One of the most interesting questions that I am often asked by people who are new to Melbourne is,
“What makes Melbourne so special?”
It is a deceptively difficult question to answer. You see while the likes of Sydney are dominated by picturesque waterfronts, and cities like London and Rome have thousands of years of history, Melbourne’s appeal lays somewhat beneath the immediate.
Melbourne is a city that is great because of its people, and not its location. Not blessed with the history of an ancient empire or an enviable locale, Melbournians have spent two hundred years pursuing art, food, music, literature, and sport; and these pursuits have turned Melbourne into a cultural and sporting capital of not just Australia, but also the World.
If there is one thing that Melbournians love more than anything else, it’s an event. Indeed, we Melbournians love them so much that it is almost impossible to walk around the city without stumbling into a group of people brought together in celebration of some joint passion. Melbourne is home to international comedy festivals, film festivals, and arts festivals. Each year, half a million people stay up all night for the city’s annual White Night festival, a nocturnal celebration of art and culture in Melbourne’s city centre, and the St Kilda Festival, an arts and music festival based on the St Kilda foreshore, is visited by nearly a million people every year.- and Moomba, Melbourne’s annual river festival, is attended by close to two million.
All this is to say nothing of the thousands of sporting events that take place across the city every year. If you ask any Melbournian, we will proudly tell you that we are the sporting capital of the world. We annually host the Australian Open Grand Slam, the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Australian MotoGP, the Melbourne Cup, and the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, just to name a few. Perhaps even more important to Melbournians is the Grand Final of the Australian Football League, where 100,000 passionate people cram into the MCG to decide the champion team for the year.
Melbourne is also famed for its food and café culture, much of which takes place in the city’s famous laneways. With a sizeable Italian population, Melbourne has some of the best and most innovative coffee in the world – the “Flat White” being a Melbourne creation. Every possible cuisine can be found in Melbourne, all of it being of outstanding quality.
For the cultured among us, Melbourne has a plethora of outstanding major institutions which exhibit hundreds of years of Melbourne’s passion for the arts. The world class collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, and the State Library of Victoria are sure to impress even the most experienced of cultural aficionados.
So, to answer the question, “what makes Melbourne so special?”; in a sense it’s everything. Most importantly, however, it’s the people. Melbourne is a city that is defined by the pursuits and passions of its people, and the outcome is perhaps the most diversely cultural and lively city in the world.