Melbourne vs. Sydney – Where do I want to live?

Okay, so I have been living in Sydney for 2 months, and I really really enjoy it 🙂 
A lot of times when people realize that I’m new, they often ask the question: “Do you prefer Sydney to Melbourne?”
To be honest, I don’t know how to answer this question because there are certain biases. I lived in Melbourne more than 4 years vs. 2 months in Sydney. I was a newbie and immature in Melbourne whereas now I have much more traveling experiences to adapt to a new place. More importantly, I love traveling and therefore, moving to another city always sounds very exciting to me. That would explain why I have been enjoying my time in Sydney here so much. Nevertheless, I would try to have some sorts of ‘criteria’ to compare these two beautiful cities in Australia


1. Urban landscape

Sydney is the oldest city in Australia, and also the financial headquarter of the country. It is expected that Sydney has a very condense and compact network of buildings like other big cities in the world. Most people will find this environment very hectic and always-busy, and therefore, they don’t feel relax. The geographical nature of the city with ports and harbors with ocean next to it, etc. make this place very very hilly


Melbourne is the 2nd largest city in Australia, but it would be very behind to Sydney in terms of economic size. However, Melbourne is proud of its urban design and architecture. The buildings in Melbourne are well designed and so much more interesting than ones in Sydney. Melbourne is quite flat and stretch out. Roads and streets in Melbourne are also bigger. People in Melbourne, as a result, tend to be more relax and laid back (as if they don’t have to squeeze into narrow pavements)


2. Public transports

This is a big disadvantage for Sydney in terms of public transports. Buses are the main type of public transportation here even though Sydney also has train, monorail, ferry, railway, etc. but the facilities are old and quite inefficient. And, the fares are so much more expensive than Melbourne (about 50% more expensive)

Sydney bus

Melbourne outscores Sydney in public transportation, and tram is considered as the most popular means of transport. Even though people living in Melbourne often complain about their train and tram’s punctuation, they should be proud of their relatively efficient public transports system. The fares are quite expensive for international students but hey, it’s 50% cheaper than Sydney 🙂

Both Melbourne and Sydney refuse to have concession fares for international students. International students have been trying to get approval but the governments seem very reluctant to accept. And of course, international students in Melbourne are more frustrated, ha ha

Melbourne tram

3. Neighborhood area

When it comes to the surrounding area where one lives, it is different from one person to another. That would ultimately affect whether you will enjoy your stay while you’re in Australia. And I have been lucky to live in such beautiful and safe areas in both Sydney and Melbourne. That would explain why I have been enjoying my time in Australia so much 🙂

Balmain is a wealthy neighborhood in Sydney. Statistics say that the average income of people living are very high, much more than the city’s standard. That explains why I often see people walking their pets, having coffee, go jogging  in the morning… Such a very relaxing lifestyle! Plus, the view is amazing as it overlooks the city buildings. Balmain offers spectacular city view in both daytime and night time. I haven’t stayed here over the New Year’s period yet but I’m looking forward to it because it has the best view for New Year’s fireworks at Harbor Bridge and Opera House.

Balmain, Sydney

Fitzroy, where I lived in Melbourne is also very rich in terms of Melbourne’s culture. Opposite my house is Carlton Garden and I thought: “Great! Now I can go jogging every morning to keep fit! Let’s do it!” And if you know me, I gave up after two trials, hahaha… For me, I’m struggling with doing exercise. Anyway, the garden is amazing and I enjoyed passing by this garden every day when I walked to uni

Royal Exhibition Building (the picture below) is also the place where all Melbourne University students taking final exams. It is not surprising that some students absolutely hate this place.

Carlton Garden, Melbourne

4. Splurge 

In general, Sydney is more expensive than Melbourne. You are expected to pay more, not only for public transports but also food, entertainment. There are certainly more things to do in Sydney than Melbourne, and If you want to make the most out of the time you have in Australia, you should have an excuse that those money are investments for your city knowledge and experiences

Last time, I decided to study in Melbourne because of the university’s reputation. I did have no expectation and I enjoy living in Melbourne so much. People, Study, Nature, Travel, etc… are all amazing!

Coming to Sydney, I don’t want it to be the same as Melbourne. If it is the same, I would not grade it as a great experience and I would not enjoy it as much as Melbourne. The only expectation I have for Sydney is to be more extreme, more dynamic, more exciting for whatever life experiences in life I would have. I even become more open to new things in Sydney

Melbourne at night

5. People

It’s the last but also the most important factor that would influence whether one will enjoy or suffer in any place where they live.

The first 4 ‘criteria’ are conditions that help you enjoy the city better or worse, but no one can do it alone. The more sincere friends you have, the better experiences.

Coming to Melbourne 4 years ago, I am lucky to have contacts from the network of high school friends from my hometown in Vietnam; a group of international friends from the English school; moving up to friends at university and students’ clubs and societies. I did have a blast with my juniors when I found International Vietnamese Students at University of Melbourne (IVSUM) At the end of the day, it comes down to your own personality that makes the different. Everyone wants to be friend with happy and optimistic people. Your energy will cheer up everyone surrounding you and they want to spend more time with you. If it sounds like you? Great, keep it up! If it doesn’t, I hope you know what to do 🙂

Been to Sydney for 2 months, I am lucky (again) to have a friend keeping the room for me to stay so I don’t have the stress of finding accommodation. Studying PhD is expected to be challenging and lonely but I do find a group of close mates that we can talk and share our stresses while doing our research at the office. I love food & fashion and soon enough I find some good friends who are willing to take me to good places to eat, and tell me what’s on sales. I want to travel much, and I also have opportunities to do some part-time & casual work to earn some pocket money… It is your life, and you are the one that decides whether it is exciting or not


You may be surprise at this point as I don’t make it clear whether Sydney or Melbourne is the best place to live in Australia. I really can’t tell because it is you who make the judgement and it’s true for you only. I love Sydney as much as I have loved Melbourne. And life never stays still…


5 thoughts on “Melbourne vs. Sydney – Where do I want to live?

  1. Having lived in Melbourne for 13 years and never been outside the city, I was always convinced it was the best place in Australia (my childish naivety!). The more you travel, the more you come to realise each place has its own character.


    1. The more you travel, the more you realise about yourself’s characters as well. Melbourne is the the best place for me to live in the last 4 years, and I would expect Sydney will be the best place for me to love in the next 4 years 🙂


  2. Great… What you wrote is exactly what I have thought about… I think our backgrounds are quite similar… I have never believed there is someone who is in the quite similar situation with me…I like what you wrote… Thank you


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