Is there a more iconic city in Australia? Maybe – but to people all over the world, it’s the capital of sun, sea, sand, and an odd-looking building they call the Opera House. But how much do you actually know about this staple Down Under? Even if you’ve never visited Sydney or Australia before, there’s a good chance you know it by sight. It’s appeared on TV and in movies over the years – and it remains one of the most visually striking locations in the southern hemisphere. Take a look below for 30 amazing and fascinating facts about Sydney.
1. Sydney is in the state of New South Wales, Australia, situated on the south east coast.
2. Sydney is the largest city in Australia but NOT the capital – that’s Canberra!
3. The States of Australia are divided into counties, and Sydney is in the county of Cumberland.
4. Sydney has a thriving port. The Sydney Harbor Bridge is one of its most famous landmarks and usually features in the New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
5. This is televised and shown around the globe as being one of the first places to celebrate New Year – thanks to time zone differences!
6. Another iconic landmark in Sydney is the Opera House, situated at the harbor – also known as Port Jackson.
7. Famed explorer James Cook, by then a Lieutenant in the English Navy, founded the harbor in 1770.
8. Cook gave it the name ‘Port Jackson’ to honor Sir George Jackson, who was Judge Advocate of the British fleet and a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty.
9. Having been designed as a huge arch, the Sydney Harbor Bridge is sometimes referred to as the ‘coat-hanger’. The design was based on the Tyne Bridge of Newcastle, England.
10. The Sydney Harbor Bridge became appointed a ‘National Heritage Site’ on March 19th, 2007.
11. Three rivers run through Sydney, and the Parramatta River forms the city’s main estuary.
12. Sydney was officially founded in 1788.
13. Sydney is home to the ‘grey headed flying fox’, the largest bat to be found in Australia. Its wingspan can reach up to 1 meter! These bats live in the wild in and around Sydney.
14. From Sydney Harbor it is possible to take a cruise to some of the 13 islands nearby. These include Shark Island, a popular tourist destination.
15. An adult only tour of the ‘Ghost Yard’ is an attraction for tourists interested in the paranormal! It’s found on Cockatoo Island, just outside Sydney Harbor.
16. Boats first sailed there when the island was founded as a ‘Prison’ in 1839. The prison was closed in 1869.
17. Sydney is also well known for its spectacular blue mountains. These are carefully preserved by UNESCO, as they make up a designated heritage site.
18. An active Australian Naval Base is housed on Garden Island. As well as military personnel, the island is open to tourists travelling by ferry from Sydney Harbor.
19. Sydney Airport, known originally as ‘Mascot airport’, was established in 1920.
20. 4 million passengers were recorded as having used Sydney Airport in 2018. One of the world’s busiest airports, Sydney handles 45% of the air freight entering Australia.
21. Sydney Airport was released by the Government – becoming privatized in 2002.
22. Over 10.9 million people are thought to have visited Sydney Opera House in 2018.
23. One of the most iconic and easily-identifiable buildings in the world, the Opera House has the distinctive shape of a series of shell-shaped, white sails.
24. The Opera House was designed in 1956 by Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect. He entered a competition to produce the design of the building and won £5,000.
25. The Sydney Opera House took 14 years to build – instead of an estimated four years!
26. 10,000 workers were involved in the construction of the Sydney Opera House. They began in 1959, and it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth on October 20th 1973.
27. The Queen has visited the Opera House four times.
28. As well as visiting musicians, Sydney Opera House has ‘resident artists’. Namely, it’s home to the Sydney Philharmonic Choir, the Australian Ballet, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Theater Company, Bell Shakespeare, the Bambara Dance Theatre, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the ‘Opera Australia’. Phew!
29. The first artist to perform at the Sydney Opera House – before it opened – but at the construction site – was Paul Robeson in 1960, when he sang ‘Old Man River’ to workers.
30. Popular with locals as well as tourists is the famous Sydney Tower. Easily identifiable by its simple yet dramatic shape, it is 300 meters tall.