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The great Australian debate: is Melbourne better than Sydney?

Written by on 6th November 2019
Category: APAC, City guides

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 – thanks to their portrayal in films and television (Melbourne being the location of the fictional Neighbours suburb, and Sydney being backdrop to one of Nemo’s adventures). With each city having its own distinct appeal, discussing which is best is a divisive task.

Renowned as the economic centre of the Australasian continent, and home to iconic landmarks, bustling streets and blistering sunny skies, Sydney is a powerhouse of business and tourism. The impressive city offers a plethora of things to do for both 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. Read on to discover our 12 reasons as to why Melbourne is superior to Sydney, then decide for yourself which city deserves the ultimate accolade of being the best in Australia.

1. Business in Melbourne is booming

Seafarer's Bridge
Seafarer’s Bridge transports visitors to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Although a leading economic hub, Sydney is primarily geared towards tourism, whereas Melbourne is very much a city built around its residents and workers. This endows the city with a true sense of prosperity and Australian identity. With a strong economy based in finance, manufacturing and research, the city is alive with trade and has a strong corporate sector – meaning there are many excellent serviced apartments in Melbourne catering to visiting business travellers. Melbourne is also forecast to become Australia’s largest city by 2050 – with an 18% faster growth rate than Sydney. Although business in Melbourne doesn’t quite pip Sydney to the post, it does attract a large share of international conference markets – thanks to its impressive Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is the largest of its kind in Australia.

2. Melbourne has an incredible food scene   

Summer Night Market Melbourne
The Summer Night Market brings world foods to Melbourne’s streets

With an impressive Chinatown and a veritable maze of streets filled with bars and eateries, Melbourne offers an endless supply of cuisine at affordable prices. You are never short of venues for a delicious meal in the city centre or its outskirts – whether you would like to bask in the sun at one of the city’s stylish rooftop bars, or enjoy an evening of fine dining at the exquisite Carlton Wine Room, there is a style of eatery for every occasion. You can also enjoy the famous Summer Night Market to sample food from across the world. Compared with Sydney, Melbourne boasts a superior array of affordable restaurants which can be found on most street corners.

3. Melbourne is home to remarkable culture

Federation Square
Federation Square offers residents and visitors a myriad of cultural activities

Sydney’s opera house is an iconic cultural landmark, but Melbourne’s ground-level cultural scene is truly remarkable. As well as inspiring institutions such as Arts Centre Melbourne, which is the country’s largest performing arts venue, and the Australian Ballet Company, Melbourne’s culture spills onto its streets, with live music, performances and independent film screenings being regular sights throughout the city. Federation Square, in the central business district, is always alive with activities – from walking tours and exhibitions to festivals showcasing cultures from across the world. In short, Melbourne offers a wider variety of cultural events throughout the year than Sydney, and its activities are accessible to all.

4. The weather in Melbourne is more temperate

Rainy days in Melbourne
Melbourne has an unpredictable climate, but offers a reprieve from constant heat

For those accustomed to a cooler climate, Melbourne is the clear winner in the meteorological stakes. With a more ‘British’ sense of weather, the city offers a dynamic climate, ranging from breezy, sunny afternoons, to colder, windswept mornings. It goes without saying that Sydney is much better suited to sun lizards – but bear in mind that Melbourne has many beautifully sunny days of its own…just less frequently. Perhaps this is why the city has a better-developed entertainment sector, for those cloudy days when seeing a film or staying in your warm Melbourne serviced apartment are the best options. Conversely, Sydney actually receives more rainfall than Melbourne, so choose your climate wisely!

5. Melbourne has more affordable property prices

Suburbs of Melbourne
Studies show that properties in Melbourne are much more affordable than those in Sydney

Although Melbourne is ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, compared with Sydney it offers much better value in terms of property. With housing and office space in Sydney in such high demand, property rates are exorbitantly high. In fact, research shows that Sydney residents pay 37% more than their Melbourne compatriots for their houses. With internationally sought after suburbs and a growing city sprawl, Melbourne is enticing many emigrants – and its average house price of $6-700,000, compared with Sydney’s $8-900,000, is no doubt part of its allure. 

6. Melbourne has a buzzing nightlife

Rooftop Cinema
Melbourne’s rooftop cinema is an example of the city’s varied nightlife

With Sydney succumbing to controversial lockout laws following repeated incidents of violence, Melbourne has blossomed into the non-stop nightlife centre of Australia. Beyond its ‘city that never sleeps’ reputation, Melbourne is home to hundreds of high quality, original and atmospheric bars, pubs and clubs which draw revellers from miles around. A trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail in the famous Black Pearl bar. Just one example of a truly atmospheric venue with late hours (open until 3am on Friday and Saturday) the Black Pearl is the perfect introduction to Melbourne’s unceasing nightlife. For a more informal affair, head to the ultimate ‘dive bar’, Heartbreaker, on the outskirts of Chinatown for a rock and roll party. In addition to boozy bars, Melbourne hosts countless late-night eateries, karaoke bars and even rooftop cinemas to satisfy your nocturnal cravings.

7. Sport in Melbourne is second to none

Melbourne Cricket Ground at night
Melbourne Cricket Ground is a popular Australian sports venue

The city where Australian Rules football first originated (with Melbourne Cricket Ground considered by many to be the true home of the game), Melbourne has developed into the leading sports city in the country. Home to both of Victoria’s A-League soccer teams (Melbourne Victory FC and Melbourne City FC) and the hugely successful Melbourne Storm rugby club, there really is a sport for everyone to enjoy in Melbourne. Add to this the Flemington Racecourse, Albert Park Formula One track, Kooyong Stadium and a host of other venues which host some of the world’s biggest sports championships, and it is clear that Melbourne thrashes Sydney in this contest.

8. Melbourne is a better city for shopping

General Post Office building in Melbourne
The beautiful General Post Office building now offers an array of retail options

For those who love the convenience and choice malls have to offer, Melbourne is most certainly the place to go. The luxury shopping centre Emporium Melbourne boasts over 200 stores, as well as an array of restaurants – all within a chic and luxurious precinct. The city also has an outdoor ‘mall’ – Bourke Street – which offers a range of arcades and boutiques in a beautiful, architecturally stunning city-centre location. One such architectural stunner is the General Post Office building, which has been converted into a multitude of glamorous stores and eateries. For those who prefer the sights and sounds of a lively market, Queen Victoria Market provides a tantalising shopping experience – open 6 days a week, and with a history stretching back 140 years!

9. Melbourne has a good transport system

Tram in sunny Melbourne
Trams are a common sight in Melbourne’s CBD

Although, by international standards, neither Sydney nor Melbourne has an especially impressive transport network, Melbourne’s is regarded as the better of the two. With its famously simple Hoddle grid layout in its central business district, Melbourne benefits from an easy to navigate centre, compared with Sydney’s winding one-way streets. In addition, Melbourne’s CBD provides a City Circle Tram – a completely free service which passes many major city attractions – perfect for getting to business appointments without hassle. The wider city region is serviced by many trams, trains and buses which provide links throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. Utilising these services is made easy with the Myki smartcard, which can be personalised based on your travel needs. Finally, the city also runs a night bus service at weekends, making getting home to your Melbourne serviced apartment after a night on the town that little bit easier.

10. Melbourne’s street art is breath-taking

Melbourne street art
Many streets in Melbourne serve as designated areas for the city’s street artists

Influenced by the graffiti scene of New York, many artists took to Melbourne’s streets in the 1970s to emulate the famous street art style. It wasn’t long before Melbourne earned its own reputation for street art, and it was, in fact, one of the first major cities to embrace a particular style of graffiti called stencil art. Street art is still an important aspect of the city’s culture – so much so that there is a map and guide on how to best enjoy the various streets showcasing the most amazing artwork. From the famously colourful AC/DC Lane, to the quaint framed art pieces of Presgrave Place, there is an endless amount of unique and distinctly Melburnian graffiti to soak up during your stay. Although Sydney is not short of its own street art, Melbourne’s extensive and ever-changing portfolio of thought-provoking graffiti is the clear winner. End your tour with a well-deserved drink in one of the many bars dotted along Franklin Street.

11. Melbourne is home to amazing wildlife

Fruit bat Yarra Bend Park
Melbourne’s Yarra Bend Park is home to thousands of fruit bats

Australia is famous for its exotic creatures, but not many expect to find them in the urban sprawls of the country’s largest cities. Melbourne is home to many incredible creatures and they form fantastic spectacles. In Melbourne’s Yarra Bend Park, a trail can be taken to witness the spectacular Grey-headed Flying-fox Fruit Bats which populate the park. It is believed a colony of up to 30,000 bats dwell in the park’s trees, where they feed on Eucalyptus pollen and fruit. Viewing these enormous (but undeniably cute) animals swarm and swoop in waves to feed is a sight to behold. You can even spot penguins in their natural habitat at St. Kilda Beach. Taking a trip to the beach at sunset is well worth it, as you can observe the penguins waddling to the rocks where they sleep, until rising again just before dawn.

12. Melbourne’s coffee is the best in the world

Coffee Melbourne laneway
Enjoying coffee in one of Melbourne’s characterful laneways is a popular pastime

It is a bold claim put forward by many Melburnians: the coffee in Melbourne is the ‘best in the world’. However, there is some truth to this belief. A survey by booking.com revealed Melbourne to be considered the top city for coffee – beating the likes of Rome and Sydney. Without question, coffee culture is thriving in Melbourne. It is an integral aspect of the city’s personality and as such its laneways are alive with cafes offering exquisite freshly ground coffee. Speculation as to the origin of Australia’s love of coffee is rife, with some suggesting that the influx of Greek and Italian families to the country after World War II resulted in a cultural shift towards stovetop produced coffee. In any case, Melbourne is thought to be home to some of the most talented baristas in Australia; hence its reputation for splendid coffee blends. While in the city, make sure you visit Brother Baba Budan, named after the 17th-century legendary figure who smuggled coffee out of the Middle East, which serves the Seven Seeds blend of espresso in a minuscule but majestic café setting.

Do you agree with our list? Have you decided which city you believe to be Australia’s best? If you’re still torn, consider exploring our range of serviced apartments in Melbourne and our selection of corporate housing in Sydney to help you make up your mind.