Sydney, Australia, the nation's oldest and largest city and the capital of New South Wales. It lies on Port Jackson, a nearly land-locked inlet and one of the finest natural harbors in the world. The City of Sydney, or Sydney proper, which consists mainly of the central business district, occupies about 11 square miles (28 km2) on Port Jackson's south shore. Residential and industrial suburbs fringe the rest of the inlet and extend far inland, covering some 670 square miles (1,735 km2). Harbour Bridge spans Port Jackson in a huge arc, linking the city proper with North Sydney. .)
Sydney is one of Australia's leading seaports and a major commercial center. It owes much of its prosperity to the busy cargo terminals that line the downtown waterfront. Manufacturing industries yield such varied products as transportation equipment, electrical machinery, petroleum products, chemicals, textiles, paper and wood products, and processed foods. Banking and insurance industries contribute to Sydney's status as a global financial center. Tourism is one of Sydney's leading industries. The city is served by major railways and highways and by a major international airport.
Downtown Sydney, with its modern skyscrapers of glass, steel, and concrete, retains only a hint of the Victorian atmosphere that marked the city prior to World War II. The most outstanding modern building is the Opera House, composed of a series of concrete shells that resemble billowing sails. Built on a point jutting into the harbor, it has become one of the city's best-known landmarks. Notable 19th-century buildings include Parliament House, Government House, the Town Hall, and the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals.
Sydney is a major cultural center. It has several museums, including the Australian Museum, with exhibits devoted to Australia's natural history, and the Power House Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Sydney is home to the Australian Opera, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and several theater companies. Educational institutions include the University of Sydney (founded in 1850) and the University of New South Wales (1948).
Among other attractions are the Taronga Zoo, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Sydney Aquarium. The city's many parks offer a variety of recreational activities. Some of the nation's finest beaches fringe Port Jackson and the Pacific Ocean nearby.
Sydney was founded as a penal colony in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip and was the first permanent British settlement in Australia. It grew slowly until the discovery of gold in the 1850's brought a rush of settlers to New South Wales and stimulated economic development. After the colony achieved self-government in 1855, Sydney became the capital and the chief outlet for agricultural and mineral products from the interior. By 1900 the metropolitan area had a population of nearly half a million. Rapid growth continued, the greatest boom coming with large-scale industrialization in the 1950's.
Sydney was the site of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.
In 2001 the urban center of Sydney had a population of 3,997,321—about one-fifth of Australia's total.