By Experience Oz

Sydney vs. Melbourne

By Chloe · August 2023 · 4 min read
Let's be honest, Australia is a massive country and for travellers short on time it may be essential to choose between a visit to Sydney or Melbourne. As Australia's largest capital cities, Melbourne and Sydney both shine as wonderful examples of everything Australia has to offer but there are some significant differences between both.
Here is the ultimate guide to Sydney and Melbourne to help you answer the eternal question- which city is best for me?

Sydney landmarks and sightseeing

Sydney Landmarks are the epitome of what many international visitors imagine

... as the symbol of Australia and 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 some iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Luna Park drawing crowds from far and wide.

Away from Sydney Harbour, the city's Royal Botanic Gardens, acclaimed museums and art galleries plus its breathtaking beaches in close proximity to the central business district make Sydney really stand out from Melbourne.

Melbourne landmarks and sightseeing

It is hard for many modern cities throughout the world to measure up to Sydney

... when it comes to landmarks but Melbourne has its own impressive architecture, iconic sporting venues and laneways with personality. Discover an eclectic mix of modern architecture and art mixed in with bellowed heritage theatres and buildings of historical significance.

The best examples can be found at Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, the State Library of Victoria, the Shrine of Remembrance, Old Melbourne Goal and the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground where legends have taken to the field to achieve incredible sporting feats. Lastly, if you're looking for the best spot to soak in the views of Melbourne then Eureka Skydeck provides 360-degree views of the Melbourne Skyline and Port Phillip Bay.

Sydney culture

Sydney culture is a divisive topic

... given that it is open to an individual's interpretation, however, Sydney checks all the boxes one might expect when visiting an international city with its fair share of galleries, churches, theatres, museums, restaurants and nightlife proving to be a popular choice for international performers from all around the globe. The Sydney Opera House is the most famous venue for concerts and operatic performances while the VIVID Festival lights up the night sky and iconic landmarks every May and June celebrating the festival of lights, music and ideas.

When it comes to nightlife Sydney is definitely the place to party with some of the largest nightclubs in the country attracting international DJ's. And if it's exquisite food experiences that you desire then Sydney shines with its offering of top end fine dining and unbelievable waterfront views if you are willing to pay for it. But if you are on a budget then shared dining experiences at precincts like Spice Alley provide an authentic experience with mouthwatering food at a fraction of the price and without sacrificing on quality.

Melbourne culture

Melbourne oozes culture

... and it begins with the diversity of its people in a city that has embraced multiculturalism. Art is prevalent on every corner that you turn with brightly painted murals, live performances, hidden rooftop bars, world class restaurants and hole in the wall eateries serving mouthwatering cuisines at all hours of the day and night. This also falls in line with the fashion forward population and strong alternative scene that walks a fine line between trendy and hipster.

Melbourne's nightlife has a distinctly more mature tone with an abundance of live music venues alongside niche wine, scotch or gin bars. Fitzroy, St Kilda and The Crown Casino are popular precincts for evening entertainment and socialising. Eating out tends to be a more affordable social event but don't discount the many award-winning restaurants that are here too. The food options are endless with European and Asian influences inspiring a great fusion of culinary options. If you want culture, then Melbourne will give it to you in spades.

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 has to offer.

As Australia's largest city you'd expect it to offer the most things to keep you occupied and you'd be correct for 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 is 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 cities laneways.

Melbourne also serves as the ideal gateway to visit some of the more unique natural attractions that Victoria has to offer including the spectacular Great Ocean Road, Grampians, Wilson's Promontory or the impressive wildlife haven in Phillip Island where you can encounter penguins.

Sydney Weather

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. Occasionally the city may reach 40 degrees in summer however, several 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 the minimum of 13.8 degrees reinforcing the general comfort that you may experience during a visit. Rainfall is surprisingly higher than Melbourne but it is more likely to be experienced in summer during heavy seasonal thunderstorms as opposed to drizzly showers throughout the year. The consistency of the weather definitely makes it easier to make plans and know what to expect when you travel to Sydney.

Melbourne Weather

In Melbourne you can experience four seasons in one day

so you should dress in layers and always prepare for sunshine and rain. It's this unpredictability coupled with a higher number of drizzly days and cooler temperatures that make Melbourne a less desirable attraction but with so many indoor activities and attractions the city is well and truly acclimatised to the weather.

Summer can be just as unpredictable with prolonged heat waves and few beaches to speak of but luckily everywhere is air conditioned. If you don't like the weather in Melbourne then the good news is that you won't have to wait too long for it to change. The real benefactor of the weather though is the beautiful gardens with autumnal colours and evergreen trees creating an impressive visual display.

Sydney Transport

Sydney's traffic has reached epic proportions

... with the rise of the population which can making driving or catching a bus a bit of a nightmare, but the city's saving grace is its railway and ferry system which is 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 the minimum of 13.8 degrees reinforcing the general comfort that you may experience during a visit. Rainfall is surprisingly higher than Melbourne but it is more likely to be experienced in summer during heavy seasonal thunderstorms as opposed to drizzly showers throughout the year. The consistency of the weather definitely 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 just jump aboard the travel 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 in order to avoid the oncoming traffic of a tram but if you are a visitor it is likely that you will stay in the central district where walking is a sufficient and far more exciting to explore the city and ample trams are available if needed.

The Verdict

Melbourne is a city with a very distinct European feel with heritage buildings and an extraordinary bar and restaurant culture. If you aren't too interested in history or have an appreciation for art, 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.

Sydney in the minds of many is the true capital of Australia with a great mixture of natural scenery and man made tourist attractions and an emerging culinary scene that rewards many diners with waterfront views. It may be stereotypical to say but no visit to Australia is complete without a visit to Sydney and thus the city slightly edges out over Melbourne as an all round destination for all.

Experience Oz

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