What to Do in Sydney
Collected by Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
Surrounded by spectacular harbor and beachfront, Sydney is one of the world’s most stunning cities. But this beauty has brains, too, like cracking cultural attractions, hard-to-believe history, and surprise twists and turns around every little lane.
Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
34 Harrington St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
The most high-adrenaline way to see Sydney Harbour, BridgeClimb has been dressing up locals and travelers in jumpsuits and safety harnesses to ascend “The Coathanger” since 1998. Along the way, they learn fun facts about the Sydney...
Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Sydney’s 158-acre botanic garden, which hugs the harbor between Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the Sydney Opera House, is home to nearly 9,000 plant species. Depending on the season of your visit, you might seek out spring peaches and wisteria or...
Art Gallery Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
The Australian collection here includes almost 19,000 pieces ranging from paintings and decorative arts to modern photography, pop art, and screen-printing. The Yiribana Gallery is renowned for some of the best permanent and rotating exhibits of...
1 William St, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
Australia's first museum was opened in 1827 in Sydney with the goal of showcasing unique specimens relating to the country's fascinating natural history. Initially called the Sydney Museum or Colonial Museum, the institution was renamed the...
140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
Set on the western side of Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is the country’s leading institution for modern art. While access to touring international exhibitions from the likes of Tatsuo Miyajima and Annie...
George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
The cobblestone walkways and sandstone walls of Australia’s oldest district are full of stories: of the lives of convicts, publicans, sailors, and wharf laborers as well as members of the 19 Aboriginal clans that called this land home...
1003 Upper Fort St, Millers Point NSW 2000, Australia
In the 1850s, a rugged hill overlooking Sydney Harbour was capped with the Sydney Observatory at the behest of English astronomer and clergyman William Scott. What started as a sandstone structure used primarily for time-keeping and...
Hickson Rd, Barangaroo NSW 2000, Australia
An Aboriginal territory turned shipping port between the Rocks district and King Street Wharf has been transformed into a harborfront reserve, modeled after what the headland may have looked like before Europeans arrived. It’s a great...
Kensington Street, Chippendale NSW 2008, Australia
A once blighted brewery district is now a go-to destination for dining, drinking, and gallery-hopping. White Rabbit Gallery, a contemporary Chinese art museum and tea house, has long anchored the cultural scene here, but over a dozen more art...
245 Wilson St, Eveleigh NSW 2015, Australia
The brick-and-iron warehouses of the old Eveleigh Railway Workshops host a diverse lineup of experimental music, theater, film, and fine art. Located on the border of Redfern and Waterloo, Carriageworks was restored to keep the historical roots...
1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia
This 7.5-mile round-trip walk has some of the most amazing coastal views in Sydney and is a great introduction to the city’s Eastern Suburbs. Starting from Icebergs pool in Bondi, the path hugs cornmeal-sand coves, natural seawater pools, a...
Manly NSW 2095, Australia
From Shelly Beach in Manly, the path climbs a flight of stairs surrounded by jungle foliage before alternating between idyllic neighborhoods, clifftop bushland, secluded beaches, and more rainforest. Along the way, you’ll see tropical...
Corner Pyrmont Bridge Road &, Bank St, Sydney NSW 2009, Australia
Warumbul Rd, Royal National Park NSW 2233, Australia
Carved by ocean inlets that meet vertical cliffs, Sydney is a city that's defined by nature. And in less than an hour, travelers can visit Royal National Park to the south, the world’s second oldest national park, established in 1879. "The...
Palm Beach NSW 2108, Australia
The most northern of the Northern Beaches, Palm Beach makes for a relaxing day or weekend trip. Here, a sandy isthmus straddles ocean waves and harbor sails, and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands watch a short hike up the hill. Snag a spot on the...
Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088, Australia
Travelers should visit Taronga Zoo as much for its harbor views as for the 4,000 resident animals (who get to see them all day long). Ferry 15 minutes from Circular Quay and take an optional Sky Safari cable car, included in the ticket...
Harbour St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
The largest and most storied of the Sydney Harbour islands, Cockatoo was once an Aboriginal fishing ground, a naval shipyard, a girls' reform school, and a gruesome prison. Today, it offers fascinating walking tours, a casual café, and a...
8 Australia Ave, Sydney Olympic Park NSW 2127, Australia
Famous as the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney Olympic Park is full of history. It also hosts a plethora of modern events from the National Rugby League Grand Final to concerts by the likes of the Foo Fighters and Ed...
Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Once a notorious red-light district most famous for brothels and violence, Kings Cross has cleaned up over the years, though the nightlife has suffered as a result of controversial 1:30 a.m. lockout laws that went into effect in 2014. Still,...
Cabramatta NSW 2166, Australia
Sydney's bustling western suburb of Cabramatta is revered for Vietnamese food as well as other Southeast Asian cuisines and crafts. The crab ball soup from the Ho Chi Minh City-style café Pho Tau Bay is reportedly worth the trip alone....
Oxford St, Paddington NSW 2021, Australia
80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Downstairs in the 1940s Paramount Pictures building in Surry Hills, Golden Age Cinema puts on cult and contemporary films as well as live music in a former military screening room. Before or after the show, sip on cocktails inspired by...
38-46 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
A coveted venue for any band on the rise, the Oxford Art Factory has hosted Courtney Barnett, The Growlers, and Sylvan Esso, among many other emerging local and international acts. The intimate brick-walled space—inspired by Andy...
Queen Victoria Building, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
The Queen Victoria Building has been central to culture and commerce in Sydney since 1898. Covering a full city block with the Town Hall train station entrance on the ground floor, it’s hard to miss and easy to get to. For a perfect Sunday...
2 Raper St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
The final home and workplace of the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley is now a museum that holds rotating exhibits of Whiteley’s work shown on weekends as well as monthly events such as poetry readings and classical music performances....
Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Since opening in 1819, Australia’s first barracks has housed British convicts, female immigrants, destitute elderly women, courtrooms, and government offices until it was finally declared a museum in 1979. During a twice-daily tour, or with...
69A Wentworth Rd, Vaucluse NSW 2030, Australia
For a glimpse of Sydney's high society, visit Vaucluse House, a beautiful villa and garden in the Eastern Suburbs near Watsons Bay. A gothic revival mansion built in 1803, Vaucluse House once belonged to ex-convict Sir Henry Browne Hayes, who was...
The Wharf, Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW 2000, Australia
Founded in 1978 and formerly directed by Cate Blanchett, the Sydney Theatre Company has launched the careers of Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, and Geoffrey Rush as well as Blanchett. The state theater of New South Wales, the company produces high-caliber...
Dickens Dr, Centennial Park NSW 2021, Australia
More than 500 acres of parkland, stretching between Bondi Junction and the CBD, is carved with ponds, punctuated by playgrounds, and blanketed in gardens and trees. Keep your eyes peeled for horses, parrots, and cockatoos during the day and...
17 Bourke Rd, Alexandria NSW 2015, Australia
Around 25,000 square feet of warehouse space in Alexandria is subdivided into 150 market stalls that hawk an overwhelming selection of retro fashion, antique kitchenware, midcentury lighting, classic vinyl, country home décor, and kitschy...
F4, Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
You’d be forgiven for thinking this place is a tourist trap like every other revolving “sky tower” in the world. And the upstairs Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck and Skywalk is, with one difference: the harbor view, which...
175 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Named after its storied sister in New York, this hub of LGBTQI culture on gay-friendly Oxford Street is the only place in Sydney where you can see drag shows every night of the week. Offering everything from stand-up comedy—like the ...
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