#9 Sibling Rivalry – Sydney and Melbourne, Australia

View of Sydney’s beautiful harbour from the plane :)

Witnessing the crush of suit-clad and iron-faced Sydneysiders at lunch hour in Martin Place, it’s not difficult to see why Sydney, beyond its beautiful harbour and cosmopolitan beat, is the economic capital of Australia. I have to say, it’s hard to fight to the top among the cities Down Under to be the best, with every city from Hobart to Brisbane to Perth boasting their unique must-see landmarks and a distinctive niche.

I’m unable to comment on the rest since I’ve yet to check them off my list, but having returned from a quick city jaunt in Melbourne the garden state and my second time in Sydney has set me thinking that there is every reason for these southern sisters to engage in head-on sibling rivalry.

Let’s look at the people, streets, public transport, waterfront experience and their beaches to see how each city fares!

#1 People

Sydney: Well dressed and very cosmopolitan; everyone seems to be always in a rush to get somewhere. Friendly with yet a distinct air of exclusivity. Kind of stressful…even on a relaxing night out.

Melbourne: Laidback, not as fast-paced, cool. Homely and comforting without the overwhelming stressful vibe of a big city.

I can’t really decide; Sydney has a dazzling personality with a potentially scalding temper, but Melbourne’s like the Mr. Nice Guy. For fun, go to Sydney. For a longer, chill-out stay, choose Melbourne.


#2 Street architecture

Sydney: Well-preserved facades from the late 19th century of churches, hospitals, museums, banks mean that architecture buffs and history lovers get to gawk at the lovely juxtapositioning of old against new of Sydney’s sparkling city skyline.

Melbourne: Interesting, avant-garde, strange shiny architecture with sporadic sprinklings of old buildings here and there.
I prefer Sydney because there is more to see and the buildings lend an air of rich historical culture to the otherwise modern and trendy city.


#3 Streets

Sydney: Haphazardly planned! Traffic lights that don’t turn green on pedestrians until after five minutes of painstaking wait, rude motorists, frantic zigzags, steep slopes at places, tight bends, roundabouts, truncated and narrow pedestrian walkways before shopfronts and unclear road directions make walking a nightmare…
Melbourne: Neatly gridded, pencil-straight roads with generous tree-lined sidewalks, patient drivers, traffic lights that respond to both cars and pedestrians.

Hands down, Melbourne. Unless you enjoy the dangers of getting run down by speeding cars and the agonizing wait of badly timed traffic lights.

#4 Public transport

Sydney: The metro is naaasty — dirty, lights occasionally flickering on and off a la a horror movie, creaky cracked-leather seats, poorly maintained, trackworks every other day. You wonder on which day the whole thing is just going to crumble and collapse. The buses are frequent enough, air-conditioned and comfortable, but dragged down by the misleading signages on the bus stops.
Melbourne: The metro is a joy to travel on — brightly lit, clean, soft furry seats, smooth riding, follows the schedule RIGHT on the dot. (No experience with any trackworks.) Sometimes I don’t want to get off because it’s so comfy. There is also a free city tram that runs around but kinda hot because there isn’t air-conditioning. A network of tramlines run all over the city — frequent-ish (depending on which line), quite smooth and drops you off very near to our intended destination. One small gripe, the bus routes are confusing sometimes.
Melbourne wins again. Sydney has A LOT to learn from Melbourne when it comes to the transport system.
#5 Waterfront experience

Sydney: Grab any ferry from Circular Quay going to Watsons Bay, North Sydney, Darling Harbour etc and you’ll be treated to the priceless view of the Harbour Bridge and the world famous Opera House, before cruising up or down the Paramatta River a little bit. A walk along the waterfront from the Opera House, across the Quay and towards the Rocks is also super enjoyable. You can also pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art along the way to get a respite from the summer heat or a visual treat…afterall admission is FREE!
Melbourne: Walking around the Southbank area, a wide waterfront boulevard with colourful artistic sculptures placed along the way, you can admire the city skyline on the opposite bank. If you are on the Flinders Street side, the skyline is sparser but you can see the Eureka Tower and the Melbourne Aquarium. The Yarra River is none too interesting with some bridges linking up both sides. Birrabung Marr is a cool place to have a picnic on the grass though…
Sydney rocks for this one. Especially at sunset when the last rays of the sun fires up the sky, setting off a stunning contrast against the iron structure of the Harbour Bridge. Like I said before, it’s priceless.

#6: The Beach

Sydney: With the renowned sun worshippers’ paradise Bondi Beach, the exclusive Tamarama Beach and the trendy Bronte Beach a stone’s throw from the city centre; the charming Manly Beach a ferry ride away, plus Palm Beach (made famous by TV series Home and Away) an hour’s drive away, Sydney is easily one of the best cities to live in if you’re a beach lover.

Melbourne: St. Kilda’s a great place to spy Port Phillip Bay and the nearest beach from the city to catch some ocean breeze, with other places like Bonbeach and the Mornington Peninsula (I shall see them on my next trip! >_<) offering a taste of sand and surf for the beachphiles.
I have to say Sydney for this one. Bondi’s her proudest asset, with the powerful waves crashing against its sandstone cliffs. But personally I like the gentle lapping of waves on Manly Beach…
Looks like it’s a pretty close fight here! :)

Personally, I really like the city vibe of Sydney and all there is to offer within easy reach from the city centre, but Melbourne is also cool in its own ways, such as the ubiquitous street graffiti, some of which look really impressive and artistic indeed.

But as far as real sisters go, these two are the best when they are seen together. ♥


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