Melbourne used to be the richest city in the world during the Gold Rush. If you love history, there is a lot you can learn in the Victorian capital!
In this article, you will discover 43 facts about Melbourne, Australia. This includes a selection of fun facts but also interesting and historical facts.
There is a bit of everything, for everyone!
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Fun facts about Melbourne
Let’s get started with some cute and fun facts about Melbourne!
Melbourne was originally called Batmania
Unlike what you may think, Batmania has nothing to do with the super hero Batman!
Melbourne was originally founded in 1835. At the time, John Batman, who claimed to be the father founder, decided to name the city after himself. The name Batmania was then given to the settlement.
On the 10th of April 1837, the governor Richard Bourke decided to name the settlement after the British Prime Minister at the time, William Lamb, also known as Lord Melbourne.
Also, if you’ve ever wondered why the main street in Melbourne CBD is called Bourke Street. It is indeed after Richard Bourke, as a tribute for naming the city. He was the governor of New South Wales up until 1837.
You can experience the 4 seasons in one day in Melbourne
A lot of people assume that Australia is always sunny, hot and dry and as much as this can be true in certain parts of the country, it’s not the case for Melbourne.
Melbourne’s climate is continental. Pretty similar to continental Europe actually. However, it can be moody!
The weather in Melbourne is known for being very changing. You can literally experience the 4 seasons in one day. This phenomenon is pretty common. It happens almost every day! You might find yourself leaving in the morning wearing shorts and a T-shirt, needing a raincoat by 11am, a light jacket by 2pm and a big coat by 4pm.
The key to deal with Melbourne’s ever-changing weather is layers! You need to wear layers and be prepared! Carrying an umbrella in your handbag can also be a good idea.
Major streets in Melbourne are 99ft wide. This was so a 16-horse carriage could do a U-turn.
The city grid of Melbourne was designed by Robert Hoddle. He wanted to make sure that 16-horse carriage could make a U-turn!
Swanston Street is one of these streets.
Melbourne’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the Southern Hemisphere
Located on Little Bourke Street, Melbourne’s Chinatown was founded during the Gold Rush. Over 40,000 people came from China during this time in history.
It’s now known as the oldest Chinatown in the Southern Hemisphere and the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World.
Wondering when other famous Chinatowns in the world were founded? Here you go:
- London: early 1900s
- New York: 1850s
- San Francisco: 1848
Melbourne is the city with the most cafes per capita
It’s no secret that Melbournians love their coffee. It’s known as the coffee capital of Australia but that’s not all! There are so many cafes in the city that it has actually become the city with the most cafes per head!
The coffee culture in Melbourne started after WWII when a lot of Italians moved to Australia, bringing with them their delicious typical drink!
You will find loads of amazing cafes in Melbourne but if you truly want an authentic Italian experience, head to Carlton!
There are wild penguins in Melbourne!
You may not expect to see wild penguins in Melbourne but yet, here they are! Phillip Island is famous for its penguin parade but you can also see them in St Kilda.
If you head to St Kilda pier for sunset, you will see them coming back to the rocks to sleep for the night. There is a viewing platform so you can easily watch them.
A lot of Melbournians carry around a reusable coffee cup
As previously mentioned, coffee is big in Melbourne. It’s not unusual for Melbournians to get up to 5 coffees a day from a local cafe.
A few years back, they realised that the waste generated by paper coffee cups in Melbourne was absolutely huge (enough to fill up a whole tram). For this reason, baristas started to push people to use a reusable cup.
A great example of this is the KeepCup. It was invented by two siblings in Melbourne!
Coffees have different names in Melbourne
Here is another Melbourne coffee fact for you!
In Melbourne, you will notice that most coffees are not named the same way as anywhere else in the world. For example, you won’t really find Americanos here. They are more commonly referred to as Long Black.
Melbourne is home to a lot of hidden bars
Melbourne’s design uses a very geometrical grid. This means you will find large streets but also laneways. These tiny laneways are home to loads of murals, hidden gems and hidden bars!
Discovering the hidden bars in Melbourne is one of the best things to do when you visit!
St Paul’s Cathedral is made of two different types of stones
If you are walking around Melbourne CBD and get to see St Paul’s Cathedral, you may notice that the bottom part of the building is not quite the same colour as the steeples.
This is because the steeples were not part of the original church. They were added 80 years after.
At the time, they had to source more stone to be able to build them. Unfortunately, they were unable to find the same stones which is why the colour is slightly different.
“Under the clocks” is a traditional meeting place in Melbourne
If you are in Melbourne and someone tells you to meet under the clocks, this may confuse you a little. In any other place, this wouldn’t make sense. In Melbourne, it is an actual place!
The clocks refer to the ones featured on the facade of Flinders Street Station. It is such a popular meeting spot that the saying “meet me under the clocks” has become one of the Melbournians’ favourites. So much so that you can even find it on a plaque at the entrance of the station.
You can find flashing lights embedded in the footpath in Melbourne
This fun fact about Melbourne is quite a new one. Since 2017, the city has installed some flashing lights in the footpath, just before a crossing path. This was done because they noticed that a lot of people were looking at their phone while walking and wouldn’t be paying attention to traffic.
These lights match the pedestrian lights. That means that even if you are looking down, you’ll know if you can or cannot cross the road.
Melbourne is the fox capital of the world
According to the RSPCA, there are 23 foxes per square kilometre in Melbourne, making it the fox capital of the world!
Finding foxes in cities can be unusual in most countries but it’s also pretty common in the UK.
Streets in Melbourne CBD follow the Royal names
This is both a fun fact about Melbourne and a good travel tip if you don’t know where you are in the CBD. The streets actually follow the names of the British Monarchs.
Here is an example. King William reigned before Queen Elizabeth which is why you will find King Street then William Street then Queen Street and finally Elizabeth Street.
Melbourne History Facts
This section is for all the history buffs out there. Here are some of the most fascinating historical facts about Melbourne.
Melbourne used to be the capital of Australia
Up until 1901, Australia wasn’t one nation but 6 British colonies. It became officially the federation of Australia on the 1st of January 1901. At the time, Melbourne and Sydney were fighting over the title of capital of Australia which is why it was decided it would be another city, a brand new one that will be, Canberra.
Although Canberra was founded in 1913, the parliament only opened in 1927.
For this reason, Melbourne acted as the interim capital of Australia between 1901 and 1927.
The world’s first feature film was made in Melbourne
A feature film is a movie that is long-enough to be considered a full-length film. This means it can fully fill a program.
The first feature-film in the world was The Story of the Kelly Gang. This 60-minute long film was shown for the first time on the 26th of december 1906, at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne.
The filmstrip was over 1,200 meters long!
The Story of the Kelly Gang tells the story of the famous Australian bandit, Ned Kelly.
Interesting Facts about Melbourne
In this part, you will find some more interesting facts about Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne was the first city outside of Europe and North America to host the Olympic games
Melbourne hosted the summer Olympics in 1956. At the time, less than 15 countries had the privilege to host the famous games and they were all in Europe or North America.
Japan was supposed to host the games in 1940 but they were cancelled because of WWII, making Melbourne, the first city outside of Europe and North America to host the Olympic Games!
The black box (for planes) was invented in Melbourne
Although the French had been working on it since WWII, the person who actually invented the black box flight recorder was Australian! His name was David Warren and he came up with the invention in Melbourne, in 1953.
His dad had died from a plane crash in 1934 which is probably the reason that motivated him to come up with this revolutionary invention.
Melbourne’s tram system is the largest in the world
This is another very interesting fact about Melbourne. It’s home to the largest tram system in the world! There are 250 km of tracks!
Also, the trams in Melbourne will soon be solar-powered which is pretty cool!
Did you think it was in Europe? Nope! It really is in Melbourne. London and Paris are home to the oldest and largest underground systems in the world though.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Melbourne’s tram system is the longest continually operating tram system in the world.
The first traffic lights in Australia were installed in Melbourne
The first electric traffic lights in Australia were installed in 1928 on the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets. Sydney only started getting them in 1933.
The National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest art museum
It was established in 1861 which is way before Australia even became a federation!
Now, it’s most popular art gallery in Australia and is the 15th most visited in the world! Not bad, eh?
Lonely Planet’s headquarters are in Melbourne
Melbourne is home to the famous travel guides! Lonely Planet was founded by Maureen and Tony Wheelers, 2 Brits who moved to Australia after university.
What was only a small book in 1972 quickly became the largest travel guide book publisher in the world.
They have offices a bit everywhere of course but the headquarters are still in Melbourne!
Melbourne was awarded “most liveable city in the world” for seven years in a row
The Global Liveability index started in 2002. Since then, Melbourne has always been in the top 3! This alone is already very impressive but from 2010 to 2017, it got the number 1 spot!
In 2020, this title went to the Austrian capital, Vienna, but Melbourne made it second!
Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population in the world, outside of Greece.
Since World War II, a lot of Greek have immigrated to Australia. Melbourne, specifically.
Today, Melbourne is one of the largest Greek diasporas in the world and is the city with the largest Greek population outside of Greece itself.
There are about 200,000 Greeks in Melbourne.
Melbourne is also twinned with the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
In 1880, Melbourne was the richest city in the world
In 1851, settlers discovered gold in Melbourne and the surrounding area. This led to the Australian Gold Rush. By 1880, the economy boomed so much that it became the richest city in the world!
At this point, it was also the second-largest city in the British Empire (after London).
Over a third of Melbournians were born outside of Australia
Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city. It’s home to huge Italian, Chinese and Greek communities.
According to a study carried by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, 49% of Australians were either born overseas or have a parent who was. In Melbourne, over 30% of the population was born overseas.
That’s how cosmopolitan the city is!
The State Library of Victoria is the oldest free public libraries in Australia
The stunning State Library of Victoria opened in 1856. At the time, it was named Melbourne Public Library and was the very first public library to open in Australia.
If you are visiting Melbourne for a couple of days, make sure to visit it. It’s absolutely stunning!
Kylie Minogue was born in Melbourne
Kylie is one of the most famous pop artists in the world! Often referred to as “Princess of Pop” by the European press, Kylie holds both Australian and British passports.
She was born in 1968, in Melbourne.
With 70 million records sold worldwide, she is the highest-selling female Australian artist of all time!
The luna park in St Kilda is the oldest theme park in Australia.
Located on the foreshore of St Kilda, the Luna Park opened in 1912. It partially closed for a few years because of the WWI (1916-1923) but has been fully entertaining Melbournians and international visitors ever since!
The great scenic railway is also one of the oldest roller coasters in the world! It has been there since the park opened! It’s the only attraction that stayed open throughout World War I.
Flinders Street Station is Australia’s busiest train station
Flinders Street Station
It’s also important to note that when Flinders Street Station opened, it was, at the time, the busiest train station in the world!
Melbourne’s pubs had to close by 6 pm until 1966
Starting from 1915, a curfew was put in place for pubs and bars in Melbourne. They had to close by 6 PM. This started during the first World War and lasted until 1966.
This is where the Australian expression “Six o’clock swill” comes from. Australians use this saying to refer to the fact of rushing to buy drinks before closure. Of course, nowadays pubs close way later but the saying stayed the same.
There are hidden waterways in Melbourne
When the city was initially designed, the streets were acting as sewage which had an enormous health impact. A lot of diseases started so to stop this, they decided to move some of the waterways underground. This is the case of Williams Creek for example which is underneath Elizabeth Street.
The ladies public toilets were built to show off Melbourne’s wealth
During the Gold Rush, Melbourne was the richest city in the world and intended on showing that off. One of the “best” ways they found at the time was to build public toilets for ladies.
Why is that a way to show off, you ask? Well, at the time, the ladies were not quite supposed to stay out and about for long. No city in the world would build public toilets for women because they were considered useless. By building them, Melbourne was showing the fact that they had enough money to build something that would barely be used.
Thankfully, things changed since!
There are two main kinds of architecture in Melbourne: Gold Rush and Art Deco
Art Deco and Gold Rush architecture are the two main styles you will find in the city. They perfectly cohabitate and you can often find them one next to the other. If you’ve visited Miami before, you will be familiar with the concept of Art Deco as you can find an entire district in Miami Beach!
The Manchester Unity Building is a great example of art deco architecture in Melbourne. It’s located in front of Melbourne Town Hall which features a Gold Rush style.
The Foster’s beer originates from Melbourne
Foster’s is one of the most famous Australian beers in the world. It’s particularly popular in the US. The brand was founded by two American brothers in Melbourne.
Two of the three tallest building in Australia are in Melbourne
The tallest building in Australia is the Q1 on the Sunshine Coast. The next two are Australia 108 and Eureka Tower. They are located in South Bank.
Melbourne is is the only city in the world with five international standard sporting facilities
Melbourne is known as the sports capital of Australia. This is due to many reasons such as:
- It hosts international sporting events every year (Australian Open, Melbourne Cup…)
- Melbournians love sport!
- It hosted the Summer Olympics in 1956
And finally, it’s the only city in the world with 5 international standard sporting facilities. They are:
- Melbourne Cricket Ground
- Docklands Stadium
- Rod Laver Arena
- Hisense Arena
- Olympic Park
The Palais Theatre is the largest seated theatre in Australia
St Kilda’s Palais Theatre is one of the most famous theatres in the world. There are 2,896 seats which makes it the largest seated theatre in Australia.
The largest seating theatre in the world is located in New York City. It’s the Metropolitan Opera House (3,800 seats).
Melbourne is the street art capital of the world
When it comes to street art, Melbourne sets the standard! You will find murals everywhere and street artists from all over the world come here to paint. You can find some of the best works in Hozier Lane, Fitzroy and Collingwood.
With that much diversity and pieces of art on display, Melbourne has grown to become the street art capital of the world.
Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere
Queen Victoria Market is one of the most famous landmarks in Melbourne CBD. You will find over 600 traders selling fresh products and souvenirs.
Not only is this market an excellent place to go shopping but it’s also known as the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere.
Melbourne Airport is the second busiest in Australia
With over 37 million passengers in 2019, Melbourne Airport (also known as Tullamarine Airport) is the second busiest airport in Australia. The first one is Sydney’s with over 44 million passengers.
The AFL, also known as footy, was invented in Melbourne
The Australian Football League was invented in Melbourne in 1896. It was originally known as Melbourne Football Rules or Victoria Football Rules.
This is why this sport is so popular in the state of Victoria and why there are so many teams from Melbourne.
22 million jars of Vegemite are produced in Melbourne per year
Vegemite is Australia’s most famous spread. It outsells all sort of spreads in the country. Australians love it so much that 22 million jars are produced each year.
The manufacturing factory is located in Port Melbourne which means that Melbourne produces all these jars!
The world’s first seatbelt law was put in place in the state of Victoria
The seatbelt was invented in the mid-19th century by an English engineer. Although seatbelts were used in cars throughout the 20th century, it only became compulsory for the first time in 1970 and this happened in the state of Victoria.
This law was adopted by most countries in the world very quickly after that.
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