Sydney is a world class city. The largest metropolis in Australia, it boasts iconic sights, a thriving nightlife scene, amazing restaurants, and a completely cosmopolitan vibe. Of course, the spacious and popular urban beaches, including the world-famous Bondi Beach, have always been part of Sydney’s allure. There is enough in this city to keep visitors occupied for a week or longer. However, if you only have a couple of days to spare, here are some ideas for turning a casual stay in the big city into an unforgettable vacation experience.
Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay
The Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most iconic urban sites. The unique roof, shaped like wind-filled sails, makes it one of the world’s most easily recognizable structures (right up there with the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty). Seeing this building from the outside is impressive, though tickets are available for tours of the interior. These guided tours generally run every 30 minutes throughout the day. Adjacent to the Opera House sits Circular Quay, a bustling place with street performers and passengers from the nearby ferry terminal. The Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a stylish Art Deco building, is also located on the Quay. These different sites can be combined into a morning sightseeing trip.
This aquarium is on many Sydney visitors’ must-see lists. It has thousands of marine animals and the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit. Of course, the aquarium has it share of sharks, but a host of other animals, such as platypuses, giant sea turtles, sting rays and schools of colorful tropical fish make this a great stop for aquatic enthusiasts as well as curiosity seekers. Unique freshwater species, found only in Australia’s lakes and rivers, are also on display inside the aquarium.
Sydney Food Courts
These food courts, basically large seating areas surrounded by fast-food vendors, have long been a Sydney institution. Some, however, have shed their greasy fast-food mold and now boast vendors that are serving up more-interesting, higher-quality fare. Even if you go for the junk food, this is still a great Sydney experience. Chinatown food courts serve up Asian treats like laksa, pho, curries, and ramen noodles, while some food courts int eh center of the city have vegetarian vendors, bakers, and pizza hawkers.
Darling Harbor’s bars are the perfect place to end your first day in Sydney. The views of the Harbor are part of the attraction, but the bars are quite good in and of themselves. Visitors can choose a more traditional casual pub experience or a more upscale, lounge-like vibe. Even the hipper harbor-side spots have been known to put rugby on the television.
Sydney Harbor Cruise
Some companies run special tourist-oriented cruises of Sydney’s harbor. However, travelers with an adventurous streak can create their own cruise itinerary by using the city’s far-reaching ferry service. Actually, a well-planned trip allows sightseers to pass by some areas that standard tourist cruises do not visit. Day passes are available, so you can spend the entire morning exploring different parts of the harbor. The best place to start your self-made tour is at Circular Quay in the center of the city.
Sydney’s most famous beach has it all. Its long stretches of sand, laid-back-but-happening beach culture, clear waters and unending surf make if a popular stop for tourists and locals, no matter what their idea of a day at the beach is. Swimming and suntanning are on the agenda for many Bondi visitors, but you don’t even need to hit the sand to enjoy yourself. A host of laid-back restaurants and welcoming cafes line the beach road. These make it possible to enjoy Bondi even if you forgot your swimsuit and suntan lotion.
Splurge on an evening meal and a trip to the theatre
Sydney is a foodie’s paradise. There are plenty of choices for people who want to splurge on an evening meal. Cafe Sydney, for example, serves up delicious modern Australian cuisine, with dishes paired with some of the best wines that the continent has to offer. The quality of the food is matched by the amazing views of the harbor from the dining room. Another option is Tetsuya’s, a Japanese fusion restaurant that is often named one of Sydney’s best restaurants. Both these venues require advanced reservations.
Sydney’s pub culture is great for those seeking evening entertainment, but more high-brow options are also available. The Capitol Theatre and Theatre Royal serve up international traveling shows, while a host of smaller theaters stage locally-produced dramas (the Sydney Theatre Company is one of the bigger operations in the city for this type of performance). And, of course, the Sydney Symphony plays regularly inside the famous Opera House.
It would take a week or two to truly appreciate everything that Sydney has to offer, but taking a couple of days to explore the main sights and attractions can be a very rewarding experience.