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Sydney for culturalists

If you live and breathe the arts and are drawn to the culture of cities, we have some recommendations for you

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People walking inside at White Rabbit Gallery Super Natural Exhi
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

Sydney has a lot of history to share with you. As the kind of traveller who relishes the discovery of the past, you'll love finding out more about the region's original owners (in Barangaroo), its convict days (on Cockatoo Island) and the more recent, amazing story of the creation of the Sydney Opera House (during an Opera House Tour). Get right up to date with the contemporary art musings at the MCA and a walking tour of Chippendale – Sydney's most hip and happening creative enclave. When you're a culturalist, it's all about the thrill of discovery.   

Outside at Title Book Store Barangaroo
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do



Named after the pioneering second wife of Bennelong (the Eora man who played a key interlocutory role between original inhabitants and the British settlers), Barangaroo was opened in September 2015 as a park and entertainment space with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour. From the calm of the headland reserve to the energy of the retail precinct, Barangaroo is a place to meet, work, dine, shop or relax.

Art hanging from roof at White Rabbit Gallery Super Natural Exhi
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan


Chippendale, the small suburb just southwest of the CDB, is the most dynamic in the whole of Sydney. Formerly the site of a brewery, it has undergone massive redevelopment in the past decade and now boasts outstanding restaurants – both fine diners such as Ester and LP's Quality Meats, and hawker-style Asian food along Spice Alley. White Rabbit gallery is an amazing four-level gallery showcasing a mulitmillion dollar collection of Chinese contemporary art. Catch an arthouse movie at the new Palace Central Cinemas, do a crawl of the area's small galleries, or kick back with a beer at two of Sydney's best pubs, the Lansdowne Hotel and the Lord Gladstone.

Outside at Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

The Rocks

This waterside art museum was overhauled in 2011 and re-opened in March 2012 with light, airy, uncluttered interiors, more floor space and an additional modern wing. Inside, the galleries are clean, logical and open – with long vistas to entice and draw you in further. The MCA specialises in work by Australian artists and has a significant representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Until March 3, 2019, the gallery is showing the incredible photographs of David Goldblatt. Goldblatt captured extraordinary imagery of South African society through 70 years of tumultuous history, 1948-2018. 

Sydney Opera House Tour
Photograph: Jamie Williams
Things to do, Walks and tours

Sydney Opera House Backstage Tour


It’s a rare chance that you’ll have the opportunity to explore a completely empty Opera House theatre. On this tour, you’ll be able to visit all of the main theatres (dependant on if there are shows on) – from the majestic Concert Hall to the quaint Drama Theatre and, if you’re lucky, get a sneak peek of a rehearsal. You’ll walk along the outside of the Opera House, past roped-off areas and learn all there is to know about Sydney’s famous House of art and culture. Discover what inspired the Danish architect Jørn Utzon to enter the international competition to design the Opera House; where his idea to create a sail-like building came from; and how and why the building was declared ‘unbuildable’ by engineers. 

Cockatoo Island Aerial view
Things to do

Cockatoo Island


The largest island in Sydney's harbour, Cockatoo Island is a former convict prison whose several docks serviced the Royal Navy during WWII. The island's maritime industrial activity ceased in 1992, and today, the island is run by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. The trust run different types of tours – visitors can opt for a self-guided audio tour (90 mins; $5-$8), on-demand guided tour (60 or 90 mins; $16) or a pensioner tour (60 or 90 mins; $12). Those who want to stay on a bit longer also have options – there are camp sites, glamping packages, apartments or heritage holiday houses. The island is a quick ferry trip from Barangaroo Wharf.

Stay in a hotel with great design

A room at Sydney's West Hotel
Photograph: Paul Gosney
Hotels, Luxury hotels

West Hotel

Darling Harbour

A boutique accommodation project from Hilton down amongst Barangaroo’s new towers offers an elegant, welcoming home base from which to see Sydney.



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