Sydney is without doubt one of the developed world's most exciting cities. To look at, it's nothing short of magnificent, with the iconic Opera House looming over the harbour, and lined with gorgeous beaches. The city itself is home to a confident multicultural population who make for vibrant culinary and cultural scenes.
Sydney is a vital hub both for visitors arriving from far-flung countries, and those looking to cross the huge distances of Australia without the endless driving. Bus travel isn't ideal owing to the traffic-choked streets, but the modern trams are a good way to get about, while there's also the efficient Sydney Light Rail.
Most first-time visitors to Sydney begin with the harbour. It's one of the most impressive sights in Australia, if not the world. The mighty 1930s Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the widest ever built, best seen at night when it glitters over the water behind the sails of the Sydney Opera House on its southern end. The harbour area is distinct for the sea having gnawed great jagged chunks out of the coastline, making for a wondrous, watery cityscape with skyscrapers and sandy coastline alike.
On the latter point, after getting acquainted with the roaring pace of Sydney, reward yourself by taking a tour of Sydney's many wondrous beaches. There are several dozen to choose between – not least Bondi Beach, whose brave surfers are almost as impressive the coastal beauty itself.
Beyond the gleaming harbour and original settlement known as The Rocks, there's the historic architecture of the Victorian era to admire, based on and around Macquarie Street, largely built on the back of the gold rush and agricultural boom of the 19th century. At the bottom end of this grand boulevard is The Domain, 30-plus hectares of open, green space in the heart of Sydney, fringed by St Mary's Cathedral and Archibald fountain.
For a break from city buzz, head some 30km out of Sydney to the Royal National Park. Established in 1879, it's one of the oldest national parks in the world, and sprawls across some 15,000 hectares, offering rocky cliffs, beautiful hiking trails and patches of rainforest.
The red-tiled suburbia of Botany Bay may not register with many visitors, but much of the area is protected by nature reserves and national parks, and offers a refreshing change of pace from central Sydney. Meanwhile to the west of the centre, find the inner-city neighbourhoods of Glebe and Newtown, known for their student populations and artistic vibes.
Foodies are in for a treat in Sydney, which boasts a restaurant circuit that can match up to almost any other city. This is partly thanks to the waves of immigrants who supplemented the city's Anglo-Irish founders, including Italians, Greeks, Chinese, Vietnamese, Lebanese and many others besides. The result? A rich culinary scene that's changing all the time, and passionate chefs not afraid to shake things up from time to time. Locales with views out to the harbour offer the latest in fine cooking and gastronomic adventure, while less central areas such as Surry Hills also offer some exceptional options. As for the wine, take your pick of Australia's best produce.