Sydney Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Sydney

Sydney was found in 1788 when a fleet of eleven British ships arrived at where Sydney Cove is today. Onboard those pioneer vessels were 759 convicts plus sailors and marines to guard them. The city was named after Lord Sydney, the British Secretary of State who recommended the British government to establish a penal colony in Australia.

Human activity in the area that would later become Sydney goes back at least 30,000 years. The Aboriginal people, known as Eora, first encountered the British explorers around 1770. Between 1788 and 1792, the colony grew through the use of convict labor.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, the British established farms, and the discovery of gold in 1851 drew more settlers into the region. After World War II, Sydney developed a diverse economy. Information technology, tourism, finance, and education are a few of the industries that have contributed to the city's modern prosperity.

The list of fascinating historical sights to see in Sydney is enormous. These include the Old Government House, the Macquarie Street buildings, the Sydney Mint, St. Mary's Cathedral, and the Sydney Town Hall. Among the cultural icons worth your time there are Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Visitors will also enjoy views from Sydney Tower.

The Queen Victoria Building offers the types of upscale shopping that the most discerning consumers have come to expect. Stopping by the Darling Harbor area is an excellent way to enjoy more shopping, as well as dining and nightlife opportunities.

This self-guided walking tour takes you to explore some of Sydney's main attractions at your own pace and in your good time.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Sydney Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Sydney Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Australia » Sydney (See other walking tours in Sydney)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Old Government House
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Macquarie Street
  • Sydney Mint
  • Saint Mary's Cathedral
  • Hyde Park
  • Sydney Tower
  • Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
  • Sydney Town Hall
  • Darling Harbour
  • Chinese Garden of Friendship
1
Sydney Opera House

1) Sydney Opera House (must see)

The Sydney Opera House is a major Australian landmark and the most recognizable icon in Sydney. Occupying a prominent place at Sydney Harbor, the building's creative use of a group of white interlocking shells as its roof makes it one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

There are several types of tours that visitors can take to learn more about the history behind the opera house and its architecture. Visitors can also tour the backstage area or take a tour that has special activities for kids.

This opera house hosts six venues, offering different experiences depending on what you want to experience. The Concert Hall, seating 2,000, hosts Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra performances. For opera and ballet performances, the Joan Sutherland Theatre that seats 1,500, is the place to be.

Several eating options offer excellent harbor views if you decide you're interested in grabbing something to eat or drink. The Opera Bar and Portside offer indoor and outdoor dining featuring Australian favorites. Bennelong has a more formal setting with modern cuisine. If quick bites are more up your alley, try the Theatre Bars or The Lounge.

Why You Should Visit

Sydney Opera House is one of the great architectural work of the 20th century. There are five restaurants and bars that provide an array of foods and beverages with a beautiful harbor view to enjoy.

Tips

Try a Foodie Tour that includes dining as a part of the experience.
2
Old Government House

2) Old Government House

Located in 260 acres of park land, the Old Government House commands sweeping views of the Parramatta River. The building is surrounded by an undisturbed natural reserve in the midst of Australia’s biggest metropolitan area.

The Old Government House was built in 1799 and is Australia’s oldest public building. For seventy years, the house was the Governor’s rural residence. The first 10 Governors of the colony resided in the mansion. Extensions and renovations were made by Governor and Mrs. Macquarie who lived in the house from 1810 to 1821. The house became a Palladian style English mansion from a smaller and simpler structure during this time. Recently, the building has been restored and opened for visitors. The interiors have typical Anglo and Indian style furnishing, sandstone flags and a large hand cut glass chandelier that were common in fashionable houses during the 1820s.

It occupies Darug land that was home to the Burramatta Tribe. Some of the trees surrounding the house still show scars of bark stripped to make canoes by the Aborigines. It is managed by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. The Trust operates tours including a haunted house tour around old Government House for tourists.
3
Royal Botanic Gardens

3) Royal Botanic Gardens (must see)

The Royal Botanic Gardens is located to the East of the Sydney Opera House and overlooks Farm Cove. The land was once a farm established by Governor Philips, the founder of the city of Sydney.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are surrounded by the Domain, a green space in the centre of Sydney. It was founded by Governor Macquarie in 1916 adjacent to the Government House. The first Colonial Botanist, Charles Frazer began the collection and study of plants at the garden and it is the oldest scientific institution in Australia. The Royal Botanic Gardens welcomes over a million visitors every year who come to view its landscape, the many unique birds and fruit bats. It is family friendly and children and adults can walk and play on the grass and observe trees and plants at close quarters. Many rare trees and plants from across Australia are grown here.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are divided into several themed sections like the Palm Grove, the Oriental Garden and the Herb Garden. Other interesting parts are the rainforest walk, the succulent garden with desert plants and the native plant rockery. There is also a large pond with ducks, the white-faced heron and other aquatic birds. Free entry and visitors can enjoy picnics on the lawn in this beautifully landscaped park.

Why You Should Visit:
Super cool location on the side of the Bay and a place one can hardly get bored of; a visit here easily can be a whole day's entertainment.
You can use the train for an overview of the place; however, walking is just as entertaining a way to get around.
If you plan to have longer hours in the Gardens, there are also restaurants, as well as a café.
Plus plenty of benches in the shade, where a tired visitor can have a rest.

Tip:
Don't forget to walk to Mrs. Macquaries Chair, from where the wife of Governor Macquarie was watching the ships sailing to the Harbour. This point provides you with beautiful views.
Also, try and book the Aboriginal Heritage tour, which is about an hour long and runs Wed, Fri, Sat mornings at 10am.

Opening Hours: daily: 7:00 - 20:00
4
Macquarie Street

4) Macquarie Street

Macquarie Street is one of the most famous streets in Sydney's Central Business District. Some of the landmarks that appear along this street are Hyde Park and the Sydney Opera House. All of the major institutions for New South Wales are along this street as well.

Most of the buildings on this street date to the 19th and early 20th centuries. St. James Church, completed in 1824, the Sydney Hospital built in 1894, and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music building that dates to 1815 are highlights that stand out for many visitors. Hengrove Hall, from 1928 when it served as barristers' chambers, has an impressive facade. Another building famous for its facade is the Chief Secretary building.

Other important 19th century buildings are the Sydney Mint building from 1816, the former Treasury building from 1899, the Hyde Park Barracks from 1819, History House that dates to 1872 and is owned by the Royal Australian Historical Society. Early 20th century buildings include the 1930 British Medical Association building and the State Library that dates to 1910.
5
Sydney Mint

5) Sydney Mint

The Sydney Mint functioned as a "rum" hospital for convicts and the poor from 1816 to 1854. From 1855 to 1926, the building served as a Royal Mint branch, minting 1,200 tons of gold into 150 million sovereigns. The building would become host to government offices from 1926 to 1997. During this time, the government hosted over 20 courts and departments here.

Bullion Bar and Dining is a French Bistro on the site of the Mint. Christophe Briet, the chef, has Parisian training that gives the foods served an authentic feel. Australian produce helps provide a localized feel to the dishes. As an extra treat, the restaurant also hosts a daily High Tea.

The Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection gives visitors the most in-depth look at how the space inside the building has been utilized over the years. All of the tours of this site are self-guided, allowing you to explore everything at your leisure.
6
Saint Mary's Cathedral

6) 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.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30-18:30; Sat-Sun: 6:30-19:00
7
Hyde Park

7) Hyde Park

Hyde Park is the oldest park in Australia. Some of the highlights include a collection of monuments and statues, as well as a reflection pool. A building dedicated to the ANZAC Memorial is on-site, as well as a visitor center. The Nagoya and Sandringham Gardens highlight monuments, public art, and water-related effects. The Archibald Fountain, one of Sydney's significant icons, is also within the park's confines.

This park has a large collection of trees, numbering over 500 and including exotics and natives. The central pedestrian walkway area has a line of Hill's fig trees. These trees line the area from the ANZAC Memorial to Macquarie Street. There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the sun, or maybe do some people-watching.

There are also several events hosted throughout the year. Popular annual events include ANZAC Day, Australia Day, the Food and Wine Fair, and the Sydney Festival. You never know what you might see going on here at any time.
8
Sydney Tower

8) 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: 9:30 - 20:00
9
Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

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

The Queen Victoria Building is a large 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: 9:00-18:00; Tue: 9:00-21:00; Sun: 11:00-17:00
10
Sydney Town Hall

10) Sydney Town Hall

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: 8:00 - 18:00
11
Darling Harbour

11) 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 offers dining options for all tastes and price points. 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 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!
12
Chinese Garden of Friendship

12) 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 Harbor and showcases the rich cultural and architectural heritage of Chinese garden. 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 symbolizes 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:
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 guided tour offered by garden's volunteers.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30-17:00

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