Sydney is Australia’s oldest, largest, and most beautiful city, with a seductive mix of land and water.Take a ferry ride around the sparkling harbour, see the white sails of the Opera House glistening in the sunlight, and marvel at the sweeping arch of the Harbour Bridge, and you’ll understand why Sydney is one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
It’s difficult to believe that this thriving state capital of New South Wales was once a penal colony. Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet, established the first British colony in Australia at Sydney Cove in 1788. Today, visitors may learn about the Gadigal Aboriginal people, the traditional caretakers of this area, on guided tours and in the city’s great museums, and discover Sydney’s storied history in the narrow, cobbled laneways and antique buildings of the Rocks.
Sydney is still alive with the pioneering spirit of its forefathers. Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, surf the green-barrel breakers on the city’s golden beaches, or take a panoramic flight over the city. The thrills don’t stop in the city, either.
With this list of the greatest things to do in Sydney, Australia, you may visit all of the best attractions in this famous harbour city.
The Sydney Opera House is worth seeing
The Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the flagship attraction on the dazzling waterfront, is one of the world’s great landmarks. This exquisite edifice, shaped like shells or billowing sails, is perched on a piece of land surrounded by water.
The Sydney Opera House can be viewed in a number of different ways.Take a photo while gliding by on a harbour boat, unwind at one of the restaurants, walk around the exterior, or join an organised tour of this spectacular monument. On the property, there are theatres, studios, exhibition rooms, a music venue, and a cinema.
Book a Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour to discover more about the building’s history and get a behind-the-scenes peek. This is a flexible ticket that allows you to join any of the excursions that depart every half hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the day.
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair offers one of the best photo chances for serious photographers.
The structure is receiving a 10-year, $275-million renovation, but it will remain operational during that time.
Bennelong Point is located near Sydney, New South Wales.
Climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, sometimes known as the “Coathanger,” is another Sydney landmark. It was built in 1932 and is still the world’s largest steel arch bridge, supported at each end by massive double piers. You can drive over it, cruise underneath it, ride a train over it, or picture it from a distance. A trip to the 135-meter-high pinnacle is one of the greatest ways to admire this feat of engineering and take in the stunning views of Sydney Harbour.
Scaling the bridge is one of Australia’s most popular outdoor activities, with a variety of trips available. Sydney BridgeClimb brings parties up to the top of the outer arch for a 3.5-hour climb. Tours run all day, starting with a sunrise climb and concluding with a night climb. There are a variety of climbs available, including an Indigenous storytelling experience and a climb across the arch to the other side — the bridge connects the harbor’s north and south beaches.
A pre-climb prep discussion, safety gear, and a photo on the summit are all included in guided ascents of the bridge. Along the route, you’ll hear a variety of fascinating stories about the bridge’s history. Before he became famous, Paul Hogan, as Crocodile Dundee, was one of its most famous employees.
Visit the museum on the southeastern pier to discover more about the intriguing history of the bridge’s construction.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 5 Cumberland Street
Take a stroll through The Rocks
Do you want to learn about Sydney’s past? Go for a walk around The Rocks. The Rocks historic district, which juts out into Sydney Harbour, was formerly home to the Gadigal aboriginal people. It later became the first European settlement site in the country.
The prisoners pitched their tents on the rocky coast on the west side of Sydney Cove, which became known as The Rocks. More than 100 cultural structures and buildings, including Sydney’s oldest surviving dwelling, Cadman’s cottage, constructed in 1816, crowd the small alleys today.
The Rocks Discovery Museum should be your first trip. Learn about the amazing change of the area from traditional Aboriginal lands to convict slum to tourist hotspot. You can also attend a free 30-minute guided tour every day at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
After that, take a stroll through the cobblestone streets. Souvenirs may be purchased in the gift shops, homemade goods can be purchased in the market stalls (Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays), and Aboriginal and modern art can be admired in the galleries. There are also a lot of charming little restaurants and cafés in this area.
Guided tours range from Aboriginal cultural walks to photographic excursions, and you can even schedule a nighttime ghost tour if you’re seeking for something different to do in Sydney.
The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales, 66 Harrington Street, Level 6
At Circular Quay, take a Harbor Cruise
A sightseeing cruise on Sydney Harbour is one of the most popular things to do in Sydney, and it is one of the most popular things to do in Sydney. The majority of harbour cruises depart from Sydney Cove’s Circular Quay, which also houses the city’s principal ferry port.
Do you want to see some wildlife on your tour? The Sydney Whale-Watching Cruise takes visitors out past Sydney Heads during the annual winter whale migration to see these majestic creatures.
If you don’t have time for a harbour cruise, take a look at these other options. On a ferry journey around the port, you can still see some of the famous sights. Circular Quay offers ferries to popular destinations such as Manly, Watsons Bay, and Taronga Park Zoo.
Insider tip: You may simply stroll from Circular Quay to other prominent Sydney tourist destinations. The Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens are located to the south of the waterfront promenade, while the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the historic Rocks neighbourhood are located to the north. To the west, the free Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in an Art Deco building, hosts cutting-edge and frequently divisive exhibitions.
Darling Harbour is a great place to spend a day
Darling Harbour offers something for everyone. This waterfront sector on the western side of Sydney’s CBD is a magnet for tourists and locals alike, featuring a plethora of tourist attractions. From stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues to museums, a zoo, aquarium, and an IMAX theatre, you’ll find it all here.
Madame Tussaud’s, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, and the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, which houses the world’s largest collection of Australian aquatic animals, are all great places for families to visit. The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium Entrance Ticket is an excellent method to beat the lines.
The Powerhouse Museum has interactive displays on science, technology, design, and history, while at the Australian National Maritime Museum, maritime history buffs can board a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, the HMB Endeavour. Keep an eye out for vibrant artwork along the Darling Harbour Street Art Trail while you’re out and about.
Darling Harbour hosts an amazing line-up of events, from art exhibitions and film festivals to music performances at the Aware Super Theatre, in addition to being a one-stop shop for Sydney attractions for families.
At the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, you can smell the roses
Do you need a vacation from the city’s buzz and bustle? In Farm Cove, relax at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. This serene sanctuary is one of the many free calming things to do in the city – especially if you need a nature fix – and it’s only a short walk from the Sydney Opera House.
The gardens are Australia’s oldest botanic garden, having been established in 1816. They cover 30 hectares and include towering trees, palm groves, orchids, ferns, succulents, tropical gardens, rainforest plants, herbs, and Oriental gardens.
Garden enthusiasts will be overjoyed. Around 1,800 roses bloom in the Palace Rose Garden. The Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters Garden explains the tale of the Gadigal people, the land’s traditional guardians, and investigates the interaction between people and plants, while the Glasshouse Latitude 23 and Fernery is brimming with tropical foliage, begonias, and orchids.
Aboriginal cultural tours and guided treks, as well as bush tucker morning teas and picnics, are available. The webpage has more information.
Are you curious about what’s nearby? The Domain, a renowned event location with open green space and sports activities, surrounds the gardens. You can also take in views of Government House, the governor of New South Wales’ official residence, while touring the gardens.
Mrs Macquarie’s Road, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
At the Queen Victoria Building, you may shop ’til you drop
Is shopping on your to-do list? Visit the Queen Victoria Building, which was built in the Romanesque style (“QVB”). Even if you have no intention of purchasing anything, a visit to this wonderfully restored building with its brilliant stained-glass windows and mosaic flooring is worthwhile.
This magnificent building, which was originally built as a market hall between 1893 and 1898, is crowned by a large central dome encircled by 20 smaller domes. This majestic sandstone edifice was restored to its original state in the early 1980s after decades of neglect and even demolition preparations.
More than 200 high-end stores now line the galleries’ light-filled corridors. R.M. Williams, Lorna Jane, and Haigh’s chocolates are among the Australian stores, as are many Australian designer boutiques, as well as homeware stores, gift stores, and galleries.
Do you have a hankering for anything to eat? Under crystal chandeliers, the Tea Room QVB presents a popular High Tea.
Through underground arcades, you may get to the QVB from Town Hall Station.
455 George Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Zoom in to see the Sydney Tower Eye from a higher vantage point
The 309-meter-high Sydney Tower Eye is the city’s tallest skyscraper and one of its iconic landmarks, towering above the city skyline (other than the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, of course). The popular Centrepoint shopping centre is home to this golden spire-topped turret.
Tourists enjoy zooming up the Sydney Tower Eye, which is one of the most popular things to do in the Sydney CBD. Visitors can use express lifts to the top observation deck or to SKYWALK, an alfresco glass-floor viewing platform that is ideal for sightseeing. You may take in panoramic views of Sydney and its suburbs while you’re up here, or get a bite to eat at one of the spinning restaurants or the café.
A 4D film experience is also available, which provides an overview of the city’s significant landmarks.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 100 Market Street
Soak in the sun on Sydney’s beaches
Sydney is known for its stunning beaches. The harbour is surrounded by many protected coves with calm sea and delicious sandy.
A beautiful stretch of sand and sea is within a short distance from the CBD. Bondi Beach, with superb surf, a bustling café scene, and a cosmopolitan ambiance, is less than a 15-minute drive from the city. Take the coastal stroll from Bondi to Coogee Beach for spectacular views of the ocean.
Cronulla is the only beach accessible by train from the city, while Manly Beach is only a 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay if you’re taking public transportation. Swimming in the surf or the netted ocean pool, taking a surf lesson, or strolling down the seaside promenade and stopping in at the superb stores and restaurants are all available here.
Collaroy, Dee Why, and Narrabeen are all located north of the city and offer excellent surfing. Swimming is fun at most Sydney beaches, especially during the summer months, but stay between the red and yellow flags at all times.
Barangaroo Reserve can be explored by bike or on foot
Barangaroo Reserve is a great example of how to do urban regeneration right. The area was renovated from an unattractive container terminal and opened to the public in 2015 with a dedication to sustainability and community wellbeing. It was named after an influential female Indigenous leader during the time of European colonialism.
This 22-hectare waterfront district is a great spot for a stroll or ride around the harbour, with more than 75,000 native trees and shrubs, as well as walking and cycling pathways. Shops, restaurants, and event and exhibition space can all be found here.
The Wulugul Walk is one of the most popular activities at Barangaroo. This magnificent waterfront promenade runs for two kilometres between Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour, skirting the six-hectare re-created Sydney Harbour headland at the reserve’s northern end. A succession of evocative public art works can be found along the journey. Shell wall, a 22-meter-tall vertical panel on the side of a structure at the reserve’s southern gateway, was constructed by two of Australia’s best Indigenous painters and is worth seeing. An Aboriginal cultural tour can teach you about the area’s rich Indigenous past.
Taronga Zoo is a place where you may let your imagination run wild
All of your favourite species, as well as breathtaking city vistas, can be found at Taronga Zoo. The zoo, which is located on excellent Sydney real estate in the wealthy district of Mosman, is one of the best things to do with kids in Sydney.
Close interactions with iconic Australian wildlife and other creatures from across the world are available here. The African Savannah exhibit, Tiger Trek, chimps, and gorillas are all highlights.
The fun is amplified by daily keeper presentations and animal displays. Feed the giraffes, get up close and personal with a cuddly koala, and make friends with a meerkat. Also included with your admission ticket are two entertaining shows: a Seals for the Wild presentation and a Free Flight Birds show.
Buses to the zoo leave from Wynyard in the downtown. Even better, take a ferry from Circular Quay. The zoo’s busy activities calendar includes overnight zoo stays called “Roar and Snore” and a summer concert series. A Sydney Taronga Zoo Entry Ticket, which includes a ride on the Sky Safari gondola, can be purchased in advance.
Do you want to remain a little longer? Make a reservation at Taronga’s Wildlife Retreat. This one-of-a-kind eco-retreat on the zoo grounds allows you to see some of the animals after hours, among other benefits.
Mosman, New South Wales, Australia, Bradleys Head Road
Stroll down George Street
The city’s busiest street, George Street, is Australia’s oldest street. It was formerly a nameless trail used by convicts to get supplies of water, but it’s now one of the city’s main thoroughfares. It’s worth checking out to get a feel for the city’s vibe and peruse the shops.
Here you will find a wide range of architectural styles. Old structures mingle shoulders with gleaming high-rise office complexes. The exquisite Romanesque-style Queen Victoria Building, which features delicate domes, stained-glass windows, and high-end stores, is a highlight.
Nearby, the Sydney Town Hall (1869), a key city landmark with a hodgepodge of architectural styles (it’s been compared to a gorgeously decorated wedding cake), is a major city landmark with a medley of architectural forms. The neo-Gothic St. Andrew’s Cathedral, built and consecrated in 1868, is another architectural highlight.
Do you have a shopping itch? The Queen Victoria Building has a number of high-end businesses, and the Victorian-style Strand Arcade is lined with designer boutiques and jewellery stores. Pitt Street Mall, one block east of George Street, is one of the city’s major retail districts if you’re seeking for more accessible name brands.
In Hyde Park, have a picnic
Sydney’s Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park, named after London’s Hyde Park. It’s a calm haven in the centre of the city, as well as a beautiful picnic spot. The park’s sprawling lawns, shady picnic places, flowers, fountains, and fig trees provide a pleasant respite, and it’s a great place to people-watch, especially during lunchtime when city workers come to kick off their shoes.
This popular 16-hectare natural space is punctuated by a number of monuments and memorials. The bronze Archibald Fountain (1932) in the park celebrates Australia’s WWI cooperation with France, while the Art Deco Anzac War Memorial (1934) in the park honours its casualties.
Hyde Park Barracks, St. James’ Church, and the Supreme Court are three fine Georgian buildings in Queens Square at the north end of Hyde Park, all works of convict architect Sir Francis Greenway. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks, built by convict labour in 1817-1819, was restored to its former condition between 1975-84 and now contains a museum on Sydney’s history, depicting the lives of the city’s first involuntary “settlers.”
The Australian Museum, on the east side of Hyde Park, houses the country’s greatest natural history collection.
Elizabeth Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, marvel at the masterworks
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of the country’s most prestigious art museums, and it is surrounded by magnificent parklands. The 1885 structure features expansive, light-filled galleries and Grand Courts with collections ranging from European masterworks and Asian artists to compelling contemporary art from around the world. The gallery also has one of Australia’s largest collections of Aboriginal art.
The Sydney Modern Project, which includes the installation of a fresh new sustainable building, a public art garden, and a grand forecourt, as well as the restoration of the old structure, is now underway at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. When finished in late 2022, the museum will have double the display space, with indoor and outdoor spaces flowing seamlessly, and will remain a prominent destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
You can unwind in the café or restaurant after admiring the masterpieces, or browse the museum gift shop.
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
St. Mary’s Cathedral is a must-see
St. Mary’s Cathedral (1868-82) faces Hyde Park and is a symbol of the Catholic Church’s spiritual origins in Australia. The seat of the Archbishop of Sydney is housed in this remarkable neo-Gothic structure.
The structure, which is topped by twin spires, was inspired by Lincoln Cathedral, and its majestic façade is reminiscent of Notre-Dame de Paris. Intricate stained-glass windows cast lovely patterns of light inside the church. When the cathedral is decked out in lights and decorations for Christmas, it is very moving to see.
Sydney, New South Wales, St. Mary’s Road and College Street
Explore Macquarie Street and the New South Wales State Library
Macquarie Thoroughfare was historically Sydney’s most fashionable street, stretching from Hyde Park in the south to the Sydney Opera House in the north. Many of the colony’s major public buildings were commissioned along this strand, some of which were designed by convict architect Francis Greenway. Soon after, imposing sandstone mansions with verandas were built, capturing the stunning views of the surrounding parklands and Sydney Harbour.
The opening of Sydney Hospital on Macquarie Street in 1816 prompted doctors to open offices nearby. However, the hospital’s capacity exceeded demand, and several of its buildings were converted into legislative offices. When the New South Wales Parliament is in session, Parliament House, which is located in the hospital’s northern wing, is open to the public.
The State Library of New South Wales, Australia’s oldest library, is a must-see on Macquarie Street. Captain Cook’s and Joseph Banks’ journals, as well as Captain Bligh’s log from the Bounty, are among its treasures. The permanent and temporary exhibitions are always worth seeing, and you can unwind with a snack in the café or browse the gift store for a unique Australian souvenir.
The Mint is also located on Macquarie Street, in the former hospital’s southern wing. There’s currently a library, a central courtyard, and a café there.
In Chinatown, savour Yum Cha
At Sydney’s Chinatown, inhale the aroma of sizzling Szechuan spices, browse for Chinese specialty products, or dine on authentic Asian food. This little district is located in the pedestrian zone of Dixon Street, between Darling Harbour and Central Station, and is bordered on both ends by lion gates.
Yum cha is a popular pastime in this city, and the Friday night market offers everything from dim sum to Vietnamese pho to teppanyaki. The streets of Chinatown come alive during the Chinese New Year celebrations on the first full moon following January 21.
Paddy’s Markets in Haymarket, located near Chinatown, is a Sydney staple that runs from Wednesday to Sunday and features hundreds of stalls selling fresh vegetables, discount apparel, and souvenirs.
Dixon Street, Haymarket, New South Wales, Australia
Take a look at Kings Cross
Kings Cross is Sydney’s multi-faceted red light district and nightlife centre, located two kilometres east of the CBD. This is a terrific area to visit if you’re looking for a more edgy side of the city. You can also go to one of the theatres to see a play.
Locals refer to it as “The Cross,” and it has an intriguing Bohemian past. Around 1920, the area was an artistic sector, but by the 1950s, it had become a popular hangout for beatniks and, later, hippies. When significant numbers of American servicemen came here on “rest and recreation” leave during the Vietnam War, the neighbourhood began its steady descent into depravity. On a guided walking tour, you may learn more about the area’s spicy history.
Despite its seedy reputation at night, the region takes on a new persona during the day. Backpackers from the area’s various hostels congregate at fashionable cafés. Fashionistas are housed in boutique hotels, while foodies flock to the trendiest restaurants.
Look for the enormous Coca-Cola billboard at the intersection of William Street and Darlinghurst Road to discover Kings Cross. It is known as the “Gateway to The Cross” and is a well-known Sydney landmark.
Where to Stay for Sightseeing in Sydney
The Rocks, Sydney’s historic quarter, is an excellent starting point for sightseeing for first-time tourists. This is a terrific area to stay because of the spectacular harbour views, heritage-listed buildings, museums, boutiques, galleries, and small courtyard cafés. Many of Sydney’s biggest tourist attractions, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, are within easy walking distance from here. Circular Quay, the departure site for harbour cruises and ferries, is also a short walk away. Here are a few of the area’s top-rated hotels:
Hotels of the highest calibre:
The harborfront Park Hyatt, one of the country’s best hotels; The Langham, Sydney; and the Four Seasons, all with beautiful harbour views, are among the deluxe hotel alternatives.
Hotels in the Mid-Range:
The Little National Hotel Sydney, located near Wynyard Station, offers inexpensive, compact rooms with comfortable beds.
Sky Suites Sydney is a great option for families and travellers looking for apartment-style accommodations, with studios, one- and two-bedroom suites.
The Ovolo 1888 Sydney Harbour boutique hotel is housed in a heritage-listed old wool store and factory. The ancient edifice is contrasted by a bold, contemporary interior design.