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Top 5 Things to Do in Sydney

Published 07 July 2016

Helen Scarr

Helen Scarr

When you think of Sydney a few things immediately spring to mind: the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach. There is no denying that these landmarks have the ‘wow’ factor; the bridge and the Opera House are undoubtedly the beating heart of the city. The city is a common entry point for those travelling down under and provides a great introduction to Australia, and in this post Helen Scarr tells us the top things to do in Sydney.

Sydney Opera House illuminated with colourful lights at night

Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens

The gardens are within walking distance of everywhere in the CBD. They are well laid-out with maps and information all over the place. You can learn a lot about the indigenous flora of Australia here. Since the country has been isolated from all other continents for around 80 million years, it boasts thousands of plant species you will find nowhere else on the planet. A walk through the Botanic Gardens is also a great way to first approach Sydney Harbour. The Opera House, with the bridge in its shadow, is a striking sight. Another bonus about the Royal Botanic Gardens – they’re free!

Red flowers in the Sydney Botanical Gardens with the harbour in the background

Be impressed by Sydney Harbour

Circular Quay is the focus of the harbour and it’s where you will find Sydney Opera House (the most recognisable landmark in the world, apparently). Enjoy a glass of wine or two in the Opera Bar whilst also drinking in one of the most iconic views on Earth. The Opera House tour lets you go behind the scenes and explains the story of how Danish architect Jørn Utzon came to design the building. There’s no experience like watching an opera in the Opera House (if you book tickets for the tour and a show at the same time you can make big savings). Sydney Harbour Bridge is an impressive, photogenic partner to the Opera House. Admire it from afar; take a walk across; or, for the more adventurous, attempt the Bridge Climb.

Cruise ship docked at the Sydney Harbour Cruise Terminal at night

Get cultural in The Rocks

The Rocks area has heaps of character with museums, shops and cafes hidden around its narrow alleyways. The area was dodgy and downtrodden during the 19th Century, but was lovingly regenerated in the 1970s and is now a heritage sight. The Rocks is where the city of Sydney began and contains its oldest house, Cadmans Cottage. Visit the Rocks Discovery Museum to learn about the history of the place. Spend a few hours wandering the streets and alleys before stopping off at the impressive (and free) Museum of Contemporary Art.

boardwalk overlooking brick buildings in the historic Rocks area in Sydney

Beach it up

I’m sure I’m not the only tourist that’s visited Bondi Beach in the hope of catching a glimpse of Hugh Jackman in his swimming shorts. Sadly, I was disappointed in this aspiration, but Bondi is still worth a look and is Sydney’s most popular beach. Manly Beach comes a close second and is a short ferry ride away from Circular Quay. Bondi and Manly are the best places to find lively character, decent surf and attractive Aussies to admire/envy. Further north is Palm Beach, famous for being the location of Home and Away’s Summer Bay. Even if you aren’t a fan of the soap, the beach is picturesque and a touch quieter than its southern neighbours. A must-do on Sydney’s seafront is the 5.5km Bondi to Coogee cliff-top walk. This stunning route hugs the coastline and provides one scenic viewpoint after another. If you walk it from October to November you can also enjoy the Sculpture By The Sea art exhibition along the way.

People swimming an lying on the sand at Bondi Beach in Sydney

A guide to coffee in Australia

Australians are a laid-back, easy-going bunch – but if they’re snobby about one thing, it’s coffee. Barista training is taken very seriously and latte art is a big deal down under. Getting to grips with your order takes some practise. A ‘flat white’ is your standard coffee with milk and a little froth. Cappuccinos and lattes are fairly obvious, but you have the added options of ‘strong’, ‘weak’ or ‘extra hot’. A ‘long black’ is what you might know as an Americano. ‘Short black’ means an espresso. Milk choices are also important: are you a full-fat, skinny or soy kind of person? Then there’s the brand of coffee and the fineness of the grind to take into consideration. Don’t even attempt to fathom the complexities of a macchiato (long or short) or a ristretto. It’s enough to bring you out in a coffee-induced headache.

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