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Sydney, Nova Scotia

Sydney, Cape Breton’s Historical Capital

As the largest urban area on Cape Breton and the island’s historical capital, Sydney, Nova Scotia is the perfect mix of metropolitan charm and down home hospitality.

History of Sydney, Nova Scotia

Sydney was founded in 1785 and named in honour of Britain’s Home Secretary at the time, Thomas Townsend, 1st Viscount Sydney; a few years later, Sydney, Australia would also be named after him. Its original settlers included former soldiers and Loyalists escaping the chaos following the American Revolution. The town was the English capital of Cape Breton from its founding until 1820, when the island colony and its rich coal fields became part of Nova Scotia. It was that coal that would transform Sydney from a colonial town into a major industrial center, becoming a world leader in steel production. That industrial growth saw Sydney officially become a city in 1904, welcoming workers and their families from around the province and world. Today, Sydney continues to welcome people from around the world as they come to visit the city and the beautiful island of Cape Breton.

Sydney, Nova Scotia Attractions

As with many Nova Scotian communities on the ocean, the heart of Sydney is its waterfront. On a warm, summer evening it’s a great place to go for a walk, stop to watch to a busker and to watch ships in the harbour. Along the way, be sure to get your photo taken beside the world’s largest fiddle, built in recognition of Cape Breton’s musical talent.

Accommodations in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Sydney is home to numerous places to stay, including large hotels on the waterfront and bed and breakfasts scattered throughout the city. Most of Sydney’s accommodations are located within walking distance or a short drive from the downtown core.

Places to Eat in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Being the urban centre of Cape Breton, it should come as no surprise that Sydney offers a wide range of dining possibilities. You’ll find everything from traditional pubs to fine dining restaurants, serving multicultural cuisine and, of course, fresh seafood. If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, stop by the Cape Breton Fudge Company, where you can enjoy delicious, homemade fudge while sipping a coffee and listening to local musicians in an intimate atmosphere.

Things to do in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Sydney embraces its history at every turn, from the historical Cossit House and Jost houses, which were both built in the 1780s, to St. Patrick’s Church, which is the oldest Catholic church in Cape Breton and the final resting place of some of Sydney’s early colonists.

Walking Tours in Sydney

The Old Sydney Society gives regular walking tours, including personally tailored tours for those who want to look at areas of particular interest or walk in their ancestors footsteps. Throughout July and August, more adventurous souls can take a ghost walk through historical Sydney, past weathered graves and old jails.

Cape Breton Miners’ Museum

Just 30 minutes away is the Cape Breton Miners’ Museum, where visitors can learn about the island’s coal mining past, about life as a coal miner and take a fascinating tour through the Ocean Deep Colliery beneath the museum.

Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design

Back above ground in Sydney, craft lovers will definitely want to visit the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, featuring a gallery of work by Cape Breton artisans in a variety of media, including textile, clay, glass and wood.

Membertou Heritage Park

Experience the stories and oral history regarding the people of the Community of Membertou through enactments and cultural presentations. Walk with a tour guide and/or Elder through the Membertou Heritage Park and learn about the unique history, heritage and culture through educational and interactive experiences. The Park honours the spirituality and the strength of the Membertou people telling the story of Membertou, educating and sharing the Mi’kmaq culture and assisting in the preservation of the Mi’kmaq heritage.