Arguably Australia’s most famous city is home to dual icons, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, a glamorous harbourside, stunning beaches and rich cultural history.
A penal colony morphs into a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Flaunts a curvaceous coastline decked with an eye-catching natural harbour. And shows off brilliant blue Pacific waters speckled with humpbacked whales. Iconic architecture, scalloped beaches with a relaxed vibe are just a few of the aces Sydney tucks away under its sleeve.
Jumpstart the love affair with Sydney at its historic heart. The colonial oceanfront neighbourhood, the Rocks, is soaked in atmospheric pleasures, complete with stone walls and cobbled courtyards. Contemplate the area's transformation from a settlement of convicts, soldiers and sailors into a creative, culture-rich artsy hotspot. You can dive deeper into its past by signing up for a walking tour of the pubs and heritage buildings.
Gear up to exhilaration with a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Gawking at the 360-degree cityscape from the top of the world's largest steel arch bridge is the ultimate reward if the adrenaline rush of the ascent is not inspiration enough.
Later, dress up for a show at the iconic Opera House, a world-famous landmark inspired by snail shells and Mayan temples. Indigenous theatre, dance performance, classical concert or music gigs…what catches your fancy?
Slip into Sydneysider mode by prepping for a windswept hike along the 6-kilometre coastal path from Bondi to Coogee. Views to kill (or die) for every step of the way will lead you to the Coogee's Wylie's Baths, a heritage-listed ocean tidal pool with a vintage-style pool and old-world pier. Continue the sunbathing and slumber theme at the kilometre-long Bondi Beach. Alternatively, swap the laziness for a session of street-art gawking followed by a splurge-worthy episode on Gould Street.
Nightbirds can hit up Surry Hills, a hip suburban neighbourhood with Victorian terrace houses and tree-lined streets. Chic boutiques, speciality restaurants, design cafés and craft beer pubs will keep you occupied for hours. Make sure to check out the Saturday Surry Hills Market for artisanal stalls stocking bric-a-brac, antiques and home decor.
For a tryst with nature, lose yourself in the verdant greenery of Sydney's 74-acre botanical garden, overflowing with native and international flora and fauna and green conservatories.
If that stokes your appetite for serious hiking, take it up a notch with the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Australia's second-oldest national park, conveniently located within the metropolitan area. 37,000-acres of this heritage-listed retreat is ideal for various outdoorsy activities, including surfing and cycling alongside coastal panoramas, rain forests and mangroves.
Even more epic landscapes await you at the Blue Mountains National Park. Spread over a massive 156,000 acres, it features jaw-dropping lookout points and well-marked trails for authentic bushwalking through lush rain forests, bringing you face-to-face with dramatic canyons, towering cliff faces and gurgling waterfalls. Those who prefer to take it easy can explore the area by the Scenic World's Skyway or Cableway.
Qeeen Victoria Building: Head to this 19th-century shopping plaza located in the Central Business District to browse through over 100 retail outlets offering everything from high fashion to fine dining, art galleries and gourmet foods. The eye-candy architecture is a bonus attraction.
Pitt Street Mall: Located in the middle of Sydney's bustling central business district, this pedestrian shopping precinct boasts over 600 speciality stores and shopping arcades. Noteworthy pitstops include Sydney Arcade, Glasshouse, Mid City Shopping Centre, Strand Arcade and Westfield Sydney. The only question is…how long and how much do you plan to spend there?
Rocks: Indulging in retail therapy in this historic precinct gets you up close with artisan stalls stocking a wide variety of products, ranging from home accessories to indigenous handicrafts. Expect endless diversions in the shape of an array of food vendors, cafes and restaurants. You can find the oldest pub in the country right here.
Oxford Street: This premier shopping destination is the first choice of every fashionista. Occupying a long stretch from Central Business District to Bondi Junction, it is home to several stylish boutiques, flagship stores, home-grown designer brands as well as offbeat gems. The high-end atmosphere is addictive.
Museums & the arts
Art Gallery of New South Wales: Sydney's most famed art museum occupies a classical building in the leafy Hyde Park area. Reserve a few hours to enjoy a vast collection of Australian and international art, as well as contemporary creations covering all media.
White Rabbit Gallery: A lesser-known art destination, the White Rabbit Gallery introduces you to the most expansive collection of modern Chinese art. Collectively, the gallery stocks over 2,500 pieces by over 500 artists. Linger a bit longer at the teahouse on the ground floor to savour dumplings and aromatic tea.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia: Overlooking the ferries of Circular Quay at the Rocks, this modern art venue is your window to the world of contemporary Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander artists. From sculpture and painting to photography and installations, there is a vast playing field for all tastes. Catch the killer views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House after having your fill of art.
Australian Museum: Australia's first public museum celebrates the natural history and ethnography of the region. There is a permanent collection with over 21 million exhibits. Aboriginal heritage of the First Nations galleries and the 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum should be your top choices here.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum: Give offbeat a chance at this UNESCO World Heritage-listed museum. Get acquainted with the convict life as you pore over displays, audio installations and interactive experiences. Convict hammocks or uniforms, anyone?
Australians love sport – all sport. As a nation, Australians compete with ferocity and with winning the only option. Sydney life is the envy of the world. It has the facilities … the beaches and the way of life … to make sport a pleasure to watch and participate in too.
Rugby: There are eight rugby clubs in Sydney, so you will never be short of options for your sports fix. Don't miss the NRL State of Origin series, a three-match competition between NSW and QLD. You can bookmark the NSW Waratahs match for rugby union in the Super Rugby competition and the major international matches of the Australian national team, the Wallabies.
Sailing: Live life kingsize with a day of luxury sailing in one of the world's finest natural harbours. Sit back and enjoy the Pacific sunshine or learn the ropes from the friendly skipper. Navigate past historical attractions, gorgeous bays and spectacular beaches. Double the delights with lunch in a secluded bay.
Golf: Harbour City is a true golf getaway. You will be spoilt for choice with many world-class panoramic courses on offer in Sydney. Mix with your love for sport and scenery at Bondi Golf and Diggers Club's nine-hole course. Teeing off is a pleasure with harbour views at the 18-hole Northbridge Golf Club course. Long Reef Golf Club on the Northern Beaches should be your selection if you prefer oceanfront vistas. The Australian, Bonnie Doon and The Lakes, located close to the airport and Central Business District, are great options.
Cricket: The game was first played “officially” in Australia in 1803. Today the Baggy Greens are one of the most formidable teams in the world – the team to beat. Sydney Cricket Ground – the SCG – plays host to the national and New South Wales teams. If there is a game on – it is definitely worth a visit.
Tetsuya's: Japanese and French cuisine blend into culinary perfection in this fabulous restaurant located in the Central Business District. Guests are served an exclusive 9-course degustation menu, with dishes in the Confit of Ocean Trout league with apple salad and Wagyu Beef Sirloin with Chestnut Mushroom. Table bookings are recommended.
Aria: Gloat at the views of both Sydney icons, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, as you embark on a gastronomic journey in this classy eatery. Chances are you could even spot a couple of celebrities.
Rockpool: An award-winning culinary destination with impeccable service whips up classics with a modern twist, taking fine Australian dining to new levels with each memorable meal.
Bennelong: One of the shell-like structures of the famous Sydney Opera House, the chic restaurant is an ode to local Australian produce. Get comfortable in the brass-accented dining room, the casual lounge or the divine bar. Give a chance to the inventive vegetable dishes cooked with pizzazz or relish the pull-apart confit duck leg.
Automata: This fancy diner with industrial-style interiors in Chippendale promises an evening tinged with affluence, minus the fuss. Order the beef rump cap, the kingfish or the raw yellowfin tuna.
Sign up for a private viewing of Paspaley Pearls at the headquarters of pearling pioneers, Paspaley, a family-owned business involved in sourcing the rarest and most valuable pearls in the world. Take a heritage elevator into the bank vaults of The Pearl Room, home to some of the rarest and most expensive pearls. Witness skilled pearl connoisseurs' at work as they sort, grade and hand-match exquisite Australian South Sea pearls. As part of the experience, you can sample pearl meat and gawp at the Paspaley family's private pearl collections.
Settle for an authentic, handmade Didgeridoo, an Aboriginal wind instrument with a legacy of over 1500 years. Designed with a long wooden pipe and a wax mouthpiece, a genuine didgeridoo usually weighs between 2 to 4 kilograms and sounds solid when you knock on it. Look for one with natural bumps and curves, resembling a naturally hollowed tree. Be prepared to shell out between 250 to AUD 2500 for an authentic piece.
One of the best bets to escape the big city is Hunter Valley, the oldest continuous wine region in the country, known for varieties like Shiraz, Semillon, Chardonnay, and Verdelho. Think famous wine estates, fine dining and picture-perfect photo opportunities. Amp up the glamour with a sunrise hot air balloon flight. Squish grapes with your toes in an oak barrel, go horse-riding through vineyards or unwind with a gourmet picnic hamper in between wine-tasting sessions.
Take a guided heritage tour of Bare Island, located just 30 minutes from Sydney. The fort, built to protect Botany Bay in the late 1800s, got a second life as Australia's first war veterans' home way back in 1908. The fort was made famous by the Tom Cruise thrilling motorbike chase scene in Mission Impossible II.
Although it is one of the great cities of the world, Sydney does not boast a huge number of truly luxury hotels. The ones it does have though are excellent and diverse.
Being on the “other side of the world” for many visitors – Sydney is invariably a two plane journey destination. For visitors from Europe and the Americas, a stopover in the Middle or Far East is accepted practice.
Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport is approximately 8-kilometres from the city centre. The best way to move around the city is by the efficient train system. Taxis and hired cars are available readily. Rental cars may be a more convenient option for side trips than for driving in the town. Make sure you explore local neighbourhoods on foot. Take a ferry to soak in the views.
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