Weird dance moves, alien visits, retro art and fine dining: All of this and more await you in Melbourne
What makes a city user-friendly? Apart from being able to make a buck and rest your head, what sets one metropolis above another?
Melbourne has been named the world’s most livable city by the Economist Group, publishers of “The Economist” magazine.
Whether it’s relaxing, dining, people watching or shopping, Melbourne seems to have it all in a colorful and artistic heritage environment.
So, tell us something we didn’t already know.
In no particular order, here are 50 reasons we think Melbourne is the best place in the world to live. Or visit.
50. Invented its own dance move
The Melbourne Shuffle, also known as Rocking, is a rave and club dance-style that evolved in the 1980s and involves fast heel-and-toe action.
49. Back alleyways where it’s safe to hang out
An organic development arising out of Melbourne’s planned, ultra-wide streets, its laneways are a hive of activity. From shopping on Degraves Street to dining on Hardware Lane, people-watching is covered.
More on CNNGo: Melbourne’s 7 funkiest laneways
48. Streets have musical names
Something about Corporation Lane just didn’t have a ring to it. Didn’t sound so funky. That’s why the same laneway is now called ACDC Lane, where you can rock off Cherry Bar, which claims to be the nation’s rock and roll capital.
Cherry Bar, 103 Flinders Lane City, +61 (0)3 9639 8122
47. Vinyl capital of the world
While the rest of the world goes digital, there are still about 50 vinyl record stores around Melbourne, staying alive in musical worship of everything from Bollywood funk and hip-hop and retro rock.
As well as the latest-pressed seven-inchers by local DJs, there are always bins of pre-loved and once-loved stuff.
That’s more stores and more records, per capita, than any other place in the world.
“None of us are making much money,” says Chris Gill, owner of Northside Records in Fitzroy. “But we’re happy.”
Northside Records, 236 Gertrude St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9417 7557
46. Free beer during haircuts
There are more than a few combination hairdresser/barber/tobacconists. At Doctor Follicles in Fitzroy, Richmond and St Kilda, you even get a free beer with your haircut. It’s the discerning man’s choice.
Dr. Follicles, 240 Gertrude St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9416 3999 143; Swan St., Richmond, +61 (0)3 9421 1844; 188c Barkly St., St Kilda, +61 (0)3 9593 9200
45. Melbourne Arts Centre looks like the Eiffel Tower
Most cities have to look at a postcard to dream of tower romance, but Melbourne has its own 168-meter-high imitation, with a life of its own. At the base, performance halls are home to opera, symphony and the Melbourne Festival.
Melbourne Arts Centre, 100 St. Kilda Road, City, +61 (0)3 9281 8000
More on CNNGo: Melbourne Festival Highlights
44. An esplanade that’s worth a harbor
Australia’s unofficial poet laureate, folk singer Paul Kelly, sings, “I’ll give you all of Sydney Harbour, all that land and all that water, for that one sweet promenade.”
“From St Kilda to Kings Cross” is an ode to the imported palm-lined bay in trendy St Kilda all-year round. What it lacks in beauty it makes up for with no surf, dirty water and the odd wino in the park -– but also a grungy beachside precinct that oozes character.
Almost calls for a walk along the bay to the Espy, where Kelly was a resident performer for years, to check the main hall or back room for some live acts from mod rock to hip-hop.
The Esplanade Hotel, 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, +61 (0)3 9534 0211
More on CNNGo: 5 legendary Aussie music venues
43. St Kilda is so cool that aliens have landed
For real. And it doesn’t look like they’re leaving. Maybe they like the bayside coffee.
Thank Smik Studio on Acland Street, who got local artists onto making a UFO crash through his roof.
42. Pub grub on a film set
The Union Club Hotel is a regular set for the TV series, “Offspring,” and many other shoots. The old-fashioned, round bar and lounges make it ideal.
It’s also a good place for a pot and pub grub at Lazy Susan’s Kitchen, where you can score Fat Chris’ Breakfast Burger, served with the lot and chips ($18).
Union Club Hotel, 164 Gore St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9417 2926
41. Cafés serve LSD
Too much coffee is unhealthy -– that’s why it’s always good to have mind-altering alternatives.
A latte of soy and dandelion (commonly known as LSD) is a fairly good taste imitation and healthier option than the much-ingested bean. Pick it up for $3.50 at a range of cafés, including local haunt the Galleon Café, just off Acland Street in St Kilda.
Galleon Café, 9 Carlisle St., St Kilda, +61 (0)3 9534 8934
40. Free trams
Ever since tram conductors were replaced by automated ticketing systems, Melbournians have joked that tram rides are free.
They can be, unless you’re caught by roaming ticket inspectors, in which case it’s a very expensive tram ride.
One tram that is truly free is the maroon City Circle tram, for which you really don’t need a ticket.
39. Soapboxes for clean speech
The soapbox on the State Library lawns is always open for whoever wants to vent. You can also venture into a grungy, inner-suburban pub on a weeknight for some performance poetry. Bring your spiel for open mike opportunities.
Passionate Tongues fortnightly Monday night event at the Brunswick Hotel. Spinning Room is on Tuesdays at ET’s in Prahran. Drunken Poets on the first Thursday of the month at The Drunken Poet, West Melbourne. The Dan Poets meet Saturday afternoons at the Dan O’Connell Hotel, Carlton. Westword is at the Dancing Dog Café in Footscray on the second and fourth Sunday of the month. Find details on Facebook.
38. Galaga in bars
You walk around some cities and wonder where all the pinball machines and video games have gone. Not in Melbourne, where vintage pinball machines and video games can be found in many bars and pubs.
You can enjoy a pot of tea or beer and play Galaga at the Black Cat, all while taking in alternative nights of hip-hop, dub step and garage.
The Black Cat, 252 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9419 6230
37. Neon signs that people actually like
The Skipping Girl Vinegar sign in Richmond — known as Little Audrey — was Australia’s first girl or guy in bright lights. She came to neon life in 1936 and in spite of short breaks in the 1960s and last decade, she recently came back to life after her bill was paid, much to the delight of the community.
36. It’s so bright it’s black
In Melbourne, black is the new black. Everyone wears it, especially women.
35. Culture vultures go Burlesque on Mondays
Monday nights are fairly diverse around the inner city. While some consider TV, the Burlesque Bar — a decorated terrace on Johnston Street — is all about that 1920s renaissance.
Burlesque Bar, 42 Johnston St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9415 8088
34. Monday is the new Saturday
To keep local students (and everyone else) happy, Cinema Nova on Lygon Street has half-price tickets on Mondays. Lygon Court even lets you park for free with a tick.
Cinema Nova, 380 Lygon St., Carlton, +61 (0)3 9347 5331, tickets $6 before 4 p.m. and $9 afterward
33. Public holiday for a horse race
If you need to go to the bank on the first Tuesday in November, all the money’s over at Flemington Racecourse where the Melbourne Cup is being run. The real banks are closed.
The classic two-miler is the unofficial staying championship of the world and carries $6 million in prize money. The bonus for the rest of the city is a day off.
While 100,000 or so get to the track, the bars around the city are full on Cup Day.
Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse, 400 Epsom Road, Flemington, 1300 727 575 (in Australia), www.vrc.net.au
32. Red shirts that are actually nice to you
If you see red shirts walking the city streets, don’t be alarmed. They’ll be your best friends if you get lost on Melbourne’s grid. They’re city volunteers with a wealth of local knowledge who’ll point you to the next block.
31. Street press with street cred
The Internet’s taking over the world –- yeah, yeah, heard ’bout all that.
But when it comes to community, good old-fashioned street press spreads the word at least as quickly as you can say, “Hey, I like this.”
Pick up pamphlets, flyers, mags and glad rags at bars and cafés all ‘round town.
30. Street art surrounds you
Melbourne has embraced street art: its cobblestone laneways are plastered with graffiti and stencil art. World-renowned British street artist Banksy loves the place and has contributed many works over the years.
Hosier Lane not only has spectacular works along its couple of hundred meters, but also off its intersection.
Check it out all ’round town.
29. Best souvlaki outside of Athens
The biggest Greek population outside of Athens — an estimated 800,000 — ensures plenty of souvlaki shops around Melbourne.
A late night on Brunswick Street could include some typically Melbourne Greek: lamb, tomato, onion, feta, tzaziki and chips rolled in pita bread.
At the Real Greek, you can even tuck into a “Stan the Man,” named after a Greek-Australian world kickboxing champion.
The Real Greek, 315 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9417 1414
More on CNNGo: Best eats in multicultural Melbourne
28. Parties for everyone
Melbourne has a thriving fetish culture. Players, pussycats, leatherists and swingers have created a strictly adults-only dance party scene. Just for fun.
And OK, many towns are liberal, but fetish can be the true test of openness, diversity and tolerance -– and livability, you know.
27. A post office where you can buy flowers
Most walk into the local postie to grab a postcard or stamp, but Melbourne residents go a step further. Pick up a bouquet for the missus or man out the front, or walk inside the GPO for some of the country’s best shopping.
Melbourne’s GPO, 350 Bourke St., City, +61 (0)3 9663 0066
26. More tattoo stores than you can poke a needle at
Hard finding a needle in a city? Not in Melbourne. The locals’ love of art appears on their bodies, too, which you can find at scores of tattoo parlors.
Chapel Tattoo in Prahran has eight eager tattooists in store, ready to bruise you with tribal patterns from around the world.
Chapel Tattoo, 155 Chapel St., Prahran, +61 (0)3 9521 1202
25. A square that looks more like a block
Thanks to the demolition of Gas and Fuel Corporation’s ugly twin towers in the late 1990s, Federation Square was built in time for Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001.
Open spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants are now around a building that is locally perceived as ugly. But it’s better than what was there before, and is now one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
Federation Square, Swanston Street, City, +61 (0)3 9655 1900
24. Play golf on a sand belt or in a bar
Thanks to its sand belt, Royal Melbourne is the most revered course in the country. The pros play there. A round will set the average hacker back a few hundred bucks.
Indoor types can head to Club 377 in the City, where an unlimited bucket of balls will set you back $8 for the evening, plus $4.50 for your beer.
377 Sports Club, 377 Lonsdale St., City, +61 (0)3 9670 5742
23. You can have a long, wet p—y and pick up a guy
The lewdly named cocktail at Priscilla’s is bi-orgasmic. Get in early for your vodka and peach schnapps topped with cranberry and lime and it’s half price –- the following drag show at Priscilla’s is on the house.
Priscilla’s, 153 Commercial Road, South Yarra, +61 (0)3 9827 1669
22. Sense of humor
Some blame omnipresent poker machines in other states, others say it’s due to a cooler climate. Whatever it is, Melbourne likes to laugh at least as much as any other Australian city about sport, politics, religion or anything else.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the annual laugh-fest.
21. A clown that eats you for fun
If you walk inside St Kilda’s big clown mouth it’ll cost you. It’s $43.95 for an adult, but less for kids. For that you’re promised Luna Park’s terrific temptations, such as Silly Serpent, Scenic Railway and Spider.
20. A sporting stadium you can fit a city in
Australia’s sporting coliseum, the MCG, can seat more than 100,000. If you count the amount of field space for one the world’s biggest cricket and AFL grounds, it’s a big place.
It makes some noise during a Boxing Day Test match or an AFL Grand Final.
19. Shout therapy acceptable at football matches
This is a town that loves football so much it invented its own game, Aussie Rules. The game has since been exported round the country, but nine of the 18 teams in the Australian Football League are based in Melbourne.
With teams averaging about 15 goals each per game, it means that even if your team is well-beaten, you can yell good-hearted abuse at the opposition.
And chances are your own team will score at least a goal, giving you a chance to alleviate a working week’s worth of stress.
18. Pedestrians get right of way in the city center
A large portion of Bourke Street, the shopping mecca in the heart of the city, has been a pedestrian- and tram-only mall since 1983. A section of Swanston Street, which intersects Bourke, has been free of private vehicles since the 1990s.
They meet to create an urban oasis where only trams, taxis, bicycles and horse-drawn carriages disrupt people getting about town the social way.
17. Big, gray towers bring a multicultural groove
Across Melbourne’s plains, villages of Victorian terraces are inundated with big, gray towers. You’re right: they’re 1960s, government-built housing estates, which “slum” neighborhoods were demolished for.
But old, working-class ‘hoods aren’t so easily gentrified. Many Sudanese still call funky Fitzroy home, in spite of the rents going up around them.
16. The residents are high
At 197 meters, Melbourne’s tallest building, Eureka Tower, is the second-tallest residential building in the world. And while some say that the 285-meter observation deck is too high, others throw caution to the wind and go for the Edge Experience, a glass cube that projects three meters outward.
15. Psytrance: Anyone can be a hippie
OK, it’s a bunch of hippies jumping up and down to a metronomic beat, but this local version of the techno-phenomenon is also a lot of fun. Grow out your dreads, find a bush gig and join in the spiritual, shamanic, ritual fun.
14. Cheap strawberries and feta cheese in the same breath
Officially titled Queen Victoria Market, but colloquially known as the “Vic Market,” this open-air mart has been the scene of friendly competition, “I’ll throw in another one for free,” and “She’ll be right in a couple of days,” since 1878.
It’s full of old-world charm and friendly competition between stallholders and draws millions of visitors each year. Apart from fruit, you can buy meat, fish, clothing, coffee and churros — just about anything.
Queen Victoria Market, 513 Elizabeth St., City, +61 (0)3 9320 5822, market opens 6 a.m. daily (9 a.m. Sundays) and trades until the afternoon. Closed Monday and Wednesday.
13. Festival with a silly name
So why is country’s biggest free community festival called Moomba? Does the Aboriginal word mean “let’s get together and have fun,” as some originally suggested — or has the city been saying “bottom fun” in indigenous lingo since 1955?
12. Living history
The gold rush boom of the 19th century resulted in the construction of iconic buildings, such as Flinders Street Station (generations of Melbournians have arranged to “meet you under the clocks”) and the Royal Exhibition Building, built for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Construction also spread throughout the suburbs, which hang on to a largely Victorian-era-built city perimeter.
That means a bunch of students can share a cheap terrace near university and not be that special.
11. You can buy a formal hat at the train station
A thowback to a time when no gangster would be caught dead without their trilby, you can always grab a top hat in transit to keep you warm and stylish.
City Hatters, 221 Flinders St., Melbourne, +61 3 9614 3294, www.cityhatters.com.au.
10. Smelly shoes pass off as art
Anything and everything is art in Melbourne. It has no boundaries. Though when a collection of shoes passes as an art installation, questions have to be asked.
9. Shop Sui you can’t eat
Shop Sui is a boutique store that sells everything from doll clothes to homeware designs. Typical of boutique shopping in Melbourne, the shopping is tasty.
Shop Sui, 227 Gertrude St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9415 9588
8. A bay you can loop in a day
Start in Melbourne and wind through wine districts of Mornington, then down to the historic towns of Portsea and Sorrento. From there, jump or drive on the boat to Queenscliffe –- from there you’re in the home straight: Melbourne via Geelong.
The 40-minute car and passenger ferry leaves on the hour during daylight hours, every day of the year, www.searoad.com.au
7. Residential factories
While the rest of the world knocks down history, Melbourne integrates heritage. The old Collingwood department store, Foy & Gibson, is typical. It once belonged to the big end of town, but now belongs to whoever has six-figure spare cash for an integrated studio apartment.
Old buildings sit in an inner city where grandeur and gutter are dichotomous. Very Oscar Wilde.
6. Bike paths that stretch to Canberra
OK, you could cycle to Canberra, anyway — if you’re Cadel Evans. But there are 670 kilometers of bike paths around the city, which would get you to Canberra with 10 kilometers to spare. By then you’d be out-pedalling Amsterdam.
5. Australia’s first espresso machine
The nation’s first espresso machine popped up on Lygon Street, Carlton, less than half a century ago. To say it’s caught on would be an understatement.
May as well go where it all began and order a coffee or bowl of pasta among street-side dining so magnifico it could easily squeeze into Florence.
The Grinders Coffee store on Lygon Street is where Giancarlo first roasted beans in Melbourne — and still does for local cafés.
Grinders Coffee, 277 Lygon St., Carlton, +61 (0)3 9347 7520
4. There’s something to love about pre-loves
Roll up to cool gigs in grungy fashion. The range of second-hand stores in Melbourne could truly clothe a city, so don’t fret if your wardrobe is looking a bit too neat and business-like.
3. An airport that’s easy to get to and away from
It’s just as important to get out of a big city as it is to get to it. Slow transport to the major airport can be a rip-off, a waste of time or cause you to miss your flight.
Skybus operates between the city and airport for $16, gets you there in 20 minutes and leaves every 10 minutes.
Skybus, Southern Cross Station-Tullamarine
2. If there’s nothing else to do, you can go to Kent St
About a decade ago, a piece of toilet humor appeared in a bathroom wall on Smith Street.
It read, “F this, I’m going to Kent St”. Must have resonated with the masses, as replica stickers of this off-the-cuff expression have now made their way around the world. They’ve even been spotted in Moscow.
And why not? At Kent St (a bar/café) people with similar sentiments can grab a coffee by day and beer by night, in an art deco terrace while playing board games, writing scripts and listening to local DJs.
Kent St, 201 Smith St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9419 6346
1. Culture really is important
As the Melbourne Festival draws to a grand finale, people rightly ask why Melbourne just does these culture gigs a little more naturally.
Festival director Brett Sheehy weighs in: “One thing that distinguishes Melbourne from other cities is the average woman and man on the street will say that arts and culture are a critical part of the town.”
And that’s easy to live with.
50 reasons Melbourne is the world’s most livable city