To the majority of the world, Australia is a land crawling with poisonous animals, skin-burning UV rays, incomprehensible slang, and kangaroos who take little kids to and from school (not to mention the drop bears). However, when actually given the chance to see this vast, stunning nation first-hand, you’ll quickly realize that the stereotypes are exaggerated and that there’s so much more to this country that the postcards and stories suggest.

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Two of the nation’s premier locales, Melbourne and Sydney, have been in a long-term, fierce battle to hold the title as the country’s most impressive city. Each has its own pros and cons, so we’ll lay the cards on the table and let you decide.

10 Melbourne: The coffee culture

If your idea of heaven on Earth is a wafting smell of freshly-made, barista-brewed latte first thing in the morning, then once you get to Melbourne, you’ll never want to leave. The city essentially runs on the stuff, with countless independent cafes dotted across all corners of the city, even popping up in hairdressers, bars, and hipster boutiques.

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The process of ordering is much more complicated than just a “coffee”, however. There’s flat whites, cappuccinos, lattes, long blacks and long macs, short blacks and short macs, espressos, double espressos, and mochas, just to name the staples.

9 Sydney: The Beaches

When foreigners conjure up images of Australia, the first thing to usually come to mind is either the endless, absurd (somewhat exaggerated) heat, the array of killer animals, those fluffy, sleepy koalas, or, of course, the stunning beaches.

While Sydney’s beaches might not be the best in the country (those awards usually fall to Queensland or Western Australia), it certainly knows how to put on a show. Bondi Beach is crowded but it’s stunning nonetheless, and considering that Melbourne is by the bay, this one’s an easy win for the New South Wales capital.

8 Melbourne: Footy!

If you’ve never heard of Australian Rules Football, stop whatever you’re doing and check it out - it’s unlike any sport you’ve ever seen, full of big hits, prime athletes, and no padding (and no, it’s not rugby). The sports originated in Melbourne as the VFL (Victorian Football League) before expanding nationally, and the majority of the teams still reside within the Melbourne city limits.

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The atmosphere at a packed MCG on Grand Final day is unlike any other sporting event the nation has to offer, with 100,000 screaming fans intertwined.

7 Sydney: The proximity to the Blue Mountains

As formidable a city as Sydney is, sometimes there’s nothing better than a quick retreat out of the hustle and bustle of chaotic civilisation. For a much-needed breath of fresh air, the beautiful Blue Mountains are just a couple hours’ drive away from the city, further toward the inland.

There are plenty of hiking trails scattered throughout the area waiting to be explored, with dramatic vistas waiting to be photographed. The landscape features an array of steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, cascading waterfalls and plenty of lush greenery. If you have some time to spare while staying in Sydney, it makes for an excellent day-trip.

6 Melbourne: The eclectic arts scene

Upon first arrival, it’s not uncommon for tourists to think that there isn’t a whole lot to do in the Victorian capital - there’s no Bondi Beach and there’s no Harbour Bridge. What people quickly discover, however, is that Melbourne isn’t there to show off fancy iconic landmarks, it’s there to suck you into its thriving, unmatched arts and culture scene, within a plethora of museums, galleries, rotating events and celebrations, concerts, and more.

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Even the graffiti is impressive, with colourful artwork spread across a number of Melburnian laneways, including the famous cafe-lines Degraves St, and Hozier lane not too far away from it.

5 Sydney: The corporate sector

This might seem like a rather bland point, and it is, in a sense. It doesn’t have the excitement of underground music or thriving festivities, however, it’s a large reason why many people move to Sydney from all parts of Australia, and even from abroad.

While Melbourne’s business scene isn’t small by any means, depending on the industry, the majority of the larger companies are usually based out of Sydney. That means that there are often more job opportunities to filter through, which can open up a number of possibilities.

4 Melbourne: The Great Ocean Road

Sydney might be renowned for its great beaches, however, that doesn’t mean that Melbourne can’t put up a fight. If you have access to a car, just a short drive away from the Melbourne CBD, out near Geelong, sits the start of the illustrious Great Ocean Road.

Not only does this winding, picturesque path offer up some of the most pristine views in the entire country but it also boasts a number of world-class beaches along its route. Torquay, Anglesea and Bells Beach, for example, are highly regarded for surfing enthusiasts

3 Sydney: The sunny, predictable weather

It’s not exactly a secret that Australia provides some rather exceptional weather, and pretty much year-round as well. Snow bunnies might not find solace in the Land Down Under, however, anyone with a not-so-secret love for the sun’s rays is sure to enjoy themselves down in Aus.

Typically, Melbourne’s weather can be rather fickle - ‘four seasons in a day’, so they say. By contrast, further north in Sydney, it’s generally a little warmer and a little more predictable, making the opportunity to kick back on one of the city’s beaches highly doable on a regular basis.

2 Melbourne: the dynamic sporting calendar

We mentioned that Melbourne is the home to Aussie Rules Football but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the diverse sporting calendar. Aside from footy, which hundreds of thousands of locals follow religiously, the city also plays host to a number of world-renowned events.

Crowds come together in January to witness the Australian Open tennis grand slam, motorsport enthusiasts rejoice in March when the Grand Prix rolls around, and on the first Tuesday of every November, the infamous Melbourne Cup horse race stops the nation.

1 Sydney: The picturesque Harbor

While Melbourne might take the cake when it comes to art, culture, and music (and usually food as well), Sydney is the more picturesque of the two cities, without a shadow of a doubt. The famous harbour, featuring the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the shimmering waters below it are photographed more times than someone’s ironically said “throw a shrimp on the barbie.”

If collecting photos for social media is the aim of the game, then Sydney has got you covered to a tee. For some of the best views, it’s free to walk from one side of the bridge to the other.

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