Visiting Melbourne: Touring the City

The Melbourne Skyline from Southbank

Though Sydney tends to represent Australia on the world stage, with its famous landmarks and endless beaches, it has not always been Australia’s most important or populous city. From the 1850’s gold rush through the early 20th century, Melbourne was larger and growing faster than Sydney and was the country’s capital prior to the founding of Canberra. As you might expect, this has led to a bit of a rivalry between Sydneysiders and Melbournians, often fueled by business developments or livability rankings. Though the balance has swung back to Sydney’s favor, Melbourne is on track to surpass Sydney in population within the next 30 years.

But too much time spent looking at charts, rankings and statistics does neither city justice; it is only by visiting (and you should!) that you can really understand what makes Melbourne and Sydney different. Luckily for me, while working on a project with a major Australian telecom, I spent a few months living and working right in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD.

Melbourne's free City Circle Tram

If Sydney is New York, Melbourne is probably San Francisco or Los Angeles. Compared to Sydney’s go-go-go business powerhouse-ness, Melbourne has an abundance of cafés, back-alley bars, restaurants and culture combined with an overall laid-back ambiance (which says a lot in Australia). As I’ve told a few different people, I’m happy that we’re living in Sydney for our temporary stay, but if we were to move here permanently we’d probably live in Melbourne.

Despite having spent a few months working there, I hadn’t really experienced the city as a tourist, so when the long Easter weekend rolled around at the end of April, I flew Kristen out so we could actually explore and see some of the sights. Though they are occasionally found in other cities, Melbourne is famous for its abundance of trams. In addition to the ones used by daily commuters, Yarra Trams also operates a free City Circle Tram. Using some of their historic cars, the tram goes in a circle around Melbourne’s CBD and includes an audio tour of some of the city’s highlights. We stopped at Federation Square and the Melbourne Aquarium before heading over to the Crown Casino for dinner.

Australian Rules Football (AFL) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

If you had to make a list of things Melbournians are passionate about, the AFL would probably be at the top of the list. Though it’s called the Australian Football League, of the 17 teams in the league, 10 are located in or around Melbourne. As such, a proper Melbourne itinerary in the fall/winter isn’t complete without a footy game, and the place to see it is the MCG – Melbourne Cricket Ground. We attended the Geelong vs. Hawthorn game where, despite trailing in the first half of the game, Geelong managed to pull out a victory and remain undefeated in the season.

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

Our long weekend ended with dinner on Melbourne’s Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Though a little touristy, the excursion was actually a fun and unique way to see some of the city’s other sights. The experience is pretty much what you’d expect and, though the inside was a bit cozy, it was absolutely worth our while. Though that ended our holiday weekend and I had to return to work, Kristen still had the rest of week off, so she stayed in Melbourne and joined us for a few after-work events, notably Wednesday night bowling at the casino.

Though my Melbourne project assignment has since come to an end, I’m grateful to have spent a good portion of time there. It’s a wonderful place and absolutely deserves its position near the top of the world’s list of most livable cities.

In front of Melbourne's Southgate Footbridge

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2 Responses
  1. Keely says:

    Hi … fantastic website and great post.

    I was born in Melbourne and live not far from there now (Geelong). You’ve mentioned all the “main” places to go & things to do – just thought I’d pop in a comment to let you know I enjoyed reading your post and hope you had a great stay in Melbourne.

    Cheers!

  2. I visited Melbourne from 16th-21st September 2011. Oh, I love the city! Wish I’ve stayed longer and with Phillips Island & 12 Apostles…. 🙂

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