The Saturday City: Sydney

Sydney AustraliaIt’s not often I get awed by man made wonders. I tend to fawn over nature more than I do steel and concrete. Yet when I gazed upon the Sydney Harbor Bridge, my heart skipped a beat. My jaw dropped. I “OOOOed” and “AHHHed.” “Wow.” I said to my friend. It was as amazing as people said it was. And that describes my time in Sydney – it was everything people said it would be.

Sydney is one of the most famous cities in the world. Its name recognition is up there with New York, Tokyo, Paris, and London. It was built as a convict settlement in 1788 and by 1822, the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and was a respectable city. The 1830s and 1840s urban development, including the development of the first suburbs, which occurred as the town grew rapidly when ships began arriving with immigrants looking to start a new life. With industrialization Sydney expanded rapidly and by the early 20th century it had a population in excess of one million.

Sydney is filled with amazing things to do and a plethora of famous attractions. From the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge to Bondi Beach to King’s Cross, Sydney has a lot of sites for travelers. There are also trips to the wine area of the Hunter Valley and to the amazing Blue Mountains. Both of which require a few days.

Sydney Australia harbor bridgeHowever, I saw hardly any of them. Sydney was the last stop on an 18 month tour and by then I was pretty burnt out. So burnt out that I skipped most of Queensland to fly home (though after two weeks back in Boston, I was ready to fly back to Australia). I skipped Bondi Beach. I didn’t go to the Hunter Valley or the Blue Mountains. I avoided the clubs. I didn’t see the bars.

But even with missing over half the stuff in the city, I still loved Sydney. I did see the bridge, the opera house, the park, the botanical gardens, and the wharf area. I explored King’s Cross, which is an interesting mix of backpackers, clubs, crack heads, and prostitutes. The main strip of the area, Darlinghurst Rd, is filled with bars, backpackers, and bums. Here they all mix in together to form a cheap and seedy area that gets wild at night. Yet once off that street the whole area changes and becomes quite the posh residential area. The streets are clean, the people friendly, and the area filled with little green spaces. All of which is within easy walking distance to the park that over looks the harbor. I was pretty impressed with the area despite its seedy reputation.

Sydney Australia harbor bridge

I was most impressed with the gardens and opera house area. The Sydney Domain/Royal Gardens are massive and quite lovely to wander around in. It’s easy to spend hours in the area. I walked around for about an hour and saw maybe less than half of the trails and I’m not a slow walker! It’s definably a good respite from the insanity of the city. I spent a lovely few hours exploring the gardens, reading about the natural habitat of Sydney and then eating a nice lunch on a grassy knoll.

Sydney Australia harbor bridge

The Opera House and Harbor Bridge were next and just as amazing as people say they are. A lot of hype surrounds both structures but seeing them as I came upon the harbor was breathtaking. It’s as though I walked into a piece of history. It’s a hard feeling to describe but if I had to choose a word it would be simply “wow.” See look. Wow right?

Sydney Australia harbor bridge

All of Sydney was wow. It reminded me of a Europeanized American city- a cross between San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, London, and Amsterdam. Everyone who visits Australia sets foot in Sydney so I don’t have to push you to head there. So I will simply push you to Australia by telling you the currency is weaker than it used to be so now is a good time to visit Australia and see Sydney.

  1. One day I want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The view must be amazing from there!

    @Tamara, I’ve heard that Leichhardt, often called Little Italy, has good restaurants. Apparently you can walk or take bus 301, 302, or 306 from circular quay.

  2. Wonderwilm

    In one way I would love to go to Aus, it looks really different from most other places with a unique feel. I just cant stomach the thought of the flight (20 hrs+). would have to seriously break it up both ways.

    Anyway good post – great photos. makes you think.

  3. Good summary of my home town. Even though i’ve been here for 16 years I am still impressed with the superb vista which is the harbour, the bridge and the opera house. For visitors, do get to the beaches (not necessarily the traditional Bondi) and especially visit the majestic Blue Mountains.

  4. Kim

    Flights are cheap at the moment so now would be a great time to book. As local I can tell you that the best times to visit Sydney are either mid September to mid December which covers most of Spring and the beginning of Summer or alternatively March to mid May which covers most of Autumn (Fall).

    There are LOADS of restaurants / cafes in Sydney!!!!
    Three of my favourite restaurants are:
    * ‘Yellow Bistro & Food Store’ – 57 Macleay St, Potts Point
    * ‘The Nepalese Kitchen’ – 481 Crown Street, Surry Hills
    * ‘Thai Patong’ In Newtown – 294 King Street, Newtown

    Now……. who’s been to Paris?? Tell me EVERYTHING! :)

  5. Polly

    I loved Sydney. I did not climb up the Harbor Bridge, but it is an impressive site. Attended a performance of “The Magic Flute” at the Sydney Opera House. It was an excellent production.

    We took a harbor cruise where there is a stop at the Tangara Zoo. It’s a nice zoo, and it’s up on a hill so you get a wonderful view of the Sydney skyline. It was the only place I got to see koala bears. They’re hard to see in the wild in that part of Australia.

    I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked to. It’s definitely on my list of places I want to return to.

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