Melbourne vs Sydney: A Shopaholic’s Guide

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I don’t like to throw around the term “addict” willy-nilly, but when it comes to my fetish for fashion, you could say I’m a tad obsessed. I’m not even talking strictly high-end, haute couture garb — I’ll even get my kicks by perusing the local mall. Yep, your average shopping centre really gets me giddy. The shiny floors, the fluorescent lighting, the mouth-watering scent that wafts from Peter Alexander…

After years of card swiping, bag swinging and change room meltdowns, my shopping prowess is officially on point.

As an avid Aussie shopper, I’ve had the pleasure of purchasing (and residing) in both major cities: Melbourne and Sydney. While in my opinion, neither one reigns supreme over the other in terms of style stakes, both have significant differences that can be carefully dissected. The way I see it, both cities are like two types of girl: Sydney is the hot chick with dazzling looks and a killer smile that wins over every person she meets; whereas Melbourne is the cool chick brimming with attitude, confidence and mystique. Both ooze an independent style that cannot be matched. From markets to malls, boutiques to boroughs, both cities offer an abundance of shopping options for the keen customer. Just be prepared to pack that “in-case-of-emergencies” credit card. Ready, set…buy!


Shopping Centres: 10/10

The prime hang-out spot for hormone-fuelled teens the world over, the faithful mall (or shopping centre, as we say on this side of the globe) is the perfect go-to destination for all your buying needs. Luckily for Melbournians, this city knows how to do shopping centres right. For the city dwellers, Melbourne Central (Cnr LaTrobe and Swanston Streets), with its blend of modern and historic architecture, including the famous Coop’s Shot Tower, houses an eclectic mix of shopping, entertainment and dining options for anyone wanting that real Melbourne shopping experience. For a touch of old world class, the newly imagined Emporium Melbourne (287 Lonsdale Street) offers up a silver platter of local and international designers, with all your favourite chain stores to boot (including Australia’s first Uniqlo). Head out to the ‘burbs and you’ll find the mac daddy of Melbourne shopping centres: Chadstone (1341 Dandenong Road)– the biggest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere. They call it the “Fashion Capital”, I call it the Number One place to lose your car. Either way, “Chaddy” won’t disapoint, with close to 500 stores catering to your every need and a free shuttle service that will transport you to shopping heaven from the city. And don’t even get me started on the food court…

More Melbourne shopping centres: Westfield Doncaster (Doncaster), Highpoint (Maribyrnong) Westfield Knox (Knox), Westfield Fountain Gate (Narre Warren).

Markets: 6/10 Weather permitting, Melbourne can really put on a good market.  If you’re lucky enough to visit when the sun is shining (note: not June, July or August) head straight to the gem in Melbourne’s crown, the Queen Victoria Market (Cnr Victoria and Elizabeth Streets). Indulge in food, fashion and frivolity at this historic landmark and be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Aussie souvenirs that can be packed into one precinct. Okay, so fashion isn’t this market’s main draw — but when there’s local and imported gourmet food this good, you’ll be happy to visit the change room on another day. The Queen Vic Night Market on a Wednesday evening is also a must-do in the summer season. If clothes and accessories are what you’re really yearning for, jump on the number 75 tram and make your way to the Camberwell Market (carpark at the rear of Burke and Riversdale Roads), held every Sunday by the Balwyn Rotary Club. Ideal for vintage finds and cheap second-hand fashion, you’re bound to walk out with an armful of designer duds. Plus, your gold coin donation entry fee goes to a wide range of local community charities. For the northsiders, the Rose Street Artists’ Market (60 Rose Street, Fitzroy) on Saturdays and Sundays is the perfect spot to pick up all things handmade — from art, fashion, food, jewellery, homewares and more. BYO hipster hat and trendy bike.             More Melbourne markets: Emu Plains Market (Balnarring), Mornington Racecourse Market (Mornington), Esplanade Market (St. Kilda), Dandenong Market (Dandenong). Search for flights to Melbourne

At the mArkets. Love for anything healthy 😉 A photo posted by @sparkmesumlove on

Streets: 9/10

When Melbourne is so often referred to as Australia’s premier shopping mecca, it’s usually thanks to the endless array of fashion boutiques that draw in shopaholics the world over. And where can you find these boutiques, you ask? Lining the footpaths of some of the city’s most famous streets, of course. When chatting shopping strips, we simply must begin with Chapel Street (Prahran), darrrling. Stretching from the upmarket, exclusive designers of the South Yarra end, all the way down to the grungy, fashion pawn brokers of Windsor, Chapel Street offers a myriad of shopping options — whether you’re sporting a Marc Jacobs handbag or a pair of 1970s vintage Levi’s. For all the major chain stores, including Australia’s first H&M, Bourke Street Mall (CBD) has you covered. Home to the famous Myer Christmas Windows, this classic Melbourne shopping strip particularly comes alive in the festive season, so take the kids along and enjoy an evening of magic (and retail therapy). For those wanting to veer away from the popular chains, jump on the number 96 tram and head north to explore the eclectic hub of hipster heaven: Brunswick Street (Fitzroy). Known for its laid-back cafes, live music venues and alternative, retro fashion shops, this vibrant strip is a bohemian paradise.

More Melbourne shopping streets: Bay Street (Port Melbourne), Acland Street (St. Kilda), Bridge Road (Richmond), Collins Street (CBD), High Street (Armadale).

#knitting #knitbomb #knitbombing #yarnbomb #yarnbombing #craft #melbourne #visitvictoria #visitmelbourne

A photo posted by Joanna Holman (@joannaholman) on


Shopping Centres: 5/10

It’s no suprise that the land of the glittering harbour and breathtaking beaches doesn’t exactly highlight its shopping centres in the guidebooks. That said, although Sydney’s malls aren’t necessarily as impressive as its southern city counterpart, there are a few developments to look out for. Brush the sand off your feet and traipse up to Westfield Bondi Junction (500 Oxford Street) for a taste of designer glam – the place to go for big names like Gucci, Chanel and Jimmy Choo in the eastern suburbs. It also has a concierge service, all your chain store faves and an array of top-notch restaurants across six levels. Westfield Sydney Central Plaza (Cnr Pitt Street Mall and Market Street) should be next on the itinerary, with nearly all of the world’s leading fashion and clothing retailers under one roof. Not only does this glamourous centre boast all your designer and chain store faves, but also a valet service (just in case you take up the challenge of driving in Sydney’s CBD). Plus, you can wander over for a leisurely stroll in Hyde Park once you’re all shopped out. With Aussie “It girl” Elyse Knowles as the brand ambassador, you just know the folks behind Sydney’s Macquarie Centre (Cnr Waterloo and Herring Roads) have really lifted their game. The newly rejuvenated development features valet parking, a VIP club, parents rooms and free WiFi — not to mention Sydney’s first H&M and soon-to-be-opened Sephora.

More Sydney shopping centres: Westfield Warringah Mall (Brookvale), Westfield Parramatta (Parramattta), Westfield Miranda (Miranda).

Markets: 10/10 With bucketloads of sunshine and a (generally) more consistent climate than down south, Sydney plays the perfect host for markets of all kinds. With the dazzling backdrop of the famed Bondi Beach, the Bondi Market (Bondi Beach Public School) provides the perfect Sunday activity, with its mixture of secondhand clothing, handmade wares, jewellery and local designer duds. Peruse the stalls after a morning of sun, surf and tourist-watching. Be quick to catch the three dates in December when the fabulous Finders Keepers Market (Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh) hosts a veritable feast of shopping wonderment. The events feature live music, food trucks and over 220 stalls of artisanal foods, unique fashions and handmade wares and draws crowds from all over the city. For second hand goodies, jewellery, crafts and unique homewares at a steal, look no further than the popular Glebe Market (Glebe Point Road, Glebe). This bargain hunter’s mecca is where girls and guys with all fashion tastes come to spruik their used garb, make a bit of extra coin and clear out their wardrobe in the process. This is perfect for you, the shopper, as this means dirt cheap prices and one-off finds. Free entry and tasty food stalls make this market a winner. More Sydney markets: Manly Corso Market (Manly Corso), Balmain Market (Balmain), Paddy’s Market (Hay Street), Surry Hills Market (Surry Hills), Paddington Market (Paddington), The Rocks Market (The Rocks).

You can find anything @cetaceans action #vintagemarket #vintage A photo posted by Glebe Markets (@glebemarkets) on

Streets: 6/10

Although it’s safe to say Sydney doesn’t boast the same quality and variety of shopping strips as Melbourne, there’s still some decent footpaths to tread. If the eclectic vibes of Newtown tickle your fancy, head straight for King Street (Newtown) where ethnic homewares, vintage treasures and funky fashions come with a side of kook. Expect offbeat boutiques, amazing food and unique finds. For a slightly classier vibe (and I mean slightly— the colourful characters of Darlinghurst are just down the road) head to Oxford Street (Paddington) where you’ll discover high street chains mingling with Australian designer flagship stores and fancy boutiques. Boasting a “village” vibe, The Intersection (a notable part of this shopping strip) is a who’s who of chic, Aussie designers. For a taste of harbourside cool, ferry straight to inner west’s Darling Street (Balmain) where you’ll find a neighbourhood scattered with clothing and shoe boutiques, jewellery stores, recycled fashions, as well as notable cafes and restaurants. With a distinct community feel, this thriving urban street is the ideal spot to while away an afternoon of shopping.

More Sydney shopping streets: Hall Street (Bondi), Manly Corso (Manly), Queen Street (Woollahra), Glebe Point Road (Glebe).

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Main Image: Nicki Mannix, Queen Victoria Building via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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Melbourne vs Sydney: A Shopaholic’s Guide was last modified: June 27th, 2019 by Alexandra Oke
Author: Alexandra Oke (24 posts)

Alexandra is a Melbourne-based freelance writer with previous experience in copywriting, magazines and, of course, travel. You'll find a collection of her writings at