Sydney is famous for so many iconic buildings, attractions and events, and there is so much to see and do here that you could never get it all into one visit, unless you happen to be the most organized person in the world, and even then you will miss a lot.
The Iconic Central Sydney
This city, known as the harbor city, is the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia and has a reputation of being of the most livable and beautiful cities. As you can imagine, central Sydney is brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine and design, and its set next to miles of sandy beaches laden with surfers, bars and loads of fun activities.
Right next to the opera house is the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge and with the Sydney Opera House, it’s become the most recognizable symbol of the harbor city.
Sydney has a very compact city center with Manhattan like skyscrapers on the harbor. It’s a commercial powerhouse seeing hundreds of thousands of people commuting daily to work, shop and socialize.
The Circular Quay is another famous Sydney landmark at the hub of Sydney Harbor. It’s a vibrant bustling place, home to many entertainers, art galleries, shops and places to eat.
Another popular landmark is the Sydney tower, also known as Centerpoint Tower that has towered over Sydney since 1981 when it became the tallest structure in the city. It’s the tallest freestanding structure and you can witness amazing views from the 250m high viewing level.
There are other notable landmarks to visit, the St. Mary’s Cathedral, the St. Andrews Cathedral, the Queen Victoria building and the Strand Arcade. All are fine examples of Victorian architecture and surrounded by famous shops. The strand arcade is a major shopping destination and has a large number of Australian designers as well as many famous fashion and jewelry labels.
All roads lead to Sydney, so if you’re coming in by car you will have no problems, and there are also trains, buses and elephant rides into the city. Okay there aren’t elephant rides, but we can only dream.
Sydney Transport system is second to none – trains every 7 – 10 minutes at most stations and buses timed like clockwork in most suburbs. Forget the car and make use of the buses and trains. In the wee hours plenty of taxis available outside any bar, club or restaurant.
By train the city circle is a two-way train loop of five stations, just make sure you get a city ticket when buying a ticket. You can get a bus as well, free bus shuttles (route 555) from the morning to mid afternoon connecting central station in the city south and the city center and there are direct buses to the center from many inner suburbs and some outer regions.
Maybe the elephant rides cant happen, but the next best thing is a ferry. The Ferry is a beautiful way to arrive in Sydney as you can see the harbor and sites from the boat as you ride your way into the center. Most routes start from Circular Quay. Taking a ferry is much cheaper than taking a paid tour, and you can go all the way to Manly, Watsons Bay in the East or Parramatta in the west.
You can drive into the city, but parking can be a nightmare. Finding a parking space and then paying for it when you do can empty your pocket so it’s better if you can find other ways of transport into the city. If you’re unfamiliar with the area it can be unusual and uncomfortable to drive around from place to place. The better option is to get buses around, there are plenty of them, or trains if you are heading a littler further.
What To Visit In The Center
In Sydney center there are many attractions and activities to do for all types of people whether you are a 4-year-old child, or a 94-year-old pensioner, with something for everyone in between.
Sydney is famous for its art galleries and exhibitions so if you like seeing all the culture and art this city has to offer then check out the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This art gallery is the leading museum in all of Sydney and is one of Australia’s foremost cultural institutions.
You can also visit the museum of contemporary art that showcases great modern works of art in all media. There is a café inside if the modern art is making you hungry. The Museum of Sydney provides a fascinating history of the aboriginal culture, trade, and laws and there is a casual café in the museum as well.
There are other museums like the Australian Museum, the Justice and Police Museum and the Museum of Australian currency notes, and the Hyde Park Barracks that housed convicts until 1848.
Sydney has beautiful parks as well, and the Sydney Botanic Gardens is the only one you have to visit. This is the oldest scientific institution in the country and has an outstanding collection of plants from Australia and around the world. There are trees that have been resurrected from the dinosaur times, beautiful rose gardens and many Australian plants and grasses. There are other parks like The Domain, Hyde Park and Macquarie Place Park.
Sydney Central Activities
There are many fun things to do, and some that will help you take in more of the city if you are only there a short time. If you want to see everything in Sydney and lay your eyes on all the sites then checkout a Harbor Cruise. They depart from Darling Harbor and Circular Quay in the city, and there are two main options, the Captain Cook Cruises, and the Sydney Ferries Cruises. You can get a daytripper ticket and get as many ferries as you like, getting on and off wherever you want, and even enjoy a picnic in the Harbourside Park.
You can watch incredible drama at the Sydney Opera House and see the Drama Theatre, the Playhouse and the Studio. You can also visit Theater Royal and State Theatre for other theatre productions. The Basement is a famous place for small gigs and attracts some leading acts. There are cinemas as well if you like to munch on some popcorn while being entertained. Checkout George Street Cinemas, Dendy Cinemas and the Art Gallery of New South Wales that shows old films for free on Wednesdays and Sundays. You may also like the Chauvel, Verona and Academy Twin Cinemas if you are interested in fringe or art-house films.
You can do anything on the water here – jet boats, kayaks, boat cruises – the works!
Eat & Drink
Sydney has some world class restaurants, bars and clubs – there is no shortage of places to eat, drink, be merry and dance the night away. Either Circular Quay, Kings Wharf or Darling Harbour are the places to be if you are looking for lots of holiday vibes.
Sydney’s shopping is mostly concentrated into large city malls and arcades, which are connected with underground walkways. There are also a number of recognized strips to visit. George Street is considered the main street; it’s a shopping strip between the town hall and Wynyard, about 10 minutes fast walking. There are fashion, technology and gift shops and malls to checkout along the way.
The noticeable ones to visit are the Strand Arcade, Galleries Victoria, Westfield, and Queen Victoria building amongst other specialty stores.
There are many options for food with choices for breakfast, lunchtime and evening specials and there is competition everywhere. At dinner time many cafes and take-away are closed and the leftover restaurants can be expensive so do your food buying during lunchtime and you will save a lot of money.
There is also Chinatown in the south of the city, which has a large number of restaurants offering cheap and delicious Asian cuisine.
If you’re looking for budget food then check out the food courts in Westfield’s, under the gateway building at Circular Quay, Australia Square or in the other malls and arcades. Sitting down here costs under $15 and there are many options to choose from. Around the George St cinemas, World Square and on Liverpool street you will find many other mid-range café’s and restaurants.