Marvellous Melbourne

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Lauded for its sense of style and elegance, Melbourne has much to offer visitors to Australia, which is what Kerryn Le Cordeur found out, once she started digging into what makes this Australian city one of the most attractive cities in the world to live in.

Hugging the tip of the east coast, Victoria is Australia’s second smallest state. Packed into such a compact area is a wealth of diverse regional areas and attractions, from sweeping coastline and pristine beaches, to national parks and forests teeming with wildlife, to wineries, lakes and mountains offering skiing, climbing and hiking. These natural wonders and outdoor escapes are easily accessible from the capital city of Melbourne, located on the Yarra River and around the shores of Port Phillip Bay.

History and Heritage

Founded in 1835, Melbourne was officially declared a city by Queen Victoria in 1847 and became the capital of the newly-created colony of Victoria in 1851. During the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, it was transformed into one of the world’s largest and wealthiest cities.

Often referred to as the ‘cultural capital of Australia’, Melbourne is the birthplace of cultural institutions such as Australian film, Australian television, Australian Rules football, the Australian impressionist art movement and Australian dance styles such as New Vogue and the Melbourne Shuffle. It is also a major centre for contemporary and traditional Australian music.

Melbourne Today

Today Melbourne boasts glamorous festivals and events, Australia’s best shopping, a lively passion for eating and drinking, and a flourishing interest in the arts. Restored and preserved 19th Century architecture, built following the discovery of gold, provides a heady reminder of a prosperous age, while beautifully-tended parks and gardens present a therapeutic respite from the pace of city life.

When to Visit

Melbourne enjoys manageable summers, glorious springs, mild autumns and crisp winters. With its variable climate, the city is warm to hot in summer (December to February), mild in autumn (March to May), cold and damp in winter (June to August) and cool in spring (September to November). The warmest months are generally January and February, which are often dry and prone to hot spells. June and July are the coldest months, whilst October is the wettest.

Notable Events

Melbourne and Victoria host some of Australia’s most prestigious events throughout the year, including the Spring Racing Carnival, culminating in the Melbourne Cup in November; the Australian Open Tennis Championships in January; the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in March; the Melbourne International Arts Festival in October; the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in March; and the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in April.

Your taste buds will also be rewarded with a number of food and wine events around the state. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – Australia’s internationally-acclaimed celebration of food and wine – is one such occasion. Each year in March, the festival unveils a world class programme of more than 250 events over 20 days – a true expression of Melbourne’s infamous love of food and wine that captures the attention of food-lovers in their hundreds of thousands. The festival spills through restaurant doors, down laneways, up onto rooftops, into bustling foodie precincts, and deep into picturesque wine country. Its prestigious reputation attracts the world’s biggest culinary and wine personalities to its doors to participate in a programme that also showcases Victoria’s own celebrated chefs, restauranteurs, winemakers, sommeliers, producers and artisans.

Café Culture

If you miss out on the festival, you can still experience Melbourne’s mix of cultures in its myriad restaurants, cafés, bistros and bars. Whether you’re after modern, traditional, exotic or homespun flavours, the city’s eclectic dining scene offers a vast array of dishes from around the world. Share a drink while snacking on high-end tapas in a laneway eatery, take on a Szechuan chilli dish in Chinatown, or break out of the CBD and discover the city’s specialist eating destinations – Richmond for Vietnamese, Carlton’s ‘Little Italy’, Brunswick for Lebanese and Fitzroy for Spanish.

Melbourne is also the coffee capital of Australia. A stroll down the cobblestoned laneways of the CBD is rewarded with the aroma of espresso coming from the many cafés. Further afield, areas such as Richmond, St Kilda, Fitzroy, South Melbourne and Prahran also offer great café strips with a more laid-back feel.

Arts and Culture

Culture goes beyond food in Melbourne – scratch below the surface and you’ll discover a city buzzing with dynamic and cutting-edge arts and cultural companies, hole-in-the-wall galleries, designer boutiques and theatres. Head to the Southbank precinct and experience this hotbed of Melbourne art and culture – the Victorian Arts Centre, the Malthouse Theatre, the Recital Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria’s international collection. Federation Square, on the other hand, fuses art with architecture – see inspiring visual exhibits at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), wander through the permanent collection at the Ian Potter, or see a recital at the BMW Edge Theatre.

The city is home to more than 100 art galleries, ranging from large public institutions to smaller commercial galleries and artistic co-operatives. Dozens of theatrical productions are staged, from mainstream musicals to experimental works – catch a blockbuster at the beautifully-restored Princess and Her Majesty’s theatres, or head down to the Arts Centre and Malthouse to catch quality local productions. Delve deep into history at the Melbourne Museum or the Immigration Museum, or immerse yourself in literature at one of the city’s libraries, such as the State Library of Victoria or the Melbourne Athenaeum Library. And, whether you’re into opera, contemporary dance, live music, stand-up comedy or performance art, be sure to pay a visit to the city’s many jazz, dance and comedy clubs, or even time your visit to enjoy a concert at the Rod Laver Arena, Festival Hall or The Forum.

Shop ‘til You Drop

Whether you’re after high fashion or fine art, Melbourne’s ever-evolving shopping choices make it difficult to decide where to start your spree. From locally-designed originals to the best of international brands, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the city’s shopping precincts – QV and GPO – and in Melbourne Central. Explore department stores and shopping centres, and meander through the city’s arcades and laneways.

Discover high fashion at Husk, Alice Euphemia and Chiodo. Find a forgotten gem in retro stores like Shag and Retrostar, or beautiful jewelry at e.g. etal. Other highlights include the unique Wunderkammer, with its collection of scientific ephemera and natural history artefacts, and Someday, committed to promoting the works of independent artists and designers.

Outdoor Entertainment

For a respite from the hustle and bustle of the culture hub, Melbourne’s excellent facilities, beautiful bayside setting and plenty of bright, sunny days, make it the ideal city in which to enjoy the outdoors. Make the most of the city’s rivers, parks, coastline and bay. Pack a picnic lunch and wander around the lush botanic gardens, take in city views on a bike ride along the Yarra River, take a hot air balloon ride over the city at dawn, or enjoy boating and sailing on the sparkling waters of Port Phillip Bay. If you’re a sports fan, drop in on the world-renowned MCG, Melbourne’s international cricket ground, which has plenty of history and plays host to test matches and one-day internationals.

Melbourne is also known for its many beaches, including the popular St Kilda – a wide, sandy beach suitable for swimming and various other activities. The St Kilda Pier is a favourite for taking in the city skyline view and majestic sunsets, while shoreside diners offer a relaxed dining experience. Brighton Beach is another favourite, with its long stretch of safe, sandy bay swimming beaches. It is famous for its quaint, colourful bathing boxes along the beach, set against the Melbourne skyline.

Well Worth a Visit

Considering all that this Australian city has to offer,  it’s little wonder that Melbourne is not only the most populous city in Victoria, but the second most populous in the whole of Australia, after Sydney. Whether you’re after a cultural fix, a gastronomic feast, or you simply want to experience the east coast way of life, take your cue from the British settlers of the 1800s and pay marvellous Melbourne a visit.

City Statistics

Location: Victoria
Population: 4.1 million
Currency: Australian Dollar
Time Zone: AEST (GMT+10)
Website: visitmelbourne.com 

The Most Liveable City in the World

Melbourne was ranked as the world’s most liveable city in ratings published by the Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit in August 2011 and again in 2012. It has also been ranked in the top 10 Global University Cities by RMIT’s Global University Cities Index (since 2006) and the top 20 Global Innovation Cities by the 2thinknow Global Innovation Agency (since 2007).

Getting Around

Victoria’s network of first class roads connecting the state’s cities and towns, as well as interstate locations, means it is easy to reach your destination by car, motorbike or bicycle. For visitors staying in Melbourne, the city’s grid layout makes it easy to navigate, and almost everything is within walking distance – if it’s not, simply hop aboard a train, tram or bus.