Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia, the driest state in the driest country in the world. It is a small city on the international stage, with a local population of around one million.
Traditionally, the 'Great Australian Dream' has been to own a house on a modest quarter-acre block. The suburbs are testament to that dream and most Adelaideans live on large allotments in spacious surroundings. The suburbs have few multi-storey buildings and are leafy and green. Recently, inner-city townhouses have become very fashionable among those with too much money on their hands and this has led to a spate of high-rise developments.
Adelaide was founded in 1836 and was the first of Australia's cities that did not begin as a penal settlement. It was entirely populated by free men and women who wanted to start a new life in a land of opportunity. Many of its original settlers were farmers from Germany and Great Britain. An increase in the number of immigrants after the Second World War has created a multicultural society providing an opportunity to taste and experience the best the world has to offer.
The layout of the central business district was planned by Colonel William Light before construction of the first building in the area began. Light stood on a what is now known as Montefiore Hill (just to the north of the city) and looking down on the surrounding bushland he imagined a great city. As a result, development has not been in the hotchpotch manner of many cities, and this is a testament to Light's foresight. Adelaide is situated on the mighty Torrens River1 and is nestled halfway between the sea to the west and the Adelaide Hills to the east. The CBD2 is one mile square, with wide roads crossing in a symmetrical grid. There are five well-kept squares (parks) in the city, one in the centre and one towards each of the corners. Adelaide is the only city in the world completely surrounded by parklands, with a broad band of greenery a half kilometre wide encircling the centre and North Adelaide.
Adelaide is renowned for its variety of dining options, and has more cafés and restaurants per capita than just about anywhere. Most of these only use local produce as some of the world's best food and wine comes from the region. Adelaide is one of those rare places where they have taken the best produce and processes from all over the world and managed to improve on them and has now started exporting them back to the experts. Just ask the French, who can't get enough of South Australian wine. The Adelaide Convention Centre attracts thousands of international delegates every year, and has been voted in the top three convention venues in the world three years running.
For a small and usually sleepy city, Adelaide has developed a reputation for holding big events, with successes that make other cities envious. For 11 years, Adelaide was the host of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and was voted the best Grand Prix venue of the year on almost every occasion. The Grand Prix course ran through the leafy East Parklands, on the outskirts of the CBD, though to watch it on television you might never have known. It was the knowledge and experience gained by the Adelaide F1 GP team that Sydney drew upon to run the 2000 Olympic Games. Since the Grand Prix has left Adelaide. the gap in the social calendar has been replaced by other racing events - the Le Mans series for a year, the Sensational 500 V8 race, and the Classic Australia Rally. In the last five years the East Parklands have also been host to the Adelaide International Horse Trials, the only five-star horsing event in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Jacobs Creek Tour Downunder, one of the only international cycling events to lure the top stars away from Europe.
If you are lucky enough to time your trip perfectly, every second year South Australia is host to one of the best known art festivals in the world. The Adelaide Festival of Arts and its accompanying Fringe Festival are an amazing collection of performances of the highest quality that have to be seen to be believed. The Fringe Festival brings the streets of the city alive, making up for the slow nightlife at other times in the year. People cram into venues across the city and throughout the State to see the best comedy, theatre, performance, visual arts and film anywhere on offer.
Adelaide is a town of surprising contradictions, that for its size should never have attracted the international attention that it routinely receives. Adelaide has the best of both worlds, a slow, laid-back approach to life, and a surprising energy and vibrancy that pops its head out every now and then...
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