Living in Melbourne: everything you need to know
Are you thinking about moving to Melbourne? This guide will help you know what to prepare for living in Melbourne, whether you’re moving from interstate in Australia, or overseas. Plus, we’ll have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at what happens when you move to Melbourne. Warning: you may become addicted to coffee and develop and infatuation with Aussie Rules.
Planning a move to Melbourne, Australia in the future and not sure what to expect? Well, wonder no more.
Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia and might I say, probably the most exciting.
It’s the sports capital, the culture capital, the food capital, the shopping capital. You name it, Melbourne probably wears that hat.
On top of that, Melbourne was named the world’s most livable city for a record breaking seven years in a row. Howzat!
Yet, what is living in Melbourne actually like?
I wanted to live to Melbourne for all of my adult life. I finally moved to the city in early 2017.
It wasn’t quite was I expected… but I would say that it turned out better than I could have imagined (lockdowns aside…).
Here’s what you need to know before you make the move to Melbourne.
Living in Melbourne: what’s life in Melbourne like?
Living in Melbourne is pretty much all I hoped it would be. As one of Australia’s biggest cities, there’s plenty of things to do in Melbourne, to keep you busy and entertained.
It’s home to some of the best restaurants in the country and there’s always some interesting event/festival/celebration on.
Plus, if you want to get out of the city, you don’t have to drive far to totally immerse yourself in nature.
I would even go as far as saying the quality of life here is still superior to Sydney.
What are the best things about living in Melbourne?
- history & culture
- easily walkable (or trammable) city centre
- events calendar
- parks & gardens
- range of day trips from the city
Melbourne/Narrm is Australia’s second biggest city (although it is projected to overtake Sydney in population in the near future).
You’ll certainly never be bored, if you move to Melbourne. There’s always something going on, thanks to the city’s jam-packed events calendar – from sporting spectaculars to world-class art exhibitions.
The city has some fantastic museums and galleries – some of which are free to enter – and gorgeous local parks, such as the local Botanic Gardens.
Similarly, there’s a ton of interesting buildings, from examples of striking gothic and Art Deco architecture, to modern marvels.
A couple of buildings even pre-date the city’s gold rush era! You’ll find art around every corner – vibrant street art, historic mosaics, weird sculptures and if you keep your eyes open, teeny tiny dioramas.
Each of the city’s inner-neighbourhoods offer something different, from the bohemian vibe of St Kilda, to trendy Brunswick and grungy Footscray.
In my experience, people are really friendly and if you throw yourself into what the city has to offer, you won’t be lonely – you’ll easily make new friends.
Plus, if you get bored of the city, it’s pretty easy to escape, with plenty to see a short drive or train trip away.
And the food. Oh, the food. Melbourne has some of the most delicious food you’ll ever sample in your life.
As a multicultural city, you can get just about every cuisine you can think of. And you can choose to fine dine or dine on a dime.
What are the cons of living in Melbourne?
As with any city, life in Melbourne is not all sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs tails (especially the former). There are a few facts that can be a bit of a drag, including:
- cost of living
- the weather
- public transport
- rental market/standard of Australian housing
- repercussions of 2020/21 lockdowns.
Melbourne’s weather can safely be considered erratic, to the point that Aussie/Kiwi band Crowded House famously wrote a song about it.
As previously mentioned and as we’ll go into later, Melbourne is not cheap. In fact, Australia in general is notoriously expensive.
Depending on where you live, rent can take up to a third or even half of your monthly pay. The price of two to eat out at a mid-range restaurant is probably between $80-90 dollars (or more, depend on drinks).
With rising petrol and produce prices, many inhabitants of the city are feeling the squeeze. Really, that can be said for many places around the world at the moment.
Public transport in Australia generally leaves much to be desired. The free trams around Melbourne’s city centre are great, but once you get out into the suburbs, it can be harder to get around.
I get quite frustrated at how many of the inner-neighbourhoods aren’t connected – for example, it’s a twelve minute drive in good traffic from Flemington to Fitzroy, but over an hour on public transport!
As one of the most popular destinations in Australia, Melbourne can feel quite crowded at times – although the vibe has noticeably changed after the city suffered through extensive lockdowns during COVID-19, some of the longest and harshest in the world.
Many places couldn’t cope financially and didn’t survive. As someone who was living in Melbourne this time, I would say the city has some resulting trauma that it hasn’t really had time or a chance to process, as businesses and government encourage people to return to ‘normal’.
The weather in Melbourne
The city can be quite windy and the winters are properly cold, which isn’t terrible in itself, but Australian houses are in a word, rubbish. There’s been times in winter when my house is colder than it is outside!
However, there is plenty to do in Melbourne in winter, so you don’t have to spend the entire time in your house.
It can also get very hot in the summer, but at least we don’t have day after day of unrelenting heat.
It’s best to plan ahead, check the forecast and bring everything you need if you’re leaving the house, so you don’t find yourself surprised (ie too cold, or without an umbrella for rain).
To be honest, I don’t mind the weather here. You get encouraged to take advantage of a beautiful day, although it’s a shame when everyone else in the city has the same idea and you all end up at the beach together.
Autumn and spring can be divine, and kinda makes up for the crappy weather in between.
Public transport in Melbourne
Public transport in Australia is generally not the best.
If you move to Melbourne from somewhere else in Australia, you might initially be impressed, as I was, until the trains wore me down. If you move from somewhere with decent or cheap public transport – look, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You may be upset.
I find the trains can be quite erratic. They go via a City Loop, which confusingly, switches direction at 1pm.
Ostensibly, this is to service workers going in and out of the city, but depending on your line, you may need to switch trains, which is pretty annoying.
The buses are fine when they stick to a schedule, which they often don’t.
The one really fantastic thing about Melbourne’s public transport is the Free Tram Zone in the CBD (Central Business District).
You can travel within the city grid without having to pay a cent. It’s really handy if you need to quickly get from one side of the city to the other.
Outside of the city, the trams can get a bit annoying, particularly if you drive.
Plus public transport is pricey and I don’t really think you get value for what you pay. You need a Myki card to travel on all public transport. The cards cost $6, they expire after awhile (dumb) and you can only get mobile Myki on Android phones (also dumb).
Dining in Melbourne
If you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll love Melbourne.
The city has a range of different cuisines, from modern Australian to Italian, Vietnamese, Somalian, Ethiopian, Japanese… you name it, you’ll find it here.
There’s also a strong vegan/vegetarian scene, with some wholly dedicated restaurants such as Smith & Daughters, Lona Misa, Green Mans Arms and Transformer. Plus, plenty of restaurants have vegan/veg substitutes as a standard part of their menus.
Travelling outside Melbourne
You can easily jump on a train to regional cities like Bendigo or Ballarat, or go explore some lovely smaller towns in Victoria.
The state is compact, with a varied landscape, so you don’t need to drive far to find adventure.
Soak up ocean vibes along the coastline, make friends with ferns in ancient rainforest, drive the famed Silo Art Trail, chase the sun along the Murray River or explore dramatic desert landscapes – much of which can be experienced as a weekend getaway from Melbourne.
You can even see snow in wintertime, after a four hour drive to Victoria’s alpine region.
Living costs in Melbourne
All right, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it. How much exactly does living in Melbourne cost?
It’s definitely an exxy city, but it’s not quite as expensive as Sydney, for comparison’s sake.
This is where you’ll particularly feel the pinch, as it costs a pretty penny to both rent and buy housing in Australia.
Melbourne is still cheaper to rent in than Sydney, with the average weekly cost for a house in December 2021 at $445. Units are slightly cheaper at a $375-per week median (depending on how many rooms).
For example, I used to live in a single bedroom in an inner-city suburb for less than $300 a week. Expensive but unimaginable in Sydney.
A side effect of the pandemic saw interest in housing sway from apartments to houses, so it’s incredibly difficult to find a spacious place to rent (arguably, it was before – I’d regularly attend inspections where I live, with a cool 40 other interested people).
Other household expenses
While homeowners are required to pay council rates, rent generally doesn’t include other expenses such as electricity, gas and internet. It will sometimes include water, which will be stated in your agreement.
Not all houses are connected to gas and I really wish mine wasn’t, as it incurs the greatest expense.
Food & eating out
A mid-range meal with an entree or dessert and a drink would probably be around $100-110 per person.
It depends on where you eat, however! Dumplings are always a favourite go-to meal for me in the city, as are pho or ramen, as I can feast like a queen for around $25.
Dining is cheap in this city compared to other places in the country.
For groceries, I’d recommend budgeting around $150 a week between two. As someone who loves to cook, I see real value in bringing my breakfast and lunch to work and bulk-making meals for the week.
It allows me to allocate a bit extra to my fun and food budget.
The all important question – what’s the price of a bevvy in this town?
Melbourne has a thriving craft beer scene and it’s often cheaper to drink local than opt for exxy imports.
A pot (285ml/10 ounces) of beer will generally cost between $4-8 dollars.
A pint (568ml/20 ounces) is around $10-13. Bottled beer usually costs $8-10, depending on the place and the beer.
Wine by the glass is generally between $9-12. You’ll obviously pay more for nicer wine!
This city does cocktails extraordinarily well. I’ve seen them priced from about $15-30, once again depending on the venue and the cocktail.
A day pass on the Myki in metropolitan Melbourne is currently $9.20. It cost around $8 when I moved here. Damn inflation.
If you travel often, it’s worth shelling out for a Myki Pass, for a week, month or year. It gets cheaper to buy, the longer you extend it for.
How much should you put aside for entertainment?
Well, that depends on your interests, but you could easily find yourself spending between $80-150 on ‘fun’.
There are deals to be had – there’s free entry to some galleries and museums, and often free events taking place throughout the city.
Memberships or subscriptions to these places, cinemas, sports teams or theatres can also save you money in the long run.
And of course it costs nothing to go for a nice walk by yourself, with a dog or a friend.
Studying in Melbourne
Known as the ‘Education State’, some of the best universities in the country are in Melbourne. As such, the city is popular with domestic and international students alike. I think it would be a really fun place to be a student.
Along with the University of Melbourne, you can study at RMIT, Monash, La Trobe, Deakin, Victoria University and Swinburne. There’s also a ton of specialist places to learn at, depending on your interests/desired career path.
Jobs in Melbourne
Job prospects in Melbourne are good. Post-COVID, many places are clamouring for wait and bar staff, casual staff and chefs. Jobs in construction, engineering, technology and marketing are also popular.
The Australian Government maintains a Skills Priority List, which as the name suggests, lists the industries which desperately require more workers.
This can be a handy resource if you’re thinking of moving to Melbourne from overseas, or switching careers.
Salaries in Melbourne
The average salary in Melbourne is around $88-89k a year.
If you earn this, you can live semi-comfortably as a single person. It would absolutely get more difficult with dependents.
You can look up the average salary for your industry, to see where you fall on this scale.
Best places to live in Melbourne
All right. So you’re thinking of moving to Melbourne – where should you live?
It really depends on what you’re interested in.
One thing I love about living in Melbourne, is that its neighbourhoods all tend to offer something different.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Melbourne, you could try Gumtree, Flatmates or Flatmate Finders. For a new rental (or buying), check Domain or Real Estate.
You can also register your interest with local real estate agencies, or check the listings on their sites.
Unlike Sydney, Melbourne’s city centre is in the actual centre of the city.
Let’s explore the most popular neighbourhoods spread out around the city. I’ve divided them into north/south/east/west although some may fall into north-west, south-east… you’ll figure it out, I’m sure.
Renting in the city is not quite as expensive as it once was. It’s an excellent option if you’re studying in the city, or just want to be close to the action.
The suburb of Docklands has many new build apartments, fairly close to the action.
Lively Carlton is also a good choice for students or people interested in inner-city living, just outside of the CBD (Central Business District). The Flemington/Kensington area and North Melbourne are also really nice.
North of the city is where the trendiest neighbourhoods live.
Choose from cute townhouses in Fitzroy, to warehouse conversions in Collingwood, which are located near fantastic eat streets, watering holes and shopping strips.
Brunswick and Coburg have a lot going on and further afield, there’s Northcote, Thornbury and Preston to explore.
Along with the suburb of South Melbourne, there’s Port Melbourne, beachy St Kilda and nearby Balaclava to consider.
They’re not the cheapest places to live, but are nicely situated between the city and some lovely nature.
This part of the city is generally a little more affluent than others. Neighbourhoods closer to the city include Hawthorn, Kew, Camberwell, Prahran and South Yarra.
This is my favourite part of Melbourne and an excellent choice if you’re looking to rent or even buy a house.
For renting, try Footscray, Yarraville, Seddon, Spotswood or even Williamstown, to be close to the beach.
That’s basically everything you need to know about living in Melbourne – from the practical side of things.
Now let’s have a tongue-in-cheek examination about what happens when you move to Melbourne.
You drink more coffee or novelty-flavoured lattes than you ever have before in your life
I think if most Melburnians could opt to be fed coffee intravenously, they would choose this option with gusto and enthusiasm.
Coffee drinking isn’t just a recreational activity in this city – it’s a religion. Or an addiction? I’m unsure on which, personally.
Even if you don’t like coffee, when you move to Melbourne, you’ll probably be converted in some form or another.
As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I thought I’d remain immune from this affliction. No such luck. The thousands of coffee shops and cafés across the city cater for my type too, selling plenty of flavoured hot drinks, decent teas and novelty milkshakes.You'll drink stacks of coffee and may develop an interest in the sports. Here are some things that could happen when you move to #Melbourne, Australia. Click To Tweet
You dress each day, for every season
It’s not safe to leave your house in the morning without checking the weather forecast first (and I wouldn’t put all your trust in it being correct, in any case).
The day can start off hot, with the temperature dropping by twenty degrees celsius in the evening. It can rain without warning. And the wind is the utter worst – piercing you to the bone in the winter and making you feel like you’re walking around in a fan-forced oven during the city’s hottest days.
You’re a fool if you leave the house without an umbrella and a light jacket in your backpack, no matter what the season.
You’ll delight in exploring all corners of the city
One aspect of life in Melbourne that I really like, is how different and diverse each neighbourhood is. You don’t have to go into the city, to have a good time.
I’ve had great fun exploring the surrounding areas of where I live and have begun branching out to go further afield and check out new areas.
There are historic houses, museums, parks, urban art and the food in each suburb is certainly something to write home about.
You could spend a lifetime doing this and never get bored.
You’ll adore your own hood
That being said, nowhere delights me as much as the area in Melbourne in which I’ve settled.
I love my house, my street and my local community. It’s wonderful having a hub where you know the names of the people at the post office, which bakery sells the best bahn mi’s and all the secret backroads for getting from place to place.
Thinking of living in Melbourne? Do your research and find a place that suits you down to the core. You’ll be happier for it.
You may grow to hate the trams
The trams seem like such a novelty when you first move to Melbourne. What a lovely and efficient way to move around the city! Why doesn’t every place in Australia have trams? Look at Melbourne, leading the way in public transport!
Then you catch one every day of the week and start to realise they’re the worst thing ever. They’re dirty, they’re not always air conditioned, yet somehow too hot in winter anyway.
There are never enough seats, they take ten million years to get anywhere and they’re expensive to use (they’re admittedly free in the CBD, but that’s far more helpful for tourists than for locals).
And if you end up conceding defeat and buying a car, you’ll spend half your time trapped in the traffic that banks up behind the trams, unable to overtake them. Enjoy your life.
You become snobby where architecture is concerned
By jove, is Melbourne full of beautiful buildings or what? From the city’s skyscrapers, to the houses people live in, the city is home to some stunners.
When you first move to Melbourne, you’ll probably walk around, chin dropped down to your knees, mouth gaping open. People live in these places? And they’re still not expensive as their Sydney counterparts?
After some time, you’ll acclimatise. And when you see other buildings in different cities, you’ll appreciate them, sure. But deep down, you’ll know they’ve got nothing on Melbourne’s buildings.
And maybe one day you’ll end up living in one of those gorgeous little terrace houses. Life will then truly be complete.
You pay more attention to the clothes you wear
Melburnians are very fashion savvy people and each suburb of the city seems to have its own code of dress.
Fitzroy is full of trendy hipsters, Collingwood is home to yuppies with money. Brunswick folk have a look that is reminiscent of art students and those who conduct their lives in the city are often dressed to the nines, looking impossibly immaculate.
How do they do it? It’s beyond me.
The city is an ideal place to venture to if you like shopping. There are plenty of boutique stores found across the suburbs, selling items of clothing you won’t find anywhere else.
There are also good finds to be had in secondhand stores around the city – and you don’t have to venture into the trendier suburbs to grab a bargain, either.
Your sense of style will probably change when you move to Melbourne, but it’s not the worst thing that can happen.
You start actively enjoying the sports
Melbourne is the sports capital of Australia, with some sort of sorry excuse for “entertainment” going on in the city all year round.
Once the AFL (Aussie Rules) season is over, you think you’d catch a break, but no, then there’s the Spring Carnival racing season (yuck), followed by the soccer and cricket, the F1 in March and before you know it, the AFL has kicked off again.
Even if you’re against sports in all forms, you’ll find yourself attending games here and there, mostly against your will. I haven’t been to an AFL game since 2012, but I know my football-free days are numbered. I would even go so far as saying I’m starting to enjoy it. Can’t believe that’s now out there on the Internet, for anyone to see.
Even if you don’t like sport all that much when you move to Melbourne, you’ll probably eventually start warming to it a bit. Just a little.
You’ll enjoy world class exhibitions
Living in Melbourne is particularly delightful as there’s always something going on.
Melbourne Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria in particular get some pretty amazing exhibitions – NGV in particular has seen the likes of Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama and Dior grace its rooms in the time since I moved here.
You accept that you’ll probably never see a decent beach again
One thing Melbourne is lacking in, is decent beaches within the city limits. No, St Kilda doesn’t count.
You essentially have to travel quite some distance to find a beach that is a) swimmable and b) not inundated by tourists taking photos in front of brightly coloured beach boxes that cost more to own than a one-bedroom flat in some parts of the city.
So, what do you do? You take advantage of your local pool, or sprawl in the park instead. I see many picnics in your future and this can’t be a bad thing, at all.
You drink more than you’ve ever drunk before in your life
Melbourne’s bar scene is off the hook, especially when put against Sydney which barely has a nightlife anymore.
There are tons of hip bars throughout the CBD (Central Business District) and the surrounding suburbs. Many have their own individual vibe and the most delicious cocktails.
The social scene in the city goes hand and hand with alcohol. If you tend to navigate around via public transport, you’ll find yourself drinking with nearly every meal, drinking with friends, drinking on your own in your flat on a Saturday night (no? Maybe it’s just me then).
It doesn’t help that the state of Victoria is renowned for its wine production. You don’t have to travel far to happen upon some truly wonderful vineyards and breweries.
Living in Melbourne can certainly RIP your liver.
You acknowledge that you’ll end up spending at least half of your pay check on eating out and cultural activities
Melbourne is one of the more multicultural cities of Australia. Do you know what this means?
It means there is food from countries throughout the world to be found across the city.
This is very good news for your taste buds and bad news for your bank account.
Then, there’s the fact that there’s always something going on. A concert, a festival, a new play in town, a new show opening at one of the art galleries.
Living in Melbourne certainly means you’ll never be bored.
You start to develop lukewarm feelings about Sydney
Sydney is a great city in its own right. Having spent half my life living there, I personally have very fond feelings for the place.
Yet, the longer I live in Melbourne, the more my allegiance starts to swing. I start thinking things like: But Melbourne’s so much cheaper to live in. Maybe the brunch scene IS better. Who needs beaches and nature anyway?!
And the truly unforgivable… I don’t think I could ever live in Sydney again!
Blasphemy, right? I deal with my treacherous feelings by reminding myself all the things about Sydney I truly enjoy and admire. But, I can’t help feeling I’m fighting a losing battle and will be won over eventually.
You realise the hype surrounding this city exists for a reason
Melbourne seems like an impossible city in many ways, as everyone seems to love it. That’s a lot of pressure for a place… can it truly live up to the hype?
Short answer, yes. Living in Melbourne is pretty damn good. You’ll never be bored here, that’s for sure.
You’ll be unable to imagine living anywhere else in Australia
This part rings true.
I know there are many parts of the country that have personally permanently captured my heart… but a move to Melbourne felt quite a bit like coming home.
I hope this helps you figure out whether living in Melbourne is for you. It’s a fantastic city – I never regret moving here.
Haha…my home city. Have to agree with you about the beaches too. That’s definitely one thing we lack! 🙂
One of the few things. 🙂 A train line out the airport would be real nice, too!
I always figured I’d end up living in Melbourne someday, haha. Seems like my kinda place!
It reminds me a lot of Berlin, if that helps!
This is so accurate! Just moved to Melbourne on my working holiday a few months ago! It really is the best Australian city. 🙂
It’s so great, glad you’re enjoying it!
You go shopping for pretty clothes and you find lots of them but they’re really expensive so you just buy one thing… maybe. LOL, I LOVE Melbourne so much. Even though I’m from Sydney, whenever people ask me where they should visit in Australia, Melbourne is always top of the recommendation list.
Same! (In the being from Syd, the Melbourne at the top and the financial inability to buy multiple items of clothing in this city).
After the first few points I was starting to think you did not like Melbourne at all but the rest of article indicates you have succumbed to its charms. It’s a great city !
Haha nah, I totally adore it, just have no love for the public transport!
Thank you for posting this! I wouldn’t say I’m relocating to Melbourne just yet, but because there is a possibility (albeit, remote), it didn’t hurt to do some light reading on the topic. Coming from the U.S., there are cities here that mimic parts of the 13 things you mentioned so there is at least an understanding (leading to acclimating). Next google search, “driving on the other side of the road” 🙂
Haha as someone who has driven on both sides of the road, I’d say it’s pretty easy to do as long as you don’t jump straight into driving stick! I think Australia and the USA are very similar in many regards, so it wouldn’t be too hard to climatise.
My Girlfriend moved to Melbourne from the Virginia (USA) and loves it. I plan to be coming over very soon. She loves the public transport and before the pandemic was using it to get all around the city. I just shared your blog post with her but have not heard back yet.
Thank you for posting this. It was very helpful and I cannot wait to be a Melburnian soon.
Thanks Joe. I’m glad your girlfriend loves it – it’s a wonderful place. The city looks forward to welcoming you once pandemic-related things settle down a bit. Good luck with the move.
My family and I am moving this year to Melbourne.
I’m praying like crazy that you will get out of lockdown soon!
I’m so proud the premier had decided on such a drastic measure For Victoria but I realise how hard it is for you all.
Good luck and hope to see Melbourne in all its glory soon.
Thanks Hj, good luck with the move. We look forward to welcoming you (and are also praying like mad!).
And thanks! It has been hard, but at least the numbers are going down, hopefully we can get back to a more “normal” life in the next few weeks. I hope to see it in all its glory soon, too.
This made for a great read, enjoyed all the bits and pieces esp at a time when I have just arrived here and will be stepping out of hotel quarantine soon. Excited to explore a city I’ll call home, blogged about my move too. You have raised the ‘Melbourne as a city’ bar for me in this post.
Lived several years in Melbourne. Moved for love, that didn’t work out and now I can’t wait to move out. I don’t understand why people like this place. It’s absolutely jam packed full of graffiti. It’s ugly and shows there’s something wrong with people here. Either it’s unrest or apathy. And what’s with everyone wearing black? There’s definitely something wrong with people here. They don’t seem to have a sense of pride or self respect; they just wallow in the filth around them – probably apathy again. Also, people are clicky here. They stick with their own tribes and newcomers like me seem outsiders forever. It’s also a town obsessed with football. Football is always in the newspapers and even my son’s teacher preferred to talk about that instead of actual teaching. This place is insular and downright depressing.
Shame that was your experience of living here Lora. Hope you find a better place for you.