The Opera House is without doubt Sydney's principal tourist attraction. The situation is magnificent, and the Opera House itself is breathtaking with its complex of roofs shaped like huge shells or billowing sails. It is surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by the Royal Botanic Gardens. Bennelong Point, the site selected by the government in 1957 for a cultural center, bears the name of an Aborigine who traveled to Britain with Governor Arthur Phillip in 1792 and was wondered at as a noble savage but returned to Sydney in 1795, drink-sodden and rootless.
An international competition for the design of the Opera House was won by a Danish architect, Jørn Utzon. From the outset there were controversies and technical problems; construction was delayed and costs mounted. In 1966 the architect, disappointed in his hopes, withdrew from the project. The Opera House was finally completed in 1973, 10 years later than planned, and was formally opened by the Queen. The cost of the building, originally estimated at A$10 million, had multiplied tenfold, but the money was raised by a series of Opera House lotteries.
The Opera House is much more than an opera house, with three theatres and studios, a concert hall, a cinema, exhibitions, rehearsal and reception rooms, a library, restaurants and bars.
Seats for particular performances must be booked well in advance. There are daily conducted tours, starting in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall, and the two restaurants are open to the public. Visitors can walk round the Opera House above the water of the harbor and continue along the Waterfront Promenade and round Circular Quay. To the south of Circular Quay is the Cahill Expressway, carrying traffic to and from the Harbour Bridge. Under it can be heard the rumble of the underground line which surfaces at the Circular Quay station. There too is the most northerly of Sydney's three large city center bus terminals; the others are at Wynyard Station, to the west, and Central Station, to the south.
Box R239, Royal Exchange, Sydney, NSW 1225, Australia
9am-4:30pm; Closed: Sun
Useful tips: Tours available between listed hours.
Show times may vary. Tickets for shows should be booked well in advance.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Transit: Sydney Explorer Bus stop.