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After living in Sydney for a number of years, I still am learning new things about the city. I’ve put together a list of Sydney facts, some odd and some just fun trivia. I have listed my resources for each Sydney fact below if you’re curious or want to find out more.
101 Fun Facts About Sydney That Many Sydneysiders Don’t Know
1. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design.
2. The Sydney Funnel Web Spider is one of the most dangerous spiders on Earth, able to kill a human in 15 minutes. Its fangs are powerful enough to bite through gloves and fingernails.
3. The pacemaker was originally invented in Sydney at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital by Dr. Mark Lidwill in 1926. Dr. Lidwill successfully revived a stillborn baby whose heart continued to beat after 10 minutes with the pacemaker. However, due to ethical concerns, Dr. Lidwill declined recognition for his invention.
4. Sydney was given the nickname Sin City in the second half of the 20th century because organised crime held a grip on the city and corruption was rife, infiltrating the top levels of politics, law and justice.
5. Sydney has over 100 beaches, ranging in size from a few feet to several kilometers long. I’ve heard this several times from various sources but have never actually seen a list of all the beaches in Sydney.
6. The Australia Day Regatta in Sydney Harbour is the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world. The first event was in 1837.
7. In 2007, 1,010 women wearing bikinis went to Bondi Beach. The event set the Guinness World Record for the largest swimsuit group photo shoot. One of several Guinness World Records set in Sydney.
8. 15,500 light bulbs are changed every year at the Sydney Opera House. Next time you’re at the Sydney Opera House, look up and see if you can spot any burnt out light bulbs. Then be sure to point it out to the usher. I dare you.
9. Russell Crowe, Iggy Azalea, Rebel Wilson, and Toni Collette are a few of many Celebrity Sydneysiders. Have you ever seen a celebrity out and about in Sydney? Or any celebrity spotting anywhere?
10. Most of the exterior shots for Home and Away, a famous Australian soap opera, are shot at Palm Beach located in the Northern Beaches region. Expat Confession: I had never heard of Neighbours or Home and Away until I moved to Sydney.
11. Frost/Nixon, The Great Gatsby, Independence Day, The Matrix, Planet of the Apes, are some of the famous films shot partially in Sydney. Can you name another film that was shot in Sydney?
12. The Sydney Royal Easter Show is Australia’s largest annual event. About 900,000 people each year, both locally and from around the globe, go to the Easter Show. This Sydney fact surprised me. If I were to pick an annual event in Sydney that is the largest I would have pick the Sydney Festival but what do I know.
13. Billy Thorpe, AC/DC, Johnny O’Keefe, The Easybeats, and Richard Clapton are some of the bands who began their careers in Sydney. AC/DC’s first performance was at Bondi Lifesaver on New Year’s Eve, 1973.
14. Sydney is 1580 square kilometres across, which is more than double New York’s 780 square kilometres. Ok, so in square miles that’s 610 for Sydney and 301 square miles for New York.
15. Sydney has the deepest natural harbour in the world with 504,000 megalitres of water. Just for some context, one megaliter is equal to 264,172 US gallons.
16. The strength of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was tested before opening day by placing 96 railway engines on the bridge. Kind of wish I know this before climbing the bridge and feeling it shake each time a train went by underneath.
17. At the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on March 19, 1932, Francis De Groot, a retired cavalry officer, galloped forward on his horse and slashed the opening ribbon with his sword, declaring the bridge open in the name of ‘the decent citizens of New South Wales’. De Groot was later declared insane, but still fined for the replacement cost of the ribbon. I wonder how much the ribbon cost?
18. The 102 year-old SS Ayrfield ship used during WWII as a transport ship was brought to Homebush Bay in Sydney in 1972 to be dismantled. However, the plans didn’t go through and the SS Ayrfield was transformed into a floating forest. A floating forest. Love that.
19. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the widest long-span bridge and tallest steel arch bridge in the world. This is one of several facts you’ll learn during the Sydney Bridge Climb.
20. The Sydney Mint built between 1811 and 1816 is the oldest public building in the Sydney Central Business District. The Sydney Mint also has one of the best gift shops, if you are ever looking for touristy type gifts to send or take back home with you.
21. The Sydney Tower was the tallest structure when it opened in 1981, and still is the second tallest freestanding structure in all of Australia at 1,001 feet over the Sydney CBD. The Sydney Tower Stair Challenge happens every year if you’re interested. Any guess on how many stairs to the top of the Sydney Tower?
22. Cadman’s Cottage in The Rocks is the oldest house in Sydney. It was built in 1816. I bet it was prime real estate even back in 1816.
23. George Street is the oldest street in Australia.
24. Operating since 1875, Sydney Ferries carry over 14 million passengers each year in and around Sydney.
25. The cost of building the Sydney Opera House ended up at $102 million instead of the original estimate of $7 million.
26. Point Piper, a street in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, is the 9th most expensive street in the world at $20,900 per square metre with the median value of all houses at $7.38 million.
27. The smallest beach in Sydney is McKell Beach at Darling Point, accessible only by boat at low tide.
28. The Queen Victoria Building, constructed between 1893 and 1898, was named to commemorate the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
29. Opera Australia is the 3rd busiest opera company in the world.
30. Sydney’s popular cliff top coastal Bondi to Coogee walk, with views of beaches, bays and ocean rock pools, runs 6 kilometres and takes about 2 hours to complete.
31. The Sydney 2017 New Year’s Eve fireworks consisted of an estimated seven tonnes of fireworks, including 12,000 shells, 25,000 shooting comets and 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects.
32. Sydney officially became a city in 1842.
33. 31.7 percent of the population of Sydney were born overseas compared to 22.2 percent of the overall Australian population.
34. Sydney cafe, Ambrosia On The Spot, set a record by making the world’s largest burger. The giant burger contained a 95.5 kilograms beef patty, 120 eggs, 150 slices of cheese, 1.5 kg of beetroot, 2.5 kg of tomatoes and almost 2 kg of lettuce.
35. 13 percent of the known species of eucalyptus around the world are found in the Blue Mountains making the Greater Blue Mountains Area a World Heritage Area by UNESCO in November 2000.
36. There were an estimated 1,745,827 people employed in the Sydney Metropolitan Region in 2011 with the largest industries by employment being retail trade (187,647), followed by health care and social assistance (177,087) and manufacturing (176,437).
37. The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) established in 1880 and is the most important public gallery in Sydney and the fourth largest in Australia.
38. The population of the Sydney Metropolitan Region is projected to add almost 2.1 million people to a size of over 6 million by 2036.
39. Carols in the Domain has been Australia’s largest free Christmas concert since 1982.
40. Sydney has the 7th largest percentage of foreign-born individuals in the world and immigrants account for 75 percent of Sydney’s annual population growth.
41. The Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973, taking 14 years and 10 thousand construction workers to build, with a final total cost of $102 million – more than 14 times the originally intended price.
42. Australia’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibit, “Sculpture by the Sea“, began at Bondi Beach in 1996.
43. The Sydney Fish Market is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the world’s 3rd largest fish market.
44. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was finished in 1932 and took 272,000 litres of paint to cover. That’s just for the first coat!
45. 6,233 square metres of topaz coloured glass was used in the construction of the Sydney Opera House. The glass was made to order by Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel in France in a shade used only by the Sydney Opera House.
46. The Grand Organ in the Opera is the largest mechanical tracker-action pipe organ in the world with 10,154 pipes and took 10 years to build.
47. Sydney’s postcode is 2000, the same number as the year it hosted the Olympics.
48. Sydney is situated at a similar latitude to Cape Town and Buenos Aires in the Southern Hemisphere and Casablanca, Los Angeles and Beirut in the Northern Hemisphere.
49. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built, the chosen paint colour was grey because it was the only colour available in a large enough quantity to paint the bridge.
50. Though the “sails” of the Sydney Opera House appear uniformly white from a distance, they actually feature a subtle chevron pattern composed of 1,056,006 tiles in two colours: glossy white and matte cream.
51. The Australian Museum, which opened in 1857 in Sydney, is Australia’s oldest natural history museum.
52. The Express Moving Walkway at the Sydney’s Domain Car Park is 207 meters in length and travels at 0.67 meters per second. It is the longest continuous moving walkway the Southern Hemisphere and the third longest in the world.
53. Sydney’s local AFL team, or “Aussie Rules” as it is known in Australia, is the Sydney Swans. The Swans are the only team who play in New South Wales.
54. 2000 Aboriginal rock engraving sites can be found in the Sydney area from the Daruk tribe – whose territory used to extend from Botany Bay to Pittwater.
55. The Sydney Morning Herald is Australia’s oldest newspaper. It has been published since 1831.
56. The University of Sydney was established in 1850 and is the oldest university in Australia.
57. For each decade since 1961, the population of Sydney has increased by more than 250,000. In June 2015, Sydney’s estimated population was reported at 4.92 million.
58. As of 2011 there were 54,746 people of indigenous heritage living in Sydney.
59. Australian Football was created by Sydney-born men Tom Wills and Henry Harrison. Tom played the Aboriginal game of Mangrook growing up. The game was initially largely rejected by Sydney but became very popular in the state of Victoria.
60. The Sydney Opera House hosts 3,000 events and 200,000 people take a guided tour of the building every year.
61. The first person to perform at the Sydney Opera House was Paul Robeson the bass singer, actor and Civil Rights Activist. In 1960, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River to the construction workers.
62. After phasing out the Australian 1 and 2-cent coins in 1991, the coins were melted down and used in the Sydney 2000 Olympics as Bronze Medals.
63. The Mint Building on Queen Street was originally built to be a hospital in 1814. It was called the Rum Hospital because the contractors were paid with 45,000 gallons of rum.
64. The architect Jorn Utzon was initially rejected by three judges in a 1956 competition to design the Sydney Opera House, but his entry was picked out by the fourth judge who declared it outstanding. Mr Utzon beat 232 other entrants.
65. Mr Utzon resigned as chief architect of the Opera House in February 1966, after a new Liberal government was elected and the Minister of Works stopped payments to him. There were protests in the streets, demanding that Utzon be reinstated, but he left Australia in April of the same year.
66. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Sydney Opera House on October 20, 1973. The Queen has visited the Opera House four times since then.
67. The Opera House’s sails were built using cranes made in France specifically for the job, each costing $100,000.
68. The Sydney Opera House is 185 metres long and 120 metres wide. The highest roof point is 67 metres above sea-level, the same as a 22-storey high building.
69. The Sydney Opera House roof is made of 2,194 precast concrete sections weighing up to 15 tons each and held together by 350 km of tensioned steel cable which if laid end-to-end would reach Canberra.
70. The Sydney Opera House has 6,225 square metres of glass and 645 kilometres of electric cable.
71. The entire site of the Sydney Opera House covers an area of 5.798 hectares. Eight Boeing 747s could sit wing-to-wing on the site.
72. The Sydney Opera House performances have an annual audience of two million.
73. The largest of the Sydney Opera House’s seven venues is the Concert Hall with 2,679 seats. The smallest venue is the Utzon room, which seats up to 210 people. Total number of rooms is 1,000.
74. The Sydney Opera House was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, and the organisation describes it as “great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour.”
75. Arnold Schwarzenegger won his final Mr Olympia bodybuilding title in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall in 1980.
76. The Sydney Opera House is open to the public 363 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day and Good Friday, but staff work 24/7, 365 days of the year.
77. Sydney’s inner city measures 25 square kilometres (10 square miles), the Greater Sydney region covers 12,367 square kilometres (4,775 square miles), and the city’s urban area is 1,687 square kilometres (651 square miles) in size.
78. There are more than 250 different languages spoken in Sydney and about one-third of residents speak a language other than English at home.
79. In the 2011 census, 34 percent of the population reported having been born overseas, representing many different nationalities and making Sydney one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
80. Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranks Sydney tenth in the world in terms of quality of living,making it one of the most livable cities.
81. Between 1788 and 1792 about 4,300 convicts were living in Sydney but maps from this time show no prison buildings. The punishment for convicts was being transported to Sydney rather than incarceration.
82. The geographical area covered by urban Sydney is divided into 658 suburbs. The City of Sydney is responsible for 33 of these suburbs, all of which are located close to the central business district.
83. Sydney hosted over 2.8 million international visitors in 2013, or nearly half of all international visits to Australia. The city also received 8.3 million domestic overnight visitors in 2013. There were 480,000 visitors and 27,500 people staying overnight each day in 2012.
84. Sydney is the highest ranking city in the world for international students. More than 50,000 international students study at the city’s universities and a further 50,000 study at its vocational and English language schools.
85. Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, Baz Luhrmann, and Cate Blanchett attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art is based in Sydney.
86. The City2Surf is an annual 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) running race from the central business district to Bondi Beach and has been held since 1971. In 2010, 80,000 runners participated which made it the largest run of its kind in the world.
87. The top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge arch actually rises and falls about 180 mm (about 7 inches) due to changes in the temperature!
88. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, it cost a horse and rider three pence and a car six pence to cross. The toll is now $4 during peak hours.
89. The Australian celebrity, Paul Hogan was once part of the workforce virtually permanently employed with repainting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in that they started another coat of paint after finishing the last.
90. In 1973, Philippe Petit walked a wire rigged between the two north pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge bring traffic to a standstill. A year later and Petit would make international headlines walking between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.
91. The four pylons on either side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge are completely decorative.
92. Sydney was in the Guinness Book of Records for producing the longest line of pizzas at 221 metres in the Italian quarter of Leichhardt.
93. One in eight people are over 65 years old in Sydney.
94. English, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Greek and Vietnamese are the main languages spoken in Sydney.
95. Manly was named by Captain Arthur Phillip for the indigenous people living there, stating that “their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.
96. The Sydney Opera House Concert Hall’s Grand Organ is the largest mechanical version of this instrument in the world, with 10,154 pipes. It took ten years to build.
97. The 2.3 kilometre Sydney Harbour Tunnel, was completed in 1992 at a cost of $738 million. It is estimated that its use cuts the crossing time by ten minutes and saves 13 million litres of fuel a year.
98. Each year around 3.5 million international visitors visit Sydney.
99. The world famous Sydney Opera House hosts a minimum of 3000 shows per year.
100. The Macquarie Lighthouse in Watsons Bay, St James’ Church, Hyde Park Barracks and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music were all designed by architect Francis Greenway who originally arrived in Sydney as a convict in 1814.
101. Fun follow up fact, Greenway was on the first Australian 10 dollar bill an odd choice since Greenway had pleaded guilty to forging a financial document back in Britain and was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation. Francis Greenway is perhaps the only convicted forger in the world depicted on a banknote.
Resources where I found all of these facts about Sydney: