Highlights - Great Reasons To Go
Whilst Sydney is beautiful, Melbourne is interesting. As Australia's cultural capital, it provides a home for many galleries, festivals, theaters, concert halls, operas, band venues, bars and pubs, with a strong food, wine and coffee culture (large breath intake), all providing a wealth of reasons to visit at any time of year. Consequently, it has been ranked as one of the top three 'World's Most Livable Cities' by The Economist since 2002, taking first place in 2011! Booyah.
There's always something brewing in this bubbling metropolis - and we mean it literally! There really is no argument that Australian’s like their beer, and Melbourne delivers a range and quality of the fine amber nectar to rival the best. With over 20 craft breweries in the metro area alone and countless more only a short day trip away, you'll be sure to discover a local gem. While you enjoy that beer or two, you're also sure to have arrived during some festival or another and you'll never be short of things to do. Particular events of note include the Food and Wine Festival in March, the International Comedy Festival in April, the International Film Festival in July and the International Arts Festival in September, as well as individual concerts and exhibitions throughout the year. In addition to the Melbourne Museum, there are special museums dedicated to science, immigration, Chinese history, Jewish history, sport, racing, railways, police, fire brigades, banking and film, and the National Gallery of Victoria always has excellent shows, displaying the work of some of the world's greatest artists, living and past.
Many visitors are also attracted to Melbourne for the sporting excitement. Melbournians are sports enthusiasts and particularly passionate about Australian Rules football, a sport they invented. In fact the Australian Football League (AFL) is not so much a sport as a religion in Melbourne with nine of the 16 national teams being based there and the Grand Final being played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the 'MCG'). Of course this world leading sports ground also hosts the big Summer sport - cricket. Horse-racing is another passion, and the state has a public holiday on the first Tuesday of November for the racing of the Melbourne Cup, one of the world's famous horse races. It's equally popular for the days off from work (usually celebrated with a barbeque), the excitement of the race and the outrageous trackside fashions which accompany it! Each January Melbourne hosts the Australian Open Tennis tournament, one of four Grand Slam championships worldwide, and in March the city then sees the Formula One Grand Prix. As you can see, Melbourne is the unquestioned sporting capital of Australia.
It is not only the artistic culture and exciting sporting events that makes Melbourne such a charmer, the people are a mix of fashionable and friendly, passionate about their gastronomical delights and coffee, and fond of a quiet drink in a slinky laneway bar. Due to the ever-changing climate, which can drop to near zero degrees in Winter and rise well over 40 degrees Celsius in Summer, fashion designers with often unique and quirky styles have evolved Melbourne into a genuine fashion centre, creating styles for all seasons. This means the fashion conscious people of Melbourne tend to have greater options and dress up more than in Sydney, the different cultural pockets of the city showcasing their varying styles. Many bars and clubs have strict dress regulations, such as requiring collars and dress shoes for men, but it's worth dressing up, if only to see what everyone else is wearing!
The Melbourne architecture mixes the old with the bold, and sometimes the bizarre, but tends to do so in a manner that generally appeals. On entering the city along the freeway from the airport you will see a sculpture locally and cheekily known as the 'cheese stick' erected as a gateway to the city. It's quite unusual but it's a fair example of the truly quirky and creative streak that typifies Melbourne. As is the 'Melbourne Shuffle', a Charleston-like dance move invented in the Melbourne 90's dance scene which, along with fluffy pants, was ubiquitous in techno clubs and raves at the time. Totally passé now, ask a Melbournian for a showcase and you'll probably be rewarded with a Melbourne chuckle!
The city of Melbourne is full of nooks and crannies to explore, there's something around every corner (and down every laneway) and it's a great city in which to immerse yourself, not just skim over the top. You can troop from attraction to attraction if you wish, but take the time to slow down, check out a comedy club, the local craft markets, walk along the beach or see some local music. There are some fantastic tours available, covering not only the famous sights, but also secret shopping spots, the best cafes and even the haunted areas of the city on spine chilling ghost tours. Melbourne has also achieved a level of international infamy for its recent gangland wars which left many dead (mainly from the crime underworld) between 1998 and 2010. Melbourne's Underbelly Crime Tour is a macabre foray into the more significant areas in this dark section of Melbourne's history, if this is your thing!
If that's not enough, the city is a great base for exploring surrounding regions such as the Grampians National Park, the Great Ocean Road and Wilson's Promontory (get the Appy Travels Apps for these locations) and to visit Phillip Island to view the penguin parade or hit the beach for a surf.
Melbourne is a place of vibrancy and creativity, sometimes crazy but also wonderful and well worth the trip south!