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How Is Melbourne Different From Sydney?

There's an age-old debate among vacationers: Sydney or Melbourne? We had heard both sides of the argument before coming to Australia: vacationers and business travellers favoured Sydney, while nomads and rebels favoured Melbourne. Even though they are quite different, the two cities cannot help but be rivals to one another.

Most visitors to Australia have a limited amount of time to explore the country, and the country is huge and, let's face it, expensive, so we want to assist you pick the finest major city for your needs.

We'll go through each city's highlights so you can make an informed decision based on the type of travelling you are. For your convenience, we will choose category winners and announce them.

Travelers with limited time in Australia may have to decide between visiting Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne and Sydney, Australia's two most populous cities, are both fantastic representations of Australia as a whole, yet they also have notable distinctions.

In order to assist you decide between Sydney and Melbourne, we have compiled a comprehensive guide.

FAQs About Melbourne

It's a debate that has never truly been settled – which Australian city is better, Melbourne or Sydney? Despite neither city being the country’s true capital, both are better known than most Australian cities.

The amazing city offers many things to do for corporate and leisure travellers and is high on the ‘wish list’ of most globetrotters. However, many agree that Melbourne is, in fact, the better city.

Sydney more expensive than Melbourne

While Sydneysiders earn more on average than Melbournites, they also pay 37% more for their houses, with the average house price in Sydney costing $843,994 compared to just $615,068 in Melbourne.

Sydney has overtaken Melbourne as the safer Australian city in new rankings, though both can lay claim to being among the safest cities in the world. Sydney outranked Melbourne on two measures, including personal security (86.8 to 89.1) and health security (79.3 to 79.8).

Sydney outranks Melbourne by far when it comes to the weather. This could be attributed to its coastal location - the climate is temperate with warm summers and cool winters.

Melbourne has a well-developed job market, which makes it easier to find a workplace, even for unskilled workers. While not cheap, the average house in Melbourne is around A$100,000 less than in Sydney.

The southern capital is now the closest it has been since 1930 to overtake Sydney as Australia's most populous city. In 1930, Sydney had 1.2 million residents compared with 995,000 in Melbourne.

According to Demographia's list, out of the 1,040 cities surveyed, Melbourne's population density of an estimated 1,500 people/ km2 is ranked 955th. The same Demographia-sponsored survey listed Sydney as 43rd in terms of urban footprint size (2,037 km2).

 

Sydney and Melbourne are both on the East Coast of Australia, and on a map, they look like they aren’t too far apart. However, Australia is a VERY big country, and they are a 1.5-hour flight or 9 - 10 hour drive apart.

They are in separate states: Sydney is the capital of New South Wales, and Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and both have a huge choice of international flights in and out of the cities.

Sydney Vs. Melbourne

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Sydney Landmarks And Sightseeing

Sydney Landmarks are the epitome of what many international visitors imagine as the symbol of Australia, it is hard to argue with that stereotype considering Sydney Harbour is one of the most picturesque waterways in the world. The harbour is home to iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Luna Park, drawing crowds far and wide.

Melbourne Landmarks And Sightseeing

Numerous other contemporary global cities fall far short of Sydney's standards. Melbourne is home to several well-known structures and sites, including many major stadiums and a network of charming alleyways. Explore a fascinating blend of historic landmarks and state-of-the-art museums, theatres, and galleries.

Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, the State Library of Victoria, the Shrine of Remembrance, Old Melbourne Gaol, and the revered Melbourne Cricket Ground are just a few of the city's most iconic landmarks.

Last but not least, the Eureka Skydeck is the greatest place to take in Melbourne's panoramas, with unobstructed views of the city and Port Phillip Bay from every angle.

Sydney Culture

Sydney's culture is a contentious issue because it can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Nevertheless, the city has everything a tourist to a global metropolis would want, including galleries, churches, theatres, museums, restaurants, and nightlife.

The Sydney Opera House is where the world's best musicians and singers have performed for decades. Concurrently, in May and June, the VIVID Festival, a celebration of light, music, and ideas, floods the night sky and illuminates famous landmarks.

Sydney has Australia's best nightlife, with some of the country's largest nightclubs drawing international DJs. In addition, if you're looking for high-end fine dining with breathtaking waterfront views, Sydney is the place to go if you're willing to splurge.

But if you're on a tighter budget, venues like Spice Alley provide communal eating experiences with authentic, delicious food at a far lower cost and without compromising on quality.

Melbourne Culture

Culture abounds in Melbourne, and it all starts with the city's multiethnic population. Brightly painted murals, live performances, secret rooftop bars, world-class restaurants, and hole-in-the-wall eateries serving delectable cuisines at all hours of the night and day are just some of the many forms of art that can be found here. This coincides with the area's trendsetting populace and robust alternative scene, which straddles the line between being cool and being hipster.

Live music venues and speciality pubs serving wine, scotch, and gin give Melbourne's nightlife an air of sophistication. The Fitzroy and St. Kilda neighbourhoods, as well as the Crown Casino, are frequently frequented by locals and visitors alike for their nightlife.

While eating out is typically a less expensive social activity, you shouldn't overlook the many award-winning eateries in the area. European and Asian influences have resulted in an excellent combination of cuisines, so the dining possibilities are practically limitless. Culture seekers will find a plenty of opportunities in Melbourne.

Things To Do In Sydney

Sydney's got plenty of attractions to keep all ages happy.

Including Taronga Zoo, SEA LIFE Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds, Sydney Eye Tower, Luna Park, Wet n Wild or the iconic Harbour Bridge Climb. This is without even mentioning all the heritage and natural attractions, beaches, gardens and hidden coves that Sydney offers.

As Australia's largest city, you'd expect it to offer the most things to keep you occupied, and you'd be correct in making that assumption. Sydney's landmarks, weather, variety and geographical location all come together to make it one of the most varied and diverse cities in the world in terms of activities and attractions. 

In terms of diversity and things to do for both visitors and residents alike, Sydney is the rightful jewel in the crown of Australia.

Things To Do In Melbourne

Compared to Sydney's huge number of attractions, Melbourne falls behind slightly.

A rich food and bar culture are all well and good, but there is only so much dining and drinking a person can do in a single day. What Melbourne does excel at, though, is a huge number of interesting museums and art galleries, some of which can be found in the city's laneways.

Sydney Weather

This could be attributed to its coastal location - the climate is temperate with warm summers and cool winters. Occasionally the city may reach 40 degrees in summer; however, many beaches, ocean pools and Wet N Wild Sydney make it much more bearable to deal with.

The yearly average maximum temperature for Sydney is a pleasant 22 degrees with a minimum of 13.8 degrees, reinforcing the general comfort that you may experience during a visit. 

Rainfall is surprisingly higher than in Melbourne, but it is more likely to be experienced in summer during heavy seasonal thunderstorms instead of drizzly showers throughout the year. The consistency of the weather makes it easier to make plans and know what to expect when you travel to Sydney.

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Melbourne Weather

In Melbourne, you can experience four seasons in one day.

Because of this, it's best to always bring a change of clothes and to dress in layers so that you're ready for either the sun or the rain. In addition to the increased frequency of rainy days and the generally lower temperatures, Melbourne's unpredictability is one of the main reasons why it is not a top tourist destination. Even yet, the city has adapted to its climate thanks to the abundance of indoor venues.

Unpredictable summers with no reliable beaches are mitigated by the ubiquitous availability of air conditioning. The good thing is that the weather in Melbourne is prone to rapid shift, so you won't have to suffer through an unappealing spell for very long. Even while the weather is nice, the real winners are the stunning gardens filled with vibrant autumn hues and evergreen trees.

Sydney Transport

Sydney's traffic has reached epic proportions with the rise of the population which can make driving or catching a bus a bit of a nightmare but the city's saving grace is its railway and ferry system based in Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. 

This is especially handy for tourists who can access many of the prominent sightseeing points of Sydney, including Taronga Zoo, Manly, Sydney SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds and Sydney Eye Tower within the city zone. But with your electronic Opal transport card in hand, the city is available for you to explore easily on ferry, bus and rail.

The yearly average maximum temperature for Sydney is a pleasant 22 degrees with a minimum of 13.8 degrees, reinforcing the general comfort that you may experience during a visit. 

Rainfall is surprisingly higher than in Melbourne, but it is more likely to be experienced in summer during heavy seasonal thunderstorms instead of drizzly showers throughout the year. The consistency of the weather makes it easier to make plans and know what to expect when you travel to Sydney.

Melbourne Transport

Melbourne's excellent tram system is a great alternative for getting around the city.

What's even better is that the city is sanctioned a free travel zone, so you can jump aboard without having to worry about purchasing a ‘Myki' electronic travel card. Peak hours should be avoided, though, as unsurprisingly it is a tight squeeze but the journey outside of these times is an enjoyable one.

The grid-like streets around the CBD make it easier enough to drive around unless you need to make one of those dreaded ‘hook' turns to avoid the oncoming traffic. Still, if you are a visitor, you will likely stay in the central district where walking is sufficient and far more exciting to explore the city, and great trams are available if needed.

Natural Beauty

This one is a pretty clear cut case. Whilst Melbourne is no ugly duckling, and few cities in the world can compete with Sydney Harbour.

That quintessential view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge will get you every time, and we’ve yet to see it rivalled anywhere else in the world. Melbourne has the Yarra River, which is particularly photogenic at sunset, but really, it doesn’t stand a chance against Sydney Harbour.

Suppose we were talking about architectural beauty. That’s another matter. Sydney’s CBD is by, and large pretty ugly and Melbourne’s city centre and laneways are much more attractive.

Winner: Sydney

Vibe

This one will also depend on what you like, but despite the fact we live in Sydney, I prefer the vibe in Melbourne. Sydney can feel quite Americanised and a little bit shiny and superficial. If you like a scene that is quite ‘showy’, you are going to fit right into Sydney.

You'll find more openness and relaxation in Melbourne. Melbourne is a more laid-back city for me, and I enjoy strolling around on my own at night because there's often a positive atmosphere. Melbourne is the place to go if you like big cities but prefer a more laid-back atmosphere.

Winner: Melbourne

Beaches

Sorry Melbourne, but this is another easy one. Sydney’s beaches are prettier than anything you’ll find in Melbourne. The sand is whiter, and the settings are more dramatic. Sydney also has way more of them!

However, the fact that many Melbourne beaches face the ocean means that they offer spectacular views of the sunset. The sunset over the water is always a spectacular experience, and we much prefer it to the early morning beach sunrises that Sydney requires.

Melbourne also has the cute bathing boxes at Brighton Beach, but despite that, Sydney wins on this one, hands down.

Winner: Sydney

Food

Both cities have a great food scene, although Sydney’s can be harder to sniff out. When we first moved to Sydney, I had to research pretty hard to find good cheap eats or even great food at the upper end, which was all about the food and not about the view.

You can get affordable food on every corner in Melbourne, and the greater multiculturalism of the city may explain why there is so much more of it than in Sydney. You'll have to do some exploring, but Sydney is home to a wide variety of cuisines.

Both cities have a fantastic brunch and coffee culture, and it will be hard to go wrong there.

I would put Sydney on top if you want a bucket list meal with a view of the harbour, but generally speaking, I think Melbourne pips it for everything else.

Winner: Melbourne

Bars & Nightlife

If you’re looking for a glamorous evening with big views and a big price tag, you’ll struggle to find anywhere better in the world than Sydney. One drink at Blu Bar in the Shangri-La Hotel, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Those views are jaw-dropping, and they don’t get old. Sydney’s Opera Bar is another classic that almost all tourists looking for a night out will visit, and it’s another incredible spot. 

Sydneysiders tend to get glammed up for a big night out, and I find that it is less and less my scene, but if you love dressing to impress, you’ll fit right in.

Nightlife in Melbourne is less frenetic. In contrast to Sydney, where I would feel embarrassingly underdressed in jeans in a bar, I feel quite at ease doing so here. It's no secret that Sydney residents adore alley bars, but Melbourne's version is unrivalled. In Melbourne, everything seems easier.

Bars along the river in Melbourne are often bustling with activity. The Ponyfish Bar is a waterfront establishment known for its relaxed atmosphere and picturesque surroundings.

Lockout rules have severely impacted Sydney's nightlife. Disappointment has spread to areas like Kings Cross, where there was once a plethora of nightlife options, and now there are few. Despite the relaxing of restrictions, Melbourne remains the place to be if you're looking for bars, nightlife, and live music.

how is melbourne different from sydney

Winner: Melbourne

Conclusion

Melbourne is a very distinct European feel with heritage buildings and a great bar and restaurant culture. If you aren't too interested in history or have an art appreciation, then this may not be the city for you. Sydney, however, does live up to the hype in terms of the huge variety of activities to do that appeal to the young and old. 

And while the transport may not be the most convenient, visitors will find that most attractions that they are seeking to visit are located in the city so public transport may not even be required and if you do then can we recommend the very affordable ferry system that delivers with million-dollar views of the city.

Many people consider Sydney to be the real capital of Australia due to its excellent combination of natural and manmade tourist attractions, its burgeoning culinary scene, and the rewarding waterfront views that are offered at many of its restaurants. Irrespective of how cliched it may sound, no trip to Australia is complete without seeing the sights of Sydney. With this in mind, the city is a somewhat better option than Melbourne as a tourist destination.

 

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