Melbourne vs. Sydney – Here’s Why Sydney Should Win

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

Moments before the sun rises over Sydney Harbour.

In most arguments where Melbourne vs. Sydney, Melbourne usually comes out on top.

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 lived in Melbourne (but weren’t from there) and had 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.

As always… this 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. (Heading to the city on a layover? Here’s what you can see in Sydney in 4 hours. It’s a lot!).

So, here’s why Sydney is better than Melbourne. There are a few reasons, some of which are pretty hard to argue with!

The picture above was taken at the YHA at the Rocks, which provides travellers with million dollar views, within an affordable budget. Click here for current availability and prices. Or, you can check out other hotel prices in Sydney here.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

So delightfully straight forward.

1. Sydney has an 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.

Related: 13 Things That Happen When You Move to Melbourne

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.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

Coogee Beach in Sydney.

3. Sydney has beaches

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 is a bay, not a beach.

Related: Meet Me at the NOTEL Room: Spending the Night at Melbourne’s Quirkiest Hotel

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.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

Two Australian icons, for the price of one.

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.

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.

Sorry, Yarra River. I know you try. It’s just not enough.

It is these sights of course, which help make the city such a great spot for end of the year celebrations. Here are some tips for finding the perfect spots for New Year’s Eve in Sydney.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

A cormorant dries its wings in the morning sunshine.

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.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds) in Australia’s “sports capital”.

9. There’s less of a fuss about AFL and sports in general

I’m not a fan of sports, barring the diving at the Olympics. 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 this sport 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.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

You can eat brunch then go for a dip at the Bondi Baths.

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

I admittedly have driven around Sydney a lot more than I have in Melbourne, but Melbourne’s roads have left me somewhat terrified.

In Sydney, most drivers are resigned to having to treat the main motorways like a parking lot and will generally do nice things like not cut other people off and let them merge into their lane. Melbourne drivers on the other hand seem to take a lot of unnecessary risks and are quite aggressive. Maybe they just get really tired of getting stuck behind trams all the time? I don’t know exactly why.

why Sydney is better than Melbourne

Plus, you get to drive over the Harbour Bridge.

12. And the city 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.

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. 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’s one overriding reason why I at least, settled on Melbourne over Sydney…

Melbourne is currently slightly cheaper to live in.

And that is a fact that can’t be ignored.

Do you have a favourite between Australia’s two biggest cities?

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Australia's two biggest cities have an ongoing rivalry. However - the beaches, the brunch, the lifestyle, the weather are just a few of the reasons why Sydney is a better city than Melbourne.

Australia's two biggest cities have an ongoing rivalry. However - the beaches, the brunch, the lifestyle, the weather are just a few of the reasons why Sydney is a better city than Melbourne.
Australia's two biggest cities have an ongoing rivalry. However - the beaches, the brunch, the lifestyle, the weather are just a few of the reasons why Sydney is a better city than Melbourne.
Posted by LC
June 15, 2017
LC

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

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Jack Kay - June 15, 2017

Great article:! I went to both cities and enjoyed both of them, Sydney has some great beaches and I particularly enjoyed the rock swimming pools, I am not sure about the nightlife however, I think Melbourne might just have the edge on that front:)

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    LC - June 16, 2017

    It definitely does. I used to have an amazing time going out in Sydney when I was 18, but the lockout laws have destroyed the nightlife (along with the suburbs of Kings Cross, Newtown and Coogee in general).

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Kati - June 16, 2017

Ah, my blood’s boiling! πŸ˜‰ Great post, so controversial and yet, you’ve got so many terrific points! I’ve always thought that everybody loves Sydney and not Melbourne – at least that’s where all the tourists go??

It took me years to adjust to the sports madness in Melbourne and now I miss it like crazy! I used to hate AFL and now I have withdrawal symptoms (admittedly, I only started liking it after going to a game at the MCG with a roaring crowd of almost 90,000 – that was an unreal event!).

I do agree that Sydney is stunning, it’s such a brilliant city to explore as a visitor, it’s exciting, it’s beautiful, it’s got so much to offer. I’ve always thought of Melbourne being much more laid back and a great “livable” city but not nearly half as exciting as Sydney. I loved living in Melbourne but always found Sydney a thrilling place to visit. The only other Australian city that rivals Sydney in terms of natural beauty is Hobart, I think. It’s such a gorgeous city (town? πŸ™‚ ).

But Sydney being easier to drive around, hm, yeah, no. Definitely not. πŸ˜€ Melbourne drivers are aggressive, agreed, you have to get used to that but those one-way streets and these insanely narrow roads in Sydney (thinking towards Bondi or Coogee)… Gee, makes my heart stop with dread just thinking about driving there.

Totally agree about the airport link though – hard to believe that Melbourne still hasn’t managed that! But then again, I find PT in Australia pretty shocking in general!

Oh, and here’s one thing that I think Melbourne is awesome for: Bike riding! There are so many bike trails around the city and suburbs, including the absolutely fabulous Capital City Trail! I’ve spent so many weekends on my bike exploring suburbs and areas I’d never visit otherwise.

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    LC - June 16, 2017

    Haha, glad you liked it! I was wondering what your take on it would be as a passionate Melburnian. Yeah, the bike scene in Melbourne is a lot better, but I think Sydney is getting there! Where I lived had some great bike paths that led you straight to Centennial Park. More of that would be good.
    We’ll have to disagree on the driving part! I guess it all comes down to what you’re used to. The one-way streets didn’t bother me much and I found the narrow lanes good practice for driving in the UK and Ireland. Whereas the aggression and trams are quite stressful – and the constant roadblocks along the motorways, although I never see anyone actually doing any work there! Argh! And yeah, the PT countrywide is pathetic. Just yesterday I had a train stop at the station, NOT OPEN ITS DOORS, then take off, without letting anyone on or off. And then it’s not like there’s another one just around the corner either, which was the consolation when the trains did insane stuff in London.
    Interesting, the perspective of people abroad loving Sydney more than Melbourne, too. I’ve had so many people ask me where I’m from and then proceed to tell me how they like Melbourne so much better… I have to then patiently explain that they’re very different places indeed. And that despite the title of this post, it’s not a competition. I love them both. πŸ™‚

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Cindy Collins - June 16, 2017

I love this. And I totally agree. I am from Europe and the first time I came to Australia was to Sydney. I fell in love with it instantly. Now I am married to a Melbournian and have lived in Melbourne for 11 years and I hate hearing all the “Melbourne is so much better” arguments. I was told you’ll see you will love Melbourne and prefer it to Sydney. Melbourne is nice I don’t disagree either. But Sydney is still my favourite by far. Just came back from a weekend there and even in winter I loved it. The train to the city was definitely a winner especially since it took us 2 hours of being stuck in traffic to get to the airport in Melbourne! The beaches I agree are much better and so are the coastal walks. The harbour is what stole my heart. Just incredibly beautiful. More expensive to live, well of course it would be. Prettier things are always more expensive aren’t they?? Yes, when it comes to coffee Melbourne wins… I am a coffee drinker…

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    LC - June 16, 2017

    Wonderful to hear from another fan of Sydney, Cindy! That’s really the thing though, that both cities offer up entirely different Australian experiences. And neither is any better or worse than the other… they’re just different!
    To be honest, I don’t think it will be too long until Melbs is as expensive to live in as Sydney… it doesn’t seem all that far behind!
    And yeah, they really need to sort out this train business, two hours is ridiculous! The state govt has quite odd priorities.

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Sarah - June 17, 2017

Similar debates break out in New Zealand about the individual merits of Auckland vs Wellington! I love Sydney for it’s access via public transport, brunch culture, beaches, climate and lifestyle but it is a BIG, sprawling city. Melbourne seems to have a bit more heart and culture.

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    LC - June 17, 2017

    Haha, yeah Sydney is the very definition of urban sprawl. I haven’t actually been to NZ (bad Australian) but I’ve heard that Auckland is much like Syd and Wellington Melbs. Am quite keen to pop over there one day (soon!) to see if this is the case.

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nat - June 19, 2017

I didn’t realise that about 7. nature is more accessible in Sydney! Driving in Sydney CBD is so stressful, but driving in Melbourne CBD wasn’t that much better (I got really confused about the right turn lane being not where I thought it would be).

I am honestly a little tired of the whole Sydney vs Melbourne debate, more so about the people who are so passionate about it. At the end of the day, each city has it’s pros and cons, everyone has their own tastes and it isn’t that one is worse than the other, it is simply different.

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    LC - June 19, 2017

    You and me both. I was so sick of hearing about how much better Melbs is whilst abroad and it’s annoying to constantly hear it now I live here. I wrote this because I had a snap moment, but I like both of the cities because they each offer something different. That being said, Sydney is home and I’ll defend it to my death (and probably slag it off in equal measures, origin rights).

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Alyse - The Invisible Tourist - June 20, 2017

As always great post, LC! Although, I think I have to disagree with you on the “better manners” of Sydney drivers part. What part of Sydney did you used to live in? It must be on the other side of the bridge to where I live πŸ˜‰ Road rage is rife and until I bought a larger car I was ALWAYS cut off by people abusing the gap I’d leave to the car in front of me and giving me the finger was a common occurrence unless I let them in, especially when they were in the wrong (-_-) Pretty soon we’ll be dealing with trams in our CBD too, George Street is a mess!

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    LC - June 20, 2017

    Thanks Alyse! I grew up in Eastwood and then lived in the Inner West and often drove out to Parramatta with no issues. How about you? I always thought people were better behaved in the city than where I lived in the countryside, haha. Lots of aggressive driving and tailgating there. Dickheads are everywhere though – especially on the roads. George St is a shambles and the question no one is asking – where are people now going to drive their hotted up cars on a Saturday night?! πŸ€”

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      Alyse - The Invisible Tourist - June 20, 2017

      Ah yes, that’s why! I grew up in the south (St George area) and it’s pretty different down that way, especially when you have to venture into the south-west 😐 I think everyone is grumpy in those parts because they’re enclosed by the airport, Port Botany, Georges River and the M5 – lots of obstacles make getting anywhere pretty tricky. But you’re certainly right, dickheads can be found everywhere! Haha yes, I wonder where all those cars have gone now?? πŸ˜‚

      Reply
        LC - June 20, 2017

        Oh yeah, different worlds for us both, I expect! The furthest south I’ve been in years is Coogee 🀣 They’ll have found some new territory to cause a ruckus in – of that I have no doubt!

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Ellie - November 12, 2017

Hahaha love this! I mean I still disagree but I appreciate the attempt to persuade people otherwise πŸ˜‰ and I think Brighton beach in Melbs is pretty nice!

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    LC - November 12, 2017

    Haha! Like I said, I am stalker level obsessed with Melbourne and live there now too. Someone’s gotta root for good old Sydders though… Brighton is nice, a lot easier on the eye than St Kilda, for sure!

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Red Nomad OZ (Marion Halliday) - November 17, 2017

I’m an ‘each way bet’ kinda gal … I’ve spent a lot of time in Sydney, and not so much in Melbourne – but that’s not a deliberate thing, just how life has panned out. But I like each of the cities for different things – so I don’t actually need to choose a favourite πŸ˜€ But now I think I’ll go back to Sydney and check out some of the things I missed!!

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    LC - November 17, 2017

    I don’t have a favourite either – I love them both, think they’re such different cities too and they’re so hard to compare. Although both have really crappy public transport, but I guess that is an Aussie thing!

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Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields - February 13, 2018

Haha – great post! David, my other half, will love you for this. He is firmly convinced that Melbourne does not hold a candle to Sydney. Personally I quite like Melbourne, but I LOVE Sydney.

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    LC - February 14, 2018

    Thanks Lyn! I’m glad you both agree. I love both cities an awful lot, but still stand by everything I’ve written. Sydney is so, so beautiful. There’s no place on earth like it.

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Eliza - February 22, 2018

I came across this article by mistake and think its great. I grew up in Sydney and had no idea about the Syd vs Melb thing until my boyfriend and his flatmate (both from down south) started bagging Sydney a few years ago. I was stunned! I was like “but this is SYDNEY – are you complaining about the wrong city? How could anyone compare it to another Australian city, when they are all backwards and unknown?” (OK, this thinking didn’t go down well with them, but I very honestly and naively thought that, as do a lot of fellow Sydneysiders I know!). Since then, I have spent some time down south with my partner for family reunions and the like, and while Melbourne does have its appeal, I can’t see how it could every serious compete with or compare to Sydney. I do constantly get told how great Melbourne is when someone discovers I’m from Sydney, and I just smile and nod…(the whole scenario repeated over and over is akin to an overlooked middle child, insecure in her status, believing if she just says something enough that people will believe it and pay attention).
People down there say “all you have is a harbor but no culture!” – “You’r city is so badly designed” – “You’re all so shallow/racist (insert whatever)”. They’ve never experienced bohemian Newtown, toured the amazing Victorian streets of Stanmore & Leichhardt & Balmain, had brunch on the beach in Clovely, ect. and the vacuousness of such statements really reflects badly on those who say it. I’ll never understand the defensiveness of Melbournians; Brisbane is another second tier city (not my designation – it’s on the BCC website) and Brisbanites don’t have the same need to criticise other places..
Melbourne is lovely but I think saying it is ‘better’ than Sydney is a tad exaggerated.

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    LC - February 22, 2018

    Thanks Eliza – I’m glad to hear it’s a happy mistake! Like you, I was gobsmacked to hear people constantly compare the two cities and particularly talk down on Syd. I’ve loved Melbourne since I first stepped foot in it, but I would never, ever dream of comparing it to Sydney (well, before I wrote this post!). They’re two entirely different places. You can’t compare them. They each have their positives and negatives (except I will say the public transport situation in both is woeful – Syd just wins that one for me due to the airport train link).
    Sydney is one of the most beautiful places, if not THE most beautiful city I have ever seen and I cherish every single year I spent living there. I agree, most people just see Sydney is a pretty harbour and not much else is to their own detriment. At least every one of us who has called it home at some point knows just how special it is.

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Syd - May 16, 2018

Sydney is a beautiful vivacious blonde extrovert who is fun in a Elle McPherson bikini you enjoy one night stand with while Melbourne is a beautiful elegant brunette introvert with more depth in a Christian Dior dress you end up marrying.

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    LC - May 19, 2018

    Good analogy! As a woman, I’d say Sydney is the flashy musician you love to be seen with in all the right places and once you move past your dating asshole phase, you eventually bring the cute fellow you chat to in the work lunchroom home from Melbourne to meet your Mum.

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Steve - October 25, 2018

Good points. To me, one city is better than the other is subjective. You can have a long list of attractions in Melbourne as well, though the weather is slightly less than desirable (point taken). I like to visit Sydney on vacations but prefer to live in Melbourne (for now). After all, it has taken the top spots for the world’s most liveable city. πŸ™‚

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    LC - October 26, 2018

    Totally agree and was definitely the point I was trying to make – all cities have their good points and bad points. One can’t just dismiss one city as being crap, it’s more that it’s just not for you. I love Sydney but not so quietly prefer living in Melbs too!

    Reply
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