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The city is also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on this planet.
The busy centre of government and finance, but also home to many famous attractions, fine restaurants, and shopping.
Just to the west of Circular Quay, now a cosmopolitan area, The Rocks includes the first colonial village of Sydney and the iconic Harbour Bridge.
An extensive leisure and entertainment area immediately to the west of the Central Business District (CBD). See restaurants, boardwalks, aquariums, wildlife, and museums by foot.
The Haymarket, Chinatown and Central Station area is home to markets, cafes, Chinese culture and cuisine, and some cheaper accommodation and shopping.
Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo and Moore Park. Busy nightlife, and coffee shops, fashion and entertainment by day.
An early morning trip to the fish markets, exploring the Powerhouse Museum, finding a maritime pub or hitting The Star Casino.
Sydney is a vast sprawling city, and the suburbs in the city metropolitan area spread for up to 100km from the city centre. The traveller visiting the suburbs will find less crowded beaches, parks, cheaper shopping, commercial centres, cultural festivals, and other such hidden gems.
Between the City and the sea, includes the world-famous Bondi Beach and other city beaches, which are strong drawcards for visitors and residents in the city during summer.
The area south of the CBD and north of the Georges River, including the areas surrounding Sydney Airport and Brighton Le Sands on Botany Bay.
Sydney's original suburbs are now bohemian and are a hub of cheap eats, shopping and inner-city culture. Also contains Sydney Olympic Park, the home of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, parks, cycling, and events.
Lower North Shore
Over the Harbour Bridge are leafy residential areas stretching northwards. The North Shore also has major commercial and retail areas at North Sydney and Chatswood, many smaller boutique shopping areas, and many parks and gardens, and Sydney's famous Taronga Zoo.
Upper North Shore
Includes leafy residential areas, national parks and waterways.
From Manly stretching North along the coast to Palm Beach.
Contains the Northern Districts with includes Sydney's Silicon Valley at Macquarie Park, the northern side of the western reaches of Sydney Harbour, and the the largely residential area of the Hills District in the north-west of the city.
Sydney's "second" CBD, with history, shopping, eating, all just 30 minutes from the city centre.
The district to the far south and east of the city centre including Cronulla and Captain Cooks Landing Place.
Contains the centres of Liverpool and Campbelltown are a large swathe of residential and commercial Sydney.
Stretching from Parramatta out to the Blue Mountains
The Hawkesbury is a semi-rural area to the northwest of the city, centred around the Hawkesbury River. Its main towns are Richmond and Windsor.
You can fly to Sydney directly from all other Australian capital cities and from many major regional airports. Otherwise, you need to fly to the state capital and transfer to a Sydney flight. Sydney can be reached within an hour and a half from Melbourne and Brisbane, 45 minutes from Canberra and just under four hours from Perth and Alice Springs.
Between the airport and the city
Local buses. If you want to skip the GatePass fee, an option is to take the 400 local bus route towards Bondi Junction. This bus stops about 200m from the Mascot suburban rail station, which is one train-stop from the Domestic Airport but free from the GatePass fee. Walk out of the Mascot rail station (heading south), cross the street at the light, and continue walking straight - it will be on the left side of the street. The bus costs $3.30 and the train $3.40. If you're travelling from the domestic terminal, the M20 bus will take you to Central, Wynyard, Town Hall and North Sydney stations. At the airport, the bus stops are located outside T1 and T3 (but not T2). There is only limited luggage space on the bus, but if you can manage backpacks or suitcases by yourself it should not be a problem.
By public transport
TripGo & TripView are free iPhone, iPad & Android Apps that provide directions for all transport modes around Sydney, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains & Woollongong. They show cost, time and carbon output for each trip.
As of 2012, Google Maps can also be used to plan Sydney public transport routes.
What to see
Sydney is one of those cities that invites tourists to custom-design their sightseeing. Unlike many cities throughout the world, Sydney is not a city where people come to see "X" or experience "Y." That's because Sydney is home to museums, cafes and restaurants, shopping and historical sites. It can be explored both on foot and via the water. While all of Sydney has sights worth visiting, much of its glory is housed in the City Centre. Here, visitors can choose to start their visit with a journey back in time at The Rocks, site of the first European settlement in Australia.
If you want to learn more about Australia's past, present and future, you can visit the multitude of museums found in City Centre. Some museums are free to enter year-round while others charge admission.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House are two of Sydney's famous landmarks that can be visited when exploring Sydney on foot. While these are two of the best-known landmarks, Sydney's City Centre has a host of less famous buildings and structures that are worth a visit.
Australia is nothing if not renowned for its vast and unique variety of wildlife. There are numerous opportunities to spot birds, bats, opossums and the occasional kangaroo or wallaby in Sydney's national parks. The only trick is that most of these animals are primarily spotted at sunrise and sunset when the weather is coolest. Those wishing to guarantee animal sightings can head to the Taronga Zoo in the Lower North Shore or the Wild Life Sydney Zoo in Darling Harbor. Darling Harbor is also home to the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The aquarium offers visitors an opportunity to truly see life "down under", down under the water anyway.
For a different type of animal sighting, visitors can head to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs to find the famous Bondi Beach. This beach attracts thousands of visitors every year, making it a great place for people watching.
After exploring Sydney by land, stop by Sydney Harbor to explore it by water. Ferries, cruises and whale watching excursions depart regularly from this part of Sydney.
The Rocks has sites preserved from Sydney's early settlement.
Parramatta to the west of Sydney is the site of many of Sydney's oldest buildings from colonial times.
Macquarie Street in the City has a string of historical sites, from the first hospital in the colony, to the Mint to Hyde Park Barracks, to the Conservatorium which was the original government house stables. Sydney Hospital was first known as "The Rum Hospital", it was the first major building established in the colony.
La Perouse, near Botany Bay, in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs contains the grave of an early French explorer, museum, and old fort.
The walk from Manly to Middle Head passes many coastal artillery fortifications built into the cliffs of Sydney Harbour during the late nineteenth century.
Mrs Macquarie's Chair and walk near the Botanical Gardens in the City
Anzac War Memorial at the eastern end of Hyde Park in the City Centre. The memorial commemorates the memory of those Australians who lost their lives during war. It houses a small museum, an impressive statue and the Pool of Remembrance. Sydney's Anzac War Memorial was built in the 1930s.
Waverley Cemetery: Cemetery on top of the cliffs at Bronte in the eastern suburbs.
Sydney opera house
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Before returning to the Sydney CBD, walk from the Manly ferry wharf along the Manly Corso to famous Manly Beach. A great day, afternoon or evening out at a fraction of the price of a commercial harbour cruise.
You can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour at breakneck speeds.
Sydney Harbour can be viewed from the city or from on of the many walks next to it, most of which are easily accessible by ferry or bus.