Sydney Weekend Breaks

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Weekend Breaks to Sydney

Planning a short break to Sydney? Check out Travel Library's recommended Top 10 Things To Do in Sydney. It's a perfect companion for weekend city breaks to Sydney. Once you've been you can add your own tips and suggestions to help other visitors.

Sydney Opera House

Like the Taj Mahal in India, this building is instantly recognized the world over and yet ironically its construction was plagued with quarrels and scandals. It's Danish designer, Jorn Utzon resigned from the project somewhere along the line because of the problems and the project was finished without him. It was started in 1959 and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1973.

While it is dubbed an opera house, other activities take place beneath its shells such as ballet, classical music, film and theatre. It has four main auditoriums, the biggest being a 2 690 seat concert hall. It has two restaurants, several cafes and souvenir shops. Daily tours are available.

The opera house also has a section used for outdoor films and free entertainment.

Macquarie Street

Walking along this street is a stroll back in time through Sydney's architectural heritage. It is also the official part of the city with a concentration of early public buildings, many of them dating back to the 19th century. Some of the buildings were designed by ex convict/architect, Francis Greenway.

Parliament House, home to the New South Wales legislature, and built in that period is here and guided tours of the chambers are available. Next to Parliament is the State Library of NSW that is more of a cultural centre than a traditional library and it houses the Australian Research Collections which documents early life in Australia.

At the end of Macquarie Street is Hyde Park, named after its British equivalent, where the Anzac War Memorial stands out to honour Australians who fought in overseas wars. Hyde Park was once a race track but it is now a centre of trees, fountains and a giant chess board.

Also in this street is Hyde Park Museum Barracks. This Georgian style building was once a convict barracks, female immigration depot and courts. With this background, it is now fittingly a museum where much can be gleaned about Sydney's social history. The 600 or so convicts kept here had a tough life sleeping on hammocks and there is a room that recreates that scene. It is one of Sydney's most popular museums.

Manly

This is the jewel of the north shore boasting harbour and ocean beaches and all the trappings of a full scale holiday resort. Getting to Manly is part of the fun through the legendry Manly Ferry Service that since 1854 has been running from Circular Quay, where the Sydney Opera House is located, to Manly Wharf.

Once in Manly after the 11 km ride on the ferry, among the choices of things to do is a visit to the fun fair. There is also is a bustling pedestrian mall with all the shops that go with it.

The Manly Art Gallery is the place for a good selection of Aboriginal paintings and it also has information on the suburb's relationship with the beach. Next door is Ocean World where you can see the sharks and stingrays at close range through a transparent tunnel. There is a seal show twice a day.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

This is the channel that has linked the north and south shores of Sydney since 1932 and was the largest arch bridge in the world when it was built. Prior to that, the only link was via ferry or a circuitous road route. It took eight years to build, including the railway line.

The bridge is fondly known as the "coat hanger" by locals and many old timers look at it with fondness as it boosted employment during the depression. Over 150 000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

Inside the south eastern stone pylon is the Harbour Bridge Museum but you will need to climb 200 stairs to get there. The adventurous can join a climbing group that scales the bridge itself.

Bondi Beach

This is one of the best known beaches in the world and is the closest to the city centre. It is an action orientated, full of sunbathers, joggers, and surfers and the bustle goes on until well after dark. The cosmopolitan mix of working travelers, British expatriates, backpackers, New Zealanders visitors and not forgetting the locals. is what makes it attractive.

Campbell Parade alongside the beach is lined with cafes and shops and there is a beach market every Sunday.

Chinatown

A good time to visit China is during the Chinese New Year which is celebrated with the gusto of street parades and fireworks. But a visit is generally worthwhile at any time in this ethnic area that is lined with lanterns and archways.

While many of the residents can trace their roots to the good rush days of the 1800s, there has been a new wave of immigrants joining this bustling district, particularly after the handover of Hong Kong back to China by Britain in the 1990s. Australia's biggest restaurant, Kam Fook, is in Chinatown.

Centennial Park

Running, skating, horseback trails, duck ponds, ports pitches and barbeque sites are the hall marks of this park. Horses can be hired from the stables in the park. Located 5 km from the central business district, it is Sydney's largest park.

The park is of historical significance to the city. In January 1888, it was "dedicated to the enjoyment of the people of New South Wales" in a public ceremony attended by some 100 000 people. Since then, the park has done just that. When Sydney has something to celebrate, it will probably be in this park which has seen many magnificent fireworks displays.

If you are not running or skipping about in the park, there are rose gardens, ornamental ponds and many other features in the landscaped lawns to enjoy.

Queen Victoria Building

It is hard to imagine that this modern shopping complex in the heart of Sydney was once a vegetable market. It now glitters from all the designer and specialist shops it contains and it is difficult to know whether Queen Victoria, whose statue sits imposing outside the building, approves or not.

The market closed down after the first world war and then the building went into such a state of disrepair that by the 1950s, ideas were being toyed to have it demolished. But fate seems to have been on its side because by the middle of the 1980s, it was being refurbished and turned into a shopping gallery. The locals, who like abbreviating names, simply call it the QVB.

Sydney Harbour

Officially called Port Jackson, the harbour is considered one of the world's most spectacular with its 240 km shoreline. Its water, beaches, islands, and waterside parks offer all the swimming, sailing, picnicking and strolling that you want. For an overall feel of Sydney you can hop on a ferry, jet cart, water taxi or any other boat and just sail around.

Life in Sydney revolves around the harbour. The world famous Sydney Opera House is perched on it. Every home, office and hotel in the city is designed to get the best view of it. On a business level it is one of the busiest harbours in the world playing host to container and cruise ships, jet cats, water taxis and generally any thing that floats on water.

Around the harbour are scattered pockets of bush land that form the Sydney Harbour National Park where activities include walking trails and historical sites. The park areas include some islands and you can tour some of them like Goat Island which was once a shipyard, quarantine station and gunpowder depot.

The Rocks

his was once a notorious area of Sydney that you wouldn't dare enter unless you lived there or had some important business. It was known for its convicts, street gangs, whalers and prostitutes. To make matters worse, an outbreak of the bubonic plague in the 1960s did nothing to enhance the areas image as a deadly place.

At one stage, the authorities wanted to raze it down and start afresh but there were protests - the place was not only tied in with the city's history but also held a lot of memories despite its reputation. The alternative an idea was to transform the place into one in which everyone could freely roam without fear and seems to have worked out. In the 1970s, it was redeveloped into a historic tourist site which has been quite successful given the cobbled streets, old buildings and even poky backstreets.

These days, it is a busy tourist precinct with up market stores selling local handicrafts like Aboriginal works of art and other tourist souvenirs. Sydney's oldest house, Cadman's Cottage, built in 1816 is in this locality. There is also a toy museum in a restored watch house that has thousands of antique and modern toys.

The area is named The Rocks after the sandstone buffs from which the first convicts cut golden bricks for the public buildings.

User Suggestions

Blue Hotel, Cowper Wharf, Woolloomooloo - Tourist Attraction

For those interested in a clever piece of architecture, visit the lobby of the Blue Hotel (formerly W) which has been converted from an old warehouse into a funky bar. However you can still imagine the old warehouse, similar to the malmaison hotel concept (where you can still imagine the old prison). However if you want to hear yourself thinking, avoid visiting on a Friday or Saturday night.

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