48 Hours In...

Sydney, Australia

It's famed for hip hotels and heart-stopping views, but Australia's biggest city really comes into its own this month, say Simon Calder and Louise Longman

Click here for print edition

WHY GO NOW?

The build-up to Australia Day on 26 January coincides with the onset of high summer - and the disappearance of England's morose cricket fans. They leave behind a city of indulgence, intrigue and implausibly good looks, which is also celebrating its annual festival until 27 January; one highlight is a stage version of Lou Reed's Berlin at the State Theatre ( www.sydneyfestival.org.au).

TOUCH DOWN

Sydney is Australia's principal gateway. The only same-plane departures from the UK are on Qantas (0845 774 7767; www.qantas.com.au) and British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) from Heathrow, via Singapore or Bangkok. Many other airlines offer a one-stop service from Heathrow via their hubs; Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) also offers connections from Birmingham, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester via Dubai, while Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380; www.singaporeair.co.uk) has flights from Manchester via its home base. Kingsford-Smith airport is conveniently a short way south of the city - with an Olympics dividend of a direct train link (00 61 2 8337 8417; www.airportlink.com.au) running every 10 or 15 minutes to key city-centre stations including Town Hall (1), Wynyard (2) and Circular Quay (3). The one-way fare is A$4.80 (£1.90).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Australia's largest city is one of those rare places, like the Taj Mahal and the Golden Gate Bridge, that usually exceeds expectations. Sydney drapes herself decorously around one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Key landmarks are the Opera House (4), the Sydney Tower (5) and the Harbour Bridge. Its southern pier is in the oldest part of the city, the Rocks. This area is the home of the excellent Visitor Information Centre (6), on the corner of Argyle and Playfair Streets (00 61 2 9240 8788; www.sydneyvisitorcentre.com); it opens 9.30am-5.30pm daily.

CHECK IN

The optimum location in this city of spectacular hotels is the Park Hyatt Sydney (7) at 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks (bookable through 0870 730 1332; www.hyatt.com.au), which is perfectly located at the northern end of the Rocks. The sleek exterior conceals elegant public areas and guest rooms, but reveals the most delicious outdoor pool in the city - beneath the shadow of the Harbour Bridge (and the gaze of Bridge climbers; see Take a Hike). The published rate for a double is A$600 (£240); breakfast is A$80 (£32).

For a neighbourhood feel, head east of the city centre to Darlinghurst. This area is a cultural jumble, with Italian restaurants and Indian takeaways as well as the city's Jewish museum. Darlinghurst is also the hub of the gay community, which each February turns into the longest gay and lesbian party in the world. The Chelsea Guesthouse (8) at 49 Womerah Avenue (00 61 2 9380 5994; www.chelseaguesthouse.com.au). Occupying two of the pretty Victorian terraced houses that typify the area, this chic boutique has doubles from A$143 (£60) including breakfast.

For a budget option away from the backpacker ghetto of Kings Cross, Glebe Point Youth Hostel (9) at 262 Glebe Point Road (00 61 2 9692 8418; www.yhansw.org.au) has beds from A$25 (£10) excluding breakfast - plus a rooftop barbecue.

TAKE A HIKE

For a startling perspective on the city, head along to 5 Cumberland Street (10); get breathalysed, go through an airport-style security check, sign a form promising not to remove any part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and dress up in an attractive grey romper suit. This is the foreplay for the Bridge Climb (00 61 2 8274 7777; www.bridgeclimb.com) - a thrilling two-hour clamber. Book ahead; prices vary according to the time/day, typically A$189 (£77).

LUNCH ON THE RUN

A budget alternative amidst the tourist traps of the Rocks is La Renaissance Café Patisserie (11) at 47 Argyle St (00 61 2 9241 4878, open 8.30am-6pm daily), where A$8 (£3.20) buys you a stuffed baguette and a spot in the sun-dappled garden.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Sydney has a couple of excellent free museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art (12) at 140 George Street (00 61 2 9245 2400; www.mca.com.au; open 10am-5pm daily) is an intriguing space, with challenging exhibitions - and a superb café. The Australian National Maritime Museum (13) at 2 Murray Street in Darling Harbour (00 61 2 9298 3777; www.anmm.gov.au; 9.30am-6pm daily in January, to 5pm thereafter) has an extraordinary collection, from funeral poles of the Tiwi people of northern Australia to 1960s posters of Bondi Beach.

WINDOW SHOPPING

If you plan to head out to the beaches or Outback, you could probably do with some cut-price outdoor gear. The place to go is"Adventure Alley" (14), on Kent Street, between Druitt Street and Bathurst Street. Close by, the Queen Victoria Building (15) on George Street is a Victorian arcade that has kept pace with the 21st century. For emerging local craft and design, stop in at the Paddington Markets (16), between Newcome and Elizabeth Streets (Saturdays, 10am-5pm, 395 Oxford St, 00 61 2 9331 2923; www.paddingtonmarkets.com.au).

AN APERITIF

Head out to the North Shore, and the beachside suburb of Balmoral. Duck into the Bather's Pavilion (17) on Balmoral Esplanade (00 61 2 9969 50 50; www.batherspavilion.com.au, 7am-midnight daily). This artfully converted Twenties bathhouse has floor-to-ceiling sea views and a wide range of Australian wines by the glass. At the Bather's Kiosk you can pick up inexpensive breads and tapenades for DIY canapés.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

In Sydney, it's often cheaper to dine out than in. For delicious, spicy Thai food, Thai Pothong (18) at 294 King Street (00 61 2 9550 6277; www.thaipothong.com.au) in Newtown (and 50 metres from Newtown train station), is worth a visit. The scallops with coriander and sweet chilli are a good entrée, while the fried snapper is a tasty main. In Glebe, another lively Sydney suburb, the small and sparsely decorated Teriyaki Japanese Fusion (19) at 144 Glebe Point Road does good sashimi and bento boxes. Both restaurants are BYO - bring your own booze, a great Aussie tradition.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

Escape the heat and get a sense of history at St Mary's Cathedral (20), on the eastern side of Hyde Park (00 61 2 9390 5100; www.sydney.catholic.org.au). Sunday Mass is at 7am, 9am, 10.30am and 6pm. Guided tours of the gothic cathedral take place at noon on Sundays.

A WALK IN THE BUSH

There's something magical about seeing Sydney's skyline from the wilderness of Australia's bush. A 30-minute ride across the Harbour Bridge from Wynyard station (2) by bus 175 or 178 takes you to the Spit Bridge on Sydney's northern side - and the start of the Spit-to-Manly scenic walk. The fairly vigorous trek, which takes two or three hours, hugs the coastline and winds through sweet-smelling eucalyptus, banksias, bottle brushes and wattle, plus an array of deep red gums. You'll also meet lizards catching the morning sun, and can cool off in the sea from idyllic, near-deserted beaches. The Manly ferry will take you back into the city in half an hour - or you could walk 20 minutes east to the brunch option.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Sydneysiders prefer brunch to lunch, which means you'll never go short of an excellent skinny latte to accompany your scrambled eggs on Turkish bread, Spanish omelette or smoked salmon bagels. Zest Deli Café (21) at 334 Sydney Road (00 61 2 9948 8499) in Balgowlah serves melt-in-the-mouth eggs Benedict.

TAKE A RIDE

Sydney's harbour ferries (00 61 131500; www.sydneyferries.info) are rightly celebrated. When they are not shuttling commuters to and fro, they are used for off-peak cruises. At this time of year, the evening cruise that departs from Wharf 4 of Circular Quay (3) at 8pm is ideal - you get an entertaining 90-minute tour, costing A$22 (£9).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

    Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit