The Sydney Opera House: A Traveler’s Guide to Visiting Australia’s Top Icon

sydney opera house australia

Mention Australia and one iconic thing will always be on top of the mind—The Sydney Opera House. It is the country’s busiest performing arts center and most-visited tourist attraction, impressing more than 10 million visitors each year.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor, a frequent traveler or a resident in Australia, this indisputable masterpiece of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of mankind—in the words of UNESCO World Heritage Committee—is surely a must-see. 

About Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s most iconic attraction and one of the world’s busiest performing arts centers. An architect from Denmark named Jørn Utzon created a sculpture on Sydney Harbour and changed the course of twentieth-century architecture.

What’s inside this blog?

Read this travel guide to see beyond the images of The Sydney Opera House and discover the exciting and most interesting adventure that awaits you.

History of The Sydney Opera House

sydney opera house australia

Photo credits to Steve via Flickr

The idea of having a dedicated performing arts center in Sydney had been discussed for decades, yet it was not until the mid-1950s that it gained enough political attention to become a reality. 

In 1956, NSW Premier Joseph Cahill, a key advocate for the building of an opera house in Sydney, released an international competition for “a National Opera House at Bennelong Point.” More than 223 entries from 28 countries were received, and Danish architect Jørn Utzon won. 

The construction of The Sydney Opera House began in 1959 until 1973. 

It wasn’t an easy journey, in fact, it was controversial. From what ought to be an image of culture turned a battleground of politics, pragmatism and the quest for perfection that led to the resignation of Utzon and permanently estranged Utzon (architect of The Sydney Opera House) and Ove Arup (one of the engineers leading the project), two friends and eminent colleagues. When Utzon resigned, an Australian architectural team headed up by Peter Hall completed the project. 

Today, it is Australia’s most iconic and number one tourist destination, welcoming millions of visitors a year and one of the world’s busiest performing arts centers, presenting more than 2,000 shows 363 days a year, from the work of the seven flagship arts companies to which it is home to First Nations’ arts and culture, talks and ideas, theatre and dance and the superstars of classical and contemporary music.

Interesting Facts About The Sydney Opera House

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sydney opera house australia

Photo credits to nakú via Flickr

If you want to see it beyond the pictures of The Sydney Opera House, here are some interesting facts to know that will make your trip fruitful.

  1. The original cost estimate to build this iconic landmark was $7 million. The final cost was $102 million and it was largely paid for by a State Lottery.
  2. In 1956, the Opera House international design competition received more than 233 designs. Jørn Utzon from Denmark won, receiving ₤5000 for his design, and now known as the architect of The Sydney Opera House.
  3. Joe Bertony—one of the original engineers of The Sydney Opera House—was a French spy-turned-engineer. He handwrote 30,000 separate equations to create the “erection arch” or truss which held the concrete sails in place during construction.
  4. The expected construction duration of the edifice was only four years. It took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers.
  5. Paul Robeson was the first person to perform at the Sydney Opera House. In 1960, he climbed the scaffolding and sang Ol’ Man River to the construction workers as they ate lunch.
  6. In 2007, UNESCO listed Sydney Opera House World Heritage Sites.
  7. There are more than 1 million roof tiles covering approximately 1.62 hectares sitting over the structure. They were made in Sweden.
  8. Seven A380s could sit wing-to-wing on the site.
  9. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Opera House on October 20, 1973. She has since visited four times, most recently in 2006.
  10. When the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is on stage in the Concert Hall, the temperature must be 22.5 degrees to ensure the instruments stay in tune. Temperature and humidity are critical to musical instruments.
  11. Arnold Schwarzenegger (former actor and Governor of California) won his final Mr. Olympia bodybuilding title in 1980 in the Concert Hall.
  12. A net was installed above the orchestra pit in the Joan Sutherland Theatre during the 1980s following an incident during the opera Boris Godunov. The opera featured live chickens and one bird walked off the stage and landed on top of a cellist.
  13. More than 10.9 million people visit inside the Sydney Opera House every year.
  14. It is cooled using seawater taken directly from the harbor. The system circulates cold water from the harbor through 35 kilometers of pipes to power both the heating and air conditioning in the building.
  15. Each year, Lunar New Year is celebrated at the Opera House with sails lit in red, Lunar Lanterns, and Mandarin tours. In 2019, some 25,000 people celebrated with us.

Source: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

Location of The Sydney Opera House

It is located in Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour, Australia.

Rates and Other Information in Visiting

Entrance fee: Free; But other fees vary depending on the shows at The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House Tour Rate: $42 (Adult); $22 (Child 5-15 years old)

Opening hours: 9am – 8:30pm (Monday to Saturday), 9am – 5pm (Sunday or later if a performance is scheduled)

How to Get There

To get to the location of The Sydney Opera House, you can catch public transport (bus, train, ferry) to Circular Quay and enjoy a 6-minute walk going there. If you’re getting dropped off in a car, head to the roundabout at the bottom Macquarie Street where staff will direct you to a safe place to pull over.

Tourist Spots Nearby

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  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
  • Darling Harbour
  • Sydney Tower Eye
  • Luna Park Sydney
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
  • SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
  • The Rocks Discovery Museum

Where to Eat Near The Sydney Opera House

Satisfy your taste buds after a tiring trip with a good meal in our list of restaurants inside The Sydney Opera House and restaurants near The Sydney Opera House.

Opera Bar

Opera Bar sydney australia

Photo credits to Opera Bar

Enjoy a range of new dining experiences, refreshed seasonal menus, live entertainment, and stunning views beneath the iconic Opera House sails.

Address: Opera Bar is located at the water’s edge, on the Lower Concourse level, overlooking Circular Quay

Opening hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Sunday to Thursday); 11:30am – 12 Midnight (Friday and Saturday)

Budget: From $20 – $40, with kids meals around $12

Opera Kitchen

Opera Kitchen australia

Photo credits to Opera Kitchen

Perched beside the most famous sails in the world with uninterrupted views of the famed Harbour Bridge and surrounding city skyline, Opera Kitchen provides innovative and creative food for all tastes and wallets.

Address: Opera Kitchen is located on the Lower Concourse level of the Sydney Opera House. 

Opening hours: Open daily from 7.30am through to dinner (excluding Christmas Day)

Budget: From less than $10

Cafe Sydney

Cafe Sydney australia

Photo credits to Cafe Sydney

Address: 5 Sydney Customs House, 31 Alfred St., Sydney, Australia

Opening hours: 12pm – 10pm (Monday to Saturday); 12pm – 4pm (Sunday)

Budget: $5 – $30

Frequently Asked Questions About The Sydney Opera House

Q: What is special about Sydney Opera House?

A: UNESCO said that the Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century that brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design. “Its significance is based on its unparalleled design and construction,” UNESCO stated.

Q: How long did it take to build the Sydney Opera House?

A: The expected construction duration of The Sydney Opera House was only four years but the construction took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers. 

Q: Can you go inside the Sydney Opera House for free?

A: There’s no entrance fee but other fees vary depending on the shows and performances at the Sydney Opera House.

Q: Who is the designer of the Sydney Opera House?

A: Jørn Utzon is the original architect of The Sydney Opera House. He won the international competition for “a National Opera House at Bennelong Point” beating more than 223 entries from 28 countries.

Q: How do I get to the Opera House?

A: To get to the location of The Sydney Opera House, you can catch public transport (bus, train, ferry) to Circular Quay and enjoy a 6-minute walk. Head to the roundabout at the bottom Macquarie Street where staff will direct you to a safe place to pull over.

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