It’s the Aussie icon that’s adorned post-cards, book covers and travel brochures the world over. It’s been featured in movies and travel documentaries countless times.
For most, it’s the face of Sydney. And nearly 50 years later it’s still a top tourist draw to the city.
Would you believe us if we told you it was almost never built?
We’ll show you how what was once called “the biggest planning disaster in the world” continues to amaze visitors and locals alike and why it’s an Aussie staple you don’t want to miss in Sydney.
The stark-white, scalloped building is unmistakable. The white, shell-like wings sprout in to the sky from its personal peninsula on Sydney Harbour.
It was this standout building proposal that won Danish architect Jorn Utzon New South Wales’ competition in 1957 to design a public space to be constructed on the Harbour.
The opportunity of a lifetime, right?
Not so much.
The construction of the Opera House was riddled with problems. An estimated $7 million construction cost ballooned to more than $100 million – a 1400% cost blowout that still stands as the largest in history.
Contractor mismanagement, infrastructure disasters and government cover-ups all but ruined the career of Utzon for good. In fact, seven years before the building’s completion, Utzon packed his bags and left the job and the country.
He never returned.
A group of auxiliary architects stepped in to take his place and with a lot of hand-wringing and a little bit of luck, by 1973 construction had wrapped on the Opera House.
But sometimes the end justifies the means and as luck would have it, the Opera House went on to become an international landmark. Each year, the building-that-almost-never-was adds more than $700 million in tourism.
We’d call that a winning bet!
Though Utzon never returned to see his completed design in person, he did receive his long overdue comeuppance. In 2003, he has awarded an honorary Doctorate of Architecture.
And in 2007, the Opera House was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just one year before his death.
Besides it’s brilliant architecture, the Opera House is renowned for a plethora of activities that solidify its place as one of the top destinations in Australia.
Take a Tour
Dive right in to your Opera House experience and get set up with an expert guide to give you an inside look at the Sydney Opera House. You’ll walk the inside of the historic building while you listen to the oral history of it’s construction and completion. This exclusive look at the interior of the multiple concert halls within the Opera House is often unseen by the average tourist.
Since the Opera House hosts six different performance halls, it’s hard to get an in-depth look at the entirety of the venue on your own.
Your guide will take you through many of the unique performance venues, each with it’s own particular architecture and feel.
Insider Fact: The Grand Organ in the Concert Hall is the largest mechanical action pipe organ in the world!
See a Show
It goes without saying, but seeing an actual show at the Sydney Opera House is one of the most memorable ways to experience it. And although you might not know it by the name, the Opera House hosts more than just operas.
A wide range of Broadway-shows, gigs, contemporary concerts, symphony orchestras and more ensure that you won’t miss an opportunity to sit in on one of the most fantastic live venues in the world.
A lot of people can see they’ve seen the Opera House – even if just in the distance from the Harbour. But how many can say they’ve experienced all it has to offer?
Tip: Book early – the Opera House didn’t become world renowned as a venue by playing to an empty house! Seats tend to fill up quickly and it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time, ideally before you even arrive in Sydney. Ask us how.
Wine and Dine
Looking to ramp up your already-special occasion? Grab a table at Bennelong, the Opera House’s premier restaurant. With world-class chefs and a fine-dining level of service, there is no better way to make your Opera House experience special. Tables inside this airy space face out on to the Sydney Harbour and city-skyline for a view that rivals the five-star menu.
The space and architecture of Bennelong was one of the last projects Jorn Utzon (the Opera House’s original designer) completed before leaving the project. The tall ribcage of wood and glass that provides those stunning views of the Harbour also provides a look in to Utzon’s original idea for the rest of the Opera House’s interior.
Also be sure to check out the Opera Kitchen, just adjacent to the Opera House. The al-fresco dining experience overlooks the Sydney Harbour for great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. If all that walking around has you hungry, combine your Opera House tour with lunch at the Opera Kitchen.
Cruise to the Sydney Opera House
Looking to arrive at the Opera House in style? Hop aboard a Harbour Cruise and ferry over to the Opera House entrance. The scenic cruise takes you around the entirety of the Sydney Harbour for unprecedented views of the city skyline, Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. With an Express Pass, you’ll have the option to use this hop-on, hop-off ship as your personal water taxi.
Cruise over to the Opera House for your tour and when you’re done, hop back on and ferry over to Darling Harbour. From there, head to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Rocks historic precinct. You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful Sydney weather aboard the open air Harbour Cruise. It’s an unforgettable way to see all the sights around the Opera House and Harbour.
See it All Lit Up
If you’re lucky enough to plan your trip around mid-May to June, you’re in for an incredible audio-visual festival experience. Vivid Sydney is a two-week festival that covers the city, including the Opera House and Harbour in light-installations and art. The city comes to life as blank walls become canvases for talented artists to paint with light. Colorful light projections illuminate the scalloped-wings on the Opera House – and the view of the Opera House lit up from the Harbour is stunning.
The Opera House also holds special concerts during Vivid, blending this visual-experience with music to create a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Can’t travel to Sydney for Vivid? Don’t worry! You can still see the Opera House in all it’s lighted glory every single night.
Badu Gili is a 7-minute art-installation projected on the “sails” of the Opera House. A different work of art from Aboriginal artists will be displayed each night at sunset and repeated at 7 p.m. So even if you can’t make it for Vivid, you’ll get the beautiful visual of the stark white Opera House turned technicolor each night of your stay in Sydney.
Visit the Sydney Opera House
Sometimes a city’s biggest attraction can be something of a tourist trap. Overhyped, too crowded, not worth it.
The Opera House is none of those things.
There is something for everyone to enjoy at this Aussie icon and you don’t want to leave Sydney without a visit. Remember, the biggest tourist destination in Sydney draws big crowds and events sell out fast.
Let us do the booking for you, whether you want to be there for Vivid Sydney, see an amazing show, or simply cruise the waters of the Harbour.
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877
(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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Photos: Tourism Australia, Peter Dunphy and Ewen Bell
For the sixth consecutive year, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia has been named the world’s number one most livable city. This is according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), who each year compile a list of the most liveable cities. Not only that, Melbourne has taken a spot in at least the top 3 since the list began in 2002. So what makes a city “most livable” and what has given Melbourne an edge above in its six-year reign at the top of the list? It turns out that the answer may also make Melbourne the best city to visit in Australia.
Photo: Josie Withers Photography
No coincidence or luck of the draw, Melbourne’s spot at the top is based on real numbers and data. The EIU combine together metrics like culture and environment, education, infrastructure, stability, and healthcare to get a specific picture of what life is like for the average Melbourne citizen. Despite Melbourne’s perfect scores in things like education and healthcare effecting locals more directly, there is an overall benefit to the city in terms of tourism as well, making it one of the most visited cities in Australia.
Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria and is the second most populated city in the country. Though it may not have the immediate name recognition of Aussie staples like Sydney, with its eponymous Opera House, Melbourne has consistently been recognized as a true global city. With a unique, rich cultural environment and renowned infrastructure and parks, Melbourne is not only a great place to live for locals, but the best city to visit in Australia for your next travel destination.
Culture – Sights and Sounds
Melbourne received a perfect 100 in the EIU’s “culture and environment” score, securing its place as a culturally rich destination. Melbourne is also recognized as the “cultural and sporting capital” of Australia – and for several years was named as the “World’s Ultimate Sports City”. Lending to this distinction is a diverse array of cultural institutions and a large number of museums, sporting facilities, festivals, street art and music venues. In fact, with a larger number of music venues per capita, Melbourne has actually surpassed Austin, TX, current reigning “live music capital of the world”. Nearly 500 venues dot the landscape of Melbourne, making live music a more than $1 billion industry.
Photo: Paul Philipson
The value of such a large focus on the music industry encompasses more than just the huge number of jobs and money injected in to the city. It also means that Melbourne is committed to making itself a destination city for arts and entertainment. Local hotels, bars, cafes, and restaurants are all trying to cater to Melbourne tourists. In Melbourne, so much activity happening means you don’t have to wait until the weekend for a night on the town. Even on a Monday, you can catch dinner and a show.
Whether it’s an intimate 50 person affair at The Old Bar in Fitzroy or a 5,000 person packed concert at the Festival Hall, Melbourne’s music scene is a must-see cultural institution. With such a large variety of venues, even a short stay in Melbourne can be enough to intimate yourself with the locals. A live concert allows you to view first-hand the type of cultural experience that makes Melbourne not only the best place to live in the world, but also the best city to visit in Australia.
A sort of unsung hero in the foodie world, Melbourne is home to more than 5,000 cafes and restaurants. In fact, it has one of the highest numbers of restaurants and cafes per capita of any city in the world, more than even New York City. A large multi-cultural population, with residents from more than 140 nations, Melbourne’s food scene represents an eclectic and diverse smorgasbord of cuisine. Melbourne has hosted its own annual Food and Wine Festival since 1993. Each year, a growing number of attendees and chef-celebrities make their way to the city, solidifying its place as the food and wine capital of Australia.
First time visitors to Melbourne may in fact be overwhelmed by the array of options at their disposable. Full on foodies and the food-curious alike will find Melbourne to be the best city to visit in Australia, with no shortage of unique culinary experiences. Famed chefs and up and comers in the fine dining scene alike have found a place in Melbourne among a food landscape brimming with talent and options.
Photo: Josie Withers Photography
For those seeking a slightly more casual approach to dining in Melbourne, Melbourne’s café and coffee culture is also renowned the world over. Australia’s current coffee culture originated in the early 1950’s with an influx of European immigrants from places like Italy, France, and Turkey. Even though coffee has been available since the early 1800’s, it wasn’t until then that Australia and Melbourne in particular found its focus in high quality espresso drinks that were previously largely unavailable. A focus on unique, independent cafes and coffee shops over chains and franchises give each Melbourne café a unique impression of its surrounding neighborhood, giving visitors a proper feel of the local culture of the city.
The Garden City in the Garden State
Melbourne is known as “the garden city” within Victoria, which itself is “the garden state” of Australia. More than 1300 acres of green space are located in the city of Melbourne, nearly 15% of its total land area according to a study done by 202020 Vision. Public parks and gardens, some dating all the way back to 1862, account for a large percentage of green space in the city. Attention to green spaces is a quality of life metric that tends to be an important indicator of satisfaction to residents of cities around the world and Melbourne excels at providing them.
Photo: Josie Withers Photography
Photo: Josie Withers Photography
The internationally renowned Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is a nearly 100 acre group of gardens on the bank to the south of the Yarra River that runs through center Melbourne. Attracting more than 1,000,000 local and non-local visitors every year, the Botanic Gardens contain over 10,000 species of plant, both native and non-native. Outdoor sculpture gardens that mix green space with art also dot the landscape of Melbourne both within and outside of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Melbourne has a dense city center, along with an extensive network of public transportation, making its infrastructure some of the best in the world, with a perfect 100 EIU score. Progressive infrastructure and ongoing infrastructure improvements are a big reason Melbourne tops the list year after year. Visitors and locals alike largely prioritize a dense, connected public transit system. Featuring the largest tram network in the world, and an extensive network of regional and metro rail, Melbourne is the best city to visit in Australia especially for car-free touring.
Photo: Mark Chew
Photo: AAT Kings
The EIU also takes in to account more than 700 km of bike lanes and routes that were added in the past few years, with hopes to increase safety for those riding downtown or commuting by bike. While many of Melbourne’s outer suburbs are still car dependent, the city center is easily navigated and commuted by bicycle due to the lane upgrades implemented by the city. On top of the car-side bicycle lanes, there are a large number of cycling trails that go through many of the city’s parks, edging past laneways and hidden cafes.
These bike lane improvements make getting around the city easy for first time visitors, or those who return to Melbourne time and time again. One of the best ways to get around any city is by bicycle, and Melbourne is no exception. With the autonomy of a self-driven stay, the ease of not having to park and drive in an unfamiliar city, and the hop-on, hop-off convenience of a bus tour, both visitors and locals alike can enjoy this positive livability benefit. Melbourne may also just be the best city to visit in Australia by bike.
Best City to Live, Best City to Visit in Australia
It’s clear that Melbourne’s distinction as “most livable city” doesn’t just benefit people who live there already. The city’s diverse culture, progressive infrastructure, and focus on nature and green spaces prove to be important indicators of satisfaction to tourists as well. The best city to visit in Australia is one that combines cultural experiences with progressive transportation convenient for those traveling, and Melbourne has proven consistent at providing it all and more.
Make Melbourne a must-visit destination when you’re planning your next trip. It takes some of the best aspects of other Aussie cities and packages them in to a sort of condensed, greatest hits of Australia. Chances are you don’t have infinite time to spend on your next vacation and Melbourne is a great way to make the most use of the time you do have.
Start creating your memories of Melbourne now by letting us plan a trip for you.
Let’s Plan a Trip
Call us Toll Free at 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).