Bourke Street, Melbourne

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"Bourke Street" redirects here. For the painting by Tom Roberts, see Bourke Street (painting).
Bourke Street
Bourke Street Mall, between Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street looking west
Coordinates 37°48′50″S 144°57′52″E / 37.8139°S 144.96452°E / -37.8139; 144.96452Coordinates: 37°48′50″S 144°57′52″E / 37.8139°S 144.96452°E / -37.8139; 144.96452
General information
Type Street
Length 2 km (1.2 mi)
Major junctions
West end Docklands, Melbourne
East end Spring Street, East Melbourne, Melbourne
Suburb(s) Melbourne CBD

Bourke Street is one of Melbourne's main streets and a core element of the Hoddle grid. It has traditionally been the Central Business District's entertainment hub and has become a popular tourist destination and tram thoroughfare. For this reason, "Busier than Bourke Street" is a popular colloquialism denoting a crowded or busy environment.

During the "marvellous Melbourne" era, Bourke Street was the location of many of the city's theatres and cinemas. Today it continues as a major retail shopping precinct with Bourke Street Mall (Melbourne city's main pedestrian mall) running between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets, as well as offices to the west end and restaurants to the east.[1] Bourke Street's liveliness and activity has often been contrasted with the sobering formality of nearby Collins Street.[1]

Bourke Street is named for Sir Richard Bourke, the Governor of New South Wales in 1837 during the drafting of the Hoddle Grid.[2]


Route 96 trams on Bourke Street

Bourke Street runs roughly from east to west and bisects the city centre along its long axis.[3] Bourke Street runs parallel between Little Collins street to the south and Little Bourke street to the north.

There are two primary stretches of Bourke Street, bisected by Southern Cross railway station: the colonial city centre and the newer Docklands stretch. The city centre portion intersects with Spring Street to the east (overlooked by Parliament House), whilst the newer Docklands stretch will intersect with Collins Street to the west in the future.


Bourke Street (1886) by Tom Roberts, oil on canvas on composition board.

Having been laid out as part of the Hoddle grid in 1837, Bourke Street was considered "out of town" until the 1840s when the western end saw the opening of St Patrick's Hall, the first synagogue and the first public hospital. During the 1850s it gained a reputation as a busy thoroughfare popular as the centre for Saturday nightlife. As retail presence increased the street was often compared to London's Oxford Street.

Melbourne's first theatre opened on Bourke Street as the Pavilion (1841), and by the late 1840s the east end was established as Melbourne's main entertainment zone. Theatres and public halls were complemented by billiard halls, cigar divans, rifle galleries, bowling alleys and sideshows. While the early evening crowd trod Bourke Street's pavements for entertainment or for show, the night-time street was also notorious for public disorder, fights, brothel touts and drinking and drunkenness.[1]

Cheap restaurants appeared from the 1870s, when Parer's Hotel and Crystal Tea Rooms became a Melbourne institution, while the Café de Paris was a favourite literary and artistic meeting place. Twentieth-century restaurants such as Florentino's, Pellegrini's and the Society Café have become Melbourne institutions.[1]

The late 20th century onwards has resulted in office block developments, residential skyscrapers, the introduction of several shopping arcades and the famous Bourke Street Mall.

Bourke Street Mall[edit]

The Bourke Street Mall is a pedestrian and tram-only strip running between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets. The mall is Bourke Street's most famous feature and contains retail hubs like Melbourne's GPO, Myer's flagship store and David Jones' second flagship.

Concepts for a Bourke Street Mall were drawn up as early as 1964 by Robin Boyd and Frederick Romberg[4] however the ambitious multi-platform design which separated cars from pedestrians was never realised. Plans were eventually scaled down with pedestrians sharing space with a grade level tramline. The pedestrian mall was officially opened in 1983 by Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

The mall received a major facelift in preparation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games and elevated tram super-stops were later installed.


There are several arcades and shopping centres that connect to Bourke Street, including:


Myer Christmas Parade (2007)

The inaugural Myer Christmas Window display was in 1956, the year of the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics and became an annual tradition. Myer's shopfront windows are decorated in a different Christmas-themed display and are visited by around 1,000,000 children and their parents each December. The Myer Christmas Parade was an annual parade running down Bourke Street from Spring Street to the Myer windows. The parade was last held in 2010.

Flashmob die-in protest in 2010 on the ninth anniversary of the Afghanistan War

Docklands Commercial Zone[edit]

Bourke Street is a commercial zone lined by glass-paned skyscrapers, especially on at the west end. It is home to the new National Bank headquarters by the Victoria Harbour in Docklands, Commonwealth Bank Centre building, Bourke Place, Marland House, National Bank House and AMP Square.

Bourke Street from Southern Cross Station


Tram routes 86 and 96 travel the length of Bourke Street and directly through the mall.

Parliament railway station is located at the eastern end of Bourke Street near the corner of Spring Street and is part of the underground city loop for the suburban rail network.

Southern Cross Station bisects Bourke Street at the city centre's west end and is a major transport hub for train and bus services throughout Victoria. The station also has shuttle buses to Melbourne and Avalon airports. A pedestrian bridge at Southern Cross Station provides access from Bourke St to Etihad Stadium and Melbourne Docklands.


Bourke Street has played a historically significant part in Melbourne's cinema industry. It was home to the city's first permanent cinema (although this was initially established near Princes Bridge), and by 1913 had developed into Melbourne's principal cinema precinct. In 1908, Arthur Russell began screening films at St. George's Hall, which was rebuilt as Hoyt's De Luxe Theatre in 1914, marking the beginning of the Hoyts cinema chain.

Bourke Street remained a centre for cinema-goers until quite recently. In 2005, the Hoyts cinema moved to larger premises at the Melbourne Central shopping centre. On 15 February 2006 the Village cinema closed down, leaving Village cinemas at nearby Crown Casino as the main Village branded city cinemas. The Chinatown Cinema, which inhabits the former Hoyts MidCity cinema, is the only cinema left in Bourke Street. On nearby Collins Street, the newly expanded Kino Dendy cinemas continues to be a cinema drawcard. The adjacent Russell Street Greater Union cinemas closed in 2013 and has since been demolished.

See also[edit]

Australia road sign W5-29.svg Australian Roads portal


  1. ^ a b c d "Bourke Street". Retrieved 2016-11-17. 
  2. ^ "Melbourne's Streets & Lanes" (PDF). The Royal Historical Society of Victoria. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Untitled", Bay Of Plenty Times, XIV (1804), p. 4, 21 February 1885 
  4. ^ Bourke Street development, Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, 1964, courtesy Robin Boyd Foundation and Diane Masters. State Library of Victoria collection.

External links[edit]