If you’re visiting Sydney in Australia for the first time and need to know what are the best Sydney tourist attractions to visit, then we’re here to let you know what not to miss.
So here goes.
Before you come to Sydney
Make sure you pick up one of these travel guides!
Are you looking for Sydney accommodation?
It can be tricky to sort out where you want to base yourself on your Sydney travels. We recommend staying around Circular Quay because that’s where most of the action is located and it will save you on having to spend more time travelling around.
Backpacker Sydney accommodation option
This is a brilliant YHA that’s really inclusive for single travellers and they have loads of activities on all the time. Although it’s located at Central Station, Railway Square YHA is right next to the train line (but without any noise) so you can easily get around the city.
Budget Sydney Accommodation
Sydney Harbour YHA has fantastic rooftops views and is brilliant for couples, backpackers and families. Doesn’t sound like that combination would work but it does. And did we mention its location is in The Rocks, right next to Circular Quay? Some rooms even have Sydney Opera House views too!
Mid range Sydney accommodation option
Get an airbnb (discount here)
We recommend getting your own airbnb in Kirribilli which is just on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge if you’re looking for mid range Sydney accommodation options.
You’ll have loads of easy ways to get around the city from taking the five minute ferry to Circular Quay or jumping on the train at Milson’s Point which is just one stop into the city. It’s much cheaper to stay this side of the bridge and you’ll be staying literally on the harbour!
Luxury Sydney accommodation options
Park Hyatt or Shangri-la
Whilst you have the unbeatable rooftop pool at Park Hyatt, Shangri-la Hotel offers up a fantastic restaurant called Altitude Restaurant which you can book a table at regardless of whether you’re staying there or not.
Need travel insurance?
We always book our travel insurance through World Nomads who have been brilliant over the years. And we’ve somehow made it to a hospital in most countries we’ve been to. Let’s hope you won’t need to but you ALWAYS need travel insurance when travelling abroad, no matter what.
Get a quote below!
1. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Image via Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
You know a lot of Sydney-siders have never done the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. If you’ve not done it yet, put it on your list. We’ve been lucky to do it twice now and it’s an experience you won’t ever forget.
We also took up a 75 year old who managed to do it quite easily so don’t be thinking it’s gonna require a lot of effort. You walk really slowly and have lots of breaks to take in the views and to learn a lot about the history of Sydney by the tour guide.
FYI – you can’t take anything up there – this includes your phone and camera. So if you’re looking for an awesome selfie, you’ll have to buy the image the guide takes of you at the top.
2. Take a tour around the Sydney Opera House
We recommend you 100% take THIS tour around the iconic Sydney Opera House. You’ll get a chance to learn all about the history of the building as well as see the 300 corridors within the building.
Best of all, it only takes an hour so you can spend the rest of your day wondering around the many vantage points to take a million photos. Honestly taking photos of the Opera House NEVER gets old.
Find the best tour to suit you below!
3. Sydney Opera House performance
No trip to Sydney would be complete without going to Sydney Opera House to see a performance.
If you’re looking to go to see a performance you can get cheap tickets to Sydney Opera House HERE.
If you want to go all out and have dinner at Bennelong – our favourite restaurant in Sydney which is located inside one of the Sydney Opera House sails – go on a guided tour of Sydney Opera House and get some of the best seating to watch one of the exclusive performances, then THIS TOUR is for you.
4. Go to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Mrs Macquaries Chair is one of the Sydney tourist attractions that everyone loves because of its location. Here you’ll be able to get the perfect photo of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Make sure you go at sunset, this is the time of the day when Sydney Harbour really puts on a show.
5. Walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is something every tourist in Sydney needs to visit for themselves. Nestled in between middle of Sydney CBD and Sydney Harbour, you’ll be able to walk around and visit the many gardens and of course the new Calyx building. Here they have lots of events on including an astronomy class which looks awesome.
Interested in a tour around the Botanic Gardens in Sydney? Check out THIS TOUR which takes you on a behind the scenes sensory experience.
6. Have lunch or dinner at Sydney Tower
Sydney Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in the Sydney skyline which is also known as the Westfield Tower.
This is a great activity for the whole family and best of all, it costs from $29 to see the city from the top of Sydney Tower.
If you decide to explore it in the day time, go up on a clear day and you might be able to see the Blue Mountains from there. I know, it’s actually true because we’ve been able to see the Sydney tower from Anvil Lookout in Blue Mountains!
Make sure you check out the Revolving Buffet Restaurant in Sydney Tower which costs just $60 per person – a total bargain. We went on my 30th birthday and had a great time.
7. Sydney tall ships cruise
I went on a Sydney tall ships cruise on my 30th Birthday and absolutely loved it! We drank too much wine and ate all of the canapes being served up and loved sailing back into Circular Quay whilst the city lit up at night time.
Hand on heart, I’ll always remember it being one of the best things I’ve done in Sydney because it felt so special.
8. Watch the New Years Eve Fireworks
Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks is a Sydney tourist attraction you really don’t want to miss. As known as the world’s best fireworks, I have to say that statement is true. It’s a sight like no other.
The best way to see the fireworks is on a boat in the Harbour – you can search for the best boats HERE.
Otherwise Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is very popular spot which is also free to view the fireworks. Bare in mind this spot gets very crowded – I experienced it during my first New Years in Sydney.
I also recommend going to the other side of the bridge and viewing the fireworks from Kirribilli. It’s not as busy and you’ll be able to get super close to the Bridge, even under it!
Check out the Sydney New Years Eve deals below!
The end of May sees one of Sydney’s biggest calendar events of the year – Vivid Festival. Circular Quay and loads of other areas around Sydney join together and are lit up in one of the biggest light festivals in the world. It’s amazing and a must visit.
The best place to see the lights is on a Vivid Cruise so you can take some great pictures. We loved THIS cruise as it includes dinner as well. You’ll be grateful to be on a boat rather than in a sea of people trying to get to each installation!
10. Check out Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney
Image via MCA
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is definitely worth a visit if you have time in Sydney. Located at Circular Quay, it’s one of the awesome free things to do in Sydney.
Make sure you check out the cafe on the rooftop, it’s worth visiting that alone if art isn’t your thing and is one of the best Sydney tourist attractions.
11. Go on a ghost tour around The Rocks
Looking for fun things to do in Sydney that also involve learning a bit about the city? Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night you can take a 90 minute Ghost Tour around The Rocks. Afterwards check out some of our favourite restaurants in Sydney HERE.
12. Do the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is one of the most popular Sydney activities because it’s so beautiful! If you walk the whole way, it will take around 2 hours. Highlights include the cemetery, Bronte, Gordon’s Bay and of course Coogee!
If you’d prefer to do a shorter walk, you can do the Bondi to Bronte walk in about 1 hour. Stop at Bronte for lunch at the Bronte Cafe and go for a swim in the famous Bronte Rock Pool!
Prefer to do a guided walking tour of the Bondi coastal walk? Check out THIS TOUR which takes 1h30m.
13. Swim at Bondi Icebergs
Bondi Icebergs is one of THE most famous Australia tourist attractions. The iconic ocean pool brings in many photographers and it’s easy to see why! Make sure you get there for sunrise, it’s incredible!
14. Learn to surf at Bondi Beach
A hugely iconic thing to do in Sydney is to learn to surf at Bondi Beach. There are plenty of companies to choose from but we recommend doing this two hour fun lesson where you’ll learn the basics and have a hand at catching your first wave!
15. Manly to Spit walk
Fancy doing a coastal walk in Manly? Why not tackle the Manly to Spit walk which is a 10km walk. It takes you right around the coast and through Ku-ring-gai National Park so you’ll get to see what it’s like walking through the bush in the middle of Sydney.
There’s some lovely beaches to visit along the way like Clontarf but this walk takes a good 2 hours to walk and you need to be at a reasonable level of fitness. When you get to The Spit, you can either get a bus back into the CBD or back to Manly.
16. Go to Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo must be one of the most beautiful zoo locations in the world. Get the iconic photo of the giraffes with the backdrop of Sydney Opera House behind them.
There’s some awesome gigs on at Taronga Zoo in the Summer you should check out here.
Also, there’s some awesome secluded beaches in Sydney next door you should check out such as Whiting Beach and Sirius Cove. There’s no facilities at these beaches so they aren’t secluded for nothing.
Check out the ticket options below for Taronga Zoo!
17. Luna Park
Luna Park is a great family day out and it’s in an awesome location, right on Sydney Harbour! Definitely make sure you go on ferris wheel and if you can stomach any other ride too.
If you want to go on a few rides, it works out cheaper to buy an unlimited rides pass from HERE..
Then take a walk around the Harbour path and up to Wendy’s Secret Garden (one of our favourite spots in Sydney!).
18. Go to an outdoor cinema
There are so many outdoor cinemas in Sydney during Summertime, make sure you book in advance to a screening.
Most of the outdoor cinemas in Sydney start at the end of November and finish around March time.
Our favourite is the St George Open Air Cinema at Mrs Macquarie’s Point. This must honestly be THE best cinema in the world!
Just make sure you book your tickets in advance.
19. Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour has had a bit of a makeover recently, especially since the new area of Barangaroo next door has recently been built.
Many Sydney Harbour cruises depart from Darling Harbour, there are loads of restaurants to discover and an incredible kids playground you have to take your kids to. Seriously, if you’re travelling with kids, take them to it!
We’ll also mention the other highlights in separate points below!
20. Chinese Gardens
I forgot how wonderful the Chinese Gardens are in Darling Harbour until I recently visited them for the first time since I first came to Sydney. For just $6, it’s like a hidden hideaway from the city but within the city.
Walk around the peaceful gardens with the city buildings towering above, it’s pretty special to be honest.
There’s also a tearooms there too and somewhere you should definitely pop into when you’re wondering around Darling Harbour.
21. Watch a movie at world’s biggest screen cinema!
Did you know the IMAX in Sydney is home to the world’s biggest screen? Yep, you heard it here! Make sure you book tickets to watch the latest movie release. This is a great thing to do if you’re a solo traveller in Sydney!
UPDATE: IMAX is currently being refurbished and will be open from late 2020.
We can’t believe how amazing the newly built area of Barangaroo is! It’s next door to Darling Habour and is full of offices, restaurants and architecturally awesome buildings. At the end of Barangaroo, there’s a park but it’s also got a good cycling route too which wraps around to Sydney Harbour making it one of the brilliant Sydney tourist attractions you must visit.
Not sure what restaurants to go to in Barangaroo? Check out THIS awesome walking and foodies tour around Barangaroo and The Rocks, ran by a Sydney local.
23. Whale Watching tour
If you visit Sydney between June to November, you’ll more than likely come across the whale migration.
Every year, 30,000 humpback whales migration between the north and south and will pass by Sydney.
Make sure you book a whale watching tour to get close to them. It’s an amazing sight to be seen.
Book your Sydney whale watching cruise below!
24. Visit Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
A visit to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Here you’ll find more than 700 species with more than 13,000 fish from Australia’s water habitats!
You can also go swimming with sharks in the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium if you’re brave enough!
25. The Rocks Market
The Rocks Market is a brilliant Sydney tourist attraction in the middle of Sydney where you can buy some beautiful gifts like Australian hand made pieces as well as photography prints for your home.
The Rocks Market takes place on Saturdays between Friday – Sunday.
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00-17:00
Did you know we have started a gift shop on Londoner In Sydney?
26. Paddy’s Market
Paddy’s Market is a huge market in China Town which is home to plenty of touristy stalls. This is a good market if you want to buy some cheap gifts, but bare in mind, the gifts are proper cheap – like they’ve fallen off a back of a lorry 😉
Why not check out our shop?
We’ve recently started our own Australian & British inspired gift shop. Find out what our top 10 gifts are here >
27. Shop at QVB
The QVB (Queen Victoria Building) is one of the most beautiful buildings and maybe not an obvious choice as one of the Sydney tourist attractions to visit.
Located above Town Hall Station which is Sydney’s most centralised station in relation to the CBD. You’ll find about five floors worth of shops and if you go to the basement level, it actually runs right to Pitt St Mall – a good thing to remember if it’s raining 😉
You can also book a three course meal inside the QVB at one of the best restaurants! Check HERE for availability and more details >
If you’re visiting Sydney during Christmas or New Year, make the effort to go to QVB to check out the Christmas tree!
28. Sydney Fish Markets
Image via: Lyfestyled.com
Sydney Fish Markets is a huge place to visit during Christmas time. For some reason Australians love to eat seafood for their Christmas lunch – something I’ll never get used to.
You can take part in a Sydney Fish Markets cooking class HERE, something we’ve had on our list to do for ages!
29. Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains is a Sydney day trip you must go on. The mountains are spectacular and there’s so much to do from going on the world’s steepest train ride to hiking to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Sydney region that you can even swim at! This is easily one of the best Sydney tourist attractions you must visit!
Need to do a Blue Mountains tour?
Fear not there’s loads of Blue Mountains tours to choose from. Check out the below!
If you’re like me and you’ve grown up watching Home & Away, then you have to go and visit Palm Beach, aka Summer Bay. If you’re lucky, you might even catch them filming in the area.
Make sure you go to The Boat House for lunch and walk up to the top of the famous Lighthouse.
Oh and of course, go and see the Home & Away Kiosk where you can actually buy Alf Stewart memorabilia. I know.
Need to book a tour? Check out THIS DAY TOUR to Palm Beach!
There’s so much to see in such little time, if you you’re looking for a three day guide to Sydney, check out this post.