Why I Love Melbourne

Recently I went on my first ever guided tour of Melbourne’s CBD. Along with about sixty others, mostly tourists, it was refreshing wandering through familiar city locations while listening to historical commentary from the Melburnian, blonde, university-aged tour guide.

On top of Melbourne, 88 floors up at the Eureka Tower | Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top.

On top of Melbourne, 88 floors up at the Eureka Tower | Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top.

It got me thinking: what’s so good about Melbourne? Why do I like living in one of the most livable cities in the world?

Moving back to Australia after ten years studying in Asia, I had less than pleasant encounters with Caucasians and Asians here as an Asian Australian. But I’ve learnt to look at the positives and today I like Melbourne very much for what it is.

With laneways all over the place, it’s hard to get bored in Melbourne. Venture down one and you may find a pop-up cosy café in this coffee connoisseur capital of a city. Maybe a hidden pub or gallery. One Saturday I was strolling around the back lanes of the Paris-end of the city and to my delight stumbled upon a café I had always wanted to visit. To my disappointment, it was closed. How unexpected. But I did walk away with a triumphant sense of discovery.

It’s fairly easy to get around Melbourne on foot with its overpriced trams. There’s practically a tram stop every one or two blocks in the rectangular-shaped CBD. Hop on a tram and take a short trip to quieter areas like breezy St Kilda Beach and hippy Brunswick. As the dinging bell of the trams filters through my opened bedroom windows on summer nights, I am reminded that the world is at my feet. Comforting.

History and modernity exist side-by-side here – there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. For those keen on true-blue Aussie bush life, a couple of hour’s drive or train ride from the city will take you to places such as the Yarra-Dandenong Ranges where you can admire heritage properties and roaming kangaroos. For shopaholics, H&M and Top Shop are home in the heart of the city and up-market Chapel Street. While the footy is on at the MCG, there’s bound to be a cultural festival on elsewhere at the same time. On weekends, I love wandering through the city’s oldest buildings and later grabbing Asian food from Chinatown to fill me up.

Fashion on top, fashion forwards. H&M in the heritage GPO building.

Fashion on top, fashion forwards. H&M in the heritage GPO building.

The open acceptance and respect for creative expression around Melbourne makes it all the more welcoming. Graffiti alleys, balloon-makers and buskers adorn the streets. Even the weather is artistic – it’s fond of putting on four-seasons-a-day shows. Melbournians might stop and stare at abstract street art or listen to off-key singing but laugh at, they rarely do.

Not too long ago, I was trying to get a specific photo of the Bourke Street tram tracks for one of my blog posts, running back and forth to avoid getting mowed over by a tram. I did this for about half an hour. So many strangers saw what I was doing and purposely moved out of my way. Not one yelled at me to get out of their way.

At the end of the day, I guess Melbourne is a quirky little city with its tendency to both surprise and please. After walking 4.5 kilometres over three hours around Melbourne’s iconic city spots, the guided tour came to an end on the banks of the Yarra River. All of us clapped for the volunteer tour guide. Charlotte, her name was. It had been a very informative tour and the tourists took out their wallets.

“Thanks so much. That was really fun,” I said, dropping sixty cents into her hands.

“Thank you, thank you!” Charlotte said, smiling and beaming. She looked stunned at our generosity, at a lost for words. She really shouldn’t be. She was so generous herself.

Melburnians. Another reason why I love Melbourne.

What do you like about your city? What do you think of Melbourne/Australia?

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68 thoughts on “Why I Love Melbourne

        • Oh dear, water rationing. I remember that when I was a kid living in Subang Jaya and Cheras. Big tanks full of water would park at the street corner and I would rush out with buckets to collect water before they left. The 4 season-in-a-day usually happens in autumn and spring. Since you miss the Viet food here, you might consider coming down here again for a visit!

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          • haha.. your memory has served you well. Luckily for the last week or so, it has been raining and the clouds did hit on the right spot (finally) to allow the state government to stop water rationing (phew!). Yup I do plan to go to Melb with family and will be happy to be their driver and guide but for now, I still plan to visit more place in Asia. Darn… too many places choices…. LOL!!

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            • If you’re really having that hard of a time of choosing where to go, I’d say go Asia. Price-wise, the cost of everything from food to petrol to transport is skyrocketing through the roof in Melbourne. Or you could always explore another part of Malaysia, which would be your most affordable option.

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    • That’s a very bold statement to make. I can’t say Melbourne is my favourite Australian city…yet as I have yet to visit Brisbane, Perth and the Northern Territory. And Tasmania. I’ve always been attracted to your city as it has much warmer weather compared to Melbourne, but heard that it rains a lot and sometimes you can’t go out because of the water!

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      • Brisbane, particularly in Summer, is similar to Penang and even Singapore (KL is still on my bucket list) If you are comfortable with humidity and monsoonal rains you would enjoy Brisbane :-)This past summer we have been lacking in summer rains, but we still seem to have humidity. Even this week the temps have been hovering around 30 deg C and it is meant to be Autumn. At least the evenings are cooler
        And anyway our summer rains are warm so they are not a deterrent (like down south) to getting wet. lol

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        • That’s very informative, Maureen. When the news bulletins in Melbourne talk about Brisbane’s weather, they say it’s raining and flash flooding all the time. I’ve always thought, “This can’t be true”, so thanks for sharing. I’m definitely comfortable with tropical climates so I think I will feel at ease in your city when I visit. Though I am not a fan of mosquitoes that breed in this weather but I hear up there there aren’t many of this annoying insect.

          30’C sounds fabulous to me at the moment. Enjoy it! We’re now hovering around 15-20’C in the day in Melbourne.

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          • Sorry to burst your bubble, but mosquitos are a menace! After the recent rains they returned in their black clouds to harass everyone at sunset and dawn! I live on the shores of Moreton Bay and the salt water mossies are particularly troublesome at the moment

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            • That’s okay, Maureen. Thanks for being so honest. Now that I know mosquitoes are rampant in Brisbane, I’ll be sure to bring a lot of long-sleeved attire with me when I go up there. I hope you’re keeping the mozzies at bay, perhaps with a good dose of insect repellant. In the summer here in Melbourne, I like to burn mosquito coils on the balcony at night to keep them away. It stinks bad but it does keep a lot of the pests away.

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  1. I was in Melbourne for a week during my 6 months stay in Tasmania. I liked the atmosphere and architecture in the area. I also loved that it was easy to have a day trip to 12 Apostles and others. The city did provide me with a great feeling and I also advise it to my friends for travel.

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    • Melbourne has a lot of Victorian architecture. Quite a number of buildings have this architecture and by law the owners of the house can’t renovate the exterior of these houses. So nice to hear that you had a good time in Melbourne. You seem to have seen more of it than me – I’ve never been to the 12 Apostles and I hear it has a great ocean view. I guess the downside is that it can be a lengthy drive to these places and the trips can be up to a day – but well worth it for the views and atmosphere. Thanks for recommending your friends to travel here. I hope they’ll enjoy it someday like you 🙂

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    • Thanks, Amy. Yes, The University of Melbourne is one reputable school. It has a lot of Victorian architecture. On some parts of its main campus, it feels like you’re walking through a castle!

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  2. Great post. I love visiting Melbourne but have no inclination to live there… but in saying that, I was born in Victoria (Portland) and am very much a Queenslander now. Melbourne city is much nicer than Brisbane, but the weather just doesn’t work for me. I prefer the warmer weather so I will stick with regular visits instead of moving back down south lol 😉

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    • I totally agree with you on the weather. It IS cold in Melbourne for around eight to nine months of the year. I dislike having to layer up clothing but I guess I like this city too much to move to another. Very jealous of you Queenslanders, such balmy conditions you have all year round. Thanks for stopping by, Holly. I love hearing from my fellow Australians 🙂

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      • It isn’t always hot here either but 1 season a day is easier to plan for than Victoria’s 4 in 1 type of days. And our daytime temperatures are rarely below 15 degrees thankfully 🙂 amazing how different the climate can be in one country really. Enjoy your weekend.

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        • I am even more jealous of your state now! Rarely below 15’C :O In Victoria, we’re always advised to bring a jacket out with us even if it’s sunny in the morning. Once the winds hit, rain usually comes along within the next hour. You too, Holly. Enjoy the weekend!

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  3. I got a shock when I saw Helsinki in the list of the most livable cities. I guess they did a mistake on that one :p
    Anyways, Australia and with it Melbourne is still on our to do list for the future travels 🙂

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    • I’m pretty sure Helsinki has been a regular feature in the top ten, if not top twenty, of the most livable cities. So I don’t think it’s a mistake. From what I hear, Finland has a relatively low crime rate and fairly good job opportunities and that’s what makes it a good place to settle down – but cost of living is hideously expensive.

      Australia ain’t a cheap to visit. So you have to save up 🙂

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      • Makes sense when low crime rate is calculated however the unemployement rate “unofficially” is pretty damn high, Finland got the highest tax rate in the European Union (you pay more than double for everyday goods, eg head of garlic in German about 7cents, in Finland around stunning 50cents!) and much more. I got the feeling that the officials are pretty good here in covering up the bad stuff, hence making Helsinki a great place to live in the opinion of many except the people who actually live here :p

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        • Okay, my bad. I did not know the unemployment rate was quite high in Finland. Nor the tax rate either. I’ve always had the impression Finland was a very relaxed, easy-going place to live with good weather, healthcare and housing. But I guess there’s always two sides to the coin. For example, Malaysia might seem a financially affordable place to live in in terms of housing, petrol and grocery shopping. However, income here is low (poor Ringgit dollar value) and high crime rate. But back to Finland. After what you said, I still hope to pay you guys a visit someday 😀

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          • Finland is worth a visit, already due to the beautiful nature. The east side of Finland is full of lakes, basically one lake is right next to the other,/ connected to it forming a huge water area and there are also one of the very few freshwater seals in the world. I could go on very long with great things about the country but also the same with the bad stuff. But I guess you always develope better insight to a country when you live in it for many years

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            • Thanks for the tip. I like lakes, haven’t seen to many in my life and we don’t have too many of them in Australia (dried out from drought). Finland impresses with nature from the sounds of it. I recently bought a nifty-looking phone case that was designed in Finland – and does the job exactly the way I want. So it seems to me Finland might aesthetically please with knick-knacks, furniture, food and so on. I can’t wait to find out the good – and maybe the bad as you mention – when I journey over there when the time comes.

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  4. Love this introduction to Melbourne and the great things you write about…but what most intrigues me about this is that you went on a guided tour of your “adopted home town”. It is a great way to really see the city in a totally different light and especially with tourists…I think that would be a lot of fun to hear about it from a tour guide as well. Great idea. Next time I’m back in Seattle, I am going to take a Seattle tour. It also seems that Melbourne weather is similar to Seattle weather (except perhaps the gloomy rainy season!).

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    • Thanks, Randall. I find it interesting you like this introduction to my “adopted home town” (spot on!). I had so much trouble writing this post and felt that what I was bashing out was incredibly dry and boring. Maybe I’ve seen the same places one too many times…

      Now that you mention it, I’m wondering why I actually went on the guided Melbourne tour in the first place. I remember seeing these tour guides in the city a few weeks back and the tourists looked like they were having a lot of fun. Also realised I am not too well-versed in this city’s history and have never been on a guided tour (re previous travel post), so I guess that spurred me to join one of the free tours. Some might think it’s embarrassing to go on a tour of your home city, but really there’s nothing wrong with this – walking around our hometown with commentary in our ears.

      I hear it’s gloomy pretty much every single day in Seattle and that it rains a lot here. Which would make for very fun guided tours 🙂

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      • That is exactly why I think going on a tour in your home city is a must now, it will give you a perspective that you never could get just by ‘living’ there…the history, interesting small facts, and seeing people in the tour interact with that knowledge. You will never look at buildings or things the same (in fact it may be the first time you “really see” something). I like historical stories, because I pretty easily imagine myself back in those times ~ so such tours would be fun. As for Seattle, it really is not too bad, the rainy is from Oct – Feb, and that should be avoided 🙂

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        • That is so true. “Living” where we live, we tend to go to the same grocery shops, restaurants, schools, basically pass by the same places so much that we think it’s “boring”. Which is really not the case as you mentioned – history is always a part of where we are. There is always some story behind every old church, skyscraper, heritage building, brick wall, you name it. On the Melbourne tour that I went, the tour guide told us a neat little story about cars exploding outside a historic police station – happened in the last thirty years or so – that we passed by. Fascinating.

          Seattle still strikes me as a city that rains all the time 🙂

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  5. Are you on the payroll of the Melbourne Tourist Bureau? 🙂 Seriously, it’s good to act like a tourist in your own city. You get a better appreciation for it.

    I might have to go back to Melbourne one day. It’s been over 30 years. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    • Nope, sadly not on the payroll of the Melbourne Tourist Bureau. I wish I was though. If I was, maybe they’ll get me to travel all over the city and its surroundings and pay me to write about it 🙂

      30 years is way too long. It’s been about 4 years since I went up to your town and I’m itching to go up there. If you do pop over Melbourne, I’ll buy you a drink. Or yum cha. Your pick 🙂

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  6. My wife and I visited Melbourne in May 2014 and stayed at the Hotel Windsor ( http://www.thehotelwindsor.com.au/ ) for 3 nights. We enjoyed a high tea then did sightseeing to St Kilda, Old Melbourne Gaol, Parliament House, a night at the opera (Carmen), and shopping in the city (including Uniqlo). What I really liked was the wonderful food and cafes. We enjoyed excellent Italian, Taiwanese and Chinese meals. Considering it is not too expensive to fly to Melbourne from Sydney we may return this year for a long weekend.

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    • I walked past Hotel Windsor yesterday. Marvelous piece of architecture, and I’m sure it looks brilliant inside as well. Good to hear you enjoyed your stay here. The cafes are gems. There are good ones, and the not-so-good ones. Glad to hear you like the shopping here too. The Emporium is quite a bit of a shopping centre.

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