Sydney or Melbourne?

Most Aussies (and foreigners alike) would take sides on the controversial “Sydney vs Melbourne” debate. Australia’s two biggest cities are constantly scrutinized and compared to feed the discussion between Sydneysiders and Melbournians.

Having visited both, I conclude that Sydney and Melbourne aren’t THAT different. They’ve both got a tick over four million residents. They’ve both got a dense CBD, trendy inner city ring and sprawling, endless suburbs. Both cities also share very expensive prices.

Surely, Sydney makes a better postcard. The views of the harbour are just impressive. And the opera house is probably the best-known landmark in the country. It is fashion and glamorous. The old bridge across the harbour is a privileged spot to photograph the opera house, harbour and CBD as I did:

Sydney harbour

Sydney harbour

Melbourne’s Yarra River doesn’t sparkle like Sydney Harbour, although it’s pretty nice too. Melbourne’s treasures are somewhat more hidden. Federation Square is home to live music  and fairs. The trendy inner city suburbs host sporting events, festivals and shows. The music, arts and food&drink scenes in Melbourne are world-class. It is a very cosmopolitan city with an interesting racial mix. The old-style trams add to the city’s charm. Finally, Melbourne has been named “the world’s most livable city” by prestigious publications such as The Economist.



Between these two big cities I also stopped in what seemed to be a different world. The city of Wagga Wagga is on the interior of NSW and serves as the main shopping and services hub for neighbouring villages and farms. There are no hostels and it didn’t look like it receives many international visitors. I’d never have gone there had I not found a couchsurfing host willing to invite me to his home (or his little farm) and share his insight of live in that region. And it was definitely worth it!!

We went to dinner at a local pub, sports, gym, zoo and other places. But perhaps the highlight of my visit there was the livestock market. On Thursdays, the animals on sale are sheep, and farmers and wholesalers gather to auction individual lots of sheep. This market is the same concept but completely different to the one I wrote about in Kashgar, China. They move quickly from lot to lot, having inspected the lots beforehand. Traders, farmers and agents in-the-know dress appropriately in their jeans and cowboy-style hats. A different glam to Syd/Melb’s. 🙂


My host, who was very educated and well-travelled yet proud of his Australian “bush” roots, told me that this is very traditional Australian lifestyle. Before the resources boom, farming and ranching always was the main source of income and jobs in this vast land.

Well, so leaving Wagga aside, you may wonder what side I take in Melbourne vs Sydney. Having been only about a week in both, I can only have an outsider view, but I won´t dodge the issue. My pick (to live): Melb. 🙂 And yours?