What's new in Sydney - a cultural travel guide - review by Rusty Compass
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What's new in Sydney - a cultural travel guide

| 08 May 2023
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What's new in Sydney - a cultural travel guide
08 May 2023

Sydney is changing fast. There are loads of new things for travellers to see and experience in the city from museums and galleries to new public spaces and a new vibe. This is our independent cultural travel guide to what's new in Australia's largest and most-visited city.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

This video covers part 1 of our take on what's new in Sydney in 2023. Part II is coming soon and there's more information below. Travel well in Sydney friends!

A new gallery - Sydney Modern

The Art Gallery of New South Wales has long been a highlight of a visit to Sydney. Behind the grand neo-classical facade sits a superb collection of Australian and international art.

In 2022 a $300 plus million expansion of the gallery opened in a spectacular structure right by the original. Unofficially known as Sydney Modern, the new gallery features a mix of Australian and international contemporary art. Highlights include a major lift in the prominence and scale of the Australian First Nations collection in the Yiribana Gallery.

The Tank, a repurposed World War II era oil storage tank on the site, has been transformed into a dramatic exhibition space.

See our guide to Sydney's public galleries here -

Sydney Modern Gallery
Photo: Mark Bowyer Sydney Modern Gallery

A new Sydney museum - Chau Chak Wing Museum

Sydney University has been exhibiting art, artefacts and natural history in small museums across the campus for over a century. In 2020, three museums became one thanks to a donation from Chinese property developer and philanthropist Chau Chak Wing. The collection is wonderfully diverse and the museum is refreshingly compact. 2 - 3 hours will excite your curiosity across a wide sweep of subjects.

I love this museum - it includes everything from Australian and global natural history to a fascinating art collection. Impressive Egyptian and Roman pieces are especially intriguing in Sydney. It's a good spot for curious kids too.

At a time when museums are increasingly needing to account for themselves and how they obtained the things they exhibit, it’s a tad disappointing that the Chau Chak Wing doesn’t provide much context on the origins of its collection.

See our guide to Sydney museums here -

Tasmanian Tiger - Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Tasmanian Tiger - Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney

Sydney's neighbourhoods blossom


Sydney’s wonderful neighbourhoods don’t get much attention in travel recommendations. In this video we mention two - Marrickville and Glebe.

Marrickville was rated by Timeout as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods in 2021. One of the multicultural centres of the city, it’s long been a great place for Greek and Vietnamese cuisine. In recent years, craft breweries, cool cafes, live music and a bizarre new shrine / pub /brewery dedicated to former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, have given new energy to Marrickville. Spend some time there.

Here are the Marrickville places we feature in the video - there are loads more! You can cover most of it by wandering around Marrickville Road and Illawarra Road.

Marrickville Pork Roll - Banh mi stall
Illawarra Rd Marrickville

Banh Cuon Ba Oanh
Illawarra Rd Marrickville

Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre

Lazy Bones Live Music
Illawarra Rd Marrickville

Illi Hill Cafe
Illawarra Rd Marrickville

Side Story Cafe - Marrickville Library
Marrickville Rd


Nearby Sydney University and the Chau Chak Wing Museum, Glebe has long been a bohemian enclave. Sydney’s property madness and gentrification are pushing out a lot of Glebe’s character, but it’s still a place of heritage, cafes, eateries and some of Sydney’s best small bookshops. The weekend markets are good and it’s great place to wander - all the way down to the harbour.

Bara - the first prominent monument to Sydney's First Nations peoples was inaugurated in 2022
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bara - the first prominent monument to Sydney's First Nations peoples was inaugurated in 2022

A new visibility for Australia's First Peoples

For decades, one of the most obvious features of a visit to Sydney has been the near invisibility of the cultures that inhabited the place for 30000+ plus years before the invasion and colonisation of 1788. International friends have long commented on how strange it is that Sydney doesn’t have a museum of Indigenous history and culture and other recognition.

Change comes slowly but it’s happening.

Bara, a new sculpture looking across Sydney Cove (Warrane) to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, is a stunning new addition to this iconic spot by Queensland Aboriginal artist Judy Watson. It’s the first major piece of First Nations art in such a key Sydney location. Don’t miss it during your visit.

While you’re enjoying the spectacular view from around Bara, you’ll also notice the Aboriginal flag flying on Sydney Harbour Bridge. The flag became a permanent fixture on the bridge in 2022 - another welcome development.

These symbolic shifts matter. In 2023, Australians will vote in a referendum on constitutional change to recognise our First Peoples and create an Indigenous “Voice” - a consultative body - to Federal Parliament. You’ll hear more about the voice as you travel Australia.

Approaching Sydney Opera House in the late afternoon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Approaching Sydney Opera House in the late afternoon

Old Compass Travel - new walking tours in Sydney

In 2023 we’ve also officially launched Old Compass Travel cultural and historical walks in Sydney. We operate two daily walks - An alternative walking tour of The Rocks and Sydney - Tales of the City, each covering fascinating Sydney stories and beautiful Sydney vistas. We also run special tours with authors and historians. Customised walks for the specific interests of visitors in and around the city can also be arranged.

For more head over to Old Compass Travel - we’d love to meet you in person and take you for a walk around Sydney!



Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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