It is hard not to feel drawn to Sydney - after all, it's a coastal crowd-pleaser replete with beaches, bays, barbecues and bronzed bodies. Throw in an enviable climate and high quality of life and it's little wonder that Sydneysiders are such a relaxed and informal bunch. But the charms of Australia's most populous city go beyond its natural assets and easygoing lifestyle to include world-leading restaurants, keen retailers and more than a few top-notch independent hotels.
Sydney can claim to be the world's most underappreciated culinary capital. Visitors are often awed by the strength and breadth of the dining scene, which benefits from the unrivalled quality of the country's produce and often fuses Asian influences with Aussie staples.
Sydney used to undersell its cultural assets, preferring to talk up its natural beauty rather than its intellectual offering. Not any more. A usually busy calendar of large-scale public events, a slew of world-beating museums and an artistic community brimming with creativity make the city a delight for the culture hungry.
Australian Museum, Darlinghurst The aim of Australia's first public museum, when it was green-lit in 1827, was to gather rare specimens of natural history and miscellaneous curiosities. Today its collection boasts more than 18 million cultural and scientific exhibits, showcases Australian history - including Aboriginal archaeology and artefacts from its greatest explorers - and has a world-leading research programme. A recent major renovation has expanded the space greatly. For your own bird's-eye view, head up to the museum's terrace: the balcony offers stunning 180-degree panoramic views of Hyde Park and the Woolloomooloo area.
From modernist homes and skyscrapers to its stately opera house, the built environment in Sydney has been shaped by waves of itinerant visitors. The busy skyline rightly hints at the city’s financial clout but there are plenty of treats for design aficionados too.
Sydney Town Hall, CBD. If you are meeting someone in town, the steps of the Sydney Town Hall are a good place to rendezvous. Inspired by the baroque revival-style Hôtel de Ville in Paris, Sydney’s Town Hall was started by Tasmanian architect JH Willson in 1868 and constructed over a 21-year period from sandstone quarried in nearby Pyrmont. The building still houses the city council. In recent years the basement spaces have been transformed into pop-up bars and rooms to serve various Sydney festivals.