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50 reasons why Sydney is the world's greatest city
Sydney the best ever? Keen grasp of the obvious, right? Maybe, but read on for a few things you might not know about the best place on the planet to call home
50. No worries mate, she'll be right
Nothing is too much hassle for locals (“No worries”), while outcomes are epitomized by stoicism ("She’ll be right").
49. Wobbliest tower
Sydney Tower -- naming rights sold to the highest bidder, in an interesting metaphor for what makes Sydney tick -- is filled with water to stabilize its sway. That means the most dramatic panoramic viewing of the world's biggest harbor might come during that cyclone we’ve all been waiting for.
In better conditions, the tower's 268-meter-high (880 feet) outdoor skywalk (adult $65, children $45) provides sufficient thrills. Indoor types can stay safe in the observation deck (adult $22.50, children $13.50) or revolving restaurant.
Sydney Tower is located in the new Westfield Shopping Centre at 100 Market St., rising above the corner of Pitt Street and Market Street. Head to Level 5 and look for the signs from the food court; tel. +61 (0)2 9333 9222
48. Coffee that's actually drinkable
If it isn’t gourmet, it isn’t Sydney coffee. You only realize how good our coffee is when you drink imitation lattes overseas.
With the rise of super-chains such as Starbucks, many vendors have now begun roasting coffee beans in-house. The highly competitive cafe scene in and around the city ensures café lattes come with their barista’s signature swirl.
Find the perfect ratio of beans, barista and machine at Campos Coffee. In Newtown, the shop draws on more than 10 blends of coffee from Africa to the Americas. 193 Missenden Road, Newton; tel. +61 (0)2 9516 3361, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
47. World's most technically advanced sky
While 700,000 show up in London and a million in New York, the New Year's Fireworks display in Sydney attracts 1.5 million who crowd the harbor foreshore's 130 vantage points. A thousand personnel -- and a dozen computers -- drive the world's most technically advanced show, one that includes 4,500 kilos of fireworks.
46. Even the dogs are cosmopolitan
Kids have had fun for years rolling into cafes with their parents and ordering babycinos before hitting the playground. Sydney takes spoiling little ones a step further with dog cafes. At places such as Café Bones and Chew Chew, dogs can stroll in and, with help from their human slaves, order a lactose-free Pupaccino before smelling bums and getting down to the business of marking turf in the leash-free playground.
45. Accents you want to take to bed
Sydney has the world’s best accent, a global take on the Irish convict, isolated English accent, that turns inner-city-fast-talking into sexy-speak.
44. Ferries that make work a cruise
Ride on the deck of a Sydney Ferry on your way to work, let the wind blow through your hair and realize that life (or your boss) isn’t so bad after all.
The Manly Ferry fleet that runs past Sydney Heads is named after northern beaches (where it ends up) while other ferries are named after female Olympic runners (such as Marjorie Jackson) and swimmers (such as Dawn Fraser) because they’re fast.
43. Legal 'ecstacy'
Walking into a shop and buying pills that can get you high usually attracts the attention of the local constabulary -- but in Sydney it's legal. Buzz, Cherry Pop, X NRG, Empathy and Ignite are all herbal concoctions that dogs don't sniff and don't complicate airline travel. Bright and cheery Happy High Herbs stores are in Bondi and Newtown.
Happy High Herbs, 26a Cambell Parade, Bondi Beach; 347 King St., Newtown; tel. +61 (0)2 9300 8055
42. Wash shampoo out of your hair in nature
A ferry ride through from Pittwater takes you to Refuge Bay, where you can stand under a waterfall that's strong enough to wash shampoo out of your hair. Not only will it impress your hairdresser, it will save water, as the water's running anyway.
41. Dance in a morgue
For half a century, Kinselas was the residence of Charles Kinsela, Undertaker. He ran the city's busiest morgue. But Sydneysiders prefer life to death and dancing to resting. The place is now a nightspot with high art deco ceilings, and a function room called "The Chapel." If all the bodies inside make you feel stuffy, go to the veranda and look over Taylor Square.
Kinselas, 383 Bourke St., Taylor Square, Darlinghurst; tel. +61 (0)2 9331 3100
40. Malaysia says g'day to Bolivia in our restaurants
In how many other cities can you get a chook green curry pie? And that’s the cheap end of our fusion cuisine. Walk into the Flying Squirrel for sea scallops served in glass noodles -– Sydney seafood served Asian-style in a South American dish. Locals can also ponder a sushi train, wood-fired pizza, spicy Swahili curry or sauerkraut.
39. Even our poo is green
Sydney’s sustainable. Everyone uses different bins for paper, bottles and rubbish. From the suburban man who’s stoked with extra bin space to the inner city greenies reducing their carbon footprints, everyone seems to do it. Poo from outdoor festivals even goes to worm farms.
38. Red light come-ons
Walking through the nightlife hub of Kings Cross, you’ll be invited into a handful of strip clubs, brothels and sex toy shops -- and it’s always nice to feel wanted. Although the strip's notorious clubs -- Porky's, The Pink Pussycat, Love Machine -- had their licenses revoked in the 1990s for allegedly being illegal brothels, you can still enjoy a drink with the girls or hit one of the city's many gentlemen's clubs.
37. Private courtyards just for barbecue ... so far as your neighbors know
Most Sydneysiders have their own private backyard, tailor-made for the Sunday afternoon barbecue. Sociologists call it a kickback to Shakespearian bourgeoisie, but a roomy city also means that neighbors aren't listening when you're having sex.
36. Convict-founded egalitarianism
Even long-serving prime minister and Sydney-born John Howard has a criminal heritage -- nothing less will do for this city built on bread and watch thieves. It means that Sydneysiders aren’t quick to judge. This in a city in which an unemployed man can sit on the beach next to a lawyer, and they’ll view each other as just another person.
35. Drag drag
Be careful round the side streets off William Street, where guys that look like gals will turn a trick. Or, play it meek by taking in a drag show along Oxford Street and get lost in the crowd. The post-Priscilla drag is still bubbling with local men clinging to their lip-syncing, cross-dressing fetishes.
34. Underground parties
Some cities pride themselves on their underground transport systems. Sydney's got that, too, but by and large, when localsgo underground they don't sit in bored silence. They go to parties and un-advertised performances in warehouses, churches, studios and secluded beaches.
33. Picnics -- not prison fights -- on beautiful islands
During colonization, the harbor islands were used for jails, navy depots and fishing bases. Nowadays, festivals and picnics are held there. Equipped with a pop-up bar and camping ground, the revamped Cockatoo Island hosts the Biennale Festival, a cacophany of art installations and performance.
32. Beautiful rubbish
Epitomized by the Reverse Garbage recycling cooperative -- the ethic is one person’s trash is a budding artist’s treasure -- Sydney has enough valuable junk to fill a suburb of bohemian apartments. Whether your scour trash and treasure markets or pick up free items on the side of the road, you won't miss a good find and neither will its previous owner.
If you just want throw-away clothes, at reliable op shop Anglicare Depot in Summer Hill you can bag bargains at $6 for the first kilo of items and approximately $2.50 for every kilo after -- that's cheaper than dog food. 105 Carlton Crescent, Summer Hill; tel. +61 (0)2 9798 7888; Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
To let you in on the east's best fashion secret, the Uniting Church Op-shop on the corner of Warners Avenue and Niblick Street, North Bondi, has the cheapest and best. Open Thursday to Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
31. Loud guitars in the CBD
Each January, Sydney Festival First Night turns the CBD into a live music arena. Symphony in the Park attracts 70,000 revelers to the Domain. Racecourses turn party venues, suburbs turn street festivals, laneways evolve into daytime gigs. Sydney's love of festivals isn't just good for social cohesion, it means there's always an excuse to crack open a bottle outdoors.
30. We let our feet breathe
In most big cities you'd be a dag for wearing flip-flops. But the beach city is so laid-back that it’s cool for your feet to breathe. You can pick up a $5 pair of thongs just about anywhere.
29. Native scenery
Even if you’re made to feel ugly (or at least not as beautiful as your mother promised you were), wasting an hour pretending not to stare at beautiful topless girls and guys is a local pastime. Sydney is a people watcher’s paradise.
28. Free health care
If you get bitten by a shark or hit by a bus you can be taken care of in the hospital, free of charge.
27. We're a peaceful place, really
The land was invaded 220 years ago -- and since then there’s been a low incidence of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters in the Armageddon age.
26. Running to the beach gets you a round of applause
Every spring, tens of thousands don gorilla suits, dress as superheroes and lace their sneakers before running and walking a non-direct, 14-kilometer route in the City to Surf event, which finishes at Bondi Beach. Those that don't run line the streets of Rose Bay, Vaucluse and the beach drinking Chardonnay and cheering on the actual athletes.
25. Busy thespians
Independent theaters are part of Sydney's urban charm. The city is surrounded by curated and fringe performances -- from theaters in pub basements (The Old Fitzroy) to old horse-houses (The Stables at Kings Cross) and harbor side venues such as Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli. An active local theater crowd gives struggling actors enough money to pay the rent.
24. Spray paint masterpieces
The city likes color. Streets and trains aren't drab and gray, but are spray-painted with all colors of the spectrum. Some of the best legal graffiti walls are at May Lane in St. Peters, Bondi Beach Promenade and Technology Lane in the University of Sydney.
23. Theater and food in gun barracks
Built in 1870, underground tunnels and armories on Middle Head were active for a century. But Sydneysiders prefer style to guns these days. A harbor side walk along Middle Head past gun bases ends in what used to be a residence for gunners. It's now a teahouse. Last year, a bunch of actors showed that artillery stations and tunnels are great places to act -- the aptly named show, "Through These Lines," paved the way for what could be an arts precinct.
The Tearoom Gunners' Barracks, Georges Heights, end of Suakin Drive, off Middle Head Road,
Mosman; tel. +61 (0)2 8962 5900
22. Every star is a ten
Compared with our classy squad of perfectly sculpted celebs -- Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elle Macpherson -- other cities' stars look like yesterday's trash. And often act like it.
21. World's best pub food
Sorry, London, but your shepherd’s pie and fried eggs are a joke in the face of the diverse pub grub of the harbor city. Walk into a sociable local like The Royal Albert Hotel's Bamboo Dumpling Bar and you can get your schooner with dim sims such as seafood and kaffir lime skewers and mushroom gow gee.
20. Oldest underground toilet is an art gallery
The heritage toilet built in 1906 on Taylor Square, Oxford Street, to service the needs of the growing population, now hosts cultural events such as art exhibitions and podcasts of rock 'n' roll history. It smells better than it once did and men keep their pants on.
19. Weirdos, sub-cults and diversity embraced
It’s boring when everybody is the same. Much more fun to be different. Musical tastes and styles run the track from burlesque to rockabilly. A night out in Sydney can lead you into the arms of anybody -- hippies, trannies, punks, rockers, jazz crooners, yuppies.
18. Weather girls who smile through hail storms
Sydney doesn’t get so bloody cold, but it does have electric and hail storms that can destroy a car roof in 20 seconds flat. But the TV weather girls still front the population every night, tanned and pedicured to cheer us up through the most extreme weather.
17. BYO ethos
You can bring your own booze into the majority of restaurants, which means that, unlike in other major cities, you can enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner without raiding your retirement fund to pay for it.
16. Blue Mountains ... and other asphalt-free places
The dramatic escarpments of the Blue Mountains (where you find three sisters that are actually a single rock), river cruises along the Hawkesbury and a raw, southern nature reserve are all within an hour’s drive.
15. Fashion that nobody else wears
OK, so you spend a little more on that fancy dress or shirt, but at least you’ll be the only one wearing it. The independent fashion design scene is supported by rag-fests such as the Eveleigh Designers Markets, Darlington and the Young Australian Designers Market, Paddington. If you're a cheap skate and don't mind wearing what everybody else does, just wait for the January sales.
14. Chardonnay socialists at art galleries
Not only can you walk into the State Gallery for nix at any given time, but the art/life dichotomy is so lost somewhere between pretension and reality that you can go to art exhibition openings and drink as much wine as you want. Nobody there -- artist, curator, salesmen -- will even question your existence. Imagine, you hanging around drinking making artists look popular! The Sydney art scene is booming, with scores of galleries dotted around the inner city.
Nobody really catches it, but what other city would go to such trouble to put up a joy ride over some of its main streets? It’s such a spectacularly pointless gimmick to get people from A to A-and-a-bit -- or Pitt Street Mall to Darling Harbour-- that we can't help embracing it.
12. God drinks at music venues
An old star on the music scene, The Sandringham Hotel was immortalized by The Whitlams, who sang: "God drinks at the Sando."
11. Four and a half million seafood afficionados
Few things make locals feel more special (in that "don't we live in a fantastic city sense") than ducking down to the local fish shop for cheap prawns, bugs, lobsters and assorted sea creatures. Seafood institutions including Doyles at Watson's Bay, Nick's at Bondi Beach and the Sydney Fish Market (the biggest in the southern hemisphere) are seafood buffets just wanting teeth.
10. Poof power
Every city has its gay bars that bring some kind of confusion and artistic expression, but we have a whole street that permeates through a city. We’re a bunch of poofs -- and the ones that aren’t are metrosexuals -- and that’s as cool in 2011 as it was in 1975, if in a different way. The Columbian Hotel, Oxford Hotel and Newtown Hotel are a start.
9. Heritage architecture
Everybody knows the Opera House, but Sydney maintains 18th-century buildings in The Rocks and old dames like the Queen Victoria Building (now a shopping arcade) and The Town Hall on George Street. Victorian-era, split-level terraces surround the city center. You can pick up one of these numbers in Paddington or Balmain for less than $2million -- bargain.
8. Land of feminists
Females dominate local politics: the city mayor, state and federal members, governor, prime minister and governor-general are all women. This, Sydney aspires, gives the place more humanity than tall buildings and wars.
7. A New York restaurant that's as cheap as Bangkok
Amid the neon lights of Kings Cross, the New York Diner on Kellet Street has hardly changed -- in food or price -- since 1953. It's still a favorite of stars and marginals alike. Big breakfasts, steaks, chops and veges (just like grandma's) can be accompanied by 80-cent glasses of milk.
New York Restaurant, 18 Kellett St., Kings Cross; tel. +61 (0)2 9357 2772
6. Clear ocean sunrises 338 days a year
On any given day -- assuming it’s not one of the 27 cloudy mornings -- you can walk to the ocean and see the sunrise.
5. A nearby major airport
Whether you're on your way out, or flying in, SYD is so close to the city you don't have to slog through a one-hour train or get ripped off taking a cab ride from one side of the metropolitan area to the other.
4. A few trillion leaves
Paris might be the City of Light, but we're the city of trees. Approximately 29,000 trees of more than 120 species line the streets of Sydney, making the city beautiful while removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen to the atmosphere, boosting property values and providing much needed shade.
3. Big Bridges (but small walls)
The Harbour Bridge is not only pretty, it's the world's largest steel arch bridge (weighing 53,000 tons) and the widest (49 meters/160 feet) long-span bridge in the world. Weekend drives through harbor inlets take in the 120-meter-high (393 feet) ANZAC Bridge -- the nation's biggest suspension bridge -- and the 305-meter (1,000 feet) Gladesville Bridge, once the world's biggest concrete arch. Other standouts: Iron Cove, The Spit, Ryde, Captain Cook, Tom Uglies.
2. 100 Beaches
1. Everyone loves you ... or pretends to
Many locals call you "darling," particularly in inner city Darlinghurst, which makes you feel loved.