Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, have long had a friendly rivalry in the contest for 'Favourite Australian City'. With many of the country's iconic attractions, Sydney is the obvious choice, but don't be surprised if someone tells you that Australia's cultural capital, Melbourne, is their number one choice.
When you see images of Australia in a travel guide, it's often Sydney that showcases what the country is all about. Sydney epitomises everything visitors love about Australia, with perfect weather almost year-round, world-class beaches within city limits, and easy-going locals always happy to have a yarn (slang for chat) to tourists.
Sydney is where you'll be able to photograph the famous postcard sites of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. You will also get close to koalas and kangaroos at the tranquil Taronga Zoo just across the harbour, arguably one of Sydney's star attractions.
With almost eternally blue skies, even in winter Sydney rarely gets too cold, making it worthwhile to take a ferry ride through Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach at all times of the year. It might not always be warm enough to swim in Sydney, but one of the best things to do in the city is take the 6km walk between Sydney's other famous beaches, Bondi and Coogee, where you'll see surfers braving every temperature to catch epic waves.
Though Sydney wins in the weather stakes, Melbourne uses its cooler climate to its advantage and over the years has developed a loveable European atmosphere. The city is renowned for having Australia's best bars, restaurants and cultural attractions, and so too you won't find a better city in the country to shop. Chapel and Brunswick Streets, as well as the laneways in the CBD are must visits for lovers of everything designer or boutique.
Melbourne loves the chance to celebrate and the cosmopolitan city has numerous highlight events on its annual calendar. Sydney might be famous for hosting the Olympics in 2000, but each year Melbourne is where you'll find the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, and tennis' Australian Open, just to name a few of the host city's long list of events.
While not as well endowed as Sydney when it comes to natural wonders, Melbourne definitely doesn't lag far behind. Only a few hours from the city are numerous not to be missed sites, most notably the winding and windswept Great Ocean Road. In winter time, you can ski the Victorian Alps, while each day of the year you can go penguin spotting at Phillip Island, or sip some of Australia's tastiest wines straight from the source in the Yarra Valley.
It's certainly a good idea to spend time in both Sydney and Melbourne so you can pick your own favourite. But what if you need to narrow it down to just one city because of limited time? If you love to get outdoors and want to see Australia's icons, add Sydney to top of your list. Don't miss Melbourne if your idea of a perfect holiday is lazing in with a long breakfast, spending time shopping in boutiques, and catching the latest art and music.
Of course it would be a shame to come all the way to Australia and not experience both cities!
By Danny Venzin