There’s a case to be made for exploring cities. They are, after all, a hotbed of modern civilisation. What better place to make that case than Sydney, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The way we read our maps means Australia is generally considered to be off the beaten path. Appearing on the South East corner of the world, cut off from mainland continents by the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It’s a unique place, Australia. Central Australia is almost entirely a desert, and GMaps shows hardly any civilisation or roads traversing through this part of the country. It has a total population of about 24 million people, of which Sydney and Melbourne make up about 10 million. In fact, the top 10 cities make up about 70% of the countries entire population.

Flying over central Australia – miles and miles of uninhabited land area.

I’d heard about Australian cities being among the most liveable and beautiful in the world. I’d also heard about its pristine coastlines, diverse wildlife and quaint towns. It was time to explore the place for myself, and so I booked tickets to Sydney.

Sixteen hours and one halt later, I reached Sydney on a cool evening. It was 530 in the evening, the sun was still up, and there was a cool breeze blowing across the city. Over the next 4 days, I explored Sydney in and out, being blown away by its architecture, infrastructure, food and people.

I decided to put up at an AirBnB in downtown Sydney – Darling Harbour. Located on Sussex street, this apartment gave me convenient access to the Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge. Moreover, the Town Hall metro station was a 2 minute walk away, and gave me access to the entire city, quick and easy. I’d highly recommend living in this area if you’re visiting Sydney.

The next day, I was up early, and visited a glass front cafe located on the Kirribilli Wharf for breakfast (or Brekkie). Called Celsius Coffee Co, it was a truly great introduction to Sydney. The sea is always close, no matter where you are in this city.

Celsius was a prime example. My table had just a pane of glass separating it from the sea outside. It was the perfect setting for a hot coffee, and Billy’s eggs – Chilli buttered eggs, sautéed cherry tomatoes, house made onion jam, greek yoghurt and burnt butter on Sourdough. What a satisfying breakfast!

Hunger fulfilled, I headed back to Darling Harbour to grab a nap (still jet lagged). In the afternoon, I visited the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Differentiated from its surroundings by its Romanesque architecture, the QVB is a landmark in Sydney. Built in the 1890s, the QVB went through a major renovation in the 1980s, and continues to operate as a retail marketplace even today. The building is grand and occupies a strong presence in central Sydney. I walked around the entire block, soaking in the place – the pillars, arches, carvings that make up the building. I couldn’t help but notice how elegantly the place had been restored – it was modern, but still held onto its Victorian roots.

In the evening, I caught an Uber to get my first glance at the majestic Opera House. Right off the bat, let me tell you, I was expecting to be blown away by the Opera House. I’d seen it in photos and was in awe of its beauty. Even so, it went beyond my expectations. What you don’t see in the photos is the scale of the building, the way the light reflects off its ceramic tiles, the way the glass folds under them, and the way this building defines the city. I took a seat at the Opera Bar, grabbed a drink, and gorged at the expanse and beauty of what was in front of me! What a gorgeous structure.

Two days later, I returned to take a guided tour of the Opera House. I was only allowed to take photographs in certain places within the building, the main theatre being one. It’s a marvel in itself, that performance theatre. It boasts of a mechanical organ, the largest in the world, made up of over 10,000 pipes. I can only imagine the experience and skill that would be needed to tune that piece of equipment. Truly exquisite stuff, and a sight to behold. I would highly recommend you take the Opera House tour!

What also amazed me was how relevant this radical structure looked even today. It’s now over 50 years old, the Opera House. But its design doesn’t look edgy and dated. It’s still fresh, contemporary, even modern. That’s not an easy task to achieve 50 years after being constructed. The Opera House is old school in many ways, yet modern in others. It’s a journey through time, fusing generations together. Built on a site that was sacred to the Gadigal people for thousands of years, the Opera House is a symbol of twentieth century architecture. To quote US architect Frank Gehry, the Opera House’s sculptural elegance “changed the image of an entire country”.

To quote US architect Frank Gehry, the Opera House’s sculptural elegance “changed the image of an entire country”.

On my third day in Sydney, I booked the Sydney Bridge Climb. A climb that would take me to the top of the 440ft high Harbour Bridge Summit. It turned out to be one of the most fun experiences on the entire trip. We’d opted for the night climb. The climb started at about 6pm and lasted 3 and a half hours. Those hours aren’t all about the climb though. There’s some prep work to be done. Get into the jumper suits, get the harness on, get your safety gear in place – all of this takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

After which you step out on to the harbour bridge. Over the next hour and a half you make your way to the top, and see Sydney in all its glory. I doubt there’s another place that’ll give you quite as good a view of the Opera House and Circular Quay. It was breath taking. I would do it again, without skipping a beat.

Australia as a whole, and Sydney in particular, is also a food hub. There’s a wide variety of cuisines on offer, and the quality of food is exquisite. I particularly enjoyed my meals at Vapiano and Celsius. I also had the best pizza I’ve ever had at Hugos – located on Manly Beach – a 20 minute ferry ride away from Circular Quay and Central Sydney.

On my last day in Sydney, I explored the Taronga Zoo. Turned out to be another great experience. The Zoo has separate enclosures for birds and sea life, and then individual enclosures for other animals. Each of the enclosures has been designed to reflect the natural habitat of the animals it holds. A highlight was the seal show – held a couple of times each day – and where a group of trained seals display their acrobatic skills to raise awareness about ocean conservation. If you’ve ever seen a seal up close in its habitat, you’ll know how elegant the creatures look while swimming through water. I was certainly blown away by the subtlety of their movement – there’s something so calm and rejuvenating about it.

The 4 days I spent in Sydney turned out to be a wonderful experience. Which brings me to my point. There is a case to be made for exploring cities. They’re the basis for modern civilisation. A grand coming together of tar and concrete, and steel. But also an amalgamation of its people’s sweat and tears, gratitude and happiness. A city is a living, breathing thing with a character shaped by you and me. A city is its people, as much as it is its roads and buildings, and monuments, and parks. We make the city. We are the city!

In that sense, Sydney must be one of our greatest creations! It truly is a city of a lifetime.