Another adventure in the books, I’m waiting in the airport for my flight back to New York (through Tokyo again). I was in Melbourne for a day and a half, taking a surprisingly long train there (11.5 hours) and a much faster flight back. One Melbourne person told me that there’s this (probably made up) story of an American couple getting into Sydney and asking for a taxi to Perth (a seven hour flight). The man turns to his wife and says “the taxi driver says it’s on the other side of the island!”
Sydney and Melbourne have a long rivalry, which is largely unknown to the rest of the world that sees Sydney as the only city worth visiting in the country. Having visited both, I’d just like to give both of them their due respect and also contrast them with the short experience I had in each.
Firstly, I’d like to explain their rivalry. They are the two largest cities, and constantly compete for the rank of largest. Right now, apparently, Melbourne just surpassed Sydney by adding new suburbs into the city limits. However, I’d expect that to be a fleeting title since Sydney can also add new suburbs. On my two hour train to the Blue Mountains from Sydney’s central business district, I was in the city limits for over 80% of the ride. Also, at the time of choosing a capital, neither city was willing to be represented nationally in the other, so they had to choose a middle point and build Canberra.
Maybe it’s just my bias as someone who had only visited Sydney at the time of being in Sydney and had been to both Sydney and Melbourne by the time I was in Melbourne, but I’ve found it an unbalanced rivalry. Melbourne people loved to tell me about the rivalry with Sydney. No one in Sydney mentioned Melbourne. Even at the time of planning my trip, I assumed Brisbane would be more fun than Melbourne as a secondary city to visit.
I like each of them for different reasons.
Sydney is more picturesque. It’s easier to get around with their amazing metro system that you can simply tap your phone to get on and off. More companies that you’ve heard of have a Sydney office than a Melbourne office. More artists you’ve heard of perform in Sydney than in Melbourne.
Melbourne has a more unique culture than the very westernized Sydney. You could almost mistake Sydney for an American or British city in comparison with Melbourne. The laneways (roughly translated to alley but often too busy to be considered an alley) are integral to the energy in Melbourne and unheard of in the main parts of Sydney. Melbourne is more fun to go out at night and weirdly calls its neighborhoods “suburbs” even if it’s a 15 minute walk from the center of the city. It also proclaims itself as the sports capital of the world.
I would still consider Sydney the important city for international travelers to visit and Melbourne as secondary. I’d be impressed to hear about a traveler who was in Melbourne and only considering visiting Sydney. But I’ll say I had more fun with the Australians I met in Melbourne and wouldn’t have traded the experience for Brisbane if I could go back.
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