A guide to discover Melbourne, Australia, the world’s most livable city
An immersion in the city which keeps getting voted the best place in the world to live, year after year
When Melbourne, Sydney’s less famous sibling and the capital of the state of Victoria, made it to the top of the Economist’s list of the world’s most livable cities, it came as no surprise to its residents. Anyone who lives there knows that nowhere else has better security, population density and access to education – so much so that the city has earned the top spot six years straight. Thanks to a new LATAM flight, to be introduced in October, it will be even easier to discover the other reasons that make Melbourne the best place in the world: its beauty, personality and lasting good humor.
The neighborhoods from A to Z
Intercut by the Yarra River, the city is divided between the more traditional Southside and the hip Northside. Its banks are a neutral zone, attracting all sorts of people who come to sunbathe and chat
Central Business District (CBD)
Suits, students and tourists can be seen heading every which way in Melbourne’s commercial and financial district. The main focus is on Federation Square, a contemporary plaza made of concrete that unites a number of avenues. But it is behind it that CBD’s life pulsates. The broad blocks are home to a jumble of lanes and alleys lined with restaurants, cafés and charming little shops. One of these roads, Hosier Lane, is covered from top to bottom in graffiti. Another, ACDC Lane, is home to the Cherry Club, a Melbourne institution for live music.
Fitzroy and Collingwood
The out-there haircuts and stylish clothes signal that you’re in the hip section of town, but this doesn’t mean that only hipsters are allowed. The bordering neighborhoods are populated by families and curious visitors as much as bearded young scenesters. The main avenues – Brunswick, Gertrude and Smith – are home to a parade of thrift shops and design stores. On George Street, stop by Third Drawer Down, which sells all sorts of useless items that you never knew you needed, like inflatable flamingos for the pool. Nearby, you’ll find the Messina ice cream shop, which offers creamy gelato and creative cakes. At the end of the day, the best thing is to head to the bar Naked for Satan – don’t let the name scare you, and go up to the terrace, called Naked in the Sky, where they serve some of the best mixed drinks in town with the Australian sunset in the background.
In the blink of an eye, Melbourne turns into a different city. The cosmopolitan energy gives way to a lazier rhythm and the smell of the ocean lets you know that the beach is close by. Many of the immigrant communities, including Italians, Irish and Jews, that came to Australia chose to settle in St. Kilda. Aside from the beach, the best reason to visit the region is Acland Street, home to shops selling delicious Polish pastries. At Monarch Cakes, make sure to try the kugel (a pastry made of sweet potato) and a slice of Polish cheesecake, while you listen to the owner Gideon’s hilarious stories.
Good food (but coffee first)
Melbourne’s passion for coffee is translated in numbers: there are over 3,000 establishments specializing in the beverage scattered throughout the city. They range from enormous to minuscule, like Patricia Coffee Brewers; from the traditional to the hyper-modern, like Sensory Lab; from the fast joints, as is the norm, to those that invite you to spend long hours, like the friendly Krimper.
When they aren’t feeding their caffeine addictions, locals like to eat, and eat well. Specializing in Asian cuisine, which has a strong influence on local cooking, Chin Chin serves up Thai creations in a setting that resembles a factory. But if you’re looking to have a good burger and a glass of wine, there’s no better place than Arbory, an informal restaurant by the banks of the river which gets crowded every weeknight.
On the streets
Thanks to its excellent public transportation (the trams are free in the center and the entire public transit system runs 24 hours on weekends) and the amount of free activities, Melbourne has developed a strong culture for enjoying public space. Due to pressure from locals, graffiti was allowed on several thoroughfares and almost all the museums are free – the National Gallery of Victoria, for example, has an excellent permanent collection and interactive works in the garden.
The architecture has also become an unmistakable local trademark. Like some kind of beauty contest, each new building tries to outdo the others, either in lavishness or minimalism. Federation Square sets the pace, directly from the heart of the CBD, with its immense triangles of steel and copper. A few blocks away, the Melbourne Theatre Company projects geometric shapes in 3D on its entire surface area. Even the private buildings have gotten in on the craze, like the Digital Harbour Port 1010, whose facade effects an optical illusion, and The Icon, which looks like it’s made out of Legos. In Melbourne, after all, the important thing is to have personality – no matter what it is.
The great ocean
Roughly 137 miles [220 km] from downtown Melbourne, a coastal drive unveils one of the most beautiful sceneries in the territory of Victoria. The scenic Great Ocean Road passes by beaches with crystal-clear waters, cliffs, forests and the famous Twelve Apostles, rock formations sculpted by the sea. Along the way, it’s normal to see koalas and kangaroos, unless the weather is extremely hot.
LATAM has direct flights to Melbourne from Santiago.
Special thanks to: Tourism Australia, Visit Victoria, Crown Metropol, Hidden Secrets Tours, Melbourne Private Tours, Localling Tours Melbourne