Melbourne vs Sydney: Here’s Why Sydney Should Win
There are endless arguments of Melbourne vs Sydney and which city should indeed come out on top. Both are great in their own ways… this post is simply lending support to Sydney! (Don’t worry – there are arguments in Melbourne’s favour too!).
In most arguments where Melbourne vs Sydney, Melbourne is usually declared the winner.
I disagree. Here’s why.
And full disclaimer – I freaking love Melbourne. Like obsession level, cutting-letters-out-of-newspapers-and-sending-it-fan-notes type love.
I’ve wanted to live in this city for years and now that I do, it’s like a dream come true. Melbourne deserves all the hype it receives… and more.
Yet, the other day once again I found myself having to defend Sydney to a group of other Australians, who all live in Melbourne (but weren’t from there) and have spent minimal time in the NSW capital.
This happens a lot. Melbourne’s got plenty of fans, both across the country and worldwide. On the other hand, everyone loves to dump on Sydney.
When people ask where I’m from, after having an existential crisis (I’ve moved around a lot in my life), I usually settle on Sydney. It’s where I was born and I’ve lived there for half my years on earth, as a kid and an adult.
No matter where I am, I’ll always be a Sydneysider at heart and so will be quick to both defend it and point out its superior qualities over every other city in Australia. Particularly Melbourne.
Tis is all in good fun. Both cities are fantastic for different reasons.
I just want to point out that Sydney is a cool place to visit in its own right and can certainly stand on its own feet against Melbourne’s street cred.
So, here’s why Sydney is better than Melbourne. There are a few reasons, some of which are pretty hard to argue with!
Read more: Melbourne Itinerary: 7 Days in the City
Melbourne vs Sydney – The Arguments
1. Sydney has a railway link to its airport
There’s this great myth in NSW that Melbourne has really great public transport.
I guess it does… for Australia. Unless you don’t live near a train station or tram stop, then it’s not so fun.
Yet, Melbourne is missing one I think quite fundamental thing that Sydney does happen to have – a bloody train line out to Tullamarine airport.
“Oh, but you can catch the Skybus!” Yes, you can and I’ll admit, it’s a solution of sorts for travellers or people living south of the city.
Yet, for someone like me, who lives a twenty minute drive to Tullamarine, I have four options:
1. Catch the train twenty minutes south to Southern Cross Station. Pay the $19 for the Skybus to head back north to the airport. Note – this is what Google Maps tells me to do and it is insanity.
2. Walk ten minutes with my luggage. Catch a tram for half an hour and try to make it to the bus that drives straight to the airport, which takes another forty minutes, with only one running every hour.
3. Catch an Uber for twenty-six-ish bucks. Be there in twenty minutes.
4. Make friends with someone who lives nearby who has a car (working on it).
Obviously I’m going to swallow my pride and call an Uber. Time is money as they say and the expense is the same as catching the Skybus from my place anyway.
Did I mention I live twenty minutes away from the airport? (Here are some tips for successfully navigating Sydney’s Airport line.)
On the flip side, in Sydney you catch a train to Central Station and then another, which gets you to the airport in two stops.
People complain regularly about the price of the ticket, because you only go a short distance. They are missing the point. You go two stops and you are at the airport.
And for the record, the train is still cheaper than the Skybus, at $13.80 a pop.
So when people try to dispute the obvious fact that Sydney is better than Melbourne, I say: “well, Sydney has a train line to its airport.”
This usually shuts them up. Or at least leads them to mutter insults directed at the Victorian government under their breath.
2. The weather is generally better
I type this with some trepidation, as Melbourne’s weather has actually been quite nice since I moved here, but then everyone keeps telling me this is not the norm.
Although it rains a lot in Sydney, the weather is generally pretty okay all year round. Especially in the winter, which is mild and lovely.
Melbourne on the other hand, is rather notorious for being windy and grey. The city reminds me so much of London sometimes, it’s not funny.
Read more: What to See in a 4 Hour Layover in Sydney
3. Sydney has beaches
Here’s a clear winner in the Melbourne vs Sydney debate – Sydney’s coastline trumps Melbourne’s, big time.
The city is home to some of the finest beaches in the world and there are stacks of places where you can have a little paddle or laze around in the sunshine, over a 100 in fact.
Only a few are really popular with tourists as well (Bondi, Coogee and Manly notably), so you won’t necessarily find yourself battling the crowds. There are also some fantastic coastal walks to be found in Sydney.
Melburnians aren’t quite so lucky. There are some nice enough beaches along the Mornington Peninsula and holy crap, is the Great Ocean Road’s coastline gorgeous, or what?
But if you’re coming from the city, you have to travel a whole lot further to get to a decent beach. Not to mention that the water is a heckload colder down south.
I’m sorry but St Kilda Beach doesn’t quite cut it.
4. There are pockets of cool, rather than having it shoved into your face
When people make the argument of Melbourne just being “cooler” than Sydney, I will reply by yelling something along the lines of “SYDNEY IS COOL TOO, IT JUST DOESN’T FEEL THE NEED TO REMIND YOU OF THAT FACT EVERY FIVE SECONDS.”
I stand by this slightly aggressive statement.
What I’ve always liked about Sydney, is that it is a city for the locals.
You really do have to be in the know to in turn, know where to go. When one suburb (Newtown, I’m looking at you) starts to get super trendy among visitors, there’s always another waiting in line to slide into its spot.
5. Sydney has the icons
I’ve never, ever heard anyone say: “I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia to see Flinders Street Station or Federation Square!”
Nope. If it’s not Uluru, it’s Bondi Beach, the Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House.
It seems that every part of Sydney is Instagrammable. It’s a photographers dream.
Sydney has the sights, there’s no argument there – one of the top facts in the Melbourne vs Sydney debate.
6. Harbours win over rivers, any time
And the harbour. Oh, the harbour.
Whenever I was in a stink with the city or life in general, I would simply have to train it to Circular Quay and take one look at Sydney Harbour.
Then I’d realise Oh yeah, I live here. This is my home, and all my worries would fade away.
I consider myself sort of well-travelled and I’m yet to step foot in a city as beautiful as Sydney.
There’s been some strong contenders. But building a city around one of the loveliest natural harbours in the world? That’s a hard one to beat.
Read more: Perfect Spots for New Year’s Eve in Sydney
7. Nature is more accessible from Sydney
Going on from that point, it’s quite easy to access nature from Sydney’s CBD.
The east coastline is a short drive or bus trip away and there are many lovely walks to be done, such as the famous Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk.
You journey for half an hour and you’re in the beautiful Central Coast and the views just get prettier the further south you go.
A train from Central Station will also take you to the Blue Mountains, in under two hours. That’s easily a day trip, in Oz.
8. Which lends itself to a pretty healthy lifestyle
I was in the best shape of my life in Sydney. No joke.
Combine the weather, the scenic walks and running routes and the constant need to be beach body ready and you’ve got a whole city full of fitness freaks.
Sydneysiders chug down green smoothies the way Melburnians attack their daily coffees.
I don’t have to remind you which one is better for your overall health.
9. There’s less of a fuss about AFL and sports in general
Okay, in an argument where Melbourne vs Sydney, not everyone will agree with this point. However. Hear me out.
I’m not a fan of sports, barring the diving at the Olympics. So majestic.
Maybe it’s for that reason, or purely because I come from New South Wales that I’ve never been a fan of Aussie Rules.
This game is treated like a religion across Australia, bar NSW and Queensland who centre more on Rugby League. I only like NRL slightly more because I’ve been forced to understand what’s actually going on during the 80 minutes of play.
Melbourne is the “sports capital” of Australia, which is great for some, but upsetting for others like me.
You just can’t escape it – especially the AFL.
I got around in Sydney being mostly unbothered by football fans, but there are swarms of them in Melbourne. It’s inescapable.
10. Sydney has the best brunch
Yeah, okay another controversial point, but I really do prefer Sydney’s cafe scene to Melbourne’s BUT ONLY BY SLIGHTLY MORE.
Melbourne’s tends to focus more on the coffee and… well, I don’t drink the stuff, so I feel a little left out.
And there’s nothing like having brunch by the beach. Please see my aforementioned point about Sydney’s beach scene and you’ll understand.
11. Sydney drivers have better manners
In an argument where Melbourne vs Sydney, this is a point that often has no clear winner (and seems to be the most controversial!).
However, I have driven fairly regularly in both cities and am going off personal experience. These are my observations.
In general, I find Melburnians to be… somewhat terrifying on the roads.
They’ll cut you off and they get pretty horn happy. I’ve had quite a few New South Welsh-people visit and be somewhat astonished by the behaviour on Melbourne’s roads, the aggressive manner in which people drive.
I’m not saying Sydney drivers are perfect. However, they do seem to rely less on the horn and are more likely to let you merge into a lane, rather than steadfastly pretending you’re not there and driving on.
Melbourne drivers also seem to take a lot of unnecessary risks. Maybe they just get really tired of getting stuck behind trams all the time?
I don’t know exactly why, but it’s behaviour that I try not emulate when on the roads here.
12. And Sydney is easier to drive around in
I’ve heard people talk negatively about Sydney’s “spaghetti street mess”, but I find the city quite easy to get around.
Everything is clearly labelled and you don’t have to deal with trams, hook turns or anything else of the sort.
Melbourne’s grid is delightfully easy to navigate through, but once you get out into the ‘burbs, it’s a mess.
Trams intersect roundabouts, hook turns terrify anyone who’s never had to take one before and weirdly, lines on the road often don’t marry up when you go across intersections, causing everyone to drive into the wrong lanes.
Overall, Sydney is a city where everyone is resigned to driving around.
Melbourne has sort of half-heartedly tried to do the public transport thing and is now seemingly stuck between the two.
13. Everyone talks down on the city and Sydneysiders couldn’t care less
This is what I love the most about Sydneysiders.
An article entitled “Melbourne vs Sydney” which declared Melbs the winner wouldn’t phase them.
They know how the rest of the country feels about them and they could not give a toss.
And why would they? For all its problems (infrastructure, housing prices, population explosion, etc), Sydney is still one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world.
You can have a truly excellent life there.
So, I think it is evident that Sydney is better than Melbourne.
Yet, there are a few instances where Melbourne clearly comes out on top over Sydney and it would be remiss not to mention them here.
Melbourne vs Sydney… Why Melbourne Should Win
Melbourne gets the world class plays and exhibitions
Traditionally, Melbourne is the culture capital of Australia and if we’re going to get an awesome exhibition of some description, Melbourne is where you’d have to travel to to see it.
The tide does seem to be turning a little bit, with the occasional cool thing coming to Sydney (although sometimes, it’ll be years after Melbourne has hosted it!).
However, if you’re a culture vulture, Melbourne is the place to be.
Melbourne is currently slightly cheaper to live in
A fact no one can ignore – whilst both cities housing prices have shot up in the last couple of decades, Melbourne is still cheaper to rent/buy in.
I didn’t say affordable and I definitely don’t believe you’re going to necessarily get value for money. Yet it is cheaper.
Melbourne’s CBD is far more colourful
Melbourne was quick to realise rather than prosecuting people for the graffiti and street art that will invariably pop up in big cities, it is easier to just embrace it.
As such, the city and outer suburbs are covered in colourful art, which has over time, become one of its biggest tourist attractions and draw cards.
Sydney too is starting to embrace and welcome street art – I saw quite a few impressive works on a recent trip to the city.
It’ll be a long while before it becomes as colourful as Australia’s other big city, however.
Melbourne actually has a nightlife
Years ago, you could actually have a good night out in Sydney. Ah. Them were the days.
However, the NSW government in a knee-jerk reaction to two sad deaths resulting from “king hits” (punches to the head) in the popular nightlife suburb of Kings Cross, simply shut the area down.
Much easier than looking to solutions for the root cause of the violence, I guess!
This forced many small businesses in the area to close and had a ripple effect across the city, with patrons of Kings Cross choosing to take their nights out elsewhere, such as the suburbs of Newtown and Coogee.
Sydney’s CBD consequently feels sad and empty in the hours after dark.
Not Melbourne however, which is known for its pulsating nightlife, hip, trendy and secret bars and general frivolity. If you like to party, Melbourne is the place to be.
The NSW Government is considering lifting the lockout laws – so maybe in time, Sydney’s nightlife will become an argument that works in its favour in the Melbourne vs Sydney debate.
Melbourne’s development has not yet caused the city to lose its soul
This is an observation as someone who has essentially grown up in Sydney – I remember quite well what the city was like in the 1990’s and it’s a completely different place to what it is now.
Development has changed Sydney irrevocably over the last few decades and I’m not sure it’s been entirely for the best.
I like to use the area that I lived in as an example – it was once almost like a village of Sydney and now is rife with crime and rotting in its own foundations.
Look to the city and see some of the development that has taken place – the loss of icons such as the IMAX theatre, the building of the Bennelong Apartments along on Sydney Harbour, which locals refer to as “the Toasters” with great derision and the somewhat barmy decision to allow Racing Australia to beam advertising on the Opera House, a space that belongs to the public.
It makes Sydney seem a little bit soulless at times.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s rampant development going on in Melbourne too, probably to the horror of those who have called the city home far longer than I.
However, from a somewhat outsider’s perspective, it does feel as though Melbourne has managed to maintain its vibe, its quirks, it sense of self, as this development has taken place.
Whether that continues to be the case, only time will tell.
So in an argument where Melbourne vs Sydney, which side are you on? Do you have a favourite between Australia’s two biggest cities? And remember – this is all in good fun!