Around Circular Quay

Sydney Opera House, Tourism New South Wales

Bounded by the 19th-century streetscape of Bridge Street and including the promenades of East and West Circular Quay, this area contains one of Sydney’s most famous icons. It also houses two must-see museums and boasts one of the few corners of the CBD that has remained unaltered for almost 200 years.

Circular Quay

Since the moment that Sydney was declared a settlement, Circular Quay has been where it all happens. With many journeys beginning and ending here, it’s a major junction for bus, rail and ferry transport, and a natural meeting place. There’s entertainment on the quay itself in the form of buskers and street performers, while the many excellent cafes and bars offer stunning views of the harbour.

Sydney Opera House

One of the great buildings of the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House stands at the far end of East Circular Quay, breathtaking in its beauty against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour. Thought by many to echo the sails seen in the harbour, it was in fact the natural fall of a segmented orange that inspired Jørn Utzon’s design, although Utzon never saw the completed building. After resigning in anger over changes made to the interior design, he left, swearing never to return. The recent renovations to the interior were carried out under his direction prior to his death in November 2008. A guided tour is recommended (bookings essential, 9am–5pm daily), or take the intimate back-stage tour. (Tours (02) 9250 7250). A variety of music, theatre, ballet and other performances on every day and night. (02) 9250 7777.

Museum of Sydney

A gem of a museum built of sandstone, steel and glass, the Museum of Sydney is situated on the site of the first Government House, the original foundations of which can still be seen. Through a series of intriguing displays, exhibitions and films, the many layers that have gone into the making of Sydney are revealed. Cnr Phillip and Bridge sts; open 9.30am–5pm daily.

Macquarie Place Park

On the corner of Loftus and Bridge streets stands a remnant of the old Government House garden, now known as Macquarie Place Park and hardly changed from the days when Macquarie designated it the city centre. The elegant sandstone obelisk near the south-east corner of the park marks the place from which all distances in the colony were once measured. The nearby anchor and small gun belonged to Arthur Phillip’s flagship Sirius . More of this ship has since been recovered, and can be viewed at the Australian National Maritime Museum.