Sydney Opera House

Cities love to have icons – positive visual images that are immediately brought to mind whenever the city is mentioned. And of all modern city icons in the world, Sydney Opera House reigns supreme: a stunning cluster of white shells on a promontory overlooking a magnificent harbour, a building like no other.

The tortured history of its creation is almost as famous as the building itself. In 1957, on the basis of a sketch, the Danish architect Jørn Utzon (1918–2008) won an international competition to design the opera house and oversee its construction. Making this a reality proved an engineering headache, with the result that the building had to be radically revised, cost seven times the original budget, and took fourteen years to complete – by which time Utzon has walked out. It was finally opened in 1973, to huge acclaim.

'Opera house' is a bit of a misnomer: the four auditoriums play host to a broad range of cultural events, including concerts, ballet, plays, musical shows and film. One-hour guided tours of the equally spectacular interior are available throughout the day.

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