All you need to know about The Harbour City

By Iqra Sarfaraz
Tue, 07, 22

Sydney has a buzzing art and culture scene, some of the best restaurants and cafes, amazing weather and world-renowned landmarks like the famous Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge....

All you need to know about The Harbour City


Moving to Sydney was not an easy decision – especially in the year 2020 when the entire world was living through a pandemic. But somehow, when my Partner Visa got approved, I took the first available flight to Down Under (in late 2020) – not knowing that an experience of a lifetime was waiting for me there… It’s been more than a year already, nevertheless; I feel as if I just got here. How time flies!

Being a Sydneysider now, I can vouch that this city is a whole mood! The heart of Australia, Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales stretched all the way from its incredible beaches and coastal walks through the bustling CBD (Central Business District – or downtown), and then all the way out to the thrilling bush land and exciting national parks. Sydney is Australia’s oldest, largest, and most populated city. The best part about living here is that you never run out of things to do. Sydney has a buzzing art and culture scene, some of the best restaurants and cafes, amazing weather and world-renowned landmarks like the famous Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Three Sisters (Blue Mountains)
Three Sisters (Blue Mountains)

It is a peaceful, slow-paced city where you won’t see too much crowd or anyone in a hurry. However, the beautiful CBD is always busy and high on life. If you really want to feel the vibe, a visit to Sydney’s CBD is a must! The iconic landmarks and monuments here narrate stories of Sydney’s colonial history. Also, the city’s largest recreational and pedestrian precinct, Darling Harbour, is also a part of CBD which is home to a great variety of attractions for the whole family. From waterfront dining and regular fireworks displays to exciting museums and huge playgrounds, Darling Harbour has something for everyone. Highlights are the Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussauds, the Wild Life Sydney Zoo, the Chinese Garden of Friendship and the Darling Quarter Kids Playground. Nearby Darling Quarter, the Barangaroo Foreshore is within walking distance and very much worth a visit. Both locations have been undergoing major upgrades and are now popular lunch and dinner hot spots, for tourists as well as for local office workers and residents.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Harbour Bridge ferry rides, cruises, and theatrical performances at the Opera House (pre-booking required for shows and guided tours) are also the best leisure activities you can plan in CBD. To truly enjoy the beauty of Sydney Harbour, catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. This hugely popular ferry trip is indeed one of Sydney’s top attractions, not just for tourists but for locals as well.

A visit to Sydney is of course not complete without spending a morning or afternoon in Bondi Beach, Australia’s most popular and most well-known beach town. Bondi Beach quite literally has something for everyone. The water is great for both swimming and surfing, there are lots of great outdoor picnic areas to enjoy, and the suburban street of Bondi are heavily populated with cafes and pubs. If you have the time and you love a bit of hiking, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is an absolute must. It’s Sydney’s most popular walking trail, and for good reason. The views from start to finish are amazing, with lots of cafes and parks along the way to have rest.

If you think that the best Sydney beaches are all located in the eastern suburbs, south of the bridge, you’re wrong! Sydney’s northern beaches are just as exciting as their eastern rivals, with Manly Beach standing out as one of the most popular Sydney tourist destinations. Manly is a beachside suburb with a somewhat unique and relaxed atmosphere. It has a long beach facing the ocean, and a quieter beach facing Sydney Harbour, where the ferry wharf is located. Both beaches are connected by the Manly Corso, a pedestrian mall lined with pubs, cafes, surf shops, galleries, and street entertainment.

Harbour Bridge
Harbour Bridge

If you love adventure, you can opt for Luna Park and Sydney Tower Eye’s Skywalk to experience the highest outdoor adventure looking down on the city at 268m above sea-level. But if you like to go slow and admire art, then there are several art museums in CBD. Australian Maritime Museum and Australian Museum are a good time pass and a few names to begin with.

Built in the 1890’s, the heritage listed Queen Victoria Building (better known as the QVB) is one of Sydney’s most iconic landmark buildings, located in George Street in the middle of the CBD. After having undergone several major renovations, the QVB is now one of Sydney’s most popular shopping destinations, offering a great variety of fashion boutiques, jewellery shops, cafes, restaurants, and so much more.

Outside the CBD, there are numerous other places and activities for a wholesome touristy experience in Sydney and even in the areas nearby. I went to the Three Sisters (Blue Mountains). If you are visiting Sydney and have sufficient time, you will not regret a visit to Three Sisters and Wollongong. The three sisters, located in the Blue Mountains around 2.5 kilometres from the great western highway, is an iconic landmark visited by millions of people each year. The Three Sisters is essentially an unusual rock formation representing three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend were turned to stone. The Blue Mountains are part of the Great Dividing Range which was formed by the pushing and uplifting of the tectonic plates. The Blue Mountains have then been formed over time through erosion. The stone and rock which makes up the Three Sisters over time has split apart and then been widen by erosion. Each of the Three Sisters stand over 3000 feet above sea-level.

The formation of these three small mountains is what makes them and the Blue Mountains so special, they are so unique and the stories behind them attract many people into their history. The Three Sisters are very special to the aboriginal culture and even have their own dream time story which tells the tale of their creation.

Ramazan Night Market - LakembaPicture by the author
Ramazan Night Market - Lakemba
"Picture by the author"

There are several popular suburbs in Sydney, known for their individual vibe. Lakemba is one of them. With most Muslims living in this suburb, the atmosphere makes it different from other suburban lives here in Sydney. Haldon Street in Lakemba is also very popular among tourists and locals. It is the only street that remains open till 11 at night with several grocery stores, shops and eateries. Especially in Ramazan, a long food street is stretched from the start of Haldon Street to its end, displaying a great variety of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. People from all walks of life come to experience a well-lit food street crowded with people from different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

If you’re a desi like me and in search of desi food galore, the suburb of Harris Park in Parramatta – also called ‘little India’ – could also be an interesting getaway to tame your raging tastebuds. From Gol Gappay to Papri Chaat and from Biryani to those mouth-watering garam garam Jalebis, Harris Park has got you covered. Places like Haldon Street in Lakemba and Harris Park in Parramatta serve as a breath of fresh air when one wants to feel desi again.

Sydney is a multicultural city with so many options for leisure activities. However, it offers a simple lifestyle with straightforward people and a twisted Aussie accent. It is a Harbour city where the ferries are as busy as its trains, taxis and private vehicles. When you dig deeper and see the life in its suburbs, it is generally very quiet. Aussies like to have their dinner early and have a very disciplined life. Everything gets closed at 5 p.m. except Thursdays when the markets are open till 9 p.m. and you get to run errands and complete outdoor activities before the weekend kicks off. But the Karachiite in me misses those late-night hangouts with family and friends along with numerous options for ordering in food at any hour of the day. Also, I don’t find many good options for desi cuisines to satisfy those cravings. A few local fast-food chains such as Oporto, Crust, Sydney’s Wings and Things, Chubby Buns are good but not something out of this world. A desi will always be in search of ‘Karachi wala taste’ wherever they go.

The author is a freelance journalist based in Sydney, Australia.

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