Sydney or Melbourne – Which One to Visit?

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Consider yourself lucky if you are thinking about Sydney or Melbourne as your next cities to visit. Both places are amongst the nicest cities in the world. However, that’s where the similarities end. Australia’s largest cities are quite different!

We’ve spent several weeks in both and always had a blast. We love that both combine great architecture, culture, and nature. That’s what sets Australia apart. You get to enjoy world-class cities and breathtaking nature.

If you are wondering whether to visit Melbourne or Sydney on your first trip to Australia, you have nothing to worry about. No matter which one you choose, you will love it. On your next trip, you go to the other.

Sydney vs Melbourne

Sydney vs Melbourne

Quick Comparison

Sydney is Australia’s and Oceania’s most populated city. It is also the prettiest. The metropolis is huge and spread out. Sydney extends over gorgeous cliffs that tower above the sea. The city goes inland for some 50 miles (70 km).

Though Melbourne is smaller, it’s growing at a faster pace. It’s supposed to surpass Sydney as the country’s biggest city in a decade. Melbourne is also on the coast and spread out. It goes inland towards the Yarra River.

Melbourne vs Sydney

If You Have to Choose

We have to be completely honest. There’s a clear winner in our Melbourne vs. Sydney analysis. That’s Sydney. We believe it is amongst the prettiest cities on earth. In fact, the harbor is the nicest on the planet.

In Sydney, you will never tire of incredible views over the ocean. The city has a ferry system that takes you to some of the prettiest beaches on the planet. In addition, the UNESCO Listed Blue Mountains are a step away.

What we love about Melbourne is the vibe. Though vibrant and cosmopolitan, it is relaxed. There are countless bars, coffee houses, and restaurants to relax and mingle with the locals. Melbourne is also blessed with incredible nature, including beaches and bush.

Sydney or Melbourne


Sydney has a population of over 5 million people and an area of 4700 sq miles (12,300 km2). Therefore, it never feels crowded and convoluted. You will always find quiet places to relax and enjoy the views.

Most of Sydney’s top attractions are in the center. The area extends from Circular Quay on the harbor to the Central Business District. Historic architecture lines the streets of the center. The best contemporary architecture in the country is here too.

The city has some of the best beaches in the world. Manly and Bondy are our favorites. You can enjoy them all year round. Sydney has incredible parks. Since people from all over the world live in the city, the food is superb!

Sydney - Darling Harbour

Main Sights

The UNESCO Listed Sydney Opera House faces the harbor. Walk along the seaside promenade admiring Sydney’s Harbor Bridge. Ferries to the beaches and beyond depart from Circular Quay. Continue to The Rocks.

Bars, restaurants, museums, and markets populate the Rocks. Sydney’s Central Business District goes from Bridge Street to Hide Park. The city’s best historic architecture is here. Market and George streets are Sydney’s main commercial drags. Contemporary skyscrapers tower above the center.

Haymarket and Darling Harbor are lively neighborhoods in the center full of culture and history. To party head to Darlinghurst, the city’s LGBT quarter. From there, go to Surry Hills, King’s Cross, and Woolloomooloo. Cross Harbor Bridge and explore North Sydney.

Sydney - Opera House


The Museum of Contemporary Art is in The Rocks and faces Circular Quay. To learn about the city, head to Sydney’s Museum on Bridge Street. Continue to the Museum of History of New South Wales and the Barracks that face Hyde Park.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is Australia’s s best museum. The 1879 building is as impressive as the collection inside. The breathtaking new expansion of the museum faces the ocean. From there, visit the historic Finger Wharf.

The Australian Museum overlooking Hyde Park is the oldest in the country. Go to Haymarket to visit the Museum of Chinese in Australia. Continue to Darlinghurst to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Check the Chau Chak Wing Museum within the University of Sydney campus.

Sydney - Museum of Contemporary Art


The best places to stay in Sydney are in the center. Our favorite hotel in the Central Business District is The Grace. The historic 1930s building is within walking distance of most attractions. It’s got an indoor pool, a gym, and plush rooms.

If you have the money to splash, do so at the Sebel Quay West Suites. The extra luxurious units come with a fully equipped kitchen, a seating area, and incredible views. It’s got a rooftop indoor heated pool with jaw-dropping views.

Considering its class and location, the Rydges Sydney Central is great value for money. The tall tower is close to the train station and within walking distance of the CBD, Haymarket, and the harbor. You get brilliant rooms and a fantastic pool.

Sydney - Modern Hotel

Parks and Gardens

Sydney has some of the most beautiful parks and gardens in the world. The Royal Botanic Garden is our favorite place in the city. The huge lush park overlooks the ocean and offers the best views of Sydney’s skyline.

Cross the Domain Park, enjoy the views of Wolloomboloo, and head to Hyde Park. Massive old trees preside over the center’s main park. Saint Mary’s Cathedral is here. Check the Anzac Memorial and head to the Chinese Garden in Haymarket.

Cross Sydney Bridge and explore Mary Booth Lookout Reserve. Walk under the bridge to Bradfield Park. Continue along the coast to Luna Park and Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. Take a short ferry to Mc Mahon and walk to Blue Point Reserve.

Sydney - Botanical Gardens


You can spend weeks exploring the city’s beaches. Our favorites are in Manly. The seaside suburb is just a short ferry ride from Circular Quay. The journey there is an attraction in itself so grab a window seat and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy incredible walks along Manly beach to Sydney Harbor National Park all year round. The Manly to Spit Bridge walk is awesome too. Balmoral beach is our favorite in Mosman. Walk for hours from Middle Head National Park to Clifton Gardens Reserve.

Take the ferry to Hornby Lighthouse and walk along the cliffs to Watson’s Bay Wharf. Visit Rose Bay Beach and head to world famous Bondi Beach. Walk from Hugh Bamford Reserve to Bondi. Continue from Bondi to Bronte along the cliffs.

Sydney - Manly Beach

Day Trips

There is nothing in the entire world like the Blue Mountains National Park. The UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site is just 50 miles (70 km) west of Sydney. We strongly recommend spending at least one night in the park.

Check our list of the best places to stay in the Blue Mountains. If you are short of time, take the train from Sydney Central to Kattoombaa early. Visit the Three Sisters, walk to the falls, and take the train back.

If you don’t feel like going alone, take this one-day tour from Sydney. We’ve sent several friends, and they raved about it. The message is clear: you have to visit the Blue Mountains. You will fall in love with Australia.

Blue Mountains

What’s Special about Sydney

We visited for the first time years ago, and it was love at first site. We are architects that love nature, and Sydney excels in both. Actually, the balance between epic nature and architecture is what makes the city special.

The last time we visited, we spent 15 days and never had a dull moment. The city has a fantastic transportation system that includes buses, trams, and ferries. You can spend weeks discovering new beaches and parks next to the ocean.

Sydney is party central! You can have wine and cocktails in fancy bars overlooking the harbor. You can dance the dance away in the clubs of King’s Cross and eat food from all over the world everywhere!

Sydney - View over Harbour


Australia’s second-largest city is a sight to behold. Some people like it better than Sydney. We get it. Melbourne is very different from any other city. We love its surroundings too: endless coast of sandy beaches on both sides and lovely bush inland.

The last time we went to the city, we spent 10 days and had a blast. There are so many things to do and see in Melbourne that you can spend weeks exploring it. You can go everywhere by public transport.

Melbourne has lush green parks, historic architecture, cute neighborhoods, natural reserves, and warm hosts. The city is also known for its restaurant and bar scene. Besides, due to its location, it’s perfect for day trips to incredible nearby places.

Melbourne - Flinders Street Station

Main Sights

Melbourne’s main sights are in the city center. The Yarra River runs through it. The river is an attraction in itself. Begin your walk at the historic Flinders Street Train Station. The other grand station is Southern Cross.

Get lost in the center’s streets. Visit the Victoria Market. Use the tram for free within the center. Don’t forget to check the area around the Town Hall. China Town is to the north. From there, it’s a short walk to the Parliament building.

Melbourne is famous for its fun back alleys and opulent arcades. The best are near Collins Street. To party, go to Fitzroy. Our favorite neighborhood is Windsor. The best bars in the city line Chapel Street. To see wild Kangaroos in Melbourne take a bus to Gresswell Forest Wildlife Reserve.

Melbourne - The Block Arcade


The Melbourne Museum is the biggest in the country. Though the institution is from 1854, the building is modern. If you have kids, take them to the onsite Children’s Gallery. The Old Melbourne Gaol nearby is a former prison converted into a museum.

Walk south to the Museum of Chinese Australian History. The Old Treasury Building is now the Museum of Melbourne and Victoria’s History. Two blocks east is the City of Melbourne Collection. The Hellenic Museum nearby has a permanent collection dedicated to Greek art.

Our favorite museum in the city is the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s the country’s oldest and most popular. However, the building is from 1968. It exhibits international and local art. The Australian Sports Museum is north of the Rod Laver Arena.

Melbourne - Royal Exhibition Building


The best places to stay in Melbourne are in the Central Business District. The Crown Metropole Melbourne has two pools, a jaw-dropping rooftop terrace with lounges, and a gym. The best rooms have epic views over the entire city.

Considering its class and location, the Vibe is your best option in the center. The sleek and tall tower is in the heart of the city. The top-floor rooms have epic views over the city. It’s got an indoor pool.

The building of the Victorian Railway Commission from 1891 is the Grand Hotel Melbourne. All of the units come with a fully equipped kitchen. The best are the studios, with a balcony and tub. You are going to love the indoor pool and spa.

Melbourne - Hotels by the River

Parks and Gardens

The Royal Exhibition Building presides over the incredible Carlton Gardens. Both are in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The building completed in 1880 is now an exhibition hall. The manicured gardens are huge, and feature lakes and tall trees.

Walk to the Parliament and Treasury Gardens and cross to the historic Fitzroy Gardens. From there, cross into Yarra Park. The Melbourne & Olympic Parks extends to the Yarra River. The Australian Open takes place here.

Cross the river to Alexandra Gardens and walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens from 1846. You have 89 acres (36 hectares) of nature to explore. Don’t skip the Shrine of Remembrance next to the gardens. The Royal Park north of the CBD is Melbourne’s biggest park.

Melbourne - Royal Botanical Gardens


The beaches in Melbourne do not get all the credit they deserve. We are talking about long sandy beaches with crystal blue waters. Though you can’t swim in the winter, you can enjoy them all year round.

The city has a 7-mile (10 km) long beachfront boulevard. You can walk from Sandbridge Beach to Elwood Beach in two hours. The closest beach to the center is Port Melbourne Beach. You can take the tram there.

Our favorite beach is St Kilda, to the south. We usually go to St Kilda West, close to the Katani Gardens. It’s fun even in winter. You’ve got restaurants, coffee houses, and lovely views. A tram from the center takes you there in 20 minutes.

Melbourne - St Kilda Beach

Day Trips

If you are short of time, go to Ballarat or Bendigo on a day trip. We believe Ballarat offers a bit more. The historic town is 75 miles (110 km) west of the city. The train there takes 1.5 hours.

Bendigo is 95 miles (150 km) north of Melbourne. The train takes 2 hours. Both are historic mining towns full of heritage. If you have enough time, spend a night in each. The journey to both places through the countryside is an attraction in itself.

Geelong, Victoria’s 2nd city, is an hour south of Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road begins here. Go all the way to Lorne and its incredible beaches. The best way to reach Phillip Island is with this fantastic tour.


What’s Special about Melbourne

We must be honest: it took us a couple of days to fall in love with Melbourne. The city is for sure pretty, but it’s the vibe that sets it apart and, of course, its colorful street art. You can’t believe you are in a world-class metropolis!

The city is an architect’s dream. Great architecture from different periods dots Melbourne. Some of the country’s best modern towers are here. However, step out of the CBD and discover a more relaxed easy-going Melbourne.

Melbourne excels in parks, green areas, and nature. We reckon that that’s why the locals are so welcoming and fun. The weather can be hectic, but there are always lots of things to do. Even at night, when the city shines in all of its glory.

Melbourne - Windsor Neighborhood

If You Still Haven’t Decided

If you still haven’t decided go to Sydney on your first trip. We believe it’s the nicest city on earth. Besides, the Blue Mountains National Park is a step away. Therefore, you have two gorgeous places to visit.

On your next trip to Australia, spend less time in Sydney and visit Melbourne. If you want, skip Sydney altogether, go to Melbourne, and explore the coastline. From there, take a short flight to Hobart or Launceston in Tasmania.

We like Sydney so much that every time we visit Australia we make sure to stop there for at least a couple of days. However, who knows when you’ll be in Australia? Take as much time off as you can, and visit both cities.

Melbourne or Sydney

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