Situated on the southern coast of Australia, Melbourne is a creative and multicultural city of roughly 6 million that has received many accolades over the years. Time Out magazine named it the second best city in the world in 2019. It was also named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008.
The Economist’s Intelligence Unit voted Melbourne the world’s most liveable city for seven consecutive years, and it’s no wonder the title stayed safely in Melbourne for so long: the city has seen sustained growth in its art, music and literature communities since the 1990s. Its rich cultural diversity, festivals, museums, excellent food scene and progressive politics mean that Melbourne has enjoyed constant population and employment growth since 1997.
Chef Pradipta is one of the many creatives from around Australia and the world who move to Melbourne in droves every year. He shares the reasons he thinks everyone should be booking a plane ticket to Melbourne right now.
Pradipta explains, “what I’ve come to appreciate is how open and diverse the art community is in Melbourne’s north, and the emphasis [the city] places on inclusion, green living, fervent self-expression and general love for the planet and for each other.”
His favourite galleries include The Heide and the Immigration Museum. “It’s not as popular as its bigger cousins the NGV and the Melbourne Museum, but always packs a punch with both its permanent and temporary exhibitions,” Pradipta says.
Visitors to the city can explore Melbourne’s rich artistic heritage in some of the more traditional gallery environments, or at one of the hundreds of independent shows, exhibitions and pop-ups organised by local artists taking place all year round.
Melbourne hosts the majority of the country’s contemporary festivals and events throughout the year, which makes it the ideal place for creatives, performers and music lovers to visit and live. At least 30 music festivals, covering every genre, take place in and around the city, including the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Falls Festival and Brunswick Music Festival.
This number doesn’t include all of the live music events taking place in bars, or the many theatrical productions, comedy nights, food and beer festivals and art pop-ups happening throughout the city. There are also the cultural festivals, including the Chinese New Year, International Film Festival and the Antipodes Greek Festival.
“I often attend gigs and events with friends and have been introduced to the wider queer community in Melbourne as a result. I identify with Melbourne’s queer community, so I feel much more liberated to express myself freely than I ever did before,” says Pradipta.
This celebrated freedom of expression – and Victoria’s status as the most left-leaning, progressive state in Australia – has lead to a flourishing queer community in Melbourne. Bars like The Laird, The Shady Lady, Poof Doof and The 86 Cabaret Bar are particularly LGBTQ-friendly, as are events like Hybrid, which is a music-centred festival that celebrates queer people, artists and minority groups. Australia’s first Pride Centre is also located in Melbourne and set for completion in 2020. It is home to multiple LGBTQ-centric NGOs and festival headquarters.
Pradipta, a chef and baker, says he is “excited by the myriad brunch and coffee options in Melbourne and how proud locals are of their coffee culture. There is a strong support for businesses that are willing to push the boundaries and introduce locals to new ideas and tastes.”
Melbourne’s status as a melting pot city means that it is possible to find exceptional examples of any cuisine down a city laneway or out in the suburbs, from Mexican to Vietnamese. Pradipta recommends Eaton Mall in Oakleigh for a taste of Athens, and Springvale for a Saigon-esque experience.
Extraordinarily, the Michelin guide has not yet made it to Australia, but the Australian Good Food Guide awards Chef Hats to restaurants that are doing exceptional work in the food industry around Australia. In Melbourne, 68 restaurants earned Chef Hat awards in 2019. World-famous chefs like British-born Heston Blumenthal have outposts in this food-centric city too – he opened Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne and earned a Hat from the Good Food Guide.
Melbourne is laid out in a logical grid pattern, making navigating its bustling streets a breeze. It also has some of the best public transport in Australia. “When I first came to Melbourne, I was impressed by the public transport system – especially the tram network. I enjoy being able to hop on and off the trams for free within the free tram zone in the CBD, and how convenient it is to have access to multiple transport options in many parts of the city like the bus, train, tram and rideshare,” says Pradipta.
Visitors, especially those on a budget, will find it easy and convenient to explore Melbourne via the ubiquitous public transport. Pradipta recommends the Collingwood, Fitzroy and Fitzroy North, Brunswick and Brunswick East, or Northcote neighbourhoods as the most convenient starting points for exploring the city.
Melbourne is known as Australia’s garden city, and for good reason: the city contains almost 480 hectares (1,186 acres) of leafy, blooming parks and gardens, and is surrounded by 45 national parks. Melbourne offers visitors a bit of everything, from the taste of fresh air, a dip in the sea to a glimpse of Australia’s famous wildlife – including koalas, possums, kangaroos and penguins.
And, contrary to popular belief, Melbourne has many beaches, too. “If the beach and sea is your thing, skip St Kilda and Brighton and head to Half Moon Bay or Black Rock,” says Pradipta. “If you want to go the extra mile, head to the back beaches on the Mornington Peninsula, such as Point Leo, Somers or Bushrangers Bay.” These are some of the most beautiful beaches on Australia’s southern coast, and they’re right on Melbourne’s doorstep.