I was recently walking my dog in my local council area, which is so deep in suburbia that the SUVs have smaller SUVs as pets and activewear is a kind of class system. In this park, there is a conservation area full of beautiful native trees, it had been raining and my dog was wearing a sweet little jacket. I was walking there, between the ferns and eucalypts, wet with winter, and I thought: “Well, this is quite nice.”
Melbourne was recently again crowned the most liveable city in Australia and 10th in the world, beating Sydney (13th in the world) and well ahead of everywhere else. Ironically, after the couple of years we’ve had, I think I finally understand why.
A bit more than 20 years ago, I was a reluctant transplant to Melbourne. Adelaide has, of course, also been named Australia’s most liveable city (and the world’s). It also has a brown river and an overblown sense of its own loveliness; what could Melbourne offer me that was any different?
For some time, I remained sceptical. But the pandemic changed me. During lockdowns one through six, a strange thing began to happen.
In the winter of 2020, when we had all been inside our houses for longer than was strictly humane or hygienic, I wrote a piece for the Guardian about how isolated the city felt. To us, nowhere else had any concept of what we were going through. There were a few tense days when we had the tightest restrictions in the world.
With our borders closed we waited, poised by our laptops at 11am every day, to hear whether we might be allowed out for a quick trip to Readings (the answer was always “no”).
Something about that experience was quintessentially Melbourne. We were exactly as affected as the town that spawned Ben Mendelsohn should be. Only Melbourne could have the longest, hardest lockdown in the world. It made perfect sense.
And it was during that time, while I watched virtual concerts and ordered groceries online, that I realised something that might sincerely have changed my life forever: I love Melbourne.
I don’t love everything about it. To be serious, this is a punitive city. It demands order, and panics when it loses control. That came into sharp focus during lockdown, too – singling out vulnerable groups, fining the people who could least afford it, then feeling sad when there were no drivers available to deliver our favourite curry. Melbourne can be, as many control freaks are, quick to blame and pass the buck. It could benefit from seeing a good therapist, if one were available.
But I do still love it, a bit. Why? Because it vibrates with the same nervous energy as I do.
This is not a relaxed place. It takes itself remarkably seriously. For a coastal city, it has a strong inland vibe. Melbourne has the same spirit as someone who always uses a bookmark, who calls eating biscuits “being a bit naughty”, and who sets five alarms to wake up in time for yoga. Melbourne is Offspring, but somehow even more Offspring.
This city is adorably up itself. I love that it thinks it invented laneways. I love that it retains its old architecture by building new architecture directly on top of it. I love that it thinks it’s the only place with baristas and sourdough, and that there’s a running joke about everyone wearing black but, actually, everyone does wear black. I love that we have an unspoken agreement to never, ever cross the river in case someone sees us and writes about it in mx (RIP).
I love the looming face of the Dandenongs and the aggressive greyness of the Bay. I love that where there isn’t any art, Melbourne insists on adding art. This is a city that wants other people to hear what it has to say and feels uneasy when no one is listening. If a town could have an attachment disorder, Melbourne would.
The official report lists infrastructure as a redeeming feature of this town, although that benefit won’t be immediately clear to anyone living in outer suburbs or ever trying to catch a train to East Richmond. It also notes education as a strong point, despite the growing teacher shortage putting a question mark alongside that.
Maybe the real reasons are harder to articulate. Not feeling embarrassed to send back a brunch order during peak Saturday service. Going to an international comedy festival but not laughing at the Melbourne jokes. A sense of camaraderie with every other poor bastard sitting on the Westgate or the Monash or Eastlink at 6pm on a Friday.
Is this the most liveable city in Australia? I’m not convinced. But ask me if it’s my most liveable city in Australia and I will tell you – reluctantly at first, then all at once – yes; unlike any other place in the world, Melbourne understands me exactly.
10 Awesome Reasons to Live in Melbourne
1. Melbourne is Australia’s most liveable city
Melbourne was ranked the #1 most liveable city in Australia and #10 in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index for 2022. This list assesses 173 cities across the globe in the categories of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
There are many reasons why life in Melbourne is so highly valued: there are multiple public transport options, relatively low crime rates, and plenty of jobs. Plus, it offers an awesome arts and culture scene, first-rate universities and an easy lifestyle.
2. Melbourne features top-tier accommodation options
A key part of living in Melbourne is deciding where to live in Melbourne. In other words, you’ll need to choose the accommodation style best suited to your needs.
Fortunately, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Melbourne is home to a wide range of high-quality accommodation options designed to suit the student lifestyle, including purpose-built student accommodation. Student accommodation is a particularly popular option among international students as it offers a unique sense of support and community. Plus, student accommodation features incredible amenities that can hugely improve your international study experience.
3. Melbourne is home to world-class education providers and research facilities
Victoria is known as the Education State, so it should come as no surprise that Melbourne is very academic. According to the QS World University Rankings 2023, several of its universities sit within the top-ranked universities in Australia and the world. For example, The University of Melbourne and Monash University were both ranked in the top 10 universities in Australia (claiming the #2 and #6 positions, respectively) and in the top 100 universities in the world (claiming the #33 and #57 spots, respectively). These institutions also secured impressive positions in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2023.
When living in Melbourne, you’ll quickly recognise the city as a creative hub, home to world-class academics and an exciting entrepreneurial spirit. Before you know it, you’ll soon be thinking outside the box (and around it, above it and below it, too).
4. Melbourne’s laneway culture is rich, vivid and exciting
Melbourne’s winding alleyways are magical; they’ll probably make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a real-life Wonderland. The city is well-known across Australia for its vibrant laneway culture, which is brimming with bustling shopping arcades, wandering musicians, live music, quiet street-side book cafes… and the occasional secret street party!
If you’re in search of good food, take a wander down the colourful Centre Place, where you’ll find plenty of places to eat. For anyone into street art, a walk down the paint-splashed Hosier Lane will definitely inspire. Don’t forget your camera!
5. The coffee is incredible
Can’t survive without your morning caffeine hit? If you’re a coffee-lover, we have great news: coffee culture in Melbourne runs deep. Thanks to Melbourne’s champion baristas, the friendly neighbourhood vibe and the locals’ love of supporting small businesses, Melbourne cafés serve up some of the best coffee in Australia – and perhaps even the world.
6. It’s Australia’s ‘cultural capital’
Melbourne’s eccentricity, creativity and love of the arts are universally famous.
If you want to absorb some of Melbourne’s culture, check out the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Plus, the city is home to more underground arts movements, such as zine fairs (look out for Festival of the Photocopier), artist collectives, record stores, swing dancing clubs… the list goes on.
7. The community is hugely diverse
Melbourne is a melting pot of communities and is home to many different cultural celebrations. The Antipodes Festival, Melbourne Italian Festa, Chinese New Year, TET Festival, the Melbourne Fringe Festival and the Melbourne Queer Film Festival are just some of the options on offer. Plus, make sure to check out the neighbourhoods that sit around the CBD. You’ll find many different communities from all around the world in each one.
8. The trams are a lot of fun
In Melbourne, trams are both a major form of public transport and one of the city’s most famous icons. Melbourne locals tend to express genuine warmth for their tram system. What’s more, Melbourne’s trams can be just as colourful as the city itself: since 2013, the Melbourne International Arts Festival has worked with local artists to decorate trams with unique designs – Art Trams!
9. Melbourne is a great place for start-ups
If you’re an international student looking to start your own business, living in Melbourne could be a smart move. There are many small business grants offered to ideas that display creativity, innovation, business readiness, financial viability and benefits to the city of Melbourne. Does that sound exciting? Well, it could be you!
10. Melbourne is home to breathtaking natural beauty
Like the great outdoors? Then you’ll love living in Melbourne! The city is home to a wide range of stunning outdoor settings, from beaches to parks and so much more.
Whether you’re keen to lounge in the sun at St Kilda Beach, have a picnic in the Fitzroy Gardens or take a stroll along the Yarra River, there’s no shortage of beautiful nature to explore.