Although the landmarks of Sydney; the Opera House, Harbour Bridge etc., appear on most Australian postcards, it is surprisingly not the city to visit, should you be planning on venturing Down Under. The city that you should travel to, is Melbourne and if you can only go to one Australian city, then it should definitely be the bustling metropolis of Australia’s ‘Second City’.
Established on August 30, 1835, Melbourne has come a long way since John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner agreed to share the territory. What was once a village is now a city of 4,347,955 people; second only to Sydney in regards to population – largely thanks to mass exponential growth following the gold rush of 1851. The former tented village that was built upon the embankments of the River Yarra is now the most liveable city in the entire world – a position it has held for the past four years. In the recent Economist Intelligence Unit report, the city was handed perfect scores of 100 in education, healthcare, infrastructure and in the sub-category of sport.
So what makes Melbourne such a great city?
As you may have guessed by the perfect score, Melbourne is a city that is absolutely loves sport. In 2006, 2008 and 2010 the Victoria state capital was proclaimed the “World’s Ultimate Sports City”. Before we go onto the actual sports in Melbourne take a deep breath.
Aussie Rules is the most popular sport in Australia. The game itself originated from Melbourne, in 1858 and before the Aussie Football League (AFL) was founded in 1990, the game was exclusive to Victorian territory – namely Melbourne. As a result of the sport having its roots in Melbourne, the city has an absurdly large amount of teams, nine to be precise. In a league made up of 18 teams it is crazy to think that half of them can come from just one city. The fact that a city can sustain nine teams pays testament to Melbourne’s sporting appetite.
Believe it or not, Melbourne was not too interested in either format of rugby. In 1997 the Melbourne Storm were founded and within two years they had won the Australian Rugby League title. They won it again in 2012 and Betfair have them as one of the favourites for success in 2014 – at a price of 3/10 to advance from the Telstra Premiership Qualifying Finals when they face the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday. In Rugby Union, the city has the Melbourne Rebels.
The definitive sporting landmark of the city is without question the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which at 100,024 is the largest cricket ground in the world, not to mention the 13th largest stadium in the world. The MCG is referred to as the “Spiritual Home of Australian Sport” and is included on the Australian National Heritage List. This gargantuan stadium plays host the world-famous Boxing Day Test in the Ashes Series between Australia and England in the cricket. It hosts the final of the AFL, Australian football matches, the Rugby League State of Origin match and was the stadia used for the 1958 Olympics. The MCG is so much more than a cricket stadium, it is a sporting institution, its Australia’s home.
Melbourne represents Australia on the international stage with the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit used in Formula One and Melbourne Park hosting the Australian Open in tennis. Now these sporting events are not small by any means: the Australian GP is the curtain raiser for the F1 season while the Australian Open is one of just four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis.
There are two football teams: Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, the latter is owned by the same family that own Manchester City and due to this new found financial clout they have been able to acquire Spain’s all-time record scorer, David Villa.
And just because they were feeling greedy; Melbourne natives are very much into their open air swimming.
Few cities in the world are so intertwined and synonymous with sport like Melbourne is. The city has premier sporting events from practically every popular sport on the planet. It literally appeases nearly every sporting desire, and that for one, makes it absolutely brilliant.
Those have little interest in sport usually get their kicks out of literature, music or film and well guess what? Melbourne is a world leader in the arts as well!
Let us start with film. The city plays host to the Melbourne International Film Festival and the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Both of these festivals are in the right place as the first ever feature films were made in Melbourne, while the city was also the location of the world’s first religious epic, the 1900 Soldier’s of the Cross. The city has given the cinematic world Cate Blanchett, Rachel Griffiths, Olivia Newton-John, Eric Bana, Guy Pearce and Geoffrey Rush – making it very much Australia’s Los Angeles.
Performing arts in Melbourne are in the abundance. The Australian Ballet Company is based in Melbourne, while the National Theatre in the St. Kilda suburb is the oldest ballet school Down Under. In 1853, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic was formed; not only is it the oldest of its type in Australia, it is also the only to be bestowed “Royal” status. The Philharmonic was also the home of the first orchestra in Australia. You may be slightly sick of the term ‘oldest’ by now, but – as stated – the city has a plethora of performing arts and also plays host to the oldest art gallery in Australia. There are more theatres and performing venues in Melbourne than anywhere else. Melbourne comedy is renowned, while the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the third largest in the world and is considered to be one of the international centres of comedy.
The city was the second in the world to be awarded as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Musically, it has given us Kylie and Dannii Minogue, Jason Donovan, Crowded House and John Farnham. A Music Victoria study found that on a typical Saturday night in Melbourne, 97,000 patrons attend a live music venue to see as many as 900 musicians and 740 DJs perform in their respective locations. The music scene in Melbourne is worth more than $1bn per annum to the Australian government.
There is such a dynamic culture in Melbourne, one that is considered separate from the rest of Australia. Of course, there is some influence from Australian culture but more often than not Melbourne is culturally ahead of the rest of the country and they are playing catch up. No city in Australia can stand up to Melbourne when comparing culture.
The aforementioned MCG is one of the cities biggest landmarks, as to the previously mentioned National Gallery.
Sydney Opera House gets a lot of attention but the Arts Centre in Melbourne is just as much of an architectural triumph, with fabricated steel sprouting off in all directions and looking simply magnificent when lit up in the evening. On the other end of the performing arts spectrum you have the Princess Theatre. Opened in 1857, the theatre is a vision of grandeur and Victorian class; in a city that has rapidly modernized this theatre still manages to hold its own in aesthetics.
Do people enjoy going to the train station: probably not. However, if you are a less-than-frequent visitor to Melbourne, the chances are that you will love going to Flinders Street Station. Like the Princess Theatre it is an old-timey construction, complete with a dome and sweeping arches.
By Public Record Office Victoria
Then there is the other side of Melbourne; the part that looks forward. This is never more evident than with Federation Square. The public space very much fits the modernist mantra that makes up half of Melbourne. The paving is unique whilst the sandstone facades on the building are both innovative and breath-taking.
There are numerous other landmarks in Melbourne; practically everywhere you turn there is a particular building that is the oldest of its kind.
The beauty of Melbourne is that it has managed to assimilate modern architecture into a city with so much revered landmarks. The stark contrast from modern to old is seamless and feels natural. Few places in the world – let alone Australia – can have such a transition.
Even better than the city are the locals. Australians, especially Victorians, love a joke and the atmosphere in Melbourne is jovial at the worst of times. So if you were thinking of vacating, backpacking or relocating, give Melbourne some serious consideration, because it really is one of the best cities on the planet.