See a performance, take a tour or have dinner and drinks at the Sydney Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House is lauded as one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and rightly so, in my opinion. I love the curve of the roof and the way the white tiles contrast with the sparkling blue water of Sydney Harbour like the sails of sailing ship. Not everyone agrees though. As a native Sydneysider, I find this almost inconceivable, but some people actually think the Sydney Opera House is ugly! There is no accounting for taste, but it’s true that the Opera House has mixed reviews as a performance space.
Whatever you think of the design by Danish architect Jørn Utzon (and the modified version that was actually built), there is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House put Sydney on the map internationally and it remains Sydney’s, if not Australia’s, most famous building. No first visit to Sydney would be complete without checking out the Opera House, whether you take a tour, see a show, or just go out for dinner and drinks. It’s a nice vantage point to watch the sunset or moon rise over the water and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Despite its name, there is more to the Sydney Opera House than opera. You can also see concerts, ballet and theatre there. The repertoire performing arts companies at Sydney’s most famous building include Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet, the Bangarra Dance Company, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, the Sydney Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare. It’s also one of the official sites for the annual Sydney Festival, held every Australian summer. Never stuffy, the Opera House hosts regular special events as well, including open-air rock concerts on the steps outside.
You can book tickets online through the performance company’s websites or through an agent such as Ticketek. However, it’s worth stopping by in person or ringing the booking office, because discounts are often available, especially to students or people in their twenties.
You can see inside the Opera House without going to a performance, with tours daily between 9am and 5pm. Bookings are not essential but you get a discount if you book ahead online – the price for an adult drops from $AUS35 to $AUS29. There are special Asian Spotlight tours in Mandarin, Japanese or Korean available, as well as English.
Alternatively you can wander around some of the public areas, mainly the outside of the building, on your own for free. Then stop at one of the many restaurants, bars or cafés to refuel, soak in the atmosphere and gaze back across the water at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Guillaume is lovely if you can afford to splurge but there is a range of options to suit most budgets and taste. The Opera Bar has a great waterside setting and there are also a number of restaurants and bars close by, a few minutes back towards Circular Quay.
The Sydney Opera House is close to Circular Quay, which is a ferry terminal, railway station, and destination for many public buses. Try the transport infoline on 131500 or online. It’s a five to ten minute walk from Circular Quay around to the Opera House. If mobility is an issue, then drive or take a cab all the way around to the Opera House. The car park fills quickly on performance nights so get there early. The Opera House has more information online to help you plan your visit.
Photo credit: Photo of “Sydney Opera House Closeup, Sydney, Australia” by Linh Rom on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a native Sydneysider currently based in San Francisco. She runs the travel and food blog Roaming Tales.