I’ve been living in Australia for more than 10 years. I was first in Sydney for a couple of years before moving to Brisbane. So I feel I could be a good referee to settle the Sydney vs Brisbane battle. So, Brisbane or Sydney? It is a difficult question to answer!

As I haven’t visited Melbourne for more than a couple of days at a time, I didn’t mention it at all in this match about the best city in Australia. Some worldwide surveys would give Melbourne a top spot in the best cities where to live. But I’m afraid I cannot agree as the climate in Victoria is way too cold for my taste!

Sydney Habour Bridge at sunset with ferries in the foreground at Circular Quay

Sydney vs Brisbane, round 1: why I prefer Sydney

If we just consider the two cities, I wouldn’t hesitate for too long to declare Sydney the winner of the Sydney vs Brisbane match. And when we’re considering Sydney vs Brisbane for vacation, I also vote for Sydney.

Brisbane is quieter

We often go to the same places and always meet someone we know, a bit as if we were in a big country town. Yet, over the last few years, I have seen Brisbane evolving. Original and trendy places are opening. For example, the Eat Market in Hamilton didn’t exist when I arrived, and there was nothing under the Story Bridge while it’s now the busy Howard Smith Wharves. So… Brisbane may be changing slowly!

View from Bowen Terrace Brisbane
Brisbane at night from Bowen Terrace

Sydney has more charm

With its business district inside the twists of the river, Brisbane is a lovely city. However, the beauty of Sydney is hard to beat! Sydney is an icon worldwide with the famous Opera House, the harbour and the Harbour Bridge… A photogenic city many people dream of… and it does not only look good in the photos!

Sydney Harbour from the Pylon Lookout

Plus, Sydney has beautiful beaches easy to reach from the city centre such as Bondi or Manly Beach. You won’t find stunning beaches in Brisbane, you have to drive to the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast for this. In Sydney, you can simply hop on a bus to reach iconic beaches and splendid coastal walks like Dee Why to Curl Curl.

Indoor activities are limited in Brisbane

Brisbane’s climate is fantastic. But a few weeks per year, we have the rainy season in Queensland. During bad weather, things to do in Brisbane are more limited than in Sydney. I do feel that you can find in Sydney anything that you have in Brisbane. But the contrary isn’t always true. If you disagree, please comment on my post to give me ideas on activities to do in Brisbane when it’s raining. I’d love to change my mind!

Sydney vs Brisbane, round 2: why I prefer Brisbane

But if we consider lifestyles in both cities, I actually prefer living in Brisbane.

I find it easier to make friends in Brisbane

I met a lot of people in Sydney but making real long-time friends seemed harder than in Brisbane. In Sydney, it is fun to meet people from everywhere. Unfortunately, most of them are only passing by. I think it is less the case in Brisbane.

Although I am not a big fan of the big county town effect, living in a smaller city has advantages. Brisbane remains on a human scale compared to Sydney. It makes it easier to see people more often.

Also, accommodation is more affordable in Brisbane. We can have bigger apartments and even houses! Hence, it is not rare to have friends with their own backyards to organise barbeques. A better opportunity to create real relationships with people compared to a party in a bar.

The climate in Brisbane is great

In Brisbane, we have two or three summer months that bring storms. The rest of the year is mostly sunny, and it never gets too cold during the day. Welcome to the Sunshine State!

I know the weather in Sydney and New South Wales is better than in many other parts of the world. But believe me, after living in Queensland, you feel the cold in Sydney!

The region around Brisbane is stunning

I am not saying that the Sydney area is not great. I actually enjoyed my visits out of the city. But the variety of escapes just outside Brisbane is incredible. My favourite:

I love exploring new places and trying new activities during my weekends. Sydney was not too bad for that at all, don’t misunderstand me. I’m even always impressed by Sydney Harbour (great for kayaking and sailing) and the stunning national parks that are so close to the city (Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the Royal National Park or the Blue Mountains). I just think the Brisbane region is more accessible and has more to offer. I feel like I will never go to the end of my must-see list around Brisbane.

Sydney vs Brisbane for vacation

For those who are just visiting Australia, Sydney is a must-see. It is an icon of Australia and a charming city. No visit to Australia is complete without seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and visiting the place where the first settlers arrived.

Brisbane is not that iconic. I would even question if Brisbane is worth visiting as a tourist when your time is precious. You can see all of Brisbane city in one day. I find that the best thing about Brisbane is the beautiful and diverse surrounding region. If you have time to spend in Brisbane, use the city as a base to explore the wonders of South-East Queensland. If you’re looking for accommodation, check out these tips about where to stay in Brisbane.

What about you? Sydney vs Brisbane: who’s the winner in your heart? Share your experience below!

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Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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  1. Annemarie

    This is so cool! I totally prefer Brisbane myself of the Australian cities and everyone I told this to found that very odd. I am glad that I am not the only one appreciating what Brisbane has to offer. I particularly loved the free ferry and Southbank. So many cool restaurants and cafes there!

  2. shivansh

    Alright then Sydney it is!

  3. Paula

    I am a born and bred Sydney Sider and while I like visiting Brisbane Sydney wins hands down for me. I do love the new Modern Art Gallery and the river area in Brisbane thought. Ask me the same question and about Sydney and Melb and I would find it harder to pick.

    1. Eloise

      That’s interesting! In the Melbourne-Sydney match, I’ve always heard Sydneysiders would always pick Sydney and Melburnians would pick Melbourne. I’ve only visited Melbourne as a tourist, several times for a weekend. I may one day do a post for this match, but I don’t feel I know Melbourne enough yet for that. Melbourne is a great city (well, hasn’t it be elected the best in the world two years in a row?!), but I really prefer Sydney. Melbourne’s climate is too hard to handle. I’m not that attracted by shopping, cafes and restaurants, so Melbourne does not win points there for me. I’m French so I’m not impressed by Melbourne’s European style, I’m more after the Australian adventure down here! 😀

    1. Eloise

      Good idea Rachel! Maybe try to remember to come back here to let me know the one you preferred 😉

  4. Charles McCool

    omI haven een to Sydney two times but never to Brisbane. I would like to do my own in-person research but appreciate seeing your research!

    1. Eloise

      Sure thing, if you have the opportunity to try it yourself in-person it’s always better!

  5. Elena

    We have long-standing plans to visit Australia. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances or other, it’s been postponed over and over again. Sydney is at the top of the list. I agree with you that it is such an iconic destination.

    1. Eloise

      Oh Elena, I hope you’ll finally make it down there! The long wait sometimes can make a trip even better….! 😉

  6. I’ve never been to Australia at all, but would love to see either city! I do think Sydney is a must-see for people who’ve never visited, but it sounds like Brisbane is great for those actually living in the area. And I love the idea of taking off and exploring the areas nearby! I love national parks, and I’m sure Australia has some jaw-dropping ones. 🙂

    1. Eloise

      You’re right Beth, Australia has amazing National Parks! Very impressive Nature. I hope you’ll make it down under someday to check it out!

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