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Despite Sydney’s characteristic red tape pouring cold water on the busking scene in recent years, there are still plenty of places around the Harbour City where you can enjoy street performers doing their thing. Check out the top five spots to watch buskers perform.
The long passageway beneath Sydney’s biggest railway station isn’t just swarming with people during peak hour—it’s also crowded with several of the city’s favourite street performers. The 300m long pedestrian tunnel links Devonshire St in Surry Hills with Railway Square and George St in the city centre, and the thousands of commuters who pile through it during peak hour are treated to quality busking every day of the week.
The tunnel is lined with colourful murals and intricate tile work that provides the backdrop to a number of Sydney’s favourite buskers perched on old milk crates, including institutions like the older Chinese man playing the erhu string instrument, and musical married couple John and Yuki.
Pitt St Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of the CBD, is Sydney’s premier retail precinct, and an army of buskers supplies the soundtrack to all that shopping. Performances are extremely tightly regulated to three busking zones, which upholds a certain degree of quality—getting a gig on Pitt St is kind of like the busking equivalent of hitting Broadway. And it’s not only singers, with magicians and street performers also enjoying the opportunity to strut their stuff. Visitors to the Harbour City should also add Pitt St Mall to their itinerary for its 400-plus speciality shops and dozens of flagship chain stores.
The hub of the Harbour City’s ferry network doubles as a hot spot of its busking scene, bringing together an eclectic bunch of street acts pitching their performances at the steady stream of tourists. Circular Quay, wedged in between the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House on the edge of the glistening harbour, comes alive with street performers peddling everything from caricatures and human statues to juggling and magic, as well as a steady supply of musicians. This place also exhibits a large number of Aboriginal artists, particularly painters, singers, and talented exponents of the didgeridoo.
Take Sydney’s most famous ferry ride from Circular Quay and you’ll wind up in Manly, a lively seaside suburb that buzzes with the sound of street performers. Registered buskers are permitted to perform on the Manly Corso, the bustling thoroughfare that connects the ferry wharf with the golden sand and towering pine trees of Manly Beach. These street musicians complement the 200 retail stores, bars and eateries along the Corso, and often draw big crowds of passers-by. Younger performers are particularly popular in this Northern Beaches neighbourhood, earning local kids some serious pocket money.
Darling Harbour is one of the Sydney city centre’s busiest tourist precincts, and street performances add to the atmosphere. The streets around the waterfront are regularly occupied with thousands of visitors strolling around the Australian National Maritime Museum, the SeaLife Aquarium, the Star casino, the Chinese Garden of Friendship and many bars and restaurants, and all those people are entertained by buskers working hard for a tip. Darling Harbour attracts its fair share of singers as well as acrobats, in particular keep an eye out for large crowds drawn to physical performances making the most of the space around the harbour’s edge.