Australia's second city is also the country's cultural and sporting heart.
Melbourne is certainly the most cosmopolitan of Australia's cities and visitors here will be charmed by the cultural and culinary delights of the continent's second largest city.
Although many visitors to Oz looking for a city break may opt for the larger city of Sydney, Melbourne retains an understated charm that harks back to its rich Victorian heritage.
There is much rivalry between the two cities, of course, and while Sydney may claim the prize for a stunning natural setting around the Harbour Bridge, Melbourne often takes the plaudits as one of the world's "most liveable cities".
Melbourne Traditions And Culture
Ever since it was first founded by European settlers back in 1835, Melbourne has been vying with Sydney for the right to call itself Australia's most important city and indeed it was the nation's capital until 1901.
Though the Victoria state capital is a thriving, modern city, it also has a rich history. The high-rise Victorian buildings, grand boulevards and large public gardens which grace the city centre were all funded by the gold rush of the 1850s.
These days, the laid-back way of life is complemented by an excellent cultural scene, with the annual Fringe and International Comedy festivals on a par with anything else in the world, though the true local passion is for all things sporting and, in particular, cricket and 'Aussie Rules' football.
Places Of Interest
Melbourne is not easily summed up as it offers so much for every palate; the sports mad can enjoy any number of highly competitive matches, museum and art buffs are also in their element with world-class choice while foodies will be in their element with undoubtedly the best cuisine in the country thanks to the varied ethnic mix of the city.
Federation Square in the city centre is a great spectacle and acts as a wonderful viewpoint to catch the Yarra River scythe through the city centre.
From the Square it is just a short hop to the CBD with its impressive, if a little condensed, array of towering buildings. Rialto Towers looms alarmingly in the CBD and has the claim that it was once the highest building in the southern hemisphere. Located on the 55th floor of the towers, some 237 metres above the ground, the Melbourne Observation Deck offers unforgettable views across the city centre and beyond, giving an appreciation of its relatively recent industry-fuelled growth.
St Kilda is a wonderful bohemian district in the south of Melbourne and home to a number of delights including Luna Park, a Victorian amusement park built in 1912 and still featuring the famous laughing face on the entrance.
As well as possessing the city's beaches, St Kilda is also home to Fitzroy Street - a road filled with endless high quality bars and restaurants. Melbournians love their nightlife and fashion, and pulling up a street table here is as much about watching the hoards pass by as it is about the (fantastic) food and drink.
Certainly the predictable Aussie fare of beer and meat is never too far away, though downtown Melbourne also boasts top restaurants which reflect the large numbers of Asian immigrants to the city as well as some chic clubs and bars, including serious jazz lounges and more laidback venues down by the riverside.
Sports fans will have something to enjoy all year round whether it is the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Tennis Open, or cricket at the MCG with its raucous atmosphere. Highly recommended is an Aussie rules football match at the Telstra Dome - especially if one of the local teams are playing.
Highlighting the cultural richness of the city, many Melbournians are just as happy watching a game as they are heading to one of the many theatres or to the acclaimed ballet. Other popular highlights among tourists include the Shrine of Remembrance, which serves to commemorate Australia's war dead, and the Neighbours tour, which allows fans to take a tour of the real-life locations behind the hit soap.
For sheer gaudiness, a trip to the Crown Casino, perched on the banks of the Yarra, cannot be bettered. It is a super-size casino, of Las Vegas proportions, that draws in thousands of visitors to the city each year all to part with their hard earned cash.
There are no clocks in the 24-hour complex, but everything else you could wish for is there including shops, cinemas, restaurants and of course thousands of "pokies" and gambling tables.
Melbourne is a wonderful destination and any trip to the city will leave you with great memories whatever your pleasure. Shops, sport, culture, world-class cuisine and beautiful surroundings, Melbourne has it all - just don't ask a local where the Opera House is!
Not for nothing did Crowded House write a song about Melbourne entitled 'Four Seasons in One Day'. The weather is usually moderate, though is definitely changeable.
Snow is extremely rare, while rain is infrequent during the long, relatively hot, summer months (December – February). While temperatures in the day average around 26 degrees C during these months, they can sometimes approach and even exceed 40 degrees C.
Melbourne Destination Checklist
- Currency: Australian Dollars
- Time Difference: Ten hours ahead of GMT
- Dialling Code: +61
- Population: 4.1 million
- One of our roving reporters spent New Year in the Kilda district of Melbourne – click the link to read his experiences.