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Popular attraction Aussies forget about

by Staff

People fly across the world to tick this activity off their bucket lists — but there’s many Aussies yet to try it out for themselves.

So as a Melburnian, while I’ve seen the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, I have done very little in Sydney’s CBD despite visiting more than a handful of times.

Last week I was given the opportunity to do a jam-packed arts and culture itinerary.

I got up in the early hours of the morning to fly to Sydney and experience the city as a tourist for a day. This is how it went.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

People fly across the world to tick climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge off their bucket lists, but many Aussies haven’t tried out the iconic tourist attraction for themselves.

It was the obvious choice of activity to kick-off a whirlwind 24 hours exploring Sydney’s CBD as a tourist.

I did the Burrawa Climb, which is led by a First Nations guide who shares fascinating stories of Indigenous history as you get to check out the stunning 360 degree views.

Given you only have to be eight years old to do Bridge Climb, I’m not sure why I expected to be scaling the side of the structure – but I can confirm this is not at all the case.

The mystery of the experience can be attributed to the fact climbers are not allowed to bring their own phones and cameras, which means any happy snaps are taken at dedicated spots by the guide.

There are relatively easy steps to the top after the ladders but it’s still common for climbers to have wobbly legs on the way down. Picture: Supplied / BridgeClimb Sydney

There is about an hour of preparation before tourists actually start the climb, including a safety briefing, changing into the suits, putting on the harnesses and all the accessories, and doing a pre-climb on some practice ladders.

There are four caged ladders on the way up and four ladders on the way down. To reach the summit, there are regular steps.

I was surprised to find the experience so sophisticated that there are water fountains along the way and even two mist machines to cool you on the way up and down.

The bridge has seen many famous faces including Ben Stiller, Gigi Hadid, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Prince Harry, Matt Damon, Katy Perry, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett and Australian-born Queen Mary of Denmark.

If you want to add your name to the list, are over the age of 16 and live in Sydney you can currently claim up to $80 back on eligible climbs until the end of May.

The views are epic. You are not able to take your own pictures so enjoy every minute. Picture: BridgeClimb Sydney / Supplied

A visit to Sydney’s art galleries

Staring up at a huge artwork of a melting glacier, I’m told to not get too close because an alarm will go off.

It all makes sense when curator Megan Robson explains the drawing before me is chalk on blackboard. One smudge and it is changed for good.

The piece, The Wreck of Hope (2022), is by internationally renowned artist Tacita Dean and is being exhibited for the first time alongside Dean’s other monumental chalk on blackboard drawing, Chalk Fall (2018), for the very first time at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

As one would imagine, getting the works to Australia is a huge job. It took two days to just install them in the space. But the immediate “wow” heard when visitors walk into the room appears to make it worth it.

Tacita Dean’s The Wreck of Hope (2022) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Picture: Zan Wimberley / MCA

Creating the art in such a vulnerable medium seems a huge risk, but it is a powerful choice by Dean to show the fragility of the landscapes she portrays.

The exhibition, which includes film, photography, sound, installation, drawing, printmaking and collage, is only at MCA until March 3.

Tacita Dean is one of three exhibitions making up the Sydney International Art Series 2023 – 2024. The others, Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? and Kandinsky, are at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

MCA Director Suzanne Cotter said: “To be able to present the work of one of the most inspiring living artists of the 21st century at the same time as the work of Louise Bourgeois, one of the great artists of the 20th Century, is being presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a momentous occasion for residents and visitors to New South Wales this summer.”

The exhibit of works by Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky will also soon be over, wrapping up on March 10.

Kandinsky, who lived from 1866 to 1944, was a pioneer of abstract art and believed certain colours and shapes translated into certain sounds.

Louise Bourgeois’s Maman (1999) outside the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Picture: The Easton Foundation / Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

The exhibit of Bourgeois’ works is on a bit longer until April 28. It is in the new gallery building, with the spectacular decision to display the “night” section of the exhibition in “The Tank” – an underground decommissioned tank built during WWII to provide fuel for the naval fleet at Garden Island.

If you would usually consider art exhibitions not really your thing, this one is a great place to start.

Bourgeois, who lived in France and the US from 1911 to 2010, is described as “a fearless explorer of the mystery and complexity of our relations with ourselves and others”.

A stay at The Sebel Sydney Martin Place

This city hotel, previously a Mercure, has had a multimillion-dollar refurbishment and rebranded as The Sebel.

For tourists wanting to see Sydney’s iconic city sites or for business travellers working in the CBD, the location is a winner.

It is a less than 20 minute walk to the Sydney Opera House, an even shorter distance to Circular Quay, and about a 10 minute walk to Sydney Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens or Art Gallery of NSW.

The 86-room hotel is also only a couple of minutes walk to Martin Place or St James train stations.

There is a 24 hour reception and the staff will hold your bags for the day before checking in or when checking out, so travellers can get on with their day without lugging around a suitcase.

Newly refurbished rooms at The Sebel Sydney Martin Place. Picture: news.com.au

Inside the rooms guests can find a kitchenette with a microwave, fridge, and Nespresso machine, which includes flavoured syrups to step up their in-room coffee routine.

There is also ready-to-pour bottled cocktails in the minibar, including Eucalyptus

Gimlet, Lychee and Italian Dirty Martini flavours.

We’re told the marble on the kitchenettes – Italian Terrazzo – was specifically sourced from

Europe to bring “Mediterranean tranquillity” into the room.

“Playful” carpet and ambient lighting was a focus for the redesign, and the bathroom mirror is framed by LED lights.

Practically, there is an iron and ironing board, a full-sized hair dryer, hotel slippers and robes, and amenities kits in the bathroom.

It is important to note, there is no restaurant at the property.

Instead the hotel has partnered with Piccolo Me and Bastardo. Guests can scan a QR code next to their bed to order food and have it delivered to their room for a small fee.

While it is not an all-inclusive hotel buffet breaky, it is handy to have the option to order breakfast to your room and have it arrive in about 10 minutes.

Birdie Bar & Brasserie is a new restaurant in the heart of Sydney. Picture: news.com.au

It is a British-inspired menu with local Aussie flavours. Picture: news.com.au

Dinner at Birdie Bar & Brasserie

Another recently refurbished Accor property in the heart of Sydney is the Novotel Sydney City Centre, where you can find the new Birdie Bar & Brasserie.

Head chef John Lyons has crafted a fun British-inspired menu, with local Australian flavours.

One of the desserts – named “dogs dinner” – is served up in a dog bowl with a side of bone-shaped biscuits, and it is not the only dish uniquely served. There is also duck-shaped pate.

‘Dogs dinner’ is a dessert served with bone-shaped biscuits. Picture: news.com.au

There is also duck-shaped pate. Picture: news.com.au

Mr Lyons’ passion for using local ingredients is evident as he tells us the poorman’s orange he buys for one of the desserts is from a retired man who grows it in his backyard.

Originally from the north of England, Mr Lyons’ career highlights have included working at Le Grand Ecuyer with French pastry chef Yves Thuries, working at London’s famous Savoy Hotel, and with famed Michelin-Starred chef Nico Ladenis, where he cooked for Princess Diana.

This writer travelled to Sydney as a guest of Accor and Destination NSW

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