Admittedly, Sydney is older than Melbourne and does have many interesting historical sights, but history lives in the heart of Melbourne's Central Business District. The Athenaeum Theatre, built in 1839, was originally called the Mechanic's Institute. It remains in immaculate condition on the outside and has been fully restored and revamped inside and now is home to the theatre and the Melbourne Athenaeum Library. Yes, Sydney's Queen Victoria Building is also a wonderful old structure in the middle of the CBD, but it is surrounded by modern skyscrapers, while the Athenaeum is just one outstanding example of 19th century architecture in the heart of Melbourne.
The Melbourne Tram
While San Francisco still has a token tram line mostly for the benefit of tourists, Melbourne's tram line, first started in the late 19th century, continues to be a primary means of transport throughout the greater city area. With over 150 miles of track, the Melbourne tram is the third largest in the world. If you're visiting from overseas, you will need some sort of transport wherever you go in Australia. If you're in Melbourne, the tram will make your visit that much more enjoyable.
Even many Sydneysiders grudgingly admit that Melbourne is the arts capital of Australia. Historically, it is where the world's first feature film was made and many of Australia's most famous writers, painters and performers practiced their crafts in Melbourne. Today, Arts Victoria, the state body in charge of promoting the arts in Victoria, is heralded as the most active body of its kind in the country and hosts the yearly Melbourne Festival of the Arts in October. That in itself is a good reason to visit Melbourne, so if you love the arts, come to Melbourne in October.
High art is one thing, but art and culture at the street level is what makes any city a city of the arts. In Melbourne, you can see street culture everywhere. St. Kilda, originally the "poshest" suburb in Melbourne, fell into decline for many years, but has re-emerged as the cultural hub of the city, largely because of the magnificent St. Kilda Arts Centre, but also because the low rents make it the perfect place for university students to live and starving artists to work.
Other places to feel the pulse of the real Melbourne are Brunswick Street, Fitzroy and Chapel Street, Prahran. Before it gets painted over by the local council or other artists, check out the latest graffiti art on the walls in these suburbs. While some of Melbourne's more refined elements don't like to admit it, Melbourne is known as the graffiti capital of Australia. If graffiti is not your cup of tea, wander down to Lygon Street, Carlton and enjoy a perfect cappuccino in an Italian café. Carlton is the home of many of Melbourne's Italian families and a favorite haunt of the college crowd from nearby RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and University of Melbourne.
Australian Rules Football
Where else but in Melbourne would the local population be so proud of its heritage that one of its most popular sports would be a homegrown version of football that is played nowhere else in the world? Aussie Rules Football was born in Melbourne and thrives throughout the state of Victoria. Originally developed by Tom Wills in 1858 as a means of keeping cricket players fit during the winter months, it quickly developed into a sport that enjoys equal popularity with cricket in cricket loving Melbourne. Played on an oval field with 22 players on each team, to the uninitiated it looks like a free-for-all, but is actually a complex game with complex rules.
Nobody's saying you shouldn't visit Sydney, but if you miss Melbourne, you'll miss seeing a quintessentially Australian metropolis and a city that is like no other in the world. Book your Melbourne accommodation near a tram line (it's not hard to do) and see the city of Melbourne as Melburnians do. You will love it.
Author: Rob Schneider writes for ‘Book It Now’ about popular destinations across Australia. If planning a visit to Melbourne you will find information about where to stay in Melbourne on and a wide range of Melbourne accommodation and ‘Book it Now’.