Review: Sydney Opera House tour shares the story of an Aussie icon inner banner

Review: Sydney Opera House tour shares the story of an Aussie icon

The first sighting of the Sydney Opera House's majestic sails is always a magical moment for travellers. There's something extraordinarily special about the building that seems to float serenely on Sydney Harbour, and this guided tour is the perfect introduction for a first-time visitor. Review: Katie Dundas
Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour
Sydney Opera House Tour


Explore the World Heritage–listed Sydney Opera House on this superb one-hour guided walking tour. Your knowledgeable guide will share the history of the building, including the controversy that surrounded construction. You’ll also get to see areas of the Opera House that are not accessible to the general public. Tours run every 30 minutes throughout the day. Duration: 60 mins (approx.)

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Even the shortest trip to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of its famous icons — the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

The place to head for both is Circular Quay. With its vibrant blue waters, this bustling area of Sydney offers epic photo opps of each structure, and a range of waterfront restaurants and bars.

Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the Opera House opened back in 1973, and is loved by Sydneysiders and visitors alike. It welcomes over eight million visitors a year and stages around 1,800 performances during that time.

Book a combined Sydney City Tour and Opera House Tour

Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour. Image: Bigstock

A great way to experience the Opera House is to take in a show, but if your budget or schedule doesn’t allow it, the Sydney Opera House tour is the next best option. These tours run every half hour from 9am to 5pm daily, and provide a 60-minute guided stroll around the venue. You’ll get an introduction to the construction and history of the building, as well as a glimpse of how the Opera House functions as a working theatre.

Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour. Image: Katie Dundas

The tour provides a huge amount of information and covers the interior and exterior of the building. Expect to see the Playhouse Theatre, the main Concert Hall, and the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and some areas that are otherwise off-limits to the general public. You’ll also get up close to the distinctive glazed ceramic roof tiles (imported from Sweden).

Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour. Image: Alamy

During our visit we were even able to see dress rehearsals in progress (an amazing sneak peek at the latest productions!). Each theatre has its own unique design and style. The Joan Sutherland Theatre — home to Opera Australia’s performances — underwent substantial renovations in late 2017, and the tour includes fascinating details of the practical and acoustic improvements to the backstage area, orchestra pit, and theatre itself.

Our tour was led by a dynamic guide, and his passion and enthusiasm for the arts and the Opera House were clearly evident through his engaging commentary. Despite the crowds and hustle and bustle of the Opera House, we were able to hear his stories clearly, thanks to the iPod-like devices and headphones provided.

Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour. Image: Katie Dundas

Throughout the tour our guide shared a wealth of knowledge on the Opera House’s design and construction — from the international design competition won by Utzon, to the challenges of turning his vision into reality. Those challenges and resultant disagreements ultimately led to Utzon resigning from the project. In a sad twist, he never returned to Sydney to see his completed design.

One aspect of the building that isn’t included on this tour are the backstage areas of the theatres, however these can be explored on the longer backstage tour.

It’s worth mentioning that large bags and backpacks need to be checked into the free cloakroom before the tour. You can take your camera, however photography of rehearsals or theatre sets is not permitted. The Opera Bar (adjacent to the tour meeting point) is the perfect spot for a bite to eat before or after the tour.

Sydney Opera House Tour
Sydney Opera House tour: Opera Bar. Image: Bigstock

The Sydney Opera House tour provides a fabulous introduction to one of the world’s most recognisable buildings, and is suitable for anyone with an interest in hearing the stories behind the creation of an Australian icon.

Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Katie Dundas is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Sydney. Originally from the US, Katie has lived in Australia for about six years and is always searching for the next big adventure. She can often be found hiking, diving or just enjoying Sydney’s amazing weather. Read about Katie’s travels by heading to her blog: The Accidental Australian.


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