Why I Love Melbourne

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I moved to Melbourne nearly three years ago, and like a quirky but endearing relative, the city has quietly worked its way into my affections. She isn’t extroverted and flashy like Sydney, nor steamy and soulless like her far northern neighbours. At once ordered and unruly, complex and straightforward, Melbourne — like her weather – is an unpredictable love. She isn’t without her faults, and yet is better because of those imperfections.

I’ve lived in cities big and small around the world, but there are many reasons why Melbourne is where I now choose to call home for a while.  Here are just a few of them.

The Neighbourhoods

I’m always a sucker for cities with distinct, interesting neighbourhoods rather than bland identical sprawl. New York has them, for instance. So does Paris, London … and Melbourne. There are quirky cafes and cozy old pubs in Fitzroy, and upmarket boutiques in Prahran. The gentry hide away in the leafy mansions of Toorak, while backpackers enjoy the beach vibe of St Kilda. Melbourne’s inner-city areas are as diverse as its population.

I’ve long believed any neighbourhood you could spend your entire weekend in is a good one, and Melbourne has dozens of them within a few miles of the central post office.

 

The Laneways

Melbourne laneway

The downtown area in many cities is glitzy, glamorous… and utterly devoid of personality. Sydney, Los Angeles, Auckland, I’m looking at you. If you were walking past the department stores on Bourke St, or the monuments to corporate greed at the top of Collins St, you could be forgiven for thinking that Melbourne was much the same. But it isn’t.

Veer left or right into a narrow laneway, and suddenly everything changes. Secret bars hidden away behind solid metal doors. Baristas in cramped cafes serving up a caffeinated tour de force to the initiated. Odd little specialist boutiques that should never be able to stay in business, and yet somehow do. Street art everywhere.

From dumpsters to hipster cafes, crowded pavements to nervous isolation, you never quite know what you’re going to get when you venture down one of Melbourne’s central city laneways- – but you know it will always be worth the effort.

 

The Personality

Melbourne has personality. There’s no better way to describe it. There’s something about the vibe of the city and its people that is just a bit offbeat, a bit random. It’s just a little bit quirky, and that’s why I love it. Want a bar made from shipping containers, or in the middle of a river?  Sure, no problem. Hipsters and high-vis wearers, businessmen and bogans, all grabbing a coffee at the same inner city cafe? Of course.

The weather has personality as well. I’ve lost track of the number of times the temperature has dropped 15 or 20 degrees (Celsius) in an hour. Sun, wind, clouds, rain: all in day’s work in Melbourne. I’ve not heard of people getting both sunstroke and hypothermia on the same day here, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

Opera singing buskers, Armani-suited stockbrokers, beer-swilling footy supporters, designer-clad trendsetters, and everyone in between,I never know who – or what – I’m going to see on a day out in Melbourne. The people here are as unpredictable as the climate.

 

The Trams

Melbourne tram

They’re slow, noisy and impractical. They hold up traffic, usually run late and can be stifling in summer. Oh, and if you’re only going a few stops, they’re overpriced as well. Yup, they’re Melbourne’s trams. By any sensible measure they should be abolished, and yet despite (or perhaps because) of that, they’re an integral part of what makes the city unique.

Catching a tram home from the big game, to shop at the markets, or after a long night in the bars is a quintessential part of city life. The ringing bell that alerts wayward pedestrians helps create the Melbourne soundscape — I didn’t realise how much I’d missed it until I returned after my time away last year.

 

The Walkability

Whenever I have a choice of transport, my feet will be it. I love exploring at walking pace, and will happily wander round a city all day, often much to the chagrin of my travelling companions.If you live in inner Melbourne you could easily get by without a car — mine barely sees the light of day.

I walk to work in the city, and back again. I walk to my friend’s houses or the local pubs. I walk to the supermarket, and my favourite cafes. When there’s a big sporting match at the MCG, the Australian Open at Rod Laver Arena, or a favourite band playing at any of the major venues, I’ll walk there too.

In fact, I walk pretty much everywhere. If you’re visiting Melbourne, pack sunscreen and an umbrella, and just start putting one foot in front of the other. You won’t regret it.

Of course Melbourne, like every other city, isn’t perfect. Once you get further out, traffic becomes a major problem — the daily commute can be an interminable hell. The trains run behind time on a good day, and not at all on many others. It’s an expensive place to live, and becoming increasingly more so.

Yet despite all of that, Melbourne features in the top two or three of pretty much any ‘liveable city’ award you care to name.  Based on my time here I can only agree.

Laneway image via Brian Giesen, tram image via Talal G

24 Responses to “Why I Love Melbourne

  • I was just talking to a friend about how much she loves Melbourne. It sounds like our kind of city – I love places that are walkable and have distinct neighbourhoods. I’ve heard the food is great too.

    • Yeah it’s awesome! And you’re right, the food scene is exceptional – best in Australia by far. If you make it down here by the end of the year, I’ve got a bed for you both… 😉

  • I’ve never been to Melbourne but it looks like a really great city. I love cities with neighbourhoods as well.

  • I spent a week in Melbourne in 2005 and loved it. Went to the Aussie Open, checked out the zoo, visited St kilda and walked all the way back to my hotel just for the heck of it. I also love to walk whewnevr possible and Melbounre was very walkable. Can’t wait to go back!

  • Melbourne FTW! Nice write up, she sure is beautiful 😀

  • This Sydneysider LOVES Melbourne.

    In know it’s wrong, but she’s my secret seductress.

    Just don’t tell anyone, OK?

    http://disarmdoors.blogspot.com/2011/06/no-deal-in-melbourne.html

    • Hehe … I like Sydney, I really do. It’s just that I happen to *love* Melbourne. Nice write-up, Ben. 😉

  • This is such good timing – Melbourne is my home town but I recently moved to Port Moresby. I’ve just returned to Melbourne for a week for work, and this post is making me terribly sad for all the things I’ll be missing while I live in PNG!! Isn’t it an amazing city? Love you Melba.

    • Ahh, you know she’ll be here waiting for you when you come back! Enjoy PNG while you’re there – it’ll be crazy I’m sure!

  • Aww Dave, are you writing this to try and make me homesick? All those attributes you listed make Melbourne special to me as well.

    I’m currently living abroad indefinitely, but I am always happy to say that I am from Melbourne when asked where I am from.

    • Hehe … well mate I wasn’t writing it *specifically* for that reason, but let’s just call it an added bonus. 😉

      Hope to catch up with you again somewhere on the planet soon!

  • Thanks for reaffirming why it is I’m waiting for a cheap ZQN – MEL fare!

    I remember reading in Bill Bryson’s book about how difficult a city Melbs was to drive around – namely because of the trams. I’ll stick to walking!

    • Heh … ‘hook turns’ are certainly an experience. Then again, I’ve lived here nearly 3 years on and off and haven’t actually done one yet. 😛

  • I am moving to Melbourne in a couple months and can’t wait! It seems like such a cool city!

  • It’s a great city, but it’s become too expensive and unlivable as a consequence. When a salary of AUD60,000 isn’t enough anymore to even breathe a little you know something is wrong. Why does one need a 6 figure salary just to cover the basics, it’s not right.

    • Yeah, I hear you. Melbourne seems to be trying to overtake Sydney when it comes to the cost of living. There’s a good reason why I spent much of my time in SE Asia these days… 😉

  • Nice post Dave. You didn’t mention Abbotsford Convent! A rare place and one of the city’s stand-outs for me.

  • What is your list of the top inner city suburbs in melbourne.
    Thinking of spending 3 to 6 months there latter this year.

    • My personal faves are those I’ve lived in or near — Fitzroy, Carlton, Collingwood, Abbotsford, Richmond. There’s definitely a bit of a “north of the river/south of the river” thing in Melbourne though, so others would probably also suggest places like South Melbourne, Prahran and South Yarra.

  • Puta Madre
    5 years ago

    Picture a stooped, hairy-chinned obese woman, wearing enough makeup to coat the surface of the moon and hosting a particularly vile collection of venereal diseases, plus pink eye and gingivitis, and you’ve pretty much created a personification of the execrable city that is Melbourne. Here, clearly, is a city past whatever it was trying to achieve twenty years ago, that is become a cultured, progressive, cosmopolitan European style city, but has clearly failed catastrophically. Look! All of our freeways have colorful bits of plastic on them! It’s like street-art installation masturbation! We think we’re Barcelona! Melbourne’s architecture is a horrific pastiche of appalling apartment buildings, each trying to be funkier and slashier than the one next door, and its tallest building, the one with a name so uninspiring I can’t even remember it, nor be bothered to Google it, somehow manages to look short and uninspiring all at once. somewhat like a broken crutch.
    The skyline has no grandeur, and God knows it needs it because it might distract you from the sky, which is almost universally the color of pants. Gray, miserable school uniform pants to be specific.People joke about Melbourne’s weather, but it’s not funny, it’s just abhorrent, sad and depressing. The daily dribble of pisscipitation in Melbourne is like those stray drops you shake off the end of your penis at the end of urination. Pissy, pathetic mizzle. Predicting the weather in this repulsive shithole of a place must be harder than juggling polar bears. Every time they forecast a sunny day, it rains, then hails, then shines, then blows. Mostly, though, it just blows. And is cold. Except in January when it’s intolerably hotter than an autoclave. These retarded Melbourne inbreeds will tell you that it’s the world’s most liveable city, an award clearly voted for by cyclists who love the fact that Melbourne is flatter than Greek interest rates. They are so deluded they think the word “beach” applies to any kind of sand found near any kind of water — like their sweaty-sock-smelling, open sewer, Port Phillip Bay. The playground on my street has a sandpit and a bubbler, does that make it a beach? All Melbourne cab drivers are turbaned assholes, but you have to be lucky to even receive their abuse, because there are no curry-stinking cabs. And don’t try and drive yourself, because the speed cameras they’ve infested the city with make it a calvary to traverse, with everyone driving like they fear being shot if they exceed the limit by even a fraction. Considering the reputation of the trigger-happy Victorian Police, they probably will be. Sure, there are worse cities in the world, but there isn’t a single one that’s so excruciatingly deluded about itself. At least in other cities you can buy clothes sizes that fit all and not just fat people. Melbourne is not a fashion capital and it never has been, yet fat ugly Melbourne women will judge you. No one goes into the downtown area as its just consists of shitty looking buildings and council rates have forced most non global or national companies out. Shopping is abysmal. Too many $2 dollar shops as the inundation of Asians increases. If God ever decided to perform an enema on Australia, then he would insert the hose in Melbourne !!

  • Todd Shand
    5 years ago

    Melbourne is where God would chose to live if he/she could.

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