The most European of Australian cities
So what makes Melbourne so irresistibly charming? Well, for starters, the city is unlike any other in Australia. It’s said to be more “European” probably because it has something of the inimitable atmosphere that makes the Old Continent the envy of the world, and because it’s packed with little cafés and restaurants. The simple reason for this is that liquor licences, the privilege of the big pub chains in Sydney where they cost a fortune, are much more affordable in Melbourne. As a result, all tastes are catered for, from elegant minimalist spaces to bric-à-brac cafés with mismatched chairs. Plenty of room for creativity!
That little extra something is also the outdoor lifestyle. The city offers vast leisure areas and its cheerful inhabitants don’t deprive themselves. Immense parks and endless beaches punctuate the urban landscape. Sport is like a religion here with seemingly every family having a budding cricket champion. Sport, sport and yet more sport, but always in a spirit of fun! Life is lived to the rhythm of the cricket and “footy” seasons (Australian football originated in Melbourne) and the institutional horse races, for which a public holiday has been decreed. Each year, on the first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup brings hundreds of thousands of locals together at the Flemington Racecourse or in front of TV sets.
A city of gold
In 1836, the small Australian colony established on Port Phillip Bay had 177 inhabitants. By 1854, eighteen years and one gold rush later, Melbourne could pride itself on a population of 123,000. Then, all it took was the economic boom in the late 19th century to launch the Australian Dream of a house with garden for all. A wave of Victorian architecture spread over Terra Australis. The districts by the sea became a vast leisure park, with St Kilda and its emblematic Luna Park, and Brighton with its beach and little multicoloured huts.
Admiring the vastness of the bay and Albert Park Lake, it’s hard to believe that this city, surrounded by water, is sorely lacking in this ‘blue gold’. Yet, each summer brings the desperate struggle to fill its reservoirs. Although the old saying “four seasons in a day” often rings true, it doesn’t prevent the heatwave from hitting hard. During summer, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 40 degrees, the multitude of species of exotic flowers and plants in the city’s botanic gardens need water to stay alive.
Australia’s festival capital
Australia’s former capital city is now its festival capital. Whether it be in the city’s buzzing high-rise central district or in its green belt, Melbourne is the clear winner when it comes to events in the land of Oz, way ahead of its rival, the flamboyant Sydney. With chocolate, martial arts, jazz, beach volleyball, flower, Polish gastronomy and French cinema festivals, there’s something for everyone in this city, one of the most cosmopolitan on the planet! Dozens of nationalities cohabit here in communities of varying size and, for some years now, the youth hostels and cheap hotels have been taken over by the backpacker community. After travelling round the continent, these adventurers take a break in Melbourne and, charmed by a marvellous city, sometimes decide to stay.
Nicknamed “Marvellous Melbourne”, Australia’s second largest city, undoubtedly number one when it comes to quality of life and atmosphere, is the Australians’ favourite. It’s not without a touch of jealousy that ambitious Sydney watches the sparkling Oceanian “capital of sport and culture” from afar. Nor is it by chance that in international rankings Melbourne so often finds itself among the top three most pleasant places to live on the planet.