Cracking Misconceptions: 3 Must-Knows About Sydney

Australia, Australia/New Zealand/Pacific, Destinations, Extras — By on June 30, 2011 at 4:00 am

Yelena Galstyan, a magazine journalism student at Syracuse University, recently completed a study abroad semester at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. For her fifth and final piece in a series about her observations in the land down under, she corrects three common misconceptions about Sydney.

Within the first week of my semester in Brisbane, I began planning my adventures throughout the country. My laid-back schedule allowed me four-day weekends and my live-life-to-the-fullest attitude made me eager to book trips and soak up all the goodness Australia had to offer.

When people think of Australia, they almost instantly think of Sydney. However, my mind was on everywhere but this destination. I knew that undertaking the country’s largest city was a check on my to-do list, but it waned toward the bottom. I kept putting the visit off. The truth is, I heard some unflattering reviews of Sydney. It’s a good thing I went there and proved them wrong.

Don’t always believe what you hear. After spending three days in the Harbour city I cracked these common misconceptions:

Sydney is too big, too dirty and too much like New York City

On the contrary, Sydney is spacious, despite being the most diverse and highly populated of all cities in Australia. When you walk through the urban streets, you will notice that they are neither overcrowded with pedestrians or traffic nor heavily encompassed by litter. Life moves at a brisk pace for Sydneysiders, but not enough to overwhelm you.

Within two days of exploring Sydney, I covered all of the city’s must-see areas and became familiar with its layout. Try doing that in NYC. As a current Manhattan resident, I can tell you that the two cities are starkly different. Sydney’s urban life isn’t as fast pace, the people seem to be more relaxed (like most Aussies), and it’s pretty well kept. While New York’s metropolitan area is rearing 19 million, Sydney’s population was reported to have just surpassed 4.5 million. Not bad.

Sydney lacks natural scenery

When you’re done gazing at the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, take a moment to soak in Sydney’s natural landscapes: national parks, bays, rivers, inlets, and beaches. Sydney puts an emphasis on not becoming too industrial and maintains its natural surroundings for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Within the city, there are many notable parks including Hyde Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens. A short ferry ride away is Manly Beach, one of the city’s most popular seaside attractions. The equally popular Bondi Beach is known for its sandy turf and surf. If you have a day to spare, venture out to the Blue Mountains, a geological wonderland just an hour’s drive from the city.

Sydney is not, well, Australian enough

One of the first comments I heard about Sydney is that you could place it anywhere in world, and it would fit right in, implying that it wasn’t as uniquely Australian as other places in the country. From my observations, Sydney is brimming with Aussie history, culture, fashion, art, and cuisine.

The city developed from the first British settlement in the country and its humble beginnings are still intermingled among the skyscrapers and modern architecture. For example, the Rocks, a metropolitan area just west of Circular Quay, is a historical precinct in the city with sandstone buildings preserved in their original condition. And for a modern evening out, visit The Argyle hotel and nightclub past dusk.

Sydney competes with Melbourne for being the most cultural city, and promotes its diversity, hosting a number of festivals and serving as a filming location for many prominent movies. It’s also recognized for a vibrant gay community and a liberal lifestyle.

Sydney is well-recognized for beer brewing, too. James Squire, a man with convict roots, is known for the first cultivation of hops in the new colony, a practice that was illegal at the turn of the 19th century. Officials came to reprimand Squire, but after trying his beer, they fell in love with the formula and he lived to see another day. James Squire Pale Ale and Golden Ale are popular Australian beers today. Make sure to grab a bottle in the city where it all started. Sydney is a compilation of stories like this one. The city’s multicultural essence makes it uniquely Australian, no more, no less.

So, go visit Sydney with an open mind and see what you find.

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