12 Things You Can’t Miss in Sydney

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  • Though it’s a thriving metropolis, Sydney has fabulous beaches and amazing enclaves of nature.
  • Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House serve as Sydney’s iconic trio.
  • Sydney has attractions for tourists and locals alike, ensuring you’ll always have something to do.

The capital of New South Wales and the largest city in Australia, Sydney is an amazing metropolis. But at its core, it’s also a beach town, with some of the best beaches in the world a short bus ride from the city center. All in all, Sydney is a little bit urban, a little bit bohemian and a whole lot of fun. If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Sydney, follow along for our roundup of all the activities you can’t miss.

Enjoy the Grandeur of the Sydney Opera House

With its unmistakable white shells, the Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable architectural works in the world. Each year, more than 1,600 cultural performances take place there, from concerts and operas to theater performances and ballets.

The site was designed by Jorn Utzon and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If there aren’t any upcoming programs that fit into your plans, you can still tour the opera house. Guided tours are available in a variety of languages. You can find cultural programs and pricing on the Sydney Opera House’s website.

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Stroll or Roll Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is another Australian architectural wonder. The iconic bridge spans Sydney Harbour and connects the business district to the north shore. While it’s not the longest bridge in the world, it’s the widest and tallest.

If you want some exercise and an incredible view of the harbour and opera house, a footpath and bicycle path span the length of the bridge. If you’re a little more adventurous, the bridge is also a hotspot for climbers. There are multiple climbs to choose from based on difficulty, though they’re all a little pricey. You can experience an easier and more affordable adventure at the Pylon Lookout for a spectacular view of the bridge.

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Hop a Ferry to Manly for Beach Fun

Manly, a coastal suburb of Sydney, is a great escape from the urban bustle. Whether you live in Sydney or you’re just visiting, if you want fresh sea air and sunshine, take the ferry to Manly from Central Sydney, and arrive at a  beach paradise in about half an hour.

Manly Beach has good amenities for surfers and those visiting on day trips, including public restrooms, showers and plenty of shady trees to cool off under. Stay alert for strong currents if you’re surfing or going for a swim. If you want a sea pool, walk south for about 10 minutes until you reach Shelly beach, which is a much quieter place to swim.

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Discover the Natural Beauty of Hyde Park

Situated right in the heart of Sydney, Hyde Park is the oldest public park in the country. It’s a popular destination with tourists and locals alike for its historic monuments, themed gardens and expansive greenery, with over 500 species of exotic trees. Divided between North and South, the main attractions of the park are:

  • Archibald Fountain
  • Sandringham and Nagoya Gardens
  • Anzac Memorial
  • Lake of Reflections

Throughout the year, the park offers countless cultural activities, including concerts, food and drink gatherings and community events. Check the Sydney city website for schedules and pricing.

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Learn Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

One of the most-visited attractions by tourists in Sydney, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney occupies an area of 30 hectares with dozens of species of trees and plants, many of which are exotic.

Opened in 1816, the garden is popular with people looking to enjoy outdoor activities, fresh air or even a romantic picnic. Incidentally, the garden is a popular venue for weddings. The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is also a place where people of all ages can learn about the science of horticulture, plants and gardening. There are also regular exhibitions where you can purchase and donate plants.

Park admission and access to all its attractions are free, and guided tours are provided by park volunteers.

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Do Everything at Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour, adjacent to Sydney’s city center, provides a cascade of activities for visitors. The area has countless restaurants, theaters and shopping centers. Activities include laser tag and ice skating, and you can visit an aquarium and even a casino.

Given all the amenities, a stroll along the pier is a great experience any time, day or night, but an evening stroll may reward you with an unforgettable sunset. And if you go on a Saturday, you’ll catch a bonus fireworks display after sundown. To learn more about all the attractions, check out the Darling Harbour website.

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Hang Loose at Bondi Beach

Sydney is no slouch when it comes to awesome beaches, but one is a tidal wave above the rest. With its curved expanse of silky sand and iridescent waves, Bondi is the most popular beach destination in the world.

It’s pleasant year-round, and you’ll always find people relaxing in the sand, practicing yoga or honing their surf skills. Meanwhile, sandstone headlands flanking both sides of the beach are perfect for pastimes and leisurely sports.

But Bondi is much more than sand and water — it’s also a thriving community, complete with every amenity imaginable. Hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés and boutique stalls round out Bondi Beach’s laid-back vibe and make it one of the best places to visit in Sydney.

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Go on an Adventure to the Blue Mountains

Beaches, bridges and opera houses aren’t the only things going for Sydney. If you have a day or two to spare, consider going on an adventure to the Blue Mountains. A 2-hour train ride from Sydney drops you in the middle of majestic mountains surrounded by ancient rainforests.

Countless walking trails throughout the Blue Mountains take you past beautiful waterfalls and incredible rock formations, such as the Three Sisters, which change color depending on the sunlight. Another attraction within the park is Scenic World, which offers cable car and train rides, trails through the woods and other activities. For more details, visit the company’s website.

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Enjoy Chinatown’s Culture and Cuisine

As a cosmopolitan city, Sydney attracts immigrants from all over the world, and given the proximity of Asia, the existence of a phenomenal Chinatown in Sydney comes as no surprise. Located in the southern part of the business district, Sydney’s Chinatown has everything you’d expect from a district infused with Chinese and other Asian cultures. You’ll find countless restaurants serving authentic Asian food, from Chinese to Indonesian.

Chinatown also boasts hundreds of shops and thousands of products. One of the most famous shops is Paddy’s Markets, where you can snag affordable souvenirs.

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Shop for Deals and Steals

If you live for the thrill of finding a great bargain or an irresistible promotion, Sydney won’t disappoint. Its countless markets and fairs match every taste and budget.

At the Glebe Markets, for example, you can find vintage clothes and various arts and crafts every Saturday. If you’re more of an antique person, head to the Rozelle Collectors Market instead, also open on Saturdays. In the historic neighborhood of The Rocks, a famous street market takes place on weekends, where you can find souvenirs, clothes and household items, among other things.

Of course, some things just aren’t meant for thrifting. For an open-air mall with all the brands you know and love, head to the Pitt Street Mall.

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Discover the Charm of The Rocks

Located right near the Harbour Bridge on the shores of Sydney Harbour, The Rocks District is a piece of Australian history. The neighborhood is also home to a number of cultural attractions, such as the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sydney Observatory.

With renowned restaurants, bars and art galleries built into colonial stone buildings, The Rocks is a must-see on the tourist circuit. At night, the area buzzes to life, making it a great spot to enjoy a classy cocktail or a craft beer. On Friday evenings, stalls selling delectable food appear along the street for the weekly Foodie Market.

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Enjoy the View From the Sydney Tower Eye

Like looking down at a map of your favorite location, there’s something special about seeing things from a bird’s-eye view. Especially after you’ve visited a new town or city, seeing the big picture can put your new experiences into perspective.

If you’re only in Sydney temporarily, make a point of heading to the Sydney Tower Eye at the end of your stay. Atop this 279-meter tower, you can gaze down at all the places you visited in a full panorama. Perhaps it’ll help tie your trip together into a cohesive tapestry that you carry with you for years to come.

Then again, maybe you’ll only get a spectacular view of the largest city in Australia, which is pretty great in and of itself.

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Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle is a freelance writer and digital nomad who loves learning and creating things for the web. When he’s not busy writing about his myriad of interests, he’s brushing up on his programming and digital design skills, all while wandering the world. He’s currently kicking around in Brazil and planning his next big adventure.

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