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One of Australia's cultural and commercial hubs, Melbourne often compares itself to San Francisco because of its pedestrian-friendly laneways and its emphasis on mixology bars, independent designers, and fringe theater.Melbourne is a big city, and nowhere is that more apparent than Federation Square. This massive new square/shopping complex is always crowded with people on foot and on bicycle. It's across the street from the Flinders Train Station, and one side faces the Yarra River. Seemingly half the city comes out to shop, stroll, watch street performers, and Rollerblade the riverwalk in good weather. The Central Business District is within five minutes' walking distance. However, locals point you to other districts to get a true "sense of place": Fitzroy and Brunswick for trendy, and Carlton, a former Little Italy turned university 'hood.
Even more so than the rest of Australia, the country’s second-largest city is a city of immigrants; its population is enriched by first- and second-generation arrivals from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, which gives it a distinctly cosmopolitan outlook and adventurously varied cuisine. A center for film and TV production, and for Australia’s ambitious cultural aspirations, Melbourne displays its passions in a series of major festivals, including an international Jazz Festival, Art Fair, Film Festival, Comedy Festival and Writers Festival. But these are just appetizers to the big Melbourne Festival, a citywide celebration held each October, and its eccentric counterpart, the Melbourne Fringe.