Sydney is the Harbour City. It is the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia with an enviable reputation as one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities. Brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine, design, it is set next to miles of ocean coastline and sandy surf beaches. The city is also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on the planet.
Sydney is a major global city and one of the most important cities for finance in the Asia-Pacific. Sydney hosted the first Olympics of the new millennium, and continues to attract and host large international events. The city is surrounded by nature and national parks, which extend through the suburbs and right to the shores of the harbour.
Sydney is one of the oldest European settlement in Australia, having been founded as a British penal colony on 26 January 1788 by Arthur Phillip (now celebrated as Australia Day, the national public holiday, with major festivities around the city and the Harbour). The settlement was named "Sydney" after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, who was the British Home Secretary at that time.
Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with one third of its population born overseas. European settlement rapidly displaced the Aboriginal people of the Sydney area with colonists largely coming from England, Ireland and Scotland. The Australian goldrush attracted more immigrants, including a significant number of Chinese, with about one in four Australians with convict descent also having some Chinese ancestry. In the early 20th century, Sydney continued to attract immigrants - mostly from the U.K. and Ireland, with the White Australia Policy preventing non-European peoples (and even Southern Europeans) from settling. Australia's immigration patterns, and consequently, that of Sydney, changed significantly after WWII, when migrants began to arrive from countries as diverse as Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, China, New Zealand, India, the Philippines, Poland, Lebanon, Iraq, Vietnam, Thailand, South Africa and the Pacific Islands. Sydney's culture, food and general outlook well reflect these contributions to the majority Anglo-Celtic institutions and social establishment.
Sydney is recognised worldwide for its vibrant gay community. Every year, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is celebrated on the first weekend in March, drawing people from all over Australia and the world for the celebrations.
Sydney became the centre of the world's attention in September 2000 when the city hosted the Summer Olympics - officially announced by the IOC Chairman at the closing Ceremony to be the "the best games ever"! The Olympics saw a major building and renovation program take hold of Sydney, positioning it as one of the great world cities of the 21st century.
Sydney’s skyline is large and widely recognisable. Sydney also possesses a wide array of diversity of modern and old architectural style. They range from the simple Francis Greenway's Georgian buildings to Jorn Utzon’s Expressionist Sydney Opera House. Sydney also has a large amount of Victorian buildings, such as the Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. The most architecturally significant would be the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, among many others. Skyscrapers in Sydney are also large and modern. Sydney Tower just rising above the rest of the Sydney skyline.
Sydney's large natural harbour was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. It is now well developed, with skyscrapers, highrises, and houses all around its shores, but it is still very beautiful.
The harbour is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbour. An excellent way to see both the harbour and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbour Bridge towards Parramatta. These are reasonably priced and a favourite for tourists. If time is short, for a shorter route, the ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour will let you ride under the Harbour Bridge and see the central part of the harbour.