- High-drama design, art deco grace
- Cosmopolitan St Kilda
- Sybarite's seminary
- Graceful Werribee Park grounds
- Art-shock attitude
- Fashion-forward Prahran
- Modern art, Asian heart
- Shop-filled South Yarra
- Graphic luxe
- Stylish side of the CBD
- History and high-rises
- City life
- Culture, cuisine and couture
Known for its sporting passion, cultural edge and cool take on music, fashion and food, Victoria’s capital beats Sydney to the crown of Australia’s most liveable city.
The NSWer may have a sexier location, but Melbourne steals it on attitude (and affordability). Life here is more about being, than doing, but if you are doing something, make sure you’re clutching a latte, humming an indie tune and wearing black – the default sartorial setting. The cityscape is a quirky clash of elegant Victorian houses, skyscrapers and gardens, but beneath the polite façade you’ll discover hidden laneways brimming with hip bars, graffiti-strewn galleries, grungy clubs and one-off fashion and vintage stores.
Trams were introduced to Melbourne in 1885 and the city now has the largest network in the world. It’s the only place where cars are required to perform a ‘hook turn’ – a manoeuvre designed to give trams priority. The trams contribute to the city’s distinctive character and are held in great affection by Melburnians.
- Cabs can easily be flagged down in the street or found at ranks in the CBD. Can’t see one? Call Silver Top Taxis (13 10 08), and one will come to you.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is optional – and certainly isn’t expected. However, it is customary to tip waiters 10 per cent of the bill if you’re pleased with the service.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops are generally open from 9am to 6pm on Monday to Wednesday, and stay open till 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Shops close earlier (around 5pm) at the weekend. Restaurants start to fill up around 7pm and bars are usually open till 2am.
- Packing tips
- The Crowded House song Four Seasons in One Day was written about the city’s ridiculously changeable weather. Bring clothes for all meteorological possibilities – and don’t forget your umbrella.
- Recommended reads
- Bearbrass: Imagining Early Melbourne by Robyn Annear is a classic account of the city’s history; for a more provocative modern take, Christos Tsiolkas’ award-winning The Slap probes multicultural middle-class Melbourne, and the fallout of a man slapping someone else’s child. Chopper by Mark Brandon Read, made into a film starring Eric Bana, is the Melbourne-based autobiography of one of Australia’s most notorious criminals – now living free in the city.
- Melbourne is arguably the culinary capital of Australia, whether you want startling modern meals, high-quality comfort food, killer cocktails in hidden locations or great ethnic cuisine at a snip. Head to Richmond for Vietnamese, Footscray for African and Carlton for Italian. Coffee is the city’s second religion (football is the first) and you haven’t really been to Melbourne until you’ve sipped a latte in a laneway café.
- Australian dollar (AU$).
- Time zone
- GMT +10.
- Dialling codes
- Australia country code: +61; Melbourne: (0)3.
- Do go/don't go
- October and November sees ladies frock up and gents get suited for the Spring Racing Carnival, with the Melbourne Cup a highlight. There’s a party atmosphere in summer (December to February) with plenty of free activities on offer. Winter (June to August) may be a little cold and wet but clear skies suit wine tours in the nearby Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula (www.visitmorningtonpeninsular.org).
Don't go home without...
seeing an AFL (Aussie Rules) or cricket match at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) in East Melbourne. Regarded as one of the great stadiums of the world, it can hold 90,000 sports-mad Melburnians.