THE 15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SYDNEY

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Sydney is one of those cities that lives in the mind long before you get lớn experience it. Body-boarding at Bondi beach, zipping under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a ferry, or catching a show at the incredible Sydney Opera House are just a few of the quintessential Sydney experiences you’ll want to lớn tick off on your big trip Down Under.

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And once you’ve tackled those, it’s time lớn explore what else Sydney has khổng lồ offer. Here are the best things to bởi vì in Australia's big city, whether you’re visiting for the first time or the tenth. 


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1. Dine on delicious meals delivered with exemplary Sydney hospitality

Sydney's dining scene has never been more inventive và exciting. Restaurants serving food from across the globe, often with a uniquely Australian twist, can be found in every pocket of the city. Okay, it may be a little faddish và perhaps a bit too obsessed with big-name chefs, but it wouldn't be Sydney if names weren't being dropped. Thankfully Sydney's food scene manages khổng lồ juggle style with substance.

Fine diners like Quay và Oncore by Clare Smyth stand out as world-class on every front, from the views lớn the service to the exquisite menus on offer. Other Sydney hotspots, no less incredible in terms of unique dishes và top-notch hospitality, include NOMAD, Mr Wong, cafe Paci, Long Chim & seafood pioneers Saint Peter. However, a takeaway Sri Lankan or a cheap noodles night with BYO wine could just as easily be your Sydney dining highlight.



2. Walk, cycle or climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydneysiders love their giant 'coathanger,' which opened in 1932. The best way to lớn experience this majestic structure is on foot; stairs and lifts climb up the bridge from both shores, leading lớn a footpath on the eastern side (the western side is a bike path). Getting the train khổng lồ Milsons Point và walking back towards the city is the most spectacular.

Climb the southeastern pylon to lớn the Pylon Lookout or ascend the arc on the popular BridgeClimb experience. You can now book a trip with an Indigenous storyteller who'll giới thiệu their perspective on the city & country while you look over Sydney’s magnificent harbor from on high.

3. Tour backstage at Sydney Opera House

Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, this incredible, eye-catching building is Australia's most famous landmark. Visually referencing a yacht's sails, it's a soaring, commanding presence that comprises five performance spaces for dance, concerts, opera và theater. You can wander around the outside khổng lồ your heart's content; the most obvious way lớn experience the interior is khổng lồ attend a performance, but taking a guided tour is highly recommended (available in several languages). Tours include ones aimed at kids, as well as backstage tours, a food-focused tour, and one where guides will show you how khổng lồ draw this iconic sight.


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4. Body-board, learn to surf or watch the Icebergs at Bondi

Bondi is one of the world’s most famous beaches, with consistently good waves và warm sea temperatures. It’s also a great place khổng lồ learn to surf – Lets Go Surfing is a well-established surf school based in North Bondi, offering lessons catering khổng lồ practically everyone. There are classes for “grommets” (young surfers) aged 7 to lớn 15 or adults, & women-only classes are also available. Alternatively, you can book a private tutor between a couple of people; prices are lower outside the summer peak.

Whatever you do, don’t be a “kook” – Australians are pretty forgiving but not on the water, so respect the norms & etiquette of local surfers. In the cooler months, you can forgo the water và dine with epic views while watching the winter “Iceberg” swimmers earning their stripes.

5. Explore secluded beaches & dramatic views from Watsons Bay

Lovely Watsons Bay, east of the city center & north of Bondi, was once a small fishing village, as evidenced by the heritage cottages that pepper the suburb’s narrow streets (they now cost a small fortune). It's a lovely day trip by ferry from Circular Quay, & you can explore South Head và have a leisurely lunch at Doyle’s or sunset beers in Watson’s cất cánh Beach Club beer garden.

On the ocean side, The Gap is a dramatic clifftop lookout. On the harbourside, closer khổng lồ Watson’s bay ferry, is the sheltered Camp Cove beach lớn take a dip. If you’ve forgotten to lớn pack your swimsuit, Lady bay Beach is a clothing-optional nudist beach on the west side of the bluff just before you arrive at Hornby lighthouse.


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6. Ride the ferry to lớn historic Cockatoo Island

Studded with photogenic industrial relics, convict architecture và art installations, fascinating Unesco-listed Cockatoo Island (Wareamah) opened to the public in 2007 and has regular ferry services, a campground, rental accommodation & two cafe-bars. Information boards & audioguides explain the island's time as a brutal convict prison, a shipyard and a naval base.


A spooky tunnel passes clear through the middle of the island, & you can explore the remains of the old prison. During WWII, most of the original sandstone buildings were stripped of their roofs & converted into bomb shelters. Solitary confinement cells were unearthed here after being filled in & forgotten in the 1890s. A range of tours run from the Visitor Centre, from straight-up heritage tours to 'Ghostyard Paranormal' & 'Convict Escape Attempts.'

7. Join a female-focused street art tour

There are a number of tours exploring Newtown’s street art and murals, or you can do it yourself with Google maps and an app. However, Local Sauce has developed a self-guided tour that goes the extra mile, literally, & puts the spotlight on female artists who are often overlooked, starting from Redfern station. As well as covering the artists behind the works, they provide recommendations for cafes where you can re-caffeinate along the way. Their street art & food tours also take you to lớn some đứng top Newtown “chewtown” eateries.


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8. Get thee to lớn a drag show

Sydney is Australia’s self-professed LGBTQIA+ capital, so don't miss the chance to take in a drag show. Since RuPaul popularized the art of drag on the hit show Drag Race, a more mainstream audience has discovered the subverting performances of drag queens và kings. Now, popular queens can command queues around the block.

In Sydney, you can dine out while enjoying a show or head khổng lồ a bingo, trivia or competition night with a drag theme. The inner north & west districts of the thành phố are where you’ll find most of Sydney’s queer venues, from the Universal nightclub on Oxford Street khổng lồ the more alternative Bearded Tit in Redfern.

9. Stumble across Aboriginal rock art 

It may come as a surprise to lớn stumble across an art khung that's so ancient in such a modern city, but Sydney is built on top of a giant gallery for Aboriginal art. Until recently, not much attention was paid to such things, and many works were covered over or destroyed. Today, with dot paintings from distant deserts being celebrated, Sydneysiders have started lớn wake up to the treasure trove in their own backyard. Look for rock art by the original custodians of this place on the headlands around the harbor, on the coast, & in nearby national parks such as Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.


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10. Admire the Art Gallery of New South Wales


With its neoclassical Greek frontage và modern rear, this much-loved institution plays a prominent and sociable role in Sydney society. Blockbuster international touring exhibitions arrive regularly along with special events. While the permanent collection has a substantial collection of 19th-century European & Australian art, the highlights are the contemporary Indigenous gallery in the basement & the collection of 20th-century Australian art, with some standout canvases by the big names of the local painting scene.

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11. Deep dive into the white Rabbit art gallery

In many ways, Sydney's best contemporary art gallery, trắng Rabbit, is tucked away behind the Central Park development in Chippendale. It's the project of billionaire philanthropist Judith Neilson, who has amassed one of the world's largest collections of cutting-edge, contemporary Chinese art (works produced since 2000). The gallery has so many pieces that only a fraction can be displayed at one time. You'll find art here that is edgy, funny, sexy & idiosyncratic. An on-site cà phê does specialty teas và dumplings.


12. Cửa hàng Sydney’s Victorian-era arcades

Sydney’s city shopping is concentrated around George Street & Pitt Street, spilling into arcades và side streets from there. Among the many glimmering places to lớn indulge in some intense retail therapy, there are several ornate Victorian-era arcades to lớn admire while you browse. 

The magnificent Queen Victoria Building (QVB for short) takes up a whole thành phố block và boasts nearly 200 shops, including well-known international brands across its five levels. The building itself is a High Victorian neo-Gothic masterpiece – without doubt Sydney’s most beautiful shopping center.

Check out the wrought-iron balconies, the Byzantine copper domes, the stained-glass shopfronts, the mosaic floors, the replica crown jewels, the ballroom, the tinkling baby grand piano (available lớn play) and the hyperkitsch animated Royal Clock, featuring the Battle of Hastings & an hourly beheading of Charles I. Nearby, the Strand Arcade is home to a host of Aussie designers as well as an old school branch of JB Hi-Fi in the basement selling electronics, DVDs and vinyl.

13. Catch one of Sydney's spectacular festivals

Sydney's nocturnal calendar kicks off with a spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks display over the harbor & doesn't calm down for months. As soon as the Sydney Festival's myriad openings & events finish, the lights come up on the biggest party of them all: the Sydney Gay và Lesbian Mardi Gras in February.

Winter brings fashion, literature, & film festival calendars to Sydney, with opening nights, cocktail parties và literary soirées, plus the spectacular Vivid Sydney in May lighting the town up with projections and lights. Spring is football finals time – whether it's rugby or Australian Rules, try to get to lớn a night game for the friendly atmosphere & epic crowds.


14. Kayak to lớn a secret beach

A hidden jewel not far from Manly, magical Store Beach can only be reached by water. Hire a boat or kayak from Manly Kayak Centre at Manly, then cruise around (it’ll take approximately half an hour khổng lồ 45 minutes) to lớn the sheltered 200m cove beach fringed by trees. The views of the bushy North Harbour give the impression you’ve left the đô thị entirely.

As this is a breeding ground for fairy penguins, access is prohibited from dusk, when the birds waddle in lớn settle down for the night. Visitors are also implored khổng lồ leave the beach in the same condition they found it (or better). Take snacks, sunscreen and plenty of water.


15. Hike the coastline around Manly & North Head

This marvelous coastal walk has two major components: a 10km western stretch between Manly and Spit Bridge, và a 9.5km eastern loop around North Head. The western section traces the complex harbor coastline through upmarket suburbs và then a spectacular section of unspoiled Sydney Harbour National Park. It emerges in Clontarf và winds its way khổng lồ the Spit Bridge. 

The eastern loop is known as the North Head Circuit Track, & the walk takes 2½ khổng lồ 3½ hours. Make your way through the bush lớn the spectacular Fairfax Lookout on North Head. From the lookout, walk the Fairfax Loop & then head back via Australia's Memorial Walk & WWII gun emplacements khổng lồ the Bluefish Track, which descends spectacularly to lớn Shelly Beach. From here, you can return to Manly Beach via picturesque Fairy Bower Beach. Either tải về a bản đồ or pick one up from the information center near the wharf.

16. Learn more Aboriginal history và knowledge at the Royal Botanic Garden

Southeast of the Opera House, this garden was established in 1816 and features plant life from around the world. Within the gardens are hothouses with palms and ferns, as well as The Calyx, a striking exhibition space featuring a curving glasshouse gallery with a wall of greenery và temporary plant-themed exhibitions. Grab a park maps at any of the main entrances to the gardens.

The garden includes the site of the colony's first paltry European vegetable patch, but its history goes back much further than that. Long before the convicts arrived, this was an initiation ground for the Gadigal people; book ahead for an Aboriginal Tour with a First Nations guide sharing their knowledge of Indigenous bush foods.


17. Make a day trip khổng lồ Palm Beach & Pittwater

Long, lovely Palm Beach is a crescent of bliss that's famous as the setting for the cheesy TV soap trang chủ and Away. The 1881 Barrenjoey Lighthouse punctuates the northern tip of the headland in an annex of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The suburb of Palm Beach has two sides, the magnificent ocean beach và a pleasant strip on Pittwater, where the calmer strands are good for young kids.

From here, you can get ferries khổng lồ other picturesque Pittwater destinations, including other park sections. To lớn get to the lighthouse, you've got two walk options – shorter stairs or a winding, convict-built track – for the steep hike to lớn the top, but majestic views across Pittwater and down the peninsula are worth the effort. It’s also a perfect spot for whale watching in winter.

18. Discover the colonial history of The Rocks

Australia's convict history began in the district known as The Rocks, with a squalid canvas shanty town on a rocky shore. Its raucous reputation lives on in atmospheric lanes lined with historic buildings, with more than a few still operating as pubs. Sure, the place is overrun with tacky, overpriced koala-soft-toy stores và package tourists, but there's a great museum & art gallery here as well. A popular old Rocks pub with rooftop views of central Sydney, The Glenmore is a vị trí cao nhất stop for a meal or drink. When it all gets too much, head through the Argyle Cut lớn the revitalized port area of Walsh Bay.


19. Go for a run or a horse ride around Centennial Park

Scratched out of the sand in 1888 in grand Victorian style, Sydney’s biggest park, Centennial Park, is a rambling 189-hectare expanse with wide formal avenues, ponds, statues và a labyrinth. The park is busy in the warmer months with joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and horse riders. You’ll also find an equestrian center offering trail rides for kids & adults. Prior riding experience is not required, but bookings are essential. If a pony ride is not enough, children will also love the adventures to be had at the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden. 

20. Skip along the Bondi lớn Coogee Clifftop Walk

The simply sensational 6km Bondi khổng lồ Coogee walk leads south from Bondi Beach along the clifftops past the inlets at Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly, interweaving panoramic views, patrolled beaches, sea-fed baths, waterside parks và plaques recounting Aboriginal history and stories. The trail begins at the end of Notts Ave và spits you out at the north kết thúc of Coogee Beach, where you have a choice of three ocean pools to lớn swim in if the waves at the beach are ferocious. Pack a picnic, plenty of water và your swimsuit.​

21. Pretend you belong at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia 

A 2.5km (1.6-mile) walk from Sydney’s central business district, in the well-heeled enclave of Rushcutters Bay, Sydney’s historic Cruising Yacht Club of nước australia is the trang chủ of the annual Sydney khổng lồ Hobart Yacht Race. If you want lớn experience some local Sydney life, the members-only sundeck cà phê here serves enormous portions of fish và chips with a glass of Riesling overlooking multi-million dollar yachts. Visitors can sign in for the day.

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This article was first published August 2021 & updated August 2022

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