Why We Go to Sydney Open Every Year and Why You Should Too (Updated for 2018)

Spring in Sydney is my absolute favourite time of year and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Well, almost nothing.

It all starts with Art and About around the end of September. October rolls around and it’s Good Food Month with Hyde Park Noodle Markets, something else we always go to every year. Then, also in October, there is Sculpture by the Sea along the South Coastal Walk from Bondi to Tamarama. Yet another not-to-be-missed event in Sydney. In fact, I go several times including getting up to catch the dawn light for photos.

Just when I begin to think that I’ve had my fill of noodles, artsy-fartsy culture and jockeying with other photographers for that perfect shoot, Sydney Open arrives the first weekend of November and I suddenly find my secret reserve that I usually only resort to in the presence of a dessert cart. “Oh, the dark chocolate cake is flour free? That sounds healthy. Dark chocolate is good for me, right? Oh, why not.”

NSW Parliament
NSW Parliament Library in Sydney

We have been going to Sydney Open since 2008 and it has never disappointed.

Ok, that’s not completely true. I was disappointed that, back then, it was only every other year. Then I was disappointed when the ticket prices went up. And I was disappointed when not all of the buildings allowed photos, a disappointment I endure every year. Then I was disappointed when I had to wait inline, sometimes up to 30 minutes. Where did all these people come from?

Have any of these disappointments ever stopped us from going the following year? No.

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We even see the same buildings as we did the year before. I know it seems like a waste to repeat ourselves, but it is actually part of our strategy now.

Yes, each year we come up with a strategy before we leave the house.

Why? There are over 40 buildings included in Sydney Open and it’s only one weekend, from 10am to last entry at 4pm. You need a strategy to fit in all in.

Actually, I would say that part of your strategy should be not trying to fit it all in.

Lands Department Building Sydney
Lands Department Building Sydney

Here are my recommendations for Sydney Open 2018.

Sit down and have a look at all the buildings that will be open. Then have a look at the drop-in tours happening at several of the buildings.

Where there any buildings that you want to see? Are there tours for those buildings? Note the times. The drop-in tours add another level to the experience and, I promise, you will learn something you didn’t know beforehand.

Drop-in tours at Sydney Open I recommend.

  • St James Church Children’s Chapel talk in the Crypt and the Church history Q&A.
  • Baker McKenzie at One International Towers at Barangaroo. The panoramic views from the tower are really what it’s all about with this tour for me. On a clear day, you can easily see the Blue Mountains from the tower.
  • St Andrew’s Cathedral isn’t actually a tour but a concert. St Andrew’s Cathedral is often missed by tourists who usually line up to see St Mary’s Cathedral. It’s a shame because St Andrew’s is a gem with beautiful stained glass windows. Just Google “St Andrew’s Sydney” and click images. Once you see some of the interior photos, you’ll agree with me that this is a not-to-be-missed building for Sydney Open this year.
  • Justice & Police Museum this tour includes salacious stories of some of Sydney notorious criminals including the mad dentist of Wynyard Square.
  • City of Sydney Fire Station is hosting a performance from the Fire and Rescue NSW Band at 1:30PM. If you are planning on taking the kids with you to Sydney Open, then is a no brainer.

Sydney Open 2018 buildings that you need to see.

  • The Government House – A little out of the way from the other buildings, but worth it. Yes, I know that there are frequent tours of the Government House, but those tours often fill up quickly as the limit is only 20 people at a time. Another benefit of going during Sydney Open is photography is allowed. I’ve been to the Government House twice and photography was not allowed either time. Fingers crossed that the Sydney Open website didn’t get that wrong.
  • Grosvenor Place – The view is amazing.
  • AMP Building – Another incredible view of the Sydney Harbour from the rooftop terrace.
  • 50 Martin Place – The beautiful Beaux-Arts facade outside is nothing to the amazing marble columns inside not to mention the rooftop rifle range.
  • Primus Hotel is new to Sydney Open this year and I can’t wait to see inside the art deco heaven this hotel is rumoured to be. There is also a rooftop garden bar with a 20 meter lap pool. It all sounds so glamorous.
  • Parliament of New South Wales – One of the most historically important buildings not just in Sydney but in Australia.
  • St Mary’s Cathedral – Don’t skip the cathedral crypt.
  • Sydney’s Town Hall – The Centennial Hall is a beautiful teasure right in the heart of Sydney. You’ll see why most concerts and events at Sydney Town Hall sell out fast. Lady Gaga performed in Centennial Hall back in 2011. It was an experience.
  • The Great Synagogue – The capacity of the synagogue is around 1,200. Yea, it’s big.

How about you? What’s peaked your curiosity enough that you want a peek inside?

Sydney Open is a big day. You will be on your feet all day, walking from building to building, then standing in line waiting and touring the building.

Try to focus on one area at a time. For example, start at the Government House, then the NSW Library, then NSW Parliament and then St James. Or go in the opposite direction and head to the AMP Building after the Government House.

Don’t try to see everything.

Another tip, see the most popular buildings, like St Mary’s Cathedral, closer to the 4pm last entry time. I know it’s sound opposite of what you might think, but lines are much shorter towards the end of the day.

The most important tip I have for you is to have fun. You are going to learn so much about Sydney and, by the end of the day, you will have a whole new appreciation for your newly adopted home.

Photo of Circular Quay in 1950 from visitsydneyaustralia.com.au.
Photo of Circular Quay in 1950 from visitsydneyaustralia.com.au.

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Lauren
Hi, I’m Lauren, and I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide written by expats, for expats. Click here to read my story.

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