If you’re planning on moving to or visiting Australia, you might be wondering which city is better for you, Sydney or Melbourne? It’s not an easy choice to make as they are both some of the top cities in Australia, so how do you choose?
In this Sydney vs Melbourne showdown, we are going to look at how they compare to each other when it comes to things like the outdoors, food, vibes, and more. Luckily, Sydney and Melbourne aren’t very similar and thus suit different people better, so by the end of this article, you should be able to make an obvious choice.
Sydney, often mistakenly referred to as the capital of Australia (which is Canberra by the way,) is the capital city of fun and things to do as far as Australian cities go. The range of things on offer for tourists and locals to do is excellent and you’ll never get bored on a visit to Sydney.
Sydney has a great number of art galleries and museums if you’re looking for a cultural fix, you can also see all the sights such as Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Cockatoo Island (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and things like Madame Tussauds, Taronga Zoo, the Botanical Garden, and the huge Sydney Aquarium.
Being built on the sea and on an estuary system, Sydney is surrounded by water with inlets running all over the city. There is no better way to see Sydney than from the sea and it’s an awesome experience to take a cruise around the city.
Once you’re done with being a tourist, you can go to the many beautiful white sand beaches that Sydney has to offer, as well as the many national parks in the area.
Melbourne isn’t quite as fun-filled as Sydney and is lacking all the iconic things that you would naturally go and see in Sydney. Going to Melbourne is more about breathing in the thriving atmosphere, checking out the buzzing food scene, shopping, going to an art exhibition, or a special event like a concert, it’s not usually just to wander the city.
That being said, Melbourne does have some cool things to see. The Melbourne Zoo is good, as is the Melbourne Aquarium, but they aren’t quite as good as the Sydney versions. Eureka Tower is a good spot to get an awesome panoramic view of the city, the Botanical Gardens are excellent, and there are some great art galleries too.
One thing Melbourne is great for is food markets, two of the best are Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market. You’ll find a huge array of fresh food for sale, a load of shops, and delicious food stands with new and interesting flavors that are all worth trying.
Melbourne, like Sydney, also has some great beaches which are great for swimming but there are no waves for surfing. You’re also not far from a few great national parks too.
When it comes to Sydney vs Melbourne and things to do, it’s pretty obvious who wins right? Sydney has so much more to do than Melbourne for a visitor but it’s also a lot more hectic, busy, and bigger. If seeing the sights and being a part of a moving city is what you love then Sydney is the place for you.
If you prefer a slower pace, while still seeing great sights and enjoying some authentic Australian culture, then maybe Melbourne is the city for you. It’s smaller, calmer, and quite than Sydney, plus it’s easier to get around.
Sydney has a buzzing food scene and you can find everything from a delicious beach brunch to blending your own gin or having a feast inside an old train, it has it all but you’re going to pay for it. When eating upmarket in Sydney, nothing is out of reach but it is expensive and what’s lacking in Sydney’s food scene is the middle ground.
Sydney locals will know where to find some delicious meals for a good price but these aren’t broadcasted on a website, you need to know them or know someone who knows them. This means you’ll be hard pushed to stumble upon delicious meals for a fair price if you’re just visiting for a few days.
If you’re looking for some affordable Asian food then head to the CBD of Sydney, for more popular restaurants head to the Innew West. If you’re in Sydney in October, make sure to go to the International Food Festival to taste something from everywhere in the world.
Melbourne also has a buzzing food scene with tons of different cuisines to try and it is only growing every day. The difference is, Melbourne’s amazing food is affordable and a lot easier to find than Sydney’s.
You’ll find tonnes of little alleys with cool and hip coffee shops in Melbourne, so much so they even claim to have the best coffee on the planet, which is something you’ll need to decide for yourself.
There are hundreds of affordable restaurants that all serve great food, and if you love Asian food, Chinatown in Melbourne is a spot you’re going to love. Melbourne’s Chinatown is alive with loads of restaurants including tastes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, and more.
If you’re looking for a cool lunch spot, Queen Victoria Market is the place to go. The market is open all year round and the food on offer changes based on the seasons. You’ll find fresh seafood and crisp white wine in summer while in winter hearty foods and hot toddies are on offer.
Like Sydney, Melbourne also has its fair share of upmarket restaurants so if you want a posh night out, you won’t struggle to find somewhere that suits your tastes.
Melbourne takes the cake when it comes to who has the better food scene in Sydney vs Melbourne. Melbourne has more to offer and it is a lot more accessible and affordable for everyone. It’s a city that is alive with delicious food everywhere, while you have to work hard to find a delicious affordable meal in Sydney.
Sydney used to have amazing nightlife, you could find a party anywhere from the Inner West to the harbor and it wasn’t short of options if you wanted to hit a club and dance until the early hours. But nowadays, these kinds of options have subsided and mainly due to violence than ensued whilst everyone was just trying to have a good time.
Lockout laws were imposed in the clubbing center of Sydney, Kings Cross, meaning the last drinks had to be served at 1.30 am which kind of killed the late-night party scene. It’s being changed to 3:30 am quite soon to try and boost the economy after covid but who knows how long it’ll remain for.
Even so, you’ll still find some great bars and beer gardens to have a good night out at but the opportunities for clubbing are minimal.
The nightlife in Melbourne couldn’t be more different from Sydney’s today. No matter where you are in Melbourne, you’ll find a rocking bar to head to, even if you’re in the center or the outskirts like Brunswick.
When talking about a night out in Melbourne, you can find everything you’re looking for from pubs and beer gardens to late-night clubs and rooftop bars with amazing views. If you like to part, Melbourne is the place to be.
It’s clear that Melbourne wins the nightlife section of the Sydney vs Melbourne debate. The city has so much on offer and it doesn’t have Lockout laws that cause parties to end so early, they can continue to go all night if they have the license.
It’s a shame about what happened in Sydney, maybe when they extend the hours, the clubs will be able to serve drinks until 3:30 am forever and not have to go back to 1:30 am.
Sydnes is built on a natural harbor by the sea meaning whilst you’re there you’ll have access to the outdoors pretty much everywhere you go. While you’re walking around Sydney, you don’t get the feeling of being in a concrete jungle, you feel more like you’re in a city on a jungle if you get my meaning.
There are some great green spaces in Sydney including Hyde Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens which are connected and have amazing views over the harbor. There is also Centennial Park which is a huge green space that is close to the beaches of Bondi and Bronte, along with a lot of other green spaces too.
When it comes to beaches, you have a huge amount of choices in Sydney. The entire east side of Sydney meets the blue Tasman sea with white sand and you can enjoy everything from swimming, to surfing and fishing.
Just outside of Sydney are 5 different national parks which are great places to get away from city life and spend some time hiking and camping in nature.
Melbourne doesn’t have the same jungly vibe as Sydney and this is mainly because it’s a few degrees south of Sydney, so isn’t quite as lush.
Melbourne is a very pretty place though and sits on the shores of Port Phillip, a huge natural bay that protects the city from anything the sea tries to throw at. This means that Melbourne is on the sea and it does have some white sand beaches which are lovely to hang out on but they are not quite the same as Sydney, and there are no waves for surfing, but it’s much better if you like a long swim.
Melbourne also has the beautiful Yarra River running through it which is lovely to stroll along. Also, you’ll find plenty of lovely parks and green spaces to explore in the city.
There are a couple of national parks outside of Melbourne too which are also great places to head to for the weekend and to take a break from the buzz of the city. You can hike, camp, and fish to your heart’s content.
It’s plain to see that Sydney is the better choice when it comes to life in the outdoors. The beaches are better, the general surroundings are prettier, there is a little more to do. It’s simply nicer to be outside in Sydney than it is in Melbourne.
The weather in Sydney is pretty much ideal all year round. The winters are warm hitting a maximum of 17°C and only falling to 8°C on average, making winters not too hot and never too cold either.
During the summer, Sydney has a maximum average temperature of 26°C and a low of 19°C meaning it’s delightfully warm and not too hot, until a heatwave hits. Heatwaves are becoming more and more common in Sydney and they can push the temperatures to over 30°C making it almost unbearable to be out during the day, which is a shame.
Sydney is also quite wet with an average of around 8 days a month of rainfall. The rain does tend to hang around when it arrives and be over Sydney for a few days.
Melbourne’s weather, even though it’s a little further south than Sydney, is actually pretty similar to Sydney’s weather. The winter temperatures fall to a max of 7°C and a high of 14°C which is very manageable, especially as winter doesn’t last too long in Australia.
In the summertime, Melbourne sees highs of around 27°C on average and lows of 16°C making it the perfect temperature to enjoy the city and its surroundings. Unlike Sydney, Melbourne doesn’t have as many heatwaves so you can expect to be out and exploring more often.
In terms of rainfall, Melbourne averages 6 days a month of rain, which is very manageable for anyone. Plus when it rains in Melbourne it usually blows off pretty quickly.
Melbourne has the edge over Sydney when it comes to the weather as it’s a little drier and experiences fewer heatwaves while also having a similar temperature to Sydney. The issue with Melbourne is the weather’s changeability, it can go from brilliant sunshine to rain in a matter of minutes so you always have to be prepared for that.
Sydney is not an easy city to drive around, it’s a nightmare in fact. The roads feel like there were drawn like a toddler as they squiggle around the city and all the parts of the estuary it’s built on. You’ll find loads of annoyingly small one-way streets and a lot of traffic.
The public transport is ok in Sydney with trains and buses working hard to get you around the city but there aren’t many trains and the buses do get stuck in traffic too. If you compared Sydney to somewhere like London in terms of public transport, it would be laughed out of the room.
Melbourne is known to have the best public transport in Australia and it probably does, otherwise, why would people say it? Melbourne has a good tram network, buses, but no train network. If you’re in the center of the city you can easily move within it using the trams. They are super quick, efficient, and free if you’re within the CBD.
The bus network in Melbourne isn’t so great. They become very unreliable often arriving very late, and their routes/schedules can be quite hard for a newbie to understand.
Driving around Melbourne is easy as it has a gird network like American cities meaning navigation is simple. Also, you’ll find there is a lot less traffic in Melbourne compared to the like of Sydney.
Both Melbourne’s and Sydney’s public transport systems need quite a bit of attention in order to be comparable to other great cities around the world. Melbourne’s public transport does have the edge though thanks to its tram network. Once you’re in the center getting anywhere within it the CBD is so quick and easy.
When it comes to comparing how much it costs to be in each city, there’s a clear more affordable option between Sydney vs Melbourne. Living costs in Melbourne are around 17% lower than in Sydney, which is quite a huge saving but is it the same if you’re visiting?
If you visit Melbourne on holiday, you’re likely to spend around 3% more on food than in Sydney but 18% less on fun things to do, and 21% less on public transport. So Melbourne is way more affordable than Sydney.
Sydney did come out head in quite a few categories but Melbourne is more affordable, has better nightlife, better food, and better public transport. If you’re looking for a city to visit on a budget where you can wine, dine, party, and get around easily, then Melbourne is the place for you.
If you want to see the iconic sights of Sydney, surf, have better access to the outdoors, and generally stay in a more beautiful city, then Sydney is the place for you.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!