The Sydney Opera House
You can identify some cities almost immediately by their iconic landmarks. They are photographed repeatedly and plastered all over postcards. In Paris, it’s the Eiffel Tower. In London, it’s the Tower Bridge. In New York, it’s the Statue of Liberty. Sydney’s symbol is the Sydney Opera House that juts into Sydney Harbor, sparkling like the gem it has become for the city and Australia as a whole. Reminiscent of billowing sails, curved and angular all at once, the Sydney Opera House is not just a landmark; it is a feat of modern architecture. This World Heritage site is definitely worth a visit whether you are an architecture buff, opera connoisseur or awe-struck tourist.
The opera house has a way of calling to you if you are anywhere near Sydney Harbor. Taking a harbor ferry ride is a great way to marvel from a distance, and a walk along the Sydney Harbor Bridge or even in the historic Rocks neighborhood offers some fabulous views, as well. If the beckoning becomes overwhelming, you can head to the Circular Quay, the transit hub for buses, rail and ferries, and take the 5- to 7-minute walk to the opera house from there.
Secret of the Sails
Taking the hour-long tour of the opera house reveals the structure’s arduous 16-year journey to completion. Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won the design contest to build the now heralded building, quit the project mid-construction due to cost overruns, public criticism and a change in government. But before his departure, he masterminded some of the most challenging engineering tasks ever. Take the vaulted shells of the roof. Up close their interlocking tiles look almost reptilian. It took 3 years to create the 1 million tiles that cover the shells weighing 15 tons in some places. If you are an architecture geek, you can get even more mind-boggling facts like these on a specialized tour.
Beyond the stats, there’s just the sheer beauty of the place. Photography buffs will be in shutterbug heaven snapping views of the harbor and the Sydney skyline peeking from behind billowing shells or following interesting shadows and open spaces created by the shells themselves.
Standing inside the main concert hall, the vaulted ceilings seems to stretch forever, but the wood paneling along the walls make the space more cozy than cavernous. The concert hall is just one of the 1,000 rooms in the opera house and if you’ve paired your tour with concert tickets, you’ll get to experience some of the best acoustics in the world.
Musical Who’s Who
In fact, the acoustics have drawn some of the top musicians and singers in the world from Paul Robeson, who performed there during construction, to Kanye West. The Backstage Pass tour offers up behind-the-scenes trivia on stars that have graced the opera house stage, along with a chance to peek into dressing rooms and wave the conductor’s baton from the orchestra pit. The two-hour VIP tour ends with breakfast in the green room, typically inhabited by the biggest A-listers.
Dining With a View
Speaking of food, the opera house has several top-notch restaurants and bars including Opera Kitchen on the concourse level, which is a cafeteria of foodie fare from Sydney’s top chefs. Select from sushi and Vietnamese dishes to burgers and salads then dine with a stunning view of the harbor. You can end your tour of the opera house with a tasting at the Opera Kitchen.
For a more formal dining experience, Guillaume at Bennelong Restaurant offers a fusion of modern Australian with classic French dishes in a striking space located in the southern sail of the opera house. Be careful not to miss the show, especially if you are staring out at the Harbor Bridge over a glass of the best Australian wine.