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Sydney v Melbourne: the ultimate showdown

09:00 AEST Thu May 5 2011
Getaway presenters often have discussions amongst themselves about their favourite destinations. That's all good until the old chestnut pops up — which one is better: Sydney or Melbourne?

Both are regularly in the top 10 most liveable cities in the world, so they're not easy to compare.

Jules Lund, Dermott Brereton and Kate Ceberano are Melburnians through and through; Catriona Rowntree has gone from Sydney to Melbourne and Kelly Landry vice versa. Jason Dundas holds the position of being the true blue Sydneysider. Judge Natalie Gruzlewski is a Queenslander and sits on the fence.

Sydney loves its beaches, street cafes and life outdoors. Melbourne sees itself as sophisticated, slick and edgy with a touch of roughness. Melburnians worship sport and have some of the best art, music and cuisine.

It's highly unlikely that a unanimous decision will ever be reached but it was fun comparing many aspects of the two cities.

*Scroll down to the bottom to find out Getaway's Sydney v Melbourne scoreboard. Which is better?


Usually the first thing Sydneysiders like to bring up is the weather. Jason enjoyed bragging that Sydney averages 240 days of sunshine and blue skies every year.

Nine Network Sydney weather presenter Jaynie Seal confirmed that Sydney had dropped to 5°C or below only seven nights in the past two years, compared to Melbourne's average of 37 nights every year. Melbourne has eight days a year less than 2°C — Sydney, zip. Melbourne has 49 clear days a year, compared to Sydney's 104.

Jason thought Sydney had won that battle. But Jules sought out Nine Network Melbourne weather presenter Livinia Nixon, who declared Sydney has 1212mm of annual rainfall compared to 648mm south of the border.

Sydney has 13 days of torrential rain — more than 25mm in 24 hours — Melbourne has three. Despite claiming the better beaches, Sydney has 15 "beach weather" days (over 30°C) Melbourne has twice as many.

Melbourne enjoys four distinct seasons — spring and autumn are delightful and Melburnians enjoy have four separate wardrobes. Sydney's "vanilla" climate produces seasons not as dramatically differing, and that's what its residents like about it.


Kate bravely named Melbourne's Chapel Street as the best place to shop in Australia. More than a thousand stores and boutiques line the stretch from Windsor to South Yarra. Fashion guru Bettina Liano and Kate talked about the variety on offer and Windsor has great second-hand furniture and clothing outlets.

Bettina has seven boutiques, with three in both Melbourne in Sydney and one in Perth, so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to fashion.

Opposite her Chapel Street store is La Lucciola. She is a regular visitors for one of their wonderful coffees or a bowl of something traditionally Italian.

Kelly admits Chapel Street has good qualities, but she is adamant that Sydney's Oxford Street beats it hands down. Australia's top designers are there.

One of those is fashion legend Alex Perry and he agrees that Oxford Street is the best place in Australia for shoppers to empty their wallets, fill their stomachs and to explore the beating heart of Australia.

Diversity gives it loads of character. Amongst the boutiques you will find a hardware store, pubs, coffee shops and weekend markets. It's a great place to potter, and one of Alex's favourite places is Ariel Books.

Alex discovered it while looking for fashion books but now returns regularly when he's looking for something to read to relax between creating the couture fashion he's famous for.

Sweet Art is a cake store where the only limit is your imagination. It pioneered cake art in Australia and the only problem with their fabulous creations is that it's almost a shame to cut and eat them.

Alex told Kelly that while some say Melbourne is the capital of fashion in Australia, Sydney has more top designers and it's where the important fashion magazines are based.

Sydney Opera House v Federation Square

Apart from the kangaroo, Catriona believes there is no other symbol more internationally recognised than the graceful Sydney Opera House. The venue for outstanding cultural events and celebrations, its sails and location of the architectural triumph scream beauty. More than 4.5 million visitors go there each year, many of them to just look, walk around and photograph.

Jules agreed that the Opera House is something to admire, but he said he believes Melbourne's Federation Square has a creative cutting edge and is as avant-garde as anything in Australia. It showcases architecture, galleries, cinemas, restaurants and cafes.


Both cities are keen followers of sport and in Victoria the heart of sport is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, known as "The G" .

The first Test cricket match was played there in 1882. The Southern Hemisphere's first Olympic Games in 1956 had events there, as did the Commonwealth Games in 2006. In 2009 it was named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Sporting World.

The MCG is home to the National Sports Museum, dedicated to the country's greatest sporting heroes. It has a capacity of more than 100,000.

Dermott knows very well the feeling of rushing adrenaline no matter how often you head to the centre. He was in the Hawthorn team that won six premierships. The 3.5 million people who go there every year for cricket and football matches would agree that the G is the spiritual home of Australian sport.

Kelly disagreed with Dermott. To her, bigger doesn't always mean better, and for more than 150 years the Sydney Cricket Ground has held rugby league, rugby union, AFL, Test cricket and one-day international cricket matches. The immortal Sir Donald Bradman called it his home ground and Kerry Packer hit the light switch for the first cricket day-nighter. The SCG's Members' and Ladies' stands are heritage listed and add a touch of gentle old-world class to the ground.

Brett Lee has great memories of playing for club, state and country. While he got a big buzz bowling in front of 100,000 spectators at the MCG, he much preferred the intimacy of the smaller SCG.

Sydney Harbour v Port Phillip

As far as Catriona is concerned, nowhere in the world beats Sydney Harbour. Enter through the towering Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay and it's easy to see why the harbour is the jewel in Sydney's crown.

Ferry rides travel in all directions and there is beauty wherever you go. Glorious beaches north and south and a very special treat is to head to Watsons Bay for a drink at the Watto Bay pub and a meal of fish and chips at Doyle's.

INXS member Kirk Pengilly agreed wholeheartedly with Catriona. He moves around Sydney by ferry, and rain, hail or shine, he says it beats Melbourne by a country mile.

Enter Kate who declared that in this case, bigger is better. Port Phillip is Australia's largest port and on weekends is Melbourne's saltwater playground. An hour ferry trip from Southbank in the centre of Melbourne to the bayside village of Williamstown is a favourite.

Over the past decade, Williamstown's facelift has made it an even more popular drawcard. It has kept the charm of a maritime village with many historic buildings and a proliferation of cafes and restaurants along Nelson Place.


Everyone knows Melbourne believes it has the best restaurants by far. Jason doesn't agree and backed up his argument by showing that there are four Australian restaurants in the 2011 S Pellegrino's World's One Hundred Best Restaurants. Three of the four are in Sydney.

Sydney scored nine of the highest awards in 2010's Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. Melbourne — just one.

Passionate restaurateur Peter Doyle stands by the old saying, "If you aren't staying in Sydney, you're camping out." He said he believes it's the same with dining in Sydney, thanks to the city having so many outstanding and innovative chefs, including Neil Perry, Tetsuya Wakuda, Guillaume Brahimi, Peter Gilmore — the list is as endless as the choice of cuisine.

Dermott admitted Sydneysiders have perfected the art of the fancy fine dining restaurant, and charging like a wounded bull for the privilege of a water view.

He says the reason Melbourne is the undeniable food capital of Australia is because of the depth of restaurants turning our great food. It's is a microcosm of international cuisine and more than 3000 restaurants prepare traditional and exotic dishes from around the world. He added a barb saying Sydney is preoccupied with winning awards, where Melbourne just enjoys good food. For the record, their restaurants have been awarded more Good Food Guide hats than those north of the border.

Dermott was backed up by celebrity chef Guy Grossi, owner of three local restaurants including the legendary Florentino. He said Melbourne is all about eclectic culture — people from many nations embracing the city and injecting their traditions, particularly to the table.

Guy said he believes Melbourne diners are conservative and support establishments that look after them. They tend to remain loyal and are not always moving. Food and wine tourism earns Victoria $390 million a year.

Natalie had a difficult job as scorekeeper and knew it was always going to be tight. The score was 3-3 so Natalie sent Catriona and Dermott off to Hot Seat to see if host Eddie McGuire could break the deadlock. It remained 5-5 so with the score still tied up, Natalie declared "Australia" the winner for having two such great cities!

But for those keeping tally, let's see the scoreboard:

  • Weather 1
  • Opera House 1
  • Sydney Harbour 1
  • Shopping 1
  • MCG 1
  • Food 1


The best on offer in Sydney and Melbourne.


Virgin Blue has flights to Melbourne and Sydney.

To Melbourne one-way from:

  • Adelaide $99
  • Sydney $105
  • Brisbane $139
  • Perth $215

To Sydney one-way from:

  • Melbourne and Brisbane $129
  • Adelaide $129
  • Perth $215

There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at May 5, 2011, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at May 5, 2011.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789

Bettina Liano
471 Chapel Street
South Yarra, Victoria 3141
Ph: (03) 9827 0063

La Lucciola Bistro
4/478 Chapel Street
South Yarra, Victoria 3141
Ph: (03) 9827 2146

Ariel Books
42 Oxford Street
Paddington, NSW 2021
Ph: (02) 9332 4581

Sweet Art
96 Oxford Street
Paddington, NSW 2021
Ph: (02) 9361 661
Fax: (02) 9361 5822

User comments
Alex Perry said that Sydney's Oxford street is the best shopping strip in Australia, he really needs to take his glasses off his head. Shopping in Oxford street is nothing but boring, as fo food and coffee I did a test and walk from 1 end of Oxford to another and did not find one decent coffee hope.. Let the clones in Sydney remain confused about diversity, culture, fashion & what Melbourne does best is food..
Barry in NSW - don't be so bitter! Methinks thou doth protest too much! Melbourne is an incredible city, very livable and quite affordable compared to Sydney, which I'm sure is also fantastic (I've never lived in it, only visited). I've also lived in Adelaide which is a beautiful, quiet city. All of Australia is great, I miss it a lot now that I'm in Dubai. There's no need to be a sook about it =D
If you had no care to the comparison in cities, why watch it in the first place? The fact that you mention Melbourne and the people within it as the lesser of the two several times, would suggest that you are in fact from Sydney. So it's safe to say that Getaway producers got what they were pitching for in sparking a debate of patriotism. Enjoy the Simpsons
I was born in Sydney & lived most of life there but saw sense and moved south. Housing more affordable, roads are better and don't get that stifling humidity!! Better airports too. Totally agree with the dining and shopping
Without doubt, this has been THE most pathetic Getaway show I have ever watched. Q. Who cares whether Sydney or Melbourne is the greatest? A. Only Melbournians who suffer from an inferiority complex - however it is not a complex. Melbournians are simply inferior! Not to worry, next week I shall find an alternative channel to watch - maybe The Simpsons or something with a similar intellectual challenge, maybe the ABC!!!!!! But please don't make me watch this sort of drivel again - keep it in Melbourne.
Hi does anyone know which pub this was filmed in? Thanks!
I love Australia and I think regardless of the rivalry between cities they have to offer something unique, how come getaway does not do an article of the unique features that are in each state, I know that size wise Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Perth are not as big but I recon that because of that they have a lot to offer. More relaxed, people are friendlier, and they have a very unique life style.

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