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Melbourne is the capital and largest city of the state of Victoria, and the second largest city in Australia, with a population of 3,366,542 (census 2001). The city's name is pronounced "MEL-buhn". The city's motto is the Latin "Vires acquirit eundo" which means "we gather strength as we go". Melbourne has twice ranked first in a survey by The Economist of "The World's Most Liveable Cities", once in 2002, and again in 2004.


Melbourne is located in the south-eastern corner of mainland Australia, and is the southernmost mainland capital city. It looks out on to Port Phillip, its suburbs sprawling to the east, following the Yarra River out to the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges, south-east to the mouth of the bay, and following the Maribyrnong River and its tributaries west and north to flat farming country. The central business district (the original city) is laid out in the famous mile-by-half-a-mile Hoddle Grid, its southern edge fronting on to the Yarra.

Melbourne is a large commercial and industrial centre, with many of Australia's largest companies, and many multinational corporations (approximately one-third of the 100 largest multinationals operating in Australia as of 2002) headquartered there. It is considered a world city, home to Australia's largest seaport, seven universities (the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Deakin University, Victoria University, La Trobe University, RMIT University, and Swinburne University), and much of Australia's automotive industry (including the engine manufacturing facility of Holden, and the Ford and Toyota manufacturing facilities) amongst many other manufacturing industries.


There is no overall governing body for the Melbourne metropolitan area. There is a directly elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne and an elected Melbourne City Council, but these are responsible only for the City of Melbourne, which takes in the central business area and a few adjoining inner suburbs. The Lord Mayor, however, is frequently treated as a representative of the whole city. The rest of the metropolitan area is divided into 30 municipalities, all of which are styled as cities except for five on the city's outer fringes which are styled as shires (see a list of these at Local Government Areas of Victoria).

These municipalities all have elected councils and are responsible for a range of functions delegated to them by the Victorian state government. These include planning, rubbish collection, beaches, parks and gardens, child-care and preschool facilities, local festivals and cultural activities, services to the elderly, supervision of public health, sanitation and similar matters. Councils levy rates from their residents to pay for these services. The councils are collectively represented by the Local Government Association of Victoria.

Most citywide government activities are controlled by the state government. These include public transport, main roads, traffic control, policing, education above preschool level, and planning of major infrastructure projects. Because three quarters of Victoria's population lives in Melbourne, state governments have traditionally been reluctant to allow the development of citywide governmental bodies, which would tend to rival the state government. For this reason the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which had become a powerful semi-autonomous authority, was abolished in 1992.


Melbourne was founded on 10 May 1835 by a group of free settlers led by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, unlike some of Australia's capital cities which were founded as penal colonies (Adelaide and Perth are other notable exceptions). With the discovery of gold in central Victoria in the 1850s, leading to the Victorian gold rush, Melbourne quickly grew as a port to service the necessary trade. During the 1880s, Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire, and came to be known as "Marvellous Melbourne". Melbourne today is home to the largest number of surviving Victorian Era buildings of any city in the world other than London.

Melbourne became Australia's national capital at Federation on 1 January 1901. The first Federal parliament was opened on 9 May 1901 in the Royal Exhibition Building. The seat of government and the national capital remained in Melbourne until 9 May 1927 when the provisional Parliament House was opened in the new capital city of Canberra.

Melbourne continued to expand steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century, particularly with the post-World War II influx of immigrants and the prestige of hosting the Olympic Games in 1956. This was the first time the Olympic Games had ever been held in the Southern Hemisphere (the only other time was when Sydney hosted the Games in 2000). Throughout the 1990s, the Victorian state government of Premier Jeff Kennett (Liberal) began a campaign with aggressive development of new public buildings (such as the Crown Casino, the Melbourne Museum, and the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre) and publicising Melbourne's merits both to outsiders and Melburnians. This has continued under the government of current Premier Steve Bracks (Labor).

Melbourne is split into various Local Government Areas each with their own Councils. One of these is the City of Melbourne - covering the central business district. The City's current Lord Mayor is John So, who was inaugurated in 2001, after the first direct election of a Lord Mayor for the city.

Melbourne is built on the land of the Kulin nation, the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area.

Timeline of events

1834 - Melbourne is founded
1850s - Victorian gold rush
1854 - Melbourne Exhibition (in conjunction with Exposition Universelle (1855))
1854 - First steam railway journey in Australia from Flinders Street Station to Port Melbourne
1861 - Victorian Exhibition
1866 - Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia
1875 - Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition
1877 - First ever Test Cricket match
1880 - Melbourne International Exhibition
1884 - Victorian International Exhibition
1885 - Victorians' Jubilee Exhibition
1888 - Victorian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition, Centennial International Exhibition
1897 - First season of the Victorian Football League
1901 - First sitting of the Australian Federal Parliament at the institution of the Australian Commonwealth
1927 - Federal Parliament moves to Canberra
1956 - The Olympic Games
1970 - On October 15, 35 construction workers were killed when a section of the new West Gate Bridge collapsed into the river below.
1986 - Car-bombing outside the Russell Street police headquarters
2006 - Scheduled Commonwealth Games

Culture and sport

While having a large and vibrant arts and cultural life (notably including the yearly Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival), Melbourne is perhaps best known as one of the most sports-obsessed cities in the world. Melbourne is home to nine of the sixteen teams in the Australian Football League, whose five Melbourne games per week attract an average 35,000 people per game. Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments; the Melbourne Cup - the most prestigious handicap horse race in the world; the hugely popular 'Boxing Day' cricket test match held each year from 26-30 December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (a massive arena that can hold up to 100,000 spectators); the Australian Grand Prix Formula One championship. Melbourne Storm, who play in the National Rugby League are based at Olympic Park. In 2003 it also co-hosted the Rugby Union World Cup, including many pool matches as well as a quarter final - all of which were played at the Telstra Dome. Melbourne has also broken new ground in the major events industry being the first city outside the United States to host the World Police and Fire Games 1995), and the President's Cup golf tournament (1999); and the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to host the World Cup Polo Championship (2001). The newest major sporting event to be brought to the city will be the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Melbourne was the only city in the Southern Hemisphere in which the Three Tenors (Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras) performed on their world tour in 1997, and the only city in the world to host the Kiss Symphony, a combined performance of the rock band KISS and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2003.

Melbourne's own vibrant music scene has fostered many internationally renowned artists and musicians, with links to Nick Cave, Crowded House, AC/DC, John Farnham, Graeme Bell and Kylie Minogue.


Melbourne's public transport is operated by one tram and one train company under a franchise from the State Government. The system was government-run until the late 1990s. There are many dozens of bus companies operating throughout the city. The system is currently being re-branded under the moniker 'Metlink'. For further information on using Melbourne's public transport, see the Metlink website (

The outer north-western suburb of Tullamarine hosts Melbourne's International Airport, from which most commercial flights into and out of Melbourne operate. A secondary airport is located at Avalon, to the south-west between Melbourne and Geelong. A cut-price airline has recently commenced using Avalon for its flights to Sydney and Brisbane. Melbourne's first major airport, Essendon Airport, is no longer used for scheduled international or domestic flights. Airbase RAAF Point Cook, where the Australian Air Force originated, is located near the city's south-western limits.

Metcard ticketing

All forms of public transport can be accessed by using a single ticket - the Metcard. Metcards come in a variety of forms, ranging from 2 hour tickets to yearly tickets, all using the same tickets by programming the magnetic strip. Metcards are 'validated' when entering or exiting train stations, and getting on trams or buses. However, most suburban train stations are unstaffed and can easily be entered without a ticket, and trams no longer have conductors, making it easy to go short distances without a ticket. Ticket inspectors randomly check trains and trams, but their sometimes heavy-handed tactics have resulted in public discontent and even court cases.

The public transport system is broken up into three ticketing zones: Zone 1 (Yellow), Zone 2 (Blue), and Zone 3 (Red). Tickets are valid within a selected zone or zones.


One notable feature of the Melbourne landscape is a mobile - the omnipresent tram. Melbourne is the only Australian city to retain its tram system, which services the CBD and inner suburbs. In fact, Melbourne's network is amongst the largest in the world, and is still (albeit slowly) growing. The classic green-and-gold trams are often thought of as the symbol of Melbourne, although many trams today are covered in all-over advertising. The traditional wooden W-class trams have been relegated to limited service, but are slowly returning as they are progressively upgraded with new brakes. The best way to see them is by taking the the free "City Circle" tourist loop around the CBD. In 2001, the first new Citadis and Combino low-floor trams arrived in the city. These new trams were complemented by a massive upgrade of key city tram stops beginning in 2002. These new "super stops" significantly improve shelter, accessibility, information and safety for travellers.

See also: Trams in Melbourne, Australia, List of Melbourne tram routes


The centre of Melbourne's extensive suburban rail network is Flinders Street Station. There are 15 electrified routes, radiating out of the City Loop. The City Loop contains Melbourne's two central stations, Flinders and Spencer Streets Stations, as well as the underground stations Parliament, Melbourne Central (formerly Museum) and Flagstaff. There are 4 separate subway tunnels connecting these three underground stations, and an elevated viaduct between the two surface stations. Melbourne's train fleet consists of the common Comeng trains, recently refurbished, and the older Hitachi trains, which are not air-conditioned and, in the city's summer heat, despised by commuters. However, these trains will progressively be replaced by new X-Trapolis and Siemens trains.
The hub of the Victorian regional rail network, operated by V/Line is Spencer Street Station.

See also: List of Melbourne railway stations.


Melbourne is a sprawling metropolis, and many suburbs beyond the inner metropolitan area aren't covered by its tram network. In these areas, busses do the work of linking commuters to the train network, large local shopping centres, suburban commercial and industrial districts, and other suburban destinations.

Landmarks and tourist information

Melbourne attracts large numbers of tourists, particularly young backpackers. It also hosts a disproportionately large number of spectator sports.

Popular sites and events include:

  • The Melbourne Cricket Ground, known as "the MCG" or simply "the G". From April to September, there are typically one or two Australian rules football matches there per week; the game can be spectacular, it is unique to Australia, relatively inexpensive to attend, and is safe and enjoyable for all, including children. It also hosts the occasional Bledisloe Cup rugby match. During the summer, cricket matches are played there - the most important being the Boxing Day test match between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and several one-day international games in January and February which are perhaps more enjoyable for the casual spectator. The MCG is currently being renovated in preparation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games and will have a maximum capacity of 103,000.

  • Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open tennis tournament, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments (held in January each year).

  • The Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre is located in Southbank and was built in the 1990s as a replacement for the Royal Exhibition Building. It has hosted thousands of conventions and exhibitions since its opening.

  • The Melbourne Museum is located on the north-eastern fringe of the CBD, next to the Royal Exhibition Building. To many Melburnians, the most significant exhibit is the preserved body of Phar Lap, the famous racehorse of the Depression era. For those who cannot visit the nearby forested ranges, the Forest Gallery is a living internal facsimile. Technically-inclined visitors may be more interested in CSIRAC, the fifth electronic computer built and the only one of its generation to survive intact.

  • The Museum complex is also home to Melbourne's IMAX cinema.

  • The Royal Exhibition Building located in the Carlton Gardens was built in the 1880s for the World's Fair and is only one a few such buildings that still exist. The building was granted World Heritage listing on 2 July 2004, the first building in Australia to be granted this status. The building also held the first sitting of the Australian Parliament on 9 May 1901. Subsequent federal parliamentary sittings were then moved to the Victorian Parliament building located in Spring Street and the Victorian government moved to the Exhibition Building.

  • The State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street, with its massive Domed Reading Room and statue-filled front lawn.

  • The curiously-named National Gallery of Victoria (not to be confused with the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra), has recently been renovated, and is the largest art collection in Australia. The gallery is split over two sites, the Australian collection at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square (notably featuring key works from the Heidelberg School), and the NGV International collection housed in the recently renovated St. Kilda Road building. Rialto Towers, the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the Southern Hemisphere, gives an excellent view of the city from the observation deck on the 55th floor.

The eastern end of the Melbourne skyline, from Southbank
The eastern end of the Melbourne skyline, from Southbank

  • The Victorian Arts Centre at Southgate (on the southern banks of the Yarra River is a Melbourne landmark with its enormous skyward spire. It hosts Opera Australia's Melbourne season, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Theatre Company, the Australian Ballet Company, Chunky Move (one of Australia's best-known contemporary dance companies), and other touring productions. The centre consists of two separate buildings: the State Theatre; and Hamer Hall (this was recently re-named in honour of the late former premier Sir Rupert Hamer; it was previously known as the Melbourne Concert Hall). The acoustics of the Centre are often favourably compared with those of its interstate rival, the opera theatre in the Sydney Opera House. There are also typically several musicals playing in theatres around the CBD, mostly several years after their production on Broadway or the West End, but usually of good quality and at quite reasonable cost.

  • Crown Casino, a short walk along the Yarra River from the Arts Centre, is a truly gargantuan gambling palace, also containing restaurants, upmarket boutiques, several nightclubs, two hotel towers, a cinema complex, and regular floorshows. Very much Las Vegas in miniature, it is either loved or hated by residents and tourists.

  • Docklands, Melbourne's newest precinct and largest infrastructure development to date, is also becoming a major attraction, with many restaurants there having won awards and recognition, even though they have only been open since January 2003. The Docklands area opens up the waterfront to the CBD (also nearly doubling its size) and will attract millions of visitors every year.


Melbourne's restaurants are numerous, and are generally of reasonable quality and good value. Below are some of the major restaurant strips, however there are many other restaurants not in these locations which offer similar or better-quality food and usually at lower cost. The Age newspaper produces two "Good Restaurant" guides - one for low-cost eating and another for more elaborate restaurants.

  • Chinatown, on Little Bourke Street and now spreading out onto Russell Street in the CBD, offers numerous restaurants, mainly but not exclusively offering Cantonese cuisine, at the lower end offering Hong Kong-style noodle restaurants up to the Flower Drum, renowned for its Peking Duck and generally regarded as Melbourne's best restaurant. There are many other restaurants throughout the CBD.

  • Lygon Street, in the inner-northern suburb of Carlton, offers a selection of mainly Italian-influenced food. To some extent a tourist strip, the quality is variable with some restaurants with decent reputations and others avoided by locals. Students from the nearby University of Melbourne know the better-value places; tourists may consider following their lead. Accessible from Bus Routes 20x (201, 203 and 207), which leave the City via Lonsdale and Russell Streets. Alternately, take any Swanston.

  • Street tram and walk one block east from the University.

  • Brunswick Street in inner-suburban Fitzroy used to be a grungy hotbed of students, musicians, actors and the like, and still retains some remnant of that edginess with the presence of several live music venues, all manner of eclectic stores, accompanied by restaurants and cafes, many of which serve varied and contemporary menus (though prices have crept up with the growing gentrification of the area). Brunswick Street went through a growth phase and rapidly became a casual place to eat. The rise in number and income level of people living within walking and hearing distance are changing the feel somewhat.

  • Chapel Street, south of the city is a popular destination for fashionable clothes shopping, eating and entertainment. The long street contains commercial areas providing goods and services for local residents. This variety makes the street arguably more interesting than Lygon and Brunswick Streets which have a higher proportion of eating establishments. Accessible from Tram Routes 78 and 79, which do not enter the CBD, but can be accessed from the rail network at East Richmond, South Yarra and Windsor, and many intersecting Tram routes. Chapel Street intersects with Toorak Road, itself offering entertainment, food and shops. Toorak Road is served by Tram Route 8, which leaves the city via Swanston Street.

  • Glenferrie Road, east of the city in inner suburban Malvern has a wide mix of different cuisines including Indian, Malaysian, Thai and Japanese. The street interects with High Street in Armadale, which also has a mix of antique shops, cafes and restaurants.

  • Glenhuntly Road, south east of the city in inner suburban Elsternwick is a busy strip that offers a wide range of different restaurant cuisines including Chinese, Malaysian Indian, Thai, and some Middle Eastern cuisines as well.

  • Nelson Place faces the water in Williamstown, and is especially popular for lazy weekend breakfasts and lunches. There are restaurants and cafes featuring the usual range of cuisines, and footpath tables outside many of the establishments.

Cafes and nightlife

As one would expect from a city its size, Melbourne contains all manner of pubs, bars, and nightclubs. The CBD contains a wide variety of venues, from the ubiquitous faux-Irish pubs proliferating around the world, to some very upmarket establishments (such as the Supper Club, which offers all manner of exclusive wines at exclusive prices), serious jazz venues on Bennetts Lane, fashionable nightclubs and dance venues, and massive pickup joints (of which The Metro on Bourke Street is perhaps the biggest). The restaurant strips, particularly Brunswick Street have their own bars, some of which are the best rock venues in Melbourne. King Street, on the southern side of the CBD, was traditionally a nightclub strip and still hosts several, but many are now exotic dancing venues (a final note on this topic, small brothels are legal in Victoria and are found discreetly dotted throughout the suburbs). Chapel Street, Prahran, is perhaps the trendiest, most upmarket (and most expensive) nightlife strip. Another area of note is St Kilda, background for the TV show The Secret Life of Us, which is the home of several huge music venues including the famous Esplanade Hotel (known as 'the Espy'), the Prince of Wales, and The Palace. On its beachside setting, it also combines the upmarket with the grungy.

The recent influx of city-dwellers have given rise to the numerous underground bars and sidewalk cafes in the alleys between Flinders Street - Flinders Lane and Bourke Street - Lonsdale Street Notable alleys include Block Arcade/Block Place (off Little Collins Street), Degraves Street (off Flinders Lane), and Hardware Lane (between Bourke and Lonsdale Streets).

Melbourne is a reasonably cheap and easy place to shop. There are innumerable clothing shops for every budget, though bargain hunters may wish to try the outlet stores in Bridge Road, Richmond.

Close to Melbourne

There are a variety of interesting things to see outside Melbourne proper but still within a day trip of Melbourne:

  • The Yarra valley region, producer of high-quality wine and with beautiful rainforest scenery nearby.

  • The Surf Coast near Geelong, with excellent surf beaches and the spectacular views of the Great Ocean Road (Voted the world's best road trip in 2003).

  • Ballarat, a small city once the centre of the gold rush. A requisite for any history buff's itinerary.

  • Bendigo.

  • Phillip Island, home of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, also has one of the few easily-accessible colonies of little penguins.

  • Gippsland region, home of the Gourmet Deli Tours, the Gippsland Lakes, Wilsons Promontory (the most southerly point of the Australian mainland), and many picturesque towns such as Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, and Warragul- centre of one of the richest dairy farming districts in Australia. The ghost town of Walhalla is filled with goldmining memorabilia and can easily fill a day with interesting walks and activities.

Melbourne in culture

Melbourne was strongly associated with the establishment of Australia's visual arts. The Heidelberg School, arguably the first distinctly Australian art movement (in the Western canon, at least), was largely the work of Melbourne-based artists, and many of its most significant works hang in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Melbourne has been the setting for many novels, television dramas, and films. Perhaps the best-known internationally is Nevil Shute's novel On the Beach. In 1959, it was made into a film starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and directed by Stanley Kramer. The film depicted the denizens of Melbourne quietly slipping off into eternity as the last victims of a global nuclear holocaust. Filmed on location in and around Melbourne (a huge novelty for Melbourne at the time), it is perhaps best remembered for a comment Ms. Gardner never made - describing Melbourne as 'the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world', commenting on the dreary conservatism of Melbourne in the late 1950s. The purported quote was invented by journalist Neil Jillett. Similar filming was undertaken when a 2000 television movie remake was produced.

In recent years, many more films have been made in Melbourne. Some of the more famous include Mad Max, Romper Stomper, featuring a young Russell Crowe as a terrifying Melburnian skin-head; Jackie Chan's Mr. Nice Guy and The Castle.

Perhaps better known to a contemporary audience is the daily soap opera Neighbours, which presents a whitewashed microcosm of suburban Australian life. Other contemporary television shows set in Melbourne include Stingers (a police drama), The Secret Life of Us, and MDA.

Singer Paul Kelly has written several well-known songs about aspects of the city close to the heart of many Melburnians, notably "Leaps and Bounds" and "Saint Kilda to Kings Cross".

Although not set in Melbourne, the film Queen of the Damned was filmed in and around the city.

Carols by Candlelight, a Christmas tradition, was begun in Melbourne in 1938.


Melbourne's daily newspapers include the "small-l liberal" broadsheet The Age, and the Murdoch tabloid Herald Sun.

The three commercial television channels and the ABC produce a nightly news bulletin in Melbourne, and the Seven network produces one edition of its current affairs show Today Tonight there. The ABC also produces a weekly state-based current affairs show, Stateline, in Melbourne. The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) provides world news coverage, as well as an assortment of foreign film and television. Channel 31 is a public access Television station which screens mostly foreign-language television for migrant communities, and amateur lifestyle programs. Melbourne has a wide range of radio stations. In terms of current affairs radio, the most notable locally-produced stations are ABC Local Radio (774 3LO) and 1278 3AW, both featuring extensive local news coverage and talkback. Australia's most successful community radio station, 3RRR, is a Melbourne institution. SYN FM, at 90.7 FM is another community station, with its unique policy of having no person at the station older than 26; it is staffed entirely by youth and students, and the shows are presented by the same. Other community stations in Melbourne include 3PBS, which plays mostly specialist music programming, and 3CR, a AM radio station run by a broad coalition of left-wing activists. For years, JJJ, the ABC's national youth broadcaster, has been extremely popular with Melbourne's youth, featuring mostly alternative or experimental music, and local talent, though in the late 1990s, the distinctions between it and commercial radio (especially stations with a more 'alternative' image like Nova FM) have become somewhat blurred.

Sister cities

Melbourne has a number of sister cities. They are:

Osaka, Japan - 1978
Tianjin, People's Republic of China - 1980
Thessaloniki, Greece - 1984
Boston, United States - 1985
Saint Petersburg, Russia - 1989
Milan, Italy - 2004

Famous Melburnians

Vanessa Amorosi
Eric Bana
Arthur Calwell
Alfred Deakin
Sir John Eccles
Malcolm Fraser
Percy Grainger
Germaine Greer
Barry Humphries
Michael Leunig
Archbishop Daniel Mannix
John Marsden
Dame Nellie Melba
Kylie Minogue
Sir John Monash
Rupert Murdoch
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Mark Philippoussis
Guy Pearce
Peter Singer
Peter Tatchell
John Wren

Koala, Australia Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Queensland, QLD, Australia Gold Coast, Queensland, QLD, Australia