The most populous and bustling city in Australia, Sydney has forever been drawing international and domestic travellers in with its sparkling charm.
Credit: Tourism Australia
The vibrant city is surrounded by stunning harbours, glistening beaches, lively streets and sprawling leafy suburbs.
The vibe in Sydney City is always exciting – there is never a lack of energy and activities throughout the city, making it a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. Not only is the city and the surrounding suburbs a hotpot of good times, but you can use Sydney as a base for trips out to the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley.
One of the biggest battles continues to be between Sydney and Melbourne and which is ‘better’. The truth is Sydney offers something completely different to Melbourne. The proximity to incredible beaches and sunny weather tends to lead to a more laidback and relaxed experience. The coffee may be better in Melbourne, but Sydney has an abundance of dazzling bars and restaurants overlooking the harbour, ocean, or city streets. The shopping is phenomenal, and the coastal walks are unmatched.
Things to do and see in Sydney
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Easily one of the most recognisable landmarks in all of Australia, let alone Sydney, the steel-arch Sydney Harbour Bridge connects The Rocks and the CBD to the North Shore. You can climb the bridge and take in all of Sydney and the surrounding regions from the top.
Sydney Opera House
Even more famous than the bridge is sits in front on. The sails of the Sydney Opera House are synonymous with Australia. The venue is home to concerts and exhibitions, as well as one of Sydney’s most prestigious restaurants, Bennelong.
The Rocks is hugely significant, as it was the place of European colonisation in Australia, after the First Fleet landed in Sydney and chose this area to settle. Stroll through the historic laneways and visit some of Australia’s oldest establishments.
Directly east of The Rocks is the harbour of Circular Quay, the main passenger port and transport hub of Sydney. Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to:
- Taronga Zoo
- Parramatta River
- Mosman Bay
- Double Bay
- Cockatoo Island
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay and be at the Taronga Zoo in less than 15 minutes. View the enclosures of over 300 species of animals and learn about the tireless conservation efforts made by the zoo for threatened and endangered animals in Australia and around the world.
Bondi to Bronte/Coogee Coastal Walk
This picturesque walk covers 6km of Sydney’s coastline. Start in Coogee or Bondi, and get ready to get the steps in. You can stop in Bronte for a shorter walk, or to grab a coffee and a quick rest along the way.
Made up of 3 separate parks, this vast area is filled with sporting fields, waterways and lakes, lush greenery, venues for event hire, education programs and school holidays activities.
Sydney Tower Eye and SKYWALK
Visit the tallest structure in Sydney, and for those brave enough, take part in a SKYWALK around the outdoor viewpoint, 268m above ground level.
This underwater world is loved by the whole family. Home to turtles, tropical fish, reef sharks, jellyfish, penguins and even dugongs – you could spend hours exploring the aquarium and its permanent residents.
Royal Botanic Garden
On the fringe of the central business district, the public gardens are popular for walks, events, and excursions. Walk through the manicured lawns and garden beds with the city as the backdrop.
The most famous beach in Sydney, and potentially Australia for that matter. Bondi Beach has a TV show about the lifeguards who work here, and for good reason. During summer, the entire beach is packed daily with locals and thousands of international visitors. The waters at Bondi can be a little temperamental, and it’s popular with surfers also. If the ocean swell isn’t for you – nearby Bondi Icebergs has an enclosed ocean pool, open year-round.
Surrounded by beautiful parklands and busy cafes, the beach at Bronte is a local hotspot. A great stop along the Bondi-Coogee Coastal Walk, Bronte also has an ocean swimming pool.
Manly is part of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and Manly comes in second only to Bondi as Sydney’s best beach. 3km of soft sand and multiple lifesaving clubs, this is an ideal place to perch for an afternoon and bask in the Sydney sunshine. A 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney.
The start (or the end) of the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, Coogee Beach claims calm conditions and a thriving promenade. Ocean pools, parklands and BBQ facilities make Coogee a fantastic family-friendly beach.
This cove beach offers a more relaxed and serene atmosphere compared to the likes of Bondi and Manly. It is tucked in a narrow bay and is a great spot for snorkelling thanks to the calm waters. You can jump in directly from the promenades that surrounds it on each side.
There is only 80m of shoreline at Tamarama, but the surfing conditions make it popular for the surfers in the area. Another great place to stop between Bondi and Coogee.
Queen Victoria Building
Step inside the stunning heritage listed Queen Vic Building and admire the interior of the 19th century architecture. Browse the speciality and designer stores, stop for a quick bite, or stay a little longer and enjoy fine dining at ESQ or Reign Champagne Parlour & Bar.
Designer boutique stores including Alex Perry, Aje, Dion Lee and Scanlan Theodore. The Victorian style arcade is a close similarity to the Royal Arcade in Melbourne.
Pitt St & Market Street
Between the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade are Pitt and Market Street. The streets are packed with big retailers like Zara, H&M, and a flagship Mecca store, as well as Westfield Sydney. Everything you could need is at your fingertips in Sydney’s CBD.
Located in the south of the city in Haymarket. Market City is a hub for great shopping, and given its proximity to Chinatown, it is home to authentic and delicious Asian cuisine.
The Rocks Markets
One of the best open-air markets in Sydney, The Rocks Markets are open for business on the weekends only, from 10am-5pm. Make your way through the stalls of fresh produce, flowers, clothing, jewellery, homewares, and gifts.
Where to Eat and Drink in Sydney
Sydney extends far beyond the city limits, and for this reason the dining and bar options are endless. You can find incredible restaurants in the inner-city suburbs, and more laid-back atmospheres in the beachside suburbs.
Sydney has a price list to match most budgets, and there are take-away joints and hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving up every type of cuisine at affordable prices. These are easily found on most main streets.
If you want to treat yourself to a more memorable lunch or dinner, the venues below have become Sydney institutions.
Raw Bar, Sean’s Panaroma, Totti’s, Icebergs
Fred’s, 10 William Street, Ursula’s, Saint Peter
Mimi’s, Osteria Coogee
Mr Wong, Bennelong (inside the Sydney Opera House), Restaurant Hubert, Long Chim
Fratelli Paradiso, Yellow
Old Mates Place
A unique lounge setting downstairs and a patio upstairs looking over Sydney.
The Baxter Inn
Relaxed whiskey bar in the CBD with great vibes
Mexican style bar and drinks to match in Surry Hills.
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
One of the most ‘Sydney’ experiences there is, enjoy a drink at Icebergs as you look out to the iconic Bondi Beach.
This two-story building in the heart of Bondi is a dreamy spot for an afternoon spritz. The aesthetic building will likely feature on your Instagram stories.
Where to Stay in Sydney
Staying in the central business district will put the rest of Sydney at your fingertips. You can easily access the suburbs and beaches from the city, and fortunately there are accommodations to suit most budgets. Stay in a hostel or feel fancy and free in a luxury hotel.
Airbnb’s are popular in the suburbs and are a great option for larger groups who need a little more space.
- Maze Backpackers
- Sydney Central YHA
- Sydney Harbour YHA
- The Pod Sydney
- Holiday Inn Darling Harbour
- Vibe Hotel Sydney
- Hotel Palisade
- 28 Hotel
- Park Hyatt Sydney
- Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
- The Darling
- Ovolo Woolloomooloo
- Intercontinental Double Bay
- QT Sydney
Check out booking.com and hostelworld.com for best prices, or book direct through the hotel websites for potential added perks and benefits.
How to Get Around Sydney
Sydney streets sprawl on for miles, so it’s a relief to know the public transport is top-notch around here.
One of the best ways to get around Sydney is using the many ferry services. Not only a convenient option, the views of the sparkling harbour as you go sure beat being stuck in road traffic.
Trains, buses and light rails service the city and the surrounds. Purchase an Opal card and load with money to be on your way. You can enter your starting location and destination in Google Maps and select the train icon to get clear public transport directions.
All the key players operate in Sydney. Uber, DiDi, Ola – you name it, they’ve got it.
The roads in Sydney are winding and can get a little confusing to visitors. If you get in the wrong lane, you can get stuck going the wrong way. Concrete barriers prevent lane changes on some roads. Driving is best with a local, but if you want to drive yourself just be sure your GPS is up to date.
Grab a taxi or join a tour to get around to avoid having to drive yourself.
Getting to the city from Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport is conveniently close to the CBD. The best way to the city without a car – and for a budget – is via train. The train runs from the airport and stops at all stations on the city circle line. The journey takes around 15 minutes and services run frequently.
Sydney Surrounding Suburbs and Hidden Gems
Jump on a ferry and head north to Manly. Relaxed in nature but home to buzzing bars and restaurants. Manly and Shelly Beach are beautiful for a dip when the weather warms up.
This upscale inner-city suburb is trendy and sophisticated. Shop at the leafy outdoor shopping strips and dine in some of Sydney’s favourite restaurants. Weekend visitors can stroll through markets.
Leafy Double Bay on the harbour is filled with class and glamour. High end boutique shopping, luxurious florists and lifestyle stores and beautiful homes and hotels. A favourite suburb for those who prefer the finer things in life. Take a ferry or a bus from the city.
A stunning suburb on the water, Mosman is where you’ll find the Taronga Zoo and the calm waters of Balmoral Beach. Snorkel nearby in the crystal-clear waters at Chowder Bay.
Bondi Beach is in a league of its own and needs no introduction, but the suburb surrounded the beach is well worth visiting. Great brunch spots and coffee shops scattered about to fuel your day, and amazing bars and restaurants are open to wind-down. Westfield in Bondi Junction is great for shopping.
The Grounds of Alexandria put this suburb on the map when it started appearing on Instagram stories. Alexandria and neighbouring Rosebury was once an industrial area. In recent years the factories have been repurposed to cafes, offices, and outlets, making this inner-city area popular amongst younger crowds.
Day Trips from Sydney
You could spend a couple of days in this historic wine region, but just a day is plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the Hunter Valley. Some of the best wineries – like McGuigan Wines – are only 2 hours from Sydney. Drive yourself or join a tour to experience several wineries and let someone else take care of the driving.
Blue Mountains National Park
Explore the hiking trails, lookouts, waterfalls, caves, and charming towns that make up the Blue Mountains.
Escape the city for a day and head to the holiday paradise of Port Stephens. Hike the extensive trails, board down the massive sand dunes, and keep your eye out for marine life off the coast. Port Stephens is a dream for those who love the great outdoors.
A mini-Sydney just 2 hours north of the CBD by car. Newcastle is home to ocean pools and fantastic surf. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals everywhere you go and stop in at one of the chic bars for a refreshing drink.
This tiny island in the middle of Sydney’s harbour is a heritage-listed site. Take a ferry ride from the mainland and take a tour through the history of the island – from a WW2 shipyard and convict precinct to an after-dark ghost tour. One of the best vantage points for the famous Sydney New Years Eve fireworks, guests can stay on Cockatoo Island and take in the incredible display without the hassle of large crowds.
Things You Need to Know About Sydney
Tipping is uncommon in Australia and is not customary. You are welcome to tip exceptional service if you see fit.
000 for emergency calls.
Country calling code
+61 for Australian numbers
Australia drives on the left-hand side, and drivers are on the right side of the car. If you aren’t familiar with this, be sure to practice on quiet roads first to get used to the opposite feeling. The speed limit in the CBD is 30-40km per hour due to the high pedestrian activity.
Sydney is known for the sunny weather, and it is recommended to visit any time of the year. Winter can bring foggy mornings and a bit of rain, but generally the days clear up. Particularly delightful in the spring and autumn. Summer in Sydney is buzzing and can get crowded and hot – particularly at Bondi Beach where you’ll be fighting for a spot for your towel.
Sydney has a low crime rate, however just like any large city, it is not free of crime. Be alert in high-traffic areas, keep drinks covered when in bars, and look out for yourself and friends. Pickpocketing is an issue at times, so keep your belongings close and in eyesight.
Be careful when swimming in the ocean in Sydney. Unexpected rips can cause problems for experienced swimmers. Always swim between the flags, and never go deeper than you can handle.