By Hannah Walhout
November 14, 2019
Credit: Petrina Tinslay

Since the area was first settled nearly 30,000 years ago, Sydney — Australia’s largest city and the capital of New South Wales — has become a cultural hub, financial center, and iconic seaport. Bordered by the sparkling Pacific to the west and the rugged Blue Mountains to the east, it’s also a haven for nature experiences, with over 2,500,000 acres of green space inside its limits.

If you’re going to head all the way to Oz, you’ll want to make the most of Sydney’s multicultural offerings. Here’s how to see the city’s highlights in a perfect three-day stay.

Credit: Courtesy of Hyatt

Day 1

Base yourself at the Park Hyatt Sydney (doubles from $878), a polished waterfront property in the Rocks district. The historic area — known for its winding alleys and 18th- and 19th-century architecture — is perfectly situated for exploring the city’s major attractions, including the Royal Botanic Garden and Sydney Opera House. Backstage tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the latter’s inner workings, but for those craving a star turn, Opera Australia now offers the opportunity to play a silent walk-on role, complete with costume fitting, wig, and makeup ($3,385 per person, includes one audience ticket).

From left: A snake at the Taronga Zoo; the zoo's giraffes.
| Credit: From left: Petrina Tinslay; Andrew Watson/Getty Images

Day 2

Catch the ferry to Sydney’s famous Taronga Zoo, which has nearly 70 acres of exhibits. You can even spend the night among the animals at the new 62-room Wildlife Retreat at Taronga (one-night stays from $535, all-inclusive). Included in your stay: free admission to the zoo, zookeeper-led private tours, an Australian-ingredient-driven dinner with views of Sydney Harbour, and the opportunity to explore Taronga the next morning before it opens to the public.

Day 3

To see why the city is giving Melbourne, Australia’s so-called culinary capital, a major run for its money, join Taste Cultural Food Tours (half-day tours from $60) for an excursion in one of Sydney’s diverse neighborhoods — perhaps a Vietnamese food crawl in Cabramatta, or an introduction to the cuisines of Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran in Merrylands. Finish your day at one of the city’s fine-dining stars, like Quay (tasting menus from $162), a destination for new Australian fare since 2001, or the seafood-focused Saint Peter (entrées $26–$33), where the young chef, Josh Niland, has won worldwide accolades for his pioneering techniques.

From left: The "snow egg" dessert at Quay; sampling Vietnamese food in Cabramatta.
| Credit: From left: Image Professionals GmbH/Alamy; Oliver Strewe/Getty Images