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Sydney Architecture Walks

Home > Sydney > Cycling | Outdoor | Quirky | Tours | Walks
by Jenny Wong (subscribe)
Food, Travel, Lifestyle Blogger ... Curation of things you can see, taste or do
Published February 27th 2014
Quirky urban tours for curious people

"You're Sydney born and bred and you went on a tour in Sydney on the weekend?" says an amused work colleague. I replied, "Yeah, and I learned a lot about why buildings and the city is the way it is today and where it's heading in the future. For example, did you know the best house in the world in 2011 is in Surry Hills, built on a tiny 42 square metre car space?" And then I started rattling off the things I learned about Sydney from Eoghan (pronounced 'Yowen'), our guide on the 'Five-Suburb Dérive' bike tour last Sunday.

Sydney Architecture Walks is no ordinary, run of the mill tour of Sydney. You will see Sydney through a different lens when you spend a day out with the guys at Sydney Architecture Walks by exploring ideas through architecture. The tour also covers stories about the once unfashionable rag trade inner-city suburbs that are undergoing gentrification and are now rebranded into the new 'hipsturbia'. It is designed for those who like to use their heads as much as their legs. Sydney Architecture Walks was established by a bunch of friends who are architects and designers by profession, who simply love cities and love unpacking a city bit by bit to tell stories about the concepts behind the concrete shells, glass skirts and sandstone façade on a piece of architecture or unfamiliar landscape that defines Sydney today.

Five-Suburb Dérive Tour Overview

On the Sunday I was to ride with Sydney Architecture Walks, it was forecast for thunderstorms. First thing I did in the morning was to call Eoghan, "It's looking pretty miserable Eoghan, is it still on?" Eoghan replied, "One of those funny days. Let me check my satellite and I'll get back to you in 5 minutes". 5 minutes later, Eoghan calls and says, "Yep it's still on, safe to ride". Everyone met at 30 Harrington Street, The Rocks at 9.30am on a drizzly Sunday morning to pick up their bikes, helmets, and their raincoats. You are given a bike to ride, adjusted to your height and once everyone was ready, we were on our way..

Sydney Architecture Walks
Meeting place for Sydney Architecture Walks: The Rocks, Sydney

Our ride started up a steep hill to Observatory Hill. That's probably the only steep part of the whole ride. From thereon it's pretty flat and easy ride around the Sydney suburbs. With regular stops along the way to hear the stories of Sydney's development and architecture, we meandered our way through Barangaroo, Walsh Bay, the Lend Lease headquarters, Darling Harbour, new architecture under construction commissioned by the University of Technology of Sydney, Central Park, Prince Alfred Park Pool, the various unique residential designs in Redfern, Surry Hills and Bourke Street Bakery (the new residential dream), the Readers Digest building and World House of the Year winner, 'Small House' in Surry Hills. Seriously, I've lived in this city all my life and I don't think I've been paying attention to our city properly. We have some pretty interesting architecture buildings (and more in development), and the story behind them, the inspiration, construction and the politics, are really quite fascinating. I was so engaged I nearly forgot it rained not insignificantly during some parts of the ride and my clothes were pretty soaked.

Sydney Architecture Walks
Barangaroo, Central Park are just some of the sites we visited on a Sydney Architecture Walk tour

Top 5 reasons to go on a Sydney Architecture Walks tour

#1 You will learn a lot about Sydney

You will learn that Sydney is a city that was made, not found. Deliberately avoiding the touristy areas like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and disrupting the normal patterns to seeing a suburb, you will learn about the most interesting and provocative architectural projects in Sydney's inner eastern suburbs and the gritty inner western suburbs including the gentrified suburbs of Ultimo, Chippendale, Redfern, Waterloo and Surry Hills. You will learn about what developments are taking place in Sydney and why. It is a real insider's tour with an architectural twist.

Sydney Architecture Walk
More Sydney sites on Sydney Architecture Walks

There were many aspects of the tour including discovering the process of how Sydney has evolved since settlement. An interesting part of the tour was seeing and learning about how the fairly new German sourced central water feature has been seamlessly integrated in the playground of Darling Harbour and the reasons for the current developments that are occurring in the area. The innovative playground has water pumps that can be opened and closed by children, sending water down through the concrete channels. There were not many children playing with the water pumps as it was raining the day we went, but on warmer days, the playground can get quite crowded.

#2 Get fit painlessly

Bicycling on a Sunday is a great way to see Sydney in a way you would not ordinarily have seen Sydney before. You can take in the fresh air and it's great way to relieve any stress built up during a work week. The duration of the ride is about 4.5 to 5 hours ensuring you will have a good workout by the end of the tour (and sleep like a baby by the end of it). It's not a continuous ride and there are regular stops in between for you to appreciate the unique sites and listen to what Eoghan knows about a particular development in Sydney.

Sydney Architecture Walks
Some of the Sydney architecture we learned about in our travels

#3 Lunch at hidden cafés that only a local would know

We stopped for lunch at Brickfields in Chippendale and there I discovered another little hidden café and bakery that rivals Bourke Street Bakery. The smell of freshly baked bread made our mouths water. Sometimes you just need a local architect who pays more attention to the detail than you to tell you where the little gems are located. I'll be going back there.

#4 Learn the bike tracks in Sydney

I'ved bicycled in Paris, Berlin and San Francisco but never bicycled around Sydney before. I guess I've thought it unsafe and just relied on other forms of transport or walking. On a Sydney Architecture Walks tour, you will learn how to safely get around Sydney by bicycle, and it's a pretty easy and a flat ride.

#5 Get to know an architect

You will get to know an architect and pick his brain about the city. In our case, we had Eoghan and his knowledge of Sydney's architecture and development is impressive ensuring you come away learning something about a city you may not have known before.

What to bring?

Wear clothing suitable for bicycling eg sneakers and shorts or bike pants. If it's raining, bring your raincoats or rely on the ponchos they provide. They will keep you dry. Also, don't forget a bottle of water.

Do I have to bring my own bike?

No. You can hire a bike at an extra cost or bring your own.

Where do we meet?

The meeting place is at The Rocks, a short distance walk from Circular Quay station so it's nice and convenient.

Level of difficulty?

It's not a difficult ride but average fitness is probably required.

What if the weather is lousy?

Rain or shine, the tour goes ahead. It was raining when I went and the tour went ahead. The advantage of overcast weather is you won't get sunburnt that easily. Waterproof ponchos are provided. However, if the weather is too dangerous to cycle then the tour will be cancelled, but this is decided on the morning of the ride and you will be notified.


Sydney Architecture Walk's bike tour is a great opportunity to cover a large area in a short time and really learn about Sydney and its architecture. Eoghan's knowledge and sharp observations on Sydney's developments and architecture are not only impressive, his anecdotes are very engaging. There are four other tours Sydney Architecture Walks offers. I'm craving for more local knowledge on Sydney so I will definitely be going on another tour soon.
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Why? Quirky urban tours for curious people
When: Check website for tour dates
Phone: 0403 888 390
Where: Meeting place for the Five Suburb Derive Tour is The Rocks, Circular Quay. Other tours meet in various locations in the Sydney CBD. Check the website for further details.
Cost: Check the website for cost of various tours
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