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Living in Melbourne: A Guide to Australia’s Cultural Capital

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Melbourne is a highly desirable and livable city known for its diverse population, excellent infrastructure, vibrant artistic environment, shopping options, and much more. Moving to Melbourne offers a wealth of green spaces, leisure activities, and a packed events calendar.

Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne fun facts

  • Melbourne is often considered the cultural capital of Australia, known for its music, art, and fashion scenes.

  • Melbourne was initially named Batmania, after one of its founders, John Batman.

  • The world’s first feature film, “The Story of the Kelly Gang,” was filmed and produced in Melbourne in 1906.

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    Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world.

  • Melbourne has been voted the world’s most livable city for seven consecutive years by The Economist magazine.

  • The city’s iconic laneways are home to some of the best street art in the world.

  • Melbourne is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest open-air market, Queen Victoria Market.

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    The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere and can hold over 100,000 people.

  • The Eureka Tower in Melbourne’s Southbank is the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Melbourne has a love affair with coffee, with over 2,000 cafes and coffee shops scattered throughout the city.

Popular neighborhoods

As diverse as the city itself, each community in Melbourne has its distinct personality and attractions. Melbourne’s districts offer something for everyone, from the bohemian streets of Fitzroy to the beachside vibes of St. Kilda.

Melbourne suburb
Melbourne suburb
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South Yarra is renowned for its upscale retail and verdant parks, whereas Carlton is known for its Italian heritage and delicious cuisine. Richmond has a flourishing food scene with numerous excellent Vietnamese restaurants, whereas Brunswick is a multicultural neighborhood with a bohemian atmosphere and amazing live music venues.

Prahran is a trendy neighborhood with excellent retail, dining, and nightlife, whereas South Melbourne is a historic neighborhood with stunning architecture and a bustling market. Regardless of your interests, Melbourne’s communities are certain to offer something that will pique your interest.

  • Central Business District – In Melbourne, the CBD is the central area of the city, bordered by Spring Street to the east, Flinders Street to the south, Spencer Street to the west, and La Trobe Street to the north.

    The CBD is home to many of Melbourne’s iconic landmarks and attractions, including Federation Square, the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Melbourne Town Hall, and the Bourke Street Mall shopping district. The CBD is also well-connected to other parts of the city via public transportation, including the train, tram, and bus networks.

  • Fitzroy – known for its trendy cafes, bars, and boutiques- is a bohemian neighborhood just north of the Melbourne Central Business District.
  • St Kilda – situated on the bay, St Kilda is a popular beachside suburb known for its lively entertainment scene, including the famous Luna Park amusement park.
  • South Yarra – located just south of the CBD- is an affluent neighborhood with high-end shopping, trendy cafes, and beautiful parks.
  • Carlton – located just north of the CBD, Carlton is a diverse neighborhood with a strong Italian heritage, known for its great food and wine.
  • Richmond – located just east of the CBD, Richmond is a vibrant neighborhood with a thriving food scene, including many Vietnamese restaurants.
  • Brunswick – located north of the CBD, Brunswick is a multicultural neighborhood with a bohemian vibe, known for its live music venues and street art.
  • Prahran – located just south of the CBD is a trendy neighborhood with great shopping, dining, and nightlife options.
  • South Melbourne – located just south of the CBD- is a historic neighborhood with beautiful architecture, boutique shopping, and a lively market.

Educational institutions

Melbourne is home to numerous educational institutions of international renown, including universities, colleges, and vocational training centers.

  • The University of Melbourne – The University of Melbourne, founded in 1853, is the second-oldest in Australia and is consistently ranked among the top universities in Australia and the globe. It has a solid reputation for research and is one of Australia’s prestigious Group of Eight universities.
  • Monash University – Established in 1958, Monash University is the largest university in Australia and has a solid reputation for research and teaching excellence on an international scale. There are campuses in Melbourne, Malaysia, and South Africa.
  • The RMIT University – RMIT University, founded in 1887, is a global university of technology, design, and business with a strong emphasis on applied research and hands-on learning. It has a reputation for producing graduates who are prepared for employment.
  • University of Melbourne Polytechnic – Melbourne Polytechnic, founded in 1912, is one of Victoria’s largest providers of vocational education and training, offering certificate, diploma, and degree programs in various disciplines.
  • Victoria University – Founded in 1916, it is a globally renowned institution that offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in various disciplines. It strongly emphasizes work-integrated learning and is committed to producing prepared graduates for the workforce.
University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne

Melbourne’s educational institutions are significant because they attract international pupils, contributing to the city’s cultural diversity and economic development. In addition, they play a crucial role in research and innovation, advancing various disciplines and contributing to the city’s reputation as a center of intellectual and artistic excellence.

Cost of Living

Melbourne is known for being one of the most expensive cities in Australia, with a cost of living that is generally higher than the national average.

Compared to other major Australian cities like Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth, Melbourne’s cost of living is generally on par or slightly higher. However, it is still relatively affordable compared to other major global cities like London, New York, or Tokyo.

Culture

Melbourne is known for its diverse cultural scene, reflecting its rich and varied history. 

  • Art: Melbourne has a thriving art scene, with many world-class museums, galleries, and street art installations to explore. The National Gallery of Victoria is one of the city’s most famous art destinations, while the street art in neighborhoods like Fitzroy and Collingwood is a must-see for visitors.

  • Music: Melbourne has a vibrant live music scene, with many excellent venues and events catering to various tastes. From rock and indie to jazz and classical, there is something for everyone in Melbourne’s music scene.

  • Food: Melbourne is known for its excellent food scene, reflecting its cultural diversity. From classic Aussie fare to international cuisine worldwide, Melbourne has no shortage of delicious food to try.

  • Festivals: Melbourne has many popular festivals throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. These events are a great way to experience the city’s cultural richness and diversity.

  • Multiculturalism: Melbourne is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with residents from over 200 countries. This diversity is reflected in the city’s cultural scene, with many cultural festivals, events, and exhibitions showcasing the traditions and heritage of different communities.

Melbourne is buzzing with festivals, events, and arts and entertainment options throughout the year. 

  1. Festivals and events: Melbourne hosts a range of festivals and events.
  • The Melbourne International Comedy Festival: A month-long festival that takes place every March or April and features some of the world’s best comedians.

  • The Melbourne International Film Festival: A 17-day event that showcases the best in international and Australian cinema.

  • The Australian Open: One of the world’s biggest tennis tournaments, held every January at Melbourne Park.

  • The Melbourne Cup: One of Australia’s most significant horse racing events, held every November at Flemington Racecourse.

  • White Night Melbourne: An all-night celebration of art and culture in the CBD featuring light installations, live music, and art exhibitions.

  1. Arts and entertainment: Melbourne has a thriving arts and entertainment scene, with various options for all tastes.
  • The National Gallery of Victoria: One of Australia’s largest and most famous art museums, featuring a diverse range of works from Australian and international artists.

  • The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: One of Australia’s leading orchestras, offering a range of classical and contemporary performances throughout the year.

  • The Arts Centre Melbourne: A cultural hub in the city’s heart featuring a range of theaters, galleries, and performance spaces.

  • Live music venues: Melbourne has a range of live music venues, including the iconic Forum Theatre, the Corner Hotel in Richmond, and the Northcote Social Club.

Healthcare system

Melbourne’s healthcare system is considered one of the best in the world, with a range of healthcare options available to residents and visitors alike. Here is an overview of the healthcare system and options in Melbourne:

  1. Public healthcare: Melbourne’s public healthcare system provides free or low-cost healthcare to all Australian citizens and permanent residents. The government funds this system, including hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.

  2. Private healthcare: Melbourne also has a strong private healthcare sector, with many private hospitals, clinics, and medical practices available to those who can afford to pay for their care. Private healthcare can offer faster access to medical treatment and a wider range of services than the public system.

  3. General practitioners: General practitioners, or GPs, are the first point of contact for most people seeking medical care in Melbourne. GPs provide various services, including preventative care, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses and injuries.

  4. Specialists: Melbourne has a range of medical specialists available to treat specific conditions or provide specialized care, such as oncologists, cardiologists, and neurologists.

  5. Mental health services: Melbourne has a range of mental health services available to those in need, including crisis support, counseling, and psychiatric care.

  6. Dental care: Dental care is an important aspect of healthcare, and Melbourne has a range of dental clinics and practices available to provide preventative and corrective dental care.

Melbourne is home to several large healthcare facilities, including some of Australia’s largest and most prestigious hospitals. Here are some of the biggest healthcare facilities in Melbourne:

  1. The Royal Melbourne Hospital: This is one of the largest and most respected hospitals in Australia, with more than 2,500 beds and a wide range of specialist services, including trauma care, cancer treatment, and organ transplantation.

  2. The Alfred Hospital: This is a major public hospital that provides a range of services, including emergency care, critical care, and rehabilitation.

  3. The Austin Hospital is a large public hospital specializing in cancer care, neurology, and rehabilitation.

  4. The Monash Medical Centre: This is a major public hospital located in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne. It provides various services, including emergency, critical, and mental health care.

  5. The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is one of Australia’s leading cancer treatment centers, focusing on research and innovation in cancer care.

  6. The Epworth Hospital: This is one of the largest private hospitals in Melbourne, offering a range of services, including maternity care, orthopedics, and cardiac care.

Melbourne tram about to travel down Collins Street on a winter morning
Melbourne tram about to travel down Collins Street on a winter morning

Pros of Living in Melbourne

  • Cosmopolitan atmosphere: Melbourne is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with residents, visitors, and expatriates from all over the globe, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and the US. You can find a restaurant, bar, or cuisine from your home country, making you feel right at home.

  • Shopping choices: Melbourne boasts many shopping options in its central business district and beyond. From discount stores at DFO South Wharf to high-end shopping at Collins Street, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

  • Food and drink: Melbourne has a fantastic bar and restaurant scene and over 300 bars, making it one of the best in the world. The city even has an annual “best bar” award, with stiff competition. There are also many restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, including the home of the second-best souvlaki in the world.

  • Easy navigation: Melbourne is well-signed, making it difficult to get lost. The city has signs pointing to significant avenues, facilities, and more minor, less well-known spots. Parking signs might take some time, but you’ll quickly become familiar with them.

  • Beaches: Melbourne boasts several fantastic beaches for locals and tourists alike. The calm ocean is excellent for swimming but not for surfing. There are famous beaches for young adults and parties and more family-friendly options with fewer crowds. Some of the most popular include Brighton Beach, St. Kilda Beach, and Williamstown Beach.

  • Sports events: Melbourne hosts significant sports events, including the Formula One Australian Grand Prix, the Australian Open Tennis, the Australian Football League Finals, and the Melbourne Cup.

Cons of Living in Melbourne

  • Weather: Melbourne’s weather can change from all four seasons in one day, from windy to sunny to rainy to cold in just a few hours. This can be frustrating, especially during the long winter months.

  • Accommodation: Real estate prices in Melbourne are very high, making it difficult to find affordable housing. While Sydney has even higher prices, Melbourne is not far behind.

  • Crowds: The city’s cosmopolitan feel leads to overcrowding in some areas, which affects traffic and causes frequent congestion.

  • Water restrictions: To prevent water shortages, the government has implemented strict water usage rules, which residents must follow.

  • Public transport: Public transport can be challenging, with trains experiencing frequent issues and ticketing problems. The extensive tram system — the world’s largest network — is slow, and there are problems with the Myki card system. Traffic congestion is also getting worse.

Why do people want to live in Melbourne?

Many people desire to live in Melbourne due to its attractive characteristics, such as its diverse population, well-developed infrastructure, rich cultural heritage, shopping options, thriving restaurant and bar scene, straightforward navigability, beautiful beaches, and popular sports events.

Melbourne’s cosmopolitan atmosphere also offers a sense of familiarity and comfort for people worldwide. However, it should be noted that there are also some challenges in living in Melbourne, such as unpredictable weather, high real estate prices, overcrowding, water restrictions, and inconsistent public transportation.

What are the challenges people face? 

The biggest problem in Melbourne is the inconsistency in its public transportation system. This includes difficulties traveling from one place to another and issues with train services and ticketing.

The cost of housing in Melbourne has increased significantly in recent years, making it difficult for many people to afford to buy or rent.

Melbourne’s weather can be unpredictable, with hot summers and cool winters. This can make it difficult to plan outdoor activities or to dress appropriately for the weather.

Traffic congestion is also worsening, which adds to public transportation challenges. Additionally, the extensive tram system in Melbourne can be slow, and Myki card issues are common.

What are the cheaper alternatives to Melbourne?

If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives close to Melbourne, some options you can consider include:

  1. Geelong: A coastal city located about an hour from Melbourne by train. Geelong offers a lower cost of living, with affordable housing options and a growing cultural scene.

  2. Ballarat: A historic city located about an hour and a half from Melbourne. Ballarat has a rich history, a charming atmosphere, and a lower living cost than Melbourne.

  3. Bendigo: A regional city located about two hours from Melbourne. Bendigo is known for its Victorian-era architecture and rich gold-mining history and offers a lower cost of living than Melbourne.

  4. Wodonga: A regional city located on the Victorian-New South Wales border, about three hours from Melbourne. Wodonga offers affordable housing options and a more laid-back lifestyle compared to Melbourne.

These alternatives may offer a lower cost of living, but they may also have challenges and limitations. Before selecting a choice, it is best to conduct research and make comparisons.

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