands.[18]

The are several adjoining areas that have important functions that are sometimes included within the idea of the 'the CBD' or the central city, such as Parliament House and the Treasury buildings on Spring Street, which are officially in East Melbourne, and Southern Cross railway station on Spencer Street, which is officially in Docklands. Other areas have in the last 30 years years become heavily developed with apartments, office buildings and important functions similar to the CBD, and are sometimes incorporated, such as the Docklands (with Docklands Stadium) to the west, and Southbank and South Wharf on the other side of the Yarra River.

Despite the area being described as the city centre, it is neither the geographic or demographic centre of Melbourne; due to urban sprawl to the south east the geographic centre is in the southeastern suburbs (in 2002 is was located at Bourne Street, Glen Iris[19]).

Hoddle Grid

Aerial view of the western end of the CBD. The far right of the image is Flinders Street station and the Yarra River.
A public underground toilet on Queen Street

The Hoddle Grid is the rectangular grid of the streets in the centre of the city laid out in 1837 by government surveyor Robert Hoddle. All major streets are one and half chains (99 ft or 30 m) in width, while all blocks are exactly 10 chains square (10 acres, 201 m × 201 m). It is one mile (1.6 km) long by half a mile wide (0.80 km), bounded by It is bounded by Flinders Street, Spencer Street LaTrobe Street and Spring Street. The grid's longest axis is oriented 70 degrees clockwise from true north, to align better with the course of the Yarra River. Most of the arterial streets outside the Hoddle Grid were aligned almost north-south, Melbourne, at 8 degrees clockwise from true north–noting that magnetic north was 8° 3' E in 1900, increasing to 11° 42' E in 2009.[20]

Hoddle’s survey did not include any public squares or piazzas, reputedly to avoid any facilitation of protests or public loitering,[21] though colonial government practice did not generally include public squares other than land set aside for government buildings or markets.[22]

The whole town was at first accommodated within the Hoddle Grid, but the huge surge in immigration brought about by the Gold Rush in the 1850s quickly outgrew the grid spreading into the first suburbs in Fitzroy and South Melbourne (Emerald Hill), and beyond.

The Hoddle Grid and its fringes remained the centre and most active part of the city into the mid 20th century, with retail in the centre, banking and prime office space on Collins Street, medical professionals on the Collins Street hill, legal professions around William Street, and warehousing along Flinders Lane and in the western end. Government buildings like GPO, State Library, Supreme Court, and Customs House occupied various blocks with Parliament House and the railway stations on the edges.

Residential uses, most notably the slums of Little Lonsdale Street, were largely replaced by commercial uses by the 1950s, with residential not making a return until the 1990s with the conversion of older buildings. Since the 2000s this has accelerated with numerous high rise apartment buildings and student housing projects.

With the loss of residents, restricted retail and pub hours, the central city became dominated by 9-5 business uses, with one commentator remarking that in the 70s, the city was "as deserted as war-torn Berlin”.[23]


About half the population of the CBD (the Level 2 statistical area of Melbourne) was overseas students according to the 2016 census. There were 37,321 residents, with only 14.3% of residents were born in Australia, and 24.9% born in China. Other places of birth included Malaysia 8.3%, India 6.2%, Indonesia 4.5% and South Korea 4.0%. Only English was spoken at home by 21.7% of residents, while 30.8% spoke Mandarin. Most of these overseas born are students on temporary visas, with 57.3% of residents attending a tertiary educational institution, and 54.3% of residents aged between 20-29.[4]

In common with Australian capital cities generally, especially Melbourne and Sydney, there has been remarkable growth in the CBD in last 10 years to 2017. Residential units, population, jobs and visitation have all increased markedly.[24]

In this period, many sometimes very tall towers of small one and two bedroom apartments and studio-style student housing (with no carparks) have been built, greatly increasing the resident population of the CBD, including students. Many older buildings have been converted to loft-style apartments, and there are some older apartment buildings with larger more spacious units, with a relatively small amount of luxury housing. There are few families with young children, with only 3.1% of residents under the age of 14, so most residents are students or young professionals, with relatively small numbers of retirees.[4]


The City Centre is the core central activities district (CAD) of Melbourne's inner suburbs. It encompasses a number of places of significance, which include the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Crown Casino, Federation Square, Flinders Street railway station, Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Town Hall, National Gallery of Victoria, Arts Centre Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, State Parliament of Victoria and Supreme Court of Victoria. Bordering its north-east perimeter is the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens as well as the Melbourne Museum. It is also the main terminus for the Melbourne metropolitan and Victorian regional passenger rail networks–being Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations respectively, as well as the most dense section of the Melbourne tram network.

Town Hall administration buildings

The City Centre is the major central business district (CBD) of Greater Melbourne's metropolitan area, and a major financial centre in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.[25] It is home to the corporate headquarters of the World's two largest mining companies: BHP and Rio Tinto Group; as well as two of Australia's "big four" banks: ANZ and the National Australia Bank, its two largest gaming companies: Crown and Tabcorp, largest telecommunications company Telstra, two largest transport management companies: Toll and Transurban and the iconic brewing company Foster's Group.

It also serves as the main administrative centre for the City of Melbourne as well as the State Government of Victoria – the latter with the suburb of East Melbourne. Three universities have major campuses in the area: Three campuses for Victoria University (City King, Queen, Flinders campuses) in Center, One campus for the RMIT University (city campus) in Northern and the University of Melbourne (Victorian College of the Arts) in Southern.

Melbourne City Centre, compared with other Australian cities, has comparatively unrestricted height limits and as a result of waves of post-war development contains five of the six tallest buildings in Australia, the tallest of which is the Eureka Tower, situated in Southbank. It has an observation deck near the top from where you can see above all of Melbourne's structures.[26] The Rialto tower, the city's second tallest, remains the tallest building in the old CBD; its observation deck for visitors closed in December 2009.[27]

Culture and sport

Olderfleet buildings, Collins Street
Aerial view of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), located at Melbourne Park, which also houses Rod Laver Arena and the Hisense Arena (sports & entertainment).


Notable theatres and performance venues in the City Centre include Arts Centre Melbourne (which includes the State Theatre, Hamer Hall, the Playhouse and the Fairfax Studio), Melbourne Recital Centre, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Princess Theatre, Regent Theatre, Forum Theatre, Palace Theatre, Comedy Theatre, Athenaeum Theatre, Her Majesty's Theatre, Capitol Theatre, Palais Theatre and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

It is also the literary centre of Australia, and has more bookshops and publishing companies per capita than any other city in Australia, and includes the headquarters of the World's largest travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet. In 2008, it was designated a "City of Literature" by UNESCO in its Creative Cities Network.[6] Melbourne has been placed alongside New York and Berlin as one of the world's great street art meccas,[28] and its extensive street art-laden laneways, alleys and arcades were voted by Lonely Planet readers as Australia's top cultural attraction.[29]


Most professional sporting clubs represent Greater Melbourne (e.g. Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Storm). An exception is the Melbourne Cricket Club and Melbourne Football Club (its offshoot), both based at the Melbourne Cricket Ground which was built in Jolimont, adjacent to the city but a locality of the suburb of East Melbourne. Both were the first clubs of their respective sports and established in a time when the city's population was still very small and limited to a handful of inner suburbs. As a result, the Melbourne Cricket Club has a fairly exclusive membership, whilst the Melbourne Football Club, although bearing the name Melbourne, is associated by the supporters of other suburban clubs as representing the central suburb and perceive its supporters to represent the locality and not the entire city.[30] As a result, despite its rich tradition and early success, it is one of the least supported clubs in the VFL/AFL. The lack of identity resulted in a push for the Melbourne Hawks, which was stopped by intervention from Joseph Gutnick and the majority of the Hawthorn Football Club members. It has had intense rivalries with younger clubs from the adjacent inner suburbs such as the Collingwood Football Club and early inter-town rival Geelong Football Club. The Melbourne Football Club has recently made efforts to shed its suburban tag and be embraced by the whole metropolitan area.[31] In line with this, the club recently employed strategies such as establishing Team Melbourne, (a group of sporting teams which bear the name "Melbourne"), and a strategy for promoting the brand as representing the city in China through club supporter and former Lord Mayor John So.

Golf is played at the course of the Albert Park Golf Club on Queens Road.[32]


The City Centre has hosted a number of events of significance, which include: the 1901 inauguration of the Government of Australia, 1956 Summer Olympic Games, 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, 1995 World Police and Fire Games, 2000 World Economic Forum, 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2015 Cricket World Cup and G20 Ministerial Meeting – among others. It is also recognised for the substantial number of cultural and sports events and festivals it holds annually – many being the largest in Australia and the World.


A C2 tram on Bourke Street

The Melbourne City Centre is the transport hub of the city.

The city is serviced by five railway stations as part of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop: Flinders Street station, which is the hub for Melbourne's suburban train network and the busiest station,[33] Southern Cross station, which is the hub for regional and interstate transit located on Spencer Street, and three underground stations–Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff stations.

Trams run down the main streets of Flinders, Collins, Bourke and La Trobe as well as Spencer, Market, Elizabeth, Swanston, Spring and Swan Streets and St Kilda Road. There are several large accessibility tram "superstops" located in Flinders Street, Collins Street, Swanston Street and Bourke Street Mall.[34]

The city is also well connected by bus services, with majority of buses running down Lonsdale Street. Major bus stops include Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria Village. Most bus routes service suburbs north and east of the city given the lack of train lines to these areas.

Major bicycle trails lead to the CBD and a main bicycle path down Swanston Street.

Ferries dock along the northbank of the Yarra at Federation Wharf and the turning basin at the . There is also a water taxi service to Melbourne and Olympic Parks.

Sister cities

Melbourne has six international sister cities.[35] According to the City of Melbourne council, "the city as a whole has been nourished by their influence, which extends from educational, cultural and sporting exchanges to unparalleled business networking opportunities."[36][37][38] The recognised cities are:



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  4. ^ a b c "2016 Census QuickStats: Melbourne". Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  5. ^ Diamonstein, Barbaralee (9 August 1987), "Victorian Scenes on a Melbourne Walk", New York Times, The New York Times Company, retrieved: 5 August 2011
  6. ^ a b "Melbourne, Australia: City of Literature Archived 4 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine", Creative Cities Network, UNESCO, retrieved: 10 August 2011
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  16. ^ a b Reed, Alexander Wyclif (1973). Place names of Australia. Sydney: Reed. p. 149. ISBN 0-589-50128-3.
  17. ^ Official map of localities can be found here
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  19. ^ Glen Iris still the heart of city's sprawl, The Age, 5 August 2002
  20. ^ Magnetic Declination
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  24. ^ "CITY OF MELBOURNE CLUE 2017 REPORT" (PDF). City of Melbourne.
  25. ^ Friedman, John (1997), "Cities Unbound: The Intercity Network in the Asia-Pacific Region", Management of Social Transformations, UNESCO, retrieved: 5 August 2011
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  27. ^ Dobbin, Marika (8 October 2009). "End in view for Rialto's top deck". The Age. Melbourne. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
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  29. ^ Topsfield, Jewel. Brumby slams Tourism Victoria over graffiti promotion, The Age (2008). Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  30. ^ Melbourne Demons – The rust bucket of Australia from
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  35. ^ "International connections". City of Melbourne. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  36. ^ "City of Melbourne — International relations — Sister cities". City of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 26 September 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008.
  37. ^ "Melbourne and Boston: Sister Cities Association". Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  38. ^ "The World Today – Melbourne makes Milan sister city". ABC Australia. 22 July 2003. Retrieved 18 February 2015.


  • Government of Victoria (2009), Melbourne Planning Scheme, Department of Planning and Community Development (PDF version. Retrieved 25 April 2017.)
  • Melbourne City Council (1997), The History of the City of Melbourne, Melbourne City Records and Archives Branch (PDF version. Retrieved 5 August 2011.)

External links