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Move Over NYC & Paris: Why Sydney Is Where It’s A(r)t

You don't need to fly half-way around the world to Europe or New York to get a dose of art, culture and history when you have Sydney sitting in your back pocket.

You don’t need to fly half-way around the world to Europe or New York to get a dose of art, culture and history when you have Sydney sitting in your back pocket.

Sure, young and fun Sydney has lots going for it on the surface. There’s the iconic harbour, the bridge, the coastal walks and more. But Sydney isn’t just a pretty face with a killer beach bod.

The truth is, there’s a depth to Sydney’s cultural landscape that begs to be explored. We’re talking well-preserved historic buildings, theatres, heritage walks, world-class arts institutions, amazing museums, fantastic annual festivals and some of the greatest displays of indigenous art in the world. Indeed, this is a city with a healthy dose of love and respect for culture and the Arts.

So come on, take our hand and let’s discover a world of art, culture and history awaiting you in Sydney…

Watch an opera or classical music concert at the Sydney Opera House

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Ah, the Sydney Opera House…. apple of Australia’s eye, iconically Australian, a world-class acoustical venue. If you haven’t yet visited this world-famous landmark, then are you even Australian, bro?

Catapulted onto the international architectural stage back in 1973, this iconic Aussie symbol can be experienced in the flesh as part of a guided tour – some of which have been recently restarted – or as part of the audience whilst catching a classic contemporary musical, such as Rent, or a live concert, such as legendary post-punk favourites Sunnyboys.

Alternatively, experience some harbourside fine dining – perhaps even shuck a few oysters – at Opera Kitchen followed from a post-dinner stroll around this gigantic spectacle of art sitting on an ancient site sacred to the indigenous Gadigal people for thousands of years and looking out onto the Harbour Bridge.

Visit a contemporary art museum and scratch that artistic itch

MCA Sydney

Delve deep into the existential predicament of humanity and question the meaning of life – through art – at Sydney’s answer to London’s Tate Modern.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is world-class, make no mistake about it, and is Australia’s leading cultural institution dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from across both Australia and the rest of the world. It’s ideally located too: centrally, at Circular Quay.

Take a self-guided tour or join an organised one as you walk from exhibit to exhibit, sometimes interacting with the artwork itself, other times just wander around aimlessly. However you play it, though, you’ll soon enough discover how ridiculously talented we Australians are…

PRO TIP: From small independent galleries to multi-disciplinary event centres, Sydney has a ton of creative art spaces to explore, so get packing!

Get a dose of maritime history under your belt and impress your mates at the next pub quiz

Soak your mind in Australian maritime factoids and learn about our amazing history out on the sea at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Better than reading a book, this amazingly-located museum on Darling Harbour has been educating its patrons for nearly 30 years. Housing historic artefacts accompanied by engaging descriptions, interactive exhibits, as well as one of the largest collections of in-water fleets in the world – take a selfie in front of a replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour – this ain’t no ordinary museum: it’s a fun journey through Australia’s maritime history that’s guaranteed to make you smarter at the end. 

There are also always amazing exhibitions on show at any one time, too, such as wildlife photography, talks on our colonial history, and much more. Open from 10:30 am to 4 pm daily.

Admire the best Aboriginal art in the world

Art Gallery of NSW

With a history spanning 130 years and a collection spanning five levels, the Art Gallery of NSW not only boasts one of the largest collections of Aboriginal art in the country, but it’s also here that art-loving punters will find some of the world’s greatest art on display – everything from European masters such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, Asian treasures and leading local and international contemporary art.

An easy 10-minute walk from the CBD and located in the beautifully-landscaped parklands overlooking Sydney Harbour, it’s also here that the prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture is held each year, as well as the Sir John Sulman and Wynne prizes.

The Art Gallery of NSW is open daily, 10 am to 5 pm. Entry is free into the general admission space.

Discover and learn about man and beast at the Australian Museum

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Go it alone or join a guided tour and get schooled in everything you’d ever want to know about this rich, diverse and fascinating natural and cultural world that we call home at Sydney’s Australian Museum.

Wander around an institution that’s been at the forefront of Australia’s efforts in scientific research, collection and education for over 185 years. This museum boasts over 21 million scientific specimens and cultural objects in its collection, all presented in easily digestible (and kid-friendly) displays that will make you go ooh and ahh. Learn about our indigenous history, climate change research, animal factoids, earth science and more.

Australia’s oldest museum recently reopened in November 2020 after a massive $57.5 million dollar refurbishment and expansion that saw gathering spaces redesigned, galleries expanded, and even more collections on display added to what is an already impressive catalogue, such as brilliant dinosaur exhibits and a new section on stories from Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander cultures. And to celebrate the opening, general admission is free for adults and children – but only for a limited time, so come quick!

See and experience Sydney through the eyes of a local

© Culture Scouts / Jodie Barker

History, art and culture are literally everywhere in Sydney. But if you need a little help spotting it on the ground, join the Culture Scouts for a walking tour into the city’s art, history, food and retail scene.

Organised and led by locals, you’ll experience Sydney like a local, visiting galleries, bars, cafes, shops and other parts of the city that you won’t find on the stock-standard tourist map.

These tours are a fascinating way to engage with real Sydney-siders and learn all about the city’s amazing art and culinary scene that will have you boarding your flight back home with a totally different take on what Sydney is all about…

At the moment, Culture Scouts is still running a number of their private tours, such as The Art Gallery Hopping, The Weekend Culture Guide, Original Street Art Tour, and Harbour and Heritage Tour.

Ready to start inspiring your clients?

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Check out the Destination NSW Travel Trade Toolkit – it’s your one-stop-shop for all the info you need on selling Sydney to your clients. There are engaging webinars, fact sheets and just loads of useful advice on information on there to help you learn Sydney and NSW like the back of your hands and send your clients on their merry way.

Also, don’t forget to hashtag your favourite Sydney and NSW holidays on social media by using the hashtag #LoveNSW and #ILoveSydney. Searching Instagram for these hashtags is also a great way to help your clients visualise what’s in store for them in stunning Sydney. Not only does a picture tell a thousand words, but it will also help you sell…

For inspiration on Sydney and NSW adventures, check out sydney.com and visitnsw.com

READ: An Agent’s Guide to Sydney’s Coastal Character

READ: 5 Fantastic NSW Getaways And Stays To Reboot Your Wanderlust

READ: Six Of The Best: An Agent’s Guide To NSW’s Food And Wine Regions

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