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City Smackdown: Sydney vs. Melbourne

City Smackdown: Sydney vs. Melbourne

(Image: Melbourne: Chris Phutully / Sydney: Pedro Szekely)

Each week, Yahoo Travel pits rival destinations against each other to determine once and for all which one is the best. Up this week are two Australian rivals: Sydney and Melbourne

The Case for Sydney

Sydney is rightly famous for its iconic Opera House standing proudly in that sweeping expanse of nature and cityscape that is Sydney Harbor. This scene tells you a lot about Sydney: a balanced combination of culture, business, nature, and fun. Sydney locals are so busy working hard and playing harder that it’s difficult to be bothered with any rivalry with that city to the south. But the pretentious mob down in Melbourne are the sort to brag about each cup of coffee they’ve had and every opening they’ve been to, whether it’s an art gallery or their fridge. They’re so tedious that they’re willing to sit for three days and watch some creaky old Brits play cricket. Sorry, but in Sydney there are more fun things to be done. Like kayaking the harbor, climbing the bridge, going surfing, sailing or driving the countryside, then returning to town to explore a dozen different neighborhoods for nightlife, great food, and better music. Sydney’s the sort of city that’ll wear you out, provide heaps of fine places to relax so you can come out the next day and do even more.  

Population: About 4.7 million in Sydney area.

sydney australia

Hugh Jackman (Photo: Wireimage)

Famous Faces: Sharp-clawed Hugh Jackman, poser Elle MacPherson, swimmer Ian Thorpe, singers Natalie Imbruglia and Rick Springfield.

Related: Going Deep Into Koala Country on Australia’s Great Ocean Road

sydney australia

Climbers on the Sydney Harbor Bridge (Photo: EO1/Flickr)

Popular Way to Get Around Town: Walking the harborfront and local neighborhoods is a good way to explore, but to really experience all of Sydney’s waterfront, ride around on the extensive Sydney Ferry system.  If you want to get above town, try the fun Sydney Bridge Climb where you’ll be dangling 440 feet over the harbor.

sydney australia

Kayaking in Sydney (Photo: Reuben Beddingfield/Flickr)

The Weather: It’s almost enough to make you pity the Melburnians as they shuffle hunched over through a cold drizzle for months on end, then keel over in their blazing summer heat. Sydney is well known for its outstanding weather all year round, a bit warmer in the summer, a bit cooler in the winter, but always a fine time for a hike or kayak.   

sydney australia

The Sydney Opera House (Photo: Daniel Peckham/Flickr)

Culture: See that pointy building in the harbor? It’s the Sydney Opera House. Yes, opera. The architecturally stunning building also hosts music, dance, and theater performances. Lost in the fame that Sydney receives as a city full of action sports and beautiful scenery is the fact that it is also a cultural hotspot. Delusional Melbourne not only considers itself the sole cultural outpost, but they’ve also halfway convinced themselves they’re the only city in Australia where people can read, write, or use the loo. But Sydney has world-class cultural attractions, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Sydney Theater Company, and a town full of live music venues, and major arts festivals, including the cosmic Vivid Sydney.

sydney australia

Surfers in Sydney (Photo: Getty Images)

Sports: Sydney celebrated the millennium with the 2000 Summer Olympics, and that sporting focus continues. But unlike Melbourne’s passive population packed into stadiums, Sydney natives like to actually go out and do the sports. Sure, catching a local National Rugby League game is a fun way to spend a couple hours, but talk to most Sydneysiders, and they’ll tell you their favorite sport is kayaking, surfing, sailing, or whatever they happen to have planned for that weekend. Visitors can easily join in the fun with lessons and rental equipment readily available.  

Related: City Smackdown: Ibiza vs. Mallorca

sydney australia

Pork hock with brussels sprouts (Photo: Nomad Restaurant)

Fine Feasting:  Sydney has a diverse and lively dining scene, and despite what people in Melbourne may tell you, it’s not just fish and chips. The farm-to-table movement is alive and well at the innovative Nomad, while a locally sourced breakfast or brunch can be found at Twenty 8 Acres. Dine on fresh seafood at Fish at the Rocks, and enjoy fine dining with finer views harborside at the highly rated Quay. And yes, there are also plenty of cafes to enjoy a good cup of coffee.

sydney australia

(Photo: Sweethearts Rooftop Bar)

Rooftop Bars:  Sydney is crazy for its rooftop bars, with such fine weather, it always seems like a good evening to grab a drink and admire views of the skyline, harbor, and bridge. The rooftop at the Kings Cross Hotel is a cool place to enjoy some drinks and music under the glowing aura of the giant Coca-Cola sign, or for a change of pace, try a spiked cider slushy and some ribs with your view at Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque

sydney australia

Whale jumping (Photo: Denis Hawkins/Flickr)

Cool Stuff Nearby: Sydney’s nearby attractions begin in the suburbs, if you can call the famous surf town around Bondi Beach just another suburb. Driving farther out of town, head west to see the spectacular canyons around the Blue Mountains, or travel south to dolphin and whale-watching in Jervis Bay, relax in the nearby “bush retreat” of Paperbark Camp, and gaze at the “world’s whitest sand” at Hyams Beach. What do you get outside of Melbourne?  Bush fires, mostly.


The Case for Melbourne

Ranked the world’s most livable city for the third consecutive year, Melbourne has it all: culture, sports, food, nightlife, nature, and an appreciation for the finer things in life. Up north, in Sydney, it’s all about who has the most expensive harbor-view condo, the flashiest car, or the loftiest title on their real estate business card. Not so in Melbourne, where people can enjoy the simple pleasures of savoring a local wine at a Yarra riverfront bistro, or a cup of espresso and a fine meal at a family-run Italian or Greek café, and then sitting back for an evening at the theater or symphony. But don’t think Melbourne lacks for passion—join the sports mad locals in a jam-packed stadium to watch the barely controlled chaos of an Australian Rules Football game, or even get caught up in the excitement of 90,000 at a cricket match. Yes, in Melbourne, even cricket can be fun.        

Population: About 4.3 million in Melbourne metro area.

Melbourne Australia

Kylie Minogue (Photo: Getty Images)

Famous Faces: Singing budgie Kylie Minogue, basketball hulk Andrew Bogut, actress Cate Blanchett, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, singer Nick Cave, stingray victim Steve Irwin, media demagogue Rupert Murdoch.

Melbourne Australia

Melbourne city bikes (Photo: John Jones/Flickr)

Popular Way to Get Around Town: Melbourne is a biking-friendly city, unlike Sydney, where hostile drivers tend to use bikers as target practice. It’s an easy city to get around by walking, but if you get tired, hop on a tram in one of the world’s largest electric tram networks.

The Weather: Melbourne has four real seasons, (unlike perpetually bland Sydney) with a hot summer from December to February (yet still only averaging a high of 79) and actually gets less annual rainfall than Sydney with all their claims to be the sunshine capital.

Melbourne Australia

'Glengarry Glen Ross' at the Melbourne Theater Company (Photo: Melbourne Theater Company/Facebook)

Culture:  In Sydney, they think culture is what you put in your hair to dye it blonde. In Melbourne, a UNESCO City of Literature, it’s hard to choose between all the cultural options, between museums, art galleries, and music. Check out some thought-provoking plays at the Melbourne Theater Company, or laugh-provoking humor at the annual Melbourne Comedy Festival. See music and dance shows within the cultural complex at Arts Center Melbourne. Or combine it all together in the annual Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Melbourne Australia

Cricket match (Photo: Michael Hopkins/Flickr)

Sports:  Want to go with a few mates to see a game? How about with a hundred thousand of them? Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, hosting everything from the 1956 Summer Olympics to record crowds of over 90,000 coming to watch matches at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, 120,000 to see the Melbourne Cup horse race at Flemington Racecourse, sold-out stadiums for the inscrutable human pinball action of Australian Rules Football, 95,000 for soccer games, and of course there’s the Australian Open Tennis championships. In Sydney, you just have a bunch of cockroach rugby players.

Related :Smackdown: Paris vs. London

Melbourne Australia

Espresso from Pellegrini’s (Photo: Simon Brunozzi/Flickr)

Fine Feasting:  Melbourne’s large immigrant community (including the biggest Greek population outside of Greece) means there is always some good ethnic dining available, from the Italian district around Lyon Street, the Jewish cake shops of St. Kilda, and the newer Vietnamese community restaurants in Richmond’s Victoria street. And of course fine Greek restaurants including Stalactites and Tsindos. Coffee culture is a big thing, with old-school cafes like Pellegrini’s serving up prime espresso with their meals. Melbourne’s famed Movida tapas restaurant has become so popular, Sydney begged to have one opened there, too. 

Melbourne Australia

Bomba bar rooftop (Photo: Bomba Bar/Twitter)

Rooftop Bars:  Beat the summer heat with sangria and tapas at the rooftop “Spanish Workers Bar” of Bomba, or take a secret elevator to a grassy rooftop patio and try a cocktail that’s “just right” at Goldilocks Bar.

Melbourne Australia

The Great Ocean Road (Photo: Getty Images)

Cool Stuff Nearby: Melbourne’s surrounding area make the city even more appealing. You can do a road trip along The Great Ocean Road tracing the southern coast and see wild kangaroos and koalas and some spectacular scenery. Or go to nearby Philip Island and see an actual penguin parade! And yes, Sydney, there’s plenty of surfing as well, including the famous competitions at Bells Beach.  For food and wine fans, travel east to the wine country of Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula, or west to the Sunbury wine region.  Outside Sydney, you’re just going to see crowded bogan-filled campgrounds and overloaded motorhomes from weekenders.

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