Melbourne, the capital of Victoria is the second largest city in Australia. The city was founded in 1835 and upon the 1901 federation of the six colonies that became the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne also served as the nations capital and seat of government from 1901 to 1927 (using the State Parliament building as the national parliament). By 1927 the initial construction of today’s capital Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory was completed and the Federal Parliament of Australia was ready for use (the site of the city was chosen in 1908 as a compromise between the two rival cities of Melbourne and Sydney – Australia’s largest city, and resolved the dispute of which should be the capital. This rivalry still exists today!).
Melbourne came to prominence in the 1850’s on the back of the Victorian Gold Rush. The population of the colony of Victoria exploded and the wealth of the economy grew (between 1851 and 1855 the population grew from 80,000 to 300,000 people. Today the state has a population of approximately 5.6 million people of which 4.1 million live in Melbourne).
The city has developed into one of not only financial prominance but also one of culture, the arts, food and has an incredible love of sports (today this includes Australian Rules Football, Cricket, Rugby, Soccer, Formula One and Horse Racing to name but a few – crowds can be up to 100,000 people or more at some of these events!). The prosperous Gold Rush days lead to the growth of the city and also the development of many grand buildings of the Victorian era and post federation period including the State Parliament (opened 1856), State Library (opened 1856), Princess Theatre (opened 1857), the Town Hall (opened 1870), the Exhibition Building (built for the 1880 International Exhibition that established Melbourne as a major city in the world. The building also hosted the opening of the first Parliament of Australia in 1901 and would be later used by the Victorian Parliament between 1901-1927), Windsor Hotel (first opened in 1884 and then doubled in size in 1888 it is now the only surviving “grand” hotel of the 19th century in Australia), St. Pauls Cathedral (consecrated 1891), Flinders Street Station (completed 1909), the Forum Theatre (opened in 1929 as the largest cinema in Australia seating 3,371 people it has an impressive gothic exterior and inside there are Greco-Roman statues and a painted ceiling to represent the nights sky) and the Shrine of Remembrance (opened 1934).
These old buildings reside today with towering skyscrapers and modern structures such as the Rialto Towers, Eureka Tower (the tallest building in Melbourne at 91 stories and the second tallest in Australia), the Arts Centre Spire and Federation Square to form a perfect blend of the old and the new. So if you are wandering the streets of Melbourne please take the time to look up and take in the architectural sights around you as there is so much to see!