By Nicholas Fonseca
September 25, 2014
Arcaid Images / Alamy

This list wasn’t very hard to compile—it’s comprised of the five essential spots you’ll need to see while you’re in town. Whether you are visiting for a couple of days or a couple of months, you simply can’t leave the city without experiencing these destinations. Many of them are probably already at the top of your vacation checklist; they are some of the most popular venues in town and regularly touted in guidebooks as must-see spots. Nevertheless, this rundown will give you a good reminder of four picturesque locations that keep Sydney at the forefront of the global imagination—and one local gem that, while not directly in the city, is more than worth a car trip north so you can marvel at its architectural ambition. From Bondi Beach, the most famous sands in Australia to the world-renowned opera house, here are the best places to visit in Sydney.

Rose Seidler House

Take a trip to the North Shore for a day at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the country’s second-oldest national park and a haven for anyone who wants to get out of the city. Don’t miss this nearby treasure, completed in 1950 by revered architect Harry Seidler for his mother, Rose. Swan around the Mid-Century Modern marvel (called “the most talked-about house in Sydney” after it was completed) and pretend you’re Don Draper at his weekend hideaway.

The Rocks

Sydney’s most historic precinct recalls the back streets of stateside Colonial era hot spots like Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The city “started” here, so to speak, not long after Australia was established in 1788. Wander around to gawp at the lovely sandstone buildings, duck into the Fortune of War pub for a beer and a chicken schnitzel, and browse the souvenir shops that dot the precinct.

Queen Victoria Building

The grand dame of Sydney’s old-school shopping arcades is a beautiful, multi-level show-off housing a huge variety of stores—shops from beloved Aussie retailer Country Road to hipster tea emporium T2 peddle their wares here. (Victoria’s Basement on the lower level is a trip for anyone who loves kitchenware.) Get amid the bustle and get spending.

Bondi Beach

The most famous beach in Australia is crowded, hard to reach, and not nearly as pristine as you might be led to believe. It doesn’t matter: Bondi is the place to be on any given day, in any season. It’s the iconic Aussie beach experience, the sands themselves are impressive, and a dip in the water part of any Sydney bucket list. Be sure to save time for the Bondi to Bronte walk, which will afford you gobsmacking ocean views from cliff’s edge.

Sydney Opera House

Well, it’s why you came, isn’t it? No visit to Sydney is validated until you’ve seen one of the world’s most famous buildings up close. Stroll along Circular Quay (but skip the overpriced al fresco restaurants along the way), get out the camera, and marvel at the thousands of tiles that line the “sails” of the Opera House. It’s just as impressive as you expect it to be.

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