Easy to navigate by public transport – buses, trains, light rail and ferries can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go – Sydney is an explorer’s dream. Whether you’re after an urban experience or a taste of the outback, this city has it covered

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in Sydney

First stop, Circular Quay. Walk by buzzing bars and restaurants smack dab on the water for a close up of the white ‘sails’ of the Opera House. Continue along the waterfront to enjoy the peace of the Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of NSW, or retrace your steps to visit the historic Rocks precinct – the oldest part of Sydney – and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Alternatively, if heights are your thing, the Harbour BridgeClimb is a must-experience. Next, head into the central business district to ascend The Sydney Tower Eye for sweeping, 360-degree views of the city and beyond. And finally, when the sun’s out, an early morning swim off the golden sands of Bondi Beach is always a winner.

Art and culture

Art and culture in Sydney

One of Australia’s finest artistic exports, Cate Blanchett, can often be seen performing at the Sydney Theatre Company at Walsh Bay, where you can always count on catching some of the nation’s best productions on the water. Around the bay, Sydney Opera House plays host to symphonies, orchestras, ballets, musical theatre and dance, with productions from the Australian Ballet and Sydney Symphony Orchestra held year-round. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Australian Museum and Art Gallery of New South Wales are also cultural stalwarts well worth the visit.

Food and drink

Food and drink in Sydney

Sydney’s food and drink scene has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with paddock-to-plate produce, bespoke cocktails and craft beers taking the city by storm. Benchmark eateries Quay, Tetsuya’s, The Bridge Room, Sepia and Rockpool are the stars of the show, while new brasserie Hubert is stealing headlines for a swinging cocktail-food scene and signature dishes like roast duck stuffed with duck sausage and served with pickled cherries and dijon jus. Pubs in the leafy Paddington district have also been trending on the Sydney scene, with gastro drinking holes The Bellevue, Four in Hand and The Paddington all fresh from swish makeovers. For views over Bondi, both North Bondi Fish and Icebergs are the favourites, while dining at Sydney Opera House’s Bennelong is always an amazing experience.

Shopping

Shopping in Sydney

Australian opals are the big take home here – you’ll find them in specialist jewellery shops throughout the city, but good reputable spots include Altmann & Cherry and the National Opal Collection. For international high-street brands, start at Pitt Street Mall, then head up and down Market, King and Castlereagh Streets. Find top Australian designers at David Jones, or head to Paddington (Glenmore Road) for unique finds and new-gen designers from indie boutiques. There are many markets around Sydney held on Saturdays too – check out those at Bondi Beach and Rozelle for second-hand treasures and top new threads for the season ahead.

Unique to Sydney

Unique to Sydney in Sydney

Firmly, uniquely Sydney is, of course, the Harbour: a true global treasure, Sydneysiders swim in it, fish in it, sunbathe next to it, boat on it and set fireworks off on it. But, while the Harbour Bridge and Opera House that occupy it are the two standout structures people know the city for, they also come here for the beach life – and few realise you’ll find beaches as nice as Bondi without the big waves (most of the time) and crowds, plus small fishing villages loaded with great eateries, national parks where you can walk for kms without seeing a single soul but meet plenty of wildlife – including whales and dolphins. Top spots include Watsons Bay, Manly, Double Bay, the brilliant Taronga Zoo (get that selfie with the giraffe and the Harbour Bridge behind) and Balmoral. The city is also paradise for sports fans: watch the Sydney Swans playing Australian rules football on their home turf, the Sydney Cricket Ground, or catch a Rugby League or Rugby Union game at ANZ stadium – both true Sydney experiences.

Day trip

Day trip in Sydney

Hop on a ferry to Manly Beach, where you’ll find a wharf loaded with restaurants and bars (have a pizza and a Negroni at Hugo’s, a lager at the Bavarian Beer Café and burgers, ribs and carafes at Papi Chulo). A short walk away is the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary where a must-see is the Little Penguin colony, as is the beach in the other direction, where you’ll find volleyball played on the golden sands. Here, a surf lesson is definitely in order and the team at Manly Surf School are some of the best in Sydney. After dark, head for more wicked drinks at Hemingways, rosé at Manly Wine or beers at the re-born Steyne Hotel. Manly is safe, fun for the family and the Manly Ferry (which runs regularly from around 6am to after midnight) is a great way to see Sydney Harbour.

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