Sydney is one of those cities that leaves its mark on you – vibrant, pulsing with energy and activity, it also gives visitors the chance to relax and unwind. From basking on the beaches to enjoying great food (courtesy well known chefs), adventures and culture, there is something for everyone. I really enjoyed my time in Sydney (apart from eating myself silly, I also did some skydiving, wine tasting and culture spotting). Just so you don’t miss anything, we’ve curated a list of the best experiences.
1. Go backstage at the Sydney Opera House: It’s the most iconic building in all of the city – the dazzling Sydney Opera House. With a varied and full program, the Opera House is one of the city’s busiest music, arts and performance venues. To learn about the inner workings of this icon, take the highly informative Backstage Tour. The promenade outside the Opera House has a relaxed, happy vibe and makes for a great place to just chill (and get some nice photos).
2. Climb the Iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge: Originally opened in 1932, it is a well-known feature on the city’s skyline. Visitors are free to walk or cycle across this vast structure that spans Sydney Harbour. However, for a really unusual experience, book a BridgeClimb expedition which will take you to the top of the superstructure—with stunning views of the city as your reward! Worry not, no special climbing skills are required to complete the activity. The recommended time for the climb is at sunrise to sundown, when you get to see the city by both day and night.
3. Walk Sydney’s Magnificent Bondi to Coogee Trail: To love Sydney, you have to hit the beaches! While Bondi is the best known, there are several beaches near Bondi that are just as beautiful, including Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee. To appreciate this amazing piece of coastline, join the Bondi to Coogee Walk which links all these beaches and showcases Sydney’s finest ocean views. There are also plenty of cafés en route, interesting landmarks and naturally, some spots to dive into the ocean.
4. Dine at Sydney’s Finest Restaurants: Sydney is home to some of the world’s best restaurants that serve the best of local and international cuisines. Stop by Darling Harbour for dinner overlooking the spectacular lights! Step into Quay for a taste of the widely popular Snow Egg dessert (a rage thanks to MasterChef Australia) or into Sweet Belem for the delicious Portuguese tart. Jonah’s Restaurant (located at Whale Beach) is best accessed through sea plane and offers amazing views and seafood.
5. Grab a drink at The Rocks in Sydney: My favourite part of Sydney was The Rocks – a historic reminder of the colonial era. The Rocks are significant because it was the sight of the first European settlement in Sydney and later acquired a reputation as a slum and a landing point for arriving criminals, often frequented by passing sailors and prostitutes. Today, The Rocks are colourful and chic, with its cobbled streets home to various restaurants, pubs, boutiques and galleries.
6. Getaway in the Blue Mountains: Just a few hours outside of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a great weekend getaway. Famous for its blue-tinged escarpment and Three Sisters rock formation —along with charming hotels and quaint townships — the Blue Mountains National Park is just a few hours from Sydney. The mountains have been a popular spot for walkers, climbers and outdoor types for 100 years so get active and try a spot of mountain biking or abseiling.
7. Museum watching: Like most cities, Sydney has a wide variety of museums. There’s free entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (modern art), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia at The Rocks, the Nicholson Museum (antiquities), and the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbor. I also suggest visiting the White Rabbit Gallery (contemporary Chinese art; it also has a teahouse) and The Rocks Discovery Museum (local history); both are also free. However, my favorite museum of all is the Hyde Park Barracks. Set in the old convict barracks, it does an amazing and detailed job of chronicling colonial life in the city, with lots of stories of the early settlers, and it’s well worth the $10 AUD entrance fee. If you only pay for one museum, make it this one!
8. Adventure 101: Sydney is often the place travelers bite the bullet and learn the art of Australia’s famous national pastime. There are many companies here that offer lessons. While Bondi is the most popular beach, Manly on the north shore of Sydney has better waves (though you can find good waves up and down the coast!). You could also go skydiving, bungee jumping and a host of other adventure activities.
Picture credits: VisitNSW, Australia, CNN Travel, Sydney
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