City At A Glance: Sydney
Lonely Planet Asia
1 December 2015
The stunning harbour city of Sydney, Australia’s largest metropolis, is a hotpot of culture, arts, history and gastronomy. Words Tatyana Leonov
Sydney is not a city that can be confused with any other. two iconic landmarks – the sydney harbour Bridge and the sydney opera house – sit centrestage, enticing visitors from far and wide.
Circular Quay and the Rocks link the two landmarks, providing a good opportunity for a harbourside stroll with plenty of photo prospects along the way.
Of course, there’s a lot more to sydney if you scratch the surface and the population growth (sydney’s population is predicted to top five million shortly) demonstrates that it’s not merely a popular spot to visit – but also to live. to put it in perspective, about one in five australians reside in sydney.
Mild winters and long balmy summers means this city doesn’t hibernate! From the hipster inner-city hoods to the outlying suburbs, there’s always a new exhibition, performance or recital rolling out the red carpet for opening night.
Barangaroo is the latest development on everybody lips. the $6 million development of the precinct saw the opening of Barangaroo Reserve in august this year, with plans underway to extend to residential space, a new plush hotel and casino in 2016.
Another transformation, the $3.4 billion makeover of darling harbour, is scheduled for completion 2016/2017. this will be the biggest change that the waterside precinct has seen in 25 years! Key developments include the construction of australia’s largest exhibition and convention centre and the opening of the five-star 600-room sofitel sydney darling harbour. Furthermore, revamps of two other hotels in the vicinity will see a total of 820 new rooms in darling harbour by 2017.
Of course, there is no shortage of hotels to stay in currently and the offerings range from lavish accommodations to historical hotels to quirky-cool stays.
The assortment of lodging options on offer is an echo of sydney itself – diverse and distinctive. the diversity of the city stretches a lot further – from culture and cuisine to entertainment and everyday life. it’s a well-known fact that sydney is an incredibly multicultural metropolis (almost 40 percent of present-day sydney residents were born outside of australia) and diversity is both celebrated and endorsed.
An important part of sydney’s identity is, of course, its indigenous history, and the aboriginal tourism sector is designed to educate visitors about australia’s past. dance and musical performances are a powerful channel used traditionally by aboriginal people to pass on information (a popular spot to catch a casual street- side performance is at circular Quay); informative tours offer attendees an insightful way to learn about aboriginal peoples cultures (the Rocks dreaming aboriginal heritage tour is one if sydney’s most immersive offerings); and studying indigenous art is an all-time favourite activity (the yiribana Gallery at the art Gallery of nsW is one of the largest spaces in the country dedicated to indigenous artworks).
The newest creative space attracting anyone who’s even a little bit in the know when it comes to arts is the chippendale shopping and arts precinct. Just 10 minutes drive from the city centre, the trendy hub has a wide range of art, culture, cuisine and shopping attractions. Many of the shops and galleries are situated in chic Sydney at a glance spaces inside former warehouses – a clever approach employed to repurpose space that would otherwise go unused.
It’s a fitting representation of how sydney goes about change. the pulsating city adapts and develops, always moving with the times. sydney utilises what already exists and creates when needed. it’s a refection of the people that call sydney home – pulled from all over the globe to call this city theirs. it’s this synthesis of the physical, mental and spiritual that makes sydney a great place to visit.
Cool cats know to come to QT Sydney – Sydney’s centrally located, eccentrically designed hotel, where every detail comes with a story. The hotel is a unification of two historical buildings – the State Theatre and department store Gowings – and the bold design plays on the historical aspect ramped up and transformed using innovative technology and novel art mediums. Two hundred rooms in 12 different design styles are spread out over the two buildings where pops of bright colour, beautiful materials and unusual collectables throughout create for a unique stay. qtsydney.com.au
Q Station SydNey Harbour National Park Manly
Thirty-five minutes by ferry from Circular Quay lays the white sand of the famous Manly Beach – home to Q Station as it’s fondly known. A night here offers guests the opportunity to get out of the city centre and stay in a one of Australia’s most significant historical landmarks. The former quarantine station was the first site officially reserved as a place of quarantine for people entering Australia (migrants, convicts and crew members), and today is home to 82 suites, rooms and cottages spread out across 30 hectares of Sydney Harbour National Park. Wildlife sightings – both on land and in water – are common. qstation.com.au
InterContinental Sydney Double Bay
Positioned in Sydney’s exclusive suburb of Double Bay, InterContinental Sydney Double Bay is one of Sydney’s newer hotel properties (it was opened November 2014) and the only five-star hotel located outside the city centre (Double Bay is five kilometres from the city centre). The 140 rooms and suites are wrapped around a beautiful French provincial courtyard making for a luxurious Paris-chic residential effect. The rooftop bar and lounge is popular on balmy nights with Sydney’s fashionable crowd – so dress to impress. ihg.com
For something a little bit different, luxury camping (or glamping as it’s commonly known) at Cockatoo Island is a fun option. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site on arrival, enjoy a casual dinner al fresco, then wake up to a sunrise view of Sydney Harbour – it’s a million-dollar vista for a minimal fee (camping prices start at AUD$45 a night). If camping isn’t your style there are a number of heritage houses and apartments available for rent on the island. cockatooisland.gov.au.
Repeatedly ranked as one the most memorable Sydney experiences, Sydney’s BridgeClimb Sydney is a must-do. Visitors get the chance to get up close and personal with the Australian icon on the 3.5-hour classic climb, taking in stunning 360 degree panoramas of Sydney while the climb guide chats history and bridge construction. Reaching the summit is, of course, the highlight, especially around sunset (twilight climbs book out weeks in advance, so book ahead). For those short on time there are sampler and express options too. bridgeclimb.com
Sydney Opera House
Internationally acclaimed as an architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House with its shell-shaped white sails most certainly stands out. Designed by Denmark’s Jørn Utzon, it took some time for the artistic structure to be completed because of disagreements about the modern design and several challenging engineering tasks. Commissioned in 1956, the Sydney Opera House was finally opened 17 years later in 1973. In 2007 it was inscribed in the World Heritage List. The interior should not be overlooked and the best way to soak up the atmosphere and architecture is by attending a performance (classical music, opera, theatre and ballet concerts are all on offer at various times throughout the year). An early morning backstage tour is a great option for visitors who want to learn about the construction and history with an expert guide. sydneyoperahouse.com
No visit to Sydney is complete without a day out at Bondi Beach. Golden sand, waves dotted with pro surfers, shopping aplenty, and a dining and drinking scene that rivals the rest of Sydney, Bondi Beach is where the city meets the surf. Book a surf lesson, stroll along the promenade, then grab a café latte and watch the world swim by. When hunger comes calling Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is the go-to Bondi eatery – stunning views and tasty bites combine to capture that quintessential Bondi Beach experience.
Sydney’s newest expanse of parkland, the six hectare Barangaroo Reserve, is the first major public area of the Barangaroo precinct to open. Walkways, bike lanes, plenty of grass, and lookouts all around, the transformation of one of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites is especially significant because it’s the first time in 100 years since public access has been permitted to the area. Native trees and shrubs are featured prominently throughout the grounds (almost 74,000 spanning 83 different species) to emulate the headland’s former life. barangaroo.com
Oxford Street stretches from Hyde Park through Paddington and on to Centennial Park and Woollhara and if you were to stop in at every shop it could be one long walk… Shops encompass just about anything – from eclectic, unique finds towards the start of the route in Darlinghurst, to boutique and high-end clothing by some of Australia’s best designers in Paddington. If a side street looks interesting make time to explore – Crown Street, William Street and Glenmore Road all offer great options for fashionistas.
Queen Victoria Building
Erected as a tribute to the long-reigning queen, the Queen Victoria Building is unrivaled when it comes to historical shopping experiences. Filling a whole city block, the magnificent structure was built when Sydney was going through a recession and the government purposefully commissioned the elegant Romanesque architecture so that some of Sydney’s unemployed craftsmen could work on the project. Completed in 1891, the building has housed various businesses and today is home to almost 200 shops, with everything from luxury goods to trendy clothing spread over three exquisitely decorated levels. qvb.com.au
Chinatown and Haymarket
Sydney’s Chinatown is a bustling hive of activity by day and night and a meander through the lively district is a great way to soak up Sydney’s multicultural vibe. The food, of course, is fantastic (this is the bee’s knees of casual Chinese dining in Sydney) and the shopping is just as fun. Tiny Asian pop culture stores, factory outlets, homeware stores, Chinese grocers, lively markets and more – half the fun is getting lost and accidently ending up with a quirky shopping find.
Sydney’s entertainment precinct, The Star, is home to The Star Casino and a plethora of leisure offerings, including highly acclaimed restaurants, stylish bars and two hotels. For luxury buys the shopping atrium offers a cluster of international luxury retailers conveniently located in the one spot, including finds such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Chanel Fragrance and Beauty Boutique, Gucci, Calvin Klein Jeans and Bottega Veneta. star.com.au
Quay amazes in terms of both cuisine and vistas and is considered to be one of Australia’s best restaurants (it has been listed in S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants for five years in a row). Head chef Peter Gilmore wows diners with nature-based imaginative dishes. Matching wines (a large selection of both Australian and international drops available) are recommended. The views seal the deal – sweeping panoramas from the Sydney Opera House to the Sydney Harbour Bridge – what more could you ask for? quay.com.au
Sydney is known for its seafood and a visit wouldn’t be complete without a quality seafood meal at an impressive destination. Welcome to Foys Kirribilli! Australia’s oldest open boat sailing club has recently been refurbished into seafood restaurant, boasting stunning harbour views and clean-line décor that complements the club’s heritage. Seafood is the star here – order the seafood plate to share amongst friends (grilled prawns, calamari, lemon and thyme BBQ octopus and pan-seared market fish are included) and do Sydney food like a Sydney-sider would. facebook.com/foyskirribilliflyingbear
For seasonal, fresh contemporary Australian fare amid industrial-chic surroundings, newbie nel. restaurant has the hottest seat in town. Chef Nelly Robinson (aged just 29) and his team meticulously craft dishes that dazzle in an open kitchen – so that guests can observe the artistry while dining. Set degustation menus that are changed up monthly are the name of the game here, with two matching wines per course. Expect something different and expect to be impressed. nelrestaurant.com.au
There’s no shortage of Chinese restaurants in Sydney, but for the best contemporary Cantonese cuisine, Mr. Wong is a fine choice. A menu spanning more than 60 dishes (think assorted dim sums, sweet and sour pork hock, five-spice pork belly and live mud crab, to name a few), a top-notch cocktail list, and an artsy fit-out make for a memorable meal. Popular with groups, couples and just about anyone who knows how to have a rollicking good night out. merivale.com.au/mrwong