Where to stay in Melbourne CBD
The CBD (Central Business District) is the most popular neighbourhood in the city for travellers, with all the best attractions, where you will always find people around, at any time of the day.
Yes, it can be quite noisy, and that is why you need to be selective in the area and street of your accommodation.
In this guide to where to stay in Melbourne CBD I will show the best parts of the Central Business District to enjoy your stay with family, or as a couple, and experience all the attractions, restaurants, cafes and bars.
I have been living in Melbourne for the last 15 years and I hope my experience will be helpful in your decision process.
Without further ado, let’s get into it
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Where to stay in Melbourne CBD for a short or long break – in a nutshell
If you are wondering about where to stay in Melbourne CBD, be sure you are not the only one.
The main reason is that the Central Business District is actually a very wide area.
It was originally planned as a rectangular chessboard made of streets and lanes on the long side and only streets on the short side.
Typically a street is followed by a lane with the same “Little” name. For example, Collins Street is followed by Little Collins Street.
There is however an exception which is Flinders Street, followed by Flinders Lane.
Swanston is the main street in the city. Only pedestrians, trams and bicycles are allowed in it.
The most popular shopping area is on Bourke Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston street. This is a pedestrian area, with a few trams passing by, however at a moderate speed.
In the map below I have highlighted the 5 areas to stay in Melbourne CBD.
They are all quite different in vibe and things to do around.
- Where to stay in Melbourne CBD for shopping: book your accommodation in the Centre, you will be meters from all the shopping places. Read more on Centre
- Where to stay in Melbourne CBD with family and kids: stay on the West side for easy access to train and busses to the airport. You will be also a short walk to Docklands, with the Observation Wheel and other attractions for kids. It’s very quiet at night and during the weekend. The other option is the East side, more trendy, next to the Fitzroy Gardens and a short walk to the Botanical Garden and the Skateboarding Park.
- Best area for attractions: most of the things to do and experience are in the South part of the CBD, also a nice area to stay with a view to the Yarra River
- Best area for nightlife: the best place to stay in Melbourne CBD for nightlife is the Centre or East part. Keep in mind however that the trams in the CBD area are free, so you can roam around without worries. From the east side, you can also grab a 5mins taxi to Fitzroy, with plenty of possibilities.
- Best place to stay in Melbourne CBD for dining: everywhere, except probably the West side, an area that lacks in restaurant and cafe options, especially in the weekend. I personally suggest the South if you like to have drinks and dinner along the Yarra River, a huge pedestrian area very popular with travellers.
- Best place to stay to visit QV Market: book your hotel on the North side and you be literally a stone away.
- Best area to stay for footy: there are two footy arenas, the Marvel Stadium on the West side and the MCG, easily reachable from either the East or the South side
- Where to stay in Melbourne CBD for the Australian Open Tennis: the Tennis courts are a short walk from Federation Square along the Yarra River, in the South side of the city. You can also catch a tram from anywhere else in the CBD
- Best place to stay for soccer at AAMI Park: this stadium is next to the tennis courts and a short walk from Federation square in the South
- Quietest part to stay in the CBD: the West side of the CBD is quite busy during business hours, however, it becomes so quiet in the evening and in the weekends. The North tends to have also the same pattern. Read more on West and North.
How many times I heard visitors saying that it was great to be in CBD however it was a bit noisy.
I guess this is the CBD life.
If you keep reading I also suggest a few hotels where you should have not this problem, because the rooms have double-glazed windows or they are in a much quieter street.
The five areas to stay in Melbourne CBD
The Centre (shopping and nightlife)
The Centre is the best area to stay in Melbourne CBD for shopping, next to the Bourke Street Mall area, Melbourne Central, Emporium and the incredible choice of shops.
It can be quite noisy though as this is also the busiest part of the city.
You have traffic all hours of the day.
I would personally not suggest it for families, especially with small kids.
Melbourne Central is the closest train station and you will have access to almost all of the tram lines.
Two amazing buildings you should visit in this part of the CBD are 333 Collins, the dome, for the amazing architecture and the State Library Victoria where you will have access also to an unlimited number of books, newspapers and magazines.
Shopping wise, you should not miss:
- Bourke Street Mall for the popular brands (Mayer, Zara, H&M etc)
- Emporium for the ultimate shopping experience. Great food section too
- Collins Street for anything in the luxury 5 stars, including all the well-known designers
A great accommodation to be based is the Victoria Hotel, one of the best value in the city I believe.
Large and clean rooms in a perfect location. You will also have access to a swimming pool, perfect to relax after a day of shopping (see photos here)
All you need for a great price. Book well in advance as they are quite often full.
The restaurants’ options in the Centre of the CBD are beyond any expectation, you can eat amazingly well with $10-$15 or increase your budget for the full experience in some outstanding restaurants.
You can find any kind of cuisine, really! I could list most of the countries in the world, even the unusual Mongolia.
Moreover, the bar selection is as wide, any style any type, from the tiny boutique ones to the multilevel English pubs.
The rooftops are also a great option. Some of them offer a spectacular view of the city skyline
Good cafes were rare and apart in the CBD only a few years ago. Now the choice is so wide.
Here below a list of my favourites that I have been experiencing for the last 15 years
- Cookie: Thai and Asian inspired, located on the second floor of an old central building with an industrial interior design
- Rooftop Cinema: on the top floor of the same Cookie building. Incredible city view, with movies under the stars on a few nights of the week
- Dumpling Plus: freshly done dumplings and noodle, some of the best in Melbourne. Very economical too, however you may have to queue to get a table
- Ferdydurke: hipster bar in a small central lane
- Bar Americano: some of the best cocktails in Melbourne. There are two drawbacks, hard to find and only 8 people at a time (no photos inside)
- Manchester Press: my favourite cafe in the CBD, amazing bagels!!
- Captains of Industry: old look and style cafe, with a tailor shop and shoemaker…You need to see it
The East (nightlife but also families)
The East is probably my favourite part of Melbourne CBD, and for a few reasons.
Lots of fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes of which some really hidden (more on this later).
Next to the Fitzroy Gardens, the perfect spot for some jogging or walks with kids.
You are also minutes away from the Yarra River, the Australian Open Tennis Courts, the MCG and the AAMI Stadium.
Take a 15 minutes walk and you will be at the Botanical Garden.
It’s also minutes away from Fitzroy, another lovely neighbourhood for food and live music.
And if you are after some shopping, the East end of Collins Street is famous for the many lux shops as Prada, Ermes and many others
In the East you will find the Hotel Windsor, probably the most beautiful and historical building hotel in Melbourne CBD.
Facing the Parliament House. The interior is really unique (check photos here)
You will have the most beautiful Victorian style experience
Talking of restaurants and bars, in the East you can find some amazing ones as:
- Longrain: Asian inspired restaurant with massive tables shared by the customers
- Florentino: Italian food, organised on 3 levels, from the cellar bar on the ground level to the elegant restaurant on the 2nd floor
- The European: for the beautiful view, on the first floor, to the Parliament House
- 1860: Lavish cocktails in a tiny theatre style bar. Another hard to find place. Just an unpretentious door (knock and you will be open)
South (attractions, restaurants and the river)
The South is considered to be the heart of Melbourne, with Federation Square used as a meeting point by….well everyone.
The river area is really beautiful in the summer as it tends to get a bit of sea breeze.
The south has the biggest concentration of art and cultural options as:
- National Gallery of Victoria (located in St Kilda Road and Federation Square, called Ian Potter Centre): there are plenty of interesting sections where you do not actually pay any ticket, yes free. The main exhibitions have however a charge
- Arts Centre: for plays and live music
- Southbank Theatre, just outside the CBD. One of my favourite spots for contemporary theatre.
- Immigration Museum
- Hosier Lane for street art
Expect great service and a glamour interior design.
This is more than an iconic hotel in Melbourne
Another option, more on a budget, is the Punthill Apartment Hotel located in Flinders Lane.
They offer accommodations for couples and families (up to 2 bedrooms apartments).
It’s a brand new good value Hotel with a great interior, however, windows are not double-glazed so expect some noise from the streets
If you are after a drink you should go to Ponyfish Island, a bar on a tiny island in the Yarra river accessible by a short pedestrian bridge.
There are many restaurants along the river.
For the best pizza go to Gradi at Crown where you will find a typical Italian cuisine.
West (quiet, family with small kids)
The west side is probably the quietest part to stay in Melbourne CBD during the weekend.
Expect however traffic all day during business hours.
This is the area to be if you are attending an event at the Malvern Stadium or you want to explore Docklands with many things to do, especially for kids (playgrounds, Observation Wheel, etc)
In this respect, the West is suggested to family with small children that want to have a quiet time, be walking distance to kids attractions, and a short tram ride to the rest of the CBD (tram is free within the CBD)
It tends to be peaceful in the evening and weekends because there is not a great choice of bars and restaurants.
You have here also Southern Cross Station, the main station from where most of the trains depart as well as the bus to the Airport.
Accommodations tend to be also cheaper on this side of the CBD
Talking of hotels, the Oaks on Collins offers good priced service apartments with all you need.
There is even an outdoor pool, a sauna and a gym (see photos here).
Rooms are spacious and a few also with a small balcony
The Atlantis Hotel is another economical option, meters from Southern Cross station.
This is a no-frills hotel which comes very handy if you want to stay close to the Malvern Stadium and Docklands
The North (quiet, close to QV Market)
The North is another quiet area of the CBD.
There are few eatery options, mostly Asian style, very tasty and well priced too, favourite by the students.
It works great if you are after a market experience.
In the summer the QV Market opens also on Wednesday night with live music and a huge amount of street food options.
It has been recently opened and it has become already so popular with travellers, also thanks to the great value for money.
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- 1 Where to stay in Melbourne CBD for a short or long break – in a nutshell
- 2 The five areas to stay in Melbourne CBD