- Download our Moving to Melbourne Guide (PDF)
Melbourne is popular with expats from all around the world, and it brims with interesting attractions and activities. Fabulous shopping opportunities, an active nightlife scene and an eclectic mix of eateries are complemented by a variety of entertainment venues, world-class sports facilities, highly anticipated annual events and luxurious spas.
Melbourne’s nightlife is fairly evenly spread across the city with cocktail lounges, underground dance clubs, pumping bars and live music venues found all over town.
Shopping in Melbourne
Melbourne has a reputation as a shopper’s city. Whether expats are looking for elegant arcades, bustling markets, quirky laneways or shiny megamalls, Melbourne has something for every occasion.
Melbourne loves a market, which explains why the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere is located right in the CBD.
Queen Victoria Market has been serving up fresh produce and hawking clothes, shoes and various trinkets since the late 1800s. Shoppers will find plenty to taste, try and buy in hundreds of on-site stalls. Many locals travel to the markets to buy fresh fish, but it is also possible to find almost any ingredient imaginable here, from fragrant herbs and vegetables to delicious cheeses and spices.
There are plenty of markets in the Melbourne suburbs as well, ranging from fresh produce or farmers’ markets to arts and crafts or trash and treasure markets.
Arcades and laneways
This is where the true heart of Melbourne lies – in the twisting laneways and hidden arcades that host unique boutiques and oddity merchants. It is possible to live in Melbourne for years and still stumble across a great new shopping find in a laneway, and it can be fun to devote a day of aimless wandering around the city centre discovering hidden gems.
Sports in Melbourne
Melbourne is well known as the sporting capital of Australia. The Australian Football League (AFL), or Aussie Rules football as the locals call it, is by far the most popular sport played in the city. Expats can join a team, or opt to spend a weekend in Melbourne attending one of many AFL games held from March to September at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Docklands Stadium. Don't forget to buy a beer and a pie to get into the spirit of the event.
The 100,000-seater MCG’s vibe is electric. Watching a cricket game here is an essential experience, and expats should certainly not pass up the opportunity, particularly if a touring international team is in town.
The tennis at the Australian Open in January is another sporting highlight, attracting hardened tennis fans and new supporters alike.
Nightlife in Melbourne
The hidden ‘laneways’ – narrow pedestrian pathways – are a distinctive part of Melbourne, and many drinking establishments catering to countless different crowds can be found here, from upmarket bars and cool lounges playing funky tunes to backpacker pubs and edgy watering holes.
Once the workweek is over, those who have put in hard hours tend to head straight to happy hour at their favourite bar or pub.
See and do in Melbourne
Expats will find weekends in Melbourne vibrant and exciting, and there are plenty of sights to explore.
Federation Square is a public open-air area popular with locals. There is always a hive of activity here with various events, cultural showcases, art displays and public broadcasts on the go.
National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria, or the NGV, is a must-see for art lovers. It is Australia's largest, oldest and most visited art museum. With more than 75,000 pieces in its collection, the NGV boasts a wide selection of art for visitors to explore.
Queen Victoria Market
Covering around seven hectares, the Queen Victoria Market is the southern hemisphere's largest open-air market. It's a perfect spot to buy affordable fruit, vegetables and meats as well as clothes, souvenirs, shoes and accessories.
Old Melbourne Gaol
This three-storey museum once functioned as a prison between 1842 and 1929. During this time, more than a hundred criminals were hanged, including serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming and bushranger Ned Kelly.
What's on in Melbourne
Melbourne is a city constantly buzzing with activity and home to many exciting yearly events. Here are a few of Melbourne's not-to-be-missed annual festivals, sporting events and celebrations.
Australian Open Tennis Championships (January)
The Australian Open is one of the biggest sporting events, not only in Australia, but the world. Sports lovers will be enthralled as some of the biggest names in tennis come to Australia to compete in this renowned competition.
Moomba Festival (March)
The Moomba Festival has been around for decades and attracts millions of attendees a year. Featuring activities such as parades, watersports, fireworks and carnivals, Moomba is one of Melbourne’s biggest and brightest festivals. Best of all, attendance is completely free.
Melbourne Cup (November)
One of the most popular events on Melbourne’s social calendar, the Melbourne Cup has been going since 1861 and is a prime opportunity to get dressed up and enjoy a day at the races.
Carols by Candlelight (December)
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is the setting of Carols by Candlelight, a festive Christmas eve event attracting large crowds. The carols range from contemporary to traditional, and the proceeds go to Vision Australia.
Where to meet people and make friends in Melbourne
Sports and activities abound throughout Melbourne and expats can easily find a group that fits them. Below are a few groups where expats can meet people and build social relationships.
This cycling club gathers a few times per week on rides in and around Melbourne. Rides vary in speed, fitness level and distance, and the club even does annual camps. A membership fee is requiredd, but this comes with personal accident, public liability & loss of income benefits.
For photography enthusiasts, this club is the perfect place to meet like-minded individuals. This welcoming group encourages photographers of all levels, ages and techniques to join and explore photography through workshops, courses and competitions.
Perfect for anyone who enjoys strategy and casual board games in a social setting. With online and in-person events, expats are sure to meet new and interesting people and make new friends.
Australians love a good beer, so making friends with locals is easy at the Two Hands rooftop bar. With good food and a range of events, expats can feel at ease and get together over a brew.
►For tips on short getaways out of the city, see Weekend Breaks in Melbourne
"I have made as many, if not more, friends with locals than I have with expats. The one piece of advice I would give to expats is, you should take the first step of introducing yourself to others rather than expecting others to come to you. The more humble you are, the more friends you will make." Learn what Indian expat Rajiv has to say about adjusting to life in Melbourne.
Are you an expat living in Melbourne?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Melbourne. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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