Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and the largest city and capital of the state of Victoria. Melbourne is regularly ranked in the top 5 of most liveable cities in the world.
The city is a melting pot with over a quarter of the population being born overseas. There are approximately 60 cultural groups speaking 170 languages, giving this City its unique character. Because Melbourne is a cultural melting pot, there exists an unrivalled passion for dining which is evident in the thousands of restaurants that serve up cuisine from around the world. Melbourne's recognition as the cultural capital of Australia is supported by many film and food festivals, art exhibitions, and musicals. The city is also famous for events like the Australian Grand Prix or the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.
Melbourne is built around Port Phillip Bay and extends west into the plains and east into the Dandenongs hills. The climate is liable to extremes through out the year from very hot to cold. The weather is also unpredictable and as they say, you can experience all four seasons in one day. Melbourne's many parks also eccentuate the changing seasons throughout the year.
Melbourne has the biggest tram network in the world. The network consists mainly of roads, but also has some light rail routes. The trams are iconic and recognised as cultural assets. Heritage trams offer free rides around an inner city circular route.
Melbourne is known for its extensive network of lively city lanes which include Block Place, Royal Arcade, Centre Place, and Chinatown. They contain a huge variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes almost hidden away and waiting to be discovered.
Federation Square (Fed Square) is a civic centre and cultural corner of the city. It is centred around two public spaces, St. Paul's Court and The Square. It is Victoria's second most popular tourist attraction.
On the perimeter of Fed Square is the Yarra River and the famous Yarra River Walk which gives access and views to many attractions in Melbourne. Across the Yarra River is the inner-city suburb of Southbank. Once an industrial area, it is now an area of modern highrise apartments including the highest apartment block in the world. Among these modern scrapers are many older heritage buildings including the Victorian Arts Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Victorian College of the Arts campus, Victoria Barracks, and the Malthouse Theatre. Views of Melbourne's CBD are unhindered if you walk along the bank of the Yarra River. The famous Crown Casino is located on the river bank. It is the largest casino in Australia.
St Kilda is an outer suburb on Port Phillip Bay. It has the best beach in Melbourne as well as street markets, artists, musicians, and alternative cultures. Shops and coffee houses are plenty especially around Acland Street and Fitzroy Street. There are a number of stately mansions (Victorian and Edwardian) located here as the suburb was a favourite place to live for the wealthy during the mid nineteenth to early twentieth century. Later, it became Australia's version of Coney Island with Luna Park a popular theme park that still exists to this day.
Melburnians love sport and particularly Australian Rules football a sport that started in Melbourne. The national competition (AFL) has 16 teams, with over half the league being based in Melbourne. Horseracing is also popular. The Melbourne Cup for example is one of the world'sgreat horse races and the event is marked with a public holiday on the first Tuesday of November. The main summer sport is Cricket and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one of the world's leading grounds. Every January, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open one of the four Grand Slam tennis championships and March is the the start of the Formula One Grand Prix season which takes place in Melbourne.
Melbourne has a number of attractions outside the city worth visiting. The Dandenong Ranges allow you to disappear from the city and in less than one hour enjoy the solitude and scenery of fern glades, tall forests, and small rural villages.
Phillip Island is the place to see little penguins emerge from the water. There are also a number of sheltered bays, surf beaches, blowholes, caves and rock formations.
The most popular attraction is the Great Ocean Road which is considered the most scenic coastal route in the country. The road takes you to a number of towns that are famous for their surf such as Torquay and Queenscliff. Bells Beach is located here and is the home to the world's longest-running professional surfing event, the Rip Curl Pro. But the attractions don't stop there. Port Campbell National Park onroute has many spectacular coastal features such as coastal cliffs, gorges, arches, islets, and blow-holes. The main attraction here is the Twelve Apostles a series of huge rock stacks. Otway National Park is also on this road. It is the largest temperate forest area on mainland Australia and besides beautiful rainforest and waterfalls, there are many animals here including koalas, kangaroos, and many beautiful native birds. This road is also a main route to Adelaide in South Australia.
Another popular area outside Melbourne is Gippsland and the The Great Alpine Road. You could head up to the snowy peaks of Mt Baw Baw or walk a trail during summer when the snow is gone. You can also drive to Gippsland's rugged coastline or hike trails at Wilsons Promontory National Park.