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Melbourne City Guide
Melbourne is cosmopolitan Australia at its finest. With a rich history and a thriving multicultural population, its residents have largely defined the character of the city since European settlement. Indigenous, colonial and immigrant stories blend together and today the city’s food, culture and streetscapes are a reflection of Melbourne’s diverse past and present.
Metropolitan Melbourne is home to roughly 4.2 million people and welcomes almost a million visitors from across the globe each year. It has a mild climate and beautiful natural surroundings with bays and beaches on its southern edge, mountains and forest to the north and plenty of rivers and parklands in between.
Australia’s economic strength and low population density have partially contributed to Melbourne being named ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit for the 5th consecutive year. Other factors contributing to the listing have been the city’s healthy employment figures, quality housing and health services and strong and diverse educational and cultural opportunities.
Melbourne offers world-class health and research facilities with a dedication to innovative development and has an international reputation for academic excellence. The city is committed to preserving its character whilst seamlessly reinventing itself with world-class infrastructure and design strategies.
Melbourne is known globally for its world-class food, fashion, arts and cultural scenes and its passion for sport of all kinds. Italians admit defeat with tourists in New York and Berlin ordering a ‘Melbourne style’ coffee at their local café and the best chefs of the world have opened restaurants in Melbourne in recent years wanting to be part of its innovative and diverse food scene.
Global touring exhibitions and acts run back to back, with locals and tourists alike queuing around the block for tickets - from Warhol to Scorsese, Rembrandt to the Rolling Stones. Award winning musicals pack up their Broadway season to head to Melbourne and the city’s theatre scene is a dazzling feast of local and foreign talent. Meanwhile the Melbourne International Comedy festival is considered as prestigious an event on the comedy circuit as Edinburgh and Montreal’s festivals.
Fans from India to Italy and England to America tune in across time zones to watch internationally renowned events such as the Australian Open Tennis competition, the Ashes Test Cricket series and the Formula One Grand Prix. Much of the nation stops for the Melbourne Cup and Melbourne’s commitment to Australian Rules football is more than just a phase - the AFL grand final is one of the biggest events of the year. Soccer is also widely played - Melbourne’s European population are amongst the most passionate soccer players and supporters in the world.
Melbourne city’s grid layout makes it very easy to navigate and great public transport, including a free tram zone in the CBD, offers easy transit around to enjoy some of the great attractions and stunning architecture such as Federation Square. Melbourne boasts fantastic cafés and restaurants, cool rooftop bars and beautiful tree lined boulevards. Its top attractions are its laneways, arcades, street art and bay side villages. But the greatest attraction of all are its people, who love Melbourne more than anyone and always offer visitors a warm welcome.
Where you live has a direct impact on your everyday quality of life. Melbourne has a rich and diverse population and a closer look reveals the finer details of its neighbourhoods for singles, the elderly and everybody in between.
Singles, Young People and Students
Younger people represent over a quarter of Melbourne’s population and more than half of them are students. It’s a highly educated city and almost a third of its residents live in single or group households. Of course people in this demographic generally want to be where the action is, so inner city and beachside suburbs with great bars, restaurants and entertainment are key, as well as good public transport and low cost of living.
Fitzroy, St Kilda and Richmond have these in spades – cool bars, classic pubs and great venues for comedy, music and sport as well as decent tram services for city access. For those with a little less disposable cash, Yarraville and Brunswick in the west and Northcote and Collingwood in the north offer similar advantage but with a little more parkland and larger living spaces – less apartments and bigger houses.
Melbourne has more than its share of young urban professionals and those in the higher income bracket who are not yet ready to enter the property market as buyers tend to favour apartment living. Areas like Docklands, Port Melbourne and the CBD are the places to be with modern high rise apartment buildings, excellent leisure facilities and fabulous views of the city skyline or the bay.
The days of Mum, Dad and 1.2 kids are long gone and today’s families are anything but clichéd. Melbourne is home to a broad range of families and though they live all over the city from big houses to tiny apartments, there is of course a natural inclination for the ‘average family’ to gravitate to specific areas.
Generally, families want the same things – a backyard or nearby park or beach for the kids to run around, good neighbourhood facilities such as cafés, libraries and playgrounds and a safe environment. Being able to pop out to the local shops for essentials is important, as is feeling comfortable walking the dog around their neighbourhood and good proximity to schools, health and leisure facilities.
Suburbs such as North Fitzroy, Malvern, Elsternwick and Yarraville are attractive to families, with all of the requirements outlined above plus reasonable access to the city centre for work, school holiday activities and nights out.
Of course the cost of living in these areas may not suit the average family income so heading just a few kilometres further out is a better choice for many. Coburg has a great family vibe and is still only 10 kilometres from the city centre. The same can be said for Glen Iris and Caulfield.
For those in the higher income bracket, family life is at its best in large houses with big backyards, close to the sea or the river, in coveted areas such as Williamstown and Sandringham or the leafy private school belt between Toorak and Hawthorn.
Roughly ten percent of the city of Melbourne’s residents are over 60 and just under half of them were born outside of Australia. Dozens of countries of origins are represented in the older age bracket and it’s these members of the community who have retained their cultural heritage, passed it down to their Australian born descendants and ensured their culture is woven strongly into the fabric of modern Australian society.
The older age group is diverse in that older migrants may prefer to live in areas where other migrants like them live, where as baby boomers are now in the position to live a more luxurious lifestyle in inner city or waterfront apartments. Having had children young, worked hard and retired early they are now in a good position to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Older people’s residential choices are influenced by a number of unique factors such as where their family live, whether they need assistance with daily activities, what their transportation needs are and what local community support and services they need close by.
Some retirees may have a less of a need to be close to the city and if they help out with grandchildren then living close to their children and grandchildren makes sense. Clifton Hill in the northeast is well positioned for this, as is Preston, or maybe apartment life in Parkville.
A beachside or inner city address has become more attainable in recent years and complexes in Port Melbourne, Docklands and East Melbourne accommodate for the lifestyle many in this age bracket desire.
First Time Buyers
There is never an ideal time to get into the market, other than when you have the financial means and when you feel the time is right for you. Having said that, the time of life when this happens to you and the budget you have available at the time, will dictate exactly where you choose to buy your first home and what kind of property it will be.
Singles may struggle to pay for a 3-bedroom house alone in anticipation of a family ‘one day’ where families may buy within their budget, though sadly having underestimated the space they might need for a growing family. Having said that, there are certain areas in Melbourne that accommodate for your personal situation and take the guess work somewhat out of location hunting. Ideally suburbs just out of the inner metropolitan area with a high density of apartments offer the lifestyle a first home buyer may want but still within budget. Northcote, Abbotsford, St Kilda West and Port Melbourne are good examples for those looking for 1 or 2 bedroom apartments, or pre-war terrace housing with big renovation plans in mind.
The more bang you want for your buck, the further away you need to go, so heading away from the city but staying in the metropolitan transit zone will help those looking for more rooms and maybe a patch of grass.
Areas between Hawthorn East and Surrey Hills are worth a look, as are suburbs in the south such as Elwood and Caulfield.
Best Investment Areas
The best areas to invest in change every year and obviously there are windows of opportunity resulting in great buys for the lucky few. However more often than not, buyers are priced out of their ideal inner city location and despite their misgivings find themselves in areas they would not normally have chosen. This is a positive thing – it’s when good investment decisions take charge over emotional lifestyle choices.
Generally speaking, prices will start to change about 6 to 10 kilometres out of the city and better purchase prices become available for bigger properties, the further into the outer metropolitan area you travel. Areas such as Brunswick East, Carnegie, Heidelberg West and Mount Waverly have more often than not been a good bet. While suburbs in the outer east such as Ringwood and Nunawading also offer good and consistent returns.
The southeast has plenty of options such as Clayton and Noble Park but your investment choice will of course be dictated by your personal needs and the kind of property you are looking for.
1. Melbourne has been inhabited for almost 40,000 years. It’s first inhabitants were the Kulin peoples from the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong clans who inhabited the coastal areas of Port Phillip Bay.
2. Almost half of Melbourne’s current population was born overseas. Around 38% of the city’s residents are migrants from the UK, Asia and Europe.
3. Melbourne’s Greek community is an integral part of its culture - it has the largest number of Greek- speaking residents outside of Greece.
4. Melbourne has the highest population of Holocaust survivors per capita, after Israel.
5. Along with the migrants, Melbourne has a lot of foxes! There are up to 2-dozen per square kilometre in the metropolitan area.
6. One of the world’s oldest exhibition pavilions is Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building. It was granted a UNESCO World Heritage Listing in 2004 and was the first building in Australia to do so.
7. In addition, the first sitting of Australia’s Federal Parliament was held in the Royal Exhibition Building in 1901.
8. Parliament House has gun slits in its walls from the time of the Great Strikes of the 1890s to give its occupants a clear sight line down Bourke Street as defence against mob attacks.
9. Melbourne pubs would close every evening at 6pm, right up until 1966.
10. When Prince Charles and Lady Diana visited Melbourne in 1982, a private bathroom was built for them to use during their visit to Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre.
11. Australia’s most famous export, Foster’s Beer, is originally from Melbourne. It was brewed there in 1888 by two American brothers, William and Ralph Foster.
12. Australia’s most iconic food item, Vegemite, was invented in Melbourne in 1922 and is still produced in the Fisherman’s Bend factory.
13. Melbourne is the home of the nation’s greatest TV export – Neighbours, which has been screened for over 30 years and syndicated to more than 60 countries worldwide.
14. The Melbourne city tram network is the largest in the world with 250 kilometres of tracks and more than 1,700 tram stops.
15. Melbourne is home to the world’s first feature film; a silent film made in 1906 called The Story of the Ned Kelly Gang that was listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register in 2007.
16. Melbourne’s beachside suburb of St Kilda is known for its most iconic landmark - Luna Park, which is the oldest privately owned amusement park in the world.
17. The black box flight recorder was invented in Melbourne in 1958.
18. The Eureka Tower in Melbourne is the 2nd tallest building in Australia and Melbourne’s CBD is in fact home to no less than 5 of the country’s tallest buildings.
19. The Grand Organ in Melbourne Town Hall is the largest in the southern hemisphere.
20. The largest stained glass ceiling in the world is 51 metres long and 15 metres wide and it can be found in the National Gallery of Victoria, in where else but Melbourne!
MELBOURNE LIVING – SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Melbourne has plenty to see and do for all ages and interests. Destinations such as the Melbourne Museum, the Chinese Museum and the Jewish Museum of Australia document the city’s history and the stories of its inhabitants. The state’s stunning collections of Australian and international artworks are displayed in the National Gallery of Victoria and creativity and innovation are truly celebrated at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.
Melbourne has its share of nature too with beautiful parks, gardens and bayside bike and walking paths. The Royal Botanic Gardens are very popular in summer and the Shrine of Remembrance nearby is a must see. The Royal Melbourne Zoo and the Melbourne Aquarium are always a hit with families along with Scienceworks and a day of good old-fashioned squeals and giggles in St Kilda at Luna Park.
In recent years some new attractions have taken centre stage in the city including the Eureka Skydeck and the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel. Federation Square is the unofficial city centre with much of the action taking place here – from people watching to festivals, casual meet ups to major events. Riverside dining is popular and locals love to enjoy the views from the bars, restaurants and entertainment precincts around Docklands, Crown Casino and the Southbank area.
Many visitors to Melbourne come to eat well and some of the city’s best Asian food can be found in Chinatown and Swanston Street in the CBD and ‘little Vietnam’ in Victoria St, Richmond. Italy comes to life in Lygon Street Carlton; Lonsdale Street in the CBD is the city’s Greek HQ, while a short trip through Brunswick and Coburg will whisk you away on an exotic Middle Eastern adventure. Not to be missed also is the historic Queen Victoria Market in the north west corner of the city.
Melbourne is well serviced by an extensive train and bus network and the largest tram network in the world. The metropolitan region is divided into three zones and ticketing for public transport is via ‘Myki’, a reusable electronic smart card. The state’s main train station for regional and interstate trains and buses is Southern Cross Station, on the western edge of the CBD. Metropolitan trains come through Flinders Street in the heart of the city.
Melbourne city is serviced via Avalon Airport, south west of the city and Melbourne Airport about 25 minutes drive away in the North West. There is a shuttle bus connecting both airports to the CBD and there are many daily flights to all Australian cities and international connections to global destinations.
Australia’s most southern state Tasmania is reached by passenger ferry from the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’ ferry terminal in Port Melbourne with daily crossings between Melbourne and Devonport.
Melbourne has great facilities for bike lovers with plenty of bike paths and like most international cities, a bike sharing scheme with more than 600 bikes to rent at dozens of locations across the CBD. Taxis are widely available and the car-sharing platform Uber has also gained popularity in recent years.
Long term parking in the city centre is mainly in multi storey, privately run car parks and the parking fees can get quite high if you plan to stay more than an hour or two, so think twice before driving your car in.
Melbourne is often referred to as a ‘European’ city, but the truth is it’s a global city. A vibrant mix of cultures has created a unique environment for Melbournians to enjoy. Regularly earning the status of ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ has not been an act of chance. The people are welcoming and the city itself is diverse and dynamic. Its small villages in the inner metropolitan area offer a great lifestyle to its residents with easy access to the CBD, the beach and beautiful park lands as well as a vibrant café culture and no shortage of places to eat out, be inspired or be entertained. It’s a wonderful place to visit but an even better place to live. The most liveable in the world in fact.