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The enchanting allure of Sydney and Melbourne beckons

Published on Oct 25, 2012 8:36 PM

Sydney is fun and sassy. Melbourne captivates with commonsense sophistication. Despite their disparate traits, the two states each has something for everyone.

There is a saying that goes, “You date Sydney but you marry Melbourne.”

Sexy Sydney vivaciously dazzles with glitz and glamour while Melbourne attracts with multi-layered complexity and elegant charm that will appeal to both the sophisticate and down-to-earth.

Both are internationally acclaimed in their own way: Sydney elbowed aside Paris and New York to be picked the world’s number one city in luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader Choice Awards last year.

More than eight million votes were cast, with readers rating cities according to ambience, friendliness, lodging, restaurants, culture, sightseeing and shopping.

Not to be outdone, for the second year in a row, Melbourne has been ranked as the best place to live in the Economic Intelligence Unit Global Liveability Survey, which takes into account healthcare, education, infrastructure, culture and crime rate.

Both are definitely worth a visit (hey, even K-pop star Jay Park has popped by) – and both definitely have something for everyone.

Here’s a guide for the following traveller types:

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Arts and Culture Buff

Sydney: Sydney’s dizzyingly eclectic calendar of events and activities leave you spoilt for choice.

Opera? Check. Contemporary art exhibitions? Check. Music and film festivals? Check.

Naturally, one of the best places to catch an arts and culture event is the Sydney Opera House, a piece of art in itself.

The opera house is resplendent, its façade covered with more than one million Sweden-made cream-coloured tiles that prevent glare. More than just a pretty building, the World Heritage-listed icon presents more than 450 groundbreaking events every year, one of which is Vivid Live.

The annual festival, curated by music legend Lou Reed and music mogul Stephen Pavlovic, celebrates Sydney’s cultural vibrancy through music, audio-visual performances, discussions and large-scale light illustrations.

Over at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, which boasts of a $66.6-million makeover, celebrated artist Anish Kapoor presents his first major exhibition in Australia from December for slightly over three months, as part of the Sydney International Art Series.

Melbourne: Australia’s ‘design city’ thrives on ideas and innovation, and these are manifested into reality through Melbourne’s many cornucopia of architects, artists and designers.

Famous examples of modern architecture: Federation Square, regarded as one of the world’s great public spaces, is likely the most complex and ambitious construction project in Australia, thanks to its bold and audacious design.

More recently, Cox Architecture’s AAMI Park caught the imagination of residents and visitors with its cloud-like, colour-changing exterior. The multi-sports stadium is now a talking point.

A collective way to view the city’s important architectural masterpieces: Go for the Annual Melbourne Open House which unlocks more than 75 important landmarks, such as Block Arcade, Geyer Studio, St Michael’s Church and the Melbourne Athenaeum.

As for events related to the arts, Melbourne’s calendar definitely rivals Sydney’s – the Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne International Film Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival are just a few to test your decision-making skills when planning your itinerary.


Sydney: Zip right into the Paddington Markets on the grounds of the heritage-listed sandstone Paddington Uniting Church among Victorian terraces and modern art galleries. The open-air market comprises more than 250 stalls weekly.

If you have a keen eye for spotting talent, you may pick end up buying an item by the next Australian It designer. After all, Paddington Markets is tagged as a major springboard for the Australian fashion Industry. High-profile labels with humble origins at Paddington Markets include: Third Millennium, Braceweil, Von Troska, Pablo Nevada, Lisa Ho, Black Vanity, Sarah Jane and Yoshi Jones.

Once you have sufficiently soaked in the dynamic atmosphere of ‘Saturday at Paddington’ and warmed up, trot down Oxford Strip for truly serious retail therapy. Oxford Street is not called the nub of Sydney chic and cool for nothing.

Melbourne: Enough of malls in Singapore? Make a beeline for Chapel Street. Scanlan & Theodore is located here. Not the most familiar fashion name, but for more than two decades, the label has been creating chic, well-crafted designs for the fashion-conscious female, attracting style doyennes such as Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Sienna Miller.

Other cutting-edge fashion shops in this South Yarra area include Alannah Hill, Wayne Cooper and Ellin Ambe.

Another shopping street to suss out: Brunswick Street in the Fitzroy area. Gorman by Australian fashion designer Lisa Gorman, vintage clothing and accessories outlets like Out Of The Closet and Vintage Sole have set up retail roots on this street.

Food Fan

Sydney: The restaurants in Sydney ran the gamut of cuisines, and every year, new and delightful outlets sprout up to cater to every type of traveller.

Return to the past when you step into retro-style Gardel’s Bar. Think old-school, comfy supper club.

Devour succulent chorizo-and-octopus skewers and hot dogs with lavish toppings of chilli and fried onions, and you’re ready for a turn at the quaint foosball table.

The city’s latest It eatery is Neild Avenue. Housed in an old-tyre factory, deep fried four-cheese rice-balls choke the arteries but very satisfyingly so, together with equally sinful baked duck-egg custards.

For simple, hearty fare, head to Chiswick by bad-boy chef Matt Moran. Wood-roasted lamb bred on his farm makes its way to your table. Or perhaps you fancy some roast chicken or homemade beef pie. Complement the meat with refreshing heirloom-tomato salad with green olives.

Melbourne: It is hard to eat a bad meal in Melbourne. Really. Melbourne has gained a reputation as Australia’s most dynamic food scene, and for good reason – a new café or bar always seems to be sprouting up.

Cutler & Co. Dining Room with its darkened industrial exterior and arty crushed paper lantern lights is an edgy warehouse restaurant on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. Kingfish with pickled cucumber, wasabi avocado, octopus and ginger are typical of the menu created by celebrity chef Andrew McConnell.

At St Kilda overlooking Port Philip Bay, the Stokehouse has cultivated an enduring following in love with its simple concept of casual dining and ever changing menu of modern Mediterranean dishes. The Bombe dessert – frozen white-chocolate parfait atop strawberry sorbet encased within a toasted meringue – is so good that apparently, regular diners demand that it not be taken off the menu. Ever.

For high tea – the perennial favourite of Singaporeans – the historic Hopetown Tea Rooms makes it to the top of the list. Never mind that the interior is beautifully decorated, the tantalising array of exquisite cakes and sweets will have you postponing your diet.

Party Animal

Sydney: Round up a day of exhilarating experiences with a cocktail. Or two.

Recently opened Baxter Inn is ‘an abandoned Chicago sports bar with no sport’, according to owners Anton Forte and Jason Scott, while The Roosevelt serves up a decadent cocktail of rock candy-infused whiskey and white port in a glass gun. The drink, aptly named Mr Sin, was concocted after Abe ‘Boss of the Cross’ Safron, a late notorious underworld figure.

If the industrial look and feel is your thing, Assembly is a boon. Tucked behind old-style factory glass, the baby of Ben Touass boldly displays cinderblock walls, metal stools, and exposed pipes together with clipboard menus and a drafting-turmed-drinks table – all set amid Euro-house music. Drinks come with imaginative names and are carefully described: Problem Solver is “the solution to (and in some cases the result of) all life’s problems” and the Bosom Caresser is “more socially acceptable to have in your hands and could even lead to the real thing”.

Melbourne: It has been said that Melbourne has the most number of bars and nightclubs per capita. They are everywhere.
In hidden laneways, you’ll find Eau de Vie Melbourne infused with old-world glamour, Bar Ampere with a respectable nibble menu and an impressive cocktail list and Bar Americano, a hole in the wall that accommodates standing room for only 10 people.
Down below you’ll find: Strange Wolf, which doesn’t feature animals; instead, a giant crucifix-cum-table and prints of Death dominate. The Understudy is reminiscent of Alice In Wonderland. Go-Go beckons you to enter its dark underworld which offers sweet reprieve from the noise above ground.

Luxe is the name of the game with The Everleigh and Waiting Room, both opulent in their own right.

Nature Enthusiast

Sydney: Sydney is awash with beaches. Why not veer away from the popular beaches, like Bondi, Tamarama, Brontee and Coogee, and uncover beaches favoured by the locals? The Milk Beach offers amazing views of the Harbour Bridge, Rose Bay and city skyline, while the Shelley Beach, a protected marine reserve, is ideal for snorkeling and intimate picnics. Tempted? There are more of such “secret” beaches: Store Beach, Camp Cove, Jibbon Beach, Congwong Beach, Lady Martins Beach, Sirius Cove and Resolute Beach.

But if you want a break from cosmopolitan excitement, drive to the Blue Mountains and be one with Gaia.

The Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park, an expansive 2,500sq km of wondrous nature peppered with forested valleys, plunging cliffs and gushing waterfulls, is a mere 90-minute drive from Sydney by car.

The astonishing Three Sisters at Echo Point sandstone formation is a constant hit with visitors. Legend has it that Legend has it that a witch doctor turned three sisters into stone to protect them from harm. But he died before the spell could be reverted.

Melbourne: Wombats, grey kangeroos and Australia’s largest population of wild koalas call Victoria home. A plus: You can visit them in their natural habitat with Echidna Walkabout’s Koalas and Kangeroos in the Wild eco-tour.

Other nature trails worth working those legs for are by the Rhyll Trout & Bush Tucker Farm. The awardwinning attraction has introduced three new guided bush tucker tours where visitors can explore the natural environment, hunt for food and imbibe the native tastes and flavours of the tranquil bush land.

Alternatively, experience Victoria’s outback with the Chaffey Trail to discover pioneering heritage or take a slow cruise through bushland and red gum forests along the Murray River.

For those who like the outdoors but prefer to have indoor comfort close by, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie will welcome chocolate lovers to its stunning facility sprawled across 40 acres of farming land. Watch the chocolate-making process, sample the good (but of course) and dance through the fruit and orchards where some of the chocolate ingredients are sourced.

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