Living in either Sydney or Melbourne is a question that pops up in most migrants or even a lot of Australian locals minds when deciding which city to call home. They are two largest cities in Australia of a similar size and population, drawing migrants from all over the world. I have (to a large extent)been happily living in Sydney for the last three and a half years. However there are days where I ponder how different or maybe better my life would have been had I gone to Melbourne. My reason for moving to Sydney was purely because work drove me here. I didn’t make a definitive choice of picking one city over the other. However in helping future movers to either city decide, or even myself once I decide to ‘settle down’ in life, I have made a list of advantage that each city offers over the other. Which of those advantages are more meaningful or of high priority to you would help you decide which city to move in.
(I’m basing this list based on my experience of living in Sydney, and my frequent visits to Melbourne and hearing from friends of their experiences living there)
Advantages of Sydney over Melbourne:
- Warm and mild weather for most of the year. This one is a pure advantage in Sydney’s favour. The temperature in Sydney is always in the mild range and the humidity is not excessive compared to more northern parts of Australia. In contrast Melbourne can be quite chilly during the few months of winter and has less sunshine and more grey skies. However there is one caveat though, the temperatures vary wildly between the eastern and western edges of the Sydney region. The closer you are to the eastern (coastal) end the more mild and narrow in range the temperature is. The western end of Sydney can have quite large temperature ranges, with summer temperatures reaching 40C fairly frequently, and winter temperatures dropping below 5C on more than a few occasions in a year. But overall Sydney offers a warm and mild alternative to Melbourne’s weather for most of the year apart from a few weeks in the western edges of city.
- Better outdoor environment in close proximity to the city. This is a slight advantage in Sydney’s favour. While the Victoria region does offer a lot of great places to explore and experience the outdoors most of them are not in very close proximity to Melbourne. In contrast Sydney has a lot to offer in close proximity to the city. These include three national parks, hundreds of beaches, rivers, walking trails. A lot of them can even be reached fairly easily through public transport, which brings me to my next point.
- Better public transport. Having used public transport in both cities I would say the Sydney’s public transport is a fair bit better. There are more train lines in Sydney covering a wider area, and the frequency and capacity of trains are better than Melbourne. Sydney is one of the few cities in the world that has double decker daily commute trains. Sydney also seems to have more bus routes than Melbourne. Although Melbourne does do a few things better in public transport such as having trains run 24 hours on weekends, and a more comprehensive tram coverage in the CBD and inner-city suburbs (although the trams move at a snail’s pace).
- Slightly more professional/white collar job opportunities. This is one’s probably more industry dependent, but I find that there are more jobs on offer in Sydney mainly because it is a bigger finance and real estate hub, and more international companies base their Australian offices here rather than Melbourne. Not to say Melbourne is a slouch in this regard, as several of the biggest Australian companies are headquartered in Melbourne, but Sydney is just a slight bit better.
That’s all the advantages I can think of for Sydney. Now on to Melbourne.
Advantages of Melbourne over Sydney:
- Cheaper real estate. This one is probably the deal breaker for most people when deciding to live in Sydney. The cost of real estate, be it renting or buying, is astronomical. A one bedroom apartment in inner Sydney won’t cost you less than $450 a week (that’s the absolute cheapest), whereas a similar apartment in Melbourne will probably cost you $350 a week or less (a 22% difference). Similarly houses in Sydney are mostly in the $1 million mark no matter which part of the Sydney region you go to, whereas in Melbourne affordable real estate can still be found in few of the northern and western suburbs. Buying a house is not as much of a pipe dream as it is in Sydney.
- Better nightlife, entertainment, and culture. Melbourne outshines Sydney in this aspect. The nightlife in Melbourne is comparatively better, with lots of small bars open till late at night. Melbourne also has a better dining scene with more cuisines on offer and more unique restaurants. In addition there are more events and festivals that take place in Melbourne, and they are usually on a bigger scale. Melbourne is also a bigger hub for art with a bigger theatre scene and local music scene, and a bigger draw for international art exhibitions. If you’re someone that partakes in the arts Melbourne would definitely be a better choice.
- Better planned city layout and better road network. Melbourne is just simply easier to navigate around since most of the city is laid out in an easy to follow grid like pattern, unlike the windy labyrinthine roads of Sydney. Also the roads in Melbourne appear to be wider with more lanes. I don’t have direct experience of driving in Melbourne, but Sydney is often gridlocked on its main roads, mainly because the roads are quite narrow and haven’t been widened from when they were initially built.
- (From subject personal experience) Melbourne appears to be a more socially integrated city. Based on my personal observation Melbourne doesn’t appear to be as ethnically segregated as Sydney, where different cultures tend to live in their own segregated suburbs and do not mix as much. Although this does exist in Melbourne it seemed to be less extensive than Sydney and I saw more people of different backgrounds mixing with each other and living next to each other.
That’s all the advantages of Melbourne that I could think of over Sydney. On balance living in either city is not vastly different from the other, but each of the advantages mentioned above can tilt the balance towards the favour of one city.