Melbourne is is the capital of the state of Victoria, Australia.
It has a rich history as well as cultural diversity and is often referred to as Australia’s “European” city, for its architecture, style and sophistication.
Australia is a relatively young country and although Melbourne has the grace and charm of older and more established cities, she retains the cheekiness and exuberance of youth. The majority of Melbourne tourism information focuses on sports, theatre and the arts when extolling the virtues of Melbourne, but there is much more to the city than these traditional pastimes.
Melbourne has a well-developed live music scene and her arts community is not limited to the classics – street art, in the form of graffiti and other subversive installations, live comfortably in her streets. Much of this is supported by the Melbourne City Council, who are slowly recognizing the international credibility of Melbourne´s street artists, musicians, and painters.
Geographically, Melbourne is a relatively flat city, set around the shores of Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River. The climate is unpredictable and the phrase Four Seasons in One Day applies nicely to Melbourne. It is not unusual to see Melburnians wearing shorts and tee-shirts while an umbrella pokes out of their bags.
Oddly, the windiest time of the week in the city is Sunday at 11 am, when the ´Bay Doctor´ comes in from Port Philip. The Bay Doctor is a strong wind that blows through the city at least once a week (about every three days if the weather has been hot: more than 30 degrees Celsius).
Melbourne is made up of distinct precincts, each with its own style and personality that exemplify the city’s flair for fashion and creativity. Melbourne’s famous sporting venues and major parks and gardens are all situated very close to the heart of the Central Business District (CBD), which is a charming grid of streets and walkways.
The CBD was designed in the late 19th century by Governor Bourke and is the product of sophisticated and forward-thinking town planning. The streets are wide boulevards, unheard of in a time when the most common form of transport was the human foot, followed closely by horse and carriage. The other notable feature of Melbourne city is the abundance of green areas. This was a stringent requirement of Bourke who was dismayed by the grey, industrial, dirty cities of the Industrial Revolution and fought hard against his colleagues who scoffed at his quaint idea of conserving greenbelts in an urban environment.
You can walk around the perimeter of Melbourne´s CBD in an hour. Take an extra 15 minutes in any direction and you will arrive at either acre of parklands, or water (the docks of Port Philip Bay or the Yarra River).
It is this mix of modern city-scape with genteel natural settings that give Melbourne her refined and relaxed air.
Melbourne is home to 3.6 million people and has a rich diversity of cultures from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. In fact, only 60% of Melburnians were born in Australia.
Expatriates are not just tolerated but welcomed. In the CBD on any given day, you will see a handful of people dressed in casual red uniforms. They are there specifically to talk to Melbourne´s visitors and help in any way they can. The majority of these City Guides are native Melburnians who have retired, and simply enjoy sharing their city with newcomers.
They are a wealth of information on places to go, the latest transport information or simply, the history of Melbourne. They also have maps (lots of maps!), which you can take for free.
Melbourne has been called a shopper´s paradise, but in truth, the range of high-end items is much more limited than Sydney, or other major international cities.