Hyde Park & Macquarie Street
One of the most historically significant areas of Sydney, this district contains one of the oldest parks in the city, Australia’s first museum, a Gothic cathedral and the beautiful old buildings of Macquarie Street, once the heart of Sydney’s fashionable society.
Originally laid out as the city’s first racecourse, Hyde Park is now a place of sunny lawns and wide avenues shaded by spreading trees. At the quiet end of the park, near Liverpool Street, you will find the beautiful Art Deco ANZAC Memorial and the Pool of Reflection. In the offices below the memorial there’s an excellent ongoing exhibition, ‘Spirit of ANZAC’. At the busy end of the park stands the gorgeously kitsch Archibald Fountain, which commemorates the association of France and Australia during World War I.
On the corner of William and College streets, you will find the excellent Australian Museum.
Established in 1827, the present complex is an intriguing mix of Victorian museum and 21st-century educational centre. It houses several unique natural history collections as well as a superb display of Indigenous Australian culture, with lots of hands-on activities and weekly sessions of Aboriginal music and dance.
On Tuesdays in summer it is open 5.30–9.30pm, with a bar, performers, DJs and artists.
6 College St; (02) 9320 6000; 9.30am–5pm daily.
Cook and Phillip Park
For a change of pace, do as the locals do and go for a swim at the Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic & Fitness Centre, which is located across from the Australian Museum at the southern end of the park.
The complex offers a full range of swimming and recreational activities, including a wave pool, but it’s worth visiting just to see the mural that graces the western wall of the Olympic pool. Inspired by the life of Australian swimming champion Annette Kellerman, it consists of eight painted panels depicting scenes from a long and colourful career.
Also worth a look is the Yurong Water Garden near the northern end of the park.
(02) 9326 0444; open Mon–Fri 6am–10pm and Sat–Sun 7am–8pm.
St Mary’s Cathedral
The cathedral is located on the east side of Hyde Park North, and was designed by William Wardell in a soaring Gothic Revival style that recalls the cathedrals of medieval Europe.
Work on the cathedral began in 1868 and was finished in 1928, leaving the twin towers in the southern facade without their spires. The completed spires were added to the cathedral in 2000 by helicopter – much to the delight of watching Sydneysiders.
A particular highlight is the crypt beneath the nave, which features a stunning terrazzo mosaic floor.
College St, facing Hyde Park; (02) 9220 0400.
St James' Church
This fine sandstone church, with its elegant tower and copper-sheathed spire, is the oldest ecclesiastical building in the city.
The commemorative tablets on the walls read like a page from a history of early Australia. Don’t miss the little children’s chapel either, which is located in the crypt. The chapel is decorated with an enchanting mural inspired by the Christmas carol ‘I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In’, which depicts the land and seascapes of Sydney Harbour.
There are regular lunchime concerts.
173 King St, opposite Hyde Park; (02) 8227 1300.
Named after one of Sydney’s most dynamic and far-seeing governors, Macquarie Street was a thriving centre of upper-class society during the 19th century, evidence of which can still be seen in the magnificent buildings that line the eastern side of the street.
In keeping with its old-world character, Macquarie Street is also home to a number of statues. Up near Hyde Park, for example, you will find Queen Victoria and her royal consort, Prince Albert.
While you’re in this part of Macquarie Street, take the lift to the 14th floor of the Supreme Court building and visit the Buena Vista cafe. You can enjoy one of the best harbour views in Sydney, all for the price of a latte. Reservations may be needed. (02) 9230 8221.