Why Is Melbourne The World’s Most Livable City? The City With Two Faces

Melbourne. It’s been voted the world’s most livable city for four years in a row. One of the most friendliest and most resilient cities in recent times too. With over 140 nationalities among four million residents, naturally each of us in Melbourne find different reasons to live here.

Melbourne. It boasts a grid-shaped city with skyscrapers alongside narrow laneways lined with cafes.

Concrete and dreams make up the city of Melbourne. Yarra River | Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half.

Concrete and dreams make up the city of Melbourne. Yarra River | Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half.

The other day it was 4pm on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in June. The chilly winter wind whipped my face. I had two hours to kill in the city before catching up with someone. Standing at the Flinders Street Station intersection, cars whizzed by. As two trams rumbled past, the asphalt shook slightly beneath my feet.

Some say Melbourne is a city where getting around is easy. Besides tram or train, biking or walking is always an option. Sure, public transport here isn’t always timely and roads congested during rush-hour, but it’s pretty much the same elsewhere. As the pedestrian lights changed green, I aimlessly followed the crowd across the road to Federation Square, the corner of the city home to artistic exhibits.

Some say Melbourne is a city on the move, a cultural feast for the senses. A city that works hard, plays harder. Sporting tournaments, night markets and bars abound. A city championing self-expression and everything in-between: the plain and quirky, traditional and contemporary. Hippie fashion. Organic avocado-laden dishes. Modern Gothic arches. Beyoncé look-a-like high-rise.

I milled around the current car display at the Square, restless. What more do I want? I headed back out, making my way towards the casino end of town along the Yarra River. Overhead, the winter sky was beginning to darken. Night taking over day.

Arguably, Melbourne is a city with different faces, myriad facades throughout time. Historically, it was founded in 1835 by settlers from Tasmania, and it has long been debated whether John Batman or John Pascoe Fawkner is the rightful founder. Then there’s modern-day rivalry between Melbourne’s northern and southern suburbs: arguably the best coffee up north, arguably scenic landscapes down south.

...Seafarers Bridge, South Wharf, Docklands.

…Seafarers Bridge, South Wharf, Docklands.

Strolling past the casino, the only sound I heard was that of my footsteps slapping against the pavement. Absent-mindedly pulling my camera out of my bag, my mind wandered.

Undeniably, racism is prevalent in multicultural Melbourne. So is the under-representation of Indigenous Australians. Melbourne, a city riddled with chauvinistic sentiments and where people disagree to agree. But still, cities move along in the face of daily stresses.

Ambling towards the western end of the city, Docklands, I passed by towering apartments. Towering apartments where there are probably ten or more people sharing a room in a time when there are both more and more travelers and homeless in this expensive city. Melbourne. A city where some find adventure yet a city where desperation lies. A city where some go to desperate measures to make ends meet. Either way, it seems many of us have hope for a better tomorrow here. As Italo Calvino wrote:

“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears.”

Love, peace and dreams often triumph in the city.

Love, peace and dreams often triumph in the city.

Suddenly, I sensed movement in front of me. Man and woman passing by. Holding hands. Jolted out of my reverie, my feet followed them and hastily, I snapped a shot. As they walked out of sight and skyscrapers clouded my view once again, my heart pounded in my chest. They didn’t notice me. Alongside the emotions of desire and uncertainty swirling within concrete jungles, love and passion bubble deep within the depths of our being – the things that often make us tick.

Slowing down, we see the city for what it is: its people, us. In the words of Charles Baudelaire, “What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.” When we look beyond rectangular, uniform-esque skyscrapers and drab suits and appreciate the mundane around us in the city, we come to see beauty in the smallest of urban moments.

Was I nosy, taking that photo of the lovebirds like a creep? Yes. Standing beside the harbour at Docklands, I watched the last golden ethereal rays of Sunday sun disappear behind the Bolte Bridge. Just as the sun is the heartbeat of nature, people are the heartbeat of a city. Melbourne, a city where feelings of tender aspiration tend to triumph over strifes reflective from the monotonous metropolitan grind. A city where strangers mind their own business while going about their own business, insatiably chasing dreams, lust and passion of the heart. The city that stirred the writer in me and this blog which I’m thankful for. It’s never what we want or the chase that matters, but what we have and how we make the most of the present amidst the hustle and bustle.

The best things in life are always right in front of us.

The best things in life are always right in front of us.

I looked at my phone. Quarter to six. Plunging my freezing hands into my jacket’s pockets, I started hurrying back into the middle of the city. Feet striking the concrete pavement, I wondered what lied ahead next week, next year, in Melbourne. Or elsewhere. But what about tonight? I smiled.

No matter what city we live in or where we are at a given moment in time, the finer things in life are always around and amongst us, always in the now.

Do you like living in the city? What’s your impression of Australia?

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174 thoughts on “Why Is Melbourne The World’s Most Livable City? The City With Two Faces

  1. All cities are the same yet different. In terms of Australian cities, I kind of like Perth the best, but not in their Summer. 🙂 Sydney’s too big these days. I was in Melbourne briefly this year, but it just did seem like another big city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I visited Sydney a few years ago, I thought it was very disorganised and you had to go in a big circle to get from place to place. Melbourne, I’ve yet to find something uniquely special about it.


  2. All kinds of everything in a city, Mabel, bigotry and poverty included. Overall I have a good impression of Melbourne, but I’ve never been. Your photos are a great advertisement, though. 🙂


  3. Le was born in Victoria so for her – there is always a sense that Melbourne is a home away from home. We both love Melbourne a LOT and in many aspects find it more “traveller-friendly” that Sydney is. Deep down we will always love Sydney because it is what we know and where we grew up but we will have a soft spot for Melbourne and NEVER engage in the “which city is better?” because we love them both!


    • I’ve always had the impression there was more to see in Sydney. I remember when I was there a few years back, I didn’t have enough time to roam the city in a few days – then again, it was so hard to get around. Literally had to go in a big circle to arrive at where I wanted to go 😀

      Both of you are very fair, loving both cities with all your hearts!


  4. I am not a city girl. I love to hear the bees buzzing and not the sound of trains. Melbourne is like Singapore to me hence for Australian cities, I love Hobart, Tasmania the best. It’s as beautiful as our Queenstown, NZ.


    • I feel that Melbourne is much more slower (and inefficient) than Singapore. People here move slower, transportation is slower. Then again, perhaps many in Singapore are always rushing to find air-conditioned respite from the humidity. Would love to visit your city someday for a change of scenery 🙂


  5. Such an amazing post Mabel. I loved to learn a bit more about Melbourne, and your pictures are amazing.
    Melbourne really sounds like an amazing city to live, I would definitely live there… especially knowing that every year Formula 1 happens there 😀 ❤
    I like how the city is filled with foreigners, so mixed! If don't ever live there, I as least want to visit it 😀


  6. Beautiful images. I’d love to live in Melbourne (inspire of some of the downsides mentioned here…those seem to be the downsides of every wealthy city). My partner wants to live in Sydney this cyclone season, so that is where we are headed. But I will definitely visit Melbourne.

    Congratulations on your upcoming book.


    • Thanks, Lisa. Melbourne is certainly a beautiful city in many ways. Have a good time in Sydney. I’m sure you and your partner will have many adventures in Australia. Sydney is charming in its own ways…and I believe the weather there is more predictable then Melbourne’s four-seasons-in-one-day kind of weather patterns 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. i would love to come to see Melbourne one day to visit all these places… and especially watch a cricket match at the MCG. 🙂


  8. Nice overview of Melbourne covering the historical, cultural and physical aspects of the city. I haven’t been to Melbourne but would like to go there some day. Lastly I agree with you that no matter where we are at a given moment in time, the finer things in life are always around and amongst us. Golden words.


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