Things to do in Sydney

Unique and Beautiful Buildings in Sydney

Sparkling water, stunning architectural marvels, and exquisite fine dining experiences— what's not to love? Embark on a captivating journey through Sydney buildings.

Welcome to Sydney, the second-largest city in the land Down Under. With its cobblestone streets, iconic Bondi Beach, and breathtaking skyline, Sydney offers a picturesque setting that ranks among the world’s finest.

Whether you’re celebrating your honeymoon or seeking family-friendly adventures, there are a myriad of things to do in Sydney. We've made a list of some famous buildings you'll definitely want to add to your itinerary.

Iconic Landmarks

Due to its coastal location, millions of visitors flock to Sydney each year. Before you enjoy a gourmet meal or visit one of the city’s high-end boutiques, stop by one of these iconic landmarks.

1. Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House, featured in movies like Independence Day and Pacific Rim, was designed by Jørn Utzon as part of an international competition.

His groundbreaking design, which eschewed traditional rectangular shapes for unique forms, won acclaim for its utilization of Sydney Harbour in the design.

The Opera House’s shell-like structures resemble ship sails, offering panoramic views of the Sydney Harbour and the surrounding landscape.

While you’re here, get tickets to La Traviata, The Magic Flute, or another one of your favorite operas. If opera isn’t your thing, stop by for dazzling views of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Wrap up your visit with a film screening at Westpac OpenAir, an outdoor cinema in Sydney.

Photographer: Photoholgic

2. Queen Victoria Building

Located on George Street, the Queen Victoria Building is a shopping haven in Sydney. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, this five-level structure offers a wide array of shopping options, from jewelry and designer clothing to home goods.

After your shopping spree, relax at one of QVB’s restaurants or cafés. During the holiday season, the QVB boasts Australia’s largest Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling lights and festive ornaments. Stained-glass windows reflect each tiny bulb, creating a glittering wonderland of holiday cheer. If you can’t visit over the holidays, you’ll still get to enjoy the Romanesque architectural details.

Cultural Institutions

Sydney has a rather unique history in terms of early European settlement. Originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples, it was turned into a British penal colony in the late 18th century. Over time, it grew into a shining example of urban development.

Explore these cultural institutions that celebrate Sydney’s growth while acknowledging its complex past.

3. Art Gallery of NSW

When you first arrive at the Art Gallery of NSW, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported into a live-action version of a Super Mario game.

Colorful flower sculptures rise to greet you, much like the enchanted piranha plants in your favorite Mario title. Designed by Yayoi Kusama, the sculptures sit on a terrace overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay. It’s the perfect spot for frame-worthy photos of you and your favorite family members.

This Sydney museum has two buildings. One looks like something straight out of Ancient Greece, while the other is more modern. The South Building has ornate columns, European-style courts, and some of the greatest artworks ever produced.

Head to the North Building to see contemporary works and a large collection of objects by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

4. Australian Museum

The Australian Museum is a complex rather than a single building, making it a popular destination for history lovers. Crystal Hall is, quite literally, the crown jewel of the campus. The new entry hall features a curtain made from colorful diamonds. As you step inside, watch for the gems to sparkle in the sunlight.

The building on College Street houses Australia’s first public museum. It’s also the perfect starting point for a walking tour of the neighborhood. College Street and Macquarie Street are just steps away from the entrance.

During your visit, be sure to view the Wansolmoana exhibit, which tells the story of Pasifika peoples. Wansolmoana means “One Salt Ocean,” so the display focuses on how water connects individuals from different cultures. Look for wooden canoes, Hawaiian barkcloth, and other traditional objects.

5. Customs House

Customs House is the perfect place to relax. Designed to be a quiet oasis in the middle of Sydney’s central business district, the building initially provided space for workers involved in importing and exporting activities.

When New South Wales joined with five other colonies to form the Federation of Australia, it became the head office for Australia’s Department of Trade and Customs. Builders constructed the original building at Circular Quay, but it wasn’t large enough to handle all of NSW’s imports and exports.

Even with two additional wings, the building was a bit cramped. Eventually, the Australian Government transferred ownership of Customs House to the City of Sydney Council. The Georgian structure now serves as mixed-use property. You can visit the museum, take in a performance, or enjoy an elegant meal.

6. International Convention Centre Sydney

Experience more than just events at ICC Sydney, a versatile venue that hosts a range of gatherings, from sporting events to professional conferences.

Thousands of visitors flock there for events such as SupercomputingAsia, Smart Energy, and the Viva Health and Wellness Festival. Located in Darling Harbour, ICC Sydney also has the largest ballroom in the city. If you visit, take note of the floor-to-ceiling windows in some areas of the complex.

Two architecture firms, Populous and Hassell, used these windows to remove the barrier between the interior and exterior of the building. As you walk through the structure, you’re treated to stunning views of Darling Harbour.

Photographer: Hamish

Modern Marvels

Sydney has plenty of buildings from the 1800s, but it also has some of the best examples of modern architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. If you love sleek lines and unexpected design details, check out these modern marvels.

7. One Central Park

Designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, One Central Park combines apartments and retail space in one gravity-defying structure. What makes the building so unique is that it’s covered with more than 250 species of native plants. These plants transform an ordinary building into a vertical garden, complete with lush greenery and bold blooms.

One Central Park also has an open-air cinema, chess boards, and neatly trimmed lawns. If you visit, look straight up to see the cantilever at the top of the structure. Sydney’s most fabulous residents occupy the lavish penthouses inside. One Central Park also uses mirrors to reflect sunlight, making it the perfect place for sunbathing.

Photographer: Jenny Theolin

8. Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building (UTS Business School)

Dr. Chau Chak Wing donated more than $20 million AUD to the University of Technology Sydney, providing enough funding to construct a teaching and research center at UTS Business School.

The resulting structure, the Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, is the first building in Australia designed by Frank Gehry. One of the most famous architects in the world, Gehry also designed the California Aerospace Museum, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Gehry Tower in Hanover, Germany.

Gehry’s design combines the old with the new. One facade is made of brick and sandstone, similar to other historical buildings in Sydney. The other facade is more modern, using glass to reflect the surrounding structures.

Inside, Gehry focused on creating a collaborative environment for students and researchers. Natural light brightens up the space, making the building a cheerful place to share knowledge.

9. Barangaroo Reserve

For nature lovers, Barangaroo Reserve is a little slice of paradise. In addition to breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour, the reserve has 75,000 trees and shrubs native to Australia.

The park has plenty to see and do, but it’s also a quiet space with plenty of room to relax. If you live in Sydney, make Barangaroo Reserve your go-to picnic spot. It’s almost impossible to get bored with the rolling lawns and walking trails.

Historically Significant Buildings

British colonists settled in Sydney more than 200 years ago, displacing the Aboriginal peoples who previously called the cove home. As a result, Sydney has a rather complicated history. Visit at least one historically significant building to learn more about Sydney’s transformation from a penal colony to a glittering metropolis.

10. Government House

Designed by Edward Blore, Government House is a residence used by the Governor of New South Wales. Blore is one of the most famous architects in the Commonwealth, as he built the British Houses of Parliament and worked on several properties owned by British royalty.

The reason the residence looks like something out of a horror novel is because Blore selected the Gothic Revival style. As you walk around the building, look for medieval details and castle-like towers.

Unique Designs

Although many Sydney buildings have contemporary designs, some are more unique than others. Make sure you visit at least one of these eye-catching structures before you head home.

11. Sydney Tower Eye

The Sydney Tower Eye is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Harbour City. From far away, we think the turret looks almost like a beehive. The golden color stands out against the Sydney sky, beckoning visitors to come closer.

If you’re feeling adventurous, sign up for SKYWALK. This outdoor adventure takes you hundreds of feet in the air, giving you a bird' s-eye view of the cityscape. Listen carefully as your tour guide tells you fun facts about Sydney and its many attractions. Whatever you do, don’t look down unless you have nerves of steel.

Photographer: Slush Shoots

12. The Strand Arcade

Before you grab your joystick, you should know that the Strand Arcade is a shopping center, not an entertainment venue filled with video games and pinball machines. Stretching between Pitt Street and George Street, the shopping center houses dozens of designer boutiques and specialty shops under one roof.

With so many options, it’s easy to find gourmet food products, jewelry, accessories, and gifts. If you still have energy after a long day of shopping, head to one of the many bars or restaurants in Sydney.

13. St. Mary’s Cathedral

Designed in the Gothic Revival style, St. Mary’s Cathedral is one of the most imposing buildings in Sydney. The rose window allows sunlight to stream inside, reinforcing the connection between nature and a higher power.

St. Mary’s has two symmetrical towers with decorative spires, which makes it like a French cathedral rather than a cathedral from one of the other Commonwealth countries. Architect William Wardell pulled out all the stops, using flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and other details to create a truly unique design.

14. Infinity by Crown Group

Designed by Koichi Takada Architects, Infinity is a mixed-use building conveniently located in Green Square. The structure is unlike anything else you’ll find in Sydney, as its unique shape improves airflow and allows light to move through the space.

Residents enjoy well-appointed apartments, a central courtyard, and an outdoor swimming pool. Infinity is also home to a 450-seat conference facility and 75 hotel rooms.

15. The Calyx

If you visit the Botanic Gardens of Sydney, don’t miss The Calyx, one of the largest green walls in the world. Part event space, part architectural wonder, The Calyx hosts weddings, cocktail parties, seminars, and other special events.

Whether you’re having an engagement party or attending a business conference, don’t forget to snap a photo in front of the foliage-covered wall. When we're in the city, we love to wander through the Botanic Gardens and breathe in the enticing aroma of fresh flowers.

Photographer: Ethan Lee

Explore Sydney’s Unique Architecture

A lifetime probably isn’t enough to explore everything Sydney has to offer, but a tour of these architectural masterpieces is a good start. Once you pick your favorite building, head to a museum, enjoy a gourmet meal, or walk through one of Sydney’s many natural spaces.

To unwind after a day of touring historic buildings in Sydney, why not catch one of our shows? Our performers are standing by to give you a warm welcome to Harbour City. You'll be mesmerized by the eye-catching costumes, colorful backdrops, and spectacular acrobatics as we transform an ordinary stage into a waking dream.

Get tickets to one of our shows in Sydney to discover the joy of watching talented performers swing through the sky. We can't wait to see you there!

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