Sydney is the capital of New South Wales, and the largest city in Australia. Famous for its stunning beaches and its cosmopolitan, international vibe, the city has a lot to offer to all sorts of travelers. You’ll need to plan your trip to make the most of your time though, and this travel guide will help you do just that.
Here are my top recommendations for what to see, do and eat in Sydney!
This would be best on your first day as it’s a great way to orientate yourself around the city. I used ‘I’m free’ and would recommend this company. Similar to the one in Melbourne, they operate on a ‘pay what you feel model’, where you can donate whatever you think is appropriate. The tour lasts for about 2.5-3 hours and starts with a brief overview of Sydney’s history. It takes you past some of Sydney’s sights/places of interest like the Queen Victoria Building and Customs House, ending by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour is the place to come for stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Sydney Opera House. Sunsets here are a must! For aerial views, head up to the Harbour Bridge’s free walkway or you could go up the pylon (ticketed).Another option for adventurous travelers is to actually climb to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 360 degree views. Click here for info. The priciest climbs are at dawn and sunset.
I’d also recommend seeing a show at the Opera House if you have time! I saw Turandot and loved it!Finally, be sure to take the ferry (e.g. to Manly) for some great views of the harbour.
Explore one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods called ‘the rocks’ where you’ll find cobbled laneways, restaurants and markets. Check out what to see and do here. You should also visit the Rocks Discovery Museum (free) which gives you some historic perspective about the area.Royal Botanic Garden
Established in 1816, this beautiful garden by the bay, with stunning views of the Opera House, is definitely worth a visit. I’d recommend walking to Mrs Macquaries Point which provides beautiful views over the bay to the Opera House and city skyline.Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW)
There are lots of museums to choose from but I’d recommend checking out the MCA and AGNSW where you’ll get a flavour of contemporary and modern art as well as more traditional art. If you are short on time, I’d pick the AGNSW!I didn’t get the chance to visit the White Rabbit Art Gallery (contemporary Chinese art) as it was closed at the time but I’ve heard lots of good things about it!
Bondi Beach and coastal walk to Coogee
Along the Pacific Ocean, Bondi is one of the world’s most famous beaches and is the closest beach to Sydney’s city centre.Check out Bondi Icebergs Pool, Sydney’s most famous and iconic saltwater pool.Bondi is also the starting point for the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk (6 km) which I would highly recommend. It takes about 1.5-2 hours (depending on how many times you stop) with lots of stunning beaches and panoramic, cliffside views along the way.Chinese Garden of Friendship and Darling Harbour
The garden is a calm oasis in the middle of Sydney and worth a visit. While here, you should also explore the nearby Darling Harbour which has lots of restaurants and bars along its shoreline.Sydney Shopping and Markets
I’d also visit the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade, which are beautiful and well preserved, old-school shopping centers.Day trips from Sydney
There are a number of day trip options from Sydney’s main city centre. These include day trips to Manly, Palm Beach and the Blue Mountains. More on these in my Day Trips From Sydney post.
If you have time, check out Taronga Zoo. Take the ferry there and then the cable car to the top, making your way down by foot. For cricket fans, there is also the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Food and Travel
I got a lot more ‘on the go’ type food whilst in Sydney instead of restaurants but i’d recommend a couple of dessert places which I loved. Check out Aqua S (based in Regent Place with lots more food options too) for some delicious ice-cream and Black Star Pastry for their famous watermelon cake.I’d also recommend Gateway near Sydney Harbour which is a food court and has lots of options, from sushi to salads and Indian food. It’s a great place for a quick bite to eat.
For travel, you’ll need the Opal Card (works like the Oyster Card in London) and can be used for the train from the airport