Melbourne’s Central Business District is the busiest, most fascinating, diverse and fabulous CBD in Australia. The history of Melbourne City is really interesting. It began as a nice ‘place for a village’ around 1836, just up from where the river Yarra met the Bay. Twenty years later it had become the wealthiest town on the planet, due to the Victorian Gold Rush. Many of the existing marvellous buildings were built in the second half of the 1800’s. Melbourne was an elegant place indeed around the turn of the century (La Belle Époque) and then again during the Art Deco period: there are some world famous examples of top tier architecture from this era, one being the wonderful Manchester United building. In the 1950s and 60s Melbourne was a bustling CBD; many Melburnians commuted into ‘town’ for work. Then in the last couple of decades of the 20th Century central Melbourne quietened down a fair bit. It lost some of its pluck. At the turn of the Millennium however, our CBD underwent a most astonishing renaissance. It re-invented itself as a beacon of style, culture, cuisine, coffee and shopping. The dreary old laneways were brought to life with colour and cafes. Melbourne was back! And it hasn’t looked back since. Except for a little pandemic hiccup…But we don’t want to talk about recent history – or any history for that matter – we are here to talk shopping, so let’s get on with it…
Melburnians love to shop. More specifically, they love to dress up nicely and head into town on an escapade which might include (but not be limited to): some high-end boutique browsing and buying, a little bargain hunting, meeting a friend for a coffee, checking out some new places, promenading around some of the most glamorous shopping precincts in the world and then of course being whisked away by the most efficient public transport system in the country. So where are the places to go if you want to shop like a local in Melbourne’s CBD?
Look no further than yours truly: Australia’s oldest arcade – world renowned, heritage listed, beautiful and sophisticated. Our own Royal Arcade is a precinct very dear to the hearts of Melburnians and a location where they love to meet, eat and shop. There’s an incredible variety of boutique traders, points of interest, captivating sights & sounds and of course delightful dining and café options. Royal Arcade is especially noted for its plethora of specialty jewellery shops. If you are looking for a unique gift for someone special, there are all manner of traders in Royal Arcade, with everything from the quirky to the exquisite on offer. It’s also an arcade where locals bring their favourite leather goods to be repaired or get their hair done. Nested in between two of the city’s most important thoroughfares – Bourke St Mall and Little Collins St – Royal Arcade is right at the heart of the Melbourne CBD and much loved by locals since 1870.
Our grand old dame – stately, sophisticated, sartorial – Collins St is to Melbourne what 5th Avenue is to New York, Rodeo Drive to Los Angeles, Bond Street to London. The exceptionally elegant eastern part of Collins St is known as the Paris End of Collins St.Here you will find Gucci, Hermes, Versace, Chanel and all the top shelf designer brands. The showrooms are stunning. Tourists swan about on Collins St admiring the splendour of all this, but you’ll also find the well heeled, discerning Melburnian – browsing, with an eye for quality and perhaps purchasing a silk scarf, precious perfume, superlative pair of shoes or fantabulous felt hat…
LITTLE COLLINS STREET
Little Collins St runs parallel with Collins and is synonymous with all things fashion and fine food. Locals peruse the shops and stores in Little Collins searching for that perfect one-off dress or shirt designed and made by a fellow Melburnian. There are global labels too and also art galleries, restaurants and hotels. In the afternoons and evening witness locals gathering at the cafes and bars for coffees or cocktails. Marvel at the old world bluestone construction of the built environment. There’s always lots happening along Little Collins St.
Nearby Flinders Lane has a similar vibe to Little Collins St and Melburnians wander up and down this arty artery – mainly gallery hopping – some of Australia’s top contemporary art galleries have their headquarters here. Flinders Lane has a delicious assortment of bars and diners, some of which are treasured by Melburnians and are local icons, such as Cumulus Inc, Chin Chin, Supernormal and Kenzan. One of our most famous hotels is on Flinders Lane, which locals frequent, recommend and rendezvous at: the Adelphi Club. Locals do enjoy wandering through the CBD network of cobble stoned laneways, checking out the street art and shopping. Flinders Lane is an excellent starting point from which to hit our labyrinth of lanes.
BOURKE ST MALL
Bourke street Mall bustles. Generations of Melburnians descend upon ‘the Mall’ to check out the shops and the big department stores – Australia’s big two: David Jones and Myer, sit alongside (and opposite) each other in their shopping fiefdoms which are like little cities of their own really – where locals know they can shop for just about everything from fashion to furniture to food. At certain times of year these stores are the scenes of stampedes, with locals intent on bargains, lining up before doors open. If you’re a Melburnian, chances are you’ve visited Bourke St Mall as a kid with your parents to wonder at the Myer Christmas windows when shopping for presents. The Mall plays host to incredible buskers and street performers. Locals laden with shopping bags populate this busy, beating heart of retail.
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET
The ‘Queen Vic’ Market is where locals shop for food. Around the same age as Royal Arcade, this massive market place has been providing fresh food and produce and all manner of unique goods and products for generations of Melburnians. It’s a lively place with traders spruiking their wares, individuals of all descriptions jostling about, aromas, exotic items sizzling away on barbecues – free to try one…There’s amazing diversity of cultures here, all in one place; on offer the most incredible array of international ingredients to cook up a Melbourne Storm. Locals love the multicultural nature of our CBD and our metropolis, and you won’t find a better example of us coming together as people from every corner of the globe to celebrate, taste and explore our common obsession – cuisine! Every week is like an international food festival at QVM.