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An Expat's Guide to Living in Melbourne, Australia

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Welcome to the World's Most Liveable City!

I was never meant to move to Melbourne. I was actually meant to spend six months living in (whispers) Sydney

But a chance encounter with a pair of 50-somethings on a New York street and an Irish backpacker in a storm at sea (perhaps stories for another day) convinced me to give Melbourne a go.

From the second I stepped off the Skybus at Southern Cross Station in March 2015, I felt like I was coming home. Maybe it was the friendly face of a school friend I hadn’t seen in a decade; maybe it was the delicious dumplings we ate that night at Red Door; maybe it was the insanely good Bloody Mary’s we drank at Borsch, Vodka and Tears at brunch the next morning.

Whatever the secret city sauce is, Melbourne had it in spades. Within 24 hours I was hooked.

Whether you've been before and are planning your move or are just in that research phase, here's what you need to know about living in Melbourne to decide if it's your home abroad, too.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Living in Montreal is ideal for those looking for a cosmopolitan city with a diverse culture.

📚The easiest way to move here is by getting a job that'll sponsor your visa or with an Australia Working Holiday Visa.

🛏️Start off in one of my favorite area of the city, Prahran, by booking a stay at The Little Sage while you house hunt for something more permanent.

💰Cost of living can be steep in Melbourne so do yourself a favor an earn travel rewards on all expenses with a Capital One Venture Card.

☂️Although the bang for your buck can be high and the weather can be unpredictable,

⛰️The city offers a fantastic quality of life, with great access to nature, and a diverse population from all over the world.

A Look Into My Life in Melbourne

‍On a personal level, living in Melbourne has changed a great deal for me from the moment I first arrived to where I am now.

I went from being a girl-about-town living in Windsor, to an expat mama living Bayside.

What this means is that I moved from a teeny and adorable house 50 meters from Chapel Street with its bars, nightlife, and epic shopping, to a beautiful house in the beach suburb of Mordialloc.

The fact is, Melbourne can totally pull this off.

Where once my weekends were spent brunching, shopping, and bar-hopping, they are now spent at Braeside Park, at the beach, or at one of the very family-friendly breweries or food truck parks.

Both lifestyles are perfect fits here in Melbourne, something that not all cities can say.

I love the fact that, as a parent, I know my child has access to so many incredible opportunities, whatever his interests might be. There are a dazzling number of free local activities and events for children- at libraries, at playgroups, in parks, and playgrounds, as well as the amazing lifestyle that living right by the beach can offer.

Enough about me though, let's talk about your potential life in Melbourne.

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Best Areas to Live in Melbourne

‍‍As with a lot of cities there is a strong North vs South rivalry.

In my totally unbiased (Southerner 'til I die) opinion, the South is where you want to be! That being said, there are SO many incredible communities and corners all over Melbourne, that wherever you visit, explore, or live, you will find unique and wonderful experiences.

Here are some of my personal favorite neighborhoods in Melbourne.

Melbourne CBD 3000

This is the heart of the city center and where you will find awesome laneways (check out Hosier Lane and Degraves Street), rooftop bars, theatres, shops, and offices.

‍📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in the CBD is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Fireworks & BayView Apt: This is a great place to move with your family if you want to be in the center of the action while you house hunt.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: VAQUAY Mon Amour: It's hard to beat the quality you'll get at this price point right in the heart of the city at this high-end loft apartment.
  • Luxury Stay: High-Rise 2 Bedroom: Sucker for a view? Enjoy floor-to-ceiling views at this 2-bedroom apartment, comfortable for a family of 4.

Southbank 3006

Here, heaps of bars and restaurants line the Yarra River and you can spend a very pleasant day/afternoon/evening checking out the street performers, munching on a delicious meal, and sipping an elaborate cocktail.

‍‍📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Southbank is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: 1 Bedroom Sea View: This recently renovated apartment has everything you could ask for in a smooth transition to life in Australia.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Prima Tower Apartment: This pet-friendly 2 bedroom apartment has an indoor swimming pool and great views of the Yarra River.
  • Luxury Stay: Modern 3 Bedroom Apartment: Treat yourself to a life in luxury at this apartment, complete with a rooftop swimming pool and on-site restaurants.

Windsor/Prahran 3181

I lived in three different spots along Chapel Street for my first five years in Melbourne - I just couldn’t leave! If you like music, shopping, yoga, bars, brunch, markets, parks, gardens, and theatre, you will want to check out this area.

‍‍📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Windsor/Prahran is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Chic 1BR in Windsor: Enjoy all Windsor has to offer from this cozy 1 bedroom apartment with a private balcony.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: The Little Sage: This incredibly designed home in Prahran is so cozy and offers a small patio to enjoy the great weather Melbourne offers.
  • Luxury Stay: Architectural Home on Chapel Street: Get more indoor and outdoor space at this villa, just a quick walk to vibey Chapel St.

St. Kilda 3182

This area can be touristy especially in summer, but there are plenty of spots that locals love, too. You can play volleyball at the beach, before heading to one of the stunning beach bars or try out one of the scrumptious cake shops and head to Luna Park for some vintage theme park fun.

‍‍📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in St. Kilda is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: St. Kilda Beach Apartment: This cute 1-bedroom apartment gets you right in the heart of the neighborhood at a great price point.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Peaceful 1BR Apartment: Situated right on St. Kilda Road, you'll be right at Albert Park for plenty of green space.
  • Luxury Stay: Boutique Beach House: Moving to Melbourne with your family? This 3-bedroom home in the heart of St. Kilda will give you the space and the area to enjoy the move.

Brunswick 3056

If you are heading north of the river, Brunswick is a buzzing, friendly, multicultural suburb with loads of hip and trending shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and galleries.

Psssst... Make sure you check out Sydney Road- there are some absolute gems including Dejour Jeans, where you can get jeans tailor-made to fit you in one day for a great price!

‍‍📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Brunswick is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Modern 1BD Apt: Stay right in the heart of Brunswick at this simple yet spacious apartment rental.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Trendy Inner-City Living: Another centrally located option, this one with a bit nicer amenities and a little bit more room.
  • Luxury Stay: Brunswick Central Townhouse: Growing exponentially, this 3-bedroom apartment is a great choice for those moving with kids in tow.

Footscray 3011

This suburb was once known for being a bit gritty, but has slid into edgy and fun. This is a great spot to explore Melbourne’s multicultural foodie scene as well as art, music, and markets.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Footscray is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Asteroid B-612: Get access to a cozy 1-bedroom apartment with shared gym and plenty of nearby green space if you need a break from city living.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Hip Condo on Maribyrnong River: This ultramodern 1 bedroom offers great river and park views in a super chic environment.
  • Luxury Stay: Sensational Renovated Cottage: Great for the whole family, this large home has a backyard and enough room to comfortably sleep 6.

Other Great Suburbs

If you are looking to live in Melbourne long-term, these suburbs will give you all the goodness of Melbourne living but are slightly further out from the city and are lots more affordable:

  • If you love the Melbourne hipster vibe, check out Northcote and Parkville.
  • If you are searching for the beachy lifestyle, consider Hampton, Parkdale, or Mordialloc.
  • If you fancy leafy living and cool cafes, have a look at Rowville, Rosanna, or Kew.

Why is Melbourne So Great for Expats?

Whether you're moving here on a Working Holiday Visa, have a job lined up, or are moving abroad for love, Melbourne is a great place to end up.

I have no idea what the official criteria is for the ‘World’s Most Liveable City’, but I do know that Melbourne won it for seven years in a row.

If there is a ‘How great a city is for its Expats’ criteria, Melbourne would get top marks there, too.

So, what makes Melbourne so great for expats?

1. There are loads of us

All over Melbourne there is a sense of global community and the city is bursting with food, art, music and language from all over the world. There are suburbs where you can feel like you are in Italy or Vietnam or Greece. In fact, famously Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city in the world beside Athens!

You'll find expats here for work, international students studying at world class universities, and immigrants from all over the globe all calling Melbourne home.

2. The city is both really big and really small

The CBD (Central Business District- the name given to the city center or ‘downtown’ of cities in Australia) is really neat and easy to navigate with its grid system of roads and great public transport.

It is also a Free Tram Zone, so you can whizz all over hopping on and off trams to your heart’s content.

However, you also have a huge spread of brilliant and diverse suburbs in every direction. From trendy South Melbourne with its markets and bars, to hipster-heaven Brunswick, to edgy Footscray, buzzing Windsor, beautiful Brighton, swanky Armadale, the choice of places to explore is endless.

3. You can do pretty much anything

Thanks to Melbourne’s location it is possible to spend a month in Melbourne and do something completely different every day.

  • You want to go to the beach? Great! Head to Brighton, Elwood or further out to Black Rock.
  • You fancy some art and culture? No worries! Spend the day at the NGV where you will find incredible temporary and permanent exhibitions all year long.
  • Feel like a stroll in nature? Ideal! Head to any of the stunning gardens around the city (The Royal Botanical Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens are some of my favorites.)
  • Or you can head further afield and hike in the Dandenong or Macedon ranges, both of which are within easy reach of the city.

There is snow in winter, surf in summer. Enjoy all you can of shopping, riding, kayaking, climbing, yoga, painting, studying, performing, comedy, and even more in this vibrant and fun city.

4. Melbournians take food and drink very (very) seriously

No matter where you find yourself in Metropolitan Melbourne you are never more a hop and skip from something delicious. Thanks to the many global influences, you will find scrumptious banh mi right next door to perfectly flaky spanakopita.

And don’t even think about discussing coffee with a Melbournian. The coffee culture is real and the debate as to where to get the best is as hotly contested as any sporting event.

Speaking of…

5. Melbourne is incredible for events - especially sport

Hosting the Grand Prix and the Australian Open each year is kind of a big deal. Throughout the year there are also sporting events weekly if not daily- Cricket, AFL (Australian Football), Soccer, Rugby, Basketball. If you're into it, you can find it in a stadium here.

If sport isn’t your thing, there is the annual Melbourne Comedy Festival, theatres abound, and the Melbourne Arts Precinct puts on musicals, operas, plays, ballets and concerts throughout the year.

So, Will You Give Living in Melbourne a Try?

To me, Melbourne fully lives up to its reputation as one of the most liveable cities. Given the variety of things to do, cultures, weather, and landscapes, it's really a hard to beat place for a fabulous expat life.

I'm so happy I've been able to enjoy this city as a single woman and now as a parent because now I can say with confidence, it really does have it all.

The only question left for me to ask is, will you join me down under?

All pictures courtesy of depositphotos.com.

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