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Parramatta sits at the intersection of rich history and rapid development. The ‘place of eels’ is home to one of the earliest sites of ancient Aboriginal communities in Sydney, with the Burramattagal people, a clan of the Darug, having first settled along the upper reaches of the Parramatta River around 60,000 years ago.
It’s also the site of Sydney’s second European settlement. In search of fertile farming land, colonists arrived here just two months after landing in Sydney Cove in 1788, and as a result, the area is thick with significant heritage buildings and vital archaeological sites.
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What’s Parramatta known for?
These days, it’s the booming geographical centre of Greater Sydney and has become a city in its own right. In the space of a few decades, it’s gone from a typical suburb to a commercial hub, with high-rise residential developments now shooting up faster than you can say ‘DA’. However, despite rapid growth, the suburb has retained plenty of local character. Parramatta has long been one of the most diverse areas in NSW, with over 70% of the population speaking a language other than English, and that diversity is well reflected in the local economy and cultural calendar – there are few places where annual events like Diwali and Lunar New Year are celebrated in as much an official capacity as Christmas.
Why do the locals love it?
Because it embodies “live, work and play”. The suburb is home to high-tech state schools, a shiny Western Sydney University campus and dozens of government agencies and major companies, but also a thriving small business community including family-run shops that have been open for generations. Opportunity is abundant, but just as importantly, so is leisure. Expansive and well-kept open spaces provide ample opportunity for rest and recreation, while a rich (and rapidly growing) restaurant and bar scene means there are plenty of places to have a good time after dark. Here you can shop all day, eat all night, watch live theatre, go for bushwalks and swim in lakes. And for better or worse, our loyalty to the Western Sydney Wanderers and Parramatta Eels – who play at the revamped Bankwest Stadium – gets the blood pumping like few other things can.
How do I get to Parramatta?
Getting to Parramatta (at least from the city) is faster than you think. Hop on the T2 line and you’ll be there in less than half an hour from Central, while the spiffy new Westconnex makes driving quicker than ever. In the years to come, public transport will only get better, with a light rail project underway and a future Metro station planned.
If you’re in search of a good feed, you’ll want to scope out Parramatta’s southern neighbour Harris Park, a veritable 'little India' where the main strip is lit up with dozens of delicious eateries. Every night of the week you’ll see folks snacking on sticky jalebi and saucy chaat from street stalls, spilling out of the mega-popular Chatkazz, and settling in for belly-busting banquets at lively family restaurants. Northern Indian, Southern Indian, vegetarian and even Indo-Chinese cooking is all represented.
Map of Parramatta
If you only do one thing…
Not enough people know that you can take a ferry from Parramatta Wharf all the way out to Circular Quay – it’s one of Sydney’s most wholesome and cheap pleasures. Referred to as the RiverCat after the class of catamaran than runs on this route, the ride is more of a smooth glide than the at times choppy hop you get on traditional ferries out east. That means you can take a book or podcast with you to pass the leisurely journey (and at up to 90 minutes, it’s definitely not for those in a rush). Pop out onto the deck for sun and breeze as you watch the scenery slowly change, from thick foliage and forests of mangroves to manicured bayside properties, before opening up to the spectacle and drama of glittering Sydney Harbour.