Sydney, the iconic Australian city shown on all tourist advertisements across the world, really does not disappoint.
Sydney is the largest city in Australia and is located on the eastern coast of New South Wales. Sydney has been ranked in the top 10 most livable cities for quite some time, and has relatively warm temperatures all year round.
Australia’s human history mainly belongs to the aboriginal people who have lived in these lands for over 40,000 years. The original custodians of the land in Sydney are the Gadigal people. They were a nomadic people who lived along the coastline and as part of the Eora Nation, which is made up of 29 clans within that region.
True Western influence began with the arrival of the first fleet arrived in 1788, and to this day the city of Sydney continues to grow in size, diversity and numbers.
As an Australian, I was taught it was always important to remember that the land we live on was the spiritual home to generations of aboriginals. The National Museum of Sydney is a great place to learn about aboriginal history while in the city.
I’ll begin my tour through the city just north of the central train station. If you are flying into Sydney, International or Domestic, there are trains that take you into the heart of the city. A ticket will cost you $19.40 AUD (£10.10) for a single trip (2019).
Right in the center of town you will find Hyde Park. At the southernmost end you will find the Emden gun a historical landmark, and the real centerpiece of the park is ANZAC Memorial.
This is a national war memorial and a museum for and about the men and women who served in the Australian army. The Museum is free so I recommend a wander through it.
Behind the memorial is a pool of reflection, which at the right angle allows you to take some great shots of the memorial.
The north section of Hyde Park is great to have a stroll through, with monuments, gardens and water fountains throughout.
To the west of Hyde Park, if you want to do some shopping, there is a Westfield which can easily be found under the Sydney Tower Eye. With many shops and food courts you could easily spend half a day if you wanted to here. To go to the top of the observation deck of the Sydney Tower Eye will cost you $23.20 (£12.10), and you get a 360 degree view of Sydney.
To the east of Hyde Park is St Mary’s Cathedral, which is a gothic style Catholic cathedral built in 1821. Outside there is a grand circular stained glass window which is beautifully decorated.
Across the city you will find many museums. Below is a list of museums with links to their websites for pricing and information. I have visited a few over the years, and the more obscure ones can actually be interesting and informative about the growth of the city and Australia, as one of the “younger” Western nations in the world (only becoming a country in 1901).
For those who like to party or have a few drinks, you should visit Oxford Street. Oxford street is the heart of the LGBT community in Sydney. There are multiple clubs along the street such as Stonewall, which offer different kinds of music and events for everyone.
Oxford Street is also where Mardi Gras is held. It is a fun-filled weekend in January to celebrate Pride in Australia, attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors.
As you walk through the city you will find some early colonial architecture, like the Sydney Mint that has a wing dating back to 1811, built when the region was being settled by the British convicts and settlers.
The state library – the oldest state library in Australia – was built in 1910, just after federation.
If you’re a fan of architecture you won’t be disappointed. Even though Australia doesn’t have buildings as old as you find in Europe, America, or Asia, there are still some beautiful parts to see.
Opposite the State Library you will find the Royal Botanical Gardens. They are free to enter, and have many types of Australian and international Flora.
There are plenty of large open spaces to relax and have a picnic.
The Gardens also have great views of the bay.
Right at the end of the park is Mrs Maquarie’s Chair. This spot is a historic landmark on the edge of the gardens, carved by convicts in 1810 into the sandstone rock that looks out over the bay of Sydney.
One side overlooks the naval docks, where you may see large navy cruisers and war ships docked.
On the other side you will see the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a great spot to see the iconic landmarks whilst the sun sets.
From this point you can walk along the coast to the Sydney Opera House. This iconic Sydney landmark is a multi-venue performing arts center, and is one of the 20th century’s most distinctive pieces of architecture.
It opened in 1973 and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. The arches are shell-like sculptures that are all white and differ in size.
Depending on the time of the year, there are light displays on the iconic sight for viewers to enjoy.
Right under the Sydney Opera House is Opera Bar. This serves some great food and drinks for you to enjoy while taking in the views of the harbour and the bridge, day or night.
Before I talk about the Bridge, the area you are currently in is referred to as The Rocks. This area has many restaurants, hotels, museums and shops for you to enjoy.
It also is right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a listed three arch steel bridge that is one of Australia’s most iconic sights. Most people when they think of Australia generally think of this landmark. The bridge was opened in 1932 and is a way for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians to cross from the city center to the suburbs north of the Bay.
You have the opportunity to walk across the bridge, or ride a ferry under it, but the most popular thing to do is to participate in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Prices are steep, with the climb itself costing $268 – $403 AUD (£140 – £210), depending on the time of the year and time of the day.
It does give you great views of the harbour and is certainly something you would remember for life.
The Rocks is right by Circular Quay, which is one of the many ferry ports across Sydney. With an Opal travel card you can jump on a ferry, train or bus anywhere in the city. Ferries are a common form of public transportation for locals to use daily on their commutes.
One stop you can visit is Luna Park. This is a theme park with a giant face at the entrance, with its mouth wide open. It also has a sister theme park in Melbourne. This is a fun experience for kids on a day out on the North side of the bay.
Another stop you can get to from Circular Quay, or the many other ferry ports in Sydney, is Darling Harbour.
This area is another shopping district with the National Maritime Museum, the Aquarium and some historic ships to explore.
This can be a nice place to grab some food, go for a walk and people watch on a bright sunny day.
If you go south from Darling Harbour you will come to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. These are model gardens showcasing Chinese Heritage and culture. Prices are $6 (£3) for adults, and they are a quick but relaxing experience.
These gardens are also right by China town. You will find countless restaurants and shops selling traditional food from the Chinese locals that have migrated to Australia over the decades. Market City is a historic building and has hundreds of shops for you to enjoy.
If you want to take a ferry ride further out, you can take an adventure out to Watson Bay. This is where the ocean enters Sydney, and is roughly 11km away from the city center. The water is a bit rougher out here but you get some stunning views of different sections of the bay on this journey.
On arrival at Watson Bay there are several restaurants along the shoreline and many docked boats.
The Watson Bay hike is a scenic route that is roughly a 4.5km long and takes you around the Watson Bay area.
It is a relatively easy hike for people of all ages and abilities and goes across footpaths, beaches and coastline.
At the edge of the coastline at South Head you will reach Hornby Lighthouse. Built in 1858 it has very characteristic red and white stripes. It has amazing views.
This lighthouse was used to direct ships into Sydney bay.
Along the walk you will also come across old bunkers, where cannons used to be mounted during war, to protect the bay from enemy submarines and ships.
The bay has some small but lovely beaches, but if you want to visit something more iconic you can catch a bus down to Bondi Beach. This beachfront is well known across the world and even appears on its own TV show.
Bondi Beach has shop fronts for places to eat or buy swimming and surfing gear. The beach goes on for hundreds of metres and is filled with locals and tourists. There are some great surf spots, but if you aren’t surfing then make sure you swim between the flags. Bondi Rescue (the TV show) usually gets its content from tourists not understanding this concept.
Right at the top of the beach are Bondi outdoor beachside pools. Here you can get some great photos of the beach and enjoy the sun and the sea.
Another beach to visit is Manly. You can get ferries there from Circular Quay, and it is just north of Watson Bay.
This beach is more for locals, and it has two sections – one encased in the bay and one exposed to the ocean.
Sydney is a city with so much to do and see, even if it far to travel for many people. However, it is all worth it to visit this iconic city on this huge continent.
From history to culture, animals to scenic views, parties to fine dining, Sydney is a place for everyone to find something to enjoy.
Australia is a large place to visit, and it is impossible to see the whole country on your average two week holiday. To visit Sydney properly you can do it in 2-3 days as part of a larger journey within the region, but no matter how many days you spend you will certainly enjoy your stay.