After visiting two of Australia’s finest cities, I’ve decided to enter the debate of “what’s better; Melbourne or Sydney”? To get involved in this, I have to understand myself which is better and why.
So I have compiled a list of five factors that I always judge a place I visit on, and let the two cities decide it. The five factors are: scenery, nightlife, price, culture and accessibility.
In Melbourne you get a very European feel, with lots of cafes, bars and restaurants littered through the side streets, whilst Sydney flexes it’s muscle in a more industrious manner having all of its top shops fighting over space on the high streets. On the other hand, Sydney has all of the iconic sights that come to people’s minds when they think of Australia (The Harbour Bridge and Opera House). Melbourne has nothing even in comparison. Sydney again takes the lead when it comes to beaches, having more surfer zones than I can even think of, with surrounding suburbs like; Bronte, Bondi and Clovelly making full use of it’s beach front views. Also Sydney makes incredible use of its outdoor living space, with huge areas of greenery like Centennial Park and with Sydney’s advantage in the climate department, you can make year round access of the great outdoors. However, Melbourne does hold the cards when it comes to that hip vibe with all its street art in the CBD and more restaurants/cafes per capita than anywhere else in the world. It really depends on what you want for scenes. A trendy hip city that has a coffee shop and bar on every corner (Melbourne), or a surfers paradise with rooftop bars overlooking iconic views (Sydney).
I have to go with Melbourne on this one. With the recent crackdown on late bars in Sydney, the bars of Melbourne have taken advantage. Rooftop bars, dive bars and glamorous restaurant bars have sprawled all over the city of Melbourne and you literally won’t walk ten minutes without finding one. Melbourne’s nightlife reminds me of East London, in particular Fitzroy. Passport control and aggressive door security in Sydney has just ruined the nightlife vibe for me.
Unfortunately both of these cities are very expensive, in particular for backpackers. Many people tried to convince me that Melbourne is cheaper because it’s bars and restaurants are not on the high street but that simply isn’t true. A pint of beer in the CBD of either city will cost you upwards of $13 AUD. Sit down restaurant meals in both cities will cost approximately $20 AUD, and so forth for accommodation and daily expenses. This is Australia, high taxes apply.
Depending on how you define culture, I believe Melbourne trumps Sydney here. While Sydney far from lacks culture, it’s usually playing second fiddle to Melbourne. If there is a new festival or play on in Australia, more than likely it will have its turn in Melbourne first, if Sydney gets it at all. The Sydney people seem to be more occupied with fitness and beach bodies, while Melbournians looks more into art, fashion, food and music. The city of Melbourne is a piece of art in itself with all the urban displays and murals on every corner. All you have to do is explore Fitzroy, Brunswick or Hosier Lane to see clearly Melbourne has the cultural advantages.
As far as public transport goes in Australia, I’m not convinced. Maybe after growing up in Europe and living in London for four years I’ve been spoilt for choice with public transport, and Australia doesn’t even come close. However, between these two cities I have to go with Melbourne again. Sydney’s roads are laid out in a spaghetti fashion and are also full of one way streets which is just a disaster for anyone planning a road trip. Constant roadworks continue year round for this sprawling city. However Sydney’s new Opal ticketing system is favourable to Melbourne’s. Especially given that Sydney’s train line runs direct to the airport from the city, compared to Melbournes overly priced Skybus. The reason I chose Melbourne is because of the American styled grid system Melbourne adopted, which means getting lost is near impossible. This grid system is also circled with a free inner city tram. It’s only when you step outside Melbourne’s CBD you realise public transport is irregular and not reliable. Even though Melbourne wins this, I feel both cities need work.
Conclusion: Even though with these five factors taken into consideration and Melbourne looking a clear winner, Sydney’s wow factor and outdoor lifestyle is so superior to that of Melbourne I can see why people would prefer Sydney. If you prefer beaches, iconic landmarks coinciding with nature, than Sydney is for you. If you prefer culture, art, food and nightlife (like me), then grab yourself a coffee and settle into Melbourne.