As one of the most photographed and famous (if controversial) performing arts venues in the world, the pearly shells of the Sydney Opera House are synonymous with Australia's image - an iconic and irreplaceable part of Sydney's skyline.
Built on Bennelong Point - and named for the Cadigal tribal elder captured and befriended by Governor Arthur Phillip - Eugene Goossens, Director of the Conservatorium of Music, announced its imminent arrival via a contest inviting architects worldwide to participate. Danish architect Jørn Utzon's uniquely fluid sketch won. (Apparently, the other designs were ugly and square. Can you imagine another UTS building on the Harbour's edge?). Formally completed (without Utzon, who'd been sacked) in 1973, the building's distinctive design has been pondered and interpreted in variously from shells, to waves, even a family of swans. Utzon never revealed his vision, only that he relied on spheres to make the architectural feat happen.
The Opera House is all about performance, invitation and suspense. From walking through its intricate corridors, to its aesthetically pleasing and sound-enhancing performance halls, to its slanted windows (so you can look into the Harbour without a reflection), there's plenty to marvel at. Today, the Opera House offers different tours that allow you to get intimate with the building, including some hosted in different languages and full ‘experience' packages.
But if you don't feel like shelling out, it's still free to sit on the steps for a quick lunch and walk by the water and gaze in marvel at those 1,056,000 pearly, self-cleaning Swedish tiles.
Best for... architecture enthusiasts, precocious children, arty buffs.
Worst for... fidgets, troglodytes, cultural ingrates.
Book activities and tours around the Opera House and Circular Quay