Fun things to do in Sydney NSW


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There’s a lot of cultural history embedded in Sydney CBD, and there’s no better way to see the city’s character than attending one of the various public events or festivals throughout the year.


The first on your list definitely should be Vivid Sydney, a 23-day event in May and June with the mission of lighting up the city with art, ideas, and music (1). Drawn by the spectacular light show on Sydney’s most iconic buildings, like the Opera House, as well as theatrical performances and educational exhibitions, 2.3 million visitors filled the financial district this year, breaking previous records and ramping up excitement for next year’s show.


Another great spectacle is the annual Sydney Harbour Regatta, an 11-year-old grand prix yacht race off the shores of the central business district (2). From the sidelines, visitors watch 300 competitors race while enjoying beach barbecues, live music, and Happy Hour specials. The races take place each March, marking the end of the racing season.


If you’re looking for something a little more interactive, the Sydney Marathon, a legacy of the 2000 Olympics, attracts thousands of participants each year (3). In fact, 32,000 competitors from 66 different countries attend the event to compete in varying lengths. In addition to encouraging health and physical wellness, the race also offers its participants the unique opportunity to see the city’s business district on foot. And if that’s not enough of a draw, the marathon is a philanthropic organization, donating part of its profits to local and national charities. Since its inception in 2001, the race has generated over $15,500,000!


Overall, Sydney’s central business district is not just a series of financial blocks. Instead, it is the cultural hub of the city, the place for visitors and locals to mingle and enjoy all that the region has to offer. With a long, intriguing history and an array of social events throughout the year, this district is certainly the place to be. 


Sydney CBD is a buzzing district, which stretches from Goulburn Street up to its northern most reach, the Opera House, encompasses some of the area’s tallest buildings, oldest gardens and museums, and best restaurants.  


Even with such a stunning skyline and developed business center, newcomers are often wowed by more than the district’s world-class accommodations. After all, the multiple annual festivals and expansive public space give this region an invigorating social feel, for tourists and locals alike. With this much going on, you’re sure to tap into the exciting Sydney energy and probably enjoy some gorgeous Harbour views at the same time.


So, where to start? Multitudes of listical websites are dedicated to providing visitors with the best hidden bars, historical tours, and day-long shopping excursions in the city. Even a cursory browsing can leave a person overwhelmed!


But, with a little historical background and a basic knowledge of popular community events, you’re sure to immerse yourself in this happening district in no time.


So, let’s talk history.


Long before Englishman Lord Sydney drafted up plans for a settlement in New South Wales, the region was home to the Eora people, an Aboriginal community encompassing 29 different clans (4). Generations later, this population remains an important part of Sydney’s cultural identity, with important organizations functioning to preserve traditional music, recreation, and history.


Once Arthur Phillip’s fleet made landing in Port Jackson in 1788, the foundations were laid for the city we know today (5). Though the settlement’s purpose was to relocate a large population of convicts expelled from Britain, the next few generations shed the stigmatized cloak of criminality and turned the colony into a sustainable community. Some sentences were even pardoned based on the prisoners’ willingness to band together positively in the early years of difficult agricultural expansion.


As the century turned and Lachlan Macquarie took office as governor in 1810, the idea of Sydney gaining status as a city began gaining traction. His twelve years in office saw construction of some of the most beautiful public buildings still standing in the city, including new public offices, a marketplace, and a hospital (6).


Unfortunately for the idealistic governor, however, officials in London were opposed to the idea, and extradited Macquarie on grounds of excessive spending. Of course, their efforts to stifle the expansion of Sydney beyond a prison colony was ultimately unsuccessful, and the next few decades saw large emancipation, the arrival of free settlers, and the development of new families.


With a diversifying population, the city’s only recourse was to construct important public fixtures, such as churches, schools, and a library as well as theaters and shopping centers. Such infrastructure added an element of normal civic life that would lead to the end of the prison colony in 1840.


Soon, the early label as a convict settlement felt far in the past as Sydney became a Western hub for cultured socialites and businessmen. Because of the availability of Sydney Sandstone, a unique golden stone, the financial business district of the city became globally recognized for its gorgeous architecture.


Some of the most famous buildings of Sydney Sandstone are the Lands Building, completed in 1893, easily recognizable by its impressive Clocktower (7). Another iconic construction is the Department of Education building, designed by architect George McRae in 1930.


Obviously, a discussion of Sydney’s architectural advancements would be incomplete without a nod to the Sydney Opera House, which serves as a symbol for the area across the globe. Designed by Demark-born Jørn Utzo, the project was completed in 1973 and has remained an integral part of the city’s identity (8).







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