Sydney`s celebrated New Year`s Eve fireworks are perhaps the most anticipated throughout the globe, but these really are just a fragment of the city`s appeal. So, what is it that makes Sydney that attractive?
Arranged around one of the world`s most spectacular harbours, and enjoying a quality of life second-to-none, Sydney offers visitors and locals alike experience that cannot be duplicated. Where else in the globe would you travel to work by ferry, passing the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, accompanied by a pack of dolphins?
Aesthetics is one of the city`s greatest features – that is for sure. Yet, what is quite noticeable, is the characteristic Sydneysider healthy lifestyle and friendly hospitality which are too easy to enjoy in the balmy subtropical climate and its clean, safe environment. From art and fashion, history and culture to sports and recreation, there are more things to do and see than one can attempt in their lifetime.
For all this and much more, it is not surprising that Sydney gained the reputation of being the prettiest of all cities in the world (or at least one of).
Arriving in a city with a population of more than 5 million might feel somehow overwhelming at first. But actually, Sydney is not at all as busy as other world`s megalopolises. The city centre is pretty compact and easy to explore on foot, and the surrounding areas can be reached by ferries within as much as 30 minutes, buses or trains. Public transport is efficient (nothing like in Singapore though), and there are information centres throughout the CBD. The residents are very approachable and used to tourists, plus they all speak English 🙂
Make sure you don`t skip the following spots!
Once being in Sydney city, it is no secret that the major attraction is the harbour front. The busy waterfront of the Circular Quay is packed with boats: cruise ships, boats, water taxis and river ferries, and many of Sydney`s classic views can be seen from here.
The Rocks – where the English Captain Arthur Phillip formally established the first permanent European settlement in Australia, the famous Harbour Bridge, built in 1930 and the iconic Opera House, designed by the Danish architect Jorn Utzon, of course.
Pop into the visitor`s centre to grab a map of the area and set out on a long self-guided walking tour. Search around the Museum of Contemporary Art, the restored sandstone Rocks Puppet Cottage, Cadman`s Cottage and l Campbell`s Warehouse. There are plenty of restaurants and bars along the Sydney Cove, to make the images more enjoyable, especially during the frequent fireworks and light shows.
Just at the back door of the Opera House, there is the entrance to The Domain and the stunning Royal Botanic Gardens that offer great views of the city`s skyscrapers and the Sky Tower.
Get a map of The Domain at the garden`s information centre as it is enormous and it is easy to get lost here. Pop in the Tropical Centre, Herb Garden and Herbarium, have a picnic or just a coffee and appreciate the serene atmosphere of this otherwise very dynamic city.
The town centre, or CBD – as Australians call it, is surprisingly compact for a city of that size and it can easily be explored on foot. And that is a highly recommended way of discovering Sydney`s hidden charms.
For instance, another part of The Domain is the Art Gallery of NSW, Mrs Macquarie`s Chair and St Mary`s Cathedral, spaning to the Hyde Park.
Martin`s Place, the Queen Victoria Building and Sky Tower are parts of the CBD`s shopping district and present supreme shopping malls and designer fashion stores.
Parliament House, the Australian Museum and Anzac War Memorial are other important landmarks of Sydney. Every tourist who arrives at the Queens Square will want to linger for a while around the Archibald Fountain. This is a good spot to have a break after the long walk and get ready for the next highlight – the Darling Harbour.
While Sydney Harbour is the busy zone of the city, packed with spectacular monuments, Darling Harbour rather promotes elegant, picturesque and quite romantic ambience. Chic restaurants and stylish bars fringe the waterfront alongside luxurious yachts and sail ships.
Nighttime is exceptionally magnificent with the city lights reflecting in the calm waters of the harbour. It is a perfect place where to have dinner.
If walking from the CBD to the Darling Harbour, visitors will arrive at the historic Pyrmont Bridge that gives fantastic views of Cockle Bay, where the major attractions are the National Museum, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, National Marine Museum and the Casino.
The nearby Chinatown, including Haymarket & Chippendale, is a vibrant district of Sydney with a lot of shopping malls and culinary surprises. The morning Sydney Fish Market is well-worth of seeing and trying the seafood fresh as can be, like nowhere else in Sydney.
THE INNER CITY
The central Darlinghurst and Surrey Hills are thriving inner-city areas popular among young professionals, the clubs of Oxford and Liverpool Streets come to life at the weekend (and during the Sydney Mardi Gras), and they are much loved by the gay and lesbian population. Newtown is known for quirky cafes, vegan shops and alternative lifestyle.
The entire inner city of Sydney is a multicultural and foodie hub that boasts small cafes and restaurants, bars and pubs, creative art galleries, gyms and yoga schools, markets and vintage shops.
Pitt Street and George Street are parallel streets, stretching along the entire CBD, and they are the major shopping hubs in the central Sydney (Westfield, Queen Victoria Building, The Galeries, Stockland Piccadilly, Town Hall Square, The Dymocks and others).
SYDNEY`S ICONIC BEACHES
Well-groomed tree-lined streets and bushland setting are the main features of Sydney`s leafy coast. Subtropical vegetation, palm trees, exotic flowers and noisy parrots are accompanied by smiley locals who are often seen walking barefoot with just a towel lightly thrown over a shoulder. It is easy to forget about being in a metropolis – Sydney`s beach towns rather evoke a holiday feel and a sense of summer, regardless of the season.
Striking sunny days live hand in hand with thrilling, long nights out; Manly has always been the most popular seaside resort in Sydney, and the birthplace of Australian surfing culture. It truly is a place to be – picturesque surrounding, almost endless summers, charming promenades, vibrant beachfront taverns, laid-back bars, surfer`s outlets, and world`s class surfing beach – of course.
Encircled by water, Manly provides fantastic surfing opportunities but also a large ocean pool at Queenscliff for swimmers. The other end of the bay – the Shelly Beach – is a gateway to the Sydney Harbour National Park, for those who don`t mind a little bit of bushwalking. Otherwise, there is car access to the North Head from the main wharf, and to the most beautiful lookout in the town – Fairfax Lookout.
The other side of Manly enjoys sheltered harbour beaches ideal for paddleboarding, sea kayaking, swimming and snorkelling. Manly Cove, Manly Oceanarium and Manly Scenic Walk are particularly popular among families. This is where the Manly Wharf is located; well-connected to the CBD, it only takes 20 min by ferry to get to the Circular Quay.
On the northern-most tip of the narrow tongue of land that separates the Pittwater from the ocean, the Palm Beach and the next door, Whale Beach might almost seem like another country.
This is Sydney`s upscale neighbourhood and a place where cliff-top villas, exclusive holiday homes and grand estates owned by affluent and famous people fringe the coast. Resembling Hollywood, and being the main filming location of the hugely popular TV series Home & Away, and perhaps the most popular wedding location for all Sydneysiders, Palm Beach has become famed across the whole country.
There are beaches on both sides, similarly to Manly. Whereas the part of the peninsula that overlooks the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park provides still, sheltered waters, the other one seems a completely different world – rough ocean surf constantly hitting the rugged cliffs topped with the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
Make sure you don`t skip the fabulous scenic walk up to the lighthouse at the very end of the Barrenjoey Beach.
Bondi`s ultra-busy streets indicate the popularity of this area, and having a scooter is almost a must. While the Northern Beaches may be most scenic, the eastern suburbs beaches are surely more accessible and attract a greater number of people. In summer Bondi, Coogee, Bronte and Maroubra beaches become so crowded that there is hardly a space to move.
Surfers, bodybuilders, and gym freaks arrive in masses to display the results of their weeks-long work-out. Together with tourists, holidaymakers and local families, Bondi suddenly turns into a melting pot, national psyche and a place which needs lots of lifesavers.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Sydney is enjoyable any time of year. However, the coastal areas are typically extremely busy during the summer school holidays, especially between Dec-Feb. Besides, summers tend to be quite hot and sticky.
Winters are dry and sunny, and better for sightseeing and marine life spotting (June-Sep). Generally speaking, the shoulder season is ideal for visiting Sydney as it is still warm enough to swim and fewer people around (Oct-Nov and Mar-Apr).
HOW LONG TO STAY
Sydney takes up a vast area, and it is fairly fragmented, with myriads of attractions and points of interests. To explore the highlights (pointed out in our article), you will need 5-7 days – at the relaxed Aussie pace!
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Sydney from any corner of the world.
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