Parramatta & the Outer West
It is a fact often forgotten by visitors, but Sydney is huge. Like, really really big. While the population is high, it is the sheer physical displacement of the place that boggles the mind. It just goes on and on. A solid half of Sydneysiders – 2 million or so - live in what is known amongst locals as the Greater West. While the Inner East (Bondi and Darlinghurst), the Lower North (Manly) the Inner West (Newtown) and the CBD (Opera House/Bridge etc) get the attention, the West is where people actually live. Parramatta – the main service centre for Western Sydney – is the geographical heart of the city, and a city in its own right with a rich history; it was once the seat of the Governor, for instance, and was the second city of NSW for many years. Old Government House can still be visited by those interested in Colonial history.
Like any big city Sydney has its problems. Incomes in the West are considerably lower than they are in the areas of Sydney closer to the city centre, and parts of it suffer endemic disadvantage, such as Macquarie Fields, which saw a big anti-police riot in 2005. However, the area is also home to a vibrant multiculturalism, with streams of immigrants from all nations making Sydney their home each year; most of these end up in the Greater West. Parramatta has a large Chinatown; Cabramatta is the home of the Vietnamese community; Lakemba and Bankstown the Lebanese, and so on.
While it is certainly worth visiting and of these centres (particularly vibrant, colorful Cabramatta) the sheer size of the Greater West can make such a trek demanding, with commute times long. Certainly, you are unlikely to visit more than one such area in a day, but if you really want to get a taste for the real Sydney, make the extra effort.