The harbour, the Sydney Opera House, the harbour bridge - and then there's the beaches... is Sydney really the most beautiful city in the world? Find out for yourself with the Essential Hours. From world-class culture to awesome surf sports, fantastic bay-side tucker to a spot of window shopping - we've got it covered.
Run the cliff walk from Bronte to Bondi as the sun comes up. It is the most breathtaking way to start the day and perfectly showcases Sydney's natural assets. Say hello to the Bondi Caveman, the bohemian poet who lives on a shack in the rocks.
- Website: www.bondivillage.com
The quintessential start to a Sydneysider's day. Hire a board and have a lesson on the world's most famous surf beach - which is actually quite learner-friendly - or just watch the expert locals ride the "tube" before work. At this time of day, the light is perfect for great photographs.
- Address: Let's Go Surfing, 128 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi
- Tel: +61 2 9365 1800
- Website: www.letsgosurfing.com.au
Have breakfast at Three Eggs cafe - the parmesan scrambled eggs are fantastic, washed down with a Sunrise (banana and orange juice). Afterwards, pop next door to Aquabumps photo gallery to see Uge's iconic surfing images. Sign up to his email list and he'll send you inspiring pictures every weekday, so you can live the beach life vicariously.
- Address: 151 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026, Australia
- Tel: +61 2 9130 7788
- Website: www.aquabumps.com.au
Want to see the Great Barrier Reef, some crocodiles and a few huge sharks? Then spend an hour in Sydney Aquarium - arguably the best aquarium in the world and fun for all the family. It's probably best you do this after your surfing lesson though.
- Address: Aquarium Pier, Darling Harbour
- Tel: +61 2 8251 7800
- Website: www.sydneyaquarium.com.au
Sydney isn't just beaches - it's got some beautiful parks too. Lose yourself in the oasis that is Centennial Park. Go horseriding, hire bikes, or just walk around the different gardens and have a typically Aussie flat white (coffee) and an Anzac biscuit at the new park cafe.
- Address: Paddington Gates, Oxford Street, Paddington
- Tel: +61 2 9339 6699 & +61 2 9332 2809 (for horse riding enquiries)
- Website: www.centennialparklands.com.au
Time for the daily koala encounter at Taronga Zoo - where the amazing array of animals have one of the best views of the city you could imagine. Arrive in style by ferry from Circular Quay (it's across the bay) and save 15% off the entrance fee.
- Address: Bradleys Head Road, Mosman
- Tel: + 61 9969 2777
- Website: www.taronga.org.au
Oxford Street, Paddington
Strut down the catwalk that is Oxford Street, stretching from Paddington into the City. Womenswear highlights include local designers such as Lisa Ho, General Pants, Incu, Sass &Bide, Zimmermann, Kirrily Johnson and Assin. For menswear, check out industrie, Calibre, General Pants, Incu, Ksubi, Assin and Alpha60.
- Address: Oxford Street, Paddington
Lunch at Quay at the Overseas Passenger Terminal - considered the best restaurant in Sydney by the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Gourmet Traveller and Time Out Sydney. With perfect views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, it's best appreciated during the daytime - and its Â£35 three-course set lunch menu is superb value.
- Address: Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks
- Tel: +61 2 9251 5600
- Website: www.quay.com.au
Cricket at SCG
Take in the afternoon session at the famous SCG - Sydney Cricket Ground - during a Test match. Or book a tour of the hallowed home of cricket (this side of Lord's anyway) if there is no game on that day. As Richie Benaud would say, marvellous stuff.
- Address: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sheridan Buidling, Moore Park Road, Moore Park
- Tel: +61 2 9360 6601
- Website: www.scgt.nsw.gov.au
Sydney is often described as a 'City of Villages' - and many have their own bowling green. The lawns are full of young people at weekends - all barefoot, all enjoying a drink in the sunshine. Try Vaucluse Bowls for the billion dollar Opera House/Harbour Bridge vista, or Paddo Bowls for more of a party atmosphere.
Check out the permanent collection of Aborignal art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It also hosts world-class international shows, from Bill Viola to Monet.
- Address: Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, The Domain
- Tel: +61 2 9225 1744
- Website: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
The Botanic Gardens
Mrs Macquarie's Chair - an area of parkland that juts out into the harbour - affords perfect Sydney postcard picture views. Carry on through the lush Botanic Gardens to the Opera House - and make sure you look up: there are bats hanging in the trees and spiders in the branches.
- Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Mrs Macquarie's Road
- Tel: +61 2 9231 8111
- Website: www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au
It's 15 minutes by seaplane from Rose Bay to Pittwater, where you can eat at Jonah's - the award-winning restaurant/resort where anyone from Sir Anthony Hopkins to Mick Jagger has eaten, overlooking the picturesque Whale Beach. Walk it off along nearby Palm Beach (aka Summer Bay where Home & Away is filmed) before flying back into the city over the harbour for another perfect photo opportunity.
- Address: 69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach
- Tel: +61 2 9974 5599
- Website: www.jonahs.com.au
Sydney Opera House
Enjoy an al fresco pre-show drink at The Opera Bar on the lower concourse of the Opera House in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge. Then head inside to see a concert - or some theatre or comedy in the Studio underneath. Whatever's on is usually worth watching.
Sydney is spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor cinemas (in summer at least). There is the St George cinema at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, the Bondi Openair at Bondi Beach, or the Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park. You can head to the latter with your own picnic and hire a beanbag for Â£3.50. Bliss.
Join an experienced astronomer to get clued up on the southern hemisphere constellations - chief amongst which is the Southern Cross, also featured on the Australian flag.
- Address: Watson Rd, Observatory Hill, The Rocks
- Tel: +61 2 9241 3767
- Websites: www.sydneyobservatory.com.au
Hang out/upside down at Sydney's best funfair - located just underneath the Harbour Bridge. It's open till 11pm on Fridays and Â£10 buys you unlimited rides. The iconic entrance was painted by Sydney's most famous pop artist, Martin Sharp.
- Address: 1 Olympic Drive, Milsons Point
- Tel: +61 2 9033 7676
- Websites: www.lunaparksydney.com
Oxford Art Factory
The Oxford Art Factory is Sydney's coolest live music venue/urban art gallery/club/bar. There's a gig on most nights - either a touring international band or a local up-and-comer. It doesn't really get going til late.
- Address: 38-46 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
- Tel: +61 2 9332 3711
- Websites: www.oxfordartfactory.com
Ivy Pool Bar
The hottest place in town right now is the spanking new rooftop pool bar, in the multi-million-dollar ivy complex of bars, clubs and restaurants owned by Sydney's Mr Nightlife Justin Hemmes. It's a little slice of Miami in central Sydney - and is the place to be seen.
- Address: 320-330 George Street
- Tel: +61 2 9240 3000
- Websites: www.merivale.com/ivybar/
Harry's Cafe de Wheels
Sydney's most iconic meal is a Harry's 'Tiger' - a meat pie piled high with mushy peas, mashed potato and rivulets of gravy, garnished with a plastic fork. Queue up outside the pie cart, and check out the photos of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elton John taming a Tiger. Then sit on the dock of the bay at Woolloomooloo Wharf, and dig in.
- Address: Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo
- Tel: +61 9357 3074
- Websites: www.harryscafedewheels.com.au
Sydney is challenged only by Rio as the gay capital of the southern hemisphere. Walk from Oxford Street - the start of the pink mile - to Taylor Square and down into the City. You will pass umpteen different gay bars full of beautiful buff men, not to mention Diva drag queens and outrageous transvestites (for those just window shopping) all going for it from dusk till dawn.
- Websites: www.au.timeout.com/sydney/gay-lesbian
Chinatown is the part of the city that never sleeps. Head to Haymarket for a noisy, colourful wander and stop in at Golden Century if you're feeling peckish.
- Address: Golden Century, 393-399 Sussex St
- Tel: +61 2 9212 3901
- Websites: www.goldencentury.com.au
Booze + more booze - inhibitions = karaoke. Sydney is blessed with many late night/early morning dens where you can screech incoherently at a screen of grammatically dubious lyrics with random '80s visuals. Ding Dong Dang is the pick of the bunch.
- Address: Ding Dong Dang, 7 Randle Street, Surry Hills
- Tel: +61 2 9281 9000
Hot Air Ballooning
This will wipe the sleep from your peepers. Float serenely for an hour above the Macarthur region (just outside Sydney) for views of the Blue Mountains and the ocean - before touching down for a Champagne brekkie.
- Address: Balloon Aloft, Camden Airport, Aerodrome Rd, Camden
- Tel: +61 1800 028 568
- Website: www.balloonaloft.com
Last Updated: November 2008