Sydney can get pretty miserable in the Winter. The nights are dark, cold, and lonely… and during the day the city reflects the colour of the sky, with those who are suited and booted keen to get from A to B as quickly as possible. Although Spring is now creeping in, we are still not completely safe from the rain, so here’s my guide on what to do on in Sydney on a rainy day, so as not to waste your time in one of the greatest cities in Australia.
Stop 1: St Mary’s Cathedral.
I am certainly not a hugely religious person, but there will always be something about cathedrals that I love. Is it the grand architecture? The way the light filters through in different colours? The stillness? The coolness? In reality, I think that it’s a combination of all of these things that brings me an overarching sense of calm and relaxation.
St Mary’s is next to the North end of Hyde Park, and like so many other cathedrals, it is b-e-a-utiful. You’ll not be alone as you amble down the aisles, as it is clearly frequently visited my tourists and locals alike, even in Sydney on a rainy day. Each window carefully depicts a scene from the bible, and the central dome-like roof gives you the sense of being tiny. My favourite thing about this part of the cathedral is that all of the highest windows are yellow, so as the sunlight came through, everything was bathed in a warm yellow glow. It was very ethereal.
If you do have any religious inklings, there are far more things for you to notice. After a pretty heavy year, this was the perfect time for me to reinstate a lifetime tradition of lighting a candle for members of my family who we’ve lost, at the shrine of St Peter, which I thought was very fitting.
Stop 2: St Andrew’s Cathedral.
I know, I know, not another cathedral. I promise, this one is only a short stop mainly due to the fact that this cathedral is barely bigger than a church. You’ll have to walk through the rain to get here, but if you stick to the streets you’ll find that a lot of shops have awnings so you should be mostly OK.
I visited St Andrew’s because I had passed it so many times before, and always pondered over its location smack-bang in the middle of the city. You’ll find this little gem right next to Town Hall train station, opposite Woolys. I wonder how many other people bustle past it when in Sydney on a rainy day, and don’t give it a second glance?
A lot of people say that Sydney has no history, because everything is new compared to so many other world cities, however I disagree. The fact that everything happened so recently makes it all the more exciting and easier to picture. St Andrew’s cathedral is actually the oldest cathedral in Australia, and has been standing in that spot since 1819. Again, you don’t have to be particularly religious to visit this one; if you have any interest in history or architecture, check it out.
I was greeted by an adorable lady of the church, who eagerly gave me a tour leaflet and ran through the first few points with me. What got me about this one was the fact that they have a bible in there that belonged to King Henry VIII. It’s ancient, and is written in Ye Olde English (my guide told me that she struggled to understand what it says, and I then preceded to reel off a paragraph or two. She was flabbergasted, I was smug, there were fun times all round).
I also learned a bit more about Australia’s history and their relationship with England here, and it’s always good to learn a little bit more about the history and culture of the country that you are in!
Stop 3: The Queen Victoria Building.
This one is a little bit more leisurely, and less geeky. Once you leave St Andrew’s, turn left and walk past the actual Town Hall, having a quick look into the only corridor that you can go down (fantastic art deco interior) and you will find yourself in front of the Queen Victoria Building. It’s an old shopping arcade with shops ranging from modern designer wear on the ground floor, to quirky antique stores and jewelers upstairs. I had a great time going into shops and pretending that I could afford anything that they had on sale before taking their business card and leaving. The building is so named as it was presented as a gift to her majesty Queen Vikki back in the day.
Outside the entrance, there’s a wishing well with a bronze statue of a dog on it. If you approach, the dog starts talking to you, and informs you that he belonged to Vicks and she loved him so much that they made a fountain for him. His collections go to helping blind children, although he looks as though he could do with a polish if I’m honest (I’m not surprised as his mistress died 115 years ago).
Take time to go to the top level via the stairs, you will pass the windows and get a good look at the interior (I’m starting to see a pattern here). There are two clocks suspended at the top level, that give a little show of clockwork figures on the hour. Also on the top level is the Dr. Suess Gallery, which was a total surprise and brought back a lot of childhood memories for me. This stop is a great one for getting lunch in one of the cafes downstairs.
Stop 4: The National Opal Collection.
You may need your umbrella for this one, as it is a bit of a walk from the Queen Victoria building.
If you’ve been in Australia for any time at all, you will have noticed the number of opal jewelers around. In the past, opal has been found in abundance here, and still is in some regions. As opal is my birthstone, and I felt obliged to find out a little more about it, and had passed this weird looking experience before when walking to Circular Quay. It’s pretty recognisable as it has a model of an opal miner at the bottom of the escalator that takes you up.
This is as much a museum as it is a shop, which is why I’ve put it on here. There are many different kinds of opal on display, and my fun fact from here is that fossils can opalise. As in, the fossil can turn to opal, so you’ll have a pretty little dead dinosaur shining like a star. I THINK THAT IS PRETTY AWESOME. I was also very nearly pulled into buying another opal stone, but stopped myself as I already have several that I’m far too terrified to wear.
Stop 5: Sea Life Aquarium
So I only did this one because I had time to kill, and because they do an online deal where tickets are cheaper if you book for entry after 3.30. I highly recommend that you do this, as this aquarium isn’t very big, and you won’t take too long to complete it all, so it really isn’t worth the full priced ticket.
Who doesn’t love aquariums? And this aquarium has dugongs, and nobody can dislike watching a dugong eat lettuce.
Once you’re finished here, you’ll notice that you are on Darling Harbour, and it should just be time for Happy Hour, which means 2-4-1 cocktails at Baia, home of the best amaretto sour in the Southern hemisphere.
Have you experienced Sydney on a rainy day? Been caught in the infamous downpours? Got any other fun trips or stops for me to check out? Let me know, I’m always looking for new solo adventures to do on my days off!