If there is one building in Sydney that has become synonymous with the city, it is the Opera House. It is a spectacle of modern architecture and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. Aside from the stunning structure that makes the building one of Sydney’s main tourist attraction, it’s a popular hub for events and entertainment. Discover arrays of new talent across theatre, dance, comedy, music and much more.

History of the Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is located on a rock promontory known as Tubowgule to the indigenous people of the area, the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation. Tubowgule means ‘where the knowledge waters meet’. It was a gathering point for the Gadigal, where they sang, danced and told stories.

During colonial rule, it became known as Cattle Point, as it was a place used to store cattle. Eventually, the point was named Bennelong Point after Woollarawarre Bennelong, an aboriginal interlocuter that used to live on the promontory. Later, Fort Macquarie was ordered to be built on the spot in 1871, before this was then turned into a militaristic tram shed in 1902.

The site of the Opera House has had multiple purposes over the years but come the 1950s, there was talk of a new public works project. The Director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, Eugene Goossens, wanted a large venue for theatrical productions, as the Sydney Town Hall wasn’t considered to spacious enough. The state government sponsored an international competition to find a design for the proposed new venue and the winner was Danish architect, Jorn Utzon.

Utzon’s revolutionary, striking designs were, according to legend, originally rejected by 3 out of 4 of the judging panel but one of the judges, Eero Saarinen, who had to miss the first few days of judging pulled it from a pile of rejects. The Opera House took longer and cost more than expected to build, resulting in Utzon being dismissed from his own project. He was invited to collaborate on future updates and worked on the Utzon Room in 2011. The Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973 and has become an Australian icon since.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who designed the Sydney Opera House?

Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect who entered his designs into a worldwide competition.

  • Who built the Sydney Opera House?

10,000 construction workers were tasked with building the Sydney Opera House from 1959 until its completion in 1973.

  • Who opened the Sydney Opera House?

Queen Elizabeth opened the Opera House in 1973 and has visited four times since its opening.

  • What is the Sydney Opera House made of?

The Opera House has a few purpose-built designs and materials. The shell is largely supported by uniquely designed concrete beams. The glass was custom-made in France, and over a million tiles created by a Swedish firm adorn the shell, now known as the ‘Sydney Tile’.

  • How big is the Sydney Opera House?

The Sydney Opera House is 185 metres long and 120 metres wide. At its highest point, it is 67 metres above sea level!

Location

The Sydney Opera House is located at Bennelong Point. If travelling by boat, the nearest wharves are located at Circular Quay, a six-minute walk away. Circular Quay is the hub for all public transport to the Opera House. If you have to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge yourself, don’t forget the toll!

Amenities

If you want to catch a show at the Opera House, there are over 3,000 events there a year. Tickets can mostly be bought online, where you can find comprehensive programming guides.

The Sydney Opera House has a wealth of bars and hotels nearby. There are also a number of bars, restaurants and cafes inside the Opera House. There are some attractions nearby such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Royal Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Sydney and Sydney Observatory. The Opera House is right in the thick of Sydney, an amble in any direction away from the House will lead you to something worthwhile!