Prahran (IPA: /prəˈræn/), also pronounced colloquially as Pran, is an inner suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 5 km south-east of Melbourne's Central Business District, located within the City of Stonnington local government area. Prahran recorded a population of 12,203 at the 2021 census.[1]

Melbourne, Victoria
Pran Central on the corner of Chapel Street and Commercial Road
Coordinates37.852°S 144.998°E / -37.852; 144.998
Population12,203 (2021 census)[1]
 • Density5,810/km2 (15,100/sq mi)
Elevation21 m (69 ft)
Area2.1 km2 (0.8 sq mi)
Location5 km (3 mi) from Melbourne
LGA(s)City of Stonnington
State electorate(s)Prahran
Federal division(s)Higgins
Suburbs around Prahran:
Melbourne South Yarra Toorak
Melbourne CBD Prahran Armadale
St Kilda Windsor St Kilda East

Prahran is a part of Greater Melbourne, with many shops, restaurants and cafes. Chapel Street is a mix of upscale fashion boutiques and cafes. Greville Street, once the centre of the Melbourne's hippie community, has many cafés, bars, restaurants, bookstores, clothing shops and music shops.

Prahran takes its name from Pur-ra-ran, a Boonwurrung word which was thought to mean "land partially surrounded by water".[2] When naming began the suburbs spelling was intended to be Praharan and pronounced Pur-ra-ran, but a spelling mistake on a government form lead to the name Prahran. More recently the word Pur-ra-ran has been identified as a transcription of "Birrarung", the name for the Yarra River, or a specific point of it.[3]


Chapel Street scene in 1889
Prahran Telegraph front page from April 1918
Prahran Market
Prahran Town Hall
Prahran City Hall

In 1837 George Langhorne named the area Pur-ra-ran, which was thought to be a compound of two Aboriginal words, meaning "land partially surrounded by water".[4] The word has more recently been identified as a transcription of "Birrarung", the name for the Yarra River or a specific point of it.[3] When Langhorne informed the Surveyor-General Robert Hoddle of the name, it was written as "Prahran".[5]

Prahran Post Office opened on 1 April 1853.[6]

Describing Prahran, as it was in the mid 1850s, F.R. Chapman remembered:

In the very early times Chapel-street had many vacant spaces. On the west side, about the middle, a man could be seen ploughing his farm... and on the same side was a small brick church, or more probably a school-room used as a church, which was known as Mr Gregory's.[7]

Chapel Street scene in 1906. The large building second from the right between Read's Store and the Love & Lewis building was formerly an extension of Reads' store but made way for a carpark in the 1960s

Between the 1890s and 1930s Prahran built up a huge shopping centre, which by the 1920s had rivalled the Melbourne Central Business District. Large emporiums (department stores) sprang up along Chapel Street. Prahran also became a major entertainment area. The Lyric theatre (also known as the fleahouse), built on the corner of Victoria Street in 1911, burnt down in the 1940s. The Royal was the second old theatre built. The Empress (also known as the flea palace), another popular theatre on Chapel Street, was destroyed by fire in 1971.[8] The site was operated by the cut-price clothes and homewares chain Waltons for the next decade and was later developed into the Chapel Street Bazaar.

In the 1960s, in an effort to boost the slowly growing local population and inject new life into the suburb, the Victorian Government opened the Prahran Housing Commission estate, just off Chapel Street, together with a larger estate, located just north in South Yarra. Further complementing the high rise developments was a low density development between Bangs and Bendigo Streets.

In the 1970s, the suburb began to gentrify, with much of the remaining old housing stock being renovated and restored. The area had a substantial Greek population and many took advantage of the rise in property values during the 1980s, paving the way for further development and a subsequent shift in demographics.

During the 1990s, the population increased markedly, with demand for inner-city living fuelling a medium-density housing boom, which continues in the area, as part of the Melbourne 2030 planning policy. It was during the 1990s that solidification of the area's gay community occurred, with many gay and gay-friendly businesses (including the last of these closing around 2012).


In the 2016 census, there were 12,982 people in Prahran. 57.6% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were England 4.5%, New Zealand 3.7%, Greece 3.0%, China 1.7% and India 1.5%. 68.5% of people spoke only English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Greek 5.0%, Mandarin 2.0%, French 1.2%, Spanish 1.1% and Italian 1.0%. The most common responses for religion were No Religion 42.5% and Catholic 15.9%.[9]

Local landmarks

Non-residential architecture

Prahran Rechabite Hall, part of the University of Melbourne

Prahran is home to a large collection of architecturally significant commercial buildings, with many on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The Chapel Street section of Prahran is notable for its collection of turn of the century emporiums and large buildings, which include:

  • Prahran Arcade – Built in 1889 on Chapel Street, is a richly detailed building both externally and internally. Retains the original arcade, but decorative roof was removed in the 1950s. Also known locally as "Birdland" due to pigeons which once bred in the recessed balconies of the building and the large eagles which adorn the facade, but are now screened by chicken wire. Was a Dan Murphy's cellar for many years, but currently a JB HiFi store. Now heritage registered.
  • Read's Stores – Built in 1914 on the corner of Chapel Street and Commercial Road by architectural firm Sydney Smith & Ogg. The heritage-listed building is a prominent example of large department stores which once lined the west side of Chapel Street up to High Street.[10] Its twin beacons, which sit atop large copper clad domes, were once visible like lighthouses for miles around, but no longer operate. During the 1970s, the site traded as a department store under the name Moore's before the lower stories were converted into shops in the 1980s and named Pran Central. The upper stories were restored and converted into fashionable apartments in 2005.
  • Big Store – Built in 1902 and closed in 1968 on Chapel Street. A second store, almost as large as the main store, once stood in the carpark to the west, beyond Cato Street, linked by cross-over walkways. This large Edwardian building is currently used by Coles Supermarkets.
  • Maples Corner – Built in 1910 on the corner of Chapel and High Streets. Converted into offices in the 1980s and many deteriorating decorative features were replaced with post modern elements.
  • Love & Lewis – Built in 1913 on Chapel Street and converted into a mix of offices, retail and apartments in 2004. Now heritage registered.

Other significant Prahran emporiums include Conway's Buildings (1914) and the large Colosseum building (1897), which was lost to fire in 1914.

Other heritage buildings include the former Prahran Town Hall (now used as a library and council offices), the adjacent former City Hall (1888) (now used for special functions and as an exhibition space), the neighbouring police station (1887) and court house (1887) and Rechabite Hall (1888), in the Second Empire style. The Prahran Fire Tower (1889) is on Macquarie Street. State School number 2855, formerly Prahran Primary School (1888), on High Street was converted into apartments in 2005. St Matthew's Church, a large bluestone church on High Street built in the 1880s, was converted into offices in the 1980s.

Residential architecture

Gates to Princes Gardens

Residential Prahran consists of mostly single storey Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses, with some larger double storey terraces closer to the main shopping strips.

Public space

Prahran features many small (largely hidden) gardens scattered throughout the suburb. The former Greville Botanical Gardens, now "Grattan Gardens", are off Greville Street, on Grattan Street. Subdivisions have caused incursions to what is now a narrow strip, with a playground and heritage pavilion. The Princes Gardens are a small garden, which features Chapel Off Chapel, an old church converted into a theatre, as well as the Prahran skate park, home to the best vert skateboarding facilities in Victoria. Victoria Gardens, off High Street, is a Victorian era garden designed by notable landscape designer William Sangster in 1885.[11] It features a sunken oval surrounded by London plane trees and a Victory bronze statue. The Orrong Romanis Park is the largest park in Prahran, although the Cato Street carpark has been converted into an urban square named Prahran Square.


Prahran was home to Prahran College,[12] a secondary and tertiary technical college and trade school that originated in Chapel Street as, and continued to be associated with, the Mechanics Institute. It incorporated an art school which particularly from around the 1960s produced graduates who went on to become significant Australians. From 1968 it was situated in a multi-storey building in High Street, demolished in 2017 for the construction by the Andrews government of a $25 million 'vertical' secondary college, next to Melbourne Polytechnic and the National Institute of Circus Arts, and which opened in 2019.[13] Alumni include painters Howard Arkley, Douglas Baulch, Christopher Beaumont, Peter Churcher, William Dargie, Robert Jacks, William Kelly, David Larwill; printmakers Basil Hadley and Merris Hillard; designers Mimmo Cozzolino and Martine Murray; photographers Robert Ashton, Andrew Chapman, Susan Fereday, Bill Henson, Carol Jerrems, Tony Maskill, Leonie Reisberg, Stephen Wickham and sculptor Stuart Devlin.


Prahran railway station

Prahran is serviced by Prahran station, on the Sandringham line, as well as trams routes 5, 6, 64, 72 and 78.

Notable people

See also

  • City of Prahran – Prahran was previously within this former local government area.
  • Electoral district of Prahran
  • Prahran College (1864–1992), a late-secondary and tertiary institution with a trade school, business school, and a multi-disciplinary art school.
  • Prahran Telegraph, local newspaper from 1860–1930s


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 June 2022). "Prahran (Suburbs and Localities)". 2021 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  2. "Prahran, Victoria". Australian Places. Monash University. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  3. "The forgotten Aboriginal names for 10 of Melbourne's suburbs". 9 July 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  4. A commemoration by the City of Stonnington of the 150th Anniversary of the first meeting of the first Meeting of the Prahran Council. City of Stonnington. 27 February 2006.
  5. John Butler Cooper On-line Archived 16 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine – see Chapter 1 section 5
  6. Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  7. "South Suburban Melbourne: 1854–1864". Victorian Historical Journal. 5 (20): 183. 1917. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Prahran (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  9. "VHD". Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  10. Foster, John H. (1989) Victorian Picturesque: The Colonial Gardens of William Sangster. University of Melbourne History Dept. p. 73
  11. Buckrich, Judith Raphael; Prahran Mechanics' Institute (2007), Design for living : a history of 'Prahran Tech', Prahran Mechanics' Institute Press, pp. 96–99, ISBN 978-0-9756000-8-5
  12. Henrietta Cook and Education Editor, 'Going high on High Street, Prahran with $25m vertical school to hit the heights', in The Age March 3, 2017
  13. The Victorians: Making their mark. Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates. 25 November 1984. ISBN 9780949288035. Retrieved 25 November 2021 via Google Books.
  14. "George Negus Tonight – Raelene Boyle". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  15. "Keith Campbell career statistics". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
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