I am always learning new things about Sydney and no matter how much I already know, there is always more to explore. That’s the beauty of living here: the endless opportunity for discovery. This is something that I think we forget, sometimes. Your home city is familiar to you but there’s a lot you still haven’t learnt yet.
In saying all that, we at I’m Free Tours pride ourselves on providing a fun local experience to travelers and residents alike. We are knowledgeable about both the history and culture of our city and we’d like to share some of that knowledge with you here today.
While we’re still stuck at home, it’s a good opportunity for all of us to learn more about the place we live in. So, today we’ve decided to share 7 of our favourite fun and interesting facts that most locals don’t know about Sydney.
First, if you haven’t already.
Then we’ll go through the answers together. We’ll wait for you, don’t worry.
Done? Perfect! Let’s go!
#1 The oldest public building in Sydney is The Mint.
It was originally built in 1816 as the south wing of the old General Hospital in Sydney (known as the ‘Rum Hospital’ because its construction was funded by rum). By 1855, the South wing was converted into the first overseas branch of the Royal Mint of England.
#2 The Opera House cost $102 million to build!
That’s over 14 times the intended budget of $7 million. With a lot of the blowout being funded by a statewide lottery. That’s a pretty severe underestimation, if you ask me however, as I’m sure we all agree the Sydney Opera House has paid for itself many times over.
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#3 Sculptures by the Sea started in 1996.
Sculpture by the Sea is one of my FAVOURITE regular events in Sydney. Every year I looked forward to doing this jazzed up version of the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. But did you know Sculpture by the Sea began back in 1996? It’s been going for over 20 year and there’s even one Aarhus in Denmark now.
#4 The Pylons are all about the looks.
The pylons (towers) on the sides of the Harbour Bridge are part of its iconic image. But they don’t actually serve any structural purpose, they’re just decorative! The substructures at the base of the pylons are integral to the support of the bridge structure but the actual pylons themselves were just incorporated for aesthetic value. Also, the public doubted the integrity of the bridge’s structure and pylons have the added advantage of visual security so it made the locals feel better.
#5 The QVB has been used for a concert hall, library, council offices, even for a game of table tennis but not a hospital.
The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is my personal favourite building in Sydney. It’s absolutely stunning and one of the best (and most expensive places) to shop in the city. However, before it was a shopping centre, it served many different purposes. These included: concert hall; library; city council offices; and even hosting parlour games like table tennis in the ‘amusement halls’.
#6 The Matrix, Great Gatsby & Moulin Rouge were filmed in Sydney but Star Wars Episode I was not.
Okay, as locals we know that Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So, it’s not a surprise that quite a few movies have been filmed here. Most people know The Matrix was shot in Sydney, but did you know The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge also did lots of their filming here? If you’re a Star Wars fan, you might be interested to know that Episode II and Episode III were also shot in Sydney, but for some reason, Episode I missed out on that honour.
#7 The abandoned St. James tunnels were used as a mushroom farm, a bunker during WWII and a storage area however it’s sadly never been used as a secret bar.
Originally, the network of tunnels around St. James were dug in the 1920s as part of a train line extension project that was never realised. In the 30s, a part of the tunnel between St. James and Circular Quay was used as a mushroom farm. Yes, you read that correctly! Then during World War II, the Royal Australian Air Force used the tunnels as bunkers/headquarters. In more recent times, they have mainly served as storage areas and spooky sets for filming. The abandoned tunnels have had a few uses over the years but unfortunately, they never housed a secret underground bar.
So, how did you do? How many of these facts did you already know? Let us know over on our Instagram @imfreesydney.
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