Sydney Opera House and the Harbor – New South Wales, Australia

A Beloved Icon and a Luxe Hotel Overlooking the Waterfront

Sydney is Australia’s largest, oldest, liveliest and brashest city, and its Opera House—initially reviled for its startlingly modern design (resembling a cluster of billowing white “sails”)—has come to be as emblematic of the city as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris.

Chosen from more than 200 designs submitted in 1957 by the world’s most prominent architects, the project was instantly controversial. The building took fifteen years to complete, during which time its disillusioned Danish creator, Joern Utzon, removed himself from the project, never to see it finished.

Today the opera house, perfectly situated on Sydney’s busy and picturesque harbor, is the cultural heartbeat of the city. Numerous opera, sym­phony, ballet, and theater productions take place in its Opera Theater and Concert House (both of which pride themselves on perfect acoustics).

If you want the experience without the music, the Opera House’s Bennelong Restaurant, located in one of its most dra­matic spaces, offers an elegantly spare menu amid magnificent harbor views.

For a view from the outside, you can’t do better than the elegant Four Seasons Hotel, from whose upper floors you can view the Opera House to your right, the Harbour Bridge to your left, and the glistening expanse of the harbor filling out the vista all around. Its marble lobby isn’t a bad spot for other kinds of views, either: Nearly every celebrity who visits Sydney passes through at some point.

The hotel’s coveted waterside loca­tion—near the spot where Australia was born—is the nucleus of the most popular tourist attractions: Circular Quay is the spot from which hundreds of ships zigzag their way across Sydney Harbour, and the 70-acre green oasis of the Royal Botanic Gardens offers some of the finest walks in town. If you want opera tickets, the Four Season’s concierge is almost guaranteed to find you a seat.

Sydney’s historical waterfront district, The Rocks, is close by, nestled next to the Harbour Bridge. Once the haunt of braw­ling sailors and ex-convicts, it has now been gentrified and made respectable, with restau­rants, shopping, galleries, and exhibition spaces. Only the Lord Nelson, the city’s oldest continuously operating pub, evokes the area’s early days.

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