It's rare to find anyone who lives in Melbourne who doesn't adore it. I'm biased, of course, because I've chosen it for my home, and I'll share with you just a few of the many reasons why: Victoria's capital, Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bun), is a cultural melting pot. For a start, more people of Greek descent live here than in any other city except Athens, Greece. Multitudes of Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese immigrants have all left their mark. Almost a third of Melbournians were born overseas or have parents who were born overseas. With such a diverse population -- and with trams rattling through the streets and stately European-style architecture surrounding you -- you could almost forget you're in Australia.
Melbourne's roots can be traced back to the 1850s, when gold was found in the surrounding hills. British settlers took up residence and prided themselves on coming freely to their city, rather than having been forced here in convict chains. The city grew wealthy and remained a conservative bastion until World War II, when another wave of immigration, mainly from southern Europe, made it a more relaxed place.
With elegant tree-lined boulevards and a raging cafe culture, Victoria's capital maintains a distinctly European feel. Expect wonderful architecture both old and new and green spaces like the Royal Botanic Gardens. This cosmopolitan city is also Australia's culture capital, with vibrant dining, shopping, and nightlife scenes.
In fact, Melbourne, which has a population of more than three million, is at the head of the pack when it comes to shopping, restaurants, fashion, music, nightlife, and cafe culture. It frequently beats other state capitals in bids for major concerts, plays, exhibitions, and sporting events.
Things to Do
Survey Melbourne's gridlike streets with a birds-eye view from high atop Southbank's Eureka Skydeck 88, the Southern Hemisphere's tallest viewing platform. See key attractions on the free burgundy-and-gold City Circle trams. Central hub Federation Square hosts cultural events along the Yarra River. The city's historic laneways and arcades reveal the bohemian side of Melbourne. Soak up the art at the National Gallery of Victoria, or visit the Immigration Museum and the Chinese Museum for different takes on the settlement of this "free" city.
Find anything and everything in Melbourne's Central Business District, an open-air shopping mall. Art galleries and designer boutiques rub shoulders in Flinders Lane. Fitzroy's Brunswick Street, slightly grungier Smith Street and Gertrude Street attract the trend-setters with retro and vintage boutiques and book stores, while Prahran is the place for the label-conscious. Queen Victoria Market, just north of the CBD, sells everything from weird and wonderful bric-a-brac to food and clothes.
Nightlife & Entertainment
For live music head to inner-suburb clubs like the Corner Pub in Richmond and the legendary Espy in St. Kilda. Southbank venues including the Arts Centre stage opera and ballet. The Princess, Regent, and Her Majesty's theatres offer shows, musicals, and plays. Federation Square abounds in modern meeting and drinking places, while the edgier Laneways serves up everything from graffiti-lined hole-in-the-wall cafes to sophisticated bars.
Restaurants & Dining
Australian cuisine owes more to its melting-pot culture than to any home-grown culinary tradition, and the dining scene in Melbourne offers something from just about every corner of the world, to suit all palates and budgets. In the CBD, try authentic Thai, tapas, and bistro dishes in atmospheric Laneways eateries. Head to Brunswick for Middle Eastern fare or Chinatown for cheap Asian and Chinese grub. Richmond specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, and Fitzroy in Spanish.
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