Why Everyone Wants to Move to Melbourne

Before I traveled to Melbourne, I pressed friends who lived there for suggestions and advice. “You’re going to want to move here,” one warned. “Just be aware.”

Melbourne’s status as a supremely livable city is well-documented, as is its outstanding café culture.

And though the coffee tasted great no matter where I went, it was the local approach to drinking it—the unhurried pace, joie de vivre, and enthusiasm for connecting with other people—that came to define the city for me.

“Melburnians are some of the nicest and most hospitable people I know,” Melbourne-based globe-trotter Marly Lutters told me. “Before you know it, you might be sharing your cheeses, dips, and crackers with the person sitting next to you.”

With its unique blend of nature and culture, Victoria’s coastal capital ranks as one of the world’s greatest urban destinations. Even if you don’t end up moving to Melbourne, here are a few reasons you might be tempted.

> Perfect Balance

Every local I talked to extolled Melbourne’s world-class restaurants, easy-to-use public transit system, hip art scene, and cornucopia of green spaces.

“What’s not to love?” asks Matt Sharpe, assistant manager at Hotel Lindrum, a cool, comfortable boutique property with an ideal Flinders Street location and the best breakfast around. “In Melbourne, you can be yourself. No matter your style, personality, or background, you will be among friends.”

Hotel Lindrum is housed in a heritage building in downtown Melbourne that was once a billiard hall. (Photograph by rodeime, flickr)
Hotel Lindrum is housed in a heritage building that was once a billiard hall. (Photograph by rodeime, flickr)

For chef Scott Pickett, a Melbourne native who launched local favorite Saint Crispin in 2014, the city’s greatest appeal lies in the diversity of its cultural offerings. Beyond its “thriving hospitality and food scene,” he cites sporting events like the Australian Open and the Australian Football League’s Grand Final as major draws. Plus, Sharpe adds, “the National Gallery of Victoria always has world-class exhibitions, and the Heide Museum of Modern Art never disappoints.”

And then there are the gorgeous landscapes to be found in and around Melbourne. The bayside city is located a short driving distance from idyllic escapes like the Yarra Valley wine region and Mornington Peninsula, while Yarra Bend Park provides a swath of natural bushland near the heart of Melbourne. “Charting a boat from Victorian Yacht Charters and sailing Port Phillip is another great way to spend the afternoon,” Sharpe says.

“I love the options,” my friend Robyn Parker tells me. “You can enjoy a night in town with dinner and a show, escape to a winery for an open-air concert, or head into the bush for a picnic and a walk—all in one weekend!”

> Pellegrini’s 

You’ll run into artisanal coffee shops on practically every street in Melbourne.

But if you’re looking to trace the roots of the city’s caffeine-fueled obsession, look no further than Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, a longtime local favorite that claims to have brought the first espresso machine to Victoria’s capital in 1954. “Pellegrini’s is authentic and quintessentially Melbourne,” says Anthony Goldman of Travelcall.

> Street Appeal 

Melbourne’s Central Business District boasts an incredible grid of 19th-century lanes and arcades, many of which make you feel as if you’re in on some sort of secret.

“I have lived in this great and enigmatic city for seven years, yet still find many hidden treasures,” Sharpe reports.

Don’t hesitate to get a bit lost, advises Lori Latus, an American expat living in the city. “It’s how you find some of the more interesting shops,” she says. Two of her favorite streets? ACDC Lane, which pays homage to Australia’s most famous band, and Flinders Lane.

Parker recommends Little Bourke and Little Collins streets. “They have real stores, not chains,” she says.

> Rooftop Revelry With a Side of History

Naked in the Sky, part of a three-story complex called Naked for Satan, is a favorite rooftop spot for many locals, Lutters among them.

The establishment’s provocative name pays homage to Melbourne legend Leon Satanovich, who came to the city in 1928 to work as a cleaner and caretaker at the Moran & Cato grocery after fleeing the Russian pogroms. When the Great Depression struck and the price of alcohol was at a premium, Satanovich, whose name had been by then affectionately shortened to Satan, decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by making vodka with a few copper boilers he had found in the shop’s warehouse.

The story goes that Melbourne’s soaring summer temperatures combined with the heat coming off the stills made working conditions unbearable. Satanovich’s solution was to ply his trade virtually naked, often wearing only his underpants. When friends and customers came by, eager to partake of his moonshine, they used a code to gain entry: “Let’s get naked for Satan.”

Today, the namesake bar and restaurant keeps Satanovich’s legacy alive with its own brand of infused vodkas and keeps patrons on their feet with a delicious array of pintxos, traditional Basque bar bites.

“True story or not, the restaurant today is beautifully decorated with copper boilers and pipes, and classical pictures of naked people in the hallways,” Lutters says. “Visitors simply grab a plate, select the pintxos they would like to try, and pay for the amount of toothpicks in the end,” she explains.

Yarra Bend Park (Photograph by yewenyi, flickr)
Yarra Bend Park (Photograph by yewenyi, flickr)

> Penguins on the Pier

Phillip Island, two hours from Melbourne, may be famous for its nightly Penguin Parade. But the waddling birds (at least about 100 of them) can be found just a few miles from the city center, too.

“All you have to do is walk to the end of the pier in [the suburb of] St. Kilda to see the penguins returning at dusk to feed their chicks,” Latus says. “Have a lovely fish-and-chips picnic on the beach, then [pay the birds] a visit.”

Lutters offers another tip: “The St. Kilda Pavilion, a historic Edwardian kiosk at the end of the pier, is a great place to relax with a cup of coffee and take in your surroundings.”

> “Chloé”

Chloé,” an oil portrait of a young woman sans vêtements painted by French artist Jules Lefebvre in 1875, caused such a scandal in Melbourne that it had to be prematurely removed from an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Now the nubile nude hangs in the Young and Jackson Hotel.

“She was bought for [850 guineas] by the Irish owners of the hotel in 1908 in an attempt to make more ‘young blokes’ have a pint at the bar,” Lutters says. Still staring temptingly back at curious hotel guests and visitors, the painted lady is rumored to be worth millions.

> Bustling Markets 

As Latus sees it, the Queen Victoria Market is “where locals and tourists converge” in Melbourne. “The butchers and fishmongers shouting to sell their wares can sound rather musical, even operatic, when they get really worked up.”

And don’t even think about leaving before you’ve tried a börek, a traditional Turkish pastry Latus calls a “Vic market obsession and tradition.” If you have trouble finding the stall (it’s in the delicatessen section), “just look for the mob of people,” she advises.

About two miles south, just across the Yarra River, is where you’ll find what Brydie Hargadon characterizes as the younger sister of the Queen Victoria Market. The South Melbourne Market “is full of great produce, crafts, and flowers,” she says. Her recommendation for a winning plan of attack: “Make sure to get a caramel doughnut before you start shopping.”

Annie Fitzsimmons is Nat Geo Travel’s Urban Insider, exploring the cities of the world with style. Follow her adventures in Victoria, Australia, on Twitter @anniefitz and on Instagram @anniefitzsimmons.

Comments

  1. Emma
    United kingdom
    March 13, 1:18 pm

    I really loved Australia ! I would move over in a heartbeat but the problem is I am from the uk, and the only way to get to move over is you’d have to be a GP or a teacher :( I am none of them I’m knackered lol.

  2. Paul
    Melbourne
    January 27, 10:26 am

    Realistically speaking Melbourne can only be considered such a cultural centre by the parochial ozzy or the first time out of Asia backpacker. Someone told you it’s a liveable city and convinced you that coffee and culture cost an arm and a leg or that Melbourne and Sydney somehow are worth the countless hours of traffic jams or the million dollars to buy a home in the suburbs. To the sheep… go and live there! Buy a million dollar home and live in the suburbs while seeking the coffee culture among the hoboz that this article is fibbing you about. See how long before you are so far in debt and on prosac just like everyone else. Make AFL your cultural lubricant and forget that the police state has turned you into a tax generating pown paying into a superannuation system that you will never get.. It’s OK go back to sleep!

    I’m born and raised in Melbourne but have had the chance to see over 100 countries thus far and whoever believes Melbourne.. Alas… Australia is the best place.. By all means go for it… You take chadstone shopping center and I’ll take Barcelona, Tokyo or a place called New York… You should try it when you wake up and decide to think for yourself.

  3. Saddle
    Brisbane
    January 20, 4:13 am

    After visiting Melbourne this month, would we go back? Well no. We could not get over the contrast between the towns in the Victorian countryside and Melbourne. Yes there’s lots of cafes and night life, but you have to overlook the people begging for money, the street and car people (living there) , the graffiti on everything, the litter and the bizzare ‘off’ smell in the centre of town around Flinders Station and Federation Square. It was a very disturbing visit/holiday in the capital. Melbournians need to learn to not treat some like they don’t exist. We are not saying it doesn’t exist but we saw nohting like that in other places like Bendigo and Warnambool.

  4. Frances Hammer
    Melbourne
    January 18, 8:27 am

    I am Melbourne born and raised Love Melbourne and Victoria in general. Returned this morning after 5 days in Hong Kong and appreciate it even more BUT the Octopus card and the MTR was absolutely fabulous- would that Melbourne could have a PT system that was like that

  5. QuorumSententiam
    Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
    January 17, 6:50 am

    Melbourne is indeed an incredible city and boasts some of Australia’s best town planning and high Victorian architecture, but people do forget too easily how it got there. Melbourne was built on the plundering of the surrounding area; both the taxation and tight regulations of the goldfields of regional Victoria and the labor-force of Tasmania that pretty much killed the state in a crippling great depression that lasted over 40 years. The ongoing issues that plague Tasmania both in unemployment and poor education rates has nothing to do with being an island or the weak scape-goat of ‘convict class’ but instead loans itself to the rise of Melbourne (not to mention that much of the ‘convict class’ were relocated to Melbourne leaving Launceston, in particular, stuck in a major labor shortage when the city was at its most pivotal point of growth). Launceston (the city that founded Melbourne in 1836) was ultimately killed by Melbourne when almost the entire working population was relocated to build the new colony and when the gold rush hit in 1851, even more of Tasmania’s (as a whole) population was relocated as gold-fever struck. Melbourne then diverted all wealth from the goldfields towards itself, effectively killing its twin city of Geelong (founded only 2 days after Melbourne) followed by tight regulations and taxing that bled the goldfields dry and when the rush finally dried up, most of the Tasmanian’s who migrated to make their fortunes were left stranded in Melbourne therefore boosting its population and further cementing the under-population of Tasmania. The entire region of southeast Australia (especially Tasmania) has suffered under the popularity of Melbourne and the trend continues to this day with usually the best and most entrepreneuring minds (those that have the potential to turn the economy of the surrounding area around) instead leave for Melbourne. People prefer to run from problems than fix them and as a result, the weak grow weaker and the strong grow stronger. For there to be winners, there must be losers and Melbourne’s glory is built on the husks of several cities that it single-handedly decimated and this legacy is as strong today as it was when it started over a century and a half ago.

  6. Bob Scurry
    Ballarat
    January 17, 12:00 am

    You could also mention Prahran Market and nearby Chapel Street, just a short tram ride from central Melbourne. And how about Melbourne’s live music options many of which are free.

  7. Leanne
    Melbourne
    January 16, 7:36 pm

    Thanks for a fabulous snapshot of my birth place and physical and spiritual home. You really nailed it! A day trip to Hepburn Springs is also a highlight, new years eve fireworks from the top of the shopping centre opposite the Skipping Girl, brunch at Mr Wednesday in Fairfield (or brunch pretty much anywhere in the north.. Fitzroy, Northcote, Brunswick). And if the crowds are too much on the Mornington peninsula, head down to the Bellarine. It’s gorgeous!

  8. Karl
    Australia
    January 13, 11:45 pm

    After living and working in Melbourne for a number of years, I have quite the opposite opinion. I find it bleak and often overbearing. The prevalence of the church of AFL becomes so depressing at times. The weather is ridiculous for a “livable” city, (40 deg one day, the next 14, cold and raining)
    The food and coffee are good, but you can find that in any major city now and even some rural areas have excellent restaurants.
    The traffic gridlocks and old outdated public transport is nightmare inducing.

    After spending time in Brisbane, I think it’s a much better city than Melbourne.

  9. scottydawg
    Australia
    January 12, 8:55 pm

    I dont get what all the fuss about Melbourne is to be honest. Ive lived here 18 years and I find it quite boring. The history,culture, and the hot summer,Its all ok if you love food and sport but otherwise…dull! Ive had enough and Im ready to leave.

  10. Andreas
    Melbourne, Australia
    January 12, 4:22 am

    Pretty good article and some very nice recommendations. Living here now for 10 years I agree that it is a beautiful city. It might not have the sights of Sydney but it is a great city to live in. Just miss the snow … but hey in winter you could just drive to Lake Mountain.

    Andreas
    http://www.fresphotography.com.au

  11. Belle
    Melbourne
    January 11, 7:25 am

    You forgot the Footscray market too – amazing Asian produce, and super cheap, near the best Vietnamese food in town. The Nicholson building is spectacular – the old heart of sewing in Melbourne, and still a hub for amazing haberdashery shops and the place where Shantaram was written. The comedy festival is also a winner, with comedians all over the world gathering to perform and there are amazing bands in all sorts of bars every day of the week. I do love this town. <3

    • Annie Fitzsimmons
      January 13, 4:38 pm

      Thanks for this tip! Have to go back…

  12. Deshghuri
    Dhaka, Bangladesh
    January 8, 10:16 am

    Well … reading the articular we wander how about living and traveling just an opposite city in the world …. Yes, I am taking about Dhaka ….. if you are want to get a bit of opposite experience, try this out …..

    http://www.deshghuri.com/old-dhaka-day-tour/

  13. huusein tarhini
    January 7, 9:59 am

    its amazing that among the top six livable cities three of which are in canada