Famous attractions around the world
1 Sydney Opera House
One of the world's great icons, the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the star attraction on the glittering harbor. This graceful building, shaped like shells or billowing sails, perches on a finger of land surrounded by water. Snap a photo while gliding by on a harbor cruise, relax at one of the restaurants, stroll around its exterior, or take an organized tour of this magnificent structure, which encompasses theaters, studios, exhibition rooms, a concert hall, and cinema. Book a to learn about the history and get a behind-the-scenes look at this famous building. This is a flexible ticket that allows you to join any one of the tours throughout the day, departing every half hour from 9am to 5pm. Avid photographers head to Mrs Macquarie's Chair for one of the best photo opportunities.
Hours: Guided tours are available daily 9am-5pm
Admission: Free entry to the foyer and eateries, varies for guided tours and events
Location: Bennelong Point, Sydney
2 Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge or "Coathanger, " as the locals call it, was the city's best-known landmark prior to construction of the Opera House. Supported by massive double piers at each end, it was built in 1932 and remains the world's largest steel arch bridge, connecting the harbor's north and south shores in a single curve rising 134 m above the water. Along its length run two railway lines and eight lanes for road traffic, the direction of which can be varied according to traffic flow. Increasing bridge traffic encouraged construction of a harbor tunnel in 1992 to ease congestion, but motorists can still drive over the bridge for blue water views. Pedestrians can stroll across on walkways or join a guided ascent through BridgeClimb for a breathtaking panorama of the city and harbor. To learn about the fascinating history of the bridge's construction, visit the museum in the southeastern pier.
Daring souls who want to climb to the 135-meter-high summit can book the . This is a spectacular opportunity that takes groups of up to 13 people on an approximately 3.5 hour climb to the top of the outer arch. Tours run throughout the day, beginning with a dawn climb and ending with a night climb. 1.5-hour Sampler Climbs and 2.25-hour Express Climbs are also available.
Address: 5 Cumberland St, Sydney
3 The Rocks
On a tongue of land protruding into Sydney Harbour, the Rocks historic area was once home to the Gadigal aboriginal people and later became the country's first site of European settlement. The name of the Rocks comes from the rocky coast on the west side of Sydney Cove, where the convicts pitched their tents. Today, more than 100 heritage sites and buildings jostle along the narrow streets including Sydney's oldest surviving house, Cadman's cottage, built in 1816.
First stop should be a visit to the Rocks Discovery Museum, which traces the area's fascinating transformation from traditional aboriginal lands, to convict slum, to tourist hotspot. Afterwards, wander around the narrow cobbled streets with their souvenir shops, restaurants, cafés, and aboriginal and contemporary art galleries, or shop at the market stalls. Guided tours run the gamut from aboriginal heritage walks to photographic excursions and nighttime ghost tours.
Address: 66 Harrington St, Level 6, The Rocks, Sydney
4 Circular Quay
Built by convict labor in Sydney Cove, bustling Circular Quay is now home to the city's main ferry terminal. Thousands of commuters flood the area at peak hours, cafés abound, and street performers entertain locals and visitors along the sunny walkways. For tourists, this is a launching point for the popular harbor cruises, one of the best ways to appreciate Sydney's sparkling waterfront setting. Ferries also depart from here to prime spots such as Manly, Watson's Bay, and Taronga Park Zoo. The zoo is a great family outing and a good way to see some of Australia's famous native wildlife, as well as animals from around the world. Purchase a in advance, which includes a ride on the Sky Safari gondola.
During the annual winter migration, whale-watching cruises take passengers out past Sydney Heads to view these magnificent creatures. From Circular Quay, head south along the waterfront promenade to the Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens, while a short walk to the north leads to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Rocks historic area. To the west, the free Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in an Art Deco building, displays cutting-edge and, often controversial, exhibitions.
5 Darling Harbour
A hub for tourists and locals alike, Darling Harbour is a waterfront pedestrian precinct packed with shops, restaurants, museums, exhibitions, and entertainment venues. Families will love Madame Tussaud's, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, and the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, which contains the world's largest collection of Australian marine creatures. The is a great way to get ahead of the crowds and it also offers discounts on other attractions. Powerhouse Museum offers interactive exhibits on science, technology, design, and history, while nautical-minded history buffs can board a replica of Captain Cook's ship, Endeavour, at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Younger children will love the carousel, playground, and water park. An IMAX and 9D theater, harbor jet boat rides, simulated flights and racing car adventures round out the exciting attractions. Those seeking a tranquil patch of green amid all the excitement can slip into the Chinese Garden of Friendship and sip tea among the willows and koi ponds.
6 Queen Victoria Building
A high point of Sydney shopping is the Romanesque-style Queen Victoria Building ("QVB"), linked by underground arcades with Town Hall Station. Originally built as a market hall between 1893 and 1898, this elegant building is crowned by a high central dome surrounded by 20 smaller domes. After decades of neglect and even plans for demolition, this grand sandstone building was restored to its original state in the early eighties. Today, more than 200 high-end shops line its light-filled galleries. It's worth a visit even for those who shun the shops, just to admire its successful restoration as well as its beautiful stained glass windows and mosaic floors.