Sydney. The most iconic and definitive Australian city. Despite the fact that Canberra is technically the capital, most people presume it to be Sydney. It’s home to the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Bondi Beach. It’s home to the most famous, most spectacular New Years fireworks in the world, and is one of the first countries to display their pyrotechnic sensation each year. It’s a city of iconic buildings, toned and tanned beach bodies, premium fashion brands, skyscrapers, and sunshine. Most people who dream of going to Australia will have Sydney feature in that dream. Thousands flock there for the holidays, because no one does Christmas and New Year like Sydney, apart from perhaps NYC. But this is different. This isn’t snowy and cold. It’s Christmas, but hotter, and sexier.
I was one of the thousands there for Christmas and New Year in 2014. It’s not something I had dreamt of for years, but I knew would be pretty cool. And I’m glad I didn’t get my hopes up or I would have been disappointed. Not least because I was ill for some of my days there and ended up missing my Blue Mountains tour because of it (the thing I had been most looking forward to about being in Sydney! Ahh). But also because I just didn’t dig Sydney.
This isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I did. I liked it. But I didn’t LOVE it. I didn’t get wild, sexy, electric vibes from it. It wasn’t hectic. It wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t ‘hip’ (I feel like such a gran saying the word ‘hip’ but what else can I say?!). And to be honest, I don’t want to just feel apathetic about cities, because cities have so much potential to be exciting and beautiful in all sorts of ways, and Sydney felt like it was missing this potential. Sydney was empty. Sydney was void. Void of life and spirit and soul. People were cold (a la London). It also didn’t help that Sydney was kinda cold too. Like, literally. We had a few hot days, but our first few days were rain and wind. It was a sore disappointment for me who had just come from 30+ degree Bali. Not to mention that I am a sun baby through and through.
Sydney has it’s good bits. Many of which are the classic and iconic tourist attractions, which are in many ways no doubt amazing. I adored Manly Beach and I loved our New Years Day Bondi to Coogee Walk. I liked shopping in Westfield and catching up with Western Society after being in Asia for nearly four months. I liked (ok, loved) watching the last Hobbit film in the biggest IMAX theatre in the world. I liked visiting the fascinating Australia Museum, despite feeling like death, and I adored the Museum of Modern Art in Circular Quay, as I’m a massive modern art lover. I liked chilling in our amazing hostel, Original Backpackers, and drinking Goon for the first time, and I loved our New Years Day meal in a posh Indian Restaurant on Wooloomooloo Wharf.
So yeah, Sydney was good. And is worth visiting if you’re going to Australia because of it’s iconic nature, but it simply didn’t have that buzz I expected. It’s a very big city, yet for such a big city it feels hollow, rather than bustling and joyful. Plus, as can be expected, it’s expensive. Don’t expect a cheap night out, unless you get on the goon. In most of the bars they have lock-outs at 1.30am, so you can’t go to any late night clubs after this time. Not good for the hardcore partygoer if that’s your scene. After leaving Sydney and entering Melbourne the first feeling I had was that Melbourne was much more laid-back. Sydney seems strict and big on the rules. It’s not only expensive for nights out, but depending where you’re going, can be expensive to get around too.
Then there’s the time of year. The ‘most wonderful’ time of the year. Christmas and New Years. I was under no illusions about this. I knew it would be busy and simply wanted to focus my celebrations on being with the person I love and appreciating the year gone by. So I did. We made a very mediocre Christmas Dinner using the hostels kitchen, and saw New Years in by watching the fireworks from afar. But if you want to go to Sydney to do the typical thing, it takes a lot of planning and patience. Christmas on Bondi is obviously the first choice for many, but as expected, it’s packed. We went to Bondi after our Christmas dinner and the beach was rammed. Then it started raining. There was a queue outside Mcdonalds. Never had I felt less Christmassy. Not only is the beach busy, but it’s a pain to get there unless you’re staying right by Bondi Beach. From our hostel in Kings Cross we had to get a train to Bondi Junction then a bus to the beach – a further 40 minute walk. The queue for the bus (both there and back – we ended up walking back) was horrendous. We waited at least an hour in the train station. Again, I had never felt less Christmassy. I still had a wonderful Christmas, but it wasn’t perfect and if you are an idealist who wants a perfect Christmas, then you need to be strategic.
Then theres New Years. To see the famous Sydney fireworks from a good vantage point you need to wake up early and get there early. Some people camp all night. Some people don’t, but leave when it’s still dark. They take packed lunches. And no, it’s not a nice, relaxing day where you can sit and wait. Even in the Botanical Gardens, I’ve been told, you have to stand all day, as it’s so busy. You can’t leave and re-enter and you can not take alcohol in (unless you’re feeling sneaky). That is SO not for me. I didn’t want to spend my last day of 2014 cramped in some space, for 12 hours, for some fireworks. Some people love fireworks – I’m ok with them. I get them, but they aren’t worth waiting for like that for me. So instead I spent the day in the courtyard of my hostel, drinking Goon and laughing, before heading down to Rushcutters Bay nearby at about 10.30pm, and watching the fireworks from there. The view may not of been as good, but for me it was perfect.
I will probably go back to Sydney again simply so I can finally see the Blue Mountains. It’s not a city I hated, but I just didn’t get why so many people love it. And that’s the thing, so many people do adore this city and as with everything, it’s about making your own mind up. But Sydney, for me, was missing the buzz I craved.
What did you think of Sydney? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!