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Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state Victoria. It is a very attractive city: spaciously designed, mostly low buildings (except the central business district), large parks and lakes. The houses the world's second largest botanical gardens, after Kew Gardens in London. In the city centre there are modern skyscrapers, but there is also a part of 19th century Melbourne. Melbourne claims to be the cultural capital of Australia, although the people of Sydney disagree. There is an enormous rivalry between the inhabitants of these two cities (which is why the country's capital - Canberra - is located in between).
The city has 3.7 million inhabitants. Like many cities in Australia, most of them are of British or Irish descent, but there are also large groups of immigrants from every corner of the world. Australians have a reputation as sports lovers, and that applies especially to the people of Melbourne. It was in this city that Australian Rules Football was born (a kind of rugby, but with different rules), and the city houses an array of sports facilities.
The city is located in the south-east of Australia, some 800 kilometres to the south-west of Sydney. Its origin is on the river Yarra, which flows into Port Phillip Bay. Melbourne is the most southerly city in the world with a population of over a million..
Melbourne is an important commercial and industrial centre. About a third of the large multinational Australian companies have there head offices in this city (including telecom giant Telstra, mining company BHP Billiton and the National Australian Bank). The largest trade union also has its headquarters in Melbourne. The city has a large seaport (Western Port Bay) with related industries, like shipbuilding and oil refineries. Also, cars (Toyota and Ford) and electronic equipment are manufactured there.
The city is also a leading centre of education. The University of Melbourne is considered the best of Australia, and attracts many foreign students. Monash University also belongs to the Top 8 of Australia's universities.
There are two airports near Melbourne. The most important one is Melbourne Airport in Tullamarine, 22 kilometres to the north-west of the city. The airport provides both domestic and international connections. There is a shuttle bus (Skybus) between the airport and Southern Cross bus station to the west of the city centre.
Avalon Airport only processes domestic flights, especially by budget airline JetStar (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth). The airport is located 55 kilometres to the south-west of the city. There is a shuttle connection to Melbourne.
Melbourne has a good and extensive public transport network, consisting of trams, buses and trains. Trams are found primarily in and around the centre, trains service the suburbs, and where there are no trams or trains, buses take over. You can buy one ticket for all these forms of public transport (the so-called 'Metcard'). The city is divided into zones: the centre is Zone 1, the ring around the centre Zone 2, and the suburbs Zone 3. You can buy a ticket with a certain duration (2 hours), a day ticket or a week ticket.
There are two free services: the City Circle Tram brings you to the main attractions in the centre, the Mebourne City Tourist Shuttle is a bus line that also goes to attractions further away.
From the combined bus and train terminal Southern Cross, many destinations inside and outside the state of Victoria can be reached. Keep in mind that the travel times to, for instance, Sydney or Adelaide are considerable. Melbourne has a night ferry to the island of Tasmania (10 hours).
In Australia, people drive on the left side of the road, which means the steering wheel of your rental car will be on the right. Keep in mind that Australia is a huge country, and that the distance between the various cities are enormous. The fastest way to get to Sydney is via the Hume Highway (about 10 hours). A more beautiful, though longer route is along the coast, the Princess Highway. Although Adelaide is closer, it is still at least a seven hours' drive.
Melbourne has an excellent and logical street pattern, but it is a very expanded city. So buy a city map to orientate, the people of Melbourne themselves often use the excellent 'Greater Melbourne' map by Melway. In addition, Melbourne has the so-called 'hook turn': on streets with trams you can only turn right by moving to the left-most lane ("Right Turn From Left Only"). This way, the tram in the middle of the street is not blocked.
The city has many car parks, which means that it is not hard to find a space. There are 140 parking areas and car parks, with a total of 70,000 spaces. According to the city council, you are never more than 200 metres away from the nearest parking facility. Parking in the street is usually only allowed for a limited time (indicated on the parking meter). In streets with the so-called 'Clearway' sign, parking is not allowed between 7.30 am and 6.30 pm. Near the Melbourne Museum, the Melbourne Park and the Telstra Dome there are P+R areas.
The city attracts many backpackers, so a large number of accommodations cater to this group, but Melbourne has a good supply in all categories. In light of the economic importance of the city, there are many business hotels in the Central Business District. We recommend booking your hotel room in advance. Especially around the Grand Slam tournament (January) and the Melbourne Grand Prix (early March), virtually all hotels are fully booked.
For more information about Melbourne, we recommend Google, and the following sources: