Brisbane Vs. Melbourne: Which Australian City Is Best?

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

Melbourne or Brisbane: Which City Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing the best Australian city to live in or visit, the debate between Brisbane and Melbourne is a hot topic. Both cities have their unique charm and attractions, but which one is truly the best? Let's take a closer look at the factors that make each city stand out and help you decide which one suits your preferences.

Brisbane's relaxed subtropical vibe contrasts with Melbourne's dynamic pulse, where the arts, coffee culture, and sports are religion. Brisbane has long been Australia's forgotten city, however it has definitely come into its own over the last decade.

Melbourne has long been on the radar of a lot of visitors to Australia and does on occasion overtake Sydney as a destination for older travellers. So which city is better for you? Lets find out!

Table of Contents


Weather in Brisbane Vs Weather in Melbourne

Weather plays a significant role in determining the livability of a city, and both Brisbane and Melbourne offer distinct climates.

Brisbane Weather Ranges

Brisbane, located in the Sunshine State of Queensland, boasts a subtropical climate with warm summers and mild winters. The city enjoys an average of 283 sunny days per year, making it a paradise for those who love spending time outdoors.

Winter temps in Brisbane sit at around 20-23 degrees Celsius during the day dipping to 10-12 degrees overnight. This makes for very nice days. It is also worth noting that Brisbane has most of its rain over the summer months so winter is usually clear and bright.

Summer temps can range from 26-30 degrees Celsius on average but it can get some warmer days of 32-33. The humidity in Brisbane during the summer is high. Not as high as somewhere like Cairns but its not unusual for it to be 80% humidity on the average summer day.

On the other hand, Melbourne experiences a temperate oceanic climate, characterized by cooler summers and colder winters. The weather can be unpredictable, with four seasons in one day not being uncommon.

Melbourne Weather Ranges

Melbourne's weather is super difficult to predict. The “four seasons in one day” expression describes Melbourne's weather perfectly. Summer day time temps in Melbourne are on average between 26-28 degrees, however, I've been in Melbourne when its 40 degrees Celsius and believe me when I say that is not nice. Its rare but it does happen and often with only a few days warning.

Winter temps are much more stable, however it does get cold and wet in the same season which can put a damper on outside activities. Average day temperatures in Melbourne in winter are around 14-16 degrees, however it drops overnight to 6 or 7 degrees.

So, if you're a fan of warm weather and endless sunshine, Brisbane might be your ideal destination. If you are wanting cooler summer weather, Melbourne is for you.


Which Art Scene Is Better: Brisbane or Melbourne?

Melbourne has long been known as the cultural hub of Australia. It has a long and established history of great artists and very much celebrates is artistic base. Brisbane however has a much stronger art scene than you might imagine, so don't discount Brisbane if you are an art lover.

Melbourne's Art Scene

Melbourne, known for its vibrant and diverse arts culture, offers a rich tapestry of experiences for art enthusiasts. The city is brimming with theatres, music venues, comedy clubs, museums, and galleries, making it a hub for both traditional and contemporary arts. Key highlights include:

  • Diverse Venues: From local music venues to grand theatres, Melbourne hosts a variety of performances including live music, comedy, and theatre shows.
  • Art Galleries: The city is home to a mix of public and private galleries showcasing contemporary works by Australian and international artists, as well as classic pieces by European masters.
  • Artist-Run Spaces: Independent galleries and artist-run spaces in Melbourne provide a unique opportunity to engage directly with artists and gain insights into the Australian arts scene.

The city is renowned for its thriving arts and music scene, with numerous festivals, concerts, and exhibitions taking place year-round. The National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum are a treat for art and history lovers.

Art incorporated in building design in Melbourne
Melbourne incorporates art and design in almost everything across the city.

Top Art Galleries and Museums In Melbourne

Brisbane's Art Scene

Brisbane, with its vibrant cultural scene, is home to numerous art galleries, museums, and theatres. The Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum are must-visit attractions for art and history enthusiasts.

While offering a different flavour of art and culture, Brisbane, known for its sunny disposition, utilizes this to enhance its cultural offerings. Generally, Brisbane is known for:

  • Outdoor Cultural Experiences: With its pleasant weather, Brisbane often hosts outdoor cultural events and festivals.
  • Modern and Indigenous Art: The city has a strong focus on both contemporary art and indigenous Australian art, reflecting the rich heritage of the region.
  • Community Events: Brisbane is known for its community-driven art events, which often blend local culture with artistic expression.
A sculpture of Brisbane's famous Bats in the Botanical Gardens.
A sculpture of Brisbane's famous Bats in the Botanical Gardens.

Top Museums and Art Galleries In Brisbane

  1. Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
  2. Museum of Brisbane
  3. Institute of Modern Art (IMA)
  4. Queensland Museum
  5. Redland Art Gallery

Both Melbourne and Brisbane offer unique and enriching art experiences. Melbourne's art scene is characterized by its diversity and depth, with a strong presence of both traditional and contemporary art forms. Brisbane, on the other hand, leverages its natural beauty and pleasant climate to offer a more outdoor-oriented and community-focused art experience. Each city has its own charm and array of cultural offerings, making them both essential destinations for art lovers.

If I had to pick one city over another, I would choose Melbourne here. Primarily because it has a lot of smaller more local art installations and galleries and you can get a real sense of what Australian art has to offer.


Transport Options And How To Get Around Brisbane And Melbourne

In terms of public transportation, Melbourne has an extensive tram network that makes getting around the city a breeze. Brisbane, on the other hand, relies more on buses and trains, which can sometimes be less convenient. However, both cities are well connected and offer efficient transportation options.

Brisbane's Public Transport System

Brisbane offers a range of public transport options suitable for tourists exploring the city. Brisbane's public transport includes buses, trains, ferries, and the CityCat services across Brisbane.

To use the public transport in Brisbane you can purchase a GoCard from any 7Eleven store and top up online or on the buses. The system operates on a touch on touch off system, so you do need to remember to tap your card as you get on AND of the bus, train or ferry.

You can also use your credit card in the same manner now, however fares will be slightly higher.

Translink has as a Journey Planner to help you to plan out your trip.

Brisbane also has a great CityCycle Bike Hire system. For those who prefer cycling, Brisbane offers a bike hire scheme that is a great way to explore the city.

There are approximately 2800 e-bikes and e-scooters around across the city. To use one of the bikes or scooters you will need to download the Neuron or Beam app to your phone and register.

Once you have done that, find a bike or scooter near you and off you go.

Don't forget that helmets are mandatory across Australia.

Check out BrisBikes for more info.

Melbourne's Public Transport System

Melbourne's public transport system is extensive and well-integrated, making it easy for tourists to navigate the city. Key features include:

  • myki Card System: Melbourne uses the myki card for travel on trains, trams, and buses. It's a simple tap-on and tap-off system.
  • Diverse Modes of Transport: The city offers trams, trains, and buses. The tram network is particularly notable for its extensive coverage.
  • Tourist-Friendly Services: Melbourne provides tourist shuttle services and has a free tram zone in the city center, which is highly beneficial for visitors.

Melbourne's public transport system also has a journey planner to make it easier for visitors.

Also available in Melbourne are public eBikes. Lime operates this network and you can find more information on their website.

Comparison of Melbourne and Brisbane Public Transport for Tourists

Ease of Use: Both cities offer electronic card systems (Go Card in Brisbane and myki in Melbourne) that simplify travel across different modes of transport.

Coverage: Melbourne's tram network offers extensive coverage, especially in the city center with the free tram zone, which is a boon for tourists. Brisbane's network, while comprehensive, is more spread out.

Tourist Specific Services: Melbourne's free tram zone and tourist shuttle services are particularly useful for tourists. Brisbane, with its pleasant climate, offers unique options like the CityCycle bike hire. While that is still available in Melbourne you may find yourself huddling in a city doorway if the rain magically appears from nowhere like it is known to do in Melbourne.

Accessibility: Both cities have made efforts to ensure their public transport is accessible, with clear signage and information readily available for tourists.

Both Brisbane and Melbourne offer robust public transport systems that are well-suited for tourists. Melbourne's extensive tram network and tourist-friendly services like the free tram zone give it an edge for city exploration. Brisbane, with its pleasant weather and options like the CityCycle, offers a different but equally enjoyable experience. Tourists in both cities can expect convenient, accessible, and efficient public transport options to enhance their travel experience.


Recreational and Outdoor Activities: Brisbane Vs. Melbourne

For anyone seeking more active pursuits, both Brisbane and Melbourne offer a variety of nearby destinations to explore. Brisbane's river cruise options provide a serene escape from the city, while Melbourne city boasts walking tours that unveil hidden gems around the various inner suburbs.

Pros of Brisbane's Outdoor Lifestyle

The balmy climate of Brisbane beckons outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Whether it's scaling the Story Bridge for panoramic views or cycling along the meandering paths of the Brisbane River, the city's natural landscape is a playground for the adventurous. The ample green spaces and parks offer a comfortable retreat from urban life, allowing residents and visitors to reconnect with nature without venturing far from the city's heart.

Weekends in Brisbane are often spent on the water or in the hinterlands, where kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking trails are easily accessible. The city's commitment to an active lifestyle is seen in its well-maintained public facilities, encouraging people of all ages to partake in the outdoor culture that is a cornerstone of Brisbane's identity.

Pros of Melbourne's Recreational Diversity

Melbourne's recreational offerings are as diverse as its culture, with an array of activities to suit every interest. From the popular beaches along the Mornington Peninsula to the trails of the Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne provides a variety of landscapes for exploratory jaunts. The city's parks and gardens are meticulously curated, offering peaceful enclaves within the urban environment where one can enjoy a picnic, practice yoga, or simply bask in the serenity.

The city's sports culture is palpable, with world-class facilities for tennis, cricket, and Australian Rules Football, reflecting Melbourne's passion for athletic excellence. Cultural festivals and events are interspersed with recreational pursuits, ensuring that there is always something to stimulate both the body and the mind.

Punts waiting for guests at the botanical gardens in Melbourne
Punts waiting for guests at the botanical gardens in Melbourne

Culinary Showdown: Brisbane's Cuisine vs. Melbourne's Gastronomy

When it comes to food, Brisbane and Melbourne offer distinct culinary experiences. Melbourne, with its multicultural influences and established coffee culture, is often considered the foodie capital of Australia. In contrast, Brisbane's food scene is on the rise, showcasing fresh local produce and innovative dining concepts.

Both cities boast an impressive range of eateries, from fine dining to casual street food. The choice between Brisbane and Melbourne may come down to personal taste, whether you prefer the traditional tastes of Melbourne or the bold flavours emerging in Brisbane's culinary landscape.

Melbourne's Culinary Reputation

Melbourne's culinary reputation is built on a foundation of diversity and innovation. Its streets are lined with eateries that serve everything from authentic Italian pizza to modern Asian fusion. The city's laneways and markets are food havens, offering artisanal products and gourmet experiences that reflect Melbourne's multicultural population.

The city's chefs are celebrated for their creativity, often using locally sourced ingredients to craft dishes that are as visually stunning as they are delicious. Melbourne is also the coffee capital of Australia, with a café culture that is deeply ingrained in the city's social fabric. The discerning tastes of Melburnians have led to a competitive and thriving gastronomic scene that is recognized worldwide.

For some affordable food options try Bowltiful in Swanston Street for some great noodles or Mr Lanzhou on Elizabeth street which is also great.

Il Gambero on Lygon street Carlton is a great small traditional Italian restaurant. Try the Mussels Casserola which is divine, or the spicy prawn and scallop risotto. Both are excellent.

Chancery Lane on Little Collins Street is one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. It is way more affordable then some of the other high end establishments and while I always try not to, I can't help myself and get the Gnocchi every time!

Brisbane's Emerging Food Scene

Brisbane's food scene may be emerging, but it is doing so with gusto, carving out its own identity in the culinary world. The city's warm climate and proximity to farms mean that restaurants often feature fresh, locally-sourced produce, creating a ‘farm-to-table' experience that is both authentic and sustainable. The rise of food festivals and markets in Brisbane also reflects a growing interest in diverse and quality food experiences.

With a laid-back atmosphere, Brisbane's dining culture encourages experimentation and a focus on flavour. From bustling food trucks to up-and-coming eateries, Brisbane is quickly becoming known for its vibrant and innovative dining options. The city's burgeoning bar scene complements its culinary offerings, with craft breweries and chic cocktail bars adding to the appeal of Brisbane's nightlife.

Try Eat Street North Shore for some great street food stalls. The food is way better than you think it will be and small enough that you can sample a variety of options. Check out the desert area. OMG – there is no way you can eat most of these on your own. Eat Street isn't in the city but you can get the Northshore Hamilton Ferry from the Riverside Ferry Terminal so its easy to get to and a nice river cruise on the way.

Eat Street Northshore - the premiere food market in Brisbane
Eat Street Northshore – the premiere street food market in Brisbane

Brisbane's Suburban Charm vs. Melbourne's Urban Buzz

In Brisbane, the suburban charm beckons with its promise of a relaxed lifestyle and community feel. Meanwhile, Melbourne's urban buzz is electrifying, offering a faster-paced life amidst skyscrapers and laneways.

Brisbane's Suburban Appeal

I find Brisbane's suburbs to be idyllic, with their leafy streets and family-friendly parks. They offer a sense of community that's hard to come by in busier cities. Brisbane makes it easy to have weekend barbecues across a multitude of public spaces.

The suburbs here aren't too far from the city centre either, which means it is easy to walk the streets of Paddington admiring the Queenslanders or walk the riverside path along Tennerife and New Farm right next to the city.

Moreover, the variety of accommodation styles in Brisbane's suburbs, from charming Queenslanders to modern townhouses, gives you plenty of options to choose from for accommodation if you want to stay outside of the city centre.

Empire Revivial a great example of a typical shop in the Brisbane suburb of Paddington
Empire Revival a great example of a typical shop in the Brisbane suburb of Paddington

Melbourne's Urban Lifestyle

Melbourne's urban lifestyle is a tapestry of arts, culture, and gastronomy. Staying in the heart of the city means everything is at your fingertips – from iconic theatres to chic cafes. The convenience of apartment living, with amenities often included, allow you to experience the vibrancy of Melbourne's inner-city areas.

However, Melbourne's urban lifestyle comes with a trade-off. Space is at a premium, and the cost of accommodation in Melbourne is higher.

Melbourne's inner city is hectic but that's half the fun. Brisbane's inner city is way more laid back and while there aren't as many dining options right in the middle of Brisbane, Fortitude Valley is just one train stop away. If you can't find something to eat in the Valley you are being WAY too fussy.

Rowers on the Yarra River Melbourne
Rowers on the Yarra River in Melbourne's City Centre

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.


Shopping in Brisbane and Melbourne: A Comparison

Shopping in Brisbane

Brisbane, known for its vibrant and sunny atmosphere, offers a unique shopping experience that caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. The city's shopping scene is characterized by Diverse Shopping Districts and some great Outdoor Markets.

Brisbane's pleasant weather complements its outdoor markets, where you can find everything from fresh produce to artisan crafts.

Of course the heat over summer and the possible rain means that Brisbane also has some great shopping malls. Westfield at Mount Gravat is easy to get to and has most large chain stores you might be looking for.

Key Shopping Destinations in Brisbane:

  1. Queen Street Mall: A bustling pedestrian mall with a range of stores, from luxury brands to department stores.
  2. James Street in Fortitude Valley: Known for its chic boutiques and designer stores.
  3. South Bank: For a more relaxed shopping experience with a mix of markets and street stores.

Shopping in Melbourne

Melbourne is often regarded as the fashion capital of Australia, offering an eclectic mix of shopping experiences. The city's shopping scene is characterized by:

  • Iconic Laneways and Arcades: Melbourne's laneways and historic arcades are home to unique boutiques, local designers, and vintage stores.
  • High-End Fashion: The city is known for its luxury shopping, with several streets dedicated to high-end fashion brands.
  • Cultural Diversity: Reflecting its multicultural population, Melbourne offers a variety of shopping experiences, from European-style boutiques to Asian markets.

While Melbourne does have some large shopping centres, the inner city is fantastic for almost all types of purchases. From luxury brands to large department stores, Melbourne city has such great shopping that I don't think you would even bother looking for suburban malls.

Key Shopping Destinations in Melbourne:

  1. Chapel Street: Famous for its range of high-end stores, vintage shops, and local boutiques.
  2. The Bourke Street Mall: A major shopping hub with department stores and retail chains.
  3. Melbourne Central and Emporium: Offering a mix of local and international brands under one roof.

Both Brisbane and Melbourne offer distinct shopping experiences that reflect their individual characters.

Brisbane is ideal for those who enjoy outdoor markets and a relaxed shopping atmosphere. Melbourne, known for its fashion-forward approach, is perfect for those seeking high-end fashion and unique boutique experiences.

Whether you're browsing through Brisbane's sunny streets or exploring Melbourne's chic laneways, both cities promise a delightful shopping experience for every kind of shopper.

Queen Victoria Markets a popular shopping destination in Melbourne
Queen Victoria Markets a popular shopping destination in Melbourne

Comparing the Costs of Visiting Brisbane and Melbourne for a Week

Visiting two of Australia's most vibrant cities, Brisbane and Melbourne, can offer vastly different experiences, especially when it comes to expenses. Here's a comparison of the costs and tips on how to enjoy each city without overspending.

Cost of Visiting Brisbane for a Week

Brisbane, known for its sunny weather and laid-back vibe, can be a relatively affordable destination for travelers.

  • Accommodation: Budget options like hostels and guesthouses are available, with prices starting from around $30 per night. Mid-range hotels can cost around $100-$150 per night, but these prices do depend on what is on at the time.
  • Food and Drink: Brisbane has a range of dining options. Expect to spend around $25-$40 for a meal at a mid-range restaurant. Street food and markets can be cheaper alternatives.
  • Transportation: Public transport in Brisbane is efficient and affordable. A daily pass can cost around $10.
  • Attractions: Many of Brisbane's attractions, like the South Bank Parklands and city botanical gardens, are free. Paid attractions like the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary have entry fees around $40.

Cost of Visiting Melbourne for a Week

Melbourne, renowned for its culture and coffee, can be slightly more expensive than Brisbane.

  • Accommodation: Hostel prices start from $35 per night, while hotels in the city center can cost upwards of $180 per night. Again these can be affected by events in Melbourne, so be sure to check that its not AFL grand final weekend, or the Melbourne Cup for example before you book
  • Food and Drink: Melbourne is famous for its culinary scene. A meal in a standard restaurant can cost between $30-$60. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly cafes and food markets.
  • Transportation: Melbourne's public transport system includes trams, trains, and buses. A myki card, used for all modes of transport, costs $15 for a full fare daily cap.
  • Attractions: Melbourne offers many free attractions like the National Gallery of Victoria. Other attractions, like the Melbourne Zoo, have entry fees around $40.

Tips for a Budget-Friendly Trip

  • Accommodation: Consider staying in suburbs slightly outside the city center for better deals. Check out deals on Booking.com or Agoda.
  • Dining: Explore local markets and street food for affordable meal options.
  • Free Attractions: Both cities offer numerous free attractions, such as parks, gardens, and museums.
  • Public Transport: Take advantage of daily or weekly public transport passes for economical travel around the city.
  • Discounts and Deals: Look out for discounts on attractions and dining, often available through tourist information centres or travel apps.

Both Brisbane and Melbourne offer unique experiences to visitors. Brisbane tends to be slightly more affordable, especially when it comes to accommodation and some attractions.

Melbourne, while potentially more costly, provides value through its rich cultural offerings and extensive public transport network. By planning ahead and making use of budget-friendly options, visitors can enjoy the best of both cities without overspending.

The Magic Pudding characters made from brass in Melbourne Botanical Gardens
The Magic Pudding characters made from brass in Melbourne Botanical Gardens, one of the free things you can do in both cities.

Surrounding Area's Things To See: Brisbane Vs. Melbourne

Both cities have lots to see and do in the area surrounding the city. Brisbane is uniquely situated halfway between the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast so if beaches are your thing you are in luck. There are also tours that visit Australia Zoo from Brisbane.

There is also easy access to Morton Island and Tangalooma which is well worth a day out.

Main Range National Park about 2 hours from Brisbane offers some great hiking trails as does the Gold Coast hinterland area of Mount Tamborine and the Gondwana Rainforest area.

Day Tours From Brisbane


Melbourne on the other hand has access to the Yarra Valley, one of Australia's premier wine regions and of course the Great Ocean Road which is something everyone that visits Melbourne should do.

Possible Day Tours From Melbourne

Melbourne has heaps to see and do, however the weather can get in the way. Check the forecast before you book anything that involves an outdoor activity, or just make sure you have your rain jacket with you.

My favourite things to do in Melbourne include Yarra Valley (there's wine – it's a given its my fave), The Penguins and Great Ocean Road.



Which Is My Personal Favourite: Brisbane or Melbourne?

I love them both, however there are times of the year that I favour one over the other. I personally love Melbourne in the winter. Most Aussies will argue with me here, but I like that I know its going to be cold and I can take my winter clothes and not worry about having to dress for all seasons like you may have to do in the summer.

Typically when I'm going to Melbourne I'm going for a show or a sporting event so I don't care if its cold. I also love to walk and I find that the winter in Melbourne is wonderful for extended hiking. Melbourne's laneways are getting to be very well known for Graffiti and art walks so consider doing one of those while you are in the city.

Brisbane is only an hour away for me so we can visit Brisbane anytime. I personally love the World Press Photo Exhibition every year at the Powerhouse Museum. We also regularly head up to Sunnybank for great Chinese food and its not unusual for me to hike the Mount Cootha trails over the winter months.

No matter which city you choose, you will have a wonderful holiday in either Melbourne or Brisbane.

For more info on events and what's on head to Visit Melbourne or Visit Brisbane.



Check out my Australia Destination page for all  Australian Posts