For many, the idea of a trip to Sydney is all about surf, sun and fun, and maybe a ferry ride under the Harbour Bridge or even a climb to the top, but there is also plenty of culture to take in. To learn about it from those in the know, take a guided tour through some of Sydney’s best cultural experiences.
As Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood, The Rocks perfectly preserves its colonial heritage with historical sandstone buildings, cobblestone alley ways and traditional pubs. Beneath this picturesque facade however, lies a fascinating convict era history full of colourful characters and working class tales. The Rocks Walking Tours provide visitors with detailed insight into this history, as well as the impact that the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 had on the local Indigenous people. The two kilometre stroll departs twice daily, covering many significant historical landmarks as well as some of the city’s most upmarket shopping. Visitors taking a weekend tour also have the opportunity to follow up with a visit to Sydney’s most famous markets, where over 200 stallholders come together to sell unique and traditional goods.
An instantly recognisable icon worldwide, the Sydney Opera House attracts millions of visitors every year, with tourists bustling around its harbour forecourt at all times of the day and night. It’s inside the famous sails where the magic really is though. On an hour long guided tour you can explore some of the 1000 rooms and theatres that have hosted a wide variety of performers from Billy Connolly to Pavarotti, and learn about how Danish architect Jorn Utzon made his dream and unusual design a reality. If you want something a little more dramatic, you can take a backstage tour and get a glimpse into the behind the scenes world of the famous theatres. Discover some industry secrets, enjoy the exclusive view from the stage of the famous Concert Hall, see the inside of the orchestra pit and take a peek inside the dressing rooms.
Explore some Indigenous culture and history with a guided Aboriginal Heritage Harbour Walk. Beginning at Circular Quay, you will take a train ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge with your tour group where you will explore ancient Aboriginal cultural sites and native bushland.
Be part of an authentic Acknowledgement to Country – a statement of recognition of the traditional owners of the land, and visit cultural sites such as rock engravings and middens. Your expert guide will explain elements of Indigenous culture such as dreamtime - the spiritual connection of stories and dreaming being shared and passed through generations. You will also learn about traditional native bush food and medicine, and have the opportunity to try your hand at clapping sticks.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales houses a range of permanent and temporary fine art exhibitions from local and international artists. The gallery hosts a range of guided tours for a variety of artistic interests. Explore the Aboriginal or Asian collection, learn about one of the touring exhibitions, listen to insights from the curator, or take a peek into the artists’ studios. Most tours take less than two hours, some even ending with high tea in the restaurant, but if you want to make an afternoon of it, the gallery also offers outside tours. You can meet local emerging artists and check out their urban studio spaces on the Contempo Art Bus, or explore the public art, and unique architecture and engineering in the Sydney streets on a walking tour with local architect Eoghan Lewis.
Hosting a variety of exhibitions and collections, the Australian Museum is a place of wonder for all ages. Here you can marvel at the giant recreations of Australia’s past fauna, or get up close and personal with a 2800-year-old Egyptian mummy. There are colourful minerals, complete dinosaur skeletons, and a range of creepy crawlies, but it’s the secured, behind-the-scenes collection where things get really interesting. The museum holds more than a staggering 16 million pieces in their collection and you can experience it on one of their exclusive tours. During this private viewing you can examine a Goliath tarantula – one of the world’s largest spiders, and the famed extinct Tasmanian tiger.