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Browse the City of Sydney's History & Archives webpage
If you're interested in visiting some of Sydney's historic sites try the Historic Houses Trust. Properties include Government House, or Elizabeth Farm which is the oldest surviving homestead in Australia.
Sydney has been transformed in the last several decades. Thirty years ago there were no residential developments allowed in the Central Business District (CBD). After five o'clock or so everything closed and the place was largely a ghost town, save for a few spots sprinkled around like cinemas or the odd restaurant. There was definitely not the buzz that you have now. The metamorphosis continues as new residential towers open, bringing the attendant services, cafes, and shops that come with them.
Tourism has also increased remarkably during this time. Thirty years ago the only five star hotel in town was the Hilton. There was also no Darling Harbour. The area where Darling now sits was a shipping wharf and industrial area in decline. Go back a bit further and there was no Opera House. What was a tram-yard became a construction site for what seemed like forever, and many Sydneysiders considered the whole project to be a financial black hole heading for an ugly building.
The food - Modern Australian Cuisine didn't really exist. There were restaurants offering the cuisine of a range of countries from which Australia had accepted immigrants, or of a cuisine considered superior. Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Lebanese. But not Thai or Vietnamese. These are more recent and delightful additions to the scene. One of the big changes in food has been the "mainstreaming" of foods from different countries, with many international foods now stocked in local supermarkets.
Many Australians can remember when there were only a few varieties of cheese readily available. "Rats" cheese (tasty cheddar) and "Mouse" cheese (processed Kraft cheese), or perhaps cottage cheese. If you were really adventurous you might try the Kraft ready-grated parmesan cheese, which of course was not a patch on fresh Grana Padano.
Faces in the street have changed too. Sydney has absorbed a lot of migrants in this time, particularly from Asia.