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How to see the best of Sydney in a week
Don't worry, we'll get you to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but there's a lot more in Sydney we can impress you with
Thanks to warm weather, relaxed vibe, beaches, bars and world-class restaurants, most visitors to Sydney never want to leave.
But if you’ve just got to get back home, this harbor-side itinerary will get you to the best spots in short order.
Day one: It's OK, just be a tourist
No matter how far off the trodden track you wander, Sydney’s most famous icons -– the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House -- will always suck you back in.
This iconic duo has helped make Sydney one of the most picturesque cities in the world and, whether you catch a show at "the House," scale the "coat-hanger" or simply stand in admiration enjoying the view from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Botanic Gardens, no trip to Sydney is complete without paying homage to the city’s crown jewels.
If that's not enough tourist action, amid the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks you can grab a drink in one of the city’s oldest pubs, such as the Lord Nelson (19 Kent St.), or catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo, where there are stunning views of the city alongside elephants and giraffes.
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Day two: Turn your back on fame
While areas such as Circular Quay, The Rocks and Bondi draw the most visitors, Sydney’s other suburbs are worth a look, too.
In the city’s Inner West, Glebe and Newtown are both eclectic enclaves full of arty hipsters, ethnic eateries, alternative bars and live music.
The Inner East is home to trendy, gentrified areas such as Surry Hills, Paddington and Darlinghurst, which all offer vintage boutiques, galleries, cocktail bars and award-winning restaurants.
We like to start with coffee at The Wolf and Honeybeein Newtown(206 Edgeware Road), where you can view work by emerging artists in the café’s exhibition space; or kick off the day with boiled eggs and soldiers at The Bunker in Darlinghurst (399 Liverpool St.).
For lunch, there's Glebe Point Diner (407 Glebe Point Road), which has an ever-changing menu featuring local, seasonal produce, or Reuben Hills café in Surry Hills (61 Albion St.), where you can pair a Reuben sandwich with a salted caramel milkshake.
Day three: Slather on the sunscreen
Sydneysiders are rightly proud of their beaches and hitting the waves for a surf is among the quintessential Aussie experiences.
While the notorious Backpackers Express rip current at Bondi Beach has seen many a novice surfer dragged out to sea –- much to the chagrin of the local lifeguards –- the mellower waves of Manly, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, offer beginners a more sedate surfing experience.
Manly Surf School runs group lessons daily.
Whether or not you hit the waves, it’s worth making the trip to Manly for the 30-minute ferry ride to enjoy the views of the harbor; nearby Shelly Beach and Fairlight both provide excellent snorkeling in sheltered bays.
If you’re after a more serene seaside excursion, east from the city to Coogee you can take the six-kilometer coastal walkway north to Bondi Beach, enjoying dramatic cliff-top views as you pass beaches at Clovelly, Bronte and Tamarama.
Day four: Look at things talented people make and do
Sydney packs cultural clout, with dozens of museums, galleries and historic buildings.
A fine place to start is the Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can check out modern masterpieces before heading to Cadman’s Cottage –- the oldest surviving residential building in the city –- and The Rocks Discovery Museum to learn about Sydney’s earliest settlers.
A short walk away is The Museum of Sydney, where state of the art displays reveal the city’s entire history.
Also recommended are Parliament House and Hyde Park Barracks, which show different sides of 19th-century life in Sydney.
From there, you can wander into the Domain to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to enjoy works by European masters and Aboriginal painters, before strolling through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Government House to admire the Gothic Revival architecture.
Consider finishing the day with a show at Sydney Theatre in Walsh Bay, or simply have a drink in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge at the theater’s excellent bar, The Bar at the End of the Wharf.
Day five: Watch some guys get pushed around
Aussies love their sport.
With its Grand Slam tennis tournament, world-famous horse race and colossal MCG stadium, Melbourne can rightly claim to be the country’s sporting capital, but Sydneysiders aren’t far behind in their devotion to all things active.
No matter what time of year, there’s some kind of major sport on offer, with rugby league and Aussie Rules football dominating autumn and winter and cricket taking precedence in summer.
To fit in with the locals, place a bet and stock up on beer and meat pies –- they’re all as much of an Aussie tradition as the sport itself.
To create sporting highlights of your own, there's "barefoot bowls," a laid-back -– and often boozy –- take on the traditionally stuffy game of lawn bowls.
Day six: Ignore Sydney (she'll still be waiting when you come back)
Sydney has incredible sights on its doorstep that are perfect for a day trip.
In the Blue Mountains, Katoomba is just an hour-and-a-half from the city. Here you can enjoy stunning scenery on one of the area’s many bushwalks. Hikers are advised to carry a map and plenty of water.
Alternatively, a two-hour drive north from the city will take you to the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, where you can sample the region’s famous semillon and shiraz.
Day seven: Spend, eat, spend
Shopaholics aren’t short of designer boutiques or multi-story malls in Sydney, but it’s the city’s varied markets that warrant inspection.
Paddington Markets (395 Oxford St.), held every Saturday, features more than 150 stalls from designers, local artists and jewelers.
The weekly Glebe Markets (40 Glebe Point Road) offers a mix of secondhand clothing, books and furniture, with live music helping to create a festival atmosphere.
Sydney’s markets also have something for food lovers, with Sydney Fish Market (Bank Street, Pyrmont) offering visitors a chance to watch live wholesale auctions before eating the freshest seafood in town.
The monthly Pyrmont Growers’ Market (Pyrmont Bay Park, Pirrama Road) features seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as live chef demonstrations.
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