Inside the Sydney Opera House: Touring an Australian Icon

I love the look of the Sydney Opera House on a bright day, the white tile glistening against the blue background.

Sydney Opera House

This was our third trip to Sydney, and the first time we went inside the iconic Sydney Opera House. It wasn’t to see a show, although we were quite tempted to see My Fair Lady directed by Julie Andrews. Instead, we opted for a tour of one of the world’s most recognisable buildings. The Syndey Opera House is an engineering wonder, a UNESCO world heritage site, and nothing short of spectacular. Designed by Jørn Utzon and opened by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in October 1973, today the Sydney Opera House is the busiest performing arts centre in the world. We were just two of the 8.2 million visitors expected this year.

The Sydney Opera House stands on Tubowgule, the land of the Gadigal Clan. Our tour started by honouring Aboriginal protocol and acknowledging the Custodians of Gadigal country.

Our first stop on our Sydney Opera House Tour was the lower Colonnade, home to three theatres (Playhouse, Studio and Drama). We were able to enter the Studio (no photos allowed) an interesting theatre used for a huge variety from a Cold Play recording session to an APEC round table conference.

Our first stop on our Sydney Opera House Tour was the lower Colonnade, home to three theatres (Playhouse, Studio and Drama). We were able to enter the Studio (no photos allowed), an impressive theatre used for a huge variety from a Coldplay recording session to an APEC round table conference.

One of 9 large windows in the Colonnade. The angled wells make the windows appear larger and cuts down on glare.

One of 9 large windows in the Colonnade. The angled window-wells make the windows appear larger and cut down on glare.

We got into the Concert Hall. It holds 2700 including 700 on stage.  It is designed for instrumental sound. White birch wood is used for the walls as well as the seats for acoustic purposes. The lit glass saucers over the stage can be raised or lowered to distribute the best sound. The organ displays 138 pipes in front and over 10,000 pipes in the rear, making it the largest mechanical tracker-action pipe organ in the world.

Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House hold 2700 inclucind 700 on stage. Designed for instumental sound.

The concert hall at Sydney Opera House.

We visited the foyers of several of the other theatres, each with unique features and views, and each used for intervals (intermissions) and party hire (rental).

Harbour Bridge as seen through foyer used for intervals and party hire: Sydney Opera House Tour

The Sydney Harbour Bridge as seen through a foyer window.

Looking at the foyer from another angle, we can see the boxwood structure around the concert hall.

Looking at the foyer from another angle, we can see the structure around the concert hall above and behind our tour guide.

Angled glass and metal framing Sydney Opera House Tour:

Angled glass and metal framing in one of the foyers.

Angled glass and metal framing Sydney Opera House Tour:

A view of some of the sails from a foyer window.

Another foyer seen during the Sydney Opera House Tour

A foyer staircase.

Next, we headed outside for a closer look at the one million tiles that make up the iconic sails. Two colours and seven varieties of tiles, with shiny and matt finishes, were used to build the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera House Tour:

Two colors and seven varieties of tiles, with shiny and matt fisnihes were used to build the Sydney Opera House. Approximately 1 Million tiles in total were used.

Our tour highlights were getting inside the concert hall and the Studio (no photos), learning a bit of the history and discovering how smoothly the three sails work together. The disappointing part of the tour was not getting into more of the theatres. Of course, had we thought about it a little longer, we would have realised many of them were currently being used for events and rehearsals.

Sydney Opera House

One final shot of the Sydney Opera House on tour day.

The day after our tour we walked across the Harbour Bridge. Not the heart-pounding adrenaline walking tour over the top, but a gentle walk on the footpath on the same level as the traffic. As we approached the other side, I captured a different view.

Sydney Opera House as seen from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

View of the Opera House from walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Practical Information: 

Have you been inside the Sydney Opera House? Did you see a performance?

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A collection of photos from a tour of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Australia

This post is linked at BeThere2Day for Wordless Wednesday on Tuesday, Through My Lens, Life Thru the Lens, Our World Tuesdays, Travel Tuesday, Ruby Tuesday Too, and Outdoor Wednesday.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary tour. As always, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

This post was proofread by Grammarly (Try it for free)

Cruising on the Swan River to Artistic Fremantle, Australia
Discovering Street Art in Perth, Australia


  1. says

    View of the Opera House from walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is so beautiful and every time I see a picture about Australia, the Opera House is in the background especially if the photo is taken from the Harbour Bridge. Maybe some day I’ll see for myself. See it Rhonda.

    Cruisin Paul

  2. Curtis McMillan says

    Thanks for the info on the Sydney Opera House. Nice job reporting on this. Quite an impressive structure.
    I’m now interested in going to Australia!!


  3. says

    I had no idea the roof was covered in tiles…so gorgeous. I wish you would have gotten to see more theaters too; so I could see them. Shame you couldn’t take pictures of one of them. I wonder why that was.

  4. says

    This is such a majestic building that I always wanted to visit and photograph, but didn’t make it to Sydney yet. I was surprised to read that Julie Andrews is now directing musicals in Australia. As for honoring the Aboriginal protocol because the Opera House is built on the land of the Gadigal Clan, it seems kind of funny if you ask me. It’s like us having to honor the Indian protocol because Las Vegas casinos are built on Indian territory (LOL!)

    • says

      I was surprised too that Julie Andrews was directing. There was something exciting about just knowing she was in the same building I was standing in, even if I never saw her.

  5. says

    fantastic place indeed, Rhonda. We went there in 2007 but we didn’t manage to have a complete tour like you. Those pictures bring all the sweet memories we have while living in Australia for 2 years 🙂

  6. says

    I have been to an Opera, many ballets, concerts and plays over the years at the Opera House but never done a tour. If you are ever in Sydney again and decide to see a show, take my advice and don’t just see a play. The drama theatres are underneath the main building and not nearly as impressive as the concert halls.

    • says

      That is exactly what I thought as I stood in the concert hall. I would love to see a show there. There was a single grand piano and stage and I imagined George Winston (my favourite pianist) sitting there.

  7. says

    Hi Rhonda – it is an amazing building and thank you for showing such amazing photos of the woodwork, the windows and the roof tiles … I hadn’t seen them like that before … An incredible position just besides the bridge … lovely – thank you … Hilary

  8. says

    Nice post! No one ever writes about what’s inside! Although I’m a bit sad to hear you passed up an opportunity to see My Fair Lady directed by Julie Andrews! I would have gone to that! #Wkendtravelinspiration

    • says

      LOL – I was a bit sad we made that choice too, but we didn’t have enough time in Sydney once we discovered it. As we were leaving on a cruise ship, there was no opportunity to extend.

  9. says

    I had no idea the place was so big nor that it had so many different theaters. I’m stunned about the 700 on stage and the 10k organ pipes. My mom was an organist and would have love playing it or even just seeing it! Am I awful that I think it’s a bit rude to be force-fed aboriginal history and traditions upon entrance? If they did that with Native Indians in the US, I’d be resentful. Like maybe they originally owned Manhattan Island, but they participated in nothing that was built or is there now. If I was touring a reservation or Indian museum, I’d expect to learn about them, but just because land once belonged to you shouldn’t give you a say in how it’s used or force visitors to learn about your history.

    • says

      I think the big difference is that the native Americans sold the Manhattan to Europeans, where in the case of Australia (and New Zealand) the European’s stole it. Now there is a push in both countries for political and cultural sensitivity.

  10. says

    We really enjoyed our tour of the Sydney Opera House. I was so familiar with how it looks from afar but the close up view and the insides were a revelation. We did see a children’s glow-in-the-dark puppet show in one of the smaller theatres whilst we were there. The other memorable moment was when my daughter accidentally knocked over a display of Swarovski topped pencils in the gift shop. Many of the crystals popped off, and I ended up having to buy (at cost) over $100 of damaged pencils. About 25 pencils, in case if you were wondering.

  11. says

    Rhonda, I’ve never been to Sydney! Two trips to Australia and we bypassed it both times. Next time we go, after we retire, we’re buying a car and staying as long as we can to tour the country. We’ll go then. I would do this tour, because I love all things architecture. I might have to see a show, though. I’ll have to plan that one just right wont’ I?

  12. says

    I love the photos of the opera house, and the idea of My Fair Lady directed by Julie Andrews (really?), but you got my full attention when you said you love yacht racing. As a participant or a spectator?
    When I took my young brother, who was then 14, to visit Australia in the 70s, we did see a play at the opera house, but my favourite part of the whole trip was the day we booked to go out on a sailboat and she turned out to be the prize-winning America’s Cup racing yacht Gretel, on her first day as a tourist day-sailer. One of the original crew was aboard that day and I spent a lot of time with him while my young brother learned about all the fixtures aboard a racing yacht.
    Thanks for the memories.

    • says

      I race on small yachts at our local yacht club. The boats are generally between 26 and 42 ft, and each has a handicap to make it fair. I crew on one of the larger boats. Auckland also has two America’s Cup boats that they take out every day with passengers. Looks like loads of fun.

  13. says

    I’ve only been to Sydney once and it was a short trip, so I’m eager to go back. In that trip I got to go on a boat trip and only saw the opera house from the exterior. It’s an extraordinary building! So glad I read your post and go to have a glimpse from its interior. How amazing is the concert hall?!

  14. says

    Yes I have and it is truly one of our great icons isn’t it. I love that decades later it is still something that is recognised all over the world. Would have loved to have been outside a few weekends ago when Crowded House played there.

    • says

      Yes, it is an amazing place, inside and out. I am just glad I finally got inside. I think it is part of the reason I love Sydney so much. Seeing the Opera House always makes me feel happy. I would have loved to have been there when Crowded House was playing too.

  15. says

    Enjoyed your photos! I went to Sydney last year and walked around the outside of the Opera House, but never made it inside. The architecture inside is mesmerizing. Loving the use of birch wood in the concert hall. I’d love to see a performance there sometime.

  16. says

    Stunning photos! I haven’t visited the Sydney Opera House but I think of it as a city icon. I had no idea it is a UNESCO site – very cool. I appreciate the travel tips and will plan to book a tour when I visit. Thank you!

  17. says

    I always see pictures from the outside but never the inside so it’s great to see it! I need to travel to Sydney sometime soon, it’s been on the list for ages and it’s only a stone throw away from NZ!

    • says

      Jutting out into the water on that spit of land, it’s hard to miss the exterior. You can see it from so many of the tourist areas in the city, plus the main ferry terminal. Fewer people get inside.

    • says

      We tried a few of the cafes in the area and all were fine. We also like eating in the Rocks. Our two favourite restaurants in Sydney are dinner time: Mr. Wong for Chinese food (be prepared for a long wait, but worth it) and Meat and Wine Co – make a booking for this one.

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