1. Travel

Sydney, Australia

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Harbour City
A view of Sydney with the Sydney Opera House in the foregound

A view of Sydney with the Sydney Opera House in the foregound

© Tourism New South Wales

Sydney, founded in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip who led the flotilla of convict ships from Britain, is Australia's best known city. Not surprisingly, some believe it to be the nation's capital.

Most visitors to Australia have Sydney as their major first destination. They either stay in Sydney, discovering its numerous and ofttimes iconic attractions and the city's nearby areas reached by daytrips.

Or they radiate from Sydney into other parts of Australia, to the Great Barrier Reef, for instance, or the Outback.

Sydney sightseeing

Sydney travel and sightseeing go hand in hand and need a bit of planning, especially within the constraints of time.

If you're a first-time Sydney travel visitor, finding out exactly where to go in only a day or two and how to find places in an orderly and logical manner can be worrying.

If you have limited time to spend — but want to see the sights, feel the throb of early history, partake a bit of the cultural life, dine, and check out the nightlife — here's one Sydney travel and sightseeing guide:

The Rocks

Begin with history — at The Rocks district in Sydney Cove where Captain Phillip started the settlement in 1788 which has since grown into the Sydney that it is today.

Here, where buildings exhude an air of the past, you find specialist shops, open-air markets, colonial-style restaurants, street entertainment, and access to historical sites.

This is a place where you must travel on foot, in and out of the streets and into the many alleyways where different places wait quietly to be discovered.

From The Rocks, Sydney sightseeing should then take you to Circular Quay, passing by the Museum of Contemporary Art where you can view celebrations of the Aboriginal spirit and the newer arts of today.

Note that the Museum of Contemporary Art is currently closed to the public while renovations and the building of an annex are being completed. The museum is expected to reopen in early 2012.

Quay to the Opera House

For many Sydney visitors, Sydney sightseeing must take in the Sydney Opera House, one of the United Nations-inscribed World Heritage sites.

And so it's down to Circular Quay, to the railway and bus terminals and the berths of Sydney ferries, through the bustle of crowds and hawkers and buskers, and so up to Bennelong Point where the Sydney Opera House stands, gently lapped by the waters of Sydney Cove.

While here, if you have time for it later, you can book for one of its operatic productions, or a symphony concert, dance program or play. And there are tours of the site at regular intervals.

Gardens and gallery

From the Opera House you can then take a leisurely walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and on to the Domain, where the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

You should see what the Art Gallery has to offer and view at least one of its many art displays such as the permanent exhibition of Aboriginal art at the Yiribana Gallery. Entry to the Art Gallery, except for certain special or visiting exhibitions, is free.

Lunchtime? There is a fine restaurant at the gallery itself or you can cross the road to Pavilion in the Park.

Cross-city walk

And then it's time to cross the central business district, past St Mary's Cathedral, Hyde Park, the Australian Museum, through Chinatown and on to Darling Harbour. If you feel you need to rest your feet, take the monorail and stop where you please.

A Darling place

At Darling Harbour there's the Chinese Garden, the Sydney Powerhouse Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, convention centre, exhibition halls, promenades, pubs, restaurants, shops, ferries, sailing ships.

Wish upon a Star

The Sydney entertainment and gaming complex, The Star, formerly Star City, is nearby if you want to have a go at roulette or blackjack. The Sydney Entertainment Centre is also within spitting distance.

At dusk or early evening, you might want to return to Chinatown if you fancy a Chinese meal, or to some other restaurant in the area.

And night falls on the city

If you had booked an opera seat for the night, you can then proceed to the Opera House by bus or taxi.

Failing which, if you have time to spare, you can always whizz through the Cross for an altogether different kind of night.

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