Sydney City Guide: Australia’s Sprawling Cosmopolitan Hub


Glistening on the sun-drenched coast of New South Wales, Sydney is Australia’s distinct and contemporary second city — a sprawling hub of culture, heritage and art, dotted with cafés and parks, museums and galleries.

Sydney is one of mainland Australia’s most historic cities, having first been settled as a penal colony in the 18th century. The city stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Blue Mountains, and boasts the world’s largest natural harbour, earning it the affectionate moniker ‘Harbour City’. It’s here, on the water’s edge, where you can experience Sydney’s iconic architectural feats in their full splendour — from the prestigious Sydney Harbour Bridge, which connects the CBD to the North Shore, to the world-famous Sydney Opera House, easily Australia’s most recognisable landmark.

With its prestigious landmarks, wonderful museums and galleries, and serene outdoor green spaces, Sydney is a must-visit destination during your time down under. If you’re planning a trip to Sydney as part of an Australian cruise, here we offer a complete guide on how best to spend your time in the city.

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How to Get Around in Sydney

Sydney is the biggest city in Australia, and with a population of over five million people, it’s also the most populous. But, don’t let the crowds put you off; the city benefits from a comprehensive transport system that’s designed to help locals and visitors alike move freely between different districts — so you can easily take in all the famous sights and highlights using a mix of trains, trams, regular and sightseeing buses, and local ferries.

To avoid having to save your spare change for bus and rail fares when visiting Sydney, we’d recommend getting yourself an Opal card. Like London’s Oyster card, the Sydney Opal lets you add a set amount of travel funds to a free card, which you can then use to access bus, tram and rail services across the city. This is a great way to ensure hassle-free travel, and means that you can hop on and off whenever you like, without having to know the names of different stations.

To save yourself even more time when you arrive in Sydney, why not order your Opal card in advance of your cruise? That way you can start using it right away when you get there, and avoid the lengthy queues which form at the cruise terminal’s onward travel ticket office. You can get your free Opal card by clicking the link above.

Sydney’s Must-See Attractions

Where to begin when listing the must-see sights and attractions in Sydney? With its world-leading galleries and museums, decadent architecture and bustling café culture, the city is almost unfathomable in its cultural depth and vibrancy — providing unforgettable highlights to treasure.

Sydney opera house - pixabay

Here, we list Sydney’s essential highlights — from Harbour Bridge to the Opera House.

Explore the Café Culture of Darling Harbour

Arguably the most peaceful area of the city, Darling Harbour is the perfect place to start your day. Enjoy the early morning sunshine reflecting off the water with a coffee and pastry whilst taking in the impressive sight of Sydney’s skyscrapers as you plan the rest of your day’s activities.

Climb the Sydney Tower

The best way to get your bearings and see more of the city is to climb Sydney’s highest viewing point, the Sydney Tower. Offering spectacular 360° views of Sydney, including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, you’ll also be able to see Australia’s Blue Mountains in the distance.

Cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Facing stiff competition from the Opera House and Ayers Rock, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is possibly the most famous landmark in Australia. Finished in 1932 after taking eight years to build, no trip to Sydney is complete without making the journey across this impressive structure.

sydney harbour bridge - pixabay

Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens

Situated nearby Sydney’s Central Business District, the Royal Botanic Gardens offer a lush variety of plant and wildlife, adding a much welcome splash of natural colour in the heart of this great city. The gardens are divided into specialised smaller gardens which each house plant life from different corners of the globe. You’ll be able to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House whilst you stroll the lanes of this park, which is always immaculately kept and maintained.

Where to Eat

Sydney boasts a vast array of exceptional eateries, with the city’s cuisine taking influence from every corner of the globe. Expect the very best in Australian, European and Asian fare, served up everywhere from high-end, contemporary restaurants to charming and authentic street food vendors.

Thanks to its position on the shores of the Tasman Sea, Sydney is no stranger to seafood and many of its best restaurants are dedicated to serving up fresh and delicious fish dishes. Our pick of the city’s seafood restaurants is Fish At the Rocks, which, though reasonably expensive, easily serves up some of the freshest seafood in town across a wide-ranging and creative menu.

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If you’d prefer something a little more exotic, cosmopolitan Sydney doesn’t disappoint with its superb array of Asian restaurants. Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants are ten-a-penny across the city, so you’re bound to stumble upon one which can satisfy your cravings for a little Eastern flair. One of our favourite Asian restaurants in Sydney is Tetsuya’s, whose menu of outstanding French-Japanese eats includes miso-cured duck breast, wagyu sirloin with purple kale and tuna with saltbush and finger lime. Delicious.

For food on the move, it has to be Friggitoria. This Italian deli serves up authentic fare like pasta, pizza and club sandwiches, bringing a touch of la dolce vita to the streets of Sydney. This cheap eat is in the Kings Cross area of central Sydney, and promises a truly satisfying alfresco lunch for those keen to continue their tour of the city at pace.

Keen to pay a visit to Sydney as part of your next cruise? Browse our collection of Australian cruise holidays, and start planning your dream voyage down under. For more information, visit the Cruise1st UK homepage or call us on 0808 2746 777.

Sydney City Guide: Australia’s Sprawling Cosmopolitan Hub
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Sydney City Guide: Australia’s Sprawling Cosmopolitan Hub
The Cruise1st team explore Sydney, Australia’s distinct and contemporary second city — a sprawling hub of culture and heritage.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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