Sydney, Australia's oldest and biggest city, has everything you'd expect from a world city. Its location on one of the most beautiful harbours, its greenness, climate, safety, and even excellent transport system make it an unforgettable destination.
The Sydney Harbour, home to the shell-shaped opera house and the steel-arch bridge, is one of the most stunning harbours in the world. A string of golden, inner-city beaches runs on either side of which the most famous is Bondi, and others, no less beautiful, include Tamarama, Bronte and Manley.
Long, long before there were cheap flights to Sydney, Australia's first European settlers landed at The Rocks. At the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on the western shores of Sydney Cove, this old colonial district is a buzzy area with cafes and restaurants standing amid the historic buildings.
Aside from the landmarks and beaches, Sydney revels in its foodie reputation. While it has its fair share of museums, theatres and art galleries perhaps the best thing is having a view of the water at sunset, a plate of Sydney rock oysters and a glass of local white wine.
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Southern hemisphere seasons are reversed. Australia enjoys its summer between December and March when temperatures range between 19 and 26 degrees Celsius (66-78 Fahrenheit). Summer days can hit 30 degrees (86F). The winter season runs from the start of June to the end of August. Temperatures are still mild and hover between 8 and 16 degrees (46-60 F).
When to fly to Sydney
The Australian summer is peak season. The months between December and the start of March are when the city comes to life and most travellers take cheap flights to Sydney for the theatre, exhibitions, street performances and, of course, the beaches.
Winter (June 1-August 31) is off season when flights and hotels are cheaper. Winter in Sydney still means mild temperatures - perfect for walking tours of the city - and there's the opportunity to go skiing in the Snowy Mountains, a five-hour drive away.
Getting around Sydney
Sydney is a city built around its harbour, and that’s where you will find some of the best sightseeing.
The public passenger ferries are run by Sydney Ferries and you can board a monorail down to Darling Harbour.
There are plenty of ways to get around the city. The By Sydney Explorer and By Bondi Explorer buses stop almost anywhere you’d want to go in the city and around the harbour and beaches.
Take the light-rail tram line to Chinatown, Paddy’s Markets or Darling Harbour. You don’t need to drive, and the one-way streets and lack of parking will eat up your time. Taxis are all over and easy to hail on the street.
Adventurous travellers who don’t fear heights can join the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, which walks across catwalks and ladders across the arch of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sydney insider information
- Not just for kids, Taronga Zoo runs a very popular overnight experience called Roar and Snore. Essentially a sleepover at Sydney's zoo, arrive at 6.30pm for refreshments and a two-hour night zoo safari. The accommodations are a tent, pitched under the stars. After breakfast, there are two behind-the-scenes experiences. It costs $110 (AUS dollars) for children aged 5-17 and $165 for adults.
- The Sydney fish market is a must-visit spot. After Tokyo it sells the world's largest variety of fish and seafood. There are 90-minute tours of the market that include an explanation of the auction and buying system, the auction floor and takes in some oyster shucking. Tours take place on Mondays and Thursdays and start at 6.50am.
- The Sydney Seafood School, also at the fish market, is a great place to pick up tips on how to cook Aussie style. The school is considered one of Australia's leading cooking schools and bookings should be made as far in advance as possible - at the same as booking cheap flights to Sydney perhaps. Classes cost $145 (AUS) for a four-hour course and include a demonstration by a leading chef, hands-on cookery, a seafood meal, complimentary wine tasting and recipe kit.
- It didn't all start in 1770 when Cook landed. There are tours of pre-white settlement Sydney with the Tribal Warrior that take 1 hour and 45 minutes. Telling the stories of the Eora, Cadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal peoples, passengers will also learn the Aboriginal names of Sydney's landmarks.
- Other, more offbeat, tours include Sydney by Harley motorbike, hearse or with drag queen. Destiny Tours cruise in haunted hearses through the seedy underbelly of Sydney. The Sydney by Diva tour is best taken around Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (August), a luxury-laden coach trip.