The iconic Sydney Opera House is just a short stroll from Circular Quay, by the water’s edge on Bennelong Point. It’s best seen in profile, when its high white roofs, at the same time evocative of full sails and white shells, give the building an almost ethereal quality.

“Opera House” is actually a misnomer: it’s really a performing-arts centre, one of the busiest in the world, with five performance venues inside its shells, plus restaurants, cafés and bars, and a stash of upmarket souvenir shops on the lower concourse. The building’s initial impetus, in fact, was as a home for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and it was designed with the huge Concert Hall, seating 2690, as the focal point; the smaller Opera Theatre (1547 seats) is used as the Sydney performance base for Opera Australia (seasons Feb–March & June–Nov) and the Australian Ballet (mid-March to May & Nov–Dec). There are three theatrical venues: the Drama Theatre, used primarily by the Sydney Theatre Company; The Playhouse, used by travelling performers; and the more intimate The Studio.

If you’re not content with gazing at the outside, guided and backstage tours are available. But of course the best way to appreciate the Opera House is to attend an evening performance. You could also eat at one of Sydney’s best restaurants, Guillaume at Bennelong, overlooking the city skyline, or take a drink at the spectacularly sited Opera Bar on the lower concourse. Good-value packages, which include tours, meals, dinner cruises, drinks and performances, can be purchased at the Opera House or via the website.

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