Sydney (/ˈsɪdni/ (About this sound listen))[7] is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania.[8] Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds the world's largest natural harbour and sprawls about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north and Macarthur to the south.[9] Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders".[10] As of June 2016 Sydney's estimated population was 5,029,768.[11]

The Sydney area has been inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 30,000 years.[12] Lieutenant James Cook first landed at Kurnell in 1770, when navigating his way up the east coast of Australia on his ship, HMS Endeavour. It was not until 1788 when the First Fleet, which contained convicts and was led by Captain Arthur Phillip, arrived in Botany Bay to found Sydney as a penal colony, the first European settlement in Australia.[13] Phillip named the city "Sydney" in recognition of Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, Home Secretary in 1788.[14] There are examples of rock art and engravings located in the protected Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, as well as the Royal National Park.[15]

Since convict transportation ended in the mid-19th century, the city has transformed from a colonial outpost into a major global cultural and economic centre. The municipal council of Sydney was incorporated in 1842 and became Australia's first city.[16] Gold was discovered in the colony in 1851 and with it came thousands of people seeking to make money.[17][16] Sydney became one of the most multicultural cities in the world after the mass migration following the second World War.[3] According to the 2011 census, more than 250 different languages were spoken in Sydney and about 40 percent of residents spoke a language other than English at home.[18] Furthermore, 36 percent of the population reported having been born overseas.[19][20]

Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world,[21] the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranks Sydney tenth in the world in terms of quality of living,[22] making it one of the most livable cities.[23] It is classified as an Alpha World City by Globalization and World Cities Research Network, indicating its influence in the region and throughout the world.[24][25] Ranked eleventh in the world for economic opportunity,[26] Sydney has an advanced market economy with strengths in finance, manufacturing and tourism.[27][28] There is a significant concentration of foreign banks and multinational corporations in Sydney and the city is promoted as one of Asia Pacific's leading financial hubs.[29][30] Established in 1850, the University of Sydney is Australia's first university and is regarded as one of the world's leading universities.[31]

In addition to hosting events such as the 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney is amongst the top fifteen most-visited cities in the world,[32] with millions of tourists coming each year to see the city's landmarks.[33] Its natural features include Sydney Harbour, the Royal National Park, and the Royal Botanic Garden. Man-made attractions such as Sydney Tower, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Opera House (which became a World Heritage Site in 2007[34]), are also well known to international visitors. The main passenger airport serving the metropolitan area is Kingsford-Smith Airport, one of the world's oldest continually operating airports.[35] Opened in 1906, Central station is the main hub of the city's rail network.[36]


First inhabitants

The first people to inhabit the area now known as Sydney were indigenous Australians having migrated from northern Australia and before that from southeast Asia. Radiocarbon dating suggests human activity first started to occur in the Sydney area from around 30,735 years ago.[12] However, numerous Aboriginal stone tools were found in Western Sydney's gravel sediments that were dated from 45,000 to 50,000 years BP, which would indicate that there was human settlement in Sydney earlier than thought.[37]

The first meeting between the native people and the British occurred on 29 April 1770 when Lieutenant James Cook landed at Botany Bay on the Kurnell Peninsula and encountered the Gweagal clan.[38][39][40] He noted in his journal that they were confused and somewhat hostile towards the foreign visitors.[38] Cook was on a mission of exploration and was not commissioned to start a settlement. He spent a short time collecting food and conducting scientific observations before continuing further north along the east coast of Australia and claiming the new land he had discovered for Britain. Prior to the arrival of the British there were 4,000 to 8,000 native people in Sydney from as many as 29 different clans.[41]

The earliest British settlers called the natives Eora people. "Eora" is the term the indigenous population used to explain their origins upon first contact with the British. Its literal meaning is "from this place".[42] Sydney Cove from Port Jackson to Petersham was inhabited by the Cadigal clan.[41] The principal language groups were Darug, Guringai, and Dharawal. The earliest Europeans to visit the area noted that the indigenous people were conducting activities such as camping and fishing, using trees for bark and food, collecting shells, and cooking fish.[38]

Establishment of the colony

Convict artist Thomas Watling's A Northward View of Sydney Cove, 1794

Britain—before that, England—and Ireland had for a long time been sending their convicts across the Atlantic to the American colonies. That trade was ended with the Declaration of Independence by the United States in 1776. Britain decided in 1786 to found a new penal outpost in the territory discovered by Cook some 16 years earlier.[14]

Captain Philip led the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 850 convicts into Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, though deemed the location unsuitable due to poor soil and a lack of fresh water. He travelled a short way further north and arrived at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788.[17][43] This was to be the location for the new colony. Phillip described Sydney Cove as being "without exception the finest harbour in the world". The colony was at first to be titled "New Albion", after Albion in Great Britain, but Phillip decided on "Sydney".[44] The official proclamation and naming of the colony happened on 7 February 1788. Lieutenant William Dawes produced a town plan in 1790 but it was ignored by the colony's leaders. Sydney's layout today reflects this lack of planning.[45]

Between 1788 and 1792 about 4,300 convicts were landed at Sydney. The colony was not founded on the principles of freedom and prosperity. Maps from this time show no prison buildings; the punishment for convicts was transportation rather than incarceration, but serious offences were penalised by flogging and hanging.[46][47]

Officers and convicts alike faced starvation as supplies ran low and little could be cultivated from the land.[48] The region's indigenous population was also suffering. It is estimated that half of the native people in Sydney died during the smallpox epidemic of 1789.[41][49] Some mounted violent resistance when the British established farms along the Hawkesbury River west of Sydney. The local Darug people, led by Pemulwuy, raided farms until Governor Lachlan Macquarie dispatched troops from the British Army 46th Regiment in 1816. These troops patrolled the Hawkesbury Valley and ended the conflict by killing 14 Indigenous Australians in a raid on their campsite.[50]

Macquarie did make the most of less than ideal circumstances. His first task was to restore order after the Rum Rebellion of 1808 against the previous Governor. Conditions in the colony were not conducive to the development of a thriving new metropolis, but the more regular arrival of ships and the beginnings of maritime trade (such as wool) helped to lessen the burden of isolation.[46][51]

Macquarie undertook an extensive building programme of some 265 separate works.[52] Roads, bridges, wharves, and public buildings were constructed using convict labour and by 1822 the town had banks, markets, and well-established thoroughfares. Part of Macquarie's effort to transform the colony was his authorisation for convicts to re-enter society as free citizens.[52]

Modern development

Aerial illustration of Sydney, 1888
Sydney Harbour in 1932

The year 1840 was the final year of convict transportation to Sydney, which by this time had a population of 35,000.[17][46] Gold was discovered in the colony in 1851 and with it came thousands of people seeking to make money.[17][16] Sydney's population reached 200,000 by 1871.[53] Following the depression of the 1890s, the six colonies agreed to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Under the reign of Queen Victoria federation of the six colonies occurred on 1 January 1901. Sydney, with a population of 481,000, then became the state capital of New South Wales.[47]

The Great Depression of the 1930s had a severe effect on Sydney's economy, as it did with most cities throughout the industrial world. For much of the 1930s up to one in three breadwinners was unemployed.[54] Construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge served to alleviate some of the effects of the economic downturn by employing 1,400 men between 1924 and 1932.[55] The population continued to boom despite the Depression, having reached 1 million in 1925.[53]

When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, Australia too entered. During the war Sydney experienced a surge in industrial development to meet the needs of a wartime economy. Far from mass unemployment, there were now labour shortages and women becoming active in male roles. Sydney's harbour was attacked by the Japanese in May and June 1942 with a direct attack from Japanese submarines with some loss of life.[56] Households throughout the city had built air raid shelters and performed drills.

Following the end of the war the city continued to expand. There were 1.7 million people living in Sydney at 1950 and almost 3 million by 1975. The people of Sydney warmly welcomed Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 when the reigning monarch stepped onto Australian soil for the first time to commence her Australian Royal Tour.[57] Having arrived on the Royal Yacht Britannia through Sydney Heads, Her Majesty came ashore at Farm Cove. Sydney's iconic Opera House was opened in 1973 by Her Majesty.

A strong rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne that began in the 1850s still exists to this day.[58][59][60] Sydney exceeded Melbourne's population in the early twentieth century and remains Australia's largest city.[8][61] The 2000 Summer Olympics were held in Sydney and became known as the "best Olympic Games ever" by the President of the International Olympic Committee.[62]



Sydney lies on a submergent coastline where the ocean level has risen to flood deep rias.

Sydney is a coastal basin with the Tasman Sea to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north, and the Woronora Plateau to the south. The inner city measures 25 square kilometres (10 square miles), the Greater Sydney region covers 12,367 square kilometres (4,775 square miles), and the city's urban area is 1,687 square kilometres (651 square miles) in size.[63][64][65]

Sydney spans two geographic regions. The Cumberland Plain lies to the south and west of the Harbour and is relatively flat. The Hornsby Plateau is located to the north and is dissected by steep valleys. The flat areas of the south were the first to be developed as the city grew. It was not until the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that the northern reaches of the coast became more heavily populated. Seventy beaches can be found along its coastline with Bondi Beach being one of the most famous.

The Nepean River wraps around the western edge of the city and becomes the Hawkesbury River before reaching Broken Bay. Most of Sydney's water storages can be found on tributaries of the Nepean River. The Parramatta River is mostly industrial and drains a large area of Sydney's western suburbs into Port Jackson. The southern parts of the city are drained by the Georges River and the Cooks River into Botany Bay.

Almost all of the exposed rocks around Sydney are sandstone.


Sydney is made up of mostly Triassic rock with some recent igneous dykes and volcanic necks. The Sydney Basin was formed when the Earth's crust expanded, subsided, and filled with sediment in the early Triassic period.[66] The sand that was to become the sandstone of today was washed from Broken Hill and laid down about 200 million years ago. The sandstone has shale lenses and fossil riverbeds.[66]

The Sydney Basin bioregion includes coastal features of cliffs, beaches, and estuaries. Deep river valleys known as rias were carved during the Triassic period in the Hawkesbury sandstone of the coastal region where Sydney now lies. The rising sea level between 18,000 and 6,000 years ago flooded the rias to form estuaries and deep harbours.[66] Port Jackson, better known as Sydney Harbour, is one such ria.[67]


A dry sclerophyll bushland in Sydney with eucalyptus trees (Royal National Park, Sutherland Shire)

The most prevalent plant communities in the Sydney region are Dry Sclerophyll Forests which consist of eucalyptus trees and a few casuarinas, sclerophyll shrubs (typically wattles and banksias) and a semi-continuous grass in the understory, mainly in an open woodland setting. These plants tend to have rough and spiky leaves, as they're grown in areas with low soil fertility.[68] Wet sclerophyll forests are found in the damp, elevated areas of Sydney, such as in the northeast. They are defined by straight, tall tree canopies with an elaborate, moist understorey of soft-leaved shrubs, tree ferns and herbs.[69]

Sydney is home to dozens of bird species,[70] which commonly include the Australian raven, Australian magpie, crested pigeon, noisy miner and the pied currawong, among others. Introduced bird species ubiquitously found in Sydney are the common myna, common starling, house sparrow and the spotted dove.[71] Reptile species are also numerous and predominantly include skinks.[72][73] Sydney has a few mammal and spider species, such as the grey-headed flying fox and the Sydney funnel-web, respectively.[74][75]


Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 2009 Australian dust storm

Under the Köppen–Geiger classification, Sydney has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa)[76] with warm summers, cool winters and uniform rainfall throughout the year.[77] At Sydney's primary weather station at Observatory Hill, extreme temperatures have ranged from 45.8 °C (114.4 °F) on 18 January 2013 to 2.1 °C (35.8 °F) on 22 June 1932.[78][79][80] An average of 14.9 days a year have temperatures at or above 30 °C (86 °F) in the CBD.[81] In contrast, the metropolitan area averages between 35 and 65 days, depending on the suburb.[82] The highest minimum temperature recorded at Observatory Hill is 27.6 °C (82 °F), in February 2011 while the lowest maximum temperature is 7.7 °C (46 °F), recorded in July 1868.[81]

The weather is moderated by proximity to the ocean, and more extreme temperatures are recorded in the inland western suburbs.[81] Sydney experiences an urban heat island effect.[83] This makes certain parts of the city more vulnerable to extreme heat, including coastal suburbs.[83][84] In late spring and summer, temperatures over 35 °C (95 °F) are not uncommon,[85] though hot, dry conditions are usually ended by a southerly buster.[86] This powerful storm brings gale winds and rapid fall in temperature, followed by brief heavy rain and thunder.[87] The far-western suburbs, which border the Blue Mountains, experience a Föhn-like wind in the warm months that originates from the Central Tablelands.[88][89] Due to the inland location, frost is recorded in Western Sydney a few times in winter. Autumn and spring are the transitional seasons, with spring showing a larger temperature variation than autumn.[90]

Lightning as seen from the Sydney Harbour, with the Sydney CBD skyline in the distance.

The rainfall has a moderate to low variability and it is spread through the months, but is slightly higher during the first half of the year.[81][91] From 1990–1999, Sydney received around 20 thunderstorms per year.[92] In late autumn and winter, east coast lows may bring large amounts of rainfall, especially in the CBD.[93] Depending on the wind direction, summer weather may be humid or dry, with the late summer/autumn period having a higher average humidity and dewpoints than late spring/early summer. In summer, most rain falls from thunderstorms and in winter from cold fronts.[94] Snowfall was last reported in the Sydney City area in 1836, while a fall of graupel, or soft hail, mistaken by many for snow, in July 2008, has raised the possibility that the 1836 event was not snow, either.[95]

The city is rarely affected by cyclones, although remnants of ex-cyclones do affect the city. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation plays an important role in determining Sydney's weather patterns: drought and bushfire on the one hand, and storms and flooding on the other, associated with the opposite phases of the oscillation. Many areas of the city bordering bushland have experienced bushfires, these tend to occur during the spring and summer. The city is also prone to severe storms. One such storm was the 1999 hailstorm, which produced massive hailstones up to 9 cm (3.5 in) in diameter.[96]

The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that 2002 through 2005 were the warmest summers in Sydney since records began in 1859.[97] The summer of 2007–08, however, proved to be the coolest since 1996–97 and is the only summer this century to be at or below average in temperatures.[98] In 2009, dry conditions brought a severe dust storm towards eastern Australia.[99][100]

The average annual temperature of the sea ranges from 18.5 °C (65.3 °F) in September to 23.7 °C (74.7 °F) in February.[101]

Climate data for Sydney (Observatory Hill)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 45.8
Average high °C (°F) 26.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 23.0
Average low °C (°F) 19.6
Record low °C (°F) 10.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 96.0
Average rainy days 12.3 12.9 13.3 11.1 12.2 10.5 10.2 8.4 8.8 11.1 12.7 11.2 134.7
Average afternoon relative humidity (%) 61 62 60 59 58 56 52 48 50 53 57 58 56.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 235.6 202.4 213.9 207.0 195.3 177.0 204.6 244.9 237.0 244.9 228.0 244.9 2,635.5
Percent possible sunshine 53 54 56 61 59 60 65 72 66 61 55 55 59.8
Source #1: Bureau of Meteorology[102] (1981-2010 averages, records 1861-)
Source #2: Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney Airport (sunshine hours)[103]


View of Sydney from Sydney Tower
Sydney CBD panorama from Taronga Zoo, Mosman
View of Sydney from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The regions of Sydney include: the CBD or the City of Sydney (which itself contains 33 suburbs),[107] Canterbury-Bankstown, the Eastern Suburbs, the Forest District, Greater Western Sydney, the Hills District, the Inner West, Macarthur, the Northern Beaches, the Northern Suburbs, the North Shore, Southern Sydney, St George, and the Sutherland Shire. The largest commercial centres outside of the CBD are North Sydney and Chatswood in the north, Parramatta to the west, Liverpool and Bankstown in the south-west, Hurstville in the south, and Bondi Junction to the east.[108] There has been accelerating commercial development in Parramatta since the 1950s as firms serving Western Sydney have set up regional offices and recognised the region's significant residential population mass and cheaper rents.[109]

Inner suburbs

Anzac Bridge, spanning Johnstons Bay, links western suburbs to the CBD.

The CBD itself extends about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) south from Sydney Cove. It is bordered by Farm Cove within the Royal Botanic Garden to the east and Darling Harbour to the west. Suburbs surrounding the CBD include Woolloomooloo and Potts Point to the east, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to the south, Pyrmont and Ultimo to the west, and Millers Point and The Rocks to the north. Most of these suburbs measure less than 1 square kilometre (0.4 square miles) in area. The Sydney central business district is characterised by considerably narrow streets and thoroughfares, created in its convict beginnings in the 18th century.[110]

Several localities, distinct from suburbs, exist throughout Sydney's inner reaches. Central and Circular Quay are transport hubs with ferry, rail, and bus interchanges. Chinatown, Darling Harbour, and Kings Cross are important locations for culture, tourism, and recreation. The Strand Arcade, which is located between Pitt Street Mall and George Street, is a historical Victorian-style shopping arcade. Opened on 1 April 1892, its shop fronts are an exact replica of the original internal shopping facades.[111]

There is a long trend of gentrification amongst Sydney's inner suburbs. Pyrmont located on the harbour was redeveloped from a centre of shipping and international trade to an area of high density housing, tourist accommodation, and gambling.[112] Originally located well outside of the city, Darlinghurst is the location of a former gaol, manufacturing, and mixed housing. It had a period when it was known as an area of prostitution. The terrace style housing has largely been retained and Darlinghurst has undergone significant gentrification since the 1980s.[113][114][115]

Green Square is a former industrial area of Waterloo which is undergoing urban renewal worth $8 billion. On the city harbour edge the historic suburb and wharves of Millers Point are being built up as the new area of Barangaroo. The Millers Point/Barangaroo development has significant controversy regardless of the $6 billion worth of economic activity it is generating.[116][117] The suburb of Paddington is a well known suburb for its streets of restored terrace houses, Victoria Barracks, and shopping including the weekly Oxford Street markets.[118]

The inner western suburbs include Balmain, which was once a working class industrial and mining town but has undergone extensive gentrification,[119] and Ashfield, which has urban density relatively high for Australia. The main shopping strip of the inner-west suburb Newtown, which is centred in King Street, is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia.[120]

Eastern suburbs

Vaucluse in the eastern suburbs is amongst Australia's most affluent addresses. Neighbouring suburb Point Piper contains Wolseley Road, the ninth most expensive street in the world.[121] Coogee and Bondi, both known for tourism and recreation, are also found in the Eastern Suburbs.[122] Bondi Junction, Sydney's fifth largest business district behind the CBD itself, North Sydney, Parramatta and Chatswood, is a largely commercial area which has undergone many changes since the late 20th century.

Southern Sydney

Kurnell Sand Dunes with the Sydney skyline in background.

Southern Sydney includes the suburbs in the local government areas of former Rockdale, Georges River Council (collectively known as the St George area), and broadly it also includes the suburbs in the local government area of Sutherland, south of the Georges River (colloquially known as 'The Shire').

The Kurnell peninsula, near Botany Bay, is the site of the first landfall on the eastern coastline made by Lt. (later Captain) James Cook in 1770. La Perouse, a historic suburb named after the French navigator Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (1741–88), is notable for its old military outpost at Bare Island and the Botany Bay National Park.

The suburb of Cronulla in southern Sydney is close to Royal National Park, Australia's oldest national park. Hurstville, a large suburb with a multitude of commercial buildings and high-rise residential buildings dominating the skyline, has become a central business district for the southern suburbs.[123]

Northern suburbs

North Sydney commercial district.

Because 'Northern Suburbs' is not a clearly defined region, 'Northern Suburbs' may also include the suburbs in the Upper North Shore, Lower North Shore and the Northern Beaches.

The Northern Suburbs include several landmarks – Macquarie University, Gladesville Bridge, Ryde Bridge, Macquarie Centre and Curzon Hall in Marsfield. This area includes suburbs in the local government areas of Hornsby Shire, City of Ryde, the Municipality of Hunter's Hill and parts of the City of Parramatta.

The North Shore, an informal geographic term referring to the northern metropolitan area of Sydney, consists of Artarmon, Chatswood, Roseville, Lindfield, Killara, Gordon, Pymble, Hornsby and many others. The North Shore, an upper middle class area, has one of the highest property prices in Sydney with the recent property price inflation sending the average property prices in suburbs such as Roseville,[124] Lindfield, Killara[125] and Gordon over 2 million dollars.

The North Shore includes the commercial centres of North Sydney and Chatswood. North Sydney itself consists of a large commercial centre, with its own business centre, which contains the second largest concentration of high-rise buildings in Sydney, after the CBD. North Sydney is dominated by advertising, marketing businesses and associated trades, with many large corporations holding office in the region.

Sydney Heads, a series of headlands which form the 2 km (1.2 mi) wide entrance to Sydney Harbour.

The Lower North Shore usually refers to the suburbs adjacent to the harbour such as Neutral Bay, Waverton, Mosman, Cremorne, Cremorne Point, Lavender Bay, Milsons Point, Cammeray, Northbridge, and North Sydney. The Lower North Shore's eastern boundary is Middle Harbour, or at the Roseville Bridge at Castle Cove and Roseville Chase. The Upper North Shore usually refers to the suburbs between Chatswood and Hornsby. It is made up of suburbs located within Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Shire councils.

The Northern Beaches area includes Manly one of Sydney's most popular holiday destinations for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Northern Beaches area extends south to the entrance of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), west to Middle Harbour and north to the entrance of Broken Bay. The 2011 Australian census found the Northern Beaches to be the most white and mono-ethnic district in Australia, contrasting with its more-diverse neighbours, the North Shore and the Central Coast.[126]

Hills district

The Hills district generally refers to the suburbs in north-western Sydney including the local government areas of The Hills Shire, parts of the City of Parramatta Council and Hornsby Shire. Suburbs include Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill and Kellyville.

Western suburbs

An aerial view of western Sydney: Smithfield (bottom) to Liverpool (top-right).

The greater western suburbs encompasses the areas of Parramatta, the sixth largest business district in Australia and one the oldest suburbs in Sydney,[127] Bankstown, Liverpool, Penrith, and Fairfield. Covering 5,800 square kilometres (2,200 sq mi) and having an estimated resident population as at 30 June 2008 of 1,665,673, western Sydney has the most multicultural suburbs in the country. The population is predominantly of a working class background, with major employment in the heavy industries and vocational trade.[128]

The western suburb of Prospect, in the City of Blacktown, is home to Wet'n'Wild, a water park operated by Village Roadshow Theme Parks.[129] Auburn Botanic Gardens, a botanical garden situated in Auburn, attracts thousands of visitors each year, including a significant number from outside Australia.[130] The greater west also includes Sydney Olympic Park, a suburb created to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, and Sydney Motorsport Park, a motorsport circuit located in Eastern Creek.[131]

To the northwest, Featherdale Wildlife Park, an Australian zoo in Doonside, near Blacktown, is a major tourist attraction, not just for Western Sydney, but for NSW and Australia.[132] Westfield Parramatta in Parramatta is Australia's busiest Westfield shopping centre, having 28.7 million customer visits per annum.[133]

Further to the southwest is the region of Macarthur and the city of Campbelltown, a significant population centre until the 1990s considered a region separate to Sydney proper. Macarthur Square, a shopping complex in Campbelltown, become one of the largest shopping complexes in Sydney.[134] The southwest also features Bankstown Reservoir, the oldest elevated reservoir constructed in reinforced concrete that is still in use and is listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register as a site of State significance.[135]

Urban structure


Queen Victoria Building, a late 19th century shopping centre in the central business district, was designed in Romanesque Revival fashion.

The earliest structures in the colony were built to the bare minimum of standards. Upon his appointment, Governor Lachlan Macquarie set ambitious targets for the architectural design of new construction projects. The city now has a world heritage listed building, several national heritage listed buildings, and dozens of Commonwealth heritage listed buildings as evidence of the survival of Macquarie's ideals.[136][137][138]

In 1814 the Governor called on a convict named Francis Greenway to design Macquarie Lighthouse.[139] The lighthouse and its Classical design earned Greenway a pardon from Macquarie in 1818 and introduced a culture of refined architecture that remains to this day.[140] Greenway went on to design the Hyde Park Barracks in 1819 and the Georgian style St James's Church in 1824.[141][142] Gothic-inspired architecture became more popular from the 1830s. John Verge's Elizabeth Bay House and St Philip's Church of 1856 were built in Gothic Revival style along with Edward Blore's Government House of 1845.[143][144] Kirribilli House, completed in 1858, and St Andrew's Cathedral, Australia's oldest cathedral,[145] are rare examples of Victorian Gothic construction.[143][146]

Many of Sydney's oldest buildings were built with materials sourced from Hawkesbury sandstone.

From the late 1850s there was a shift towards Classical architecture. Mortimer Lewis designed the Australian Museum in 1857.[147] The General Post Office, completed in 1891 in Victorian Free Classical style, was designed by James Barnet.[148] Barnet also oversaw the 1883 reconstruction of Greenway's Macquarie Lighthouse.[139][140] Customs House was built in 1844 to the specifications of Lewis, with additions from Barnet in 1887 and W L Vernon in 1899.[149] The neo-Classical and French Second Empire style Town Hall was completed in 1889.[150][151] Romanesque designs gained favour amongst Sydney's architects from the early 1890s. Sydney Technical College was completed in 1893 using both Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne approaches.[152] The Queen Victoria Building was designed in Romanesque Revival fashion by George McRae and completed in 1898.[153] It was built on the site of the Sydney Central Markets and accommodates 200 shops across its three storeys.[154]

The Great Depression had a tangible influence on Sydney's architecture. New structures became more restrained with far less ornamentation than was common before the 1930s. The most notable architectural feat of this period is the Harbour Bridge. Its steel arch was designed by John Jacob Crew Bradfield and completed in 1932. A total of 39,000 tonnes of structural steel span the 503 metres (1,650 feet) between Milsons Point and Dawes Point.[55][155]

The atrium of 1 Bligh Street, an example of Sydney's contemporary architecture

Modern and International architecture came to Sydney from the 1940s. Since its completion in 1973 the city's Opera House has become a World Heritage Site and one of the world's most renowned pieces of Modern design. It was conceived by Jørn Utzon with contributions from Peter Hall, Lionel Todd, and David Littlemore. Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2003 for his work on the Opera House.[156] Sydney is home to Australia's first building by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (2015), based on the design of a tree house. An entrance from The Goods Line–a pedestrian pathway and former railway line–is located on the eastern border of the site.

Sydney's first tower was Culwulla Chambers on the corner of King Street and Castlereagh Street which topped out at 50 metres (160 feet). With the lifting of height restrictions in the 1960s there came a surge of high-rise construction.[157] Acclaimed architects such as Jean Nouvel, Harry Seidler, Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, and Frank Gehry have each made their own contribution to the city's skyline.

Important buildings in the CBD include Citigroup Centre,[158] Aurora Place,[159] Chifley Tower,[160][161] the Reserve Bank building,[162] Deutsche Bank Place,[163] MLC Centre,[164] and Capita Centre.[165] The tallest structure is Sydney Tower, designed by Donald Crone and completed in 1981.[166] Regulations limit new buildings to a height of 235 metres (771 feet) due to the proximity of Sydney Airport, although strict restrictions employed in the early 2000s have slowly been relaxed in the past ten years.


Sydney real estate prices are some of the most expensive in the world, surpassing both New York City and Paris.[167][168] There were 1.5 million dwellings in Sydney in 2006 including 940,000 detached houses and 180,000 semi-detached terrace houses.[169] Units or apartments make up 25.8% of Sydney's dwellings, more than the 12.8% which are semi-detached but less than the 60.9% which are separate houses.[170] Whilst terrace houses are common in the inner city areas, it is detached houses that dominate the landscape in the outer suburbs.

About 80% of all dwellings in Western Sydney are separate houses.[169] Due to environmental and economic pressures there has been a noted trend towards denser housing. There was a 30% increase in the number of apartments in Sydney between 1996 and 2006.[169] Public housing in Sydney is managed by the Government of New South Wales.[171] Suburbs with large concentrations of public housing include Claymore, Macquarie Fields, Waterloo, and Mount Druitt. The Government has announced plans to sell nearly 300 historic public housing properties in the harbourside neighbourhoods of Millers Point, Gloucester Street, and The Rocks.[172]

Sydney is one of the most expensive real estate markets globally. It is only second to Hong Kong with the average property costing 14 times the annual Sydney salary as of December 2016.[173] A range of heritage housing styles can be found throughout Sydney. Terrace houses are found in the inner suburbs such as Paddington, The Rocks, Potts Point and Balmain–many of which have been the subject of gentrification.[174][175] These terraces, particularly those in suburbs such as The Rocks, were historically home to Sydney's miners and labourers. In the present day, terrace houses now make up some of the most valuable real estate in the city.[176]

Federation homes, constructed around the time of Federation in 1901, are located in Penshurst, Turramurra, and in Haberfield. Haberfield is known as "The Federation Suburb" due to the extensive number of Federation homes. Workers cottages are found in Surry Hills, Redfern, and Balmain. California bungalows are common in Ashfield, Concord, and Beecroft. Modern, 'McMansion'-type of homes are predominantly found in the outer suburbs, such as in, Stanhope Gardens, Kellyville Ridge and Bella Vista to the northwest, Bossley Park. Abbotsbury and Cecil Hills to the greater west, and Hoxton Park, Harrington Park and Oran Park to the southwest.[177]

Parks and open spaces

The Royal Botanic Garden is the most important green space in the Sydney region, hosting both scientific and leisure activities.[178] There are 15 separate parks under the administration of the City of Sydney.[179] Parks within the city centre include Hyde Park, The Domain and Prince Alfred Park.

The outer suburbs include Centennial Park and Moore Park in the east, Sydney Park and Royal National Park in the south, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the north, and Western Sydney Parklands in the west, which is one of the largest urban parks in the world. The Royal National Park was proclaimed on 26 April 1879 and with 13,200 hectares (51 square miles) is the second oldest national park in the world.[180] The largest park in the Sydney metropolitan area is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, established in 1894 with an area of 15,400 hectares (59 square miles).[181] It is regarded for its well-preserved records of indigenous habitation and more than 800 rock engravings, cave drawings and middens have been located in the park.[182]

The area now known as The Domain was set aside by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1788 as his private reserve.[183] Under the orders of Macquarie the land to the immediate north of The Domain became the Royal Botanic Garden in 1816. This makes them the oldest botanic garden in Australia.[183] The Gardens are not just a place for exploration and relaxation, but also for scientific research with herbarium collections, a library and laboratories.[184] The two parks have a total area of 64 hectares (0.2 square miles) with 8,900 individual plant species and receive over 3.5 million annual visits.[185]

To the south of The Domain is Hyde Park. It is the oldest public parkland in Australia and measures 16.2 hectares (0.1 square miles) in area.[186] Its location was used for both relaxation and the grazing of animals from the earliest days of the colony.[187] Macquarie dedicated it in 1810 for the "recreation and amusement of the inhabitants of the town" and named it in honour of the original Hyde Park in London.


About 3 km (1.9 mi) long, George Street is Sydney's busiest street.

Researchers from Loughborough University have ranked Sydney amongst the top ten world cities that are highly integrated into the global economy.[188] The Global Economic Power Index ranks Sydney number eleven in the world.[189] The Global Cities Index recognises it as number fourteen in the world based on global engagement.[190]

The prevailing economic theory in effect during early colonial days was mercantilism, as it was throughout most of Western Europe.[191] The economy struggled at first due to difficulties in cultivating the land and the lack of a stable monetary system. Governor Lachlan Macquarie solved the second problem by creating two coins from every Spanish silver dollar in circulation.[191] The economy was clearly capitalist in nature by the 1840s as the proportion of free settlers increased, the maritime and wool industries flourished, and the powers of the East India Company were curtailed.[191]

Central business district of Sydney at night from Sydney Tower

Wheat, gold, and other minerals became additional export industries towards the end of the 1800s.[191] Significant capital began to flow into the city from the 1870s to finance roads, railways, bridges, docks, courthouses, schools and hospitals. Protectionist policies after federation allowed for the creation of a manufacturing industry which became the city's largest employer by the 1920s.[191] These same policies helped to relieve the effects of the Great Depression during which the unemployment rate in New South Wales reached as high as 32%.[191] From the 1960s onwards Parramatta gained recognition as the city's second central business district and finance and tourism became major industries and sources of employment.[191]

Sydney's nominal gross domestic product was AU$400.9 billion and AU$80,000 per capita[192] in 2015.[193][30] Its gross domestic product was AU$337 billion in 2013, the largest in Australia.[193] The Financial and Insurance Services industry accounts for 18.1% of gross product and is ahead of Professional Services with 9% and Manufacturing with 7.2%. In addition to Financial Services and Tourism, the Creative and Technology sectors are focus industries for the City of Sydney and represented 9% and 11% of its economic output in 2012.[194][195]

Corporate citizens

There were 451,000 businesses based in Sydney in 2011, including 48% of the top 500 companies in Australia and two-thirds of the regional headquarters of multinational corporations.[196] Global companies are attracted to the city in part because its time zone spans the closing of business in North America and the opening of business in Europe. Most foreign companies in Sydney maintain significant sales and service functions but comparably less production, research, and development capabilities.[197] There are 283 multinational companies with regional offices in Sydney.[198]

Domestic economics

Pitt Street, a major street in Sydney CBD, runs from Circular Quay in the north to Waterloo in the south.[199]

Sydney has been ranked between the fifteenth and the fifth most expensive city in the world and is the most expensive city in Australia.[200] To compensate, workers receive the seventh highest wage levels of any city in the world.[200] Sydney's residents possess the highest purchasing power of any city after Zürich.[200] Working residents of Sydney work an average of 1,846 hours per annum with 15 days of leave.[200]

The labour force of Greater Sydney Region in 2016 was 2,272,722 with a participation rate of 61.6%.[201] It was made up of 61.2% full-time workers, 30.9% part-time workers, and 6.0% unemployed individuals.[170][202] The largest reported occupations are professionals, clerical and administrative workers, managers, technicians and trades workers, and community and personal service workers.[170] The largest industries by employment across Greater Sydney are Health Care and Social Assistance with 11.6%, Professional Services with 9.8%, Retail Trade with 9.3%, Construction with 8.2%, Education and Training with 8.0%, Accommodation and Food Services 6.7%, and Financial and Insurance Services with 6.6%.[3] The Professional Services and Financial and Insurance Services industries account for 25.4% of employment within the City of Sydney.[203]

In 2016, 57.6% of working age residents had a total weekly income of less than $1,000 and 14.4% had a total weekly income of $1,750 or more.[204]The median weekly income for the same period was $719 for individuals, $1,988 for families, and $1,750 for household.[205]

Unemployment in the City of Sydney averaged 4.6% for the decade to 2013, much lower than the current rate of unemployment in Western Sydney of 7.3%.[30][206] Western Sydney continues to struggle to create jobs to meet its population growth despite the development of commercial centres like Parramatta. Each day about 200,000 commuters travel from Western Sydney to the central business district and suburbs in the east and north of the city.[206]

Home ownership in Sydney was less common than renting prior to the Second World War but this trend has since reversed.[169] Median house prices have increased by an average of 8.6% per annum since 1970.[207][208] The median house price in Sydney in March 2014 was $630,000.[209] The primary cause for rising prices is the increasing cost of land which made up 32% of house prices in 1977 compared to 60% in 2002.[169] 31.6% of dwellings in Sydney are rented, 30.4% are owned outright and 34.8% are owned with a mortgage.[170] 11.8% of mortgagees in 2011 had monthly loan repayments of less than $1,000 and 82.9% had monthly repayments of $1,000 or more.[3] 44.9% of renters for the same period had weekly rent of less than $350 whilst 51.7% had weekly rent of $350 or more. The median weekly rent in Sydney is $450.[3]

Financial services

Macquarie gave a charter in 1817 to form the first bank in Australia, the Bank of New South Wales.[210] New private banks opened throughout the 1800s but the financial system was unstable. Bank collapses were a frequent occurrence and a crisis point was reached in 1893 when 12 banks failed.[210]

The Bank of New South Wales exists to this day as Westpac.[211] The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was formed in Sydney in 1911 and began to issue notes backed by the resources of the nation. It was replaced in this role in 1959 by the Reserve Bank of Australia which is also based in Sydney.[210] The Australian Securities Exchange began operating in 1987 and with a market capitalisation of $1.6 trillion is now one of the ten largest exchanges in the world.[212]

The Financial and Insurance Services industry now constitutes 43% of the economic product of the City of Sydney.[29] Sydney makes up half of Australia's finance sector and has been promoted by consecutive Commonwealth Governments as Asia Pacific's leading financial centre.[27][28] Structured finance was pioneered in Sydney and the city is a leading hub for asset management firms.[213] In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Sydney was ranked as having the eighth most competitive financial center in the world.[214]

In 1985 the Federal Government granted 16 banking licences to foreign banks and now 40 of the 43 foreign banks operating in Australia are based in Sydney, including the People's Bank of China, Bank of America, Citigroup, UBS, Mizuho Bank, Bank of China, Banco Santander, Credit Suisse, State Street, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Royal Bank of Canada, Société Générale, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sumitomo Mitsui, ING Group, BNP Paribas, and Investec.[29][210][215][216]


Sydney has been a manufacturing city since the protectionist policies of the 1920s. By 1961 the industry accounted for 39% of all employment and by 1970 over 30% of all Australian manufacturing jobs were in Sydney.[217] Its status has declined in more recent decades, making up 12.6% of employment in 2001 and 8.5% in 2011.[3][217] Between 1970 and 1985 there was a loss of 180,000 manufacturing jobs.[217] The city is still the largest manufacturing centre in Australia. Its manufacturing output of $21.7 billion in 2013 was greater than that of Melbourne with $18.9 billion.[218] Observers have noted Sydney's focus on the domestic market and high-tech manufacturing as reasons for its resilience against the high Australian dollar of the early 2010s.[218]

Tourism and international education

Forgotten Songs, a public artwork situated in a laneway between Pitt and George Street, features 120 suspended bird cages.

Sydney is a gateway to Australia for many international visitors. It has hosted over 2.8 million international visitors in 2013, or nearly half of all international visits to Australia. These visitors spent 59 million nights in the city and a total of $5.9 billion.[33] The countries of origin in descending order were China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong, and India.[219]

The city also received 8.3 million domestic overnight visitors in 2013 who spent a total of $6 billion.[219] 26,700 workers in the City of Sydney were directly employed by tourism in 2011.[220] There were 480,000 visitors and 27,500 people staying overnight each day in 2012.[220] On average, the tourism industry contributes $36 million to the city's economy per day.[220]

Tourists visiting the Sydney Opera House

Popular destinations include the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Watsons Bay, The Rocks, Sydney Tower, Darling Harbour, the State Library of New South Wales, the Royal Botanic Garden, the Royal National Park, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Queen Victoria Building, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Taronga Zoo, Bondi Beach, the Blue Mountains, and Sydney Olympic Park.[221]

Major developmental projects designed to increase Sydney's tourism sector include a casino and hotel at Barangaroo and the redevelopment of East Darling Harbour, which involves a new exhibition and convention centre that will become Australia's largest upon completion.[222][223][224]

Sydney is the highest ranking city in the world for international students. More than 50,000 international students study at the city's universities and a further 50,000 study at its vocational and English language schools.[190][225] International education contributes $1.6 billion to the local economy and creates demand for 4,000 local jobs each year.[226]


Significant overseas-born populations[227]
Country of birth Population (2016)
China China 224,685
United Kingdom United Kingdom 151,684
India India 130,573
New Zealand New Zealand 86,526
Vietnam Vietnam 81,045
Philippines Philippines 75,480
Lebanon Lebanon 55,979
South Korea South Korea 49,508
Hong Kong Hong Kong 40,577
Italy Italy 40,492
Iraq Iraq 39,237
South Africa South Africa 35,313
Fiji Fiji 31,510
Nepal Nepal 30,424
Indonesia Indonesia 29,989
Malaysia Malaysia 21,211

The population of Sydney in 1788 was less than 1,000.[228] With convict transportation it tripled in ten years to 2,953.[229] For each decade since 1961 the population has increased by more than 250,000.[230] Sydney's population at the time of the 2011 census was 4,391,674.[170] It has been forecast that the population will grow to between 8 and 8.9 million by 2061.[231] Despite this increase, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that Melbourne will replace Sydney as Australia's most populous city by 2053.[232] The four most densely populated suburbs in Australia are located in Sydney with each having more than 13,000 residents per square kilometre (33,700 residents per square mile).[233]

Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown. Sydney is home to the largest Chinese population in Australia.[234]

The median age of Sydney residents is 36 and 12.9% of people are 65 or older.[170] The married population accounts for 49.7% of Sydney whilst 34.7% of people have never been married.[170] 48.9% of families are couples with children, 33.5% are couples without children, and 15.7% are single-parent families.[170] 32.5% of people in Sydney speak a language other than English at home with Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Greek the most widely spoken.[20][170]

There were 54,746 people of indigenous heritage living in Sydney in 2011.[170] Most immigrants to Sydney between 1840 and 1930 were British, Irish or Chinese. There were significant clusters of people based on nationality or religion throughout the history of Sydney development. In the early 20th century Irish people were centred in Surry Hills, the Scottish in Paddington.

Following World War II, Sydney's ethnic groups began to diversify. Common ethnic groups in Sydney include, but are not limited to, Dutch,[235] Sri Lankan,[236] Indian,[237] Assyrian,[238][239][240] Turkish,[241][242] Thai,[243] Russian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Greek, Lebanese, Italian, Jewish, Polish, German, Serbian, Macedonian, and Maltese communities.[228] As of the 2011 census night there were 1,503,620 people living in Sydney that were born overseas, accounting for 42.5% of the population of the City of Sydney and 34.2% of the population of Sydney, the seventh greatest proportion of any city in the world.[3][244][245] The 2016 census reported that 39 percent of Greater Sydney were migrants, above New York City (36 percent), Paris (25 percent), Berlin (13 percent) and Tokyo (2 percent). If local residents with at least one migrant-born parent is included, then 65 percent of Sydney's population is migrant.[19]

Sydney's largest ancestry groups are English, Australian, Irish, Chinese and Scottish.[170] Foreign countries of birth with the greatest representation are England, China, India, New Zealand and Vietnam.[170] The concentration of immigrants in Sydney, relative to the rest of Australia (excluding Melbourne), make it the exception rather than the norm on having such a high overseas-born population.


Science, art, and history

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, located in The Domain, is the fourth largest public gallery in Australia

The Australian Museum opened in Sydney in 1857 with the purpose of collecting and displaying the natural wealth of the colony.[246] It remains Australia's oldest natural history museum. In 1995 the Museum of Sydney opened on the site of the first Government House. It recounts the story of the city's development.[247] Other museums based in Sydney include the Powerhouse Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum.[248][249]

In 1866 then Queen Victoria gave her assent to the formation of the Royal Society of New South Wales. The Society exists "for the encouragement of studies and investigations in science, art, literature, and philosophy". It is based in a terrace house in Darlington owned by the University of Sydney.[250] The Sydney Observatory building was constructed in 1859 and used for astronomy and meteorology research until 1982 before being converted into a museum.[251]

The Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park is a public memorial dedicated to the achievement of the Australian Imperial Force of World War I.[252]

The Museum of Contemporary Art was opened in 1991 and occupies an Art Deco building in Circular Quay. Its collection was founded in the 1940s by artist and art collector John Power and has been maintained by the University of Sydney.[253] Sydney's other significant art institution is the Art Gallery of New South Wales which coordinates the coveted Archibald Prize for portraiture.[254] Contemporary art galleries are found in Waterloo, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Chippendale, Newtown, and Woollahra.


The State Theatre on Market Street was opened in 1929.

Sydney's first commercial theatre opened in 1832 and nine more had commenced performances by the late 1920s. The live medium lost much of its popularity to cinema during the Great Depression before experiencing a revival after World War II.[255] Prominent theatres in the city today include State Theatre, Theatre Royal, Sydney Theatre, The Wharf Theatre, and Capitol Theatre. Sydney Theatre Company maintains a roster of local, classical, and international plays. It occasionally features Australian theatre icons such as David Williamson, Hugo Weaving, and Geoffrey Rush. The city's other prominent theatre companies are New Theatre, Belvoir, and Griffin Theatre Company.

The Sydney Opera House is the home of Opera Australia and Sydney Symphony. It has staged over 100,000 performances and received 100 million visitors since opening in 1973.[156] Two other important performance venues in Sydney are Town Hall and the City Recital Hall. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music is located adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden and serves the Australian music community through education and its biannual Australian Music Examinations Board exams.[256]

Many writers have originated in and set their work in Sydney. The city was the headquarters for Australia's first published newspaper, the Sydney Gazette.[257] A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1789) and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales (1793) have remained the best-known accounts of life in early Sydney.[258] Since the infancy of the establishment, much of the literature set in Sydney were concerned with life in the city's slums and working-class communities, notably William Lane's The Working Man's Paradise (1892), Christina Stead's Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) and Ruth Park's The Harp in the South (1948).[259] The first Australian-born female novelist, Louisa Atkinson, set various of her novels in Sydney.[260] Contemporary writers, such as Elizabeth Harrower, were born in the city and thus set most of the work there–Harrower's debut book Down in the City (1958) was set in a King's Cross apartment.[261][262][263] Well known contemporary novels set in the city include Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi (1992), Peter Carey's 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account (1999), J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year (2007) and Kate Grenville's The Secret River (2010). The Sydney Writers' Festival is held every year between April and May.[264]

Filmmaking in Sydney was quite prolific until the 1920s when spoken films were introduced and American productions gained dominance in Australian cinema.[265] The Australian New Wave of filmmaking saw a resurgence in film production in the city–with many notable features shot in the city between the 1970s and 80s, helmed by directors such as Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong.[266] Fox Studios Australia commenced production in Sydney in 1998. Successful films shot in Sydney since then include The Matrix, Lantana, Mission: Impossible 2, Moulin Rouge!, Australia, and The Great Gatsby. The National Institute of Dramatic Art is based in Sydney and has several famous alumni such as Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, Baz Luhrmann, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Jacqueline Mckenzie.[267]

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House illuminated during the 2015 Vivid Sydney festival of light

Sydney is the host of several festivals throughout the year. The city's New Year's Eve celebrations are the largest in Australia.[268] The Royal Easter Show is held every year at Sydney Olympic Park. Sydney Festival is Australia's largest arts festival.[269] Big Day Out is a travelling rock music festival that originated in Sydney. The city's two largest film festivals are Sydney Film Festival and Tropfest. Vivid Sydney is an annual outdoor exhibition of art installations, light projections, and music.

In 2015, Sydney was ranked 13th for being the top fashion capitals in the world.[270] It hosts the Australian Fashion Week in autumn. The Sydney Mardi Gras has commenced each February since 1979. Sydney's Chinatown has had numerous locations since the 1850s. It moved from George Street to Campbell Street to its current setting in Dixon Street in 1980.[271] The Spanish Quarter is based in Liverpool Street whilst Little Italy is located in Stanley Street.[191] Popular nightspots are found at Kings Cross, Oxford Street, Circular Quay, and The Rocks. The Star is the city's only casino and is situated around Darling Harbour.


The indigenous people of Sydney held totemic beliefs known as "dreamings". Governor Lachlan Macquarie made an effort to found a culture of formal religion throughout the early settlement and ordered the construction of churches such as St Matthew's, St Luke's, St James's, and St Andrew's.[272] According to 2011 census, these and other religious institutions have contributed to the education and health of Sydney's residents over time. 28.3% identify themselves as Catholic, whilst 17.6% practice no religion, 16.1% are Anglican, 4.7% are Muslim, 4.2% are Eastern Orthodox, 4.1% are Buddhist, 2.6% are Hindu, and 0.9% are Jewish.[3][170]


The Sydney Morning Herald is Australia's oldest newspaper still in print. Now a compact form paper owned by Fairfax Media, it has been published continuously since 1831.[273] Its competitor is the News Corporation tabloid The Daily Telegraph which has been in print since 1879.[274] Both papers have Sunday tabloid editions called The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Telegraph respectively. The Bulletin was founded in Sydney in 1880 and became Australia's longest running magazine. It closed after 128 years of continuous publication.[275]

Each of Australia's three commercial television networks and two public broadcasters is headquartered in Sydney. Nine's offices and news studios are based in Willoughby,[276] Ten and Seven are based in Pyrmont, Seven has a news studio in the Sydney CBD in Martin Place[276][277] the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is located in Ultimo,[278] and the Special Broadcasting Service is based in Artarmon.[279] Multiple digital channels have been provided by all five networks since 2000. Foxtel is based in North Ryde and sells subscription cable television to most parts of the urban area.[280] Sydney's first radio stations commenced broadcasting in the 1920s. Radio became a popular tool for politics, news, religion, and sport and has managed to survive despite the introduction of television and the Internet.[281] 2UE was founded in 1925 and under the ownership of Fairfax Media is the oldest station still broadcasting.[281] Competing stations include the more popular 2GB, 702 ABC Sydney, KIIS 106.5, Triple M, Nova 96.9, and 2Day FM.[282]

Sport and outdoor activities

International Twenty20 cricket matches have been hosted annually at Stadium Australia since 2012.

Sydney's earliest migrants brought with them a passion for sport but were restricted by the lack of facilities and equipment. The first organised sports were boxing, wrestling, and horse racing from 1810 in Hyde Park.[283] Horse racing remains popular to this day and events such as the Golden Slipper Stakes attract widespread attention. The first cricket club was formed in 1826 and matches were played within Hyde Park throughout the 1830s and 1840s.[283] Cricket is a favoured sport in summer and big matches have been held at the Sydney Cricket Ground since 1878. The New South Wales Blues compete in the Sheffield Shield league and the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder contest the national Big Bash Twenty20 competition.

First played in Sydney in 1865, rugby grew to be the city's most popular football code by the 1880s. One-tenth of the state's population attended a New South Wales versus New Zealand rugby match in 1907.[283] Rugby league separated from rugby union in 1908. The New South Wales Waratahs contest the Super Rugby competition. The national Wallabies rugby union team competes in Sydney in international matches such as the Bledisloe Cup, Rugby Championship, and World Cup. Sydney is home to nine of the sixteen teams in the National Rugby League competition: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Manly Sea Eagles, Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters, and Wests Tigers. New South Wales contests the annual State of Origin series against Queensland.

Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers compete in the A-League (men's) and W-League (women's) soccer competitions and Sydney frequently hosts matches for the Australian national men's team, the Socceroos. The Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney Giants are local Australian rules football clubs that play in the Australian Football League. The Giants also compete in AFL Women's. The Sydney Kings compete in the National Basketball League. The Sydney Uni Flames play in the Women's National Basketball League. The Sydney Blue Sox contest the Australian Baseball League. The Waratahs are a member of the Australian Hockey League. The Sydney Bears and Sydney Ice Dogs play in the Australian Ice Hockey League. The Swifts are competitors in the national women's netball league.

Sailing on Sydney Harbour

Women were first allowed to participate in recreational swimming when separate baths were opened at Woolloomooloo Bay in the 1830s. From being illegal at the beginning of the century, sea bathing gained immense popularity during the early 1900s and the first surf lifesaving club was established at Bondi Beach.[283][284] Disputes about appropriate clothing for surf bathing surfaced from time to time and concerned men as well as women. The City2Surf is an annual 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) running race from the central business district to Bondi Beach and has been held since 1971. In 2010, 80,000 runners participated which made it the largest run of its kind in the world.[285]

Sailing races have been held on Sydney Harbour since 1827.[286] Yachting has been popular amongst wealthier residents since the 1840s and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was founded in 1862. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is a 1,170-kilometre (727-mile) event that starts from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day.[287] Since its inception in 1945 it has been recognised as one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.[288] Six sailors died and 71 vessels of the fleet of 115 failed to finish in the 1998 edition.[289]

The Royal Sydney Golf Club is based in Rose Bay and since its opening in 1893 has hosted the Australian Open on 13 occasions.[283] Royal Randwick Racecourse opened in 1833 and holds several major cups throughout the year.[290] Sydney benefitted from the construction of significant sporting infrastructure in preparation for its hosting of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Sydney Olympic Park accommodates athletics, aquatics, tennis, hockey, archery, baseball, cycling, equestrian, and rowing facilities. It also includes the high capacity Stadium Australia used for rugby, soccer, and Australian rules football. Sydney Football Stadium was completed in 1988 and is used for rugby and soccer matches. Sydney Cricket Ground was opened in 1878 and is used for both cricket and Australian rules football fixtures.[283]

A tennis tournament is held here at the beginning of each year as the warm-up for the Grand Slam in Melbourne. Two of the most successful tennis players in the history: Ken Rosewall and Todd Woodbridge were born and live in the city.


Historical governance

The Old Registry Office, now part of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, was one of three of the earliest established courts in Sydney.
The City of Sydney's flag, which was designed in 1908.[291]

During early colonial times the presiding Governor and his military shared absolute control over the population.[43] This lack of democracy eventually became unacceptable for the colony's growing number of free settlers. The first indications of a proper legal system emerged with the passing of a Charter of Justice in 1814. It established three new courts, including the Supreme Court, and dictated that English law was to be followed.[292] In 1823 the British Parliament passed an act to create the Legislative Council in New South Wales and give the Supreme Court the right of review over new legislation.[293] From 1828 all of the common laws in force in England were to be applied in New South Wales wherever it was appropriate.[293] Another act from the British Parliament in 1842 provided for members of the Council to be elected for the first time.[293]

The Constitution Act of 1855 gave New South Wales a bicameral government. The existing Legislative Council became the upper house and a new body called the Legislative Assembly was formed to be the lower house.[294] An Executive Council was introduced and constituted five members of the Legislative Assembly and the Governor.[295] It became responsible for advising the ruling Governor on matters related to the administration of the state. The colonial settlements elsewhere on the continent eventually seceded from New South Wales and formed their own governments. Tasmania separated in 1825, Victoria did so in 1850, and Queensland followed in 1859.[294] With the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 the status of local governments across Sydney was formalised and they became separate institutions from the state of New South Wales.[296]

Government in the present

Sydney is divided into local government areas (also known as councils or shires) which are comparable in nature to London's boroughs.[297] These local government areas have elected councils which are responsible for functions delegated to them by the New South Wales Government. The 31 local government areas making up Sydney according to the New South Wales Division of Local Government are:

Sydney is the location of the secondary official residences of the Governor-General of Australia and the Prime Minister of Australia, Admiralty House and Kirribilli House respectively.[298] The Parliament of New South Wales sits in Parliament House on Macquarie Street. This building was completed in 1816 and first served as a hospital. The Legislative Council moved into its northern wing in 1829 and by 1852 had entirely supplanted the surgeons from their quarters.[292] Several additions have been made to the building as the Parliament has expanded, but it retains its original Georgian façade.[299] Government House was completed in 1845 and has served as the home of 25 Governors and 5 Governors-General.[300] The Cabinet of Australia also meets in Sydney when needed.

Sydney's local government areas

The highest court in the state is the Supreme Court of New South Wales which is located in Queen's Square in Sydney.[301] The city is also the home of numerous branches of the intermediate District Court of New South Wales and the lower Local Court of New South Wales.[302]

Public activities such as main roads, traffic control, public transport, policing, education, and major infrastructure projects are controlled by the New South Wales Government.[303] It has tended to resist attempts to amalgamate Sydney's more populated local government areas as merged councils could pose a threat to its governmental power.[304] Established in 1842, the City of Sydney is one such local government area and includes the central business district and some adjoining inner suburbs.[305] It is responsible for fostering development in the local area, providing local services (waste collection and recycling, libraries, parks, sporting facilities), representing and promoting the interests of residents, supporting organisations that target the local community, and attracting and providing infrastructure for commerce, tourism, and industry.[306] The City of Sydney is led by an elected Council and Lord Mayor who has in the past been treated as a representative of the entire city.[307]

In federal politics, Sydney was initially considered as a possibility for Australia's capital city; the newly created city of Canberra ultimately filled this role.[308] Six Australian Prime Ministers have been born in Sydney, more than any other city, including first Prime Minister Edmund Barton and incumbent Malcolm Turnbull.



Education became a proper focus for the colony from the 1870s when public schools began to form and schooling became compulsory.[309] The population of Sydney is now highly educated. 90% of working age residents have completed some schooling and 57% have completed the highest level of school.[3] 1,390,703 people were enrolled in an educational institution in 2011 with 45.1% of these attending school and 16.5% studying at a university.[170] Undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications are held by 22.5% of working age Sydney residents and 40.2% of working age residents of the City of Sydney.[3][310] The most common fields of tertiary qualification are commerce (22.8%), engineering (13.4%), society and culture (10.8%), health (7.8%), and education (6.6%).[3]

The Madsen Building houses geoscience at the University of Sydney

There are six public universities based in Sydney: the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, the Western Sydney University, and the Australian Catholic University. Four public universities maintain secondary campuses in the city: the University of Notre Dame Australia, the University of Wollongong, Curtin University of Technology, and the University of Newcastle. 5.2% of residents of Sydney are attending a university.[311] University of Sydney is ranked in the top 50 in the world, the University of Technology Sydney is ranked 193, while Macquarie University ranks 237, and the Western Sydney University below 500.

Sydney has public, denominational, and independent schools. 7.8% of Sydney residents are attending primary school and 6.4% are enrolled in secondary school.[311] There are 935 public preschool, primary, and secondary schools in Sydney that are administered by the New South Wales Department of Education.[312] 14 of the 17 selective secondary schools in New South Wales are based in Sydney.[313]

Public vocational education and training in Sydney is run by TAFE New South Wales and began with the opening of the Sydney Technical College in 1878. It offered courses in areas such as mechanical drawing, applied mathematics, steam engines, simple surgery, and English grammar.[152] The college became the Sydney Institute in 1992 and now operates alongside its sister TAFE facilities across the Sydney metropolitan area, namely the Northern Sydney Institute, the Western Sydney Institute, and the South Western Sydney Institute. At the 2011 census, 2.4% of Sydney residents are enrolled in a TAFE course.[311]


The Nightingale Wing of the Sydney Hospital, the oldest teaching hospital in the city.

The first hospital in the new colony was a collection of tents at The Rocks. Many of the convicts that survived the trip from England continued to suffer from dysentery, smallpox, scurvy, and typhoid. Healthcare facilities remained hopelessly inadequate despite the arrival of a prefabricated hospital with the Second Fleet and the construction of brand new hospitals at Parramatta, Windsor, and Liverpool in the 1790s.[314]

Governor Lachlan Macquarie arranged for the construction of Sydney Hospital and saw it completed in 1816.[314] Parts of the facility have been repurposed for use as Parliament House but the hospital itself still operates to this day. The city's first emergency department was established at Sydney Hospital in 1870. Demand for emergency medical care increased from 1895 with the introduction of an ambulance service.[314] The Sydney Hospital also housed Australia's first teaching facility for nurses, the Nightingale Wing, established with the input of Florence Nightingale in 1868.[315]

Healthcare gained recognition as a citizen's right in the early 1900s and Sydney's public hospitals came under the oversight of the Government of New South Wales.[314] The administration of healthcare across Sydney is handled by eight local health districts: Central Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Sydney, Nepean Blue Mountains, Northern Sydney, South Eastern Sydney, South Western Sydney, and Western Sydney.[316] The Prince of Wales Hospital was established in 1852 and became the first of several major hospitals to be opened in the coming decades.[317] St Vincent's Hospital was founded in 1857,[115] followed by Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1880,[318] the Prince Henry Hospital in 1881,[319] the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1882,[320] the Royal North Shore Hospital in 1885,[321] the St George Hospital in 1894,[322] and the Nepean Hospital in 1895.[323] Westmead Hospital in 1978 was the last major facility to open.[324]


Sydney Harbour Bridge (southern approach shown) carries trains, motorised vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians

The motor vehicle, more than any other factor, has determined the pattern of Sydney's urban development since World War II.[325] The growth of low density housing in the city's outer suburbs has made car ownership necessary for hundreds of thousands of households. The percentage of trips taken by car has increased from 13% in 1947 to 50% in 1960 and to 70% in 1971.[325] The most important roads in Sydney were the nine Metroads, including the 110-kilometre (68-mile) Sydney Orbital Network. Widespread criticism over Sydney's reliance on sprawling road networks, as well as the motor vehicle, have stemmed largely from proponents of mass public transport and high density housing.[326][327][328] On an international scale, Sydney was ranked at 51 out of 100 cities in the world for sustainability and effectiveness of public transport in a report by Arcadis–lagging behind Brisbane, but ahead of both Melbourne and Perth.[329][330]

There can be up to 350,000 cars using Sydney's roads simultaneously during peak hour, leading to significant traffic congestion.[325] 84.9% of Sydney households own a motor vehicle and 46.5% own two or more.[170] Car dependency is high in Sydney–of people that travel to work, 58.4% use a car, 9.1% catch a train, 5.2% take a bus, and 4.1% walk.[170] In contrast, only 25.2% of working residents in the City of Sydney use a car, whilst 15.8% take a train, 13.3% use a bus, and 25.3% walk.[331] With a rate of 26.3%, Sydney has the highest utilisation of public transport for travel to work of any Australian capital city.[332]

Entrance to Wynyard, an underground train station in the Sydney city centre.

Sydney once had one of the largest tram networks in the world. It was the second largest in the British Empire, after London, with routes covering 291 kilometres (181 miles). The internal combustion engine made buses more flexible than trams and consequently more popular, leading to the progressive closure of the tram network with the final tram operating in 1961.[325] From 1930 there were 612 buses across Sydney carrying 90 million passengers per annum.[333]

In 1997, the Inner West Light Rail (also known as the Dulwich Hill Line) opened between Central station and Wentworth Park. It was extended to Lilyfield in 2000 and then Dulwich Hill in 2014. It links the Inner West and Darling Harbour with Central station and facilitated 9.1 million journeys in the 2016-17 financial year.[334] A second, the CBD and South East Light Rail 12 km (7.5 mi) line serving the CBD and south-eastern suburbs is planned to open in early 2019.[335] When the light rail project is completed, it would cover a total distance of 12 km with 19 different stops.

Bus services today are conducted by a mixture of Government and private operators. In areas previously serviced by trams the government State Transit Authority operates, in other areas, there are private (albeit part funded by the state government) operators. Integrated tickets called Opal cards operate on both government and private bus routes. State Transit alone operated a fleet of 2,169 buses and serviced over 160 million passengers during 2014. In total, nearly 225 million boardings were recorded across the bus network [336] NightRide is a nightly bus service that operate between midnight and 5am, also replacing trains for most of this period.

Patronage of Transport for NSW's Sydney public transport services based on tap on and tap off data from the Opal ticketing system.

Train services are operated by Sydney Trains. The organisation maintains 176 stations and 937 kilometres (582 miles) of railway and provides 281 million journeys each year.[337] Sydney's railway was first constructed in 1854 with progressive extension to the network to serve both freight and passengers across the city, suburbs, and beyond to country NSW. In the 1850s and 1860s the railway reached Parramatta, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Blacktown, Penrith, and Richmond.[325] In 2014 94.2% of trains arrived on time and 99.5% of services ran as scheduled.[338][339] Construction of Sydney Metro, an automated rapid transit system separate from the existing suburban network, started in 2013.[340][341][342][343] The first stage is expected to open in 2019, with plans in place to extend the system through the central business district by 2024.[344][345]

At the time the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, the city's ferry service was the largest in the world.[346] Patronage declined from 37 million passengers in 1945 to 11 million in 1963 but has recovered somewhat in recent years.[325] From its hub at Circular Quay the ferry network extends from Manly to Parramatta.[346] Sydney Airport, officially "Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport", is located in the inner southern suburb of Mascot with two of the runways going into Botany Bay. It services 46 international and 23 domestic destinations.[35] As the busiest airport in Australia it handled 37.9 million passengers in 2013 and 530,000 tonnes of freight in 2011.[35]

It has been announced that a new facility named Western Sydney Airport will be constructed at Badgerys Creek from 2016 at a cost of $2.5 billion.[347] Bankstown Airport is Sydney's second busiest airport, and serves general aviation, charter and some scheduled cargo flights. Bankstown is also the fourth busiest airport in Australia by number of aircraft movements.[348] Port Botany has surpassed Port Jackson as the city's major shipping port. Cruise ship terminals are located at Sydney Cove and White Bay.

Environmental issues and pollution reduction

As climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution have become a major issue for Australia, Sydney has in the past been criticised for its lack of focus on reducing pollution, cutting back on emissions and maintaining water quality.[349] Since 1995, there have been significant developments in the analysis of air pollution in the Sydney metropolitan region. The development led to the release of the Metropolitan Air Quality Scheme (MAQS), which led to a broader understanding of the causation of pollution in Sydney, allowing the government to form appropriate responses to the pollution.[350]

Australian cities are some of the most car dependent cities in the world.[351] Sydney in particular has a very high level of car dependency,[352] especially by world city standards. It also has a low level of mass-transit services, with a historically low-density layout and significant urban sprawl, thus increasing the likelihood of car dependency.[353][354] Strategies have been implemented to reduce private vehicle pollution by encouraging mass and public transit,[355] initiating the development of high density housing and introducing a fleet of 10 new Nissan LEAF electric cars, the largest order of the pollution-free vehicle in Australia.[356] Electric cars do not produce carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, gases which contribute to climate change.[357][358] Cycling trips have increased by 113% across Sydney's inner-city since March 2010, with about 2,000 bikes passing through top peak-hour intersections on an average weekday.[359] Transport developments in the north-west and east of the city have been designed to encourage the use of Sydney's expanding public transportation system.

The City of Sydney became the first council in Australia to achieve formal certification as carbon-neutral in 2008.[360][361] The city has reduced its 2007 carbon emissions by 6% and since 2006 has reduced carbon emissions from city buildings by up to 20%.[359][362] The City of Sydney introduced a Sustainable Sydney 2030 program, with various targets planned and a comprehensive guide on how to reduce energy in homes and offices within Sydney by 30%.[359][363] Reductions in energy consumption have slashed energy bills by $30 million a year.[364] Solar panels have been established on many CBD buildings in an effort to minimise carbon pollution by around 3,000 tonnes a year.[365]

The city also has an "urban forest growth strategy", in which it aims to regular increase the tree coverage in the city by frequently planting trees with strong leaf density and vegetation to provide cleaner air and create moisture during hot weather, thus lowering city temperatures.[366] Sydney has also become a leader in the development of green office buildings and enforcing the requirement of all building proposals to be energy-efficient. The One Central Park development, completed in 2013, is an example of this implementation and design.[367][368][369][370]


Warragamba Dam is Sydney's largest water supply dam.

Obtaining sufficient fresh water was difficult during early colonial times. A catchment called the Tank Stream sourced water from what is now the central business district but was little more than an open sewer by the end of the 1700s.[371] The Botany Swamps Scheme was one of several ventures during the mid 1800s that saw the construction of wells, tunnels, steam pumping stations, and small dams to service Sydney's growing population.[371]

The first genuine solution to Sydney's water demands was the Upper Nepean Scheme which came into operation in 1886 and cost over £2 million. It transports water 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Nepean, Cataract, and Cordeaux rivers and continues to service about 15% of Sydney's total water needs.[371] Dams were built on these three rivers between 1907 and 1935.[371] In 1977 the Shoalhaven Scheme brought several more dams into service.[372]

The WaterNSW now manages eleven major dams: Warragamba one of the largest domestic water supply dams in the world,[373] Woronora, Cataract, Cordeaux, Nepean, Avon, Wingecarribee Reservoir, Fitzroy Falls Reservoir, Tallowa, the Blue Mountains Dams, and Prospect Reservoir.[374] Water is collected from five catchment areas covering 16,000 square kilometres (6,178 square miles) and total storage amounts to 2.6 teralitres (0.6 cubic miles).[374] The Sydney Desalination Plant came into operation in 2010.[371]

The two distributors which maintain Sydney's electricity infrastructure are Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.[375][376] Their combined networks include over 815,000 power poles and 83,000 kilometres (52,000 miles) of electricity cables.

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