Despite the popularity of Drosophila melanogaster in functional and evolutionary genetics, the global pattern of natural variation has not yet been comprehensively described in this species. For the first time, we report a combined survey using neutral microsatellites and mitochondrial sequence variation jointly. Thirty-five populations originating from five continents were compared. In agreement with previous microsatellite studies, sub-Saharan African populations were the most variable ones. Consistent with previous reports of a single 'out of Africa' habitat expansion, we found that non-African populations contained a subset of the African alleles. The pattern of variation detected for the mitochondrial sequences differed substantially. The most divergent haplotypes were detected in the Mediterranean region while Africa harboured most haplotypes, which were all closely related. In the light of the well-established African origin of D. melanogaster, our results cast severe doubts about the suitability of mtDNA for biogeographic inference in this model organism.