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Sydney is known as the Harbour City. It's the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia with an enviable reputation as one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities.
Brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine, design, Sydney's set next to miles of ocean coastline and sandy surf beaches. Longterm immigration has led to the cities reputation as one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in Australia and the world. The city is also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on this planet.
Sydney has a compact city centre surrounded by sprawling suburbs, all coming together to form a vast and diverse metropolitan area.
The busy centre of government and finance, but also home to many famous attractions, fine restaurants, and shopping.
Just to the west of Circular Quay, now a cosmopolitan area, The Rocks includes the first colonial village of Sydney and the iconic Harbour Bridge.
An extensive leisure and entertainment area immediately to the west of the Central Business District (CBD). See restaurants, boardwalks, aquariums, wildlife, and museums by foot.
The Haymarket, Chinatown and Central Station area is home to markets, cafes, Chinese culture and cuisine, and some cheaper accommodation and shopping.
Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo and Moore Park. Busy nightlife, and coffee shops, fashion and entertainment by day.
An early morning trip to the fish markets, exploring the Powerhouse Museum, finding a maritime pub or hitting The Star Casino.
Sydney is a vast sprawling city, and the suburbs in the city metropolitan area spread for up to 100km from the city centre. The traveller visiting the suburbs will find less crowded beaches, parks, cheaper shopping, commercial centres, cultural festivals, and other such hidden gems.
Between the City and the sea, includes the world-famous Bondi Beach and other city beaches, which are strong drawcards for visitors and residents in the city during summer.
The area south of the CBD and north of the Georges River, including the areas surrounding Sydney Airport and Brighton Le Sands on Botany Bay.
Sydney's original suburbs are now bohemian and are a hub of cheap eats, shopping and inner-city culture. Also contains Sydney Olympic Park, the home of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, parks, cycling, and events.
Lower North Shore
Over the Harbour Bridge are leafy residential areas stretching northwards. The North Shore also has major commercial and retail areas at North Sydney and Chatswood, many smaller boutique shopping areas, and many parks and gardens, and Sydney's famous Taronga Zoo.
Upper North Shore
Includes leafy residential areas, national parks and waterways.
From Manly stretching North along the coast to Palm Beach.
Contains the Northern Districts with includes Sydney's Silicon Valley at Macquarie Park, the northern side of the western reaches of Sydney Harbour, and the the largely residential area of the Hills District in the north-west of the city.
Sydney's "second" CBD, with history, shopping, eating, all just 30 minutes from the city centre.
The district to the far south and east of the city centre including Cronulla and Captain Cooks Landing Place.
Contains the centres of Liverpool and Campbelltown are a large swathe of residential and commercial Sydney.
Stretching from Parramatta out to the Blue Mountains
The Hawkesbury is a semi-rural area to the northwest of the city, centred around the Hawkesbury River. Its main towns are Richmond and Windsor.
Sydney is a major global city and one of the most important cities for finance in the Asia-Pacific. The city is surrounded by nature and national parks, which extend through the suburbs and right to the shores of the harbour.
Sydney's 4,757,083 residents (according to a 2013 estimate) sprawl over an area of more than 12,350km². The timezone is identical with the majority of the state of New South Wales: GMT +10. The local timezone is AEST or Australian Eastern Standard Time. The city, as does the rest of the state, observes Daylight Savings time from October to April each year.
Sydney became the centre of the world's attention in September 2000 when the city hosted the Summer Olympics - officially announced by the IOC Chairman at the closing Ceremony to be the "the best games ever"! The Olympics saw a major building and renovation program take hold of Sydney, positioning it as one of the great world cities of the 21st century. Sydney continues to attract and host large international events.
Sydney’s skyline is large and widely recognisable. Sydney also possesses a wide array of diversity of modern and old architectural style. They range from the simple Francis Greenway's Georgian buildings to Jorn Utzon’s Expressionist Sydney Opera House. Sydney also has a large amount of Victorian buildings, such as the Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. The most architecturally significant would be the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, among many others. Skyscrapers in Sydney are also large and modern. Sydney Tower just rising above the rest of the Sydney skyline.
There are also pockets of architecturally significant housing dotted around Sydney's suburbs. The inner-eastern suburb of Paddington is known for its terrace houses, while several inner-west suburbs contain streets lined with so-called federation houses (built around the time of Australian federation in 1901). Probably the best preserved example of federation houses in Sydney is in the Inner West suburb of Burwood. Appian Way is a circular street built around a lawn tennis courts complete with pavilion house. The large houses are all architecturally unique and built on large expanses of land featuring old trees and lovely gardens. Further away on the lower North Shore, Castlecrag is a unique suburb, being planned by the architect Walter Burley Griffin in the 1930s.
Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) is Australia's busiest airport and the main gateway to Australia. It is located around 9 km south of the City centre in Southern Sydney on the northern shores of Botany Bay. Sydney Airport is the oldest continually operated commercial airport anywhere in the world.
Over 35 airlines fly in and out of Sydney Airport with daily flights linking Sydney to key destinations on every continent. The Asian-Pacific transport hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul have several daily flights, as do the European centres of London, Paris and Frankfurt (with stopovers in Asia). There are also non-stop flights to Dubai in the Middle East. North America is connected via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth and Vancouver. Travellers from South America can fly direct from Santiago (stopover in Auckland). Africa is connected with a daily direct flight from Johannesburg.
You can fly to Sydney directly from all other Australian capital cities and from many major regional airports. Otherwise, you need to fly to the state capital and transfer to a Sydney flight. Sydney can be reached within an hour and a half from Melbourne and Brisbane, 45 minutes from Canberra and just under four hours from Perth and Alice Springs.
Airlines and terminals
Check which terminal you are going to.
International terminal (T1) handles all international flights and some domestic flights. Check your itinerary and flight number because check-in, connections and customs will take longer when arriving or departing from the International Terminal, even on a domestic flight. You do not need a passport when travelling domestically, just hang on to your boarding pass.
Domestic terminal 2 (T2) is the largest domestic terminal. Airlines using this terminal include Qantaslink (Qantas flights numbered 1600 and above), Aeropelican, Regional Express (Rex), Jetstar, Tiger and Virgin Australia.
Domestic terminal 3 (T3) handles Qantas domestic flights numbered from 400 to 1599, which are mostly services to larger cities and towns.
Between the airport and the city
Sydney Airport is 9km from the city centre and reaching the city centre or other suburbs is easy, whether it be by suburban rail, bus or car. If you're going to the city centre the following methods are your best bet:
Suburban trains operated by Sydney Trains depart frequently from Domestic and International rail stations, which are connected to the airline terminals via lifts and pedestrian subways. The airport is located on the Airport & East Hills line and is served by a train every 10 minutes during off-peak, and every 7 minutes during peak. Passengers for the city centre should take a train from Platform 1. The trains are used by commuters during peak hours, so at these times you are unlikely to get a seat. Travelling closer to the front or back of the train, rather than the middle, will increase your chances of a comfortable journey.
Local buses. If you want to skip the GatePass fee, an option is to take the 400 local bus route towards Bondi Junction. This bus stops about 200m from the Mascot suburban rail station, which is one train-stop from the Domestic Airport but free from the GatePass fee. Walk out of the Mascot rail station (heading south), cross the street at the light, and continue walking straight - it will be on the left side of the street. The bus costs $3.30 and the train $3.40. If you're travelling from the domestic terminal, the M20 bus will take you to Central, Wynyard, Town Hall and North Sydney stations. At the airport, the bus stops are located outside T1 and T3 (but not T2). There is only limited luggage space on the bus, but if you can manage backpacks or suitcases by yourself it should not be a problem.
By public transport
The public transport system consists of commuter rail, bus, ferry and light rail. Combined, they can get you virtually anywhere in the metropolitan area.
Transport Infoline ☎ 13 15 00 provides information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney 24/7.
TransitShops, Circular Quay (cnr of Loftus & Alfred Streets), Wynyard under Wynyard Park, QVB west has information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney, together with ticket sales and accepts credit cards.
TripGo & TripView are free iPhone, iPad & Android Apps that provide directions for all transport modes around Sydney, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains & Woollongong. They show cost, time and carbon output for each trip.
As of 2012, Google Maps can also be used to plan Sydney public transport routes.
Public transport in Sydney has historically been poorly integrated and the ticket system can be confusing, though this has been alleviated somewhat with the introduction of the Opal Card (see below). Alternatively, one can purchase individual tickets to access each mode of transport. If in doubt check with a driver or station attendant as transit officers do not accept any excuses and you'll be stuck with a $200 fine.
Sydney has a vast suburban rail network operated by Sydney Trains, covering 882km of track and 176 stations. The train network will take passengers to most of the metropolitan area, with the exception of the north-west and northern beaches. Trains service every station in the metropolitan area at least every 30 minutes (except for the Carlingford line) Frequency is higher in the city, and major centres (Chatswood, Parramatta, Bondi Junction, etc) usually see a train every 10 minutes or so. Peak times (7AM-9:30AM and 4:30PM-7PM) have more frequent and also crowded trains, as well as some express services that skip more stations. Expect congestion around Central and Town Hall.
Sydney has an extensive bus network, including a some free shuttle loop buses in the Sydney CBD and Parramatta and other centres. Some buses run from distant suburbs such as those on the Northern Beaches and North West all the way to the city, but there are also shorter feeders to suburban rail stations from surrounding suburbs. Buses are operated by the government-owned Sydney Buses in the inner suburbs bounded by Miranda in the South, Bankstown in the South-West, Parramatta in the west, Beecroft in the North-West and Palm Beach in the North. Outside of these area, various privately owned companies are contracted by the government to operate public bus services.
By Sydney ferries
Sydney Ferries' central hub is at Circular Quay at the north of the CBD. Ferries run up the Parramatta River via Balmain and Olympic Park, across to Luna Park, around to Darling Harbour, and out to Manly, across to the Zoo and to Watsons Bay. Also, they also go to Garden island and Cockatoo Island. They run only within the harbour, so you can't get a ferry to Bondi. Ferries run to most destinations at least every hour, with additional peak services, and half hourly services to Manly and Darling Harbour.
If you are a fit and experienced urban cyclist, used to riding on multi-lane roads in heavy traffic, then just get on your bike. Cyclists are permitted just about everywhere on Sydney's roads, except for of some freeway tunnels where bicycle signs will usually direct you to the alternative route. Kerbside lanes are often narrow, so ride assertively, be seen, and take the full lane when you know there is insufficient room to be passed. Bikes are permitted in bus lanes (like the city streets), but not bus only lanes (like the harbour bridge, and T-ways).
The city centre is not particularly cyclist friendly traffic-wise. It is not flat either - you can expect regular hills but no marathon uphill climbs. The weather is, however, usually good for cycling.
If you are looking for a quieter ride, a number of quiet on-road and shared pedestrian/cycle paths are available, but can be hard to find. A good place to start is at Sydney Olympic Park where you can get your cycle legs on the extensive off-road trails; then, if you want to, you can follow off-road/quiet road trails out to Parramatta or following the Cooks River to Botany Bay in Southern Sydney. The Harbour Bridge has a dedicated cycle lane, suitable for all ages, but as soon as you get off the bridge you are back onto urban streets in Milsons Point.
What to see
Sydney is one of those cities that invites tourists to custom-design their sightseeing. Unlike many cities throughout the world, Sydney is not a city where people come to see "X" or experience "Y." That's because Sydney is home to museums, cafes and restaurants, shopping and historical sites. It can be explored both on foot and via the water. While all of Sydney has sights worth visiting, much of its glory is housed in the City Centre. Here, visitors can choose to start their visit with a journey back in time at The Rocks, site of the first European settlement in Australia.
If you want to learn more about Australia's past, present and future, you can visit the multitude of museums found in City Centre. Some museums are free to enter year-round while others charge admission.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House are two of Sydney's famous landmarks that can be visited when exploring Sydney on foot. While these are two of the best-known landmarks, Sydney's City Centre has a host of less famous buildings and structures that are worth a visit.
Australia is nothing if not renowned for its vast and unique variety of wildlife. There are numerous opportunities to spot birds, bats, opossums and the occasional kangaroo or wallaby in Sydney's national parks. The only trick is that most of these animals are primarily spotted at sunrise and sunset when the weather is coolest. Those wishing to guarantee animal sightings can head to the Taronga Zoo in the Lower North Shore or the Wild Life Sydney Zoo in Darling Harbor. Darling Harbor is also home to the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The aquarium offers visitors an opportunity to truly see life "down under", down under the water anyway.
For a different type of animal sighting, visitors can head to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs to find the famous Bondi Beach. This beach attracts thousands of visitors every year, making it a great place for people watching.
After exploring Sydney by land, stop by Sydney Harbor to explore it by water. Ferries, cruises and whale watching excursions depart regularly from this part of Sydney.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge crosses the harbour from the The Rocks to North Sydney. There are many different experiences centred around the bridge. You can walk or cycle across, picnic under, or climb over the Harbour Bridge. See the details in The Rocks.
The Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is simply one of the most famous structures ever built. It is in the city centre.
Darling Harbour is a large entertainment precinct and includes a range of activities, restaurants, museums and shopping facilities.
Sydney Olympic Park. Home of the 2000 Olympics and now parklands and sporting facilities.
Luna Park, 1 Olympic Dr, Milson's Point, tel. 02 9033 7676. Is a large theme park situated near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its mouth-shaped entrance can be seen from many areas of Sydney as well as the large Ferris Wheel.
Sydney Tower also called Centrepoint Tower or AMP Tower. The tallest structure in Sydney, the tower contains a buffet, cafe and a rather large restaurant and attracts many visitors a year. The tower is in the City Centre
St Mary's Cathedral. Sydney's main catholic cathedral. Corner of St Mary's Road and College St. The cathedral is in the City Centre.
Royal Botanic Gardens- The Royal Botanic Gardens were first established in Sydney by Governor Bligh in 1816. The gardens cover 30 hectares and adjoin the 35 hectares making up the Domain, there are over 7500 species of plants represented here. The gardens are at the north eastern corner of the City Centre and overlook Sydney harbour.
The Rocks has sites preserved from Sydney's early settlement.
Parramatta to the west of Sydney is the site of many of Sydney's oldest buildings from colonial times.
Macquarie Street in the City has a string of historical sites, from the first hospital in the colony, to the Mint to Hyde Park Barracks, to the Conservatorium which was the original government house stables. Sydney Hospital was first known as "The Rum Hospital", it was the first major building established in the colony.
La Perouse, near Botany Bay, in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs contains the grave of an early French explorer, museum, and old fort.
The walk from Manly to Middle Head passes many coastal artillery fortifications built into the cliffs of Sydney Harbour during the late nineteenth century.
Mrs Macquarie's Chair and walk near the Botanical Gardens in the City
Anzac War Memorial at the eastern end of Hyde Park in the City Centre. The memorial commemorates the memory of those Australians who lost their lives during war. It houses a small museum, an impressive statue and the Pool of Remembrance. Sydney's Anzac War Memorial was built in the 1930s.
Waverley Cemetery: Cemetery on top of the cliffs at Bronte in the eastern suburbs.
Museums and galleries
Some of Sydney's museums are free to enter including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art. You may be charged to enter certain exhibitions. Sydney Museums generally do not have 'free days' that you can find in other parts of the world but some historic houses may be free on certain public holidays, though tend to attract large crowds.
The Australian Museum is much the old style natural history museum. Usually a special exhibition on as well. The museum is near Hyde Park in City Centre.
The Australian National Maritime Museum has inside and outside exhibitions - much of the history of Australia is a maritime one, and much of it is in this museum in Darling Harbour.
The Art Gallery of NSW has mostly classical, but some modern and Aboriginal art. Near the Botanical Gardens in the city centre.
The Powerhouse Museum has some buttons to push, some technology, but some interesting displays of Sydney in the 1900s, in the City West in Ultimo, right on the boundary with Darling Harbour. Exhibits designed for children also.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in the city centre, near Circular Quay.
The Museum of Sydney in the city centre.
Or see one of the smaller chic Art Galleries in East Sydney.
Taronga Zoo Large zoo whose animals have the best view in the world, a short ferry trip from the City on the North Shore.
The Koala Park Sanctuary in the Outer West.
Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour.
Sydney Wildlife World' adjacent to the aquarium in Darling Harbour.
Featherdale Wildlife Park in Western Sydney
and just out of Sydney, the
Australian Reptile Park, about an hour north of Sydney, has kangaroos, wallabies, dingos, and more.
Symbio Park in Helensburgh.
In the wild
Whale Watching see whales migrating the Pacific coast. There are boats from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay.
Bats (Flying foxes) nest next to the fernery in the Botanic Gardens in the city, and fly to feed over the city buildings and Harbour Bridge at dusk, you can see them on the eastern side of the Opera House at sunset.
Rainbow Lorikeets swarm around the trees in many suburbs at dusk, making a tremendous chatter Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are commonly seen in the leafier suburbs all day.
Ibis are an unusual wader bird, that has made its home in the suburbs, especially in Hyde Park in the city
Possums are a native marsupial at home in the urban environment. Look up carefully in tree lined streets, or in Hyde Park after dark. Locals regard these critters as somewhat of a nuisance as they have a habit of nesting in the warmth of house roofs and love to brawl noisily at about 2am above your bedroom.
Kangaroos & Wallabies. These can be spotted with patience in most of the Sydney National Parks, including the Royal National Park, ask the local rangers where they tend to be seen in the late afternoons. This is a great way to experience Australia’s native wildlife in their natural habitat compared to seeing these amazing animals confined in zoos, but requires considerably more time and patience.
Sydney Opera House
Yachts in Sydney Harbour; business district in background
Sydney's large natural harbour was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. It is now well developed, with skyscrapers, highrises, and houses all around its shores, but it is still very beautiful.
The harbour is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbour. An excellent way to see both the harbour and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbour Bridge towards Parramatta. These are reasonably priced and a favourite for tourists. If time is short, for a shorter route, the ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour will let you ride under the Harbour Bridge and see the central part of the harbour.
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Before returning to the Sydney CBD, walk from the Manly ferry wharf along the Manly Corso to famous Manly Beach. A great day, afternoon or evening out at a fraction of the price of a commercial harbour cruise.
You can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour at breakneck speeds.
Sydney Harbour can be viewed from the city or from on of the many walks next to it, most of which are easily accessible by ferry or bus.
The world famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race begins every year on Boxing Day, on Sydney Harbour. Thousands of spectator craft take to the water to farewell the yachts as they set off on their grueling journey to Hobart. Seaworthy craft can follow the yachts through the Sydney Heads into the open ocean. You can also see the race from a harbour vantage point like Watsons Bay. where you can see them sail towards you across the harbour, and then cross to the gap to see them sail down the coast.
You can visit the Harbour Islands by ferry or water taxi.
Swing by the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the edge of the gardens. While you're in the area visit Mrs Macquarie's Chair for a picture postcard view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in one picture. You may have to compete with the numerous wedding couples on weekends.
Sydney has a huge amount of green space, much of it beside the sparkling harbour or ocean, so walking is a great way to experience the city's parks, reserves and remnant bushland. There are also great walks through the more built-up areas, allowing you to check out the city's modern architecture and its colonial heritage. The following are just a few of the better-known routes.
Across the Harbour Bridge from The Rocks on the south side to Milsons Point on the north side (or vice versa).
Coogee Beach to Bondi. Following the eastern coastline past several of Sydney's beautiful beaches - stop off for a swim if you get too hot.
Manly to the Spit. Along the foreshore of Sydney Harbour.
Bradleys Head. Take a ferry to Taronga Zoo wharf and then head to your right along the promontory. There's pristine bushland (almost unchanged from the time of European colonisation), quiet beaches, and knockout views across the harbour, and in the warmer months you'll spot plenty of Eastern Water Dragons, a type of large lizard. Once you reach the tip of the headland, you can either amble back to the wharf or - if you're feeling more ambitious - follow the track several more kilometres to Clifton Gardens, ogling the gigantic houses along the way. From there, you can either hike all the way back to Taronga or get a bus to a ferry wharf.
Circular Quay and surrounds. Start underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then walk past The Rocks, Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie's Chair. For an extended tour of the city centre, covering these and other major sights, see Walking tour of Sydney.
The Colony Walk. The way of the earliest European colonists.