Even the shortest trip to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without seeing the city’s two most famous structures — the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
The place to get a good view of both is Circular Quay. This bustling waterfront precinct offers epic photo opportunities at every turn, along with access to a range of waterfront restaurants and bars.
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the stunning Sydney Opera House opened back in 1973. Every year it welcomes over eight million visitors and stages around 1,800 performances, including opera, theatre, concerts, Indigenous works, cabaret and comedy.
If your schedule or budget won’t allow you to attend a show, the official Sydney Opera House tour is an affordable and informative way to see more of the building. This guided 60-minute walk departs every half hour from 9am to 5pm daily. You’ll get an introduction to the construction and history of the Opera House, as well as a glimpse of how it functions as a working theatre.
The tour provides a huge amount of information and covers the interior and exterior of the building (including a close look at the distinctive glazed ceramic roof tiles, which were imported from Sweden). Visit the Playhouse Theatre, Concert Hall, Joan Sutherland Theatre, and some areas that are otherwise off-limits to the public. During our visit, we were even able to watch a dress rehearsal in progress. The backstage areas aren’t covered, but they can be explored on a separate tour.
Each theatre has its own unique design and style. The Joan Sutherland Theatre — which stages works by Opera Australia — underwent substantial renovations in 2017, and you’ll learn about the many acoustical improvements that were made to the venue.
Our tour was led by a dynamic guide, and his passion for the arts and history of the Opera House were clearly evident. We had no trouble hearing his engaging commentary, thanks to the iPod-like devices and headphones provided. He shared a wealth of knowledge on the building’s design and construction — from the international design competition won by Utzon, to the challenges of turning his vision into reality. Those challenges and resultant disagreements ultimately led to Utzon resigning from the project. In a sad twist, he never returned to Sydney to see his completed design.
It’s worth mentioning that large bags and backpacks need to be checked into the free cloakroom before the tour. You can take your camera, but photography of rehearsals or theatre sets is not permitted.
The Sydney Opera House tour provides a fabulous introduction to one of the world’s most recognisable buildings, and is well worth adding to your to-do list in the New South Wales capital. Enjoy a drink and bite to eat at the atmospheric Opera Bar afterwards.
Katie Dundas is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Sydney. Originally from the US, Katie has lived in Australia for about six years and is always searching for the next big adventure. She can often be found hiking, diving or just enjoying Sydney’s amazing weather. Read about Katie’s travels by heading to her blog.