Visitors to South Melbourne are in for a real treat. Far more than just a suburb of larger Melbourne, this city in its own right has a long history, notable former residents, an outstanding football club, and a socially-conscious retail district that all deserve attention. And with its close proximity to Melbourne's central business district, there are endless diversions at your doorstep.
The area was formerly known as Emerald Hill. During the 1851 Gold Rush, thousands of immigrants working the gold fields lived here in a vast tent city. The resulting slums were gradually pushed back, and the township was established officially in 1872 as a separate borough. Progress was not to be denied - city status, and the name change to South Melbourne, came along only 11 years later in 1883. Melbourne's urban sprawl led to a decline of the South Melbourne area, but in the 1980's a strong wave of renewal swept through the city and left much brighter prospects in its wake. Since 1994, South Melbourne is officially part of the City of Port Phillip.
The area has a strong sporting history. Among the prominent former residents of South Melbourne are H.H. "Dally" Messenger, one of the earliest professional rugby players, and J.R. "Gentleman Jack" McGowan, a famous boxer, actor, and fellow footballer. Messenger played in both rugby union and rugby league teams, and had such an influence on the sport that the annual Dally M. Medal (awarded annually to the best Australian footballer) was established in his honor. McGowan is famous for holding the Australian championships in three weight divisions - bantamweight, featherweight, and lightweight.
The main attraction in South Melbourne has to be the South Melbourne Market. Bordered by Cecil, Coventry, and York Streets, the Market is the heart of South Melbourne. With more than 150 stalls, visitors are sure to find everything they need. From masseuses to bistros, and fresh produce to boutique butchers, all of life's necessities are here. Furthermore, the market serves as a civic conscience of sorts - sustainability is a key feature of the market's vision. Energy efficient lighting is in use throughout, and reducing the carbon footprint of vendors and customers alike is at the forefront of the business. In operation since 1867, this is the oldest marketplace in South Melbourne.
After your shopping is done, hit the nearby Cecil Street dining precinct. This street is a burgeoning coffee mecca, with independent roasting operations alongside cafes lining the street. As the day grows older and the hour becomes too late for one more espresso, don't despair. Wine bars, pubs, and restaurants aplenty sit on Cecil Street as well. This is the chance for foodies to experience a wide array of cuisines all in one area. And if a sit-down meal isn't in the cards, the brave-at-heart can sample world cuisines from hawker stalls in the Market and along the street as well. You can't go wrong on Cecil Street - the choice is up to you!
Haven't yet had your fill of sport? Stand-alone types can head over to the Albert Park Public Golf Course for a day in the sun, while team sport aficionados should plan to visit Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park to catch a South Melbourne FC match at Bob Jane Stadium. The venue offers seating for 6,000 fans, and the club has been named the Oceania Club of the Century in 2011.
Round out your visit with a stroll through the old section of the town. Enjoy the Victorian era architecture, focused around the South Melbourne Town Hall. Built in 1879-1880, the Victorian Heritage Registry building was restored in 2004 and is still in daily use. The Hall is home to Multicultural Arts Victoria, the Australian National Academy of Music, and office of the Port Phillip City Council.
Enjoy your visit to South Melbourne - not just a suburb!
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