On a recent trip to Melbourne, several locals described the city as Australia’s version of New York. Melbourne might not be as pretty as Sydney, which has a beach culture similar to that of Los Angeles, but they said that it was more interesting.
Low-rise streetscapes and communities of artists and hipsters can make parts of Melbourne feel like Brooklyn. But a palpable warmth and friendliness among residents set its atmosphere apart: Strangers kept in touch after chats on the street, sending messages to recommend coffee shops and, in one instance, to extend an invitation to a birthday party.
In late December and early January — summertime in Melbourne — the place was sleepier than expected for what is technically Australia’s most populous city. Lots of people had left to spend the holidays in lands beyond. Northcote and Preston, two up-and-coming neighborhoods, often felt like ghost towns. Fitzroy, known as a hipper area, was buzzier, even though its two main thoroughfares, Brunswick Street and Smith Street, weren’t exactly bustling.
Seeing a quieter version of Melbourne made it easier to notice recurring elements of residents’ style. It’s a place where you can see a lot of black. Though the shade was by no means universal, it was far more popular than you might expect for summer. Many people were tattooed — not just full sleeves on arms, but designs covering heads and every appendage. Observing the style outside, another city came to mind: Berlin.