Sydney and Melbourne have been battling it out for supremacy as long as Europeans have been setting sail for Australia. Both are capitals of their respective states – New South Wales and Victoria – and both think they should be the capital of Australia.

So fierce is their rivalry that nobody could choose between them, and instead Australia had to build a whole new capital inland in Canberra.

Canberra, though, has nothing on these two. Both have gorgeous coastal locations, world-leading museums, trend-setting restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Both are great places to shop, to watch sports and to hit the beach. And both are gateways to some of Australia’s greatest sights.

So which one should you head to first? Here’s our lowdown on Australia’s greatest debate. Get ready to weigh in.


Melburnians would sniff at this question – their city, after all, is known as Australia’s “cultural capital”. You’ll find the Southbank precinct here, with the vast Arts Centre (the country’s busiest performing arts venue), the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest, largest and most visited arts museum, and the country’s oldest professional theatre company the Melbourne Theatre Company.

There are more than a hundred art galleries in the city, as well as plenty of cutting-edge culture, from some of Australia’s best street art in the narrow lanes that run through the CBD to audiovisual art at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square.

Sydney does have a lot to offer too though, and it certainly has more iconic architecture. There is, of course, the Harbour Bridge stretching across the water, and the famous Opera House, which plays host to a fabulous line up of events, including performances by Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.


Sydney has the edge here, with some of the world’s most recognisable big-name beaches (Bondi and Manly) strung along its shores. Head to the south shore for Bondi, where the surf is always up and you can learn how to ride those waves yourself.

You can also walk along the coastal path to Bronte beach, one of Australia’s most accessible and pleasant strolls. Manly is on the north shore and reached by the Manly Ferry – probably one of the world’s best-value cruises at just a few dollars for 30 minutes of gorgeous harbour views.

Melbourne’s answer to such strong competition is St Kilda, a sandy strand just a short tram ride from the city and home to a proper pier, as well as Brighton, with its brightly painted beach huts and city skyline views.