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Sydney Opera House – History, Tickets and Information

Sydney Opera House – History, Tickets and Information

Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous buildings in the world, even though it’s relatively new compared to many other iconic buildings worldwide.

Here’s a visitor’s guide with information about tickets, guided tours, opening hours as well as history and facts about the Opera House in Sydney. 

Ticket info and guided tours

Visitors can enjoy the Sydney Opera House foyer for free, but for a more insightful visit, you’ll need to book a tour.

There are several different ways to experience the Sydney Opera House, and multiple tours are available including back-stage passes and walking tours.

Tour TypeAdult (AUD$)Child
Guided Walking Tour$42$22
Guided Walking Tour + Dinner$73
Guided Walking Tour + Tasting Plate$82.20$64.80
Backstage Tour$175$175

Opening Hours

The Sydney Opera House is open year-round with the following opening hours:

  • Monday – Saturday: 9am – 8:30pm
  • Sunday: 9am – 5pm

To confirm your place on tour, it’s better to book online in advance instead of visiting the Box Office on the day. There’s also a chance you’ll enjoy a discounted price when booking online.

The concert hall of Sydney Opera House

Photo: Jan von Uxkull-Gyllenband /

History & Info

Attracting over 8.2 million visitors a year, the Sydney Opera House might be the most iconic building in Australia and is known over the world for its impressive display of modern architecture and its multi-venue performing arts center found right in the heart of Sydney. The story behind the creation of the Opera House is super interesting as well, and it all begins with a design competition in 1957.  

In December 1955, New South Wales’ state premier Joe Cahill announced an international design competition for an opera house, with the hopes to build something that would be created to the east coast state for decades to come.

The competition lasted a year and received over 200 entries with designers across the globe submitting their bids to get behind the most impressive building of the 20th century. The winning entry was by Danish architect Jorn Utzon who proposed to build a “graceful piece of urban sculpture”.

Opera House in Sydney exterior

Photo: Tooykrub /

Construction began on the Opera House on the 2nd March 1959, with a budget of $7 million, and over 10,000 builders worked around the clock to try to complete the structure within the four-year deadline.

The hardest task for Utzon was to design the proposed shell-shaped roof. He spent two years working with a Swedish tile company, constantly evolving the design, until they settled on a shell-shaped form that would include over one million roof tiles!

When did the Sydney Opera House open?

There were multiple delays in construction over the years and the Opera House, though predicted to take four years to build, wasn’t completed for another 14 years, finishing in 1973.

However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the incredible building was formally recognized as one of the most remarkable structures on the planet and a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Today the building hosts over 40 concerts and theatrical performances a week and guided architectural tours take place all year round. Visitors can enjoy a night at the Opera, romantic plays, and laugh out loud comedies along with family-friendly shows and contemporary music.

Sydney Opera House event

Photo: Javen /

One of the Opera House’s most popular activities is viewing the nightly light show known as ‘Badu Gili’. Badu Gili, meaning ‘water light’ in the language of the traditional Gadigal people (who once lived on the site of the Opera House) is a free daily experience that showcases the nations ancient stories through art. At 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm the Opera House is illuminated for seven-minutes with a spectacular art projection.

Sydney Opera House Light show

Photo: Alex Cimbal /

Points of Interest

The Steps

Before entering the Opera House, take a picture of the building from the steps outside.

The Sails

Step beneath the sails on a guided tour and enjoy harbourfront views.

The Concert Hall

The concert hall is the largest venue with seats for more than 2000 people. It features contemporary music gigs and highly-regarded orchestral performances. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest mechanical tracker-action pipe organ. 

Opera Bar

After your tour, head to the Opera Bar for a bite to eat or drink in the sun.

Badu Gili

This light show takes place most evenings after sunset at 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm. The show is free to view, and is seven minutes long.

How to get to the Sydney Opera House

By Car

If you’re arriving by car, park at Wilson Parking on 2 Macquarie Street. The car park is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and has undercover access to the Opera House Lower Concourse. Pay for your parking at the meters when you arrive, or pre-book a spot online.

By Public Transport

Take a bus, train, or ferry to Circular Quay and from here the Sydney Opera House is just a six-minute walk away. For more information on public transport to Circular Quay, check out the Transport Info website here.

On Foot

From Central Station (Sydney’s main train station) the Opera House is a 40-minute walk away. Cut through Hyde Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens to enjoy the scenic route before walking along the harbourfront to the Opera House.

Ferry to the Opera House in Sydney

Photo: Jiri Foltyn/Shutterstock

Nearby Attractions

The Sydney Opera House is well situated on the harbor and is surrounded by several attractions, restaurants, and bars. Some nearby highlights include:

  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Circular Quay
  • The Rocks
  • Museum of Sydney
  • Sydney Tower Eye
  • Luna Park Sydney

Best time to visit the Opera House in Sydney

The most popular time to visit the Opera House is in the summer months (December – March) when the sun is shining and the harbor is bustling with happy faces soaking up the summer sun.

As for the best time of day, it’s recommended to book the earliest Sydney Opera House tour of the day to beat the crowds. To enjoy sunny weather with fewer crowds, try visiting in the shoulder season (October, November, February, or March).

Facts about the Sydney Opera House

  • Sydney Opera House sits on Bennelong Point. Bennelong Point was named after Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior Eora man at the time of the arrival of British colonists in Australia in 1788.
  • The original cost estimate to build the Sydney Opera House was $7 million. The final cost was $102 million!
  • Seven A380s could sit wing-to-wing on the site.
  • More than 8 million people visit the Opera House every year.
  • The Opera House’s sails were built using cranes made specifically for the job in France, each costing $AUS 100,000 (£59,000).
  • The highest roof point is 67 meters above sea-level – the same as a 22-story high building.
  • 15,500 lightbulbs are changed every year at the Opera House!
  • The first person to perform at the Sydney Opera House was Paul Robeson – in 1960, he sang Ol’ Man Riverto the construction workers as they ate lunch.
Facts about Sydney Opera House

Photo: Alan L Meakin/Shutterstock

FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)

Does Sydney Opera House have a dress code?

Informal dress wear is fine for visitors taking a tour of the building, though those attending a show should consider dressing a little smarter!

Can you take food into the Opera House?
Food and beverages are not permitted in the theater or on a guided tour. There’s plenty of restaurants and cafes in and around the Opera House if you’re feeling peckish!

Can you go inside the Opera House in Sydney for free?
Yes! Visitors can enter the Box Office and the foyer for free, but to venture further into the building you’ll have to pay and join a tour.

What time does the Sydney Opera House light up?

The daily sails lighting on the eastern Bennelong sail is year-round at sunset, 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm.

What time does the last Sydney Opera House tour start?

The final tour of the day departs at 5pm, with tours starting every 15 or 30 minutes throughout the day.

What time do I need to arrive before my tour or event?
If you’re collecting tickets from the Box Office, please aim to arrive 30 minutes before your tour or event starts.

Do you have more questions before visiting the Sydney Opera House? Leave a comment below!