50 reasons why Sydney is the world’s greatest city

Brash and brassy it may be, as any Melburnian will cheerfully remind you, but Sydney has got a lot to crow about. Golden beaches, weather of the gods and a twinkling harbor that’s the envy of the world.
There are a lot of other reasons, too. So here’s a list.

50. No worries mate, she’ll be right

Nothing is too much hassle for locals (“No worries”), while outcomes are epitomized by stoicism (“She’ll be right”).

49. Wobbliest tower

Sydney Tower is Sydney's tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sydney Tower is Sydney’s tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sydney Tower — naming rights sold to the highest bidder, in an interesting metaphor for what makes Sydney tick — is filled with water to stabilize its sway. That means the most dramatic panoramic viewing of the world’s biggest harbor might come during that cyclone we’ve all been waiting for.

48. Coffee that’s actually drinkable.

Sydney -- more of a coffee cult than coffee culture.

Sydney — more of a coffee cult than coffee culture.
sean gallup/getty images
If it isn’t gourmet, it isn’t Sydney coffee. You only realize how good our coffee is when you drink imitation lattes overseas.
With the rise of super-chains such as Starbucks, many vendors have now begun roasting coffee beans in-house. The highly competitive cafe scene in and around the city ensures lattes come with their barista’s signature swirl.

47. Even the dogs are cosmopolitan

Kids have had fun for years rolling into cafes with their parents and ordering babycinos before hitting the playground. Sydney takes spoiling little ones a step further with dog cafes. At places such as Cafe Bones and Chew Chew, dogs can stroll in and, with help from their humans, order a lactose-free Pupaccino before smelling bums and getting down to the business of marking turf in the leash-free playground.

46. Enviable accents

Sydney has the world’s best accents that turns inner-city-fast-talking into sexy-speak.

45. Ferries that make work a cruise

Cruise to work in style.

Cruise to work in style.
Ride on the deck of a Sydney Ferry on your way to work, let the wind blow through your hair and realize that life (or your boss) isn’t so bad after all.
The Manly Ferry fleet that runs past Sydney Heads is named after northern beaches (where it ends up) while other ferries are named after female Olympic runners (such as Marjorie Jackson) and swimmers (such as Dawn Fraser) because they’re fast.

44. World’s most technically advanced sky

The fireworks display on New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour is famous for a reason.

The fireworks display on New Year’s Eve on Sydney Harbour is famous for a reason.
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
While 700,000 show up in London and a million in New York, the New Year’s Fireworks display in Sydney attracts 1.5 million who crowd the harbor foreshore’s 130 vantage points. A thousand personnel — and a dozen computers — drive the world’s most technically advanced show, one that includes 4,500 kilos of fireworks.

43. Brunch all day

You'll never run out of mouth-watering brunch options in Sydney.

You’ll never run out of mouth-watering brunch options in Sydney.
Courtesy pexels
Sydney’s cafes are some of Australia’s best — and the city is renowned for its brunch culture, which lasts most of the day.
Eating your eggs in the morning is a way of life here. Why not try out the Bogey Hole Cafe, with its stunning views, or innovative brekkie delights at Meet Gerard.

42. Dance in a morgue

For half a century, Kinselas was the residence of Charles Kinsela, Undertaker. He ran the city’s busiest morgue. But Sydneysiders prefer life to death and dancing to resting. The place is now a nightspot with high art deco ceilings, and a function room called The Chapel. If all the bodies inside make you feel stuffy, go to the veranda and look over Taylor Square.

41. Malaysia says g’day to Bolivia in our restaurants

In how many other cities can you get a chook green curry pie? And that’s the cheap end of our fusion cuisine. Walk into the Flying Squirrel for sea scallops served in glass noodles — Sydney seafood served Asian-style in a South American dish. Locals can also ponder a sushi train, wood-fired pizza, spicy Swahili curry or sauerkraut.

40. Even our poo is green

Sydney’s sustainable. Everyone uses different bins for paper, bottles and rubbish. From the suburban man who’s stoked with extra bin space to the inner city greenies reducing their carbon footprints, everyone seems to do it. Poo from outdoor festivals even goes to worm farms.

39. Wash shampoo out of your hair in nature

Take a ferry or even paddle your own canoe to Pittwater.

Take a ferry or even paddle your own canoe to Pittwater.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
A ferry ride through from Pittwater takes you to Refuge Bay, where you can stand under a waterfall that’s strong enough to wash shampoo out of your hair. Not only will it impress your hairdresser, it will save water, as the water’s running anyway.

38. Red light district

Walking through the nightlife hub of Kings Cross, you’ll spot a handful of strip clubs, brothels and sex toy shops.

37. Private courtyards just for barbecue … so far as your neighbors know

"Throw another shrimp on the barbie!"

“Throw another shrimp on the barbie!”
Ian Waldie/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Most Sydneysiders have their own private backyard, tailor-made for the Sunday afternoon barbecue. Sociologists call it a kickback to Shakespearian bourgeoisie, but a roomy city also means that neighbors aren’t listening when you’re having sex.

36. Convict-founded egalitarianism

This city was built on bread and watch thieves. It means that Sydneysiders aren’t quick to judge. This in a city in which an unemployed man can sit on the beach next to a lawyer, and they’ll view each other as just another person.

35. Underground parties

Some cities pride themselves on their underground transport systems. Sydney’s got that, too, but by and large, when locals go underground they don’t sit in bored silence. They go to parties and un-advertised performances in warehouses, churches, studios and secluded beaches.

34. The spiritual home of the drag queen

Sydney is a cross-dresser's paradise.

Sydney is a cross-dresser’s paradise.
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images/file
Sydney is the spiritual home of the drag queen — just think Priscilla — check out the shows along Oxford Street to find out more.

33. Picnics — not prison fights — on beautiful islands

Art on Cockatoo Island.

Art on Cockatoo Island.
Courtesy NAPARAZZI/creative commons/flickr
During colonization, the harbor islands were used for jails, navy depots and fishing bases. Nowadays, festivals and picnics are held there. Equipped with a pop-up bar and camping ground, the revamped Cockatoo Island hosts the Biennale Festival, a cacophany of art installations and performance.

32. Beautiful rubbish

Epitomized by the Reverse Garbage recycling cooperative — the ethic is one person’s trash is a budding artist’s treasure — Sydney has enough valuable junk to fill a suburb of bohemian apartments. Whether you scour trash and treasure markets or pick up free items on the side of the road, you won’t miss a good find and neither will its previous owner.
To let you in on the east’s best fashion secret, the Uniting Church Op-shop on the corner of Warners Avenue and Niblick Street, North Bondi, has the cheapest and best.

31. Loud guitars in the CBD

Each January, Sydney Festival First Night turns the CBD into a live music arena. Racecourses turn party venues, suburbs turn street festivals, laneways evolve into daytime gigs. Sydney’s love of festivals isn’t just good for social cohesion, it means there’s always an excuse to crack open a bottle outdoors.

30. Spray paint masterpieces

The words of the prophets.

The words of the prophets.
brendon thorne/getty images
The city likes color. Streets and trains aren’t drab and gray, but are spray-painted with all colors of the spectrum. Some of the best legal graffiti walls are at May Lane in St. Peters, Bondi Beach Promenade and Technology Lane in the University of Sydney.

29. We let our feet breathe

Let your feet breathe in Sydney.

Let your feet breathe in Sydney.
Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
In most big cities you avoid flip-flops. But this beach city is so laid-back that it’s cool for your feet to breathe. You can pick up a $5 pair of thongs just about anywhere.

28. People watching

Head to Bondi Beach for a spot of people watching.

Head to Bondi Beach for a spot of people watching.
Sydney is a people watcher’s paradise — from the surfers to the sunbathers, everyone is interesting.

27. Free health care

If you get bitten by a shark or hit by a bus you can be taken care of in the hospital, free of charge.

26. We’re a peaceful place, really

The land was invaded about 220 years ago — and since then there’s been a low incidence of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters in the Armageddon age.

25. Chardonnay socialists at art galleries

Not only can you walk into the Art Gallery of New South Wales at any given time, but the art/life dichotomy is so lost somewhere between pretension and reality that you can go to art exhibition openings and drink as much wine as you want. Nobody there — artist, curator, salesmen — will even question your existence. Imagine, you hanging around drinking making artists look popular! The Sydney art scene is booming, with scores of galleries dotted around the inner city.

24. Running to the beach gets you a round of applause

Runners take part in the annual City2Surf road race in Sydney.

Runners take part in the annual City2Surf road race in Sydney.
Every spring, tens of thousands don gorilla suits, dress as superheroes and lace their sneakers before running and walking a non-direct, 14-kilometer route in the City2Surfevent, which finishes at Bondi Beach. Those that don’t run line the streets of Rose Bay, Vaucluse and the beach drinking Chardonnay and cheering on the actual athletes.

23. Busy thespians

Independent theaters are part of Sydney’s urban charm. The city is surrounded by curated and fringe performances — from theaters in pub basements (The Old Fitzroy) to old horse-houses (The Stables at Kings Cross) and harbor side venues such as Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli. An active local theater crowd gives struggling actors enough money to pay the rent.

22. Theater and food in gun barracks

Built in 1870, underground tunnels and armories on Middle Head were active for a century. But Sydneysiders prefer style to guns these days. A harbor side walk along Middle Head past gun bases ends in what used to be a residence for gunners. It’s now a teahouse.

21. Beloved stars

He's also Wolverine -- what more could you want?

He’s also Wolverine — what more could you want?
Just take Hugh Jackman — our stars manage to be humble and glamorous.

20. Four and a half million seafood aficionados

World's best cities for street food

Prawns galore.
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Few things make locals feel more special (in that “don’t we live in a fantastic city sense”) than ducking down to the local fish shop for cheap prawns, bugs, lobsters and assorted sea creatures. Seafood institutions including Doyles at Watson’s Bay, Nick’s at Bondi Beach and the Sydney Fish Market (the biggest in the southern hemisphere) are seafood buffets just wanting teeth.

19. World’s best pub food

Sorry, London, but your shepherd’s pie and fried eggs are a joke in the face of the diverse pub grub of the harbor city. Walk into a sociable local like The Royal Albert Hotel’s Bamboo Dumpling Bar and you can get your schooner with dim sims such as seafood and kaffir lime skewers and mushroom gow gee.

18. Oldest underground toilet is an art gallery

The heritage toilet built in 1906 on Taylor Square, Oxford Street, to service the needs of the growing population, now hosts cultural events such as art exhibitions and podcasts of rock ‘n’ roll history.

17. Diversity embraced

Members of the Tiwi Islands transgender community attend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney.

Members of the Tiwi Islands transgender community attend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney.
Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
It’s boring when everybody is the same. Much more fun to be different. Musical tastes and styles run the track from burlesque to rockabilly. On a night out in Sydney you’ll meet everybody and anybody — all out for a good time.

16. Weather presenters who smile through hail storms

Sydney doesn’t get so bloody cold, but it does have electric and hail storms that can destroy a car roof in 20 seconds flat. But the TV weather presenters still front the population every night, cheering us up through the most extreme weather.

15. Land of feminists

Women dominate local politics: the city mayor, state and federal members, governor, prime minister and governor-general have all been women.

14. BYO ethos

You can bring your own booze into the majority of restaurants, which means that, unlike in other major cities, you can enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner without raiding your retirement fund to pay for it.

13. Blue Mountains … and other asphalt-free places

Echo Point with The Three Sisters can't be missed.

Echo Point with The Three Sisters can’t be missed.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
The dramatic escarpments of the Blue Mountains (where you find three sisters that are actually a single rock), river cruises along the Hawkesbury and a raw, southern nature reserve are all within an hour’s drive.

12. Fashion that nobody else wears

OK, so you spend a little more on that fancy dress or shirt, but at least you’ll be the only one wearing it. The independent fashion design scene is supported by rag-fests such as the Eveleigh Designers Markets, Darlington and the Young Australian Designers Market, Paddington. If you’re a cheapskate and don’t mind wearing what everybody else does, just wait for the January sales.

11. Good sporting ethos

Swimmers dive into the North Sydney Olympic Pool.

Swimmers dive into the North Sydney Olympic Pool.
Sydney is great for sport — the outdoor lifestyle, the sun, the open spaces — what more do you need? The city hosted the 2000 Olympics and city-dwellers love rugby league.
Golf fans should check out the Emirates Australian Open Golf Championship, whilst sailing aficionados will enjoy the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

10. Clear ocean sunrises 338 days a year

Golden sunrise over Manly Beach.

Golden sunrise over Manly Beach.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
On any given day — assuming it’s not one of the 27 cloudy mornings — you can walk to the ocean and see the sunrise.

9. God drinks at music venues

An old star on the music scene, The Sandringham Hotel was immortalized by The Whitlams, who sang: “God drinks at the Sando.”
Any night of the week you can catch jazz, rock or house at a swath of near-sacred venues around town. The Enmore Theater and the Metro Theater are fine examples.

8. Diverse communities

Join the party at the Sydney gay and lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney.

Join the party at the Sydney gay and lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney.
Every city has its gay bars — but welcoming Sydney has Oxford Street, a whole street devoted to the LGBT scene. The Mardi Gras parade is a highlight of the city’s social calender.

7. Heritage architecture

Stained-glass windows in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

Stained-glass windows in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.
Courtesy Teacher Traveler/Creative Commons/Flickr
Everybody knows the Opera House, but Sydney maintains 18th-century buildings in The Rocks and old dames like the Queen Victoria Building (now a shopping arcade) and The Town Hall on George Street. Victorian-era, split-level terraces surround the city center.

6. A New York restaurant that’s as cheap as Bangkok

Amid the neon lights of Kings Cross, the New York Diner on Kellet Street has hardly changed — in food or price — since 1953. It’s still a favorite of stars and marginals alike. Big breakfasts, steaks, chops and veges (just like grandma’s) can be accompanied by 80-cent glasses of milk.

5. 100 Beaches

Bondi is quintessential Sydney.

Bondi is quintessential Sydney.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
It’s been called “London on the Caribbean.” From Bondi down to secret crevasses, Sydney has about 100 beaches in all.

4. A nearby major airport

Sydney Airport is close to the city center.

Sydney Airport is close to the city center.
Courtesy Simon_sees/Creative Commons/Flickr
Whether you’re on your way out, or flying in, Sydney Airport is so close to the city you don’t have to slog through a one-hour train or get ripped off taking a cab ride from one side of the metropolitan area to the other.

3. A few trillion leaves

The trees keep Sydney-dwellers cool in hot weather.

The trees keep Sydney-dwellers cool in hot weather.
Paris might be the City of Light, but we’re the city of trees. Approximately 29,000 trees of more than 120 species line the streets of Sydney, making the city beautiful while removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen to the atmosphere, boosting property values and providing much needed shade.

2. Big Bridges (but small walls)

Sydney Harbour Bridge has been an icon of the city since it opened in 1932.

Sydney Harbour Bridge has been an icon of the city since it opened in 1932.
Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images
The Harbour Bridge is not only pretty, it’s the world’s largest steel arch bridge (weighing 53,000 tons) and the widest (49 meters/160 feet) long-span bridge in the world. Weekend drives through harbor inlets take in the 120-meter-high (393 feet) ANZAC Bridge — the nation’s biggest suspension bridge — and the 305-meter (1,000 feet) Gladesville Bridge, once the world’s biggest concrete arch. Other standouts: Iron Cove, The Spit, Ryde, Captain Cook, Tom Uglies.

1. Everyone loves you … or pretends to

Many locals call you “darling,” particularly in inner city Darlinghurst, which makes you feel loved.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.

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