CBD and Harbour

CBD and Harbour is the main commercial centre of Sydney. The harbour views, iconic landmarks and program of major cultural events draw thousands of visitors, workers and residents each day. The retail core, focused around Pitt Street Mall, provides a premier shopping destination.

The area includes many of Australia’s most historic sites and buildings such as in unique areas of The Rocks and Walsh Bay, with many constructed in distinctive ‘yellow block’ sandstone. There are major cultural institutions, including museums, theatres and galleries, as well as world-class parklands such as the Botanic Gardens and Domain, Observatory Hill Park and Hyde Park.

The area is home to a small but diverse population, living in apartment towers, heritage terraces and public housing. It is also a world renowned tourist destination.

CBD and Harbour is located in the north of the City of Sydney's local area, from Bathurst Street in the south to Sydney Harbour and The Rocks in the north, and from Hyde Park, the Domain and the Botanical Gardens in the east to Darling Harbour in the west.

The area includes the suburbs of The Rocks, Millers Point, Dawes Point and Barangaroo and part of the locality of Sydney.

Despite being the primary commercial precinct within the City of Sydney's local area, CBD and Harbour offers significant amounts of cultural and community land uses in addition to numerous parks and open spaces as well as entertainment and maritime uses.

The area has historical low-rise residential dwellings to the north, with increasing high density residential around the periphery as a result of recent redevelopment.

The eastern edge of CBD and Harbour is dominated by parkland, including the the Royal Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park.

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Housing within the CBD and Harbour area provides a juxtaposition between traditional and new, low density and high density dwellings. The history of the area is still evident within the heritage laneways and terraces in The Rocks, Millers Point and Dawes Point, with the majority of the lower density residential dwellings focused towards the northern end of the city centre. This is contrasted with the residential skyscrapers towards the centre of CBD and Harbour along with the soon to be developed Barangaroo site to the west, which will provide a significant supply of high density residential dwellings.

Chart 1 shows the distribution of dwelling types within the area. The large majority of dwellings within CBD and Harbour are flats, units and apartments, which make up 92% of all dwellings. This is significantly above the City of Sydney's local area average of 76%. The area also has a share, albeit marginal at 8%, of semi-detached dwellings, which represent the historical residential dwellings located in the north of CBD and Harbour. 

Chart 1 – Dwelling Types

Chart 1


York, George and Pitt streets provide the main north–south transport corridors through CBD and Harbour, with parts of Pitt Street only available to pedestrian traffic at the primary retail precinct of Pitt Street Mall. Access is also made possible by the main streets of Bridge, Hunter, King, Market and Druitt streets, with the latter providing a connection to the eastern suburbs of Sydney. At the northern tip of CBD and Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, providing one of the main links between Sydney's city centre and Sydney’s North Shore. The Harbour Bridge also provides a connection to the west via the Western Distributor freeway, and the east via the Cahill Expressway.

Figure 1 shows public transport infrastructure in the City of Sydney, including barrier counts for train and ferry stations in 2012. From the map, it is evident that CBD and Harbour includes some of the busiest train stations in the City of Sydney, including Town Hall (168,000 daily passengers), Wynyard (116,000 daily passengers), Martin Place (38,000 daily passengers), Circular Quay (37,000 daily passengers), Museum (19,000 daily passengers) and St James (16,000 daily passengers).

The area also includes the ferry wharves of Circular Quay (17,400 daily passengers) and Darling Harbour (6,700 daily passengers), as well as providing major bus services and interchanges.

CBD and Harbour also contains a number of busy pedestrian thoroughfares, including George Street and Pitt Street. A pedestrian study in October 2013 found that Market Street between George and Pitt streets was one of the busiest locations in the area. At this point, pedestrian traffic was estimated at around 63,000 people per day on a weekday and 46,100 per day on a weekend.

Figure 1 – Transport Infrastructure & Barrier Counts

Chart 1


CBD and Harbour includes significant entertainment, maritime, cultural and community uses. Some of the facilities include:

  • Shopping centres and malls including Pitt Street Mall, Westfield Sydney, Strand Arcade, Queen Victoria Building and The Galeries.
  • Iconic landmarks including Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Tower Eye.
  • Cultural facilities including National Trust Centre, Hyde Park Barracks Museum, The Rocks Discovery Museum, Susannah Place Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Mint Museum, Museum of Sydney, State Library of NSW and Art Gallery of NSW.
  • Entertainment and tourism facilities including Sydney Sea Life Aquarium and Wildlife World as well as Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.
  • Places of religious significance including St Andrew’s Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedral.
  • Major parks and open spaces including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, the Domain, Cook and Phillip Park, Dawes Point Park, Observatory Park and Macquarie Place Park, to name a few.
  • Aquatic leisure facilities including Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic Centre and Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool.

The parks and council facilities are displayed in Figure 2.

The City of Sydney Wellbeing (Residents) Survey highlighted the following opinions of residents regarding community facilities in their area.

  • Households believe their access to libraries is above average.
  • Residents feel that the opportunities to participate in arts and cultural activities in the local area are above average.
  • Residents are satisfied with the range and quality of public art installations and artworks within their area.

Figure 2 – Parks and Council Facilities

Chart 1


CBD and Harbour is the main hub of activity and cultural events in the City of Sydney attracting unparalleled crowds and contributing to Sydney’s overall sense of community. These events also provide significant economic benefits for local businesses by increasing visitation to the area. Some of the main events include:

  • New Year’s Eve: One of the biggest events across Sydney attracting more than 1.5 million spectators and watched by more than 1 billion people globally. The main features are the 9pm and midnight fireworks displays, however these are supported by a range of other features including air displays, fire tug water display, the Harbour of Light parade and numerous light displays and projections.
  • Christmas: Another major collection of events within CBD and Harbour and the surrounding areas is at Christmas where there is a range of concerts, lighting projections, decorations, music, fireworks and displays provided, often for no cost to guests. These events attract a constant flow of people throughout the streets with the continuous program of events.
  • Sydney Festival: In January every year the Sydney Festival is a cultural celebration held across the city that has been running for nearly 4 decades. The festival comprises approximately 400 performances of 140 events at over 30 venues, including burlesque circus and Dutch theatre to contemporary dance and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts practice.
  • Sydney Writers’ Festival: The Sydney Writer’s Festival in May attracts approximately 80,000 people. The festival presents over 300 talks, panels and performances across Sydney and its surrounds, bringing together some of the most highly regarded authors of contemporary fiction and writers of non-fiction as well as a range of intellectuals, scientists and journalists.
  • Sydney Film Festival: The Sydney Film Festival in June is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, running for over 60 years. The 12-day festival screens a range of feature films, documentaries, short films and animations from international producers and is held in venues including the State Theatre, Dendy Cinemas Opera Quays and the Art Gallery of NSW.
  • Biennale of Sydney: The Biennale is a 3-month exhibition held every 2 years, showcasing contemporary visual arts displays along with a program of artist talks, forums, guided tours and family days at no cost to the public. Some of the main venues for the events are within CBD and Harbour, such as the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Vivid Sydney: The festival attracts over 1.4 million people every year in May and June. The festival transforms Sydney into a wonderland of 'light art' sculptures, innovative light installations and grand-scale projects across the city centre from Central Park and Martin Place through to Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. The festival also includes a program of cutting-edge music and ideas.



This information has been compiled from various sources. The publisher and contributors accept no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage arising from the use, error or omissions therein. While all care is taken to ensure a high degree of accuracy, users are invited to notify the City of Sydney of any discrepancies. No part of this information, including maps or data, may be reproduced without written permission.

Last updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2015