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Sydney

Sunny, seductive Sydney is a high contender for the title of the world's most ideal city. It is slick and smart, the streets are clean, the neighbourhoods and busy pedestrian precincts pristine, the parks sublime, the water in the huge harbour blue, and the landmark buildings breath-taking. Sydney's population is approaching five million, but it is easy to leave the frenetic urban pace behind with just a simple ferry ride to the North Shore for a bush walk, enjoy a stroll along the harbour beaches or take any one of a number of daytrips to explore the 'real' Australia on the city's doorstep.

Just like its characteristic white-sailed Opera House, Sydney seems to cruise effortlessly through nights and days filled with myriad entertainment opportunities, sophisticated shopping, memorable museums, and strings of beautiful beaches. Visitors find it exhausting to take it all in, even though the tourist precinct where most of the interesting attractions are to be found is concentrated in quite a small area around the downtown waterfront and harbour area.

The fact that Sydney is a thriving seaport and industrial city has been cleverly concealed behind attractive pleasure and leisure grounds and residential suburbs, making full use of the scenic, watery geographical location. The harbour area is dominated by the span of one of the world's largest arched bridges, backed by towering skyscrapers. It is all a far cry from the remote penal colony established by the British back in 1788.

Another plus for visitors is that compared to most big cities Sydney offers excellent, reasonably priced food, accommodation and public transport. The city also has an excellent suburban rail network, with its hub at Circular Quay in the city centre, and full use is made of the waterways with ferries and passenger jet boats plying to and from various points.

Information & Facts

Climate

The summer season (November to March) is the most popular time to visit Sydney with temperatures regularly hitting the mid-90s Fahrenheit (35°C). November and March are favoured by visitors wanting sunshine without the searing heat. Winter days can also be warm, regularly in the 70-80 degree Fahrenheit range (21-27°C), but can also be damp and chilly. Winter nights are likely to be cold.

Eating Out

A multi-cultural city like Sydney has a wide variety of food with influences from around the world, but particularly from Asia. Along with modern Australian, or 'Mod Oz', cuisine, which combines fresh ingredients with a creative blend of European and Asian styles, restaurants serve almost any type of fare imaginable, from Tibetan to African, from Russian to American. Some areas or streets are dedicated to one type of food, while other areas in the city offer a variety of styles. The range also varies from award-winning, fine dining restaurants, situated mainly around the harbour or attached to five-star hotels, to international fast food takeaways such as McDonalds or Pizza Hut. Fresh seafood is in abundance, and steak is a staple that can be found in a selection of steakhouse chain restaurants scattered around the city.

The main dining areas in the centre of Sydney are The Rocks, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Chinatown. Prices vary according to location, with harbour facing establishments charging more for their views. Some restaurants are BYO, which means they are unlicensed, but diners can bring their own wine; sometimes a small corkage fee will be charged. All restaurants are non-smoking.

For a more comprehensive list of restaurants in Sydney see www.sydneyrestaurants.comor www.yourrestaurants.com.au/nsw/sydney

Getting Around

Sydney has a good network of buses, trains and ferries that make getting around the city and the surrounds easy, and there are numerous types of travel pass deals that are good value for money. The bus network is the most extensive, and cheapest mode of public transport, but can be slow due to traffic jams. There are also several hop-on hop-off Explorer buses especially for visitors that take in the major sights and surrounding beaches. The underground city centre train loop is the fastest way to get around, but many of the tourist areas including Darling Harbour, Bondi Beach and Manly can only be reached by further ferry or bus connections. The best and most pleasurable way to get around is by ferry - the main terminal is at Circular Quay. A trip on the Manly ferry provides one of the best views of Sydney from the water. There is also a 10-minute monorail loop from the city centre to Darling Harbour and back, and a Metro Light Rail 'tram' system between Central Station and Wentworth Park in Pyrmont. In addition metered taxis are plentiful and fairly economical; to cross the Harbour Bridge or pass through the Harbour Tunnel will cost an extra A$3 for the toll though. Hiring a car for short visits is not recommended due to heavy congestion (in peak hours) and limited parking in the city centre.

Kids Attractions

Boasting a plethora of outdoor activities and world-class attractions, Sydney is a fantastic place for children on holiday and parents will have a hard time choosing one from the huge list of activities and sights that are geared towards children.

Home to some of the world's most exotic animals, it's no wonder there are endless animal viewing opportunities. But for something a little different, head to Bicentennial Park for a barbeque or simply a picnic while the children enjoy the playgrounds and cycle paths. Take a stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens or for some of the finest beaches in the world, the renowned Bronte, Nielsen Park and Shelley Beaches are all child-friendly. Pack the beach bats, bucket and spade and sunblock and head out for a day in the sun, sand and surf.

For cooler days when outdoor activities for kids are not an option, why not visit some of the fantastic zoos or museums Sydney has to offer, head to an indoor playground, or catch a movie on the big screen at IMAX theatre. Children on holiday in Sydney will be beside themselves with the choices of activities on offer, and endless hours of fun and life-long memories are guaranteed when visiting Sydney with the kids.

Language

English is the official language of Australia.

Money

The Australian Dollar (AUD) is divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change exchange most foreign currencies. Travellers cheques are also welcome everywhere, but banks take a small commission and it is better to take cheques in major currencies (e.g. US dollars or Euros) to avoid additional charges. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are freely available throughout the country. Banking hours are generally 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Friday, but some banks offer extended hours and some are open on Saturday mornings.

Night Life

Sydney's nightlife is all go, with everything from pubs and jazz bars to rock venues and nightclubs. The best party areas include Darling Harbour, Oxford Street and The Rocks. For listings and free weekly entertainment guides, Drum Media and 3D World are available at bookshops and record stores.

Number One Wine Bar at Circular Quay is quite popular, as are the Lord Nelson, the Australian and the Mercantile pubs of The Rocks. Coogee Bay Hotel has a great beer garden and the Opera bar is a good waterside venue. The best nightclub is Home, housed in a space-age building in Darling Harbour and nearby, the Cargo lounge bar has trendy house music. Tank and Cave also come highly recommended. Sydney's famed drag shows can be seen at the Imperial Hotel or The Midnight Shift.

Artists, musicians and designers frequent the subterranean Oxford Art Factory in Darlinghurst, and there are jazz and soul performances at the Supper Club in Taylor Square. The Hopetoun Hotel and the Annandale Hotel are good venues for new bands, while the Sydney Entertainment Centre hosts more acclaimed artists. The Basement also features live jazz, world music and international acts.

Shopping

Shopaholics will not be disappointed with Sydney, a cosmopolitan city that offers international as well as local name brands, world class shopping centres, streets that reveal a host of fascinating speciality shops, and discounted market stalls that offer anything from clothes to arts and crafts and edibles.

Most of the large department stores are within the city centre and within a few blocks of each other. For exclusive shopping, the QVB, or Queen Victoria Building, is an architectural masterpiece housing a large variety of designer label and speciality shops, while in similar vein the nearby Strand Arcade houses some of Australia's top designer labels, as well as boutiques, jewellery and beauty salons. Downtown Duty Free in the basement is a great place to pick up some bargains. Other centres include the magnificent Grace Bros' with eight levels boasting vast quantities of goods, Sydney's oldest department store David Jones, the Harbourside development at Darling Harbour, MLC Centre, Picadilly and Centrepoint. Explore the streets of The Rocks, which hide a myriad of speciality shops, while Skygarden centre is home to the biggest bookstore in town, Borders, which also stocks a wide selection of magazines, CDs and DVDs.

Sydney's biggest market is Paddy's, open from Thursday to Sunday, which offers discounted mainstream items, while the Glebe (Saturday) and Bondi (Sunday) markets are traditional alternative markets with a good selection of clothing, arts and crafts, and second-hand goods. The Rocks has weekend stalls trading mainly in good quality crafts, collectibles, and art. For something totally different the daily Sydney Fish Market is a fishy spectacle as well as a great place to feast on fresh seafood. A wider variety of food can be bought at Coles or Woolworths supermarkets.

Sightseeing

Sydney is one of the world's top holiday destinations offering a variety of attractions for all ages. Families can explore the sights at Darling Harbour, including one of the biggest and most impressive aquariums in the world; observe some fascinating Australian fauna and flora at Wildlife World; and watch a film on the huge screen at the Imax theatre.

Those interested in history will want to explore the cobbled streets of The Rocks, a restored 19th-century village that was the site of Australia's first European settlement in 1788. The Rocks also gives access to the Pylon Lookout on the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge for an amazing view of the harbour, Sydney Opera House and beyond. Adventurers will definitely want to experience the iconic bridge from a more thrilling perspective though, and can take part in an organised climb to the top of Harbour Bridge for breathtaking views and a sense of bold achievement. For even greater heights, visitors can test their mettle by experiencing the view from the open air, glass-floored viewing platform at the top of the 853ft (260m) Sydney Tower.

When it comes to something more relaxing, Sydney boasts a large array of golden beaches for sun-lovers to take their pick from, from the more famous Bondi Beach lined with surf shops and designer cafes, to one of the many smaller beaches around Sydney Harbour.

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