Melbourne is the largest city in the state of Victoria and the second most populous in the whole of Australia with nearly four million inhabitants making up the greater Melbourne metropolitan area.
Named for a 19th century prime minister (2nd Viscount Melbourne, William Lamb) it was established as a pastoral township in 1835 by settlers from Van Diemens land (Tasmania). Less than 20 years later it was declared a city by Queen Victoria and named the capital of the newly formed state of Victoria.
The 1850s saw the area transformed by the discovery of gold and by the 1880s it had become one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world. From 1901 with the Federation of Australia until the completion of the construction of Canberra it also served as the nation’s capital.
Nowadays Melbourne is renowned for its Victorian architecture, its prominence in the arts, sports, education as well as being one of the world’s most “liveable” cities. It is a city of parks and open spaces and features the world’s largest network of trams. It was also named one of the top five University cities in the world and declared UNESCO city of Literature in 2008.
How To Get There
There are a number of options when it comes to flying to Melbourne from the UK including airlines such as Qantas, British Airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Where to stay
In keeping with the city’s eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture, the range of accommodation options range from quaint bed-and-breakfast properties and backpacker hostels through to boutique hotels and palatial five-star numbers.
For many Melbourne is the hub for shopping in Australia. For those on a budget or those with deeper pockets, there’s a seemingly endless array of shopping opportunities which includes the many arcades and shopping lanes in the city centre.
Apart from speciality shops, you can also find top department stores such as Myers and David Jones as well as many shopping centres throughout the city. The cosmopolitan side of Melbourne is reflected in the variety of different cuisines to be found in the shopping centre food halls, of which the largest is located at the Queen Victoria Market.
Some more popular shopping venues include:
Queen Victoria Markets - Corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets The largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere with fresh food as well as crafts.
The Block Arcade - 280 Collins Street This is the largest shopping arcade in Melbourne and is renowned for its attractive and intricate floor mosaics.
The Arts Centre Sunday Market - Corner St Kilda and Southgate Roads, Southbank. An undercover market which only admits artisans who reach a certain quality controlled standard.
Chinatown - Little Bourke St, Swanston St & Spring St Melbourne’s Chinatown is filled with bustling cafes, Asian grocers etc and is a focal point for Chinese festivals and events.
Federation Square - Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets Federation Square fills a whole city block and includes gardens and interesting architecture, a stone’s throw away from the National Gallery of Victoria and many cafes and restaurants.
Royal Arcade - 355 Bourke Street Going all the way back to 1869, the Royal Arcade is the oldest in the city and recalls much of the city’s 19th century splendour.
Bourke Street Mall - Between Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street Melbourne’s main department stores are located here as are many street performers and buskers.
Southgate Leisure Precinct - Maffra Street and City Road The Southgate Leisure is an example of a part of Melbourne that had been neglected and was subsequently turned into a stylish retail destination complete with more than 40 shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Nightlife and Eating Out
As with shopping, Melbourne has options for those wanting a night on the town that should suit most budgets. Take a trip through the many streets and lanes of the city centre and you will see nightspots vary from the ultra-high class to the more spit and sawdust variety.
Club fanatics seeking out DJs or those just wanting a late night drink are also well catered for. Australia as a whole has become well known for the quality of its food and wine and within the country Melbourne is known as its food and wine capital. Helped in no small part by the city’s ethnic makeup, you can find a wide selection of international fare throughout the city but especially at South Yarra and the Docklands.
Melbourne has become home to a number of immigrants since the end of the Second World War and this is reflected in the cultural enclaves such as Chinatown, but also the proliferation of ethnic restaurants of Greek, Indian, Vietnamese and Thai flavours. The visitor to Melbourne has an array of options that appeal to all bugets.
Melbourne’s yellow and green trams are as much an attraction for visitors as any other and serve as a great way of viewing the city and acquaint yourself with its layout. What’s more this is a free service which thousands of residents use to get to their place of work so is a great way to get a feeling of being a real Melbournian.
You can also use the tram to visit the popular St Kilda Pavillion and Pier which are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Nowadays the Crown Casino is also another familiar sight on the city’s skyline as it towers over the Yarra River.
If you want to travel outside of central Melbourne then a train from Flinders Street Station is the best option and is the focal point for all suburban train services throughout Melbourne. Its clock towers have been a well-known meeting point for hundreds of locals throughout the years.
There are many great day trips available which use Melbourne as a base. These include visits to Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, Philip Island and the Macedon Ranges. Getting around Melbourne is relatively simple, served as it is by great public transport. It is also a very walkable city with few steep inclines to put people off.
Those with an historic bent should pay a visit to Captain Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy Gardens and the Old Melbourne Gaol, best remembered as the place where the infamous Ned Kelly met his end at the hands of the hangman.
Sometimes the best way to see a city is from up high and the observation deck of the Rialto Towers is as good a place as any. In Melbourne, shopping is as much as an attraction as the history and where better than the Queen Victoria Market (see Shopping section) to see the market traders in action. Consider also the Melbourne Aquarium.
On the wildlife theme, to the South of Melbourne is Werribee Zoo as well as the Werribee Park Mansion and gardens with adjacent State Rose Garden.
The arts are well represented too and all music buffs should aim to take in a concert at the open air Myer Music Bowl. Otherwise there is also the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre. Other highlights of Melbourne include sport and eating out. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is probably the most auspicious sports venue and is host to cricket in the summer and Aussie Rules football in the winter.
Eating out is an attraction itself and the sheer volume of choice from all corners of the globe is celebrated at Melbourne Food and Wine Festival held in March and April.
Events in Melbourne
Australian Open Tennis Championships: Melbourne Park is the venue for this annual tennis event.
Where: Melbourne Park
When: 19 January – 1 February 2009
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival: Melbourne Food Wine Festival takes place at over 140 venues throughout the city.
Where: Various venues
When: 7–23 March 2009
FORMULA 1™ Australian Grand Prix: The first round of the F1A championship takes place in Melbourne.
Where: Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit
When: 26–29 March 2009
Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Melbourne welcomes some of the world’s top comedians.
Where: Various venues
When: 1–26 April 2009
Rip Curl Pro: Bells Beach welcomes some of the world’s top surfers.
Where: Bells Beach
When: 7–18 April 2009
Warrnambool May Racing Carnival: The seaside town of Warrnambool welcomes Australia’s top racing carnival.
Where: Warrnambool Racing Club
When: 5–7 May 2009
AFL Finals Series Aussie Rules: Football reaches its climax
Where: Various venues
When: 4–26 September 2009
Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix: Phillip Island is host to three GP class races.
Where: Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
When: 16–18 October 2009
Melbourne International Arts Festival: 17 days of Australian performing arts.
Where: Various venues
When: 9–25 October 2009
Wangaratta Festival of Jazz: Jazz and Blues from Australian and International greats.
Where: Various venues
When: 30 October – 2 November 2009
Spring Racing Carnival and Melbourne Cup Carnival: Six weeks of horse-racing comes to Melbourne.
Where: Various venues
When: 30 September – 18 November 2009
Queenscliff Music Festival: Queenscliff is host to a three day music festival.
Where: Various venues, Queenscliff
When: 27–29 November 2009
Melbourne Boxing Day Test: Melbourne Cricket Ground plays the biggest Test Match in the world.
When: 26–30 December 2009
How to get around
You can get around the city of Melbourne in a number of ways including bikes, its waterways, trains or by tram.
The city’s transport infra-structure is described as easy to use and flexible. For more detailed information visit www.metlinkmelbourne.com/au.
Location: Located on the lower part of the Yarra River on the northern and eastern shores of Port Philip, State of Victoria.
Climate: As a general rule, Melbourne enjoys a temperate climate with warm to hot summers, mild and sometimes balmy spring and autumns, and cool winters. Melbourne has a well-deserved reputation for its changing weather. Over the course of a day it can be possible to experience a little something of the four seasons. A tip for any visitor to Melbourne is to be prepared for anything – take an umbrella and wear shorts!
Area: 3,400 sq miles
Population: Metropolitan- 3.8 million
Electricity: 220 volts at 50 Hz
Telephone code: +61
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
Passport/visa requirements: Holders of a valid United Kingdom passport can stay for up to three months without a visa.
National airline: Qantas (www.qantas.com)
Airports: Melbourne Airport.
Flight time: Approximately 22 hrs 55 minutes.
Public Holidays: New Year's Day 1st January; Australia Day - 26th January; Labour Day- 9th March; Good Friday- 10th April; the Saturday before Easter Sunday - 11th April; Easter Monday- 13th April; ANZAC Day - 25th April; Queen's Birthday - 8th June; Melbourne Cup Day - 3rd November; Christmas Day - 25th December; Boxing Day - 26 December and Monday 28 December
Tourist Office: Australia High Commission, Australia House, Strand, London, WC2B 4LA. Tel: 020 7379 4334; Fax: 020 7240 5333