Some of the most popular operas, shows, plays and ballets in Sydney are sold out months in advance.  While it is better to book ahead, many theatres do set aside tickets to be sold at the door on the night.

You can buy tickets from the box office or by telephone.  Some orchestral performances do not admit children under seven, so check with the box office before buying.  If you make a phone booking using a credit card, the tickets can be mailed to you.

Alternatively, tickets can be collected from the box office half an hour before the show.  The major agencies will take overseas bookings.

Buying tickets from touts is not advisable, if you are caught with a  "sold on"  ticket you will be denied access to the event.  If all else fails, hotel concierges have a reputation for being able to secure hard-to-get tickets.

If booking in person at either the venue to the agency, you will be able to look at a seating plan.  Be aware that in the State Theatre's stalls, row A is the back row.  In Sydney, there is not as much difference in price between stalls and dress circle as in other cities.

If booking by phone with one of the agencies, you will only be able to get a rough idea of where your seats are.  The computer will select the  "best"  tickets.

Sydney has two main ticket agencies.  Ticketek and Ticketmaster.  Between them, they represent all the major entertainment and sporting events.

Ticketek has more than 60 outlets throughout NSW and the ACT.  Opening Hours vary between agencies and call centres, so check with Ticketek to confirm.
Open:  9am - 5pm weekdays;  Saturdays 9am - 4pm.
Phone Bookings:  8:30am - 10pm, Monday to Saturday;  8:30 - 5pm Sundays.

Ticketmaster outlets are Open:  9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.
Phone Bookings:  9am - 9pm, Monday to Saturday and 10am - 5pm Sundays.

Agencies accept traveller's cheques, bank cheques, cash, Visa, Mastercard  (Access)  and Amex.  Some agencies do not accept Diners Club.  A booking fee applies, plus a postage and handling charge it tickets are mailed out.

There are generally no refunds  (unless a show is cancelled)  or exchanges.  If one agency has sold out its allocation for a show, it is worth checking with another.

Tuesday is budget-price day at most cinemas.  Some independent cinemas have special prices throughout the week.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia offer a special Student Rush price to full-time students under 28 but only if surplus tickets are available.  These can be bought on the day of the performance, from the box office at the venue.

Outdoor events are especially popular in Sydney, and many are free.  Sydney Harbour is a splendid setting for the fabulous New Year's Eve fireworks, with a display at 9pm for families as well as the midnight display.

The Sydney Festival in January is a huge extravaganza of performance and visual art.  Various outdoor venues in The Rocks, Darling Harbour and in front of the Opera House feature events to suit every taste, including musical productions, drama, dance, exhibitions and circuses.

The most popular free events are the symphony and jazz concerts held in The Domain.  Also popular are the Darling Harbour Circus and Street Theatre Festival at Easter, and the food and wine festival held in June at Manly Beach.

Many older venues were not designed with the disabled visitor in mind, but this has been redressed in most newer buildings.

It is best to phone the box office beforehand to request special seating and other requirements or call Ideas Incorporated, who have a list of Sydney's most wheelchair-friendly venues.

The Sydney Opera House has disabled parking, wheelchair access and a loop system in the Concert Hall fro the hearing impaired.  A brochure, Services for the Disabled, is also available.

For many years, the first port of call for any jazz, funk, groove or folk enthusiast has been The Basement.  Visiting luminaries play some nights, talented but struggling local musician others, and the line-ups now also includes increasingly popular world music and hip hop bands.

Soup Plus, Margaret Street, plays jazz while serving reasonably priced food, including soup.  Experimental jazz is offered on Fridays and Saturdays at the Seymour Theatre Centre.

The Vanguard, a newer venue, also offers dinner and show deals, as well as show-only tickets, and has been drawing and excellent roster of jazz, blues and roots talent.

Annandale's Empire Hotel is Sydney's official home of the blues, and the Cat & Fiddle Hotel in Balmain of acoustic music and folk.  Wine Banq, a plush CBD bar and restaurant, dishes up smooth jazz most nights of the week.

Sydney's only super club, Home Sydney in Cockle Bay features three levels and a gargantuan sound system.  Friday night is the time to go, as the DJ's present house, trance, drum and bass and breakbeats.

A mainstream crowd flocks to the nearby Bungalow 8 on King Street Wharf.  Once the sun has set, house DJ's turn the place into a club.  At the swank Tank on Bridge Lane, the emphasis is on pure house music and the decor is a throwback to Studio 54 in New York.  Cave, at Star City, is another mainstream house club.

For something a little more hip, try Candy's Apartment on Bayswater Road, or the fashionable tech-electro Mars Lounge on Wentworth Avenue, with its red lacquered interior.

Enter Goodbar on Oxford Street in Paddington by a barely marked door, descend a flight of stairs, and you will find yourself in one of Sydney's longest established nightclubs.  There is hip hop some nights, house others.

Down the road, Q Bar on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, has arcade games for when you need a breather.  Or try the low-ceilinged Chinese Laundry on Sussex Street, tucked under the gentrified pub, Slip Inn.

THE SENIOR CITY                 

Australia's largest and oldest city is also its most beautifully situated Indeed arguably, no metropolis in the world can come close to its matchless setting on Sydney Harbour, the broad waterway and many inlets and bays contributing a spectacular dimension to city life.

At weekends the water is alive with sails and power craft.  And added to the natural beauty are the twin man-made landmarks known the world over, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

The Opera House is one of the most innovative buildings of the 20th-century, creating for architect Joern Utzon entirely new engineering problems in constructing the shell-like roofs.  The bridge, linking the north and south sides of the city, was one of the engineering wonders of the modern world when completed in 1932.

Since Governor Arthur Phillip arrived in 1788 with an 11-ship fleet carrying 1030 colonists  (736 of them convicts)  and planted his flag at Sydney Cove, Sydney has grown into an exuberant and stylish city.

The more than three million Sydneysiders sprawl over 4000 square km, suburbs stretching to the foot of the Blue Mountains 55km inland and 70km from north to south.

The heart of Sydney clings to Sydney Cove and its immediate area, and in post-war years the skyline has taken on the angular profile of tall glass and concrete tower blocks found around the world.

However, at more down-to-earth levels, much of the city's colonial heritage has been preserved - buildings which have seen Australia's span from a penal colony to a nation.

Parliament House, St James' Church, and Hyde Park Barracks have all stood since early last century.  The last two are the work of convict-architect Francis Greenway, whose design excellence is still admired.

The Rocks, where the First Fleet arrivals established their primitive homes, is Australia's oldest residential area, ans has stubbornly clung to a crowded-street charm.  There was little thought in the infant colony to orderly planning, and as a result the city lacks any broad, elegant avenues.

Macquarie Street is Sydney's most handsome thoroughfare, with its solid sandstone government buildings and former townhouses of the wealthy.  The Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, and Centennial Park are the city's breathing space.

Inner suburbs retain the aura of Victoriana from which they sprang and in addition have taken on characters of their own.  The charm of the 19th-century terraces and cottages has become increasingly appreciated and in many cases whole streets have been brought back to their old graceful dignity.

Australian works span paintings by colonial artists Martens and Glover, through to Streeton and Conder, up to the present day.  Roberts' Bailed Up is among the most familiar paintings.

Seventeen grave posts from Melville Island are regarded as the most significant Aboriginal items.

Over many decades the gallery concentrated on British works of the Victorian era and early 20th-century.  European representation includes the work of Picasso and Rembrandt

The imposing sandstone portico and Ionic columns for 60 years comprised the frontage of essentially temporary galleries, until the newing and renovations were opened in 1972.

The highest point in Sydney and in colonial days a signal station for shipping and site of windmills.  The building of the sandstone observatory began in 1856, incorporating walls and battlements of a fort erected half a century earlier.  It served its purpose for many decades.

The State's National Trust operates out of a two-storey building which, when taken over in 1974, was Fort Street School.  Governor Macquarie had it built in 1815 as a military hospital.

Australia's best-known building, with its unique sail-like profile on Sydney Harbour, is familiar around the world.  Opened by the Queen in 1973, it contains a 2690-seat main hall, 1547-seat secondary auditorium, a drama theatre, recording hall, music room, recital room and a 10,000-pipe organ which cost more than $1 million.  The white room gleams from a million Swedish tiles and weighs 157,800 tonnes.

The building's serene appearance belies the turbulence of its birth.  Danish architect Joern Utzon resigned half-way through the project in the midst of a turmoil of building delays, ballooning costs  (from $7-million to an eventual $10.2-million), personality clashes, political power plays and departmental pressures.  Despite its name, opera is staged in the lesser hall.

The nation's first public gardens began as a farm planted out with seeds and plants collected at Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope by the First Fleet. 

Some beds still existing evolved from those early gardening patches.  The 29 hectares on the shores of Sydney Harbour are laid out in the Upper Garden, Middle Garden, Lower Garden and Garden Palace Grounds, and more than two million visitors a year stroll through the landscaped grounds, which are also a favourite route for battalions of lunchtime joggers.

Four thousand trees and plants represent most parts of the world, and more than a million specimens are to be seen in the new $4.5-million herbarium.  There is also an excellent palm collection.  The adjacent Domain covers 51ha of less formal parkland and on Sunday draws listeners to its Speakers' Corner.

Among the statues are figures of Henry Lawson, Robert Burns, Governor Phillip, Prince Albert and five-times Premier Sir John Robertson.

Under an obelisk are the ashes of explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham, who resigned as Colonial Botanist when he discovered the staff were expected to grow vegetables for high officials.

A pedestrian precinct has opened up the view of Australia's oldest cathedral and it can no be fully enjoyed.  Although perhaps modest by expected cathedral standards, its mellow stone complements the Gothic Lines.

Governor Macquarie laid the first foundation stone of Greenway's ambitious design in 1819, but the building was postponed because of financial strictures and it was another three decades before work resumed, this time to a new Edmund Blacket design.  The two towers were added in the 1870's.

The authoritative Gothic church is almost surrounded by parkland.  One of the best views is from the east;  this outlook, up a hill, puts the building on the skyline.  The building is the third on the site, the foundation stone being laid in 1868.  Building continued until 1928, but after more than half a century it is still without the twin spires planned in the original design.

The cathedral has some fine windows and at the entrance are statues of Archbishop Michael Kelly, who finished the building, and his predecessor, Archbishop Kelly.

Catholics have worshipped on this ground for more than 160 years.  Their spiritual needs were ignored in the early years of colonialism - being forced to attend Protestant services - but in 1821 Macquarie Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary  (Only three years earlier he had deported a priest).  The early church gave way to the first St Mary's Cathedral, which was destroyed by fire in 1865.

Eight million items are in the collections, which concentrate on natural science, anthropology and ethnology.  There is also an outstanding stamp collection.

The first wing of the museum was opened in 1849, and extensions have gone on ever since.  For 20 years before the first premises were habitable, exhibits were housed in the homes of the Judge-Advocate and Chief Justice, and Darlinghurst court house.

In the shadow on the Harbour Bridge and its southern approach road, The Rocks is Sydney's most historic enclave.  This is where the First Fleeters put up their shanties.  The streets are soaked in character and often linked by stone steps worn by almost two centuries of feet.

Old warehouses and bond stores have been converted into shopping arcades and restaurants, houses into craft shops and other small businesses.  But today's respectability was often, last century, a hell's kitchen of taverns, brothels and violence.

Facing Sydney Cove is the city's oldest dwelling, the 1815 stone cottage of Superintendent of Boats John Cadman;  around the corner is Sergeant Major's Row, a century-old terrace where Sydney's first street once ran;  work on Argyle Stores began in 1826;  St Patrick's  (1844)  is Sydney's oldest Catholic church.

Millers Point, reached through Argyle Cut, is a village in the middle of a city.  It even has a green, Argyle Place, lined with 1840's houses which look across to the Garrison Church, built during the same period.  Its interior is adorned with insignia of the redcoat regiments who worshipped here.

The rector's salary was ten shillings for every Church of England soldier stationed at the nearby battery,  Nautical names are appropriate for the old pubs - the Lord Nelson, the Hero of Waterloo  (licensed in 1833 as the Shipwright Arms)  and the former Whalers Arms.

The basically Renaissance building is on the site of the city's first general cemetery, a factor which caused many years of indignant wrangling before the tombs were moved.

The Duke of Edinburgh laid the foundation stone in 1868.  The result of six years' building is a monument to civic pride;  a decorated and carved exterior of Pyrmont sandstone, and a handsome interior of high ceilings and red cedar, with a 1952-piece crystal chandelier in the main reception room.

The 1880's clock is still manually wound, and the hour bell weighs almost two tonnes.  The 1906 lift was among the city's first electric elevators.

Among treasures gathered over the years is a Sevres porcelain vase known as the Vase de Rimini, which was presented to the city in 1880 on behalf of the French people.

The 2635-seat Centennial Hall was a leading concert venue before the opening of the Opera House.  Its Grand Organ is among the largest in the world.

The mellowed gentle sandstone blend of Tudor and Gothic architecture and green lawns which forms the heart of Australia's oldest university is a mirror of the  "dreaming spires"  of Oxford and Cambridge. And indeed architect Edmunc Blacket in the 1850's was inspired by the two English universities when he designed the building.

His masterpiece is the Great Hall, derived form the 1399 Westminster Hall in the British Houses of Parliament.  Its Royal Window illustrates the monarchy from the Normans to Victoria.

Carving on Blacket's main building, whose clock tower contains a carillon which is the University's war memorial, took six years.

One of the prime movers behind the early builders was Vice-Provost F. L. S.  "Futurity"  Merewether.  He gained the nickname because of his enthusiasm and certainty in the University's destiny.

An assortment of buildings has grown up around Blacket's, until the university covers 56ha with courses for more than 17,000 students.

The Fisher Library contains more than 400,000 volumes, while the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities has been built around a collection presented by Charles Nicholson, who in 1854 was appointed the first Chancellor.

Convicts began building the barracks in 1841 at a time when this part of Sydney was rolling dunes.  The commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, Major George Barney, chose the site - deliberately away from the temptations of Sydney - and designed a fine example of Georgian military construction.

The 225m main block was designed to take a British regiment of those times, 800 men, and a sentry has manned the gate 24 hours a day for more than 130 years.

The oldest armament is a showpiece 1779 six-pounder cannon.  Every Tuesday morning, except in high summer, the guard is ceremonially changed.

The picturesque suburb is Sydney's equivalent of London's Chelsea.  Many of the ironwork-adorned Victorian houses have been restored and the suburb has become one of the  "in" places to live, gathering among its residents writers, painters, sculptors and people in other fields of art.

The first houses were built for workmen employed on building Victoria Barracks in the 1840's.  A pump installed in 1868 to provide the district's first water supply has been preserved on the main street.

Randwick is known to racegoers around Australia, and cricket lovers around the world.  The first meeting at Sydney's premier course was run in 1833. and several of Australia's leading races are on the spring and autumn carnival cards.

Radio listeners tuned into Test matches from Sydney Cricket Ground know the familiar phrase:  "......and now, coming into bowl from the Randwick Road end.....".  A statue to Captain Cook erected in 1874 has mariner looking toward his landing place, Botany Bay.

A cosmopolitan district of Victorian streets, with St Stephen's Anglican Church an outstanding Gothic Revival building.

Edmund Blacket, who designed the church, lies in the cemetery alongside explorer Thomas Mitchell, scientist and first president of The Australian Museum Sir Alexander Macleay, and Major Edmund Lockyer, who founded the first settlement in Western Australia.




At the first settlement at Sydney Cove Captain Watkin Tench of the Marines wrote  "to proceed on a narrow, confined scale in a country of the extensive limits we possess, would be unpardonable....extent of Empire demands grandeur of design".

Such "grand design"  began in 1810, when the vision of the new Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, was put into practice by the convict architect Francis Greenway, giving us a heritage of splendid buildings, many of which are landmarks today.

It continued through nearly a century of growth and lofty ideals to create a prosperous and busy metropolis - a great symbol of colonial aspirations.

As it developed, Sydney was both  "mean and princely", a mixture of broad, tree-lined  avenues and narrow streets and alleys, grand buildings and crowded cottages and terraces.  Its switchback, craggy hills around the sprawling indented harbour made orderly Georgian style planning impossible, and the grand outlines of earlier days soon became blurred by the city's growth from first settlement to colonial seat, to state capital, to modern city.

In modern Sydney, however, with its gleaming towers, its crowds and its traffic, substantial and fascinating remnants of old Sydney remain.  Some parts of the city, such as The Rocks area, adjacent to Circular Quay, are almost pure history.

The old pubs and bandstands, sandstone cottages and terrace houses, The Argyle Cut and Agar Steps, the Garrison Church and the village green are an oasis separated from the bustling city by Flagstaff Hill, where the old Observatory stands, and the Harbour Bridge.

There are many other inner suburban areas that are reminiscent of the feeling of old Sydney.  Paddington is the show-place historic suburb, with its picturesque terraces and cottages, many of them superbly restored by proud owners.  The narrow streets of this once working-class suburb provide and intimate, neighbouring feeling.

Balmain, Leichhardt and Redfern are becoming popular as the advantages of inner suburban living and sandstone cottages attract owners who are conscious of the aesthetic quality of the old houses.

In the city itself, the street which best reflects the past is probably Macquarie Street, which overlooks the Domain where Government House, the National Gallery and the Conservatorium of Music are situated.

Governor Macquarie planned fro the east side of the street to be occupied by official buildings and for the west to contain town houses of wealthy citizens, which are now mainly occupied by members of the medical profession.

Among other interesting buildings in Macquarie Street are Parliament House, a verandahed sandstone building which was known as the Rum Hospital;  the adjoining Mint Building of the same age;  the Richmond Villa in Gothic Style - now in Dent Street;  Sydney Hospital;  the Royal College of Physicians;  and the Hyde Park Barracks  (1819), now the Law Courts.  In nearby Queens Square is the classically designed St James's Church.

At the harbour end of Mrs Macquarie's Road is a natural reminder of the Macquarie era - a sandstone shell known as Mrs Macquarie's Chair.  The Governor's wife is said to have sat here and gazed out upon the great harbour, now one of the world's busiest and most picturesque waterways.

There are a number of other major buildings in or near to the city;  buildings like Elizabeth Bay House, in Regency style, now beautifully restored and show-place for the rich furnishings of the time when it looked out over a harbour verged by cliff and woodland. 

The General Post Office in Martin Place, completed in 1887  in classic Renaissance style;  the Great Hall of Sydney University , and  St Andrew's Cathedral, designed by William Wardell;  the Greek Revival courthouse in Taylor Square, designed by Mortimer Lewis;  Vaucluse House, former home of William Charles Wentworth, the father of the NSW Constitution.

But perhaps the most striking example of colonial architecture in Sydney is Victoria Barracks in Darlinghust.  This two-storey sandstone building of severe Georgian style, 74 metres long, with white-painted upper and lower verandas, is a model of elegance.

As settlement extended from the harbourside colony, villages were established, first in the upper Hawkesbury region to the north-west, then to the south and, finally, as the Blue Mountains were breached, out to the western plains and throughout New South Wales.

In the upper Hawkesbury valley are the sister towns of Windsor and Richmond, beautifully sited on the river and retaining the peaceful charm and many of their earlier days.

Windsor has a number of fine buildings:  Claremont Cottage, St Matthew's Anglican Church, the Macquarie Arms, Tebbutt's Observatory, Doctor's House, the Toll House, and the courthouse,  to name but a few.

At Richmond are the mansion Hobartville, Toxana House, St Peter's Anglican Church, the School of Arts and Belmont.

In the Southern Highlands, the settlements of Campbelltown, Camden, Moss Vale, Berrima and Bowralare full of historic interest.  Berrima is perhaps the best example of a colonial town, as the Berrima Village Trust has preserved it as it was in the nineteenth century.

Sited in a valley, it contains a number of fine sandstone buildings grouped around a  central common, among them the gaol and court-house, the Surveyor-General Inn, the Church of the Holy Trinity, Harper's Mansion and Allington.

There are many other historic towns and properties throughout New South Wales bearing the hall-marks of a nation's foundation, though Berrima is the best preserved.





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