City Orientation Walking Tour I (Self Guided), Sydney

Australia's largest metropolis and capital of New South Wales, Sydney is deservedly reputed as one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural destinations on Earth. The unique character of Sydney adds much to its appeal, as you will certainly discover yourself while taking this self-guided walk around the most popular and prominent attractions of Sydney.
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City Orientation Walking Tour I Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walking Tour I
Guide Location: Australia » Sydney (See other walking tours in Sydney)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sydney Town Hall
  • Chinese Garden of Friendship
  • Darling Harbour
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
  • Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
  • Sydney Tower
  • Hyde Park
  • Hyde Park Barracks
  • Saint Mary's Cathedral
  • Martin Place
  • George Street
1
Sydney Town Hall

1) Sydney Town Hall (must see)

The offices of the Lord Mayor and Councillors of the city are located in the Sydney Town Hall. It is an ornate sandstone building constructed on the site of a former cemetery. Before the inauguration of the Opera House, it was Sydney’s Concert Hall and many notable music performances took place at the venue.

The Sydney Town Hall was built between 1868 and 1889. The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh. When it was completed, it was the grandest public building in the British Empire. The original structure was designed by architects, Wilson, Bell and Bond. The architectural style is Grand Victorian Second Empire Italian Renaissance. The clock tower was built in 1881 and the clock was installed in 1885. The Town hall underwent extensive repairs and refurbishment to suit modern office requirements and the renovated structure was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992.

The Centennial Hall at the centre of the building has the largest pipe organ that uses tubular pneumatic action in the world. The interiors have a wealth of carved figures, mosaic floors, and stained glass. A 20-minute tour takes visitors around the building explaining the history of the City.

Why You Should Visit:
Free for a quick look – it's good to see grand old buildings preserved virtually as they were built.
The surrounding square is also great in summer when the City Council puts out deck chairs for the public to use and relax in the sun or just eat lunch.

Tip:
Try to visit during one of the free organ recitals held every month, as nothing beats hearing the organ in operation.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-6pm
2
Chinese Garden of Friendship

2) Chinese Garden of Friendship (must see)

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a serene oasis in the midst of the bustling city of Sydney. It was a gift from its sister city Guangzhou. The layout is based on the typical landscape of Ming Dynasty Chinese gardens.

The Garden's inauguration in 1988 formed part of the bicentennial celebrations of the city. It was called the "garden of friendship" forging a bond between China and Australia. It is located near Chinatown in Darling Harbour and showcases the rich heritage and culture of the Chinese people. It is the only authentic Chinese garden outside Asia.

The landscape is unique because visitors cannot see the entire garden from any point within the park. Other features include a Dragon Wall that symbolises the friendship between Sydney and Guangzhou, a water pavilion filled with lotus flowers, stone bridges, waterfalls, exotic plants and twin pavilions. A Chinese Bonsai nursery is also located in the garden. The tea house serves an array of Chinese refreshments in addition to traditional Chinese tea. It has become a popular venue for weddings and other social gatherings in Sydney.

Why You Should Visit:
Very calming atmosphere, quiet, but with sounds of trickling waterfalls, and birds.
Although in the heart of the city, the traffic is barely audible and there are loads of places to sit and relax.
Multiple photo opportunities, though it's imperative to have a map so you don't get lost and repeat what you've already seen.

Tip:
Do the traditional costume dress up and walk around the park to the dismay of other visitors. It's fun!
Watch the feeding of the Koi fish in the lake at 11-11:30am if you can.
Not a free site but very affordable and you can use the ticket all day.
If you can, schedule your visit to join the free tour.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
3
Darling Harbour

3) Darling Harbour (must see)

The Darling Harbour is a recreational area of Sydney with many interesting tourist attractions. It is also the place where visitors take hop on and off cruises around the harbour.

Named after Lieutenant General Ralph Darling, a former Governor General of New South Wales, it was once a thriving wharf and railway goods yard. Later the location was declared unfit for its original purpose and in the mid-1980s, it was decided to make it into a recreation facility. It was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the city’s bicentennial celebrations. Darling Harbour runs from Chinatown, on both sides of Cockle Bay to Kings Street Wharf and Pyrmont.

Darling Harbour is administered by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Major public attractions include the Chinese Gardens, Tombalong Park, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center, Australian National Maritime Museum, an IMAX theater, and the Sydney Aquarium. Cockle Bay Wharf has many budget eating places and high-end restaurants. Events that take place here include the Darling Harbour Circus and Street Theatre, a Jazz Festival, the Darling Harbour Waiter’s Race and the World’s Longest Buffet. It is one of the most popular attractions in Sydney and over a million people visit Darling Harbour every year.

Why You Should Visit:
A fun, buzzing, unique place that is fast becoming the heart of Sydney – when you see the food outlets and the closeness to amazing shopping you'll understand why.
Morning, noon or night, there's so much going on and you could sit here for hours taking it all in.

Tip:
Try heading down to the harbour between 4-7pm, as pretty much every restaurant/bar will have a Happy Hour going with drink & food prices slashed down.
Take a ferry from Darling Harbour into Sydney – you get to see wonderful views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from the water!
4
Australian National Maritime Museum

4) Australian National Maritime Museum (must see)

The Australian National Maritime Museum is dedicated to the maritime history of the country and its continuing involvement and dependence on seas and oceans. The building looks like a ship and the roof resembles billowing sails.

The Australian National Maritime Museum is the only federally-operated museum outside the capital territory. It has seven main galleries with different themes including one wholly funded by the USA, showcasing the maritime relationship between the two countries. The museum opened in 1989.

The galleries have permanent exhibitions depicting the discovery of Australia, the relationship and trade carried on by the Aborigines with other parts of Asia, travel to Australia by sea, the ocean as a resource and a gallery devoted to the ocean as a recreational venue. Three galleries are used for temporary exhibits. There are also three museum ships, a replica of HMS Endeavour that discovered the Australian continent, HMAS Vampire and HMS Onslow, a submarine, that are open to the public. Visitors can view life on convict ships, what emigrant ships brought to Australia and the history of the World War I naval battle of Gallipoli where an Australian fleet fought bravely and lost. The museum has many hands-on exhibits to entertain children, a cinema, and ocean-related computer games.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent experience with really informative volunteer guides providing a real insight into life as a mariner.
The ships can be a bit claustrophobic but you can really appreciate what it must have been like to have served on board.

Tip:
The main museum is free (ink stamp on the wrist) but if you want to do the submarine, destroyer, or the wooden sailing ship you have to pay for those.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
5
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

5) SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium (must see)

Opened in 1988, the Sydney Aquarium located on the eastern part of Darling Harbour is one of the largest in the world. More than a million people visit every year to view the diverse variety of Australian aquatic creatures showcased at the aquarium.

The Sydney Aquarium was designed to look like a wave. The inauguration was part of the bicentennial celebrations of the city. New innovative exhibitions were added after the opening and today, the display consists of over 650 species including 6000 individual fish and other marine and freshwater creatures from the rivers and seas of Australia.

The aquarium is divided into several exhibit areas including the Southern Rivers, the Northern Rivers, the Mermaid Lagoon, the Southern Ocean and the Northern Ocean. Visitors can view exhibits through a series of transparent underwater acrylic tunnels. They can see the unique species of fish and other animals swimming alongside or over their heads. Notable species at the aquarium are a platypus, Dugongs, Penguins, the Saltwater Crocodile and a recreation of the Great Barrier Reef. Besides being a major tourist attraction the Sydney Aquarium is also a research facility where tagging of sea turtles is performed and the effects of chemical contamination of water on aquatic life are studied.

Why You Should Visit:
A wonderful walk-through experience with many different sea life displays and varied viewing experiences!

Tip:
Pre-book your visit tickets online if possible; not only are discounts available you will also minimize or avoid queueing (which can be lengthy at peak times).
Aquarium inclusion in one of many Harbour ferry and tour packages is also common and definitely worth considering.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-6pm, except Tuesdays: 9:30am-3pm
6
Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

6) Queen Victoria Building (QVB) (must see)

The Queen Victoria Building is a large air-conditioned shopping mall in the heart of Sydney. The hundred-year-old structure has been recently restored and its ornate façade and interior displays carefully preserved.

The QVB was designed by architect George McRae. The architectural style is Romanesque Revival and it was built with the purpose of providing employment to jobless skilled workers during a recession. The building was opened to the public in 1898 and named after the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. A statue of the queen greets visitors at the entrance. At the time of its inauguration, it contained cafes, showrooms and a concert hall. Later it housed the central library and government offices. Between 1984 and 1986, the Malaysian firm, Ipoh Garden Berhad leased the run down and neglected Queen Victoria Building and restored it to its former splendour.

A notable architectural feature is the large central dome with glass on the inside and copper on the outside. There are four floors and stained glass windows allow light into the interiors, patterned floor tiles and ornately wrought iron balustrades. Today, it has over 200 shops selling high-end products including fashion, jewelry and traditional Australian crafts.

Why You Should Visit:
The renovations are very respectful to the era of the original build and everything about this building oozes sophistication.
If not for the high-end boutiques, you can still enjoy a stroll through and marvel at the two beautiful clocks that still hang from the ceilings.
It's also lovely to sit on the 2nd or 3rd levels at one of the cafés looking out at the unique clocks.

Tip:
Sydney was built over tunnels and underneath the QVB are two levels of tunnels for additional shopping.
At night the building is beautifully illuminated, the shops are closed and you can wander through and gaze at ease.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sat: 9am-6pm; Tue: 9am-9pm; Sun: 11am-5pm
7
Sydney Tower

7) Sydney Tower (must see)

Sydney Tower is a 300-meter tall structure that offers 360-degree views of the city. It is the second tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere and is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

Construction of the Sydney Tower began as a shopping complex in 1970. The tower took ten years to build and was finally completed in September 1981. It is held in place by 56 cables weighing 7 tons each to resist strong gales and earthquakes. The tower is also stabilised by an enormous water tank at the top that holds 162,000 litres of water.

The Sydney tower stands on a 3-floor base that houses a shopping centre and restaurants. Three high-speed Double Decker elevators take visitors up to the top floors in less than 40 seconds. There are two restaurants and a coffee lounge at the top. From the enclosed observation deck, visitors can see sweeping views of Sydney Harbour, the Blue Mountains and the Opera House. There is also a skywalk that involves a walk on a glass-bottomed platform 268 meters above sea level. Skyguides show visitors Sydney landmarks through the glass floor. Two sets of steps serve as emergency exits and an annual Tour Run-Up race is held where participants climb 1304 out of 1504 steps. The event raises money for the Cancer Council.

Why You Should Visit:
To spend at least an hour admiring the view and browsing the gift shop.
Sydney is ridiculously pretty and it's nice to see where everything is in relation to everything else.

Tip:
Don't forget to book online for a cheaper price and also to avoid lines at the ticket counter.
Try coming during the day as you can see all the small islands nearby where they're impossible to be seen at night from the observation deck.
You may skip the Skywalk and go to 360 Bar and Dining, as it's usually less crowded, less expensive and the view is worth sitting down and watch for a while.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-8pm
8
Hyde Park

8) Hyde Park

Hyde Park, the oldest public parkland in Australia, is a 16.2-hectare (40-acre) park in the central business district of Sydney, New South Wales. Hyde Park is on the eastern side of the Sydney city centre. It is the southernmost of a chain of parkland that extends north to the shore of Sydney Harbour via The Domain and Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. Hyde Park is approximately rectangular in shape, being squared at the southern end and rounded at the northern end.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Hyde Park Barracks

9) Hyde Park Barracks (must see)

The Hyde Park Barracks served to house the large convict population who were transported to Australia from Britain. It is now a museum dedicated to the history of the building.

The Hyde Park Barracks was designed by emancipated convict architect, Francis Greenway. It was built by convict labour between 1817 and 1819 as the first permanent shelter for convicts. They roamed the streets and crime was rampant until the construction of the barracks. It is located at the centre of a walled compound covering 2.16 hectares and has three floors. Other buildings inside the walls included a cookhouse, a bakery and quarters for soldiers. It was closed in 1848 and had many uses since. It became a dormitory for emigrant women who awaited the arrival of their families, an asylum for destitute women and was later converted as government offices and law courts.

In 1981, the Hyde Park Barracks became a museum run by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. The first floor recreates the arrival of the first fleet with convicts and the life and times of the early convicts including a confinement box and leg irons. The second floor recreates the history of the building after it ceased to be convict barracks. The top floor recreates barrack rooms with hammocks showing the dwelling place and conditions of convicts at the time.

Why You Should Visit:
To understand more about Sydney's past either at your own pace or with the aid of an excellent audio guide that helps to bring the stories to life.
Incredible levels of detail and unique displays throughout that mix modern technologies with the old building and stories.
The staff at the gift shop and reception area are very friendly and informative.
Set on beautiful grounds, the area is just beautiful to stroll around.

Tip:
There is a cute little restaurant right outside the museum that serves great lunch and drinks – it's fun to eat in the courtyard with ivy climbing up the walls behind.
The bathrooms are also located outside and behind the main barracks building which requires you to return your audio guide on the way out and recover it when you return.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
10
Saint Mary's Cathedral

10) Saint Mary's Cathedral (must see)

The mother church of Australian Catholicism, St. Mary’s Cathedral is the largest church in Australia. It is a functioning place of worship and an important landmark in Sydney.

The foundation stone of St. Mary’s Cathedral was laid in 1821 by Governor Macquarie and a simple structure was completed in 1835. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1865. Father McEnroe, the then Archdeacon commissioned the building of the present structure designed by architect William Wardell and completed in 1882. The dedication mass was held by Archbishop Vaughan who also gave the first peal of bells. Work on the church continued after its dedication and improvements have been continually made to embellish the structure. It was given the title of a minor basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and was the focus of World Youth Day in 2008 when it was visited by Pope Benedict XVI.

St Mary’s Cathedral’s exterior is clad with dressed Pyrmont stone and the architectural style is Gothic Revivalist. It has twin towers facing south and a cruciform design with a central tower where the nave and transepts meet. The interiors have windows with picturesque stained glass, intricate sculpture and a poignant monument to fallen soldiers.

Why You Should Visit:
The impressive flight of stairs leading up to the entrance and the two slender spires pointing to the sky make this elegant minor basilica amazing, chiefly when the walls glitter in gold light in the sunbeams.

Tip:
The best view of the Cathedral is probably from College street. Pick your visiting time carefully because of the regular services and the irregular but very frequent weddings. During the weddings, you can't walk in to see the Cathedral. Presumably on the weekend, you should have to have some other programs.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30am-6:30pm; Sat-Sun: 6:30am-7pm
11
Martin Place

11) Martin Place

Martin Place is a pedestrian mall in the central business district of Sydney. Martin Place has been described as the "civic heart" of Sydney. This place has become a national Australian icon in popular culture for attracting high-end film and television productions and actors to the area.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
George Street

12) George Street (must see)

Editor's note: The major construction works here are still undergoing and it is not known when they will end.

George Street is a central business artery of Sydney and one of the busiest streets in the city centre. Stretching for about 3 km, it connects a number of Sydney's most important buildings and precincts, including Railway Square adjacent to the Sydney Central station and ringed by hotels and small shops; Sydney's Chinatown; Cinema District – home to three largest cinemas in Sydney, as well as numerous video arcades, Internet cafes, fast food restaurants and pubs; Town Hall – noted as the location of three important historic buildings: St Andrew's Cathedral, the Sydney Town Hall, and the Queen Victoria Building shopping centre; Wynyard – the area interspersed with retail, large hotels and large-scale bars and entertainment facilities; and The Rocks – location of the first British settlement in Australia begun in 1788, packed with souvenir shops, restaurants and traditional pubs, as well as art galleries and the Museum of Contemporary Art, dominated by the approaches to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and facing the Sydney Opera House across Circular Quay.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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