Book a window seat for your flight to Sydney: day or night, this city sure is good-lookin’. Scratch the surface and it only gets better.
National parks ring the city and penetrate right into its heart. Large chunks of the harbour are still edged with bush, while parks cut their way through the skyscrapers and suburbs. Consequently native critters turn up in the most surprising places. Great clouds of flying foxes pass overhead at twilight and spend the night rustling around in suburban fig trees, oversized spiders stake out the corners of lounge room walls, possums rattle over the roofs of terrace houses, and sulphur-crested cockatoos bleat from the railings of urban balconies. At times Sydney's concrete jungle seems more like an actual one – and doesn't that just make it all the more exciting?
After a lazy Saturday at the beach, urbane Sydneysiders have a disco nap, hit the showers and head out again. There's always a new restaurant to try, undercover bar to hunt down, hip band to check out, sports team to shout at, show to see or crazy party to attend. The city's pretensions to glamour are well balanced by a casualness that means a cool T-shirt and a tidy pair of jeans will get you in most places. But if you want to dress up and show off, there's plenty of opportunity for that among the sparkling lights of the harbour.
Defined just as much by its rugged coast as its exquisite harbour, Sydney relies on its coastal setting to replenish its reserves of charm; venture too far away from the water and the charm suddenly evaporates. Jump on a ferry and Sydney's your oyster – the harbour prises the city's two halves far enough apart to reveal an abundance of pearls. On the coast, Australia ends abruptly in sheer walls of sandstone punctuated by arcs of golden sand. In summer they're covered with bronzed bodies making the most of a climate that encourages outdoor socialising, exercising, flirting and fun.
Brash is the word that inevitably gets bandied around when it comes to describing the Harbour City, and let's face it, Sydney is one hot mess! Compared to its Australian sister cities, Sydney is loud, uncompromising and in-your-face. Fireworks displays are more dazzling here, heels are higher, bodies more buffed, contact sports more brutal, starlets shinier, drag queens glitzier and chefs more adventurous. Australia’s best musos, foodies, actors, stockbrokers, models, writers and architects flock to the city to make their mark, and the effect is dazzling: a hyperenergetic, ambitious marketplace of the soul, where anything goes and everything usually does.
Why I Love Sydney
By Peter Dragicevich, Author
My visits to Sydney were becoming increasingly frequent before I decided to up sticks and move to the city in 1998. Sure, it was the glitzy side that first attracted me – the sense that there was always something thrilling going on somewhere, and if you turned the right corner, you could be part of it. That sense remains, but I've discovered much more to love: the lively food scene, endless days at the beach and the way Sydney's indigenous and convict history is so often hidden in plain sight.
Best places to stay in Sydney
Ten of the world's best city hikes
Stretch your legs over hours or days, without leaving some of the world’s biggest cities. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by the Tijuca Forest. Image by Paddy Eckersley / Digital Vision / Getty Images.
Sydney's Circular Quay and the Rocks
Sydney Harbour by ferry
Sydney destination guides
20 free things to do in Sydney
You don't need a fat wallet to enjoy the glamour and chic of Sydney. These 20 attractions, activities and icons won't cost you a cent. Walkers on the Bondi to Coogee Walk approaching Waverly Cemetery. Image by Lindsay Brown / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.
Sydney's beaches and ocean pools
Sydney Tower Restaurant Buffet
If you'd like bird's-eye views with your meal out in Sydney, dine at the Sydney Tower Restaurant. Boasting panoramic views from Sydney Harbour Bridge all the way to the Blue Mountains, the all-you-can-eat buffet lunch or dinner is ideal for families looking for casual dining or larger groups on a tight time schedule.
Blue Mountains Nature and Wildlife Day Tour from Sydney
Discover the beautiful wilderness on Sydney's doorstep on a day trip to the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. Enjoy spectacular views over the Megalong Valley from Echo Point, and see the Three Sisters rock formations at Katoomba.
Expensive experiences, cheaper alternatives
The world’s most iconic travel experiences don’t usually come cheap – but sometimes there are real alternatives. Here are some ideas for the budget-conscious, and expert advice on whether it’s actually worth paying the price for some of these bucket-list classics. 1.