Sydney along with Melbourne is one of the most popular cities in Australia. Sydney is the capital city of New South Wales and the largest city in Australia, situated on the country’s southeastern coast.
In 1770, the British arrived in Sydney when Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks sailed the Endeavour into Botany Bay. Governor Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet arrived in 1788, but moved north to Sydney Cove on Sydney Harbour. Lord Sydney, the British Home Secretary, gave the colony the name Sydney. Aboriginal, Mediterranean, Chinese and Asian influences have shaped the city.
Some of the best things to do in Sydney include the iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Royal Botanical Garden, Bondi Beach, and many other major attractions.
25 Best things to do in Sydney, Australia
1. Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is one of the best things to do and see in Sydney because it is an iconic attraction of the city with stunning architecture. It is located on Bennelong Point, close to the Circular Quay, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the historic Rocks.
Bennelong Point was named after Bennelong, one of two Indigenous people who served as a liaison between the British settlers and the local population.
The Sydney Opera House, which opened in 1973, is a popular destination for performances of all types, including opera and comedy shows, and hosts over 1,600 events annually.
The building’s iconic sails are used as a canvas for digital light shows, such as the Vivid Sydney festival. Visitors can also view the Badu Gili exhibition, which features the work of Aboriginal artists and is illuminated on the sails at sunset.
The Opera House also utilizes seawater from the harbor to power its heating and cooling systems. Guided tours of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed building are available in various languages, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the stories and history of this celebrated performing arts center.
Opera Bar offers an incomparable view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the tallest steel arch bridges in the world, while you enjoy drinks. Similarly, House Canteen, located next to it, also provides a lovely outdoor dining experience with the same beautiful views.
For a truly special culinary experience, Bennelong, located within the Opera House, is a must-visit. It offers a variety of options, including a casual bar menu, quick pre-theater options, and upscale a la carte dining.
2. Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is one of the best things to do and see in Sydney because it is a lively waterfront area with many attractions and is situated only a few minutes walk from the Central Business District.
It has a variety of family-friendly activities such as visiting Madame Tussauds wax museum, Darling Quarter Kids Playground, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.
You can also hop on a sightseeing cruise or visit the Australian National Maritime Museum. For a more relaxed experience, one can visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
The area also has a convention, exhibition and theater complex, ICC Sydney, and hosts various food and cultural festivals throughout the year such as Vivid Sydney and a Winter Festival.
There are also many food and drink options, including waterfront restaurants, alfresco cafes, and bars, as well as souvenir shops and boutiques.
Darling Harbour is easily accessible by foot, light rail, or ferry from nearby areas such as Town Hall Station, Chinatown, Barangaroo and Pyrmont.
3. Free walking tours
There are a variety of free walking tours available in Sydney that provide information on different subjects and locations within the city. The most popular of these tours focuses on Sydney’s history and typically includes sightseeing of important landmarks.
For those interested in a more in-depth look at a specific area of the city, there are also tours available of the Rocks, the location of the first European settlement in Australia. Another option is a guided walking tour of the Royal Botanic Garden or a self-guided tour of the city.
These tours operate on a pay-what-you-wish basis, meaning that the guide is tipped at the end of the tour. Usually, guests tip between $10-$20.
I’m Free Walking Tours offers a free sightseeing walking tour of Sydney that covers more than 25 different landmarks & locations, as well as a variety of subjects. The tour includes information about the history of the city, as well as affordable activities & places to shop. The tour is 2.5-3 hours long and is available on certain days at 10:30 am.
Another tour offered is Free Tours Sydney, also called a colonial walk in modern Sydney, which provides information about both the older and recent history of Sydney, as well as major attractions & historic pubs. This tour is also 2.5 hours long and available every day at 10:30 am, regardless of the weather.
4. Paddy’s Markets
Paddy’s Market has been around for over 150 years and is the largest market in Sydney. Originally, it began as a fringe market when Governor Bourke relocated grain and hay traders to Campbell Street.
Now, there are two locations, Haymarket and Flemington, offering more than 1,000 stalls selling everything from souvenirs and fresh produce to handmade goods and cosmetics.
Popular among tourists and locals alike, Paddy’s Market offers an authentic market experience with family-friendly activities and budget-conscious finds.
The Haymarket location is open from 10am to 6pm from Wednesday to Sunday, and the Flemington location is open Fridays from 10am.
5. Bondi to Coogee Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Walk is an absolute must-do when visiting Sydney. Whether you’re looking to shake off jet lag, admire five stunning beaches, or take in the views, this 5.5 km walk is sure to be the highlight of your trip.
With the potential to spot whales and dolphins, and plenty of places to stop for coffee and a dip, you can make it an hour and a half or an all-day adventure.
You should try to avoid the weekends, especially around midday when the trail can get quite busy. Get an early start and combine it with breakfast at Lox Stock & Barrel in Bondi – they have delicious bagels!
Bring a water bottle, sunscreen, and if you can, a mask and snorkel. From May to October, keep an eye out for migrating humpback whales and year-round dolphins. There are also a few free ocean baths you can use.
Finally, the Coogee Pavilion is a great place to end your journey with a well-deserved drink and games. If you want to continue, you can walk from Coogee to Maroubra, which should take another hour or so.
6. Bondi Beach
A trip to Sydney is not completed without visiting Australia’s famous beach, Bondi Beach, which is a popular place for water activities such as surfing, swimming, scuba diving, and sunbathing.
Bondi Beach is lined with cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops, offering plenty of choices to dine & shop.
Bondi Beach is suited to both beginners & professionals. You can take a surf lesson from a surf school nearby, or just rent a surfboard from the shops.
Bondi Beach is one of the best things to do in Sydney with kids because it has a playground and pool for children, which can be found to the east of the Surf Pavilion.
There are attractions such as the Sam Fiszman Park, Bondi Surf Pavilion Community Centre, Bondi Icebergs Baths, and the weekend Bondi Markets.
Bondi Beach can be reached by car, or public transport. You can take a train to Bondi Junction from where you can take a bus to the beach.
7. Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the iconic landmarks of Sydney along with the Sydney Opera House. It is not only the world’s largest steel arch bridge, but also spans one of the most beautiful natural harbors.
It was completed in 1932 and was a significant achievement in terms of both engineering and economics. Before the bridge was built, the only way to get from the city center to the north side was by ferry or a long road route with multiple bridge crossings. The construction of the bridge, also known as The Coathanger, took eight years, including the railway line.
The foundation of the bridge is 12 meters deep and set in sandstone, while the anchoring tunnels are 36 meters long and dug into rock. The arch spans 503 meters and supports the weight of the bridge deck.
There are many things to do around the bridge, including taking a walk on the eastern side, cycling on the western side, climbing to the top for amazing views, taking a ferry or harbor cruise, or dining at nearby restaurants with views of the bridge.
8. Circular Quay
Circular Quay is a popular destination in Sydney, known for its stunning views of the Opera House and other landmarks along the coast. The area offers a variety of things to do, including cultural activities, dining, and boat rides.
Visitors can enjoy community celebrations, see fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and explore the Museum of Contemporary Art and City of Sydney Library.
They can also go whale watching or dine at outdoor restaurants offering local & international cuisine.
Boat rides from Circular Quay include cruises to nearby landmarks & attractions, such as Manly beach, Watsons Bay, Mosman, and Taronga Zoo, as well as cultural tours and jet boat rides for a thrilling experience.
9. Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden is a 30-hectare oasis located in the central of Sydney, surrounded by Sydney Harbour and next to the Sydney Opera House.
Founded in 1816, The Royal Botanic Garden is the oldest scientific institution in the country and features a diverse collection of plants from Australia and other countries.
You can explore themed garden areas, such as the rare and threatened plant section and the romantic rose garden.
The garden also includes the Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters display, which honors the original inhabitants of the city center of Sydney and their connection to the land.
The garden provides a variety of tours, including the Aboriginal Heritage Tour and self-guided audio walking tours through the garden’s app.
10. Luna Park
Luna Park is a popular amusement park located in Sydney, at Milsons Point on the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It offers a wide range of fun and games for the whole family, with an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour.
Entry to the park is free, you only need to pay for the rides & games you choose to participate in. The park first opened in 1935 and was last re-opened in 2004.
Some of the rides at the park include the Coney Island, Wild Mouse, Ferris Wheel, Carousel and more. The park has different opening hours depending on the season and day of the week.
You can purchase single ride tickets or multiple ride passes, and some rides have height restrictions. The park is a short walk from Milsons Point train station, which is on the main northern line, and can also be reached by ferry from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour.
Manly is a famous beach located in Sydney and known for its many activities and attractions. Some of the top things to do in Manly include:
- tackling the Manly to Spit Walk, which is a 10km cliff top trail that connects Bondi and Coogee,
- catching the Manly Ferry, which offers a scenic journey from the city center to Manly,
- watching buskers on The Corso, a pedestrian mall filled with street performers,
- learning to surf at Manly Surf School,
- passing through the Wormhole, a tunnel that links Queenscliff to Freshwater,
- enjoying a drink at 4 Pines, a craft brewery,
- watching an Eagles game at Brookvale Oval, home of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
- climbing up to the Grotto Point Lighthouse, which offers a great vantage point for bird watching and whale spotting.
12. Take a cruise or ferry
A cruise on Sydney Harbour is a fantastic way to experience the city’s beautiful landmarks and natural scenery. There are a variety of options available to suit different interests, budgets, and activity levels.
Activities include tall ship adventures, paddlewheeler cruises, heritage tours, snorkeling trips, and whale watching excursions. You can also take a ferry to visit various islands, such as Garden Island and Cockatoo Island, or travel to Parramatta via Olympic Park.
There are also numerous dining cruises options including breakfast cruises, afternoon tea cruises, and dinner cruises with options for luxury dining experiences.
13. Watsons Bay
Watsons Bay is a suburb located in the Eastern part of Sydney, known for its history as an old fishing village and its beautiful views of the harbor.
You can take a car, bus, or ferry to get there, and once there, can enjoy activities such as picnicking in Robertson Park, paddle boarding with Wattsup, swimming in the netted area at Watsons Bay Baths, and relaxing on the beach at Marine Parade or Camp Cove.
The area is also great for hiking and exploring historical sites along the South Head Heritage Trail. It is a great place for families, couples, friends, and those looking for a bit of luxury at the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel.
There are also plenty of dining options, including Doyle’s Restaurant and Watson’s Bay Tea Gardens Cafe. The most popular way to get there is by ferry, which takes 20 minutes and costs $14, but it can also be reached by bus, though it takes about 50 minutes. Parking can be difficult, so it is best to arrive early or find street parking.
14. Go gallery and museum hopping
Sydney is home to many museums and art galleries, which offer an insight into the history & culture of the city. Many of those museums offer free entrance.
Some of the popular museums in Sydney include:
- The Art Gallery of NSW, displays a collection of Australian & international art.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art, features a vast array of modern and contemporary art from around the globe.
- The Australian National Maritime Museum, features Australia’s maritime history.
- The Powerhouse Museum provides an educational & fun experience.
- The Justice & Police Museum, the history of crime and law enforcement in the city.
Each of these amazing museums offer something special and are sure to be a hit with visitors of all ages.
15. Sydney’s famous nightlife
Sydney nightlife is vibrant and offers an amazing range of choices for those looking to explore the city after dark. From high-end bars and clubs, to casual pubs and live music venues, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
Whether you’re looking for a lively night out with friends, a romantic date night, or just a chance to kick back and relax, Sydney has plenty of options.
Popular areas for nightlife include the Sydney CBD, Kings Cross, and the inner-city suburbs of Surry Hills, Newtown and Potts Point.
And for those wanting to give their night a bit of extra sparkle, iconic harbor views, rooftop bars and exclusive VIP experiences can all be found in the city.
16. Visit the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters is a famous rock formation situated in the Blue Mountains, near Katoomba, facing the beautiful Jamison Valley. The three sandstone rocks are said to have been created by a tribal elder who placed a spell on them to protect three sisters from an evil spirit.
The story goes that the elder was unable to undo the spell, leaving the sisters frozen in time. The Three Sisters stands as a reminder of the spiritual significance of this area.
You can take a guided tour to learn about the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories that inspired the formation of the Three Sisters. From the cliffs’ top, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding Jamison Valley.
17. Garigal National Park
Garigal National Park is a stunning natural escape from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. With its sandstone country, waterfalls, historic sites, and abundant wildlife, it is the perfect spot for a day trip or picnic.
You can follow in the footsteps of Governor Phillip on the heritage walk or explore the extensive walking tracks and fire trails. Boating, canoeing and fishing along Middle Harbour Creek are also great options for enjoying the park’s beauty.
18. Sydney Historic Pub Crawl
The Rocks Walking Tours History Pub Tour is a unique sightseeing experience of Sydney’s oldest and most historic neighborhood. This two-hour tour takes you through the cobbled streets of the Rocks and reveals some of the city’s best pubs and hidden gems.
You’ll explore the area’s convict history, cultural diversity and enjoy a cold beer or two along the way. This is the perfect way to get a taste of Sydney’s past and experience its vibrant nightlife.
The knowledgeable guides are passionate about the area and will provide an entertaining and informative tour that you won’t forget.
19. Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo is a popular destination in Sydney, offering incredible views of the harbor as well as close encounters with over 4,000 animals from around the world.
It’s open 365 days a year and admission includes access to the Sky Safari cable car, keeper talks and shows, and the QBE Free-Flight Bird Show.
Visitors can also challenge themselves with the new Wild Ropes adventure, where you can traverse obstacles and suspension bridges high up in the trees.
20. Spooky ghost tour
Sydney is full of secrets, spooky stories and haunted places, and there’s no better way to explore them than on a ghost tour! There are plenty of guided ghost tours to choose from in Sydney, so you can get up close and personal with the city’s supernatural history.
Whether you want to take a candlelit tour of the historic sandstone buildings in The Rocks, or join a cemetery tour in the old convict settlement of Parramatta, there’s something for everyone. The expert guides will tell you all about the eerie events, unsolved mysteries and restless spirits that haunt the city.
Plus, you’ll get to visit some of Sydney’s most iconic and beautiful landmarks – it’s a great way to explore the city’s past and present! Who knows – you might even have a few ghostly encounters along the way!
21. Elizabeth Farm
Elizabeth Farm is such a cool place to visit! It’s amazing to think that it’s the oldest surviving European building in Australia, and it was the former home to the Macarthurs, who were pioneers of the Australian wool industry.
Elizabeth Farm is a house museum, which means visitors can wander around freely, read family letters and newspapers, and relax on the verandas. It really gives you a taste of what life was like in the early Australian colony. Definitely worth a visit!
22. Sydney Tower
Experience the best views of Sydney and beyond from the top of Sydney Tower. This must-do experience for visitors to Sydney has plenty to offer, from two restaurants to the Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck, 250 meters above ground level.
With three high-speed double-deck lifts, you can witness the sights of the city in just 40 seconds. You can also take the stairs to the top, but it may take a little longer than that!
Take in the 360-degree panorama of Sydney from the Observation Deck, open 9am to 9pm every day. And for thrill seekers, Wild Ropes Taronga Zoo offers a great activity, open 9:30am to 3:30pm 364 days a year.
Sydney Tower is easily accessible, located on the corner of Pitt Street and Market Street, just a 10 minute walk from Town Hall Station and a 6 minute walk from St James Station. Closest Monorail Station is City Centre. Don’t miss out on this amazing experience!
23. Sydney Fish Market
Sydney Fish Market is the largest working market in the Southern Hemisphere. It is located on Blackwattle Bay in Pyrmont, just a short distance away from downtown Sydney.
You’ll find an array of seafood and fresh produce retailers, a wholesale auction, cafés & restaurants, and a working wharf, as well as the Sydney Seafood School.
With over 100 species of seafood available daily, plus a butcher, greengrocer, bakery, deli, and gift store, there’s something for everyone.
24. The Rocks
The Rocks in Sydney is a great spot for tourists and locals alike. Get your souvenirs, shop for handmade goods and locally produced produce at the weekend market, explore the contemporary galleries and boutique clothing stores, and take in the history of the area with a guided walk past Cadman’s Cottage and other notable sites.
Refuel with some delicious meals from the local restaurants and bars, or take a ferry ride and enjoy a harbor cruise with lunch. Water Polo by the Sea is also held in the area, making The Rocks a great place to explore Sydney’s cultural and historic attractions.
25. Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island is a fascinating place with a rich history. It’s located in the heart of Sydney Harbour and is known as Wareamah by the Wangal, Cammeraygal, Wallumedegal, and Gadigal Peoples.
With heritage buildings, distinctive terrain and stunning views, it’s a great place to explore. You can stay in heritage accommodation, enjoy a picnic, take a guided tour, or visit one of the seasonal events.
It’s really easy to get there too – just hop on the ferry and you’re there! Whether you’re looking for a fun day out or a unique place to stay, Cockatoo Island is definitely worth a visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I not miss in Sydney?
You should not miss the Sydney Opera House in Circular Quay, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, Coogee to Bondi coastal walk, The Rocks, Queen Victoria Building – Sydney’s oldest landmark, as well as the Taronga Zoo, Sydney Tower, Hyde Park, and Royal Botanic Gardens.
How can I spend 2 days in Sydney?
Visit the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, take a stroll on Bondi Beach, explore The Rocks historic district, and dine at top restaurants. Take a ferry to Manly for beach activities or Taronga Zoo to see Australian wildlife.
How can I spend 4 days in Sydney?
Sydney is a vibrant city with plenty to explore. Take a tour of the iconic Opera House, visit the historic Rocks district, sample delicious local cuisine, soak up the sun at one of the many beaches such as Bondi Beach, and explore the lively nightlife.
What are the best things to do in Sydney for free?
Some of the best free things to do in Sydney include taking free guided walking tours, visiting free museums & art galleries, markets, and parks, as well as wandering around Sydney Opera House, walking over Sydney Harbour Bridge, and visiting world-famous beaches such as Bondi Beach.
What are the cheap things to do in Sydney?
Sydney offers plenty of free or low-cost activities. Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, visit iconic Bondi Beach, discover hidden laneways and street art, take a stroll in the scenic harbor-side suburbs, visit free museums & galleries, and join a free walking tour.
What are the best things to do in Sydney for young adults?
Sydney is a vibrant and exciting city offering a great range of activities for young adults. From beach days to cultural events, there’s something for everyone – visit iconic attractions, explore hip neighborhoods, go shopping, take a harbor cruise, and enjoy the city’s delicious food and nightlife.
What are the unique things to do in Sydney?
Bushwalking like the locals, see the lights at the Sydney Vivid Festival, visit the White Rabbit Gallery, take a Ferry to Darling Harbour from Circular Quay, enjoy the views from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
What are the best things to do in Sydney at night?
Watching a show at the iconic Opera House, taking a nighttime harbor cruise, strolling through Darling Harbour, watching Fairy Penguins in Manly Wharf, dining at a waterfront restaurant, taking a pub crawl tour, or walking around Kings Cross during the late evening.
See more: Where to Stay in Sydney First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in Sydney, Australia for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.