Melbourne

Short history

History of Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, starts in 1835 with Tasmanian settlers establishing roots along the Yarra River’s shores. The 1850s gold rush in Victoria turned the city into a global powerhouse of wealth and expansion, ranking it among the world’s most affluent cities by the end of the 19th century. Its significance carried over into the 20th century, holding a key role during Australia’s leap to federation in 1901 and acting as the temporary seat of power until Canberra was ready.

The city saw consistent growth and evolution through the 20th and into the 21st century. This era was highlighted by urban regeneration and a cultural renaissance, solidifying its position as an important center for the arts, business, academia, and tourism. 

Geography

Positioned at the forefront of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, Australia, has a geography marked by diversity. Stretching from the bay’s edge, Melbourne reaches into the hinterlands, connecting to the Dandenong and Macedon ranges, alongside the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley.

Melbourne endures a temperate oceanic weather pattern, punctuated by clearly defined seasons. The warmth of summer is intermittently broken by sweltering conditions, whereas winter introduces a cool, moist atmosphere. The distribution of rainfall is relatively even year-round, contributing to the city’s notoriety for experiencing “four seasons in one day”.

In terms of governance, Melbourne is segmented into numerous local government entities. Central administration is helmed by the City of Melbourne, which not only oversees the heart of the city’s commercial district but also some nearby inner suburbs. 

Population

Melbourne is widely recognized as a multicultural city. The demographic composition of Melbourne, as revealed by the most recent census data, underscores the city’s identity as a melting pot of various nationalities. This diversity is further highlighted by the variety of religions practiced in Melbourne, which include Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, among others.

In terms of linguistic diversity, while English is the predominant language, the streets of Melbourne resonate with many different languages, reflecting its multicultural inhabitants. Notably, communities from China, India, Greece, and Italy have made substantial contributions to Melbourne’s culture, enriching it with their customs, traditions, and languages.

Melbourne’s population has been on a steady incline, making it one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Melbourne’s metropolitan area had an estimated population of over 5 million.

Main sights

  • Federation Square: This contemporary square is Melbourne’s cultural epicenter which serves as a focal point for public festivities and community interactions.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens: Covering more than 38 hectares, this is a green sanctuary in the heart of the city.
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): A hallowed ground for cricket and Australian Football League (AFL) enthusiasts, the MCG is renowned for its long history. It also features guided tours and houses a sports museum.
  • National Gallery of Victoria (NGV): Holding the title of Australia’s premier and most frequented art museum, the NGV displays an impressive assortment of artworks from around the globe and Australia across its two venues: NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
  • Melbourne Zoo: As a sanctuary for both indigenous Australian species and international wildlife, the zoo provides an engaging and informative outing for visitors of all ages, while also focusing on the conservation of wildlife.
  • Queen Victoria Market: Not just a market, but a Melbourne institution, this vast outdoor marketplace is famous for a wide range of fresh food, artisan products, and unique crafts.
  • Eureka Tower: Distinguished by its gold-coated façade, the tower’s Skydeck offers the most elevated public view in the Southern Hemisphere, providing a stunning 360-degree perspective of Melbourne and beyond.

Food:

  • Flat White: A hallmark in the world of coffee, originating from the Australian café culture. This beverage blends espresso with microfoam (steamed milk that’s rich in tiny, smooth bubbles) to create a creamy and silky texture.
  • Meat Pie: An essential element at any Australian sports match, the Meat Pie is a portable pie packed with minced meat and rich gravy. In Melbourne, it’s traditionally served with a generous helping of tomato sauce on top.
  • Chicken Parma: Also known as Chicken Parmigiana, this popular pub fare features a crumbed chicken breast covered in a savory tomato sauce and gooey melted cheese, usually accompanied by fries and a side salad.
  • Vegemite Toast: Vegemite, a concentrated, dark spread made from the leftover yeast extract of brewers, stands as a controversial yet undisputed staple of Australian cuisine. When spread thinly over slices of buttered toast, it becomes a typical breakfast item in many Melbourne households.
  • Barramundi: A favorite in Melbourne dining spots, this Australian fish is celebrated for its lean, moist texture and subtle taste. Barramundi can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilling, frying, or searing, and is often presented with assorted sides.

Fun facts

  • World’s Largest Tram Network: Melbourne takes pride in having the most extensive tram network anywhere in the world, spreading across more than 250 kilometers, with access to over 1,700 tram stops.
  • A City of Firsts: The historical moment when Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956 marked the first time the event was held in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Coffee Capital: Melbourne’s love for coffee and its café culture is unrivaled, standing toe-to-toe with those of Italy. The city welcomed its first espresso machine in 1953.
  • Literary Status: Recognized by UNESCO in 2008 as a City of Literature, Melbourne is celebrated for its deep-rooted literary tradition and dynamic book publishing industry.
  • Inventive Spirit: Known for its culture of innovation, Melbourne has been the starting point for notable inventions like the black box flight recorder, conceived by Dr. David Warren in 1958, and the distinction of producing “The Story of the Kelly Gang,” the world’s first full-length feature film, in 1906.