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What Is Sydney Known for & Famous For
Sydney is an Australian city that’s famous throughout the world. Some might say it’s the country’s most famous city, but why is this?
Sydney is known and famous for the iconic Sydney Opera House, its excellent surfing, and high quality of life. It’s also famous for various other things, including delicious seafood, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and its multinational culture.
Read further for an in-depth explanation on what makes Sydney such a famous city.
1. The Sydney Opera House
Famous globally for its architectural beauty and engineering innovations, the Sydney Opera House is an iconic part of the city’s skyline. It was built in 1973, and many consider it one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.
The building features pristine white shells on the roof, which resemble sails. The city’s main landmark is a performing arts theater that attracts over 10 million visitors annually. The indoor environment is cooled by a system of pipes that sources its water directly from the harbor.
The Sydney Opera House has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, and over 1500 performances are held there every year. Examples include:
- Comedy shows
- Other events
Queen Elizabeth II attended the opening of the Opera house and has visited a few more times since.
Although surfing was invented by the Polynesians, particularly in Hawaii — it was popularized by the Australians after it was introduced to them in Sydney. In fact, Sydney is considered one of the top surfing destinations in the world.
Beaches on Sydney’s northern side are highly sought-after surfing locations. Some of the top competitive surfers globally frequently visit Sydney to hit the waves. Sydney is also home to one of the most famous beaches worldwide, Bondi Beach.
Sydney has a wide variety of beaches — from tranquil bays to world-renowned surf beaches with roaring waves. The city’s beach life is iconic, and no tourist can say they’ve visited Sydney without a proper beach day (or two) on their itinerary.
No matter what type of beach experience you are looking for, Sydney has it down to a tee. Whether it’s golden sand coastlines with all the water activities you could dream of or lying back and relaxing in the sun.
All Sydney’s beaches are well-cared-for, and there are laws protecting marine life on some of them. Some beaches are very secluded, while others attract visitors by the thousands at peak times.
4. Water Sports
As I’ve mentioned earlier, you can find most water sports and related activities in Sydney. The city has miles of coastline, and there are more water bodies within the city, including creeks and rivers. These bodies of water make all kinds of water sports possible:
- Whitewater rafting
Needless to say, Sydney’s coastline offers some of the best coral reefs for snorkeling and an even more incredible experience if you decide to go scuba diving. Divers visiting Sydney get the chance to explore over 160 species of fish in its marine reserves.
As you’d expect with any coastal city, Sydney offers some of the world’s best seafood. Whether you catch a deep-sea fishing charter to catch the fish yourself or visit the many fish markets and restaurants around the city, you can expect high-quality seafood.
Restaurants such as Saint Peter or Flying Fish are favorites among locals and tourists alike. You can expect to find mouth-watering prawns, freshly-caught salmon, barramundi, and even wild tuna. Fresh oysters are also a common dish on the menu in many restaurants.
6. High Quality of Life
Australians are known for enjoying a better quality of life compared to other countries in Europe or the Americas. Sydney has, for a long time, been the highest-ranking city in Australia for quality of life. On a global level, Sydney is often ranked as the 10th best city for quality of life.
Because Sydney is Australia’s biggest economy, it offers many job opportunities. The school systems are excellent, the crime rate is low, and the average income is higher than in similar cities around the world or even in Australia.
As you would expect with any thriving economy, the prices in Sydney tend to be higher than in other Australian cities. Tourists from other countries looking forward to visiting Australia might skip Sydney because it’s so expensive.
This doesn’t impact the quality of life for the local residents, as their income is appropriate for the prices. Nonetheless, if you’re planning on visiting Sydney on vacation, you’ll need to save up first.
The Economist reports that Sydney is the country’s most expensive city. That’s not to be taken lightly because Australia is already considered expensive compared to other developed countries.
8. Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is probably one of Sydney’s most famous beaches, and for good reason. Whether you just want to bathe in the warm sun or take a swim in the ocean, Bondi beach is an excellent choice.
The beach is a prime surfing location, offering spots for beginners and wilder waves for the experienced surfer. If you’re unfamiliar with ocean swimming, don’t get into the water if it reaches above your waistline. You can find tamer waves on the northern side of the beach, where many beginners learn to surf.
Bondi Beach isn’t far from the city, and there are several restaurants and other service establishments nearby. In general, it’s a hotspot for tourists and locals on vacation.
Around a third of the world’s marsupials are in Australia, many of which you can find in Sydney. If you weren’t sure what a marsupial is, it’s a mammal in the same class as kangaroos, wombats, and koalas. The defining feature of these mammals is that they’re born underdeveloped, and the females carry their young in a pouch until they’re fully developed.
Sydney may be a developed city, but Australia is well known for its wildlife preservation policies. According to official reports, several marsupials can be found natively in Sydney, even in highly developed areas. This means you can spot many of them in gardens and parks around the city:
10. Not the Capital of Australia
Sydney is more popular than any other city in Australia, and most non-Australians mistake it for the country’s capital city. A close second would be Melbourne, which is also not the capital of Australia. The true capital of the Commonwealth of Australia is Canberra, but not everyone knows that!
Many say Canberra is the center of Australia’s politics, whereas Sydney is the economic center due to the larger population. Sydney was the first European settlement built on the continent, but it has never been the capital of Australia.
11. Sydney Harbour Bridge
The largest steel arch bridge on Earth can be found spanning Sydney’s business district. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an architectural feat and part of the iconic image of the city. Many postcards showing Sydney include the bridge and have the Sydney Opera House nearby.
You can take a ride on the bridge by car or bicycle, and there’s also a walkway for pedestrians. The spectacular view from the bridge is indescribable. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might climb the peak for an even more breathtaking view.
12. Blue Mountains National Park
Another world heritage site in Sydney is Blue Mountains National park, which is not as famous as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a hotspot for those who are into adventure sports. Visitors can take part in a variety of sports activities, including:
- Horse riding
If all else fails, hiking the trails in this historic park will give you a dose of nature at its best. There are many aboriginal sites associated with the park, and guided walking tours include showing historical walking trails that aboriginals used.
13. Mary’s Cathedral
Saint Mary’s Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Sydney. The current building is a restoration of the original church that burned down in 1865. It plays an important role in the heritage and cultural history of the region. Even those who aren’t spiritually inclined visit the church can still appreciate the beautiful Gothic Revival style it’s known for.
The building is constructed in sandstone, and the church holds many devotional objects. Architecturally, it’s a beautiful building with stained glass windows, oak ceilings, and intricate carvings throughout the church.
14. Hornby Lighthouse
Following two shipwrecks in the 19th century, the Australian public demanded a lighthouse in Sydney. The Hornby Lighthouse was constructed in 1858 and is still active to this day.
The alluring red and white painted sandstone lighthouse was automated in the early 30s, and many tourists enjoy visiting the area for the picturesque views of Watson’s Bay, which leads into the Pacific. I highly recommend exploring the surrounding area and historical cottages.
15. Robertsons Point Lighthouse
Another must-see lighthouse in the Northern suburbs of Sydney is Robertsons Point Lighthouse, an attractive sight. It’s mounted on solid rock and shines green just like its sibling lighthouse (Bradley’s Head Lighthouse).
The lighthouse was built in 1910 and is made from gorgeous precast concrete. Visiting the site is great for photos, but keep in mind that the tower is closed to the public.
16. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
Tourists and locals in Sydney can visit the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium to explore hundreds of local marine life species up close. Most people spend at least an hour in the aquarium, with the recommended time frame being 90 minutes.
This aquarium is distinct because all its species are Australian, and the exhibits feature Australian themes throughout. Visitors can learn about how drastically different marine life on the continent can be and the various waterways in which they live.
When visiting this aquarium, you can spot unique marine animals, such as zebra sharks, shark rays, and even eagle rays. There are several sanctuaries and complexes within the aquarium that are also worth exploring.
17. Sydney Fish Market
The largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney Fish Market, is worth the trip for anyone who loves eating fresh fish and other seafood. Around 15,000 tonnes (15,000 kg) of fish are sold in this market per annum, all of which are freshly caught and of exceptional quality.
Although this may not be a typical tourist destination, Sydney is famous for its seafood, and this market offers you all the seafood your heart could possibly desire.
18. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Also known as the MCA, this is the place to go if you’re looking for contemporary art pieces to explore. Over a million people visit this museum every year in search of new art exhibits and imaginative creations.
The museum is part of Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, The Rocks. You can find interesting artwork from Australian artists as well as international ones, and most visitors like to enjoy a cup of coffee at the on-site cafe overlooking the harbor. Entrance is free.
19. Luna Park Sydney
For a little bit of family fun while in Australia, it doesn’t get better than Luna Park. The amusement park is packed with rides for children and adults of all ages, and has been operating since 1935.
The Luna park face at the park entrance has been changed eight times between 1935 and 1995, and it’s forever associated with the fun that can be had in this theme park. Inside, visitors can enjoy rides, including the:
- Wild Mouse Roller Coaster
- Hair Raiser
- Big Dipper III
20. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is perfect for those seeking the ultimate nature adventure. The park combines several scenic terrains all in one park:
- The coast
- A Rainforest
Visitors to the park range from casual picnickers to serious hiking enthusiasts, and even school children on a day trip. Tourists from all over the world are welcome, and there are many sites to explore. In this park, you can find a number of Aboriginal sites showing their heritage and history.
This park hits the spot for anyone hoping to explore the gorgeous beauty of Sydney’s creeks and rainforests while also learning about its history.
21. Royal National Park
As you can see, Sydney offers more than its fair share of nature. In the Royal National Park, visitors are welcome to go fishing, bushwalking, and even birdwatching. There’s a picnic area for casual visits and several trails for the more adventurous.
22. Surry Hills
Most people would think that the Central Business District (CBD) is the heart of Sydney but they would be wrong. Surry Hills is a Sydney suburb that’s known for its blue-collar roots and the way it’s evolving into a stylish area in the heart of the city.
There are many local attractions in Surry Hills:
- Trendy cafes
- Fashion boutiques
- Internationally-acclaimed restaurants
- Surry Hills Market, a monthly event attracting visitors and sellers alike with its handmade crafts, food, and used items
The bohemian, quirky part of town is Newtown, a hubspot for everything artsy. This bustling part of Sydney practically never sleeps. Local visitors and tourists come to Newtown at all times of the day in search of:
- Live music
- Theater performances
- Hip restaurants
- Watering holes
Walking through the streets of this part of Sydney offers interesting architectural finds, such as a few Victorian-era buildings that have been revived.
This suburb in Sydney’s eastern side is known for its electric vibe. It’s also where visitors can find the city’s LGBTQ+ scene. If there’s one word to describe this area of town, it would be ‘edgy.’
Visitors can watch the annual pride parade through Darlinghurst’s Oxford Street or visit one of the many nightclubs in the area year-round.
Diners in Sydney have a choice between world-class restaurants and humble stalls at local markets. The food is mostly sourced from local produce, and it’s delicious, to say the least.
Seafood is always freshly caught and well-cooked. The mix of cultures in this city makes the fusion of multiple food cultures possible. Waves of immigrants over the years have brought food cultures with them, and Sydneysiders made it their own. From chicken parmigiana to grilled barramundi, diners can expect nothing less than exceptional food.
As you’d expect in any major city, Sydney’s nightlife is bustling and exciting. There’s a wide diversity in choices as well, and patrons can choose from high-end fancy spots to more funky and edgy clubbing spots.
Oxford street is Sydney’s nightclub strip, but there are other parts of town to explore as well.
27. The Arts
Sydney is a destination for tourists all over the world looking to enjoy anything artistic. Whether it’s performing arts in the Sydney Opera House or art exhibits in the Museum of Contemporary Arts, there’s something for everyone.
Aside from these traditional artsy venues, Sydney is known for encouraging the arts in any form.
28. Cool Spaces
When exploring the streets of Sydney, visitors are bound to observe an abundance of cool venues where a variety of events are held. Cool spaces include Glass Island with its panoramic views, or The Mint, a heritage building with indoor and outdoor seating.
The city is a great place for hosting any type of event in Australia because the venues are immaculate, and the service is exceptional.
Sydney is world-famous for being a style capital, and there are more than enough places where shoppers can spend a day (or few) shopping. Whether shopping for luxury brands, local fashion lines, or handmade jewelry and clothing, shoppers can find what they’re looking for.
Shoppers are spoiled for choice when it comes to options because there are:
- Small boutiques
- Multi-story malls
30. Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour is a location that brings together the two most iconic images of Sydney: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House. With almost a quarter of a million kilometers (155,342 miles) of shoreline, the Sydney Harbour (also known as Port Jackson) is a must-see for anyone in Australia.
Port Jackson is on the Tasmanian Sea and has plenty of picturesque beaches, national parks, and a few islands as well.
31. New Year Fireworks Display
Also known as Sydney New Year’s Eve, this annual event is held at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). There are usually two different fireworks displays, one at 9 pm and another at midnight.
The event has been televised every year since 1995, with millions of people watching from around the world. A comparatively smaller number of viewers are lucky enough to experience it up close from the harbor.
Sydney Harbour Bridge and the nearby waterfall both offer unique views during the fireworks display. For anyone in Sydney or anywhere else in Australia during New Year, this is a must-see.
Sydney is a melting pot, which makes the city’s overall culture very dynamic. A fusion of multiple cultures and a focus on art are characteristic features of Sydney’s culture.
Major sports in the city are:
- Australian football
Overall, Sydney reflects the laid-back culture of the rest of Australia. Sydneysiders also love the outdoors and physical activity in all shapes and forms.
Sydney is a global city, and the high quality of life I’ve mentioned earlier makes it a destination for immigrants from around the world. Over the years, there have been waves of immigration from many countries. Although the city was predominantly British, Irish, and Chinese at the turn of the 20th century, there’s now a wider and more diverse variety of nationalities in Sydney.
Immigrants from various countries blend together in Sydney to form one community:
- Southeast Asia
- Other European countries
Like the rest of Australia, nature is a prominent feature in Sydney, even in the urban areas. The business district is minutes away from the beach, and walking trails in rainforests are just as easily accessible.
Sydneysiders are known for enjoying nature in all its glory and for preserving nature as best they can. Global visitors also love exploring the scenic and adventurous parts of Sydney that are less than an hour’s drive away from urban areas.
Sydney is known and famous for many things, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy when visiting.
It has a rich, multinational culture and a vibrant nightlife scene but it’s equally a laid-back and relaxing vacation destination. When exploring Sydney, the only regret you’ll have is that you didn’t visit sooner!
- UNESCO World Heritage Convention: Sydney Opera House
- Sydney.com: Water Sports in Sydney
- News.com AU: World’s most expensive cities
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment: Mammals in Sydney
- St. Mary’s Cathedral AU: History of the Cathedral – Living our heritage
- Sydney’s Luna Park: Rides & Game
- Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre: SURRY HILLS MARKET