The Royal Botanic Gardens, a veritable oasis of greenery, boast breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline. The gardens were the first area of land cultivated by Europeans on the Australian continent, though the gardens themselves were not opened to the public until 1816. Visitors can explore the Herb Garden, the Fernery, the Rose Garden, a walled Succulent Garden and the HSBC Oriental Garden. The harbor side of the main pond offers a splendid view of the harbour. Keep your eyes out for the ibis or cockatoos that call this place home.
The controversial but decidedly beautiful sail-like roofs of Sydney's most recognizable icon glisten against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House was constructed over a fourteen-year period and caused an opera’s worth of drama. Danish architect Jorn Utzon has reportedly never laid eyes on his masterpiece, as he resigned in 1966 due to political difficulties and construction delays. The now world-renowned architectural wonder was finally completed in 1973, much to Sydney’s collective relief. Today, the Sydney Opera House has an impressive yearly program of up to 3000 contemporary and classical performances, and is a truly memorable place to take in theatre, opera and ballet. Various guided tours take visitors behind the scenes and into the establishment’s many interesting rooms.
Australia's leading contemporary art museum, popularly known as the MCA, occupies an art deco building in the heart of the tourism sector at Circular Quay. The museums temporary exhibition programme draws upon sources throughout the world and is supported by lectures, films and special events. Exhibitions change each season. There is also a cafe and shop featuring a range of art and merchandise inspired by Australia's top designers. Admission is free.
The Powerhouse Museum, a nineteenth century institution which has reinvented itself, offers something to satisfy every possible visitor. Its immense collection ranges from decorative arts to crafts, social history, science and technology. Apart from old favorites like the Strasburg Clock, the museum provides an innovative, high technology approach to displays including touch-screens, audio phones and a variety of other hands-on experiences. There is also a shop, restaurant and outdoor cafe.
Built in 1858, the Observatory operated until the 1980s and gained an international reputation for its work. This elegant, sandstone complex is now part of the Powerhouse Museum. The permanent exhibition, by the light of the southern stars', is highly informative while there is also a temporary exhibition programme and associated events. On a clear night, the stars and planets are visible through a telescope and can be accessed via guided tours every evening throughout the year. Bookings are essential for this family-oriented activity.
A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the foundation stones for St Mary's Cathedral were laid by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1821. After a series of architects and religious figures suggested their own versions of the cathedral, the building finally opened in 1900, although work continued until 1928 and really only finished recently. Wardell's original design had two spires that were never built. After ten years' debate and political fund-raising, the twin spires were finally completed in 2000. Today, St. Mary's Cathedral is heralded as one of the most beautiful buildings in Sydney. Visitors to the cathedral can wander around the beautiful interior, which is lit by ornate stained glass windows. Treasures located in the cathedral include the moving and beautifully sculpted Grave of the Unknown Soldier, a marble replica of Michelangelo's Pieta and many gorgeous religious paintings from the late 19th-Century.