A city surrounded by water, Sydney is a fusion of spectacular architecture and white beaches. Set amongst native bushland and lush national parks, the key to this city's identity is its harbor.
Central Business District
The central business district is a pastiche of quarters and boroughs. The multi-cultural nature of this city and its inhabitants ensures an authenticity that is at the heart of its liberal and embracing spirit.
West of Circular Quay, discover the quirkily named
When locals use the term "the city centre," they are referring to
In the southwestern corner of the city, Chinatown is a feast for the senses. This district is home to
Built to commemorate Australia's bicentenary,
On the Eastern side of
The Eastern Suburbs
Oxford Street is the main artery in this district. This elongated street runs from the central business district in Darlinghurst and works its way into Paddington, past the sprawling
At the lower end of Darlinghurst is
The East's harbourside suburbs of Elizabeth Bay, Double Bay and Rose Bay culminate at Watson's Bay, which offers stunning views of the city. Savour the view from the nearby world famous
The first fleet landed at Botany Bay, and the suburbs between here and
The Inner West
Glebe and Newtown are the main suburbs in this district. The inner-west is crammed with restaurants offering international cuisines, new and second-hand bookshops, backpacker hostels, health food shops and traditional pubs.
Further west is Leichhardt, also known as Little Italy. Wander past Norton Street's bookshops, art-house cinemas and delicatessen-shops, which sell a selection of cheese, imported espresso machines and ceramic tiles.
The Greater West
Homebush Bay, the centre of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is situated in the Greater West. Telstra Stadium and a host of sporting facilities are all close by. Neighbouring Parramatta is the major transport and commercial hub of the west. Between Parramatta and the Blue Mountains (Sydney's western boundary) is Cabramatta—Sydney's Little Vietnam, and it is worth the trip for the great shopping and culinary experience.
The Upper North Shore
Sydney's northwest corner intersects at The Hills District—a semi-rural region that is fast developing into a residential quarter. The leafy Upper North Shore is one of Sydney's wealthiest areas.
The Lower North Shore
Everything below Chatswood is the Lower North Shore. Some of the prettier spots are
The Northern Beaches
Sydney is home to many corporate and financial headquarters, and hotels are reflecting this by offering facilities dedicated to the business traveller. However if you are on a budget, there are plenty of cheap, fun establishments, particularly around Kings Cross, Sydney Central Station and the seaside suburbs of Bondi Beach and Manly Beach.
Watch out for the 10 percent surcharge GST (Government levy) on bookings. Tipping housemaids, front of house and waiting staff is commonplace, although not obligatory.
The historic Rocks offers antique-filled terraces, such as the Russell. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel features a sandstone pub with homemade beer and jovial clientele, while the Observatory Hotel has the added pampering attraction of a Day Spa & Health Club.
Circular Quay has recently undergone a transformation, including the building of some controversial apartments, bars and restaurants around the foreshore. The development, nevertheless, has turned a bleak spot into a stunning, paved colonnade. The InterContinental Sydney is just up the road, with the Four Seasons at the western end of the quay. Just along the road from the Museum of Contemporary Art, you will find the grand opulence of the Park Hyatt. For those on a budget, head to the Grand Hotel on Hunter Street.
Two of Sydney's most luxurious five-star hotels are located in the middle of the city; the Swissotel Sydney, above Grace Bros. department store, and the Westin in Martin Place. Business travellers love the Saville 2 Bond Street Apartments near the Stock Exchange, which combines serviced apartments with classic hotel accommodation. The art deco Grace Hotel is also situated nearby.
Central Station & Chinatown
There is bargain accommodation to be found around Central Station and Chinatown. The mega-giant Sydney Central Youth Hostel has a pool, spa and sauna, dormitories and private rooms. The Mercure and Macquarie Boutique Hotel are both moderately priced, along with the quirky Aaron's Hotel in Chinatown. With four-and-a-half stars, The Citigate Central Sydney specialises in theatre and family accommodation packages.
The Darling Harbour district is awash with hotels. Whether it is glitz and glamour or family oriented budget-style, you will have a myriad of choices. For deluxe accommodation, head to Star City Hotel. The former jazz pub on Wattle Street, Vulcan, is a family-run bed and breakfast, which will not break the bank.
Kings Cross is backpacker heaven. Party around the rooftop barbecue at Eva's Backpackers or squeeze yourself into the tiny boutique Hotel 59. For a moderately priced hotel with a few, check out the stylish Vibe Rushcutters offering park and harbour views.
Darlinghurst & Paddington
This area is dotted with ultra-cool boutique hotels, catering to those who enjoy the finer things in life. Closeness to shops, eateries and the Oxford Street nightlife make the Kirketon Hotel, with Armani-clad staff, popular with gay visitors. On the Darlinghurst side of Victoria Street, Morgans is popular for a room or a meal in the restaurant. Up the Centennial Park end of Oxford Street you will find the Hughenden, a renovated terrace full of comfort. On the cheaper end of the scale, stay at the Park Lodge Hotel, a terrace with the friendliest staff, comfortable lounges and shady gardens.
Bondi Beach is a stunning setting, just 10 minutes from the city, with a great selection of places to stay. The Swiss Grand Resort & Spa Bondi is one of the most expensive on the beachfront, while a more moderately priced establishment is the Hotel Bondi. Ravesi's is a small, fashionable hotel featuring a popular restaurant with a wrap-around terrace above the beach. A couple of beaches to the south you will find Coogee Beach and Surfside Backpackers.
Home of surfing, sand and year-round holidaymakers, Manly is surrounded on all sides by beach, with a choice of surf or calm inner harbour. If you are looking for some seaside pampering, then book into the Manly Pacific. Families and those budgeting should try the Manly Paradise Motel, offering childproof, cheap accommodation with kitchenettes, pools and activity rooms.
North Sydney and Crows Nest are home to most of Sydney's advertising, film and computer companies, so there is a selection of hotels catering to business travelers, as well as leisure. The Vibe Hotel in North Sydney is very popular along with a variety of other medium priced establishments to be found scattered along the North Shore.
Highly recommended is Billabong Gardens, a five-star hostel with a pool, children's activities and family rooms, tucked away in Newtown, and the Pittwater Youth Hostel for its unique and beautiful coastal bush setting. Also, the Tricketts B&B in Balmain is a cozy heritage Victorian mansion with convivial hosts.
Sydney has a vibrant, world-renowned arts scene, with a diverse range of contemporary, classical and experimental performances. Many of the city's sports venues, such as the Aussie Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground and ANZ Stadium are also utilized as arts and entertainment venues.
Performing Art Centers
One of Sydney's major centres is the Opera House, where Australia's pre-eminent companies perform ballet, opera, music and theatre. The nearby Wharf, is home to the Sydney Dance Company, the Bangarra Dance Company and the Sydney Theatre Company.
The city movie-strip is located near the Sydney Town Hall, with a cluster of Hoyts and Greater Union locations. Oxford Street's Chauvel, features independent releases, and Reading Cinemas in Chinatown offer Hollywood hits and cheap tickets. Another cinema is Cinema Paris. The IMAX Cinema boasts the world's largest screen, showing specially formatted film. For a summer evening under the stars, take a picnic to Centennial Park for the Moonlight Cinema, or Excite OpenAir Cinema, by the harbour at Mrs Macquarie's Chair.
The Arts Scene
The city's selection of traditional theatres include the Theatre Royal, and the dazzlingly baroque State Theatre. The renovated Capitol, is all gold and Grecian statues and is the venue for long-running musicals. Nearby is the Lyric Theatre and the glitzy Showroom in Star City Casino. Popular Belvoir Street in Surry Hills, and The Ensemble, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in Kirribilli, feature well-known Australian actors. For something alternative, try The Stables, Old Fitzroy Hotel and the Performance Space. From ballet to contemporary, the Opera House and the Wharf are headquarters of Australian movement. Other venues include The Bondi Pavilion, Enmore Theatre and Seymour Centre. The City Recital Hall in Angel Place, and the restored Customs House are welcome additions to the music scene. Enjoy international concerts at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Another live band venue is The Rose of Australia in Erskineville. For jazz, head to the Basement at Circular Quay, or to Pontoon on Sundays.
The Australian and Powerhouse Museums are fun and educational. The National Maritime Museum has naval ships to explore, and Hyde Park Barracks houses the ghosts of former convicts and a history museum. The State Library of New South Wales is a treasure trove, whilst the natural history Macleay Museum exhibits 9,000 stuffed birds and Charles Darwin's flea!
The Art Gallery of NSW, overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay, is one of Australia's premier institutions, with a collection of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander works, as well as Australian, European, Asian and contemporary art. The Museum of Sydney has an innovative approach to educating visitors about colonial and indigenous history, and The Museum of Contemporary Art's international collection is housed in an imposing art deco building. In Surry Hills, the Brett Whiteley Studio Museum, was once his paint-spattered workshop. Jump on the ferry to The Manly Art Gallery & Museum to see approximately 800 paintings and displays tracing the history of beach culture.
The club scene is a moveable feast, with venues coming and going like fashion. One of the hippest is Home at Darling Harbour. Oxford Street is bustling with places frequented by a relaxed and friendly crowd. UN, Q Bar, Goodbar and Rogues are pumping until dawn.
Bars & Pubs
Some of the best bar and pubs include Longrain in Surry Hills and the Grand Pacific Blue Room on Oxford Street. Business types should head to SlipInn, Aqua Luna Bar and Jacksons On George. Oxford Street has Gilligans and the Burdekin Hotel, with the cool Dugout Bar underneath. A downhill stroll along Crown Street brings you to East Village, a happening little spot, with restaurants and bars. Popular venues include the Centennial Hotel, Golden Sheaf and the Beach Road in Bondi.
Gay & Lesbian
Sydney is like San Francisco, a gay capital of the world. The scene is in Oxford Street and its surrounds. Nightclubs like Midnight Shift and sometimes Stonewall are best left for men, but it is a happy, mixed crowd on the dance floor at ARQ nightclub. Get down to the Albury, Exchange and Flinders pubs and the Imperial in Erskineville for some drag. Other popular spots Judgement Bar. For a happening Friday night, visit the friendly Bright 'n' up Bar. The lesbian scene changes regularly, so check local press. Favourites include girl's night at ARQ.
Sydney has always been characterised by waves of migration starting with the first Aborigines who reached the area approximately 20,000 years ago. Their population had risen to 3,000 when Captain James Cook briefly visited Botany Bay in April 1770. The Eora display at the Museum of Sydney provides a sensitive, contemporary interpretation of their culture.
In 1787, the first fleet sailed from England, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, who later became Governor. The British raised their flag at Sydney Cove—now known as Circular Quay, on 26 January 1788. Australians now celebrate this date as Australia Day.
When Phillip returned to England in 1792, officers paid convict labourers and other accounts with rum rather than hard currency. Battles for social standing and economic power emerged between such groups as land grant holders, like John Macarthur, who established Elizabeth Farm, and the newly-emancipated convicts who had served out their term. The settlement soon outstripped its original site and extended west towards The Rocks and Sydney Observatory, and as far south as Brickfield Hill, which is near present-day Central Railway Station.
Matters came to a head politically with the Rum Rebellion of 1808, and Britain recalled then governor, William Bligh, to England. His successor, Lachlan Macquarie, gave the city its early 19th-century architecture. He worked with convict architect Francis Greenway to erect such edifices as Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church. However, Macquarie's extravagant expenditure angered the British government and in February 1822, he reluctantly returned home.
During the early 1830s, a number of officials made the decision to take up land grants on prestigious Woolloomooloo Hill, establishing homesteads such as Elizabeth Bay House. Between 1837 and 1845, a Tudor-style Government House arose near the site of the present-day Sydney Opera House. Large-scale, assisted immigration was characteristic of this period, and when convict transportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840, inhabitants finally began to discard their convict label, and this was significantly followed two years later by an act which declared Sydney's status as a city.
1851 saw the discovery of gold near the central western town of Bathurst. Thousands of prospective diggers arrived by ship, many of whom later settled permanently. However, with the discovery of more valuable mines in Victoria, the excitement dissipated and Sydney embarked upon a new period of civic, cultural and social development. Elegant sandstone buildings including The Australian Museum and the University of Sydney were constructed, and in 1855, the first train line between Sydney and Parramatta became operational.
The 1879 International Exhibition placed Sydney squarely on the map. Major public buildings erected during this period include the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney General Post Office, Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. The suburbs continued their sprawl, fuelled by the expanding rail network and the Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block of land.
On January 1, 1901, the six Australian colonies united to form a Commonwealth, and Sydney became the state capital of New South Wales. The opening of the Central Railway Station stimulated commercial development in the south, electricity replaced gaslight, women received the vote and mixed bathing became acceptable during daylight hours. Ferries exclusively serviced the harbour, and campaigning began for an alternative crossing-route. However, the outbreak of the First World War halted any further expansion. Thousands of Australians departed to fight alongside their British allies.
After the troops came home, expansion and development continued until the Great Depression in the late 1920s. Many found themselves unemployed, and political unrest swept Sydney, resulting in the removal from office of the popular Labour premier, Jack Lang. Nevertheless, 1932 saw the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
At the outbreak of World War II, Australian troops again left to support the British in Europe. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, Australia's own national security became paramount. May 1942 saw the destruction of four Japanese midget-submarines, which had entered Sydney Harbour. Shortly afterwards, the Japanese mother submarine bombed the waterfront suburbs of Bondi and Rose Bay. Fear of invasion heightened rapidly. The introduction of rationing and blackouts saw the war hit home, and many residents fled for the safety of the Blue Mountains.
The post-war period was characterised by wide-scale immigration especially from Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe. Major modernist buildings such as the Rose Seidler House challenged traditional style, and a distinctive local school of architecture gradually evolved.
During the 1960s, American influence saw Australia drawn into the Vietnam War. The introduction of conscription provoked widespread civil unrest. At the same time, the city embarked upon a period of unabashed, rampant development. Sydneysiders witnessed the demolition of historical buildings, and saw them replaced by modern skyscrapers. The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973, and previously working-class suburbs, such as Paddington, with their distinctive terrace house architecture, suddenly became fashionable. Migrant groups began to colonise districts, including Leichhardt (Italians), Lakemba (Lebanese), Redfern (Greeks) and Marrickville (Portuguese). The end of the Vietnam War also saw large-scale immigration from Southeast Asia.
The last few decades have seen even greater change. Thousands of apartment buildings now punctuate the skyline. Fierce battles continue to rage over controversial architecture in the city, including structures in Circular Quay, the futuristic Monorail and Fox Studios. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find traces of the past within the city. Macquarie Street and the tourist area, The Rocks, are some of the few historical landmarks that remain. However, a clean harbour, and the international-class facilities, which were part of the Olympic project, are now also a part of Sydney, a city that will always welcome the thousands of tourists who continually visit it every year.