Melbourne was named most livable city several times over the last couple of years. And having lived there myself I totally understand why. I generally have a hard time naming just one city as THE most livable city because I feel there are so many things that play into it and also at what stage of your life you are but there are definitely cities that belong in that category and Melbourne should be in it.
Before I share why I think it is so livable, one thought on the whole Melbourne – Sydney debate. As a foreigner, you get ask a lot which city you like better. To be honest, I would have to say Melbourne. Sydney for me is a great tourist spot with all the most famous Australian landmarks. Melbourne with its coffee culture and European atmosphere on the other hand is more a city for living. BUT in saying that, I only lived in Melbourne therefore I am definitely biased and you should probably ask someone who has lived in both 🙂 And just to be clear, I love Sydney nonetheless.
Coffee, coffee, coffee
The most obvious reason why Melbourne is so livable was the most surprising one when we first got there: coffee!
Coming from Europe you think of Italy or France for great coffee but who would have thought that the greatest place for coffee is at the other end of the world. It still amazes me that even the tiniest café offers excellent coffee.
Another reason why I love the coffee scene so much is because no place is like any other. There are so many unique cafés. Hardly any Starbucks or other chains. Lots of individuality. Besides great coffee you will usually also get yummy and creative breakfast/brunch options. I have a separate blog post on how Melbourne changed my view on breakfast. Check it out here
Yes, I know, coffee and all those trendy coffee shops are technically part of the food scene but because it’s so big in Melbourne, it had to be a separate point.
Even without all the cafés, Melbourne has an excellent food scene – exceptional restaurants, well-known chefs. It’s diverse, creative and exciting and because there is no one dominating or traditional cuisine, it leaves a lot of room for creativity and innovation. Anything goes. The hard part really is to try it all!
Again, this is not something that is very unique for Melbourne because most bigger cities offer a huge variety of entertainment and art but the combination of different experiences makes it so livable.
As you might know by now I am a massive tennis fan and having an event like the Australian Open in the city is a huge plus for me. It’s not just the tennis itself but the whole entertainment area that is created for that event. You can really make a day of it and spend time with your family there – everyone will find something to do. In addition to tennis you will have all sorts of sports events throughout the year. They even have their own type of football with their specific set of rules, hence the name Aussie rules football (or footie). Other than that, there is Formula 1, cricket, soccer, basketball, ruggby, the list goes on.
Music and theater
For theater, classical music, opera, comedy and much more, the Arts Center Melbourne is the right place to go. And thanks to Rod Laver Arena, AAMI Park, MCG and many other venues you will never run out of concerts to go to – small or big, local or international, pop or classis.
If art is more your thing, Melbourne has got you covered, too. The National Gallery of Victoria or NGV how it is known, is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia. It is host to a wide range of national and international exhibitions – from fashion, history to art.
If you are not really a gallery type just take a stroll around Melbourne and enjoy the famous laneways with its creative street art.
City on the water
I know this is not unique but for me water always adds to the quality of life and makes Melbourne so livable. And the beaches aren’t too bad after all. Maybe they can’t compare to Sydney but they are still full of people and offer plenty of outdoor activities.
St. Kilda beach is probably the most famous beach in Melbourne. Especially in summer. The area has nice restaurants, cafés and bars and if you need a bit of extra thrill, the iconic Luna Park offers different rides and attractions for all ages.
Another great attraction can be found at dusk. St. Kilda beach is home to around 1,400 little penguins. Every day at sunset they come back to their sleeping places located between the stones at the shore. When we first moved to Melbourne, it was an insider tip and not a lot of tourists knew about it. Now it is way more popular and you have to be there early to get a good spot. But it’s still worth a visit because it’s nothing compares to seeing them in their natural habitat and it is free, too.
A bit further down the shore the famous Brighton Beach Boxes attract plenty of tourists with their colorful and unique designs.
Make sure to get there early to avoid crowds or busloads of tourists and get the perfect shot or just enjoy them in quiet and peace.
On top of the sea, you also have a river in Melbourne. Yarra River might not be ideal for swimming but it’s nice to walk along the river in summer or have a drink at one of the bars and restaurants. There are plenty of cool places but if you are looking for something special for drinks go to Ponyfish Island which is below the Evan Walker Bridge in the middle of the river. Another great place for drinks and pub food is Arbory Bar & Eatery close to Flinders Station and in summer you should definitely stop by Arbory Afloat, a floating deck with a Caribbean and Latin-American lounge vibe to it.
Not too touristy
When you live in a city like Melbourne you will never entirely be able to avoid tourists. However, compared to other places I feel like it’s still not too overwhelming. And I know I shouldn’t complain because a lot of times I am a tourist myself but sometimes it just gets too much.
Melbourne has always been a cultural melting pot. The first settlers arrived from England and Ireland followed by more European immigrants.
After WW2 settlers from Mediterranean Europe, the Balkan and West Asia made their way to Melbourne – mostly from Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lebanon etc. It wasn’t until the 1970s when immigration from Asia really took off, with China and India being the biggest group. Before that, these groups simply weren’t allowed to come.
Besides the English, Irish and Scottish heritage, the predominant cultural background today is Greek, Italian, Chinese and Indian. But due to a lively expat community, you will find all sorts of cultural backgrounds.
Great starting point for a quick getaway or vacation
If you feel like you explored Melbourne enough there are many great places around to discover. No matter if you are only looking for a quick weekend getaway or for a vacation, the variety of experiences and nature you will find is amazing. My number one recommendation is the Great Ocean Road. I wrote a separate blog post on what I like doing there here.
Yarra Valley is great for a quick getaway and an awesome place if you like wine. But even if you are not into wine, you can easily just spend time in one of the beautiful wineries, have lunch and enjoy the view. Yarra Valley is also home to one of Australia’s most loved Gin brands ‘Four Pillars’ and Yarra Valley Dairy offers delicious cheeses and regional produces.
Other breathtaking places to experience Victoria’s amazing nature are Phillip Island and Grampians National Park.