Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bun), the capital of Victoria and
Australia's second-largest city, is a cultural melting pot. For a start, more
people of Greek descent live here than in any other city except Athens. Chinese,
Italian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese immigrants have all left their mark. Almost
one-third of Melbournians were born overseas or have parents who were born
overseas. With such a diverse population, and with trams rattling through the
streets and stately European architecture surrounding you, you could forget
you're in Australia.
Melbourne, which has a population of well over three million, enjoys a
reputation for being at the head of the pack when it comes to shopping,
restaurants, fashion, music, nightlife, and cafe culture. It frequently beats
out other state capitals in bids for major international concerts, plays,
exhibitions, and sporting events, such as the Formula One Grand Prix.
The city also revels in a healthy rivalry with its northern neighbor, Sydney,
but it's interesting to note that almost all Melbournians adore their city --
often described as the "most livable" in the world -- whereas Sydneysiders are
mostly half-hearted in their praise for their home.
Melbourne's roots go back to the 1850s, when gold was found in the
surrounding hills. British settlers took up residence and prided themselves on
coming freely to their city, rather than having been forced here in convict
chains. The city grew wealthy and remained largely a conservative bastion until
World War II, when another wave of immigration, this time mainly from southern
Europe, made it a more relaxed place.