a morning at the opera: touring the @SydOperaHouse

theromanticConfession time: I’m a real sucker for iconic buildings and monuments. I tear up pretty much every time I see the Eiffel Tower, the Flatiron was one of my favorite things about my old work neighborhood, and I have a feeling if we were to drive across America, I’d want to stop for every giant ball of yarn and largest _____’s in the world.

This meant that there was no question we’d be touring the Sydney Opera House immediately upon arrival.

sydney opera house

We met our guide, Bruce, for the 9:30 AM tour. As we stood outside the Opera House, we stared up at the building that was designed by Jørn Utzon in 1955 as a result of a worldwide competition to find a suitable architect for the project.

Usually, the historical aspect of most tours isn’t my main squeeze, but Bruce’s telling of Utzon’s tragic relationship with the Sydney Opera House was anything but dry and completely captivated me.

sydney opera house

The design itself was polarizing from the beginning, and it was soon realized that Utzon’s drawings were so lacking in detail that the construction team had to kind of… wing it. When building began in 1959, most were still unsure whether or not the Opera House could even be built as planned, but they went forward, estimating construction would take three years and a seven million dollar budget.

soh interior

You can guess how that went.

16 years and 102 million dollars later, the opera house was finished. Over these 16 years, payments ceased to Utzon due to major complications, which eventually forced him to resign from the project completely.

soh interior

In 1973, Queen Elizabeth II finally opened the Opera House, but Utzon never returned to see his building fully erected. The Sydney Opera House is the only site to receive the UNESCO World Heritage Site Award during the lifetime of the creator, and as of 1999–in an attempt for reconciliation–Joran Utzon was invited to join the board. Though he accepted, Jørn Utzon’s health problems ensured that he was never able to see the opera house before his death in 2008.

soh interior

Utzon’s story was just one of many shared by Bruce during our tour, and I can promise that all weren’t nearly as tragic–in fact, most were completely charming, but impossible to recreate without Bruce himself. The tour gave me a new appreciation for the building each time we passed the harbor, and again as we sipped cocktails from the top floor of the Shangri-La Hotel:

shangri la

The Sydney Opera House Tour was a perfect start to our time in Australia, and the best way to spend our first morning in Sydney.

Stay tuned for more from Oz!


the romantic

– Thanks to the Sydney Opera House for inviting us to join the tour. As always, all opinions are my own! 



  1. July 18, 2013 / 16:18

    I have been to the Opera House many times but never knew Utzon’s story. It is very tragic. He created such a masterpiece. When I first moved to Australia as a backpacker, I even packed a ball gown as I envisaged seeing an opera there! Never did see anyone wear a ball gown, but enjoyed a fantastic concert on the steps and never tired of looking at the graceful sails of the building. Sort of like the Guggenheim – the architecture of the place is iconic!
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