Sydney is one of those cities that almost everyone has heard of. It’s always been somewhere that’s interested me because it is on the other side of the world and always looks so sunny and glamorous in photographs. It’s the place that everyone looks to for a fabulous fireworks display at new year and confuses people everywhere by not being the capital city of Australia. When we decided that we were going to Australia for a week (an extremely limited time for such a large country), I knew I wanted to see somewhere iconic. Think of Australia and a lot of people think of the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock or Sydney – and I wanted to go to one of them. Sydney seemed like the simplest option and I’m so glad we went as I loved this city more than I ever thought I would.
Sunday in Sydney
We arrived in Sydney on a Sunday and my top tip would be to make sure that there is a Sunday as part of your stay. The main reason for this is that the public transport is really cheap. On a Sunday only all public transport (excluding the journey to/from the airport) is capped at $2.60 so it’s an excellent way to get around and either do some longer and usually more expensive trips, or make use of the ferries. We went by day and by night to see the Harbour Bridge and Opera House on the ferry which we possibly wouldn’t have done if it had been full price.
Another good reason to be in Sydney at the weekend is for The Rocks Markets. The Rocks is a historic area of Sydney which is filled with galleries, pubs and restaurants. On a Friday there is a foodie market held in the streets, and on Saturday and Sunday an open air market takes places selling all manner of different items. I could have bought lots of little gifts that were for sale, from hand crafted jewellery to illustrated playing cards. We also tried and bought some Cicada chocolate which has been named by National Geographic as one of the world’s top ten chocolate shops.
Whilst I loved Sydney, I do have to admit that my first impression of one of the iconic sights was slightly disappointing. The Opera House didn’t look as big as I thought it would be, and I was surprised it wasn’t actually white as that’s the colour it always appears to be in photos. However, when I saw it from a more familiar angle with the bridge behind it rather than in front it was more how I expected to see it.
We were staying in the Chinatown area of Sydney which was a really convenient location for the things that we wanted to do, but it also meant we were spoiled for choice when it came to dinner. We ended up going to a Malaysian restaurant called Mamak which had been recommended to us and we’d seen a queue outside when we first arrived which was a good sign. The food was spicier than I would usually opt for but it was really tasty. The lamb curry in particular was delicious as the lamb was so tender it just fell apart in your mouth. We passed lots of great looking restaurants whilst we were in Sydney but I’m glad we decided to try something a little different to usual.
Sydney Aquarium and Wild Life Sydney Zoo
After a first day of getting our bearings and making the most of the cheap transport, we opted for a very touristy day by heading to Sydney Aquarium and the next door Wild Life Zoo. We had heard that the aquarium was meant to be one of the world’s best which was our main reason for going. I have to admit I don’t think it is the best aquarium I’ve been to, but it was still pretty good and we saw some interesting creatures that I’m not sure I’ve seen elsewhere including Pyjama Squid and Lung Fish. It was also home to two Dugongs (only six live in captivity in the whole world) so they were interesting to see and hear more about.
The Wild Life Sydney Zoo wasn’t the sort of thing I’d usually go to (it was much smaller than other zoos and largely under cover) but was a good way of getting to see lots of Australian wildlife in one place; from koalas and kangaroos to platypus and a crocodile. If we’d been in Australia for longer I probably wouldn’t have gone, in the hope of seeing some of the creatures in the wild, but knowing we had limited time it was a good way of seeing everything. We were able to feed and stroke a kangaroo during a keeper talk which was an unexpected bonus. We also paid extra for a koala encounter which I wouldn’t bother with again. We mistakenly thought we were going to be able to hold a koala (lack of research on our part – apparently it’s illegal in New South Wales) so that was a bit of a disappointment but also all the koalas we were in the enclosure with were asleep. So we have a lovely photo of us with a sleeping koala but I’d rather have saved the money and done something else, particularly as you could get just as good a photo of the koalas from outside of the enclosure.
Walking around Sydney
Whilst Sydney is a big city, you can walk around the centre fairly easily providing you can put up with the heat. Like with most cities, walking around is the best way to see and stumble across interesting things. We headed for the Botanical Gardens which were a lovely area to walk around. I was surprised by the number of runners we came across – I got the impression that a lot of people were keen on keeping fit. We also decided that the best view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge was from Mrs Macquaries Point. We also headed to The Calyx, which is a cafe, event venue and also holds a series of exhibitions. There was an exhibition on pollination whilst we were there which featured a large living wall and lots of orchids in the flower beds.
From here, we walked along to the State Library of New South Wales which was holding a couple of photography exhibitions that were interesting to go around. We also got to look in the main reading room and the Shakespeare room. It was all free and quite interesting – particularly for me! The gift shop was also really good, a great place for book lovers.
I loved Sydney and was sad we were only there for three days as we could easily have spent a lot longer exploring the city and surrounding area. The museums, Bondi beach, Manly and the Blue Mountains are all on the list for next time as this is somewhere I’d like to return to.