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Sydney: An International Hub of Culture, Quality Art and Big Ideas

With spectacular beaches, a stunning harbour, idyllic weather and an abundance of dining and entertainment options, sydney is a world-class Lieven Bertels_112_photo Prudence Uptondestination. Add the buzz of the three-week sydney Festival over January and it’s an international hub of culture, quality art and big ideas. Festival director Lieven Bertels shares his festival highlights with The Retiree, as well as his favourite sydney discoveries. 

Since moving to Sydney to direct the Sydney Festival, what is about the city you have embraced?
One real discovery was Aussie Rules Football – we’ve become avid Sydney Swans supporters and love our red and whites! It’s great entertainment for the whole family.

You must escort many visitors through the city? Where are your favourite places to take them?

I love taking them on a coastal walk in Sydney’s eastern suburbs or the north shore. Many visitors are surprised to find such beautiful nature so close to the CBD and there even is some amazing Aboriginal rock art on the north shore.

Which landmark do you think is a must-see in Sydney?
People always boast about the beautiful shopping arcades in Melbourne, but the nicest one in the country is of course the Queen Victoria Building, right next door to Sydney’s Town Hall. It’s a great destination in itself, but also has some of the best shopping and coffee.

What is your favourite activity in Sydney?
Swimming at Balmoral beach! Such a lovely spot, especially on weekend mornings…

fireworksWhich is your favourite beach?
For snorkelling or to enjoy the view, I go to Gordon’s Bay in eastern Sydney. For a morning swim it’s Balmoral. If I just want to enjoy a stroll, I go to Manly – there’s always something to see on North Steyne promenade and the Corso

With so many great restaurants throughout Sydney, where is your favourite place to go for breakfast?
Burnt Orange on Bradley’s Head, a great location, amazing view, good walks before or after, accessible car park, (or a nearby bus stop if you decide to come by public transport), and a sweet little shop too. If you choose to combine it with a walk, you might actually have lunch there too!

How about fine dining? Do you have any places to share?
Cafe? Sydney, with its spectacular harbour backdrop taking in the life and majesty of Circular Quay, remains one of the centrepieces of Sydney dining. I love their friendly service and consistent standard of cuisine, and their swordfish is highly recommended!

Where do you enjoy shopping, and have you purchased any items unique to Sydney?
Crown Street in Surry Hills – so many surprising independent retailers, some great food and wine, and that country town feel Sydney blends so elegantly in with its metropolitan grandeur. If you want an upmarket experience, you should check out The Star shopping arcade in Pyrmont. As always in Sydney, shopping seems to come with great food, and The Star is no exception, with mouth-watering French and Asian cuisine to satisfy the most discerning hungry shopper! For a unique souvenir head to the Sydney Opera House souvenir shop and buy the Lego version for some DIY fun back home.

Where do you recommend visitors stay?
Coming from Europe, I love the French hospitality offered by the Accor group. From Ibis and Novotel, to the more upmarket Pulman hotels and Sydney’s well- located Sofitel, there’s a place for everybody. Accor recently added the Sebel hotels to their portfolio, including the fabulous The Sebel Pier One which has glorious views of the harbour and is nestled right beside the Harbour Bridge!

Are there any day trips visitors should put on their itinerary?
A hidden gem is the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery
and Arts Centre, in the south (Gymea), a wonderful discovery. And, if you want to make it a weekend, why not head further south to Kangaroo Valley and discover some wild countryside in regional NSW!

When we moved here, we thought Sydney would become our hub to conquer the Pacific, but there’s still so much to discover in this beautiful state, that we’re nowhere near the end of our bucket list.

Apart from the Sydney Festival, of course, what is your favourite Sydney event?
I love the Sydney Biennale. It’s a fun arts event for the whole family; the trips to Cockatoo Island are a real adventure and it’s such a great way to explore our wonderful city.


Check the Festival Highlights


Check out the Sydney Festival 2014 Highlights

About the author

Alana Lowes

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