A vibrant cosmopolitan city, located on the magnificent Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is the state capital and cultural heart of Victoria. The locals claim that it is the best city in the world to live in may rankle their rivals in Sydney, but few would dispute that it is a fascinating place to visit. In fact, the traditional rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, which covers every sphere of life from business to sport and culture, has resulted in a proud, dynamic city that strives to be the best in all things.
All state roads lead into the city and Victorias unique geography means that it is possible to spend the morning on the coast, ski in the afternoon in the Victorian Alps and enjoy an aperitif at a winery before returning to Melbourne to take in a show at one of the many theatres.
The banks of the Yarra River, home to Aborigines for thousands of years, attracted British settlers who founded Port Phillip Bay in 1835. The settlement rapidly expanded and by 1851 the city, named after Queen Victorias Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, was born. In the same year, gold was discovered near Ballarat and Bendigo, to the west of Melbourne, and the ensuing gold rush turned the city into a powerful financial centre as well as the first political capital until Canberra was established in 1927.
Numerous gardens and parks give a pleasant, open feel to the city, whose skyline mixes elegant spires with dazzling modern skyscrapers, which dwarf the elegant Victorian-era buildings dotted along leafy streets. However, the city is defined more by its diverse population than by its architecture.
Immigration at the end of World War II transformed Melbourne into a thriving cultural melting pot, totalling over three million people, with sizeable Italian, Greek and Chinese communities each carving out their own quarter. In fact, large-scale immigration has made Melbourne home to the largest Greek community outside Greece, and the influx of Vietnamese and Lebanese has contributed to Melbournes claim to be the cultural capital of Australia. The introduction of European and Asian communities has resulted in an eclectic and energetic blend of theatre, music, art and literature.
The international population has also brought a wealth of different cuisines, served up in a wide range of restaurants, from the outdoor cafés along the Crown Promenade overlooking the Yarra River, to the pizzerias in Carlton, the Chinese banquet halls in Chinatown and the fine seafood restaurants in trendy St Kilda Beach.
One topic that is guaranteed to be discussed over dinner is the weather. The city has four distinct seasons, and usually enjoys a temperate climate of mild temperatures. However, not only can winters get chilly, summers usually see some swelteringly hot days. Sometimes, all four seasons occur in one day. The ever-optimistic locals joke that if you dont like the weather you just have to wait ten minutes and it will change.
Melbourne Fast Facts
Region : Victoria
Country : Australia
Continent : Australia
National Status : Federal Nation
National Population : 18,838,000 (2000 estimate, Source: United Nations Population Division, 1996)
City Population : 3,188,000 (2000 estimate, Source: United Nations Population Division, 1996)
National Capital : Canberra
Local Time : GMT+10 (GMT +11 from October to March)
Official Language : English
Currency : Australian Dollar (AUD) =100 cents
Religion : 75% Christian, Aboriginal beliefs,