Cities on Sunday – Melbourne

Yes! It’s time to highlight my own home town, the Victorian city of Melbourne in the south-east of Australia. How do I start though? What should I talk about? The bad points – crime, the sorry state of public transport?? (although the trams are cool) Or should I be unashamedly biased and only say good things even though surely not everything can be perfect?

So then, the task ultimately is to balance everything out, isn’t it? The fact is people come to Melbourne, and those that do, love Melbourne more often than not. It’s a city blessed with as wide a range of eating out options as any city of 4-5 million in the world I think I could comfortably say. And that’s a major highlight.

For the visitor well, there is plenty to do and see. Personally, I always recommend the Old Melbourne Gaol, the place is incredibly atmospheric – and creepy, and well, it’s the place where Victoria’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, was hanged many years ago now.

Melbourne has an excellent museum too, and I think the part that details the history and growth of Australia’s second city is particularly interesting. It has a range of exhibits, some are temporary, and there’s always something interesting showing at the IMAX theatre connected to it.

The Melbourne Zoo is not commonly rated as highly as Toronga Zoo in Sydney, however I think it’s a very fine zoo and there is lots of fun and excitement for children. And yes – you get to see the wildlife indigenous to Australia from koalas to kangaroos and even the occasional Tasmanian Devil. And because every zoo must have them, no they are not Australian, there are meercats. There’s also a good reptile selection.

King penguins at Melbourne Aquarium.

To add to the zoo, there is also a great Aquarium in Melbourne where you can see all sorts of strange marine life, and the highlight too – the penguins of course!

The city is always abuzz, there is always action of some kind or other at Federation Square, whatever us locals may think of its design. There’s information there too for the visitor. It’s opposite Finders Street station, always busy, and opposite St Paul’s church, an historic Anglican church worth a look in.

That’s not too far from Melbourne Town Hall, which is especially busy during the Comedy Festival in March/April each year. That’s just one of the many Melbourne festivals – there’s the Fringe and Art Festivals, Midsummer and much more.

The city’s showpiece festival is Moomba, which happens in March (usually early). It features a big lavish parade and every year they name someone famous to be the ‘Moomba Monarch’.

The Crown Casino fireshow, with the Melbourne skyline reflected off the Yarra river

If gambling is your scene, or even if it’s not, then Melbourne’s Crown Casino could be worth some time. It’s location is pristine at Southbank along the banks of the Yarra River. Outside, along the river, in the evening huge balls of fire ascend to the sky from there. There is a huge range of eateries attached to Crown, a cinema and shops.

Melbourne isn’t a bad city I’m told for shopping. Sure, it’s expensive, almost as expensive as Sydney, but it doesn’t matter to those with a shopping obsession. Right? Plenty of places for fashion in Melbourne.

Transport is a mixed bag. The trains are quite unreliable, and can struggle in extreme heat. Which does happen pretty regularly in Summer in Melbourne! Trams are a different thing altogether – they are great for getting around the inner city, and there even is a free circle tram in the CBD. If you fancy a different way of dining, well, there’s also a restaurant tram.

Another sunny Melbourne day. 😉

Otherwise there are buses. For long distance – ok, but I don’t know, time tables certainly don’t mean a thing in the suburbs. For boating you can take boats or ferries on the Yarra River, have dinner on a cruise, but not used for public transport as a general rule.

At the footy on Sunday afternoon!

Melbourne is Australia’s sporting capital, or so we are told. If you like cricket, the MCG offers international matches each summer. In winter it’s Aussie Rules Football all round – my favourite game. At the MCG or Etihad Stadium. Then you have the rugby, soccer, and in January the tennis – the Australian Open! There’s always sport going on in Melbourne.

I realise though, that generally this has all been positive, and Melbourne has its minuses as well. I mentioned crime, and it has certainly been on the increase in the last decade or so. Not that it’s anything to be alarmed about, but you do need to exercise big city smarts especially at night.

Sadly, homelessness is something that seems to have increased dramatically of late. It’s really quite visible in certain areas of the CBD. It’s a sad reflection of Australia, where we have, compared to say the UK, a substantial shortfall of public housing, and we sadly don’t care for those with mental health problems in a decent way too.

Don’t let that stop you from visiting Melbourne. But please do be mindful! It’s home to many people who will never have the chance to travel and visit other cities themselves. There is a good ABC article I encourage you to read – HERE.

Any city has its good and bad points, and its points that can bring the truth of the life we are fortunate to lead into perspective. But it is a great city to visit. So please do – and why not say hello? Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End!

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