So you’ve finally made it all the way to the land down under, G’day. Chances are you’re flying into Sydney, Australia’s largest city with 5 million residents. You’ve also done a bit of research and know about the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the famous Bondi Beach, right? Sure these are beautiful sites to visit but they don’t really show or tell much about the culture of Australia, beyond the typical tourism paragraph hidden away on a small plaque. There is so much depth in Australia’s culture both before and after colonisation, so why not check out some of these places if you’re looking to find out a bit more about Australia and its culture.
If you’re looking to explore Sydney’s convict past, the Rocks is the perfect place. The Rocks was the official place of British colonisation in Australia, although all “residents” were British convicts. Walking around the Rocks you’ll travel back into ‘old Sydney’.
I know how it sounds, a walking tour doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, but there’s something really interesting and enticing about walking around and thinking that the building that surround you were once untouched lands. It’s like taking a step back in time, and taking the same steps the first settlers took, how they lived, how they entertained themselves, made money, etc. You can either book into a walking tour, or download an app and take a self-guided tour.
ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Founded in 1880 the Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of Australia’s oldest and largest galleries, and is home to a magnitude of works. AGNSW is home to a stunning permanent collection that features not only the best Australian art but International work form Asia, and the Pacific. The work holds a large collection of Australian art from Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders, colonial Australian, and contemporary selections.
The best thing about the gallery is that entry is completely free to check out their permanent collection. The gallery also plays host to various exhibitions featuring both domestic and international artists, and prizes like the Archibald. However, entry to these limited exhibitions will incur a cost. The gallery is also within walking distance to the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney, a perfect spot for lunch!
BANGARRA DANCE THEATRE
Bangarra is an organisation that creates captivating performances that have Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander stories and culture beautifully intertwined in. The company is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait owned, and tells real stories gather from respected community elders, championing the inherent connection to the land. Bangarra is open to everyone, and aims to promote a cultural exchange through their performances and activities. This is a great opportunity for those that love the theatre, but also want to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Why just stop at looking at the Sydney Opera House from the outside? Why not book yourself into one of the various shows? Besides from being an iconic Australian landmark, the opera house plays host to variety of shows including (but not limited to) stand-up shows, ballets, operas, symphony orchestras, concerts, and even Ed Sheeran! If you think the exterior of the Opera House is beautiful wait until you see what’s inside. You’ll see world-class architecture that pays homage to the natural environment (check out John Olsen-commissioned mural) and the cosmopolitan of Sydney.
Why not book into a pre-show dinner at Bennelong. You won’t have to walk far as this restaurant and bar located under the first sail of the Opera House, boasting stunning views and a contemporary Australian menu.
The hustle and bustle of the city can sometimes mask over the natural beauty of the country, so why not go for a day trip to the beautiful Blue Mountains. Located only a ninety minute drive from city the Blue Mountains it’s the perfect weekend getaway. This world heritage listed site is largely untouched, and from the look-out points you’ll see mountains and valleys covered in native flora as far as the eye can see.
If you’re looking for a more cultural experience, why not book into an Aboriginal Walkabout Tour of the Blue Mountains. A walkabout is a coming of age initiation “walk” wherein young boys come into their place and adulthood. On this tour, you’ll be taken on a journey that takes you along sacred sites, ceremonial sites, dreamtime stories, and bush tucker tastings.
Australia’s cultural history is often overlooked as we have only been federated for just over a hundred years, but there is much more history before that. The traditional custodians of the land, Indigenous Australians have been in Sydney much longer for thousands of years, and we also have British colonisation which had a significant impact. So there you have it, a few places in Sydney if you’re looking to delve further into the culture of Australia, and travel beyond the typical “tourist traps.”
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