I didn’t expect to like Sydney. In fact, I was so sure that I wasn’t going to like it, I very nearly didn’t go. After five months in Australia, and having met countless people who had travelled, lived and worked all over the country, I was convinced that Melbourne would be much more my kind of place (everyone kept telling me it was like one of my all-time favourite cities – Portland, Oregon – with its endless coffee shops, street art, and live music!)
Because of this, I had originally intended to skip Sydney, with its notoriously pricey accommodation and tourist-packed landmarks, planning and budgeting for more time in Melbourne instead. But as I finished up my month-long trip to Tasmania, I had a sudden change of heart. The flights from Hobart to Sydney were ridiculously cheap, and if I was going to manage to make it to every other major city in Australia, shouldn’t I at least see what all the Sydney-hype was about?!
I couldn’t be happier I changed my mind and, in the end, I wished I’d had more time to explore this incredible city. With limited days before I left for Melbourne, I crammed as much into my five Sydney days as possible – managing to see some of the lesser-known spots, as well as the most famous landmarks!
What Makes Sydney So Special?
Despite having zero expectations, it didn’t take me long to see how special Sydney is. Flying in over the harbour, with the incredible view of the bridge and Opera House below, I had one of those travel moments where I couldn’t quite believe where I was…or that I had almost missed seeing it! After finding my hostel (I stayed at Base Hostel on Kent Street…you can read my full review in the upcoming post!) and dumping my backpack, I immediately set out exploring and ended up walking around the city until my feet couldn’t take anymore. It felt like there were endless things to see, and every time I decided I was ready for heading back to the hostel, I found another interesting building or landmark to look at. By the end of the first day, I had an impossibly long list of places to come back and visit over the next four days!
From beautiful parks and gardens to endless eateries, waterside bars, historic buildings and incredible architecture, I was smitten with Sydney from the start. As travelling goes, this is also one of the easiest cities to get around, both on foot and by public transport. Here are Five Things to do in Sydney, as well as seeing the world-famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge…and for those looking to stick to a budget in Sydney, they also happen to be completely free!
Things to do in Sydney
***Don’t forget, you can also download and listen to my walking trail of Sydney’s Historical Highlights (which has 10 more places to see, including The Mint, St. Mary’s Catherdral and The Glenmore Hotel) for free on the Geotourist app.***
Tour the Colourful Sydney Fish Market
Is it weird for someone who doesn’t really like fish to have so much fun at the Sydney Fish Market?! I absolutely loved the morning I spent exploring this busy and colourful waterfront market! Even if you’re not a seafood fan, it’s a great place to pick up fresh bread, fruit and other produce, as well as take in the atmosphere of the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is where Sydney’s top seafood restaurants get their fresh fish, with more than 50 tonnes of seafood auctioned here every single day. If you don’t feel like cooking your own, the Sydney Fish Market also has some great restaurants, cafes and a deli where you can grab a bite.
The outside tables make an excellent people/boat watching spot – just be prepared for the birds to try and nab your food when you’re soaking in the view! You can also pick up a souvenir from Boat Shed Gifts and buy a bottle of something to go with your fresh seafood from Fisherman’s Fine Wines.
The Sydney Fish Market is easy to find and wander around by yourself but, if you want to learn more about the history of the market and the Australian Seafood Industry, guided tours are held every day at 6.40am and cost $35 for an adult ticket. You can find out more about the tours and book here.
stop for brunch and books in Sydney’s Glebe Suburb
After a tip-off for an excellent place to grab brunch in Sydney, I ended up wandering around the artsy, student suburb of Glebe. Situated South-West of Sydney’s CBD, Glebe is a budget-friendly place to eat, drink and shop for pre-loved goods, with second-hand bookshops, vintage stores and a popular Saturday market selling everything from clothes to records and bric-a-brac.
With the University of Sydney not far from the end of Glebe Point Road – the suburb’s main shopping street – you’ll see plenty of students trawling for bargains, as well as young professionals and academic-types hanging out in Glebe’s understated bars and live music venues.
I stopped for a delicious brunch and a browse through the impressive collection of second-hand books at Sappho Books Café & Wine Bar on Glebe Point Road. The main bookstore gives way to a secret courtyard café, which turns into a popular bar with live music and poetry events at night.
Glebe is also home to some beautiful Victorian buildings and, for those who love street photography, it’s a great area to take a stroll around, camera in hand…you’ll find unusually decorated gardens and quirky sights around every corner!
Visit the University of Sydney and Nicholson Museum
Once you’ve finished exploring Glebe, head for the nearby University of Sydney campus, where history lovers can find one of the best museums in the city – the Nicholson Museum. The university campus itself is lovely to wander around and dates back to the 1850’s, with impressive architecture that has seen it regularly voted amongst the Top 10 Most Beautiful Universities in the World.
I unintentionally visited on Graduation Day, which meant the main campus was busy with celebrating students and families, but the museum was blissfully empty. Free to visit, the Nicholson Museum is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest collection of antiquities – comprising some 30,000 artefacts.
The Nicholson’s main collections cover the ancient world, with sections dedicated to ancient Egypt, Greece and Italy, as well as Cyprus and the Near East. The museum is also home to an incredibly detailed LEGO recreation of Pompeii, showing the city at three key moments – when it was destroyed, when it was first rediscovered and as it stands today.
As well as the permanent collections, the museum features regular exhibitions, one of which is the ongoing “Death Magic” collection. Taking a closer look at the “magical experience” of death for the Ancient Egyptians, the exhibition features everything from a human heart and brain to a bull’s head. You can find out what exhibitions are currently running here.
Hike the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Path…Backwards!
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Path is one of those “must-do” things in Sydney, but you can mix it up a bit (and at least head in a different direction to the majority of the crowds!) by walking it backwards. Jump on a bus from Sydney CBD to the pretty beach suburb of Coogee to start the 6km walk. It takes roughly two hours from start to finish, but you might want to leave yourself some extra time so that you can stop and fully enjoy the incredible views along the way!
The first section, from Coogee to Clovelly, takes you to Dolphin’s Point, Dunningham Reserve and Gordons Bay, before arriving at Clovelly Beach, which is a great place for a swim, snorkel or just a quick stop to catch your breath!
The next section runs from Clovelly to Bronte, past the historic, cliff-side Waverley Cemetery, before continuing on to the Bronte rock pools and Bronte Beach. The third section, which is the easiest of the entire walk, takes you from Bronte Beach to Tamarama Beach, with plenty of places to relax and take in the view.
The fourth and final section of the walk takes you from Tamarama to Bondi, via McKenzies – the smallest beach in New South Wales – Marks Park and Hunter Park, before arriving at the much-photographed Bondi Icebergs swimming pools. From here, you get a great view of Bondi Beach stretching out before you. There are endless options for eating and drinking beach-side, making it easy to refuel after your long walk before you hop back on the bus to Sydney CBD! You can find a printable map of the entire walking route here.
Take Yourself on a Friday Night Date to Luna Park
Whether you’re travelling as a couple, with friends or solo (like me!) I’d highly recommend taking yourself on a Friday night (or any other night for that matter!) date to Sydney’s fun-filled Luna Park.
Time it right and cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge on foot at sunset – the views of the city and the Opera House are unbeatable from the bridge! Once you’ve reached the other side, Luna Park is a quick 10-minute walk away.
The amusement park might be aimed at children but for those who love a carnival atmosphere, this is a great place for candy floss (or fairy floss, as they call it!) and rides, as well as offering the chance to photograph the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city from a different angle.
It’s free to enter and wander around, with tickets for rides available at the park or to buy online. You can jump on the Ferris Wheel for an eagle-eye view of the harbour, take a spin on the carousel or for those who love an adrenaline rush, have a ride on the Wild Mouse roller coaster.
Last but not least…Find the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House!
I was determined to catch the sunset from a different place every night during my time in Sydney and ended up witnessing some pretty incredible views, despite the mostly cloudy weather!
There are a lot of iconic sunset spots to choose from, including the popular Mrs Macquarie’s Chair/ Mrs Macquarie’s Point and from either the Opera Bar or Harbour Bridge itself.
My personal favourite was from the rooftop beer garden of the historic Glenmore Hotel (which, if you download and listen to my free Historical Highlights of Sydney Walking Tour on the Geotourist app, you’ll be visiting already!) Order a beer, grab a stool at the glass bar and take in the view of Sydney’s rooftops and the Opera House in the background!
Have you been to Sydney? Did you discover a secret spot or unusual place to visit? Feel free to leave comments, questions and recommendations below!
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