A friend of mine went to a career seminar in the UK recently. One speaker told them why they should transfer to the Melbourne office, and one why they should transfer to the Sydney office. Now, I wasn’t there, but according to my reliable friend, the main highlight of Melbourne mentioned was that they have more Olympic sized swimming pools!!
Now, I actually think that it is a little unfair, as personally I think Melbourne is better than Sydney in 2 ways. 1) their public transport is better (although my Melburnian friends still complain about it) and 2) it is better for sport. Being in Australia, Sydney is a huge sporting city in its own right, but if you had to say which one was best, hands down, it is Melbourne. They have the Formula 1 Grand Prix (though there are rumours every year that Sydney will either steal it, or make a better offer), Australian Open (starts this Monday), and of course the AFL. Sydneysiders has the NRL of course, but not all Sydneysiders support a team, whereas most Melburnians go crazy for their AFL team.
Now this is an article about why Sydney is better than Melbourne though, not about sport. So, having got the 2 things Melbourne is better at out of the way, let’s talk about the obvious things Sydney is better for.
As Bill Bryon says in his book Down Under, Sydney Harbour is “unquestionably the loveliest harbour in the world. The Harbour, or Port Jackson as is officially known, is only 16 miles long but thanks to all of the coves and inlets, there are 245km of picture perfect harbour coastline. Amongst this stunning coastline are of course a lot of beaches. And when I say a lot, I mean well over 100, at least ten times as many as Melbourne. Sydney’s beaches have it all covered; some of the best surf beaches in Australia, calm harbour beaches which are perfect for families, ones with public barbeques for gatherings with friends and the most famous one in Australia of course, Bondi Beach. The beach is a daily part of life for Sydneysiders year round, but particularly in summer, which brings us neatly to my next point; the weather.
One of the main reasons I moved to Australia from the UK was the weather, so this is crucial. Crowded House wrote a song called ‘Four Seasons in One Day’ which is about Melbourne, their adopted home. Generally, I find on my visits there that the weather is a little more consistent than that, but 4 seasons in a weekend is certainly not unheard of and it is always wise to pack for all temperatures when visiting there. As well as this unpredictability, Melbourne is also a city of extremes. It is generally colder there in winter (the average minimum temperature at night in winter is just 6c!) and hotter in summer (they get more days over 40c than Sydney). Although Sydney has more rain than Melbourne per year, it is usually very heavy (meaning it is over quicker, compared to Melbourne’s drizzle) and we also have more hours of sun per day and more than twice as many clear days (104 per year in Sydney, compared to 49 in Melbourne).
Above I mentioned that the public transport in Melbourne is better than Sydney’s. This is largely due to their extensive tram network. However, approximately 14 million people each year in Sydney have the joy of travelling on Sydney Ferries, and at least 10,000 people each day are lucky enough to travel to work by ferry. I can assure you that there is no better way.
Compared to all of my other points, the next point may seem insignificant, but I feel it is worth mentioning briefly. A friend of mine tried to grow a Frangipani tree in Melbourne and it was fine in summer, but died in winter of course. I have treasured my own frangipani tree for almost 6 years now and I am probably the least green fingered person I know, but I couldn’t kill it if I tried with Sydney’s subtropical weather.
In addition to the obvious above, there are also the misconceptions. Many people think that Melbourne has better restaurants and bars than Sydney. Once upon a time this was certainly true, but for the last few years Sydney has been giving its Mexican (Mexicans is Aussie slang for Victorians) friends a run for its money. There are now way more 3 AND 2 Hatted (Australia’s equivalent of Michelin stars) restaurants in Sydney than in Melbourne; with four 3-Hatted and twenty-five 2-Hatted for Sydney and just one 3-Hatted and fifteen 2-Hatted restaurants in Melbourne. Additionally, Top 10 Restaurants (which combines expert ratings from Gourmet Traveller Magazine, The Good Food Guides and Restaurant Magazine’s Top 100 Restaurants to create a list of the ten best restaurants in Australia) lists Quay in Sydney as the best restaurant in Sydney. Meanwhile, Australian Financial Review lists Sepia, also in Sydney, as number one.
The small bar scene has exploded in Sydney since Clover Moore reduced the red tape in late 2007. To exemplify, the highest ranked Australian bar in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2015 list was The Baxter Inn, and Wild Rover was listed as the Gourmet Traveller’s Top Bar in Australia 2015. Both of which are located in Sydney of course.
On a more general note, Sydney was ranked not the 4th best city in Australia, but the 4th best city in the world 2015 by Conde Nast Traveller magazine. And if you are thinking some of these accolades are so last year, just this week The New York Times named their Top 52 Places to go in 2016 – and Sydney was the only Australian city listed. I could go on with more stats, but I think you get the drift.
The other misconception is shopping, and admittedly Melbourne got H&M first, but do they have the boutiques of Paddington, quirky shops of Newtown, the “most beautiful shopping arcade in the world” (the QVB according to Pierre Cardin) and the Rocks Market for tourists (and those that pretend to still be, like myself)? Admittedly, Melbourne’s bars, restaurants and shops are great. My argument is that they are no better than Sydney’s, and it could be argued that in some cases, Sydney is slightly superior.
Some of you reading this may be weighing up Sydney and Melbourne and haven’t yet decided which city to move to. In case you are wondering, the first place I lived when I visited Australia in 1996 was Melbourne, and thought it was great. After 4 months in Melbourne, I arrived in Sydney on the day of the Mardi Gras Parade (luckily this was intentional, otherwise I may have had a huge shock). After a quick shower at my guesthouse in Cremorne Point, to freshen up after a 12-hour bus journey from Melbourne, I walked 5 minutes down the road to the harbour and was blown away (see notes about the harbour above). It feels clichéd to say this now, almost 19 years later, but I felt like I had ‘come home’. After catching a ferry to the city, wandering around the beautiful Botanic Gardens and pinching myself a few times, I followed the crowds down Oxford Street (though I had no idea where I was at the time) and got caught up in the excitement.
It was one helluva way to start my love affair with Sydney and little did I know at the time, but this was just the beginning. Since that day in March 1997, I worked as a live-in nanny on a working holiday Visa, went back as a tourist for the spectacular Millennium fireworks, spontaneously visited the 2000 Olympics (I was living in New Zealand at the time), and finally emigrated here in 2006.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Melbourne…for a visit. I have lots of friends there (who hopefully aren’t reading this!) and I like to pop down for the weekend once or twice a year. Of course, I take my winter jacket, swimming costume, beanie, and shorts, just in case! But would I live there? Not on your nelly. If I couldn’t live in Sydney (for some strange reason) I would rather live in London than Melbourne. No offence intended to the city, or my friends there, but I did not move half way around the world, away from my family and friends, to settle for second best.
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