Sydney City, Sydney - Region Information

Sydney, first settled by the British as a penal colony on January 26 1788, is a very young city by any standard. Australia had been inhabited by its Aboriginal people for at least 40,000 years until Europeans arrived.

Diseases carried by settlers and convicts on the First Fleet of 11 ships - which took about eight months to make the journey form Portsmouth, England - wiped out an estimated two-thirds of the native population. The rest dispersed to areas away from what was to become Australia's premier city.

Various authorities say the First Fleet brought about 1150 people, of whom 750 were convicts sentenced to transportation for crimes as minor as stealing food - though there were hardened criminals among them. More convicts arrived from England and later Ireland. These and the soldiers sent to guard them were settled in the area named The Rocks.

Sydney Accommodation - Book your stay in the centre of the Harbour City now! There are so many hotels available. You can find budget hotels and luxury apartments and everything in between. A stay in Sydney will get you close to all the sightseeing action in the CBD and on the harbour. Book accommodation and tours now.

Convicts were put to work under the harshest conditions to erect public buildings and homes for government officials and free settlers, and The Rocks now has the biggest concentration of historic buildings in Sydney. Most have been 'recycled' and house shops, restaurants, art galleries, and the like. 10 minutes walk from the Central Business District, The Rocks is easy to get to and offers plenty of variety.

Sydney continued to grow as more and more free settlers arrived from England. By 1822 it had roads and an official police force. The transportation of convicts ended in 1840. Sydney was officially declared a city and the capital of the Colony of New South Wales (NSW) in 1842. NSW originally occupied the whole eastern half of Australia, and was progressively divided into Victoria, Queensland and NSW.

They, together with Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Federal government territories of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, joined to become the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

The discovery of major gold fields west of Sydney in the 1850s brought a surge of immigrants in search of their fortunes and the city flourished. While the gold did not last long, it created enormous wealth and spurred the construction of some fine mansions in the near city areas. By the end of the 19th Century, Sydney had 500,000 inhabitants making it one of the largest cities in the western world at that time.

Sydney's first building boom occurred during the tenure of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who commissioned many of the city's finest structures over 12 years from 1810.

He had visions of another London and they are very English in style. Macquarie Street houses several of the most interesting - The State Library of New South Wales, Parliament House, Sydney Hospital, the Old Mint (now a museum) and Hyde Park Barracks and the Land Titles Office.

The area behind Parliament House and Hyde Park Barracks is a park called The Domain. A largely recreational area, and a favourite with lunch-time joggers, it contains the Art Gallery of NSW, and includes Mrs Macquarie's Point with fine views of the city, Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House across the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens, apart from being a quiet, green haven by the harbour within a stone's throw of the city, have an international reputation for the range of trees and plants represented there.

A short walk through the Botanic Gardens brings the visitor to the Sydney Opera House which has become, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney's best-known landmark and international symbol.

Taking 14 years to build, and opened in October 1973, its radical 'sails' design stretched then current engineering knowledge to the limit. In the year to June 1998 it attracted more than 1.4 million patrons.

The biggest patch of green in the city, Hyde Park starts at Queens Square (Hyde Park Barracks) and extends two city blocks to Liverpool Street. It is a pretty walk in daylight and its main attractions are the Archibald fountain at the Queens Square end and the Anzac Memorial at the Liverpool Street end.

The Australian Museum claims to be one of the best six natural history museums in the world and has the largest and oldest collections of its type in Australia. It is at the corner of Park Street, which cuts Hyde Park in half.

The Town Hall Precinct contains Sydney Town Hall (1884), St Andrews Cathedral (Anglican), and the Queen Victoria Building. Completed in 1819, St Andrews is the oldest cathedral in Australia.

Centrepiece of the Precinct is the ornate sandstone Queen Victoria Building topped with three large copper-clad domes, which was built as a produce market, reflecting the wealth of the city at the time. In a project costing $80 million, and completed in 1986, the QVB was completely renovated in the style of a 19th Century arcade, preserving its ornate exterior and beautiful stained glass windows.

The QVB's 190 shops, boutiques and galleries are open daily and sell a wide range of products including Australian designer label clothes and quality jewellery.

The AMP Tower is the tallest structure in Sydney. Sitting above the Centrepoint centre (Market and Castlereagh Streets), it is a steel tower topped with a circular, gold anodised structure housing an observation deck and a revolving restaurant.

It offers sweeping views of the entire city and Sydney Harbour. The observation deck is fully enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass and is equipped with high-power binoculars.

The AMP Tower is close to the centre of Sydney's main shopping area. With obvious exceptions such as The Rocks for 'Australiana' and souvenirs, the shopping strip begins at Martin Place and covers three long blocks to Park Street, and three short blocks from Elizabeth Street and Hyde Park on one side to George Street (QVB) on the other. There are several major arcades which run east-west between streets running north-south.

The Strand Arcade between George and Pitt Streets just beyond King Street heading towards the Town Hall is restored 19th Century and very pretty. Others are very modern and some simply functional.

Sydney has a large Chinese community, originally made up of Cantonese speakers from southern China who arrived in the 1850s Gold Rush era and stayed. Sydney's Chinatown is a bustling enclave of restaurants, shops and supermarkets on the southern fringe of the city area between George Street and Darling Harbour.

Nearby, the Sydney Entertainment Centre is a major venue for concerts from Rock to Russian dances, as is the recently restored Capitol Theatre which is worth a visit if only to see its amazing interior decor. Paddy's Market is in a huge building covering a triangular block at the end of the main street in Chinatown (Dixon Street) and next to the Entertainment Centre.
The Sydney Fish Markets is a really great spot to enjoy some quality local seafood at very reasonable prices - providing you do not mind the company of raucous seagulls. The markets are the centre for Sydney's commercial seafood trade with major wholesalers maintaining retail outlets. Market staff are used to visitors and are friendly and helpful.

The Fish Markets has a restaurant, but it also provides a stretch of outdoor tables under umbrellas beside the bay, however the area is very busy on weekends and tables are hard to find.

Darling Harbour houses Sydney's convention and exhibition centres as well as several major tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and cafes. Built around Cockle Bay on the western fringe of the city centre, it starts at the bottom end of Market Street and stretches to Chinatown, where it then does a U-turn and then continues around to the other side of the bay.

There are several major hotels on both sides of Darling Harbour for visitors attending conferences and trade shows, and the area includes the the spectacular Sydney Aquarium, The Imax Theatre and the Chinese Gardens, a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city at the edge of Chinatown.

The western side of Darling Harbour houses the Sydney Exhibition Centre, the Sydney Convention Centre, the Harbourside Market Place with restaurants and cafes, and the Australian National Maritime Museum. Just outside the complex, near the Exhibition Centre, is the Powerhouse Museum, Australia's largest museum.

Sydney's greatest icon - The Sydney Harbour Bridge - took eight years to build and opened in March 1932. Linking the city with North Sydney, it carries eight lanes of road traffic and two railway tracks which form part of the city's rail suburban network.

At its highest point, the arch is 134 metres above sea level, and taking into account the road approaches, the bridge is 1150 metres or about a mile long and contains 58,000 tons of steel. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has become a major adventure with the opening in 1998 of a company which conducts tours over the arch. A challenge for the faint-hearted, the traverse attracted thousands of people in its first year.

Opened in December 1997, Star City is the only legal casino in Sydney and is open 24 hours a day, every day. It offers gamblers 1500 slot machines and 160 gaming tables, has a Lyric Theatre seating 2000 and the Showroom Cabaret seating 900, seven restaurants and five bars. The casino has its own hotel and offers a range of packages, including room, food and entertainment.