Living in: Sydney

With an exuberant nature, cosmopolitan vibe and relaxed beach culture, Australia’s most populous city consistently ranks among the world’s most liveable.

The jaunty, swooping lines of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are iconic shorthand for the city’s exuberant nature and cosmopolitan but relaxed vibe. Add in a healthy dose of beach culture and outdoors lifestyle and you have the winning combination that makes Sydney consistently rank among the world’s most liveable cities, attracting people from around the globe.

What is it known for?
Bold and brash, Sydney is Australia’s commercial and financial capital, as well as its most populous city. Founded as a British penal colony in the 18th Century – to the detriment of the region’s Aboriginal clans and tribes – Sydney became a post-WWII destination for emigrants from Europe and Asia. Today, almost one-third of the city’s population was born overseas and immigrants make up three-quarters of its annual growth. They are attracted by the city’s opportunities, but also its lifestyle, which is complemented by a blessed beachfront location. “The great things about living here is the proximity to beaches, the great food and restaurants and the amazing weather,” said Rob Maniaci, an American who has lived in Sydney with his family for seven years.

Sydney’s multicultural heritage means the cuisine is rich and varied, enlivened by many Asian and Mediterranean influences. On the eastern beaches of Bondi and Bronte, surfers and swimmers ply the waves, and the city is home to some of the country’s best teams for football, rugby, Australian rules football and cricket. The city’s Central Business District (CBD) is home to the famous Opera House, and the annual Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Festival, which celebrates arts, dance and music, are held in venues across town.

Where do you want to live?
Inner city districts close to the CBD, such as residential Paddington and Surry Hills, remain ever popular and expensive. Also in perpetual demand are affluent parts of the Lower North Shore, such as Kirribilli and Hunter’s Hill, located across the Harbour Bridge from the CBD, and the upscale eastern suburbs, including Woollahra, Vauclause and Bondi. “Young professionals and couples are drawn to coastal areas such as Bondi and Bronte,” said Shayne Harris, head of residential at Savills Australia. "These are popular places to rent given that prices often prohibit them from purchasing.” The gentrified Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay areas, located just east of the CBD, are also very desirable, as are inner west suburbs including diverse Newtown and Marrickville. Areas just south of Surry Hills, such as hip Redfern, are also attracting interest from first-time buyers, as are surrounding neighbourhoods. “A number of developments in Waterloo, Ultimo and Pyrmont have proved popular with younger buyers given their relative affordability and proximity to the CBD,” explained Harris. Those seeking an affordable family house look far out of town in areas like South Western Sydney, Ropes Crossing and Kellyville.

Side trips
Sydneysiders looking to get out of the city for a few days head to the towns, valleys and cliffs of the Blue Mountains, a Unesco World Heritage Area just 50km west of the city for hiking, platypus sightings or just chilling out with a great view. The Hunter Valley wine region is another popular getaway about 100km north of Sydney for its verdant landscapes and green vines stretching out across the fields. “People also go to the Southern Highlands on short jaunts,” Maniaci said. This mountainous region is about 100km southwest of the city.

Melbourne is a one-hour flight from Sydney and Hobart in Tasmania is about two hours away, with frequent departures from Sydney Airport. London is a full 24 hours away, while Singapore is about eight hours and Bali about six and a half hours.

Practical info
There is renewed confidence in the housing market, and since the beginning of 2013 properties are selling above asking prices. “We are seeing the return of competitive bidding, and properties below three million Australian dollars sell quickly, if they are priced correctly and presented well,” Harris said. Western Sydney is expected to be the top performing area in suburbs such as Auburn and Mount Druitt. Government incentives are also in place to entice first-time home buyers, who have been returning to the market in the first three months of 2013. “The upcoming general election [14 September 2013] may slow down the market for a period as many people will be in a wait-and-see mode,” Harris said.

A typical two-bedroom flat or unit in an inner city suburb costs anywhere from A$350,000 into the millions, while the median sales price across Sydney is A$656,415. But high demand for housing has pushed up rental prices across the city, with a two-bedroom flat in an inner suburb starting at around A$400 a week. The average rental price in the CBD is A$590 a week.

Further information
The Beast: lifestyle magazine covering Sydney’s eastern beaches

The Sydney Sports Blog: an American ex-pat takes on all things sport

City News: alternative weekly covering local inner city news