A Complete Guide to Sydney
There is more to this city than just the Opera House and Harbour Bridge so here you can find the top things to do in Sydney. Everything from top free attractions to the best parties and day trips is all here to help you plan your visit to this beautiful city!
Sydney was our gateway into Australia and we ended up living there for 6 months with our Working Holiday Visa. We love Sydney's chilled and outdoorsy vibes. Scratch the surface of this city and it only gets better.
Circular Quay - Opera House & Sydney Harbour Bridge
Of course, top of the list is the iconic sight of Circular Quay. The Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge is the postcard image of Sydney, if not Australia as a whole. This beautiful harbour does not disappoint!
Head here in the day to see the sun gleaming off the waters with the sounds of the buskers in the background. Catch one of the gorgeous Sydney sunsets with a drink at one of the many harbour bars. Every night at 7pm, you can witness ‘Badu Gili’, an amazing, free 7 minute projection onto the Opera House, which celebrates the history of Australia’s First Nations culture.
If you want to up the ante and really get the best views of the harbour, there is the option to head up to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Bridge Climb Sydney. This experience comes with quite the price tag though so if you don’t want to fork out that many dollars, you can go up one of the Pylon’s with Pylon Lookout for only $25.
Circular Quay isn’t the only fab part of Sydney Harbour; Darling Harbour is also worth a visit. Full of alfresco dining and cocktail options and beautiful open spaces. On one end there is also Madame Tussauds, Sealife Aquarium and Wildlife Zoo and on the other, there is the Chinese Garden of Friendship. There are regular pop up events and firework shows so be sure to check here for updates and schedules.
Sydney Tower Eye
The tallest building in Sydney and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Aside from its obvious height, it’s also hard to miss due to its funky needle shape. Take in 360 degree views of Sydney from 250 metres high. Save 20% if you buy your tickets online here too!
Art Gallery of NSW
The Gallery of New South Wales has a great collection of International and Australian art, which is shown in a beautiful space. Admission to the permanent galleries and most of the exhibitions and events is free. Whilst in Sydney, it is worth seeing what’s on, as there are regularly changing temporary exhibitions; more than 30 a year in fact!
An oasis of 30 beautiful hectares in the heart of the city. The perfect picnic spot, overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Aboriginal Heritage Tours of the Royal Botanic Garden run every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, departing 10am from the Garden Shop. Bookings are essential online.
A free guided walking tour departs 10.30am daily from the Garden Shop.
It’s worth a visit just for the Koala shaped hedge, to be honest.
Wendy’s Secret Garden
Another fantastic picnic spot, with amazing views of the harbour is Wendy’s Secret Garden. It really does feel like you’ve found this secret little haven amongst the bustling city life. Full of pretty flowers and plants, this is one of our favourite spots in Sydney.
Luna Park is an iconic amusement park, having been in Sydney since 1935! It still has that olden day fairground feel and makes for a fun day out in Sydney. If amusement parks aren’t your thing, it’s definitely still worth visiting just to get a snap with the cool entrance.
There’s also a few special events held here, such as Winterfest, Bongo’s Bingo and TV show recordings. Most shows are held in the Big Top, check here to see what’s on and here for Luna Park tickets. Entrance is free but tickets are needed to go on the rides.
Head to the Beach
One of the best things about Sydney is the beach culture. There are so many beautiful beaches to visit whilst in Sydney, the most famous being Bondi Beach.
One of our favourite things to do in Sydney is the Coogee to Bondi walk, which will have you passing by plenty of Sydney’s beaches and swimming spots, along with beautiful views along the coast. The Manly to Spit walk is also very popular.
Manly is a great place to visit, not only for the beach but for the area itself too. Hop on a ferry at Circular Quay for the best route there!
If you’d like to go a bit off track to less populated beaches, Sydney has you covered with over 100 to choose from!
Sydney has so many amazing markets to choose from, both day and night so here are some our favourites:
- Glebe Markets for clothing, jewellery and accessories.
- Sydney Fish Market for the second widest variety of fish in the world, only missing out to Japan.
- Paddy’s Market for pretty much everything at a great price.
- Mitchell Road Antique & Design Centre for a labyrinth of antique trinkets.
- Sydney Vegan Market for all the best vegan foods on offer in Sydney, along with ethical clothing, candles etc. The picture below is from one of the venders, Mylk & Bun. Yes, they're 100% vegan!
- Aussie Night Markets for an evening full of mouth watering flavours from around the world.
The Rocks is full of history, as this is where the European convict settlements began. Here you will find cobbled streets, lined with Sydney’s oldest pubs. The Rocks markets are great, with a food market on Friday’s and the weekend market has over 200 stalls!
We would recommend doing a free walking tour around this historic quarter to learn more about Sydney’s interesting past. This is held every night at 6pm; see more info here.
There’s a huge Asian presence in Sydney so not only is there a Chinatown but there’s also a Koreatown, Thaitown, Vietnamtown, etc! Chinatown is great to visit on Friday nights, when it hosts its night markets. There is also an infamous Sydney spot for a bite to eat here, called Emperor’s Puffs. You will most likely spot this otherwise inconspicuous hole in the wall fairly quickly from the queue outside it. Here you can get warm custard filled pastry balls, which are so delish!
Green Square Library
For Instagram lovers (or book lovers!), Green Square Library is a lovely space but what draws the Instagrammers in is the awesome rainbow coloured wall of books. It makes for a great snap and can easily be visited in conjunction with a trip to Alexandria.
Grounds of Alexandria
Speaking of Alexandria; an area of Sydney that houses copious amounts of lovely cafes but most famously, the Grounds of Alexandra. The Grounds of Alexandria is a haven for anyone who loves coffee, flowers, markets and funky decor. The whole area is filled with beautiful gardens, old trinkets, things to see and do and even a pig!
There are regular temporary events held here such as Arabian Night Markets, the Garden of Sweets and Blues & Mulled Wine nights. Check here for the latest.
Oxford St/Taylor Square
The Western section of Oxford Street, which runs through Darlinghurst and meets with Taylor Square is the main LGBTQ+ area of Sydney. It is here that is closed to traffic once a year to hold Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade in early March.
Head here for lots of LGBTQ+ friendly bars, clubs and pubs. Our favourite part though, is the curved rainbow crossing at Taylor Square!
Grab a Tasty Bite to Eat
One thing Sydney definitely isn’t short on is fabulous places to grab a bite to eat. Have monster shaped ice cream at Roji, drink out of a bath tub at Social Hideout or have your pick of the bunch at the hidden food spot, Spice Alley.
Follow our friend Hungry Doughnut on Instagram for the latest foodie hotspots in the city.
Sydney isn’t the edgiest city in the world but it does still have its fair share of cool street art. Newtown and Marrickville are some of the ‘hipster’ areas of Sydney, so here you can catch some street art, along with funky bars/cafes. There is a piece that always catches our eye right in the CBD though; this amazing portrait placed on the side of Novotel by Darling Harbour of an Aboriginal elder named Jenny Munro.
Shop 'Til You Drop
Sydney is full of shopping centres so there is no shortage of spots to hit up if you fancy a shopping spree. One that we would definitely recommend heading to, whether you are shopping or not, is the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). The grand building, built in the 1890s was beautifully restored and reopened in 1986 and is now one of the prettiest shopping malls you ever will see.
Do Something a Bit Different
Sydney has a few quirky experiences up its sleeve so why not add a bit of spice to your visit? A couple of our favourites are definitely Holey Moley and Maniax. The awesome mini golf meets bar venue and a place to partake in a casual bout of axe throwing. Yes, we said axe throwing.
So, due to some unfortunate events, Sydney until recently had quite a strict nightlife with what it called 'Lockout Laws'. We’re talking no entry after 1 am, no shots after midnight, no drinks after 3 am etc, so as you can imagine, Sydney wasn't famous for its amazing nightlife.
What it does do well though, is day parties. The summer months are particularly great for this with events such as pool parties at Ivy, Yacht Social Club, SASH Sundays and there’s usually something happening at the Hordern Pavilion.
Say Cheers to Sydney in Style
We’re a sucker for a speakeasy and Sydney has some great options. Palmer & Co has you walking down an alleyway, through a nondescript door and underneath the city streets for your tipple. If you’re a gin fan, then The Barbershop houses over 700 in their parlour style barbershop, immersed in the atmosphere of a bygone era.
Door Knock wins us over with their fantastic cocktail names, along with the delicious tastes of course! Head down a long corridor, knock on the big black door 3 times and you shall enter this nostalgic hidden bar, in what feels far from the hustle and bustle of the CBD.
The Blue Mountains can be reached in just under 2 hours by train from central Sydney and are absolutely worth visiting! Here you can catch some of New South Wales’ most beautiful landscapes. We loved our day in the Blue Mountains so much, we actually have a seperate guide with the perfect one day itinerary here.
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