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Sydney or Melbourne?

Sightseeing and Entertainment

Melbourne and Sydney are beautiful cities, but when we look at a tourist’s map of Australia, we always know we’re going to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House halfway up the coast. With that said, if you’re not as keen on ‘touristy’ locations, Melbourne does boast the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as well as Federation Square and Birrarung Marr just next door.

Sydney is well-known as a tourist hotspot and offers a variety of ways to spend your time. Whether going on a ghost tour, climbing in the Blue Mountains or seeing the animals at the Taronga Zoo, you’ll find something you’ll like. While Melbourne has its own attractions, the ones in Sydney are typically just a little bigger (the Sydney Aquarium is bigger than the Melbourne Aquarium and Sydney Tower is taller than the Eureka Skydeck, etc.). Melbourne might be a little less scenic, but that doesn’t mean there’s less to do. Melbourne is more about discovery, and after you’ve hit the city centre to see the more obvious tourist destinations, it’s all about finding those one-off events and displays that aren’t plastered across billboards citywide. Melbourne is also well-known for its uncooperative weather, so if you’re looking for blue skies, you have been warned!


While both towns are coastal, they’re more than just miles apart. Sydney has more of a sunshine-and-surf culture, while Melbourne, although situated on the bay, has a less ocean-based appeal. Even if the beaches were the prominent feature in Melbourne, the arctic water is no comparison for the temperate waters of New South Wales. Some people say that Melbourne has a more European feel to it than Sydney, which feels more like the US. The downside of being beautiful and well-serviced is that Sydney has a far faster pace than Melbourne. Not to say that Melbourne is sluggish, but if you’re looking for somewhere to relax and unwind, you might need to factor that into your decision or look at staying out of the city.


As capital cities, Melbourne and Sydney both have their fair share of museums, galleries, zoos and theatres. While the Sydney Opera House seems to be the crown jewel, Melbourne is undeniably the cultural capital of Australia. One of only five Cities of Literature worldwide, Melbourne is Australia’s home of small presses and publishing houses. While Sydney boasts the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria regularly rotates world-class exhibits, and nothing can compare to Melbourne’s culture of street art.

Food and Dining

Melbourne is known worldwide for its food and coffee options. Whether you’d looking to indulge in a banquet at Crown, or squeeze into a charming laneway café somewhere just off the main road, there is somewhere in Melbourne that will make your heart sing. Sydney has more than its fair share of dining options as well, but if fine dining and good coffee are a must, heading farther south might be the best choice. Melbourne is well known for its gastro pubs and hipster food scene, so if you’re a foodie, it’s really the only choice!

Family Friendliness

Obviously, both destinations are filled with activities and locations to keep your children entertained and enthralled. They both have zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens and they each have their own Luna Park! Melbourne boasts Scienceworks and Legoland, while Sydney features the Powerhouse Museum (for hands-on learning) and the Treetop Adventure Park. Both cities are equally matched if you’re looking for something to keep your children occupied while you’re travelling.

So which is best? Even though my hometown is Melbourne I’ll be diplomatic and say, it depends on what you’re after. It’s a topic that has divided Melbournians and Sydney-siders for years – each having their own strong feelings. As a visitor, each of these cities has its own unique offerings for a tourist, you’ll be sure to find something in each that will make the trip worthwhile.

- City Experiences

Written by: Eniko Simon

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