Get to Know a City: Melbourne

Get to Know a City: Melbourne

Melbourne is the capital of the Australian’s state of Victoria, located on the southeast coast of the island continent. One of the most populated city in Australia and Oceania, the city is home to over 4.5 million people, almost 20% of the total population of Australia. Unlike most settlements in Australia, Melbourne was founded by free British colonists rather than convict settlers, beginning with John Batman’s purchase of a plot of land near present Melbourne (yes, Batman founded Melbourne. Look it up).

Owing its early growth to many wealthy Europeans, the capital boomed rapidly during the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s as a port city and became home to numerous immigrants, including early Chinese settlers who founded the Melbourne Chinatown, one of the oldest in the world. Since then, Melbourne has see subsequent growth from a port city into a sprawling coastal metropolis, and even briefly served as Australia’s capital.

But who is Melbourne?

Melbourne is Australia’s sports capital, major cultural center, a huge contributor to the country’s economy, and one of the top ten cities to live in in the world. It holds many honors, from being listed as a City of Literature by UNESCO to hosting the world’s first feature length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang. It is ultimately a city of diversity, from its economics to its culture, population to its architecture, and, from just on the page, it is easy to see why its one of the best places to live in the world.

melbourne_skyline
Where is Melbourne? How do I meet it?

Based around the Central Business District, or CBD, Melbourne is made up of the surrounding Docklands of Port Philip, the Mornington Peninsula, the southern edges of the Yarra Valley wine country, and the eastern end of the Great Ocean Road. The Docklands and CBD rest a the north end of Port Philips, which itself rests at the southern end of Victoria.

Like most major cities in Australia, Melbourne is rather isolated from the other regional capitals of Australia. The nearest cities, Canberra, Sydney, and Adelaide, are all an hour to two hours away by flight. The nearest destination is off the coast, the island region of Tasmania. It’s proximity to Tasmania and role as a major cultural center have helped prosper its appeal to tourists.

The city hosts 4 airports, but for international flights the main airport is Tullamarine, or Melbourne Airport, which hosts 30 different airlines. The major airlines for travelers are Jetstar, Quantos, Virgin Australia, and Tiger Airways, all of which offer international flights around the world.

Other than by air, travelers can read the city by road from the other major cities like Adelaide or Sydney. While Sydney hosts more international flights, Adelaide hosts the popular Great Ocean Road route which takes road trippers along the southern coast past the famous 12 Apostles, Port Campbell, and Mt Gambier.

How does Melbourne feel?
How does Melbourne feel?

So, for all the northerners out there, remember that Australia is in the southern hemisphere, meaning your seasons are flipped. November to February constitutes the summer, while May to August are the winter months.

Located on the ocean, Melbourne dwells within a rather touchy area in regards to climate. Strong cold fronts can rapidly disrupt the otherwise hot Australian weather, bringing everything from temperature drops to sever thunderstorms and hail. Recent years have seen a rise in average temperatures for summer, but many still regard Melbourne as having “four seasons in one day.”

Winter, in turn, is somewhat colder than the mainland, but it rarely experiences snowfall. In general, expect to dress down in the summer with an umbrella on hand, and keep cozy warm in the winter (but keep that winter coat at home).

What are Melbourne's best features?
What are Melbourne’s best features?

Oh, boyo, that’s a tough question. As a city, Melbourne is as diverse as they come. The CBD host sprawling skyscrapers dominated only the scenic Eureka Tower. In turn, the city hosts numerous green spaces and small parks where you can find everything from kickboxing workout groups to musicians playing for tips. Surrounded on all sides by suburbs, is easy to get lost in the local restaurants, shops, art galleries, theaters, and alleyways that form the city.

First up, its best to get the lay of the land, and there’s no better way than a scenic half-day Melbourne city tour, which will give you all the tips and tricks for exploring this big city. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, a expansive helicopter flight will give you a bird’s eye view of the metropolis along with a thrilling experience.

But if you’re not a fan of crowded bus tours or roaring helicopter flights, there are plenty of intimate walking tours and foodie tours that’ll give a great introduction to the city’s culture, history, attractions, and, of course, great food. For a true Melbourne experience, you have to step up to one of Melbourne’s famous rooftop bars, which give great views of the city while cutting out the fear of flying from the helicopter ride.

Sports fans have to check out its great venues, from the Melbourne Cup horse racing track to the Docklands Stadium. If you want a more in-depth look, then there are even sports lovers tours that take you behind the scenes of this popular venues.

Artists of all kinds will adore Melbourne, whether you’re looking to get lost in the collections at the State Library of Victoria or step into a painting at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australi’as oldest art museum. Beyond the galleries, Melbourne is one of the major sights of street art, with numerous lanes of graffiti visitors and locals can’t help but love.

For those looking for something more niche to do, Melbourne is a hotspot (or coldspot) for ghostly activity (and Australia as a whole surprisingly). The city is home to plenty of prisons, asylums, and prisons all teaming with otherworldly spirits just waiting to be discover.

And if you want a truly zany time, head to Melbourne in mid September to early October to enjoy the Melbourne Fringe Festival, an eclectic mixture of avant garde plays, improv comedy acts, risque art galleries, nerdy burlesque shows, and more!

However long you have in the city, don’t miss out on the Eureka Skydeck and Melbourne Aquarium, two of the city’s most popular attractions.

webbed_bridge_melbourne

Dollar Australian Dollar (AUD)
Language Australian English (Look out for some a few notable slang words)
Cultural Etiquette Like Canadians, Australians have very similar manners to Americans. Please and thanks yous are always welcome, handshakes make the best first greeting, and don’t ever make rude gestures at anyone. As we mentioned above, look out for the few language differences, which may cause a bit of awkwardness.In my experience, many Australian’s have at some point dealt with foreigners, especially Americans, and take most missuses of slang with a light laugh.Almost all businesses practice a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy.
Food As a port city, Melbourne will offer you some of the best seafood around. The city’s cultural diversity has provided a wealth of different cuisines, especially from Southeast Asia. Plus, Melbourne has some of the finest wine and chocolate in the country, so make sure to sample a few.
Restaurant Etiquette Tipping is entirely voluntary in australia and generally not required. Most establishments pay very well and have a higher minimum wage than the US or other countries, meaning works do not have to supplement their wages with tips.
Safety Level Any major city has its dangers, and Melbourne is no different, but as a whole Australia is relatively safe, especially compared to the US. As always, stay witha  group at night, keep a map on hand in case you get lost, and know the address of your hotel or hostel incase you need a taxi.
Getting Around Melburne has one of the largest tram networks in the world, connecting all of its suburbs as a part of the Public Transport Victoria Network. Buses and shuttles operate all throughout the city, making it extra easy to get around. Travelers are encouraged to get a hop-on/hop-off pass to get to all the main attractions easily or a myki Visitor Pack to use the transit network.
Emergency Services Fire, Police, Ambulance: 000

Emergency Services: 132 500

Non emergency: 131 444

Additional Resources Both the Victorian website and Melbourne official site have great resources for travelers.

 

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John Gray

A poet by heart and an editor by trade, I have traveled across the world in pursuit of my studies and to criss-cross destinations off my bucket list. While a student at the University of Iowa, I traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where I lived for 6 months. I am currently planning a return trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia.

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