It’s rare to find anyone who lives in Melbourne who doesn’t adore it. I’ve lived there, and I love it, too, and I hope this chapter explains to you 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—it is sometimes easy to think you are somewhere else.
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. Wander down atmospheric laneways, often adorned with street art. 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 4 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. Oh, and everyone wears black.