One of the greatest pleasures of a visit to Melbourne is the opportunity to sample its cosmopolitan offerings. Where else in the world can you sip an espresso in Little Italy, shop in Chinatown and wander through Little Vietnam all in one morning? And you still have the rest of the day to dine at Greek restaurants and savour Turkey, India and the Middle East in the Brunswick district.
To say that Melbourne is cosmopolitan is an understatement. For one thing, Australia’s second-largest city is home to more people of Greek descent than any other city except Athens. In fact, nearly a third of Melbournians were either born overseas or have parents who were born overseas. What this means to you the holiday maker is the chance to savour a uniquely international Australian experience. So what are some of the more interesting ethnic quarters?
The city’s Greek Precinct situated in and around Lonsdale Street has its origins in the 1930s. Today the area is home to Greek restaurants, cafes and cake shops along with travel agents, book and music stores, and specialised shops that provided wedding and christening garments..
Melbourne’s Chinatown is Australia’s oldest, dating back to the 1850s gold rush years. It began as a few shops and boarding houses in Celestial Avenue to cater for arrivals from southern China. Today’s Chinatown is a vibrant, colourful place jammed with shops and restaurants.
There’s a Chinese Museum in Cohen Place with five floors of exhibitions and the Tianjin Garden houses a Chinese pavilion, rockery and water garden.
Italian immigrants once favoured the inner-city suburb of Carlton. Though many have moved to the suburbs, this leafy stretch lined with Victorian terraces still house scores of Italian shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s a fine place to go for an espresso or a full Italian meal.
The Vietnamese have made Victoria Street into their community and the area’s famed for its good, cheap food including pho (noodle soup) and spring rolls.
If you arrive in Melbourne during one of these many festivals you’re in for a special treat. Chinese New Year is a time of gongs, fireworks and gambolling dragons, Divali the Hindu festival of lights a time of flickering candles and oil lamps, and the Lao have their own dignified Buddhist celebrations. Melbourne’s Italians hold the Lygon Street Festa every October which features the Italian waiters’ race and a spaghetti-eating contest. If you want to learn more about Melbourne’s cosmopolitan history, visit the Immigration Museum. Here you can find out all about the city’s multicultural past and present. The museum is located in the restored Old Customs House building which was formerly the gateway to a new life for those who aspired to make Melbourne their home. Melbourne’s multicultural makeup adds a tremendous zest to the city. Another of the city’s joys is the fine range of accommodation. Among the fine range of Melbourne City hotels are the Comfort Inn and Suites Flagstaff City Melbourne and the HarbourView Apartment Hotel Melbourne.