Sydney, Australia

I grew up in Sydney, and - after several years of travelling - find myself living here once again. It really is a beautiful place.

If you've never had the fortune to visit this wonderful city, here are a few things which will give you a glimpse into its charms :

Harbour

If you've never lived by the water, take it from me - a harbour can be a beautiful place. Sydney Harbour (or more formally - part of Port Jackson) is certainly no exception. It really is an amazing area.

No matter which form of transportation you favour, there are ways to get a glimpse of just some of what the harbour has to offer. Trains, buses, cars and bikes cross the harbour regularly (making journeys to work that much more interesting); ferries, yachts and water taxis take full advantage of the wet stuff; pedestrians can enjoy a quiet stroll or a lunchtime run by the water's edge through the magnificent Royal Botanic Gardens.

Public Transport

As noted above, trains, buses, ferries and water taxis all operate around the harbour. Fortunately the trains and buses also cover the rest of the city; and the 2000 Olympic Games only added to their technology and efficiency.

This really is a good way to get around town.

Also available - at least in the centre of the city - is the Monorail, a privately-run rail service which operates on a loop from the heart of town to Darling Harbour.

Pedestrian areas

When it comes to cities that encourage exploration on foot, Sydney is definitely on the shortlist. In fact, unlike many cities, it is the pedestrian who is considered before the motorist.

This is evident when looking at areas such as the Pitt St Mall (formerly a main road which was closed to vehicular traffic a number of years ago), Opera Quays (the shopping precinct beside the Sydney Opera House) and the foreshore near The Rocks. One of the oldest and grandest areas of town.

Architecture

Looking around at the diversity of buildings, it's astonishing to think that the city is only a little more than 200 years old. A good way to explore some of this variety - on foot, bicycle or car - is to journey along Macquarie St; beginning at Hyde Park.

Here you'll see buildings constructed during the time of Lachlan Macquarie (who governed Sydney 1810 - 1821), a range of 19th century churches and synagogues, magnificent works by Harry Seidler, and of course, Jørn Utzon's magnificent Sydney Opera House.

It's a magnificent street.

Art galleries and museums


Wherever I travel, I also try to take a look at the local art galleries and museums. In Sydney they're not exactly difficult to find - in fact you may find it tricky to visit all of them in a reasonable timeframe.

Although I enjoy all of them at different times, here are a few favourites which are well worth a visit :

State Library of NSW
Art Gallery of NSW
Museum of Contemporary Art
Powerhouse Museum
Maritime Museum

And believe me, this is a short list. There is plenty to see.

Festivals and entertainment

If you're a hedonist at heart, the Festival of Sydney - held in January each year - is definitely one to watch. Of course, there are various festivals and forms of entertainment throughout the year, including :

Performances at the Opera House
Rock and Pop shows at the Sydney Entertainment Centre
A fantastic array of pub gigs
Festivals in Tumbalong Park (Darling Harbour)
Australia Day events (such as the annual Ferry Boat Race)

Bridge

I've always been fascinated by bridges - particularly the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To discover a little of the history of this icon, visit the SHB Museum in one of the bridge's eastern pylons. As part of the museum you'll be able to climb to the top of the pylon (warning : there are a lot of stairs involved) and see a magnificent 360 view of the city.

If the walk up the stairs there was nothing more than a brisk stroll, consider climbing the bridge itself. Regular tours are held by Bridgeclimb, and it's an experience you'll never forget. Incredible.

And if you're planning to travel here, these will certainly come in handy :

Currency

Australian currency uses dollars and cents (1 dollar = 100 cents) as per a number of other countries. However, there are a few things to be aware of :

  • The lowest value coin in use is the 5c piece (the 1c and 2c coins are no longer in circulation). The other coins are the 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2.
  • As with the coins, the lowest value notes are no longer used (there were formerly $1 and $2 notes in circulation). The notes now available are the $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

  • These notes and coins all have different sizes and markings. This is both to increase security and to assist the visually impaired.

At the time of writing, the Australian dollar was similar in value to its US counterpart. To check the current exchange rates, take a look at XE.

Timezone

For much of the year, Sydney is 10 hours in front of GMT (Greenich Mean Time). This puts it about 10 hours in front of London, or 15 hours in front of New York.

During DST (Daylight Savings Time), this is moved to GMT + 11hrs.

Rainfall

Although it doesn't rain that often here, it's usually fairly heavy when it does so. Sydney's average annual rainfall is around 1,175mm; with around a third of that falling between Dec-July. The chart here will give you an idea.

Final thoughts

Overall, I love it here. If you're visiting, let me know. It's a beautiful city.