Melbourne: a city to live in

Melbourne: a city to live in

There are some cities in the world that are amazing to visit: full of sights to see, picturesque vistas, locals that look like they climbed out of a stereotype (Paris instantly springs to mind). There are other cities in the world that may not top the list of most popular vacation destinations, but those who live there have just a whisper of smart satisfaction–they know they’re living the good life.

Centre Place graffiti alley in Melbourne CBD, Australia

Melbourne is often at the top of the list of the world’s most liveable cities (falling just short to Vancouver the last two years). Education and healthcare are two of the biggest factors in determining a city’s liveability, and although neither really apply to me, I’ve still fallen in love with the quality of life in Melbourne.

It’s a city of doing and living, not seeing and pointing. Ask Melburnians what you have to do in Melbourne, and they’re likely to recommend an alleyway café, a current museum exhibit or an afternoon wandering through St Kilda.

Tree lined tramway in Melbourne, Australia in autumn

Open spaces: Within a one-block radius of my apartment in St Kilda, I have a stretch of sandy beach, a palm-tree-studded green, a community vegetable garden and a park with a rugby pitch and playground. On my way to the city on the 96 tram, I pass Albert Park—complete with golf course, several football fields and a swan-filled lake. On my way to the city on the 16 tram, I pass the Royal Botanic Gardens, filled with flowering gardens, towering trees and the Shrine of Remembrance. Basically, I’m not starved for green spaces—and unlike France, you’re actually allowed to walk on the grass!

Events: There always seems to be something on in Melbourne. Whether it’s the recent International Comedy Festival or the upcoming International Jazz Festival, it seems like the city of Melbourne takes a real interest in providing cultural activities for its citizens—and Melburnians take them up on it.

Girl playing in Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

Crime rates: The one thing that has struck me in Australia is how safe I feel. There are certainly areas that I avoid when alone, especially after dark—but I feel safer getting home by myself at night in Melbourne than I did in my small college town or in Nice.

Café culture: Chatting with other American expats, we all agree on one thing: living in Melbourne has turned us into coffee snobs. Australia has a very specific coffee lingo—one that relies on a combination of long and short, black and white, flat and hot. Yet the quality of coffee in some cafes is absolutely superb: I still remember sipping my latte on a sunny afternoon at Café Racer, and thinking that this was absolutely the best coffee I’d ever tasted.

Street art in Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia

Street art: I always feel like cities without street art are play cities: they just don’t feel lived in. What I love about Melbourne is the frequency and variety of the street art. There are graffiti lanes in every suburb, alleyways that seem dedicated to street art in the CBD. Some are absolute works of art, others are business-sponsored murals, many are simply tagging. But I’m struck by how often I actually stop in my path to soak up the vivid colors and brilliant creativity in a city often plagued by gray skies.

Markets: While the Queen Victoria market is quite simply the best market in Melbourne for price, variety and quality, there are a number of other markets throughout the city with excellent picks. The community vegetable garden in St Kilda sponsors a farmers market on the first Saturday of each month, featuring only local and mostly organic producers.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia

Commutes: The only blight on Melbourne’s quality of life rating is the length of the commute (while one study places it worse than New York and Los Angeles, I seriously doubt that). While I do have a roughly 40-minute commute each day—about 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes on a tram in traffic—it’s a fairly productive time for me. The power walking is a good mini-workout, and my tram time is when I catch up on my pleasure reading–much better than sitting in traffic.

What makes a city “liveable” for you?

  • I had heard Melbourne was a great artsy city – and seeing this wonderful street art confirms that info!

    I think that what makes a city livable is the quality of life you have, which is a question of priority. Some people don’t mind spending half their income on a sumptuous accommodation, while others would rather experience culture or sports or restaurants. But definitely, Melbourne seems to have it all!

  • I think you’re spot on about Melbourne – it is a great city to live in! And coming from someone who lives in and loves Sydney, that’s saying a lot 😉 

    One thing I can’t stand is the weather though – sunny, raining, or hailing all within hours of each other? Definitely not my thing. The lack of beaches would drive me insane too! But all that aside, I love the coffee culture, the cobblestone laneways, the funny trams and almost-European flair of the city… the food and nightlife scenes are pretty amazing as well.

    Glad to see Melbourne is treating you well, soak it all up! 🙂 x

  • I don’t know much about Melbourne so I loved reading this! 

  • I have to say that I’m with Brenna on this one.  I never knew much about Melbourne but is does seem like a great place to visit.  The weather does seem like south Florida though compared to what Mary is saying. 

    Love the photos!

  • I loved Melbourne for all the reasons you listed. We were staying in St. Kilda and had the same awesome commute into the city center. The alleyway cafes quickly won my heart and the street art was definitely the cherry on top. I also loved all the markets around the city. I’d love to stay in Melbourne a few months!

  • Anonymous

    I may be from Adelaide, but Melbourne has a big piece of my heart (ironic considering I grew up hating the place but now live there!) I love Melbournes vibrance (and coffee… shhhhh!) Hope you’ve checked out Degraves St if you want some good coffee!
    I do find it interesting that you feel safer in Melbourne than in Nice or in your college town. Melbourne’s crime rates, mainly the city and outer outer suburbs, are something that is constantly in the medias spotlight. You must live in a good location. 🙂

  • I’ve only been to Melbourne twice, and very briefly, but it’s an awesome city. I love living in Sydney but even I can admit that Melbourne is just that little bit cooler 😉 I like that you mentioned that you feel safe – Melbourne has received some not nice international press over the last couple of years. Good to see you’ve only had good experiences.

  • I definitely have a new appreciation for coffee now and find that coffee at home just isn’t cutting it anymore — I’m determined to keep searching til I find a good cup!

    Have you been to Three Bags Full in Abbotsford? I adore it and am curious what you’d think of it 🙂

  • We lived in Melbourne for about four years and you’ve captured the things most people love about it well. It’s very compact and liveable…the weather wasn’t our favourite and sometimes having festivals all the time made it quite chaotic for us, but we had a pretty good run there. I’m surprised you didn’t mention food! It’s the culinary capital of Australia as well so be sure to enjoy all the fantastic restaurants and foodie events that go on there =)

  • And that is why Melbourne shits all over Sydney 😀 

  • What a great post! I am already loving Melbourne, it sounds like such a great place to live! I have lived both in LA and in New York and frankly, while it’s great to have a lot of stuff available, they are a bit much for me. I loved San Francisco however, and I’m starting to think I;d love Melbourne just as much!

  • The same could be said for Seattle, it is a wonderful place to live…but the visitors seem to be taken by it too. It does rain a fair bit in the winter tho ;p

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  • Anonymous

    I love that the city supports the street art and isn’t trying to cover it up–it says a lot about their support for the arts! There are also a ton of museums and galleries here–it really is a great art city 🙂

  • Anonymous

    The weather is definitely a bit annoying, but I’ve gotten used to it–always have sunglasses, an umbrella and a cardigan with me! However, I will say that I feel like we’re having a better winter than Sydney–chilly but lots of sunshine!

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know much about it before coming here–wanted to spread a bit of the love! It’s really an amazing city 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! The weather isn’t its selling point, but it’s definitely liveable–the best part is that you have some summer-y days in winter for all the winter-y days in summer!

  • Anonymous

    It’s a really fun place to live and work–mostly because there are so many little places to discover. You need some time to try out all the restaurants and cafes and find the back alleyways 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I’ve definitely seen a few of the crime stats with Melbourne–and I’m not saying I feel 100% safe all the time–but for the most part, I feel much safer than in France or even California. There are definitely a few crazies, but overall, it’s not bad! I do get to walk past lots of hookers on my way to work, which always keeps things interesting…

  • Anonymous

    I felt super safe in Sydney too–both cities have their moments/crazies, but overall, it’s a much safer feeling than I’ve had in a lot of Europe and the U.S.
    And I agree that Melbourne definitely does have a bit of the cool factor 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Just read your post about it–super keen to try it! I’ll let you know what I think 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Believe me, the food shall get its own post 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Haha true enough!

  • Anonymous

    I’m definitely a SF girl over LA or NYC–and Melbourne reminds me a lot of SF!

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t been to Seattle yet–the rain scares me away–but I’d love to visit/live one day!

  • Oh for sure. I have to say actually, the most unsafe I’ve ever felt was in Paris this past January…I had incidents at ATMs twice, was followed once and saw a guy get stabbed…in the space of 4 days! Hadn’t had anything dodgy happen on the whole trip until I got to Europe.

    …but I still love it 😀 

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  • Melbourne sounds like my kinda place 🙂 If it weren’t so far away from my family in Florida it sounds perfect! I usually go home once or twice a year, and that flight is just way to much! haha

    Munich, other than the long winters, is an amazing city to live in for a lot of reasons. (Amazing parks, biergartens, cute cafes, really biker friendly, and great public transportation,… just to name a few) 

    Its funny though, the more I travel, and the longer I live here in Munich, the more I realize that no matter where I go I will always miss things from other places I’ve been. I’ve also learned to appreciate the great points of where ever I am!

  • Anonymous

    It’s crazy–I worked at a bar in Nice and there were reports of stabbings/rapes/etc. so many nights–it’s the only place where I always tried to make sure I walked home with a coworker, even though it was a short walk!

  • Anonymous

    Munich is SO high on my list of liveable cities–if only I spoke German (and it didn’t snow in winter!), I think I could absolutely live there. Absolutely love it. Good point about appreciating wherever you are–so true! That being said, I’m drinking lots of coffee while I’m here 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Munich is SO high on my list of liveable cities–if only I spoke German (and it didn’t snow in winter!), I think I could absolutely live there. Absolutely love it. Good point about appreciating wherever you are–so true! That being said, I’m drinking lots of coffee while I’m here 🙂

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  • Max_palu

    Do you wanna go for a ride bike to abbotsford convent and
    see the market/cafes/shops together ??
    I lived over 1 year in Melbourne and i have never been there .. I love your fresh words


  • Anonymous

    I don’t live in Melbourne anymore, unfortunately! But Abbotsford Convent is definitely an awesome spot to check out 🙂

  • KS

    Aw, the weather isn’t that bad at all lol. I’ve experienced more sunny skies and warmth than cold and rainy days lol. You probably really only get a handful of days a year where there will be 4 seasons in 1 day, but usually the weather remains the same throughout the day.. unless a storm is coming through lol, then you will have all seasons in just a few hours.

    But I loved the article! Melbourne has an amazing street art scene that really brings the city alive. It’s a vibe I have never felt anywhere else 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I actually think the weather in Melbourne is a lot better than Sydney–less rain! Survived a winter in Melbs, and it was awesome to have those sunny days interspersed with the gray and rainy ones. Loved Melbourne and miss it like crazy!

  • Carlos Sousa

    Try to rank streets in http://www.streetics.com