Sydney Opera House
There is almost no other so fascinating building in the world as the Sydney Opera House. Perhaps the thing that makes it so special is that it is not only a sailing construction with illuminated sails, but it is also operational. Most people don’t know that it is not only an opera house, but also has 5 big performance stages for all performing arts. The biggest of which is the Concert Hall with 2 690 seats and the greatest acoustics in the world. Be sure to visit it in order to experience opera, chamber music, symphonies, dance, choral performances and even rock 'n' roll. The Opera Theatre is smaller, with 1 547 seats, and there are performed only operas, ballets and dance. The Drama Theatre, with 544 seats, and the Playhouse, with 398 seats include in their program plays and smaller performances. The Boardwalk, with 300 seats, is home to dance and experimental music.
The Opera House has also quite interesting history. The money, need for its construction, were raised by lottery by the New South Wales Government. The chance to design it was won by the Danish Architect Jorn Utzon. But from the beginning many people didn’t like the construction and the designer went back home without ever seeing his finished project. The Opera was finished in 1973, exceeding the initial budget almost 15 times. Further money was needed since then for renovation and replacement of the asbestos-laden grouting between the innumerous tiles that make up the shell.
Despite the costs, the renovations have turned the mediocre construction into the dream of Jorn Utzon. The reception is now magnificent and the masterpiece there is one huge tapestry inspired by Bach's Hamburg Symphonies and Raphael's painting, Procession to Calvary.
Now is also in progress the work on the Western Loggia, or colonnade, which will enlarge the foyers of the Playhouse, Drama Theatre, and the Studio in order to make more space for cafes and other things. Probably all three western foyers will be united into one with centralized box offices and bars. There are also intentions for renovation of the Opera Theatre and research into improving the acoustics of the Concert Hall.
There are guided tours in the Opera House, but don’t blame anyone if you can’t see everything. After all, the House is functioning and there is a performance almost every day. The tours last about 1 hour and a half, but be sure to make a reservation because their sizes are limited. There also can be arranged special architecture or engineering tours. In the tour can also be included a performance, a dinner or both. For a performance you will also need a pre-bought ticket.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
One should most definitely visit the 1 150 meters long Harbour Bridge. It was finished in 1932 and expands 503 meters from the south to the north shore. There are pedestrian walkways, railway lines and an 8-lane road. Although walking along the Bridge takes only half an hour, it offers perfect views of the harbor. At the end of the Bridge you can take a CityRail train from Milsons Point on the way back.
Be sure to stop at the Pylon Lookout which rises 89 meters above the water and offers breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour, the ferry terminals of Circular Quay and more. There is also a museum tracking the building of the Bridge. The pylon can be reached from the far end of George Street in The Rocks while walking towards the Harbour Bridge. After the Mercantile pub, you'll find some stone steps that lead to Cumberland Street. From there you walk only two minutes to the steps below the bridge. Four sets of stairs lead to the bridge's Western Footway which continues to the first pylon. Inside it there are 200 steps, leading to the top. Climbing the Harbour Bridge was once available only for the construction workers. But since 1998 it is available for everyone willing to take the 3-hour journey.
This aquarium is one of the largest and most attractive in the world. There are two huge tanks there and the best thing is that you can walk through them and feel like you are under the water. One of the tanks is full of giant rays and gray nurse sharks while in the other you can see seals. There is also an enormous Plexiglas room put inside a pool with rescued seals. There you can see a splendid section of the Great Barrier Reef, where numerous colorful fish swim around coral outcrops. Other animals to view include two saltwater crocodiles and several fairy penguins. You’d better visit it during the week when there are no crowds.
Sydney Tower & OzTrek
Wherever you go in Sydney, you surely won’t miss to see the tallest building in the Southern part of the world. It looks like a giant poke with a ball on the top and is more than 300 meters high. From the top you have a panoramic view of all parts of Sydney and even the Blue Mountains. The good thing is that there is an elevator and you don’t necessarily have to climb the 1 504 steps to the viewing platform. The guided tour there includes a journey through three kinds of surroundings – a story-telling room with hurricane lamps, a stage with changing Australian landscapes and holograms and an Aboriginal cave (not real). You will also pass through the Great Australian Exhibition Ride, where you will be fastened onto a moving chair before a 180-degree screen. In the simulation you will experience rafting in Queensland, climbing on Uluru (Ayers Rock) and meeting a saltwater crocodile. For a deserved rest after the excitement, there are three floors of shops and restaurants below.
Sydney Olympic Park
Another sightseeing attraction is the place where the 2000 Olympic Games were held. Many of the Olympic venues are located there, at Homebush Bay. There are also loads of bars and restaurants. You should start from the Sydney Olympic Park Information Centre, where you will find displays, walking maps, and tour tips.
Closely is located the Telstra Stadium which was used for the opening and closing ceremonies, the track and field events, and some Olympic soccer games. Back in 2000 it was called Stadium Australia. Today it is used for Australian Rules games, rugby and soccer matches.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
These barracks in Georgian style projected made in 1819 by the architect, convict Francis Greenway. The builders were also convicts and the place was inhabited by prisoners. Now the place is a museum that holds interesting relics from the first settlers of Australia – log books, early settlement artifacts, plus a room with hammocks where visitors can lie and listen to parts of prisoner conversation. This is even a better place than the Museum of Sydney if you want to know more about the early history of Australia.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
If you don’t have enough time to visit most of the parks in Sydney, be sure to visit this one. There is a great and interesting variety of animals and the staff of the park takes really good care of them. Although the park is rather small, one can spend a lot of time there. You will be able to feed kangaroos and wallabies yourself and have a photo with a koala (there are Victorian and New South Whales kinds there). There is also a Reptilian Pavilion where you can see 30 kinds of reptiles.
Australian National Maritime Museum
Australia as we know it nowadays owes its look to the sea, so deservedly there is a museum in honour of the ships. The exhibits there include everything from Aboriginal boats to submarines. You will also see there ship’s logs and the fastest boat in the world – the Spirit of Australia. In the harbor you will see an Australian Navy destroyer – the Vampire and an Oberon Class submarine. You can climb upon many of them.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
In this gallery you will find not only artworks by native artist, but also some international exhibits, including Aboriginal and Asian art. The entrance of the gallery is on the third floor of the museum, which you enter from the Domain Parklands. On the fourth floor there is a restaurant and usually free photography displays. The second floor houses a café with a view of the harbor and the warships of Woolloomooloo. From January to February you can see exhibits of student artists from all over the state.
Australian Reptile Park
This park was first created by a man, who wanted to produce snake venom antidotes in the early 50s. Now it is a place full of snakes, lizards, saltwater crocodiles and American alligators. Surprisingly, there are also animals like koalas, platypuses, wallabies, dingoes and flying foxes. There are also nature trails all over the park. The place was destroyed in the middle of 2000 by a fire which killed all animals. But the staff of the park has worked hard to gather new ones again. The park is located on the way to the Hunter Valley, Barrington Tops, and Port Stephens.
This is the only bigger astrological museum in Sydney and there you can watch the southeastern sky through modern and historical telescopes. You’d better take a guided tour during the night when you can see close-ups on some of the planets. Also worth experiencing is the Space Theatre 3D ride, which will show you the stars even during the day. There is also a planetarium and hands-on exhibits.
IMAX Theatre Sydney
The IMAX Theatre offers 4 different films, which are projected on a screen tall as an 8-story building. Every film is about 50 minutes long and makes you feel in the centre of the action. There are also projected 3D films.
This is one of the few places in Australia with so many koalas gathered – around 55. You can even cuddle them for free. There are also wombats, dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, emus and native birds. There are both private and group guided tours.
This is another perfect attraction with its clowns and fair-grounds. The place was established in 1935 and closed, but reopened in 2004. Although it is not large, it can be seen from Circular Quay and the traditional theme-park stuff grants a lot of fun. It has things like carousel, dodge-'em cars and a Ferris wheel and some rides suitable for little children. The tickets are called lunas and are bought in booths in the park.
Museum of Sydney
This museum consists of three floors; the building is built in the postmodern period and is near Circular Quay. The building encloses the remains of the first Government House and shows quite a minimalistic collection of objects. They vary from Aboriginal artifacts to items of the first settlers. Although minimalistic, the collection is really huge and you will need patience and time in order to look through all of it. There is a forest of poles filled with hair, oyster shells and crab claws in the courtyard. Next to it there is a café in industrial style. The whole composition is called the Edge of Trees and represents the contact between Aborigines and British.
Oceanworld cannot be compared to the Sydney Aquarium, but when combined with a visit to the Manly Beach you get quite a nice day. You can see there different fish from the Great Barrier Reef, plus some giant sharks. There are gathered the 5 most poisonous snakes on the planet. You can also dive among huge gray nurse sharks, or simply feed them.
The Taronga Zoo is famous not only for the animals, but also for the view of the Harbour, Opera and Harbour Bridge it offers. It is located on a hill and therefore one should better start sightseeing from the top to the bottom. There are many fascinating exhibits like the chimpanzee exhibit and the gorilla enclosure. There are also Nocturnal Houses, where on display are some of Australia's nighttime marsupials like the platypus and the bilby. Other attractions are the reptile display, several marvelous Komodo dragons, some native animals like koalas, echidnas, kangaroos, dingoes, and wombats and more. As far as the kangaroo and wallaby exhibits are concerned – the ones in Featherdale Wildlife Park are better. In order to avoid the crow, visit the zoo during the week. There is an interesting story behind the three sun bears. The businessman John Stephens saved them from a restaurant in Cambodia, where the owner would have cut off their paws to cook them in a soup.
Darling Harbour is famous for the Harbourside Festival Marketplace. It is a construction next to the Pyrmont Bridge, full of cheap eateries and some interesting shops. But you can find more things in Sydney's tourist precinct.
The Sydney Harbour
Its official name is Port Jackson, and it is one of the most special things in Australia. You can enter it from the Heads – two rocks covered with bushes. Beyond them the Harbour surrounds 240 kilometers of the shore before it stretches out to the Parramatta River. The Harbour is awesome, especially during the night when one can see the lit-up sails of the Opera House and the girders of the Harbour Bridge. At this time the waters magically reflect the lights. While during the day, the Harbour is full up ships, boats, ferries and beautiful yachts.
If you visit Australia between December and February – the summer – be sure to visit one of the fascinating beaches there.
There are life-guards in the bigger beaches who follow the water condition and watch out for strong currents. Swimming is safe between red or green flags. If you have foam or plastic body board you should swim in the safety area, but if you have a fiberglass surfboard – this is not necessary.
The most well-known beach in Sydney is Bondi. It is a very beautiful one, but there is the disadvantage that the cafes and restaurants are separated from the sand by a pedestrian road. In the weekend evenings it is full of young people and cars. In order to reach the beach, take the CityRail to the Bondi Junction and then take bus number 380. Or you can directly take the bus from Circular Quay, but this will lengthen the journey.
Clovelly Beach is another wonderful place with a huge rock pool carved into a rock and tucked away from the Tasman Sea. It can be reached with bus number 339 from Circular Quay.
Other places of interest include Vaucluse House, Sydney Jewish Museum, State Library of New South Wales, St Mary's Cathedral, St James Church, Powerhouse Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Elizabeth Bay House, Customs House, Australian Museum and more.