A Complete Guide to Sydney

Published by cloudwalks on

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.

Sydney Opera House with light installation showing aboriginal art on the sails

Darling Harbour

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. 

Boat docked on the harbour with fireworks exploding in the background

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!

Skyscrapers reflecting orange sunset light with iconic Sydney Tower Eye in the background

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!

Person looking at an art installation of hundreds of coloured balls floating from the ceiling

Botanical Gardens

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.

Two girls posing next to a garden bush shaped into a smiling koala

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.

Image of Sydney Harbour bridge from a garden surrounded by trees with boats docked in the river below

Luna Park

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.

Theme park entrance of a giant smiling face figure with its mouth open as the entrance

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!

Image of Bondi Beach swimming pool taken from above and overlooking the ocean

Markets

Sydney has so many amazing markets to choose from, both day and night so here are some our favourites:

A box of cinnamon scrolls smothered in brown, pink and white icing

The Rocks

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

People browsing market stalls along a paved road

Chinatown

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!

A hand holding up a brown paper bag outside a small shop sign saying 'Emperor's cream puffs'

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.

Two girls reaching for a book in front of a large book shelf organised by colour in a rainbow design

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. 

Bouquet of rainbow coloured roses

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!

Two girls walking over rainbow painted walkway

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. 

Girl holding up a small bath filled with candy floss

Street Art

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.

Portrait of an aboriginal woman, Jenny Munro painted onto the side of a large building

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.

Iconic Queen Victoria Building, grand shopping centre built in the 1900's

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.

Two girlsposing with axes in front of a target board

Day Party

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.

Lots of people on floating devices and lilos with boats circled around them

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.

Cocktails on a candlelit table with a small bowl of popcorn

Blue Mountains

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.

Image of mountains with a blue hue across them
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3 Comments

Duna · October 23, 2020 at 8:16 pm

I loved exploring Sydney the first time I went there. But I only had 24 hours layover! I still did a couple of things you suggested such as the market, Harbour, Chinatown and tower eye 😜
The next time I’ll try to do more 🙂

    cloudwalks · October 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    That’s fab! Sydney is our favourite city in Oz, so we’re very glad our guide helped you even with a short layover. We personally love layovers, sometimes you see so much more than you expect! Thanks for getting in touch! 🙂

Australia - 14 day Itinerary of East Coast Australia! - Cloud Walks · September 11, 2020 at 2:38 pm

[…] Harbour.  Spend the first days checking out some of Sydney’s hotspots – check out our full Sydney guide here.  Then spend the next day catching up on anything you missed out on and preparing for the […]

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