Is it Sydney or Melbourne? The two cities have long rivaled for the title of Australia’s top city, but the origin of their feud is unclear. The two cities once vied to be the capital of the newly minted commonwealth, but Canberra was established instead, silencing at least one debate. Some contend the rivalry began much earlier, when Melbourne became flush due to the gold rush in the 1850s, allowing its population and wealth to skyrocket while Sydney still staggered under the weight of its history as a penal colony.
Sydney today, however, is vastly different from its early days as an open-air jail. It has been blessed with some of the most incredible natural beauty on earth. A sun-soaked, beach-lover’s paradise, Sydney attracts millions of global tourists to its shores annually. Melbourne, on the other hand, tends to attract more domestic travellers. Each city has plenty to offer all of their visitors, from entertainment and shopping to relaxation and dining.
A large part of Sydney’s attraction lies in its gorgeous natural harbour, in which are located two of Australia’s most iconic sites: the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This lush harbour setting boasts many of the city’s finest restaurants, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Taronga Zoo and more. Visitors can enjoy a quiet promenade along harbour walkways, climb the bridge or enjoy an al fresco meal. The home to some of the world’s most famous beaches, Sydney cannot help but be known for its surfing culture, but it also has a substantial theatre and arts culture as well, with a multitude of museums, galleries and cinemas.
Melbourne, on the other hand, is known as the cultural capital of Australia. Distinctive Victorian-era architecture lines its leafy streets and creates a sophisticated charm that attracts a different type of personality. The city has a unique character, from its galleries and museums to its Aboriginal Heritage walks in the Botanic Gardens and extensive theatre productions that include musicals, ballets and modern productions. Melbourne is also a haven for shoppers, with shopping centres, arcades and boutiques selling an eclectic range of products. While Melbourne boasts fewer award-winning restaurants than Sydney, it still has plenty of multicultural dining options, as well as a sea of hipster bars and trendy nightclubs.