Sydney is an amazing city, as much for its vitality and friendly residents as it is for the scads of things to see, do and taste. In my last blog I described the character of the city. Today I’ll suggest some places to visit.
Sydney is a city of iconic locations, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Sydney Opera House, an immense complex of theaters and exhibition halls nestled under what is arguably the most famous roof- actually series of roofs- in the world. No matter from what part of the harbor you view them, the gleaming white shells are impressive, indeed.
The Opera House is fun to walk through and around, each walkway offering a different and intimate view of the famed architecture. But the secret to a fun day in Sydney is in getting to the Opera House. Most tourists take a taxi or bus there. Let me suggest a better way.
Start out in the morning at the north end of Hyde Park, where you’ll take in the view of the immense St. Mary’s Cathedral. Sit at the impressive Archibald Memorial Fountain in the midst of the park and you will hear high-caliber street musicians serenading passersby. On our visit a young flamenco guitarist mesmerized tourists and residents with his fingering dexterity and wide range of musical selections. Enjoy the well-groomed gardens and take in the pleasing architecture of the cathedral itself. When you’re ready, start your walk down Art Gallery Road, which takes off from the northeast end of the park. In a few hundred yards you enter The Domain, a huge public park enjoyed by Sydneyites year round.
Within another few hundred yards you come to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a fresh, airy and delightful museum. Aboriginal art and culture dominates (no photography allowed), but there are also galleries devoted to European artists where you can also photograph to your heart’s content. Sprinkled throughout the museum are places to sit and contemplate. The café is simply wonderful. Our meals were freshly prepared, nicely seasoned and, uncommon for Sydney, reasonably priced.
Once out of the museum, continue walking along the same road, which now turns into Mrs. Macquaries Road. At the point there is a stone bench dedicated to a former governor’s wife. From the point you’ll enjoy commanding views of part of Sydney harbor, especially across the cove to the Opera House.
As you continue around the cove, stroll into the Royal Botanical Gardens and admire the vast collection of plants and trees, including a huge diversity of palms. As you go deeper into the gardens, keep glancing up. Eventually you will spot some fruit bats, then more, and more and more. The Gardens are home to thousands of these immense, harmless creatures, who graze on the abundant figs and other fruits in and around the park. It’s fascinating to watch them grooming as they hang upside-down. They are a loud bunch, too, yelping and calling to each other and creating a cacophony of sound that surrounds you. If you time the visit right, at dusk, you’ll see them flying off on their appointed rounds.
Now simply continue your walk along the cove and you’ll be in the vicinity of the Opera House. But hold off for a little while, if you can.
Right near the Opera House is a captivating area of historic streets and structures. The tiny, but interesting Discovery Museum sits tucked away on a narrow alleyway called Kendall Lane. Across from this must-see museum, is a shopping mall. Once out of the mall, deservedly well-known restaurants, patisseries and pubs surround you. Pick any one and you can’t go wrong. Better yet, take something to go.
Now you’re ready for the Opera House. Walk the few remaining blocks and…
No, wait a minute! First take a detour. It’s still only late afternoon, the perfect time to take a side trip up Argyle Street to The Sydney Observatory. The Opera House will wait (the best time to see it is toward dusk anyway).
The Observatory sits atop a hill, with a panoramic view of Sydney. It is a historic structure housing an astronomical observatory, now defunct, but turned into a terrific little museum. Here you can see photo exhibits of the planets, stars and galaxies, as well as historically interesting exhibits on Australian astronomy.
The grounds offer up a lovely garden, places to sit peacefully and take in the Sydney skyline. Enjoy your take-out while sitting on a bench under mammoth ficus trees. Okay, when you’re done, you’re now ready for the Opera House. Trek back down Argyle Street, stroll around Circular Quay and you’ll see streets leading to the Opera House on your left. Enjoy!
In my next blog we’ll explore another popular Sydney area.