Golden sand, world-class culture and a relaxed lifestyle – why you need to book your trip to Sydney immediately…
Lead image: The harbour lights during Vivid Sydney (photo: Destination New South Wales)
Sydney is not a hard sell on paper – 236 days of sun a year, a location on a sparkling blue harbour and within a few miles from the best beaches in the world. Perhaps the only thing the city has suffered from over the years is being so far away. But with faster plane journeys than ever meaning that you can hop across the Atlantic for as little as a few days, there is no excuse to ignore the destination any longer.
And there’s certainly a lot to see from a city that balances its uniquely wild nature with its growing high-end market, allowing you to transition from sky-rise hotels to strolling among the birds in the botanical gardens within minutes. With such variety on offer, it can be hard to navigate all there is to enjoy. Here’s our guide to make the most of all the different ways to see Sydney.
THINGS TO DO IN SYDNEY
The Sydney Opera House
The iconic white sails of the Sydney Opera House are one of the most recognisable images of the city. The view is magnificent from a boat trip aboard one of the city’s ferries but for more intimate insight into the iconic building, the behind-the-scenes tour is fantastic. Not only will you get to appreciate the architecture from all of its best angles, you’ll also learn about the controversy surrounding its build.
From sharks to spiders, Australia’s wildlife is well-documented and well-feared by visitors. Although the chance of seeing one up close in the heart of Sydney is much less likely than films would have you believe. To see some of Australia’s iconic wildlife, head to Taronga Zoo. You can reach the wildlife park by ferry (which does feel like you’re approaching Jurassic Park) and once inside you get up very close and personal to the kangaroos, emus and koalas.
The opportunity to go surfing on Australia’s most famous beach cannot be missed, especially given the fact that just thirty minutes from the city via taxi are the golden sands of Bondi Beach. If surfing isn’t your forte, you can walk the Bondi to Coogee walk (or at least part of it), to soak up the best of the coastline. Beach life is at its best in Sydney, so make sure you give yourself enough time to feel the sand between your toes and slide into that quintessentially laid-back Aussie lifestyle.
While it might be tempting to head down under during the hot summer months, the slightly cooler weather of autumn is a beautiful time to visit, and you’d do well to time your visit with the Vivid Sydney Festival, which takes over the city in May and June. Igniting everywhere from Taronga Zoo to Sydney Opera House, the lights festival transforms the whole area with night markets, concerts and dancing. But there’s plenty on all year round – just take a look at the Visit NSW website.
Where to eat in sydney
Bondi Icebergs Dining Room is famous across Sydney for more than just being situated on one of the best views for the beach. A rotating Italian menu is perfect for a delicate bite at lunch with the view of the rolling waves to accompany it. Head chef Monty Koludrovic’s menu is utterly divine and just the cure for all the exercise that sunbathing at the beach requires.
Sydney is a constantly evolving city, with areas being reinvented all the time. So for somewhere a little bit out of the status quo, head to Barangaroo, which used to be the city’s shipping district. For views of the harbour as well as a beautifully prepared selection of dishes Bea restaurant is a must – as its partner cocktail bar upstairs Smoke. Offering typical Australian cuisine, you’ll be eating as the locals do.
Nightlife works a little differently in the city, with many places closing earlier than we’re used to on our shores. But that doesn’t mean that there is any shortage of places. A particular favourite for locals to dance the evening away is Palmer & Co, which is an underground speakeasy that transports you right back to the time of prohibition – flapper dresses and all.
Just make sure you also leave time for plenty of coffee breaks, as Australia is known as one of the best purveyors of the brew. You have to indulge in some avocado toast as well, which will be better than you’ve ever had it before. One of the best places in Sydney is The Grounds of the City where you’re perfectly placed to then head around town for some retail therapy.
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Where to stay in sydney
Sydney Harbour has plenty of hotels with views of the Opera House, but arguably the best view in the city is that from the corner rooms of the Sofitel Darling Harbour. The skyscraper hotel is situated just far enough from the busy ferry port to provide an escape but close enough to the increasingly popular Darling Harbour to provide plenty of opportunities to dine by the water.
Although, it can be hard to leave the hotel when not much can beat the view that the floor-to-ceiling windows provides. Spanning across from the Anzac Bridge around to Barangaroo, sunsets from the bath are particularly magical way to see the city. Reminiscent of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, the unique hotel still has a uniquely Australian vibe with plenty of Vegemite available at breakfast.
Drawing from its increasingly multi-cultural society, Sydney is a truly cosmopolitan city. But it still manages to retain hold of its unique wildlife and nature. From diving into the power of the waves to a stroll through the Botanical Gardens revealing cockatoos and ibis birds surrounding you in the trees, it’s another world. And after one look at those endless waves, you’ll struggle to come home again.
One night at the Sofitel Darling Harbour costs from £182 per room.