Melbourne is located in the south-eastern corner of mainland Australia, approximately 800 kilometres southwest of Sydney. It sits looking on to Port Phillip Bay, its suburbs sprawling to the east, following the Yarra River out to the Yarra and Dandenong mountain ranges, south-east to the mouth of the bay, and west and north to flat farming country. The central business district is laid out in a grid, its southern side backing on to the Yarra.
Melbourne is a large commercial and industrial center, with many of Australia's largest companies, and many multinationals headquartered there. It is home to Australia's largest port, several prominent universities (most notably the University of Melbourne), and much of Australia's automotive industry amongst many other manufacturing industries.
Melbourne, while having a large and vibrant arts and cultural life (notably including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival each autumn), is perhaps best known as the most sports-obsessed city in the world. Melbourne has ten of the sixteen teams in Australian Football League, whose five games per week attract, on average, about 35,000 people per game. Melbourne hosts the Australian tennis open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, the Melbourne Cup (the most prestigious handicap horse race in the world), a hugely-attended cricket Test Match starting each year on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (a massive arena that holds 100,000 spectators), a round of the Formula One World Championship, amongst many other events attracted to the city by the readiness of spectators to attend, as well as aggressive attempts by the state government to attract them.
Melbourne was founded in 1835 by a group of free settlers, unlike many of Australia's capital cities which were founded as penal colonies. With the discovery of gold in central Victoria in the 1850s, Melbourne quickly grew as a port to service the necessary trade and by the time of Federation shared pre-eminence with Sydney as Australia's most important cities. Until 1927 and the construction of Canberra, Melbourne served as Australia's centre of government.
Melbourne continued to grow steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century, particularly with the post-WWII influx of migrants and the influence of hosting the Olympics in 1956. While continuing to grow, however, Sydney's influence on Australian affairs grew stronger at the expense of Melbourne's. Capitalising on this mood, the Liberal government of Jeffrey Kennett revitalised the city through the 1990s with agressive development of new public buildings and publicising Melbourne's merits both to outsiders and Melbournians. Despite a recent change of government, the re-energised city continues to grow rapidly.
One notable feature of the Melbourne landscape is a mobile one - the tram. Melbourne is the only Australian city to retain a significant light rail system throughout its inner suburbs. They are of great interest to tourists (particularly those from the US in which light rail systems disappeared a lifetime ago), particularly the W-class trams which remain in regular passenger service after more than fifty years of operation.