Sydney is blessed with one of the world's most glorious settings, placed between the rolling surf of the Pacific and the primeval Blue Mountains several dozen kilometres inland.
The following information is from the Time Out Sydney Guide. The first edition (Penguin, pounds 9.99) is on sale now.
At the time of going to press, there were $2.45 Australian dollars to pounds 1.
Arriving in Sydney
Kingsford Smith Airport is in Mascot near Botany Bay, roughly 11 kilometres (7 miles) south-east of the city centre. The domestic and international terminals are connected by an express bus which runs every 20 minutes ($2.50 adults, $1.50 children).
By Public Transport
The Airport Express, run by State Transit, operates about every 10 minutes between 5am and 11pm daily. Stops include Central Station, the Town Hall, the Queen Victoria Building, Wynyard, Circular Quay and The Rocks, as well as Oxford Street, Kings Cross, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay. Route 300 goes as far as The Rocks, and route 350 travels via Kings Cross to Elizabeth Bay. A single fare costs $5 (adults) or $3 (under-16s); a return is $8 (adults) or $4 (under-16s).
By Airport Shuttle
Kingsford Smith Transport (9667 0663) runs a bus service to and from the airport. The fare is $6 single, $10 return, and it stops at selected hotels in the centre of town. You must book a seat at least three hours in advance for the return journey to the airport.
A journey from the airport to Circular Quay takes 20 to 25 minutes, and costs around $20. There's a taxi rank outside the international arrivals building.
Sydney's public transport system is made up of trains, buses and ferries. The combined system is efficiently run, and not too expensive.
All Season New Hampshire Apartments
2 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point, NSW 2011 (9356 3222/fax 9357 2296). CityRail Kings Cross. Rates 1-bed $120-$160; 2-bed $165-$221.
These luxury apartments are favoured by visiting musicians and celebrities, many of whom have their signed 10x8s in the hallway.
2 Elizabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay, NSW2011 (9358 1999/1800 221 495/fax 9356 2951). CityRail Kings Cross. Rooms 384 (all en suite), plus 11 suites. Rates rooms $190-$210; suites $270-$420.
Most rooms have great views of the harbour, the city skyline or the eastern suburbs from their balconies. The best outlook of all is provided by the Windows Over Sydney rooftop rest-aurant and bar.
114 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010 (9360 6868/fax 9331 4536). CityRail Kings Cross. Rooms 14 (all en suite). Rates $80-$150.
A small, stylish hotel with bare-brick rooms individually decorated in French provincial and 1950s retro style. Each room has a kitchenette.
89-113 Kent Street, Millers Point, Sydney, NSW 2000 (9256 2222/fax 9256 2233). CityRail/ferry Circular Quay. Rooms 80, plus 20 executive suites. Rates $425-$1,500.
Looking at the early-Colonial elegance of the Observatory Hotel, it's difficult to believe that the place was built four years ago. Go up to your room, and in that polished mahogany armoire you will find a fax machine, CD player, VCR and TV. Soak in your over-sized marble bath and nibble on those complimentary strawberries.
Y on the Park Hotel
5-11 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, NSW 2010 (9264 2451/fax 9285 6288). CityRail Museum. Rooms 250 (17 en suite). Rates dorm $24; single $52-$70; double/twin $70-$95; triple $85-$100.
This excellent, large and newly refurbished hotel offers central and secure budget accommodation.
A visitor to Sydney must bear in mind that to stand on Bondi Beach and praise the neighbouring Manly is an invitation to assault. There are more differences between one beach and the next than there are between the beaches and the inland suburbs. The first cultural division is between those north and south of Sydney Harbour. In northerners' eyes, the southern beaches are polluted, overcrowded, overdeveloped and full of "ethnics". To southerners, the northern beaches are deadly boring, too far away from the city and full of snobs.
Bondi is the first of the southern beaches and Sydney's most famous. It is excellent for surfing and swimming. South of Bondi are Tamarama (also known as "Glamarama"), Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee. The last two are flat-water beaches, favoured by families, and much quieter than Bondi. Further down is Maroubra, a wide and windswept stretch of sand notorious for the aggression of its surfers.
The surf and swimming strip is broken by Botany Bay, to the south of which are Wanda and Cronulla Beaches. Due to their isolation and predominantly Anglo-Australian culture, these beaches have more in common with the northern beaches than with the Bondi-Maroubra zone.
The first surfing beach north of Sydney Harbour, Manly, is known as "God's Own Country". Situated on a narrow spit between the harbour and the ocean, Manly is the most commercially developed beach in the north, with a lot of hotels and hostels. The beaches of the extreme north become wealthier and more exclusive the further you get from the city.
Hyde Park Barracks
Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney (9223 8922). CityRail Martin Place or St James. Open 10am-5pm daily. Admission $5 adults; $3 concessions; $12 family ticket.
The Hyde Park Barracks were originally built by Francis Greenway in 1817 to house 600 male convicts. Sub-sequently used as the Immigration Women's Depot and Asylum as well as law courts and government offices, the building is now a museum. The top level houses the recreated convict barracks. The women's section on level two is no less thought-provoking.
Queen Victoria Building
455 George Street, Sydney (information 9264 1955; tours 9264 9209). CityRail Town Hall. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 9am-9pm Thur; 11am-5pm Sun.
The Queen Victoria Building, design-ed to resemble a Byzantine palace, occupies an entire block on George Street. Built in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, the QVB originally housed street markets, and later gamely survived long periods of neglect. It's now home to 200 outlets, including boutiques, jewellers, cafes and restaurants.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs Macquarie's Road (9231 8125). Open park 6.30am-sunset daily; Sydney Tropical Centre 10am-4pm daily. Admission park free; Sydney Tropical Centre $5 adults; $2 concessions; $12 family ticket.
Encompassing Farm Cove are the 74 broad green acres of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Most tourists initially head for the Sydney Tropical Centre, fronted by a black-glass pyramid; heavily concreted innards, however, betray its early 1970s origins, detracting from the intended impression that you are in the middle of a tropical rainforest.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Entrance to pylon via stairs on Cum-berland Street, The Rocks, or from near Milsons Point CityRail on the north shore. (Information 9218 6888). Open 10am-5pm daily. Admission $2 adults; $1 concessions.
Long before the Opera House was built, Sydney had "the Coathanger" as its symbol. Though now an elderly structure, it was for a long time the world's largest single-span bridge, and has 200,000 vehicles crossing its 503-metre (1,651ft) length daily.
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Circular Quay (box office 9250 7777/ information 9250 7111/fax 9251 3943). CityRail/ ferry Circular Quay or 438 bus. Open box office 9am-8.30pm Mon-Sat; 2 hours before show Sun; tours 9am-4pm daily.
Set in a heavenly harbour, its cream wings reminiscent of the sails of the First Fleet, the Sydney Opera House is now the city's most famous icon. The cultural cathedral has never been seen by its creator, Danish architect Joern Utzon, who departed halfway through the project, never to return. In its four main auditoria the opera house holds an impressive 3,000 opera, concert, theatre, film and dance performances a year.
32 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross (9357 2177/fax 9358 1213). CityRail Kings Cross. Open noon-11pm Mon-Sat; 10am-10pm Sun. Average $35. Licensed.
A long-time favourite hangout for glitterati, literati and arterati, which doesn't stop the food from being first-class and ever-changing, with a leavening of old favourites.
Level 3, The Argyle Department Store, 12 Argyle Street, The Rocks (9241 3700). CityRail/ferry Circular Quay. Open noon-3pm, 6-11pm, daily. Average $55. Licensed.
The home of the best Italian food in Australia. Stefano Manfredi and mother Franca concoct classic northern-Italian (and Italian-Australian) dishes using the best local ingredients.
Bennelong Point, Circular Quay (9250 7578/fax 9250 7993). CityRail/ferry Circular Quay. Open 6-11pm Mon-Sat. Average $75. Licensed.
Chef Janni Kyritsis and Sydney's first lady of food, Gay Bilson, offer food from the cutting edge of Australian contemporary cuisine.
729 Darling Street, Rozelle (9555 1017). Bus 440. Open 7pm-midnight Tue; noon-2.30pm, 7pm-midnight, Wed-Sat. Average $85. Licensed & BYO.
What do you call a Japanese chef French-trained in Australia? Bloody brilliant. There is no one like Tetsuya Wakuda. This is where other chefs go to be amazed.
Dug Out Bar
Burdekin Hotel 2 Oxford St Darlinghurst (9331 3066). Bus 378, 380, 382, L82. Open 5pm-late Tue-Fri; 7pm-late Sat.
Small, stylish with an eclectic mix of drinkers, the Dugout Bar is justly famous for its old-style American cocktails mixed by highly skilled bar staff. Smokers should check out the newly opened cigar room.
The Lava Bar
Burdekin Hotel, 2 Oxford Street, Darling-hurst (9331 3066/Lava Bar 9331 8065). Bus 378, 380, 382 Open street bar 11am-12.30am Mon-Thur; 11am-3.30am Fri, Sat; Lava Bar 5pm-12.30am Wed, Thur; 5pm-3.30am Fri, Sat; 7pm-1am Sun.
Don't let the street-level pub downstairs (full of straight suits and hen parties) fool you. Sneak a peek through a door on the side, climb a few flights of stairs, and suddenly you're in lounge-lizard heaven. A young, highly hip and pierced crowd.
31-33 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst (9267 7380). Bus 378, 380, 382. Open 11pm-5am Thur; 11pm-6am Fri; 11pm-9am Sat; 10pm-8am Sun.
Undoubtedly the best known dance club on the Oxford Street strip, DCM (Don't Cry Mama) caters for serious clubbers who like their music hard.
383 Bourke Street, Darlinghurst (9331 3299). Bus 378, 380, 382, L82. Open 8pm-3am Tue-Sat; 7pm-midnight Sun. Admission ground level free; upper levels $5-$10.
At one time an inner-city funeral parlour, today Kinsela's is distinguished by its shiny Deco lounge bar on the ground floor, which regularly plays host to funk bands. Upstairs, two cavernous levels are purpose-built for dancing. At the weekends the door policy can be tough.
Kings Cross Hotel, corner of Victoria Street and William Street, Kings Cross (9368 1486). CityRail Kings Cross. Open 11pm-6am Fri, Sat. Admission $15-$20.
The Rooftop hosts to one-off weekend parties, drawing the dance crowd for helpings of house and hip hop, and offers a fantastic view of the city.
244 Pitt Street Sydney (9264 8428) CityRail Town Hall. Open 7am-4pm Mon- Wed; 7am-late Thur; 4.30pm-6am Fri; 11pm- 7am Sat; 10pm-6am Sun. Admission varies.
Long queues outside and packed dance floors inside indicate the popularity of this new club. The theme changes according to the night of the week. The DJs are the hippest in town.
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