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Sydney is Australia's largest city and superbly situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Blue Mountains. It is a diverse and multicultural city with dozens of magnificent beaches nearby, a rugged hinterland, various museums and other cultural highlights, and it has a laid-back atmosphere.
Some people think that Sydney is the country's capital, but this is not the case. The capital is the much smaller Canberra, in the interior. This is why: Sydney's eternal rival is Melbourne, on Australia's south coast. The rivalry has existed for a long time. The two cities were already arguing when Australia was to select a capital. The decision was made to build a new city, halfway between the two quarrelers.
The district The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney. Apart from Cadmans Cottage, little remains of the first settlement from the early nineteenth century. The history of Australia's colonization comes to life in the Discovery Museum. Every weekend a large market is held in The Rocks. It starts on Friday with the Farmer's Market, where fresh produce can be bought from the city's surrounding area. If required, prepared on the barbecue on the spot. On Saturday and Sundays, part of the market also consists of foodstuff, but it is mainly about handicrafts, glass, pottery, art and silver.
The eye-catcher in this district is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built in the 1930s. You should climb the steps to the Pylon Lookout on one of the bridge pillars for a stunning view. Daredevils can take it a step further and sign up for the Bridge Climb, to the highest point of the bridge. Even at night!
Another stunt for daredevils: The Skywalk over the roof of Sydney Tower. However, you can also just safely enjoy the view from the turning observation deck at an altitude of 250 meters.
Apart from the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House characterizes Sydney's cityscape. The building's roof represents the billowing sails of a ship. There are guided tours that last approximately one hour. If you want to attend an opera or classical concert you need to reserve a spot well in advance.
The Museum of Sydney shows the city's history in an engaging way by means of paintings, photographs, movies, models and more. A great deal of (critical) attention is paid to the confrontations that took place between the first settlers and the Aboriginals. History also comes alive in the Hyde Park Barracks, especially when you lay down in one of the hammocks on the first floor to relax and listen to history stories.
Sydney's Central Business District is a concrete jungle, but fortunately you can escape the stone mass by going to the Botanic Gardens, a beautiful, green lung east of the city center. At the entrances, signs kindly invite you to enjoy the park to the fullest: "Please walk on the grass, smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns". Those Australians never forget their British roots. On a peninsula on the north side you'll find Mrs Macquarie's chair. The 'chair' is cut out of a rock for Governor Macquarie's wife. This is the place to take your best photo of Sydney: the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge in the background.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is located in The Domain park, south of the botanical gardens. It holds an extensive art collection including work by Rubens and Van Gogh, but also by Australian artists like Roberts, Streeton and McCubbin. There are also departments dedicated to Asian art and art of Aboriginal artists.
The Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour, west of the city center is a true crowd puller. There are no less than three underwater tunnels through basins with sharks, tropical fish and giant manta rays. It is also truly educational: A lot of attention is paid to issues that jeopardize marine life.
Paddington Market is the city's oldest market and the perfect place to look for (or buy) avant-garde clothing by up-and-coming designers. The market takes place in the Uniting Church on Oxford Street. It is the center of Sydney's shopping area with trendy boutiques and specialist stores, but there are also plenty of bars to catch your breath.
Paddy's Market on the corner of Hay Street and Thomas Street is the city's largest market where you can buy absolutely anything. Everyday items such as vegetables and fruit, but also wigs, jewelry, souvenirs and even pets.
Nearby Sydney you will find vast sandy beaches, the most famous being Bondi Beach. Along this crescent-shaped beach there's a promenade with shops and bars. To the left and to the right of Bondi Beach lie jagged rocks. You can climb over those rocks to get to the beaches of Tamara and Bronte.
The Blue Mountains National Park is located east of Sydney. It is hard to imagine that in the 1930s plans existed to cut part of the forests in this area. Fortunately already back then conservationists were around who successfully opposed to this. The overwhelming landscape houses kangaroos and other marsupials such as wombats and koalas, but also cockatoos and ibises.
Sydney has many accommodations, in all price categories. More expensive hotels can be found around the Central Business District, while the King's cross neighborhood houses many affordable accommodations for backpackers. The city is a busy business hub and draws in millions of tourists per year. It is therefore important to book your hotel room in advance.
When driving around Sydney for a first time it may be hard to find your way around. There are many one-way streets and tourist attractions are not always signposted. Finding a free parking space isn't easy either. It is best to park your rental car in one of the parking garages, but fees are relatively high.
Sydney Airport is located nine kilometers south of the city center. You can easily reach Sydney Airport by rental car via the Eastern Distributor freeway which runs underneath the runways.