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20 Absolute Best Things To Do In Sydney (+ Map & Tips)

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Iconic landmarks, stunning beaches, and a diverse cultural scene come together to create a city like no other. Embrace the coffee-fuelled, sun-loving, food-obsessed good life with our guide to the best things to do in Sydney.

Sydney is a dynamic city with impressive natural beauty, iconic landmarks, and world-renowned attractions.

As a cosmopolitan city with an enviable coastal lifestyle, Sydney is designed with the good life in mind. Top-quality restaurants overlook world-class beaches, bustling city streets give way to peaceful green parklands and the café scene is thoroughly devoted to supporting the social lifestyle.   

But it’s also a cultural hub. With over half the population born outside the country, Sydney has a diversity deeply rooted in international cuisine, a clutch of fascinating museums, and a vibrant artistic scene.  

There’s more to Sydney than the visual wow factor. Take a day trip to the hinterlands, enjoy an outdoor adventure, and find the best Emerald City has to offer in our guide to the best things to do in Sydney.

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The Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in 1932, is a globally renowned landmark. This steel arch bridge spans approximately 500 meters across the harbour, connecting the Central Business District (CBD) to North Sydney. It carries four railroad tracks, a highway, and two pedestrian walkways. Its imposing presence dominates the city’s skyline.

There are several excellent ways to explore it.

Climb up it — The climb over the steel arches of the bridge to reach the summit offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the harbour. Book tickets in advance at  

Walk over it — Take a stroll along the pedestrian walkway which connects Dawes Point to Milsons Point. It’s a quick 15-minute walk each way, and the views of the harbour and Opera House are breathtaking. For an even better vantage point, climb the 200 steps to the top of the Pylon Lookout. The entry fee is a steep $19.

See it from below — The vistas of the Harbour Bridge from the promontories below are superb. Stand by the Park Hyatt on Dawes Point, and the sheer magnitude of the bridge is awe-inspiring. From the other side, at Luna Park in Milsons Point and McMahons Point, there are splendid opportunities to capture photos of the Opera House framed by the steel girders.

Views from the water — The finest views of the bridge are from the water. Any ferry ride from Circular Quay provides great views of the bridge, but to appreciate it in style, consider joining a twilight tall ship tour or a sunset harbour cruise that includes dinner.

Another iconic landmark of the city is the Sydney Opera House.

This 20th-century architectural masterpiece, with its series of large concrete shells resting on a giant podium, is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Situated on the edge of a point that extends into the harbour, its elegant sail-shaped curves appear to float over the waves below.

Attending an event at the Opera House is a must-do when visiting Sydney. With several venues within the building hosting around 1,800 performances annually, there is something to suit every taste.

Alternatively, 1-hour guided tours go beneath the sails and explain the building’s construction. Arrive early to explore the interior and enjoy a drink in one of the bars while watching the sunset over the harbour. On a warm evening, the Opera Bar is an excellent spot to end the night, with stunning views of the illuminated Opera House in the background.

Sydney is blessed with beautiful beaches, but none compares to Bondi. It’s consistently ranked as one of the world’s best city beaches. A wide expanse of powdery white sand and rolling waves attract millions of visitors each year.

While soaking up the rays is a great way to enjoy the beach, taking a surfing lesson at Bondi is a quintessentially Sydney experience.

At the southern end of the beach, Icebergs Pool is another iconic place to swim in Sydney. The pool is situated at a corner of the beach where the surf breaks against the pool walls.

Behind the beach, there are plenty of great bars, cafes and restaurants. Betty’s Burgers is a chain with great burgers and delicious shakes, Bare Naked Bowls offers healthy breakfast and lunch options, and Neighbourhood is an ideal spot for an evening drink.

Tip — While Bondi is patrolled by lifeguards, the waves at Bondi can be strong and are not ideal for very young children. If you have young kids, consider visiting Camp Cove or Shelly Beach instead.

How to get to Bondi Beach — The easiest way to get to Bondi is to take the T4 train to Bondi Junction then change onto the 333 or 380 bus or take a taxi. Parking around Bondi is hard. It can be very difficult to find a spot, and most are limited to 1, 2 or 4 hours. There is some paid parking, but it’s about $10 an hour.

Private collector Judith Nielsen has amassed over 3,000 pieces of contemporary Chinese art. Every six months, the White Rabbit Gallery curates a selection that focuses on a particular theme. The collection spans over two levels, exploring political, social, and cultural issues, making it the world’s most significant collection of Chinese contemporary art.

Exploring the artists’ expression of life from a Chinese point of view through paintings, installations, and thought-provoking murals is utterly fascinating.

To learn more about the artists and the personal risks they faced for their art, time your visit with one of the free tours that begin at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. Tours last 45 minutes, and entry is free.


hours – 10 am to 5 pm (Wednesday to Sunday) | cost – free

Nearby — The White Rabbit gallery is located nearby two interesting buildings worth checking out. The Central Park Mall Building, covered in trees from top to bottom, and the Frank Gehry-designed Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building.

One of the best things to do in Sydney is to take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly.

This charming suburb sits on a promontory that separates Sydney Harbour from the Pacific Ocean. The ferry departs from Circular Quay every 20 minutes and takes approximately 30 minutes. It’s a splendid way to reach Manly with picturesque views of the city, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied in Manly on a day trip from Sydney central. Here are our suggestions –

Store Beach is a secluded slice of paradise tucked into the harbour, just a short distance from Manly.

Surrounded by national park bushland, this narrow strip of golden sand is only accessible by water, giving it a remote tropical feel and keeping it much less crowded than other beaches in the area.

The best way to get to Store Beach is via kayak, which can be hired from the Manly Kayak Centre located right next to the ferry terminal in Manly. It takes around 30 to 40 minutes to get to the beach, and single or double kayaks are rented by the hour.

Two hours is enough time to kayak there and back with a half-hour stop on the beach.

Store Beach is an excellent activity for anyone looking for a mini adventure in a nature lover’s corner of the harbour. It’s a perfect escape from the crowds and a great place to enjoy Sydney’s stunning scenery.

Located on the edge of Hyde Park, the Australian Museum offers a fascinating insight into the natural history of the country. An excellent layout means you can cover the highlights in an hour or spend half a day exploring every corner.

The museum owns over 18 million objects, but a cut-down selection of 200 of the most interesting are in the Westpac Long Gallery.

Downstairs, you’ll find 100 objects from Aboriginal, Melanesian (Pacific Islands from New Guinea to Fiji), Egyptian, and other cultures. Upstairs, there’s an exhibition dedicated to 100 people who have helped shape modern Australia.

Other collections in the museum feature dinosaur bones, native minerals, and Australia’s unique wildlife, including some of its extinct megafauna, such as the wombat shaped Diprotodon and the giant goanna Megalania.

Don’t miss the extended collection of Melanesian masks, headdresses, totem poles, and armour in the Ritual of the Pacific Islands room.


hours – 10 am to 5 pm (daily); 10 am to 9 pm (Wednesday) | cost – free

One of the unmissable things to do in Sydney is to get a boat out on the harbour. While local ferries radiate out from Circular Quay, there is a wide range of cruises that combine spectacular views of the city’s iconic landmarks with an unforgettable experience.

Harbour Sightseeing Cruises // Morning or afternoon sightseeing cruises collect all the main sights in the harbour with a live commentary. Tea and coffee are provided and the tour lasts 90 minutes.

Tall Ship Twilight Dinner Cruise // Set sail on a recreated first fleet tall ship to see the sights on Sydney as the sun goes down. Dinner is provided and tours depart from Campbells Cove.

Harbour Cruise with Premium Dinner // Enjoy an all-inclusive 3-course dining experience as you take in the sights of the harbour. Tours depart from Darling Harbour.

With lush rainforest trails, succulent gardens, and vibrant flowers, the Royal Botanic Gardens offer a tranquil retreat in Sydney. Explore the fernery and palm house and grab a coffee at one of the cafes.

Take a stroll outside the gardens in the Domain and soak in the stunning views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

For a refreshing swim, head to the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, one of the best harbourside pools in the city. Arrive at dawn to capture photos in lovely light and see the dedicated swimmers getting their morning workout in.

One of the unmissable experiences in Sydney is to see an open-air performance on the Harbour. Fleet Steps, near Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Domain offers an unsurpassed backdrop to theatrical events held throughout the year.

World’s Most Beautiful Cinema // Throughout January and February, capture that magical summer moment and watch a movie on the giant screen rising from the water with incredible surround sound.

Handa Opera // Opera Australia holds performances on Fleet Steps where you can watch a critically acclaimed opera under the stars. The current production (April to March 2023) is Madame Butterfly. Check details and buy tickets on the Opera Australia website.

For art lovers, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, located on the edge of the Botanic Gardens, is a must-visit attraction in Sydney. Originally housed in a 19th-century neoclassical building, the gallery doubled its footprint in 2022 with a new bright and modern space featuring works from indigenous and international artists.

The showstopper at the gallery is the decommissioned oil tank, built during World War II to fuel the nearby naval fleet, which has been converted into a 2200 square metre space for rotating installations.

The old building houses 20th-century galleries showcasing Australian and international artists, as well as a range of temporary exhibitions. Admission to the gallery is free, and visitors can easily spend 2-4 hours exploring the collections.


hours – 10 am to 5 pm (daily); 10 am to 10 pm (Wednesday) | cost – free

The Sydney Harbour National Park does a great job of protecting some of the islands and foreshore of Sydney Harbour. This thin slither of green lining the harbourfront has survived the city’s expansion and provides a series of natural parks dotted amongst the houses and buildings. 

One of the fun things to do in Sydney is hike along the most scenic sections of the harbourfront and coast. Here are our favourites.

The harborfront hike from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay is a wonderful mix of green oasis, golden sands, and grand houses. It takes about 2 hours winding in and out of the peninsulas.

There are wonderful hidden beaches surrounding Nielsen Park, a great swimming spot at Parsley Bay Beach, and the houses overlooking the water in Vaucluse are magnificent.

The walk ends at the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, which has a bar overlooking the water. Ferries from Circular Quay run to both Rose Bay and Watsons Bay every 30 minutes.

The walk from the Botanic Gardens to Milsons Point collects many of the most iconic viewpoints in the city. Start at the Art Gallery of NSW, then pass Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to the Opera House.

Next, make your way along Circular Quay, around Dawes Point, and then up onto the Harbour Bridge. Follow the pedestrian walkway to Milsons Point, before dropping down to Luna Park and Wendy’s Secret Garden. Allow about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Although not in the Sydney Harbour National Park, the hike from Coogee Beach along the coastal cliffs to Bondi Beach is one of the best days out in Sydney.

The walk takes about 90 minutes, but you could easily spend the entire day lazing on the golden sands, swimming in the ocean pools, snacking at beach kiosks, and watching surfers from the headland cliffs.

Dotted all around Sydney’s harbour and coast are great places to take a dip. There are swimming pools above the waves, harbour pools with shark nets, and ocean lap pools pounded by the surf. Going for a swim in the ocean pools is a fun thing to do in Sydney.  

Icebergs – On the southern edge of Bondi, Icebergs is the iconic Ocean Pool of Sydney. There’s a café onsite and the newly refurbished Icebergs Dining Room and Bar has wonderful views to go with its pricy food and cocktails.

Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool – Just outside the city, the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool is where local Sydneysiders come for their early morning exercise. It has a great location overlooking the Woolloomooloo Wharf, and there’s a café on-site for a scenic coffee.

Murray Rose Pool – A harbour pool protected by a shark net, the Murray Rose Pool is a popular after-work spot. A sandy beach backed by grassy banks attracts the sun-worshippers while the swimmers fight over space on the two pontoons on the water.

There are few better spots for lunch on the harbour than Watsons Bay. This thin stretch of sand, backed by beautiful houses, has three excellent eating options.

For great seafood in a stunning setting, head to Doyles on the Beach. You’ll need to make a reservation in advance. The best approach is to call them and ask for a table in the front or outside on the upstairs balcony.

Next door is the buzzy Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, which serves pub food on the large front terrace. For an even more casual option, grab your fish and chips from the takeaway stand on the wharf.

How to get to Watson’s Bay — The ferry from Circular Quay runs every 30 minutes, takes 30 minutes, and drops you right outside the restaurants. Nearby Camp Cove is a beautiful harbour beach perfect for an afternoon of lazing on the sand.


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Sydney’s City Centre comprises the Central Business District (CBD) and the Rocks, which are ideal destinations on a rainy day with plenty of indoor activities to enjoy.

Strand Arcade // Completed in 1891, the Strand Arcade is a magnificent building over 100 metres long and three stories high. It houses numerous high-end artisanal shops, including the must-visit Haigh’s Chocolates, famous for its peppermint frogs and aniseed rolls.

Queen Victoria Building // The Queen Victoria Building, a 19th-century heritage-listed building with five floors of shops, provides a grand setting for the usual range of stores. If you’re a baby-boomer or Gen X, be sure to visit the top floor to explore the Art of Dr Seuss.

The Contemporary Art Museum // Located by the water at Circular Quay, the Contemporary Art Museum has a permanent collection on the second floor, featuring nearly 5,000 pieces, which can be viewed for free.

Wharf Theatre // The Sydney Theatre Company, housed in the Wharf Theatre perched on Dawes Point, has an excellent reputation. The waterside bar is also a great spot to enjoy sunset drinks. Check the performance schedule at the Sydney Theatre Company.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a heritage-listed tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Step inside and be transported to a world filled with waterfalls, exotic plants and traditional Chinese architecture.

Designed to create a sense of balance and harmony, winding paths lead through the gardens adorned with carved pavilions, statues, lakes and topiary. Delicate flowers and carefully positioned rocks have been designed to reflect the principles of Fen Shui.

The highlight is the Teahouse where you can enjoy a traditional tea overlooking the gardens.


hours – 10 am to 5 pm (daily) | cost – $12/$8.

Taronga Zoo provides a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife. Situated on the shores of Sydney Harbour, the zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, representing over 350 species.

The Great Southern Oceans exhibit showcases a variety of marine life found in the waters off the southern coast of Australia, including seals, penguins, and sea lions.

Some of the other highlights include the cute red pandas, the koalas perched on a grove of trees, and the critically endangered Sumatran tigers that the zoo is helping to preserve.

The views across to Sydney Harbour are some of the best in the city but one of the best ways to capture them is on the Sky Safari cable car – a scenic aerial ride over the zoo with breathtaking views along the way.


hours – 9:30 am to 5 pm | getting there – ferry services depart from Circular Quay every 30 minutes | cost – $45.90 (including a 20% discount when you book online)

There aren’t many cities where you can hop on a seaplane, take a twenty-minute flight over iconic landmarks, and then land on a river for a magnificent dining experience in a remote wilderness. But there aren’t many cities like Sydney.

Sydney Seaplanes flights depart from Rose Bay, head over the harbour and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park before landing at one of ten locations in the Hawkesbury River region.

It’s an unforgettable experience that allows you to take in iconic views of Sydney before enjoying one of the finest restaurants in the country.

The price includes an à la carte or degustation menu as well as the return flight.

It’s not cheap, but if you’re celebrating a special occasion, it’s a unique thing to do in Sydney and won’t disappoint.

A great way to see Sydney Harbour and the iconic buildings that surround it is to look down from above. There are several hotels housing rooftop bars with a view, although most are not particularly cheap.

Blu Bar on 35 // Although it’s seriously lacking in atmosphere, Blu Bar On 35 at the Shangri La Hotel has one of the best views of Sydney including both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Tables can be booked for either High Tea or a Taste of Twilight but you can’t book tables for drinks only.

Aster // The stylish and exclusive Aster Bar at the top of the Intercontinental Hotel has excellent views over Sydney (both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge are visible). There’s a $75 minimum spend per person on Friday and Saturday night.

Skyfeast // Skyfeast is a rotating restaurant serving international dishes at the top of Sydney Tower. The focus is less on the food and more on the excellent 360-degree views of Sydney. Make sure you book one of the window tables.

Glemore Hotel // For a more budget option, the Glenmore Hotel has a relaxed pub feel but the views are not as good, and you can only see the harbour from a few seats. But there’s a great vibrant atmosphere that doesn’t hurt the wallet.

The inner-city suburbs of Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay are leafy upscale neighbourhoods with a mix of historical and modern architecture vying for prime space on the harbourfront.

In addition to being the native habitats of Sydney’s wealthy elite, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay have some of the best dining in Sydney. There is plenty of outdoor pavement dining in quiet streets and up-market eateries in boutique hotels.

Here are a few suggestions.

Lady Chau // Lady Chau is casual Vietnamese dining on a charming leafy street in the heart of Potts Point, just near Kings Cross Station. Their vermicelli salad was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Ezra // The cool blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours come together with style in this Israeli restaurant set in a charming terrace house.

Fei Jai // The Cantonese classics like Xiao Long Bao and crispy duck wontons are excellent at Fei Jai but the salt and pepper tofu was next level.  

Piña // It’s Sydney-style brunch at Piña with innovative twists on classic dishes and excellent coffee. The eggplant and tomato with pine nuts was delicious.

Bar Sopra // This small wine bar has a great position in the heart of Potts Point with an extensive cocktail list and a menu of mouth-watering bites.

Elizabeth Bay Café // The small neighbourhood café was our go-to place for coffee in Sydney. They do a great brunch with simple well-prepared classics.

Pizza Boccone // For genuine woodfired pizza and great friendly service, it’s hard to go past Pizza Boccone. Their vegetarian options were a hit with us.

Sydney is surrounded by a ring of National Parks. In just over an hour, you can wander amongst deep forests in the Royal National Park, hike to hidden beaches in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, or look for waterfalls in the Blue Mountains.

There is great wine tasting in the Hunter Valley to the north and road trips along the Grand Pacific Highway to the south.

All our favourite excursions are on our day trips from Sydney guide.

Most of Sydney’s top attractions are centred around the area between the Central Business District (CBD) and inner south-eastern suburbs towards Bondi Beach.

Our map includes all the top things to do in Sydney that we have included in this guide.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  

Sydney offers a wide range of accommodation options for visitors, ranging from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels. We recommend staying centrally near the Central Business District (CBD) or in one of the nearby suburbs.

The City Centre of Sydney consists of The Rocks and the CBD which is the most convenient place to stay. Transport links are very good, and many of the best things to do in Sydney are within walking district. It is however more expensive than the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Here are our suggestions:

It’s not easy to find a good value hotel in the city centre but no frills Megaboom City Hotel provides good clean rooms in an excellent location at a decent price. | 

A sensational central location for exploring the city. The comfy beds get rave reviews as does the rooftop bar. Many of the best things to do in Sydney are within walking distance, and it sits right next to the Wynards train station. A great mid-market choice. | 

Everything you would expect from a Four Seasons hotel. Luxurious rooms overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay and a wonderful outdoor swimming pool. | 

The five-star Park Hyatt is the premium address in Sydney. Sitting right under the Harbour Bridge and across from the Opera House it has everything you could need from opulent rooms and private balconies to a spa and gym. | 

A string of lovely neighbourhoods surrounds Sydney’s City centre. Each has its own vibe, and many have excellent local restaurants and cafes. In general, they are more relaxing and better value places to stay but with most transport links fanning out from the city centre it can take longer to get around.

An excellent value hotel in buzzy North Sydney. It’s only a few minutes’ walk to North Sydney train station and if you walk over the Harbour Bridge you can be in the city centre in 30 minutes.

We have a soft spot for Potts Point. A wonderful leafy local neighbourhood with great sidewalk dining. There are a few boutique hotels to choose from, but none seem to be better than Spicer Potts Point. The number 311 bus heads into the city from the doorstep or it’s a thirty-minute walk through the Botanic Gardens. | 

Watsons Bay is perched on the end of a headland sticking into the harbour. A thin stretch of sand is backed by a couple of great restaurants and nearby Camp Cove is an idyllic harbour beach. The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel has chic comfortable rooms, many with excellent views. It’s 30 minutes into the city centre by ferry. | 

Housed in a converted city townhouse, The Medusa Hotel is run by a very considerate couple who provide lots of extra touches. The hotel sits in the centre of charming Darlinghurst with the gay bars of Oxford Street in one direction, and the cafes and restaurants of Surry Hills in the other. It’s a 20 to 30-minute walk or bus ride into the city centre. | 



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Paul & Mark