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Sydney Travel Guide

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Bondi Beach

Cosmopolitan yet chilled, endlessly popular yet lacking pretension, Sydney serves as the emblematic face of Australia for travellers from across the world.

Think of the nation’s first city and many iconic landmarks spring to mind: the magnificent harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks historic precinct, Sydney Tower and a plethora of golden, soft-sand beaches. There’s so much to see and do here, and whether you’re a culture vulture, a sand-surf-and-sun seeker, a foodie or fashionista, you’ll find a wealth of experiences on offer.

This Sydney travel guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Art Gallery of New South Wales. Image: Destination NSW

Top ten things to do in Sydney

Popular tours and guided experiences

Available to purchase now
Gift Voucher
36 months
From $50.00

Gift Voucher

Overview

A gift voucher from The Big Bus tour and travel guide can be put towards any of the hundreds of tours and experiences offered on our website in any Australian city, and globally via our affiliate partnership with Viator. Choose from an amazing range of wine tours, guided walks, food tours, scenic day trips, day cruises, scenic flights, and attraction tickets and passes. Our gift vouchers come with three years validity from the date of purchase and flexible cancellation terms if COVID-19 outbreaks occur.
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Walking Tour of The Rocks, Sydney
90 minutes (approx.)
From $32.00

Walking Tour of The Rocks, Sydney

Overview

Explore The Rocks on one of Sydney's most popular, longest running, and best value walking tours of the historic harbourside district. This leisurely guided stroll takes in all the precinct's key highlights and reveals plenty of hidden surprises along the way. If you only have a short amount of time in the Harbour City, this tour will be 90 minutes well spent! COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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6 5 6
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Available to book now
From $43.00

Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour

Overview

Go behind the scenes of one of the world's most famous buildings on this superb guided tour of the Sydney Opera House. Learn its controversial history, hear about some of the most memorable performances, and enjoy plenty of fabulous photo opportunities. Upgrade your tour to include a meal overlooking majestic Sydney Harbour.
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1 5 1
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From $63.00

Sydney Morning City Tour by Coach with The Rocks and Bondi Beach

Overview

Travel in air-conditioned comfort on this superb Sydney morning city tour by coach. You'll see many of the city's highlights and explore its fascinating history. Visit Chinatown, Kings Cross, Darling Harbour, the Royal Botanic Garden and more. You'll also enjoy a leisurely guided walk in The Rocks, and see world-famous Bondi Beach. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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5 4.8 5
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From $160.00

Blue Mountains Day Tour with Scenic World Rides

Overview

This awesome tour is your ticket to ride! See the magnificent Blue Mountains from every angle as you climb on board the world-famous Scenic Railway, Skyway and Cableway at Scenic World in Katoomba (ride tickets are included in the cost of your tour). You'll also visit a wildlife park and take a river cruise back to Sydney. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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7 4.57 7
4.6
Available to book now
From $175.00

All-inclusive Blue Mountains Day Tour with Lunch and Scenic World Rides

Overview

A visit to the magnificent Blue Mountains is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many visitors. Make it extra special with this all-inclusive full day tour from Sydney. You'll visit a renowned wildlife park, enjoy a two-course lunch in the quaint Leura township, visit the sublime Three Sisters, and ride the Scenic Railway, Cableway and Skyway at Scenic World. Top it all off with a river cruise back to the city. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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9 4.89 9
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From $185.00

Hunter Valley Wine, Chocolate and Cheese Tour from Sydney with Lunch

Overview

This relaxed tour offers a great day out from Sydney in the Hunter Valley. You'll visit a selection of wineries to sample their wares, go behind the scenes on a production tour, enjoy a delicious included lunch, and indulge in a cheese, chocolate and vodka tasting! COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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13 4.54 13
4.5
Available to book now
From $105.00

Sydney Home and Away Tour to Summer Bay (Palm Beach)

Overview

This half-day tour from the Sydney CBD to Palm Beach gives fans of the Home and Away television series an insight into the production of this perennial viewer favourite. You’ll visit several outdoor filming locations on the tour, and have plenty of time to snap 'Summer Bay' selfies as you go.
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From $144.00

Sydney Morning City Tour with Harbour Lunch Cruise

Overview

Looking for the complete 'Sydney experience'? This is it! Enjoy a coach tour of the key city sights, a guided walk through The Rocks heritage precinct, a visit to world-famous Bondi Beach, and a delicious buffet lunch cruise on spectacular Sydney Harbour. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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3 4.67 3
4.7
Available to book now
From $55.00

2-Day Sydney Harbour Hop On Hop Off Cruise

Overview

Looking for a convenient way to experience the best of the Harbour City? This 2-Day Sydney Harbour Hop On Hop Off Cruise is it! See the key harbourside sights and alight at multiple stops, including Taronga Zoo and Manly. When you're ready, board the next vessel and continue on your voyage of exploration!
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5 4.8 5
4.8
Available to book now
From $99.00

Sydney Whale Watching Cruise with Lunch

Overview

This popular Sydney Whale Watching Cruise with Lunch combines three of Sydney's must-dos. Enjoy lunch on Sydney Harbour, see the key harbourside sights as you cruise along this world-famous waterway, and head out onto the open ocean to meet the giants of the deep on the 'humpback highway' that stretches up and down Australia's east coast. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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6 4.5 6
4.5
Available to book now
From $175.00

Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Sydney with Lunch

Overview

This boutique, small group tour is the perfect introduction to the Hunter Valley wine region for visitors to Sydney. Enjoy wine tastings and an included cafe-style lunch, and taste some of the gourmet produce the region is so famous for. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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5 4.8 5
4.8
Available to book now
Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise
3 hours (approx.)
From $109.00

Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise

Overview

Join Captain Cook Cruises for a relaxing afternoon on Sydney's world famous waterway and a delicious a la carte lunch. Complement your meal with million dollar harbour views and engaging commentary from the crew. This is the perfect lunch time experience for every visitor to the Harbour City! COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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6 4.33 6
4.3
Available to book now
Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise
2 hours (approx.)
From $165.00

Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise

Overview

Watch the reflection of the city lights dance on the water as you board this fabulous Sydney Harbour dinner cruise. With first class service, a three-course meal, and live music, this magical experience is sure to be a highlight of your stay in the Harbour City. COVID-19 safety and cancellation policy
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5 4.2 5
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Available to book now
From $57.00

Sydney 2 Attractions Pass: SEA LIFE Aquarium, Sydney Tower Eye, WILD LIFE Zoo and Madame Tussauds

Overview

Enjoy discounted skip-the-line entry to some of the Harbour City’s most popular attractions with this sensational Sydney Attractions Pass. Visit your choice of fabulous Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and/or Sydney Tower Eye. It's more Sydney fun for your money!
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5 4.6 5
4.6
Available to book now
From $67.00

Sydney 3 Attractions Pass: SEA LIFE Aquarium, Sydney Tower Eye, WILD LIFE Zoo and Madame Tussauds

Overview

Enjoy discounted skip-the-line entry to some of the Harbour City’s most popular attractions with this sensational Sydney 3 Attractions Pass. Visit your choice of fabulous Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and/or the Sydney Tower Eye. It's more Sydney fun for your money!
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5 4.6 5
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Save on top Sydney attractions

If you plan to visit a range of attractions in Sydney, consider purchasing a Sydney Flexi Attractions Pass. You’ll save up to 40% on many of the top attractions and things to do listed in this Sydney travel guide. Choose a five or seven-attraction pass. Passes are valid for three months from the date of issue.

You can also enjoy discounted skip-the-line entry to four of the Harbour City’s most popular attractions with a Sensational Sydney Attractions Pass. Visit your choice of Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and/or Sydney Tower Eye. Choose a two, three or four-attraction pass and save up to 45%! It’s more Sydney fun for your money!

Fabulous Luna Park is located on the harbour foreshore and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Pre-purchase your Unlimited Rides Pass and skip the queue.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Luna Park

Top cultural experiences in Sydney

Sydney’s arts and cultural scene rivals the best in the world.

Start by visiting the classically designed Art Gallery of New South Wales, which has a distinguished collection of local and international works. The excellent Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in The Rocks houses over 4,000 Australian works — many by Indigenous artists. While you’re there, enjoy a latte at the rooftop cafe with its stunning views. General admission to both galleries is free.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Museum Of Contemporary Art

There are plenty of smaller public and privately owned galleries to explore. The Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills was the workplace of celebrated Australian 20th century artist Brett Whiteley. It’s open to the public from Friday to Sunday.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Brett Whiteley Studio

The sublime Sydney Opera House stages an extensive programme of live performances, including opera (of course!), ballet, theatre, stand-up comedy, orchestral presentations, and even concerts for children. Do the official guided walking tour for an informative introduction to ‘the House’. Sydney Theatre Company is the resident theatre company at the Opera House, and it also has its own venues. The city’s diverse fringe theatre scene is also worth delving into (find out what’s playing at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company during your stay).



If you’re a festival fan, highlights to look out for include the Sydney Festival, Chinese New Year FestivalArt and About Sydney, the Sydney Biennale and Vivid Sydney.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: The annual Vivid festival lights up the city.

Sydney for history lovers

There are lots of opportunities to step back in time in Sydney.

Indigenous Australians inhabited the region for thousands of years prior to European settlement. To learn more about their cultural heritage, join a guided tour of sacred rock art sites near the city.

The Rocks is Sydney’s best preserved colonial precinct. Here you’ll find charming cobbled laneways, gracious sandstone period architecture, and some of the nation’s oldest and most characterful drinking dens. Do a guided walking tour or browse in the bustling outdoor markets.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Explore The Rocks. Image: Bigstock

Sydney has close to 40 museums and heritage sites to explore. Highlights include the Australian Museum — with its emphasis on natural history and Indigenous culture, the excellent Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, one-time convict gaol Cockatoo Island, and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum — another of the city’s most significant colonial sites.

In March 1932, an estimated one million Sydneysiders turned out for the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can immerse yourself in the history of the bridge by visiting the Pylon Lookout museum, which is housed in the south east pylon. The museum is spread over three levels and there are stunning city and harbour views on offer from the lookout itself. Those with a head for heights may like to climb the 1,332 steps to the top of the soaring steel arches with Bridge Climb Sydney for what is undoubtedly one of the best views in the world.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide. Image: Bridge Climb Sydney

Great places to eat in Sydney

For dining options that are award-winning, up-and-coming, and everything in between, Sydney has it covered.

Splurge on a fine-dining experience at QuayRockpool Bar and Grill Sydney, or the new-look Bennelong in the Sydney Opera House. The ambience, service and exquisite menus are worth the investment. You can expect more fabulous fare at Long Chim, Indu and Mercado. They’re all clustered around Angel Place in the heart of the city, and are three of the hottest places to eat right now.

For memorable meals that won’t break the bank, head for the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills. It has a plethora of uber-cool eateries to choose from, including Firedoor and Nomad. Over in Chinatown, Golden CenturyDin Tai Fung and Mamak (join the queue!) are three must-trys.

Sydney travel guide
Image: Bistrot Gavroche/Belinda Rolland

Kensington Street in the once-gritty-but-quickly-gentrifying locale of Chippendale has several exciting dining options, including the fabulously French-style Bistrot Gavroche, the Old Clare Hotel’s trendy Kensington Street Social (which offers a menu of Mediterranean-inspired shared plates by British Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton), and Spice Alley (where you can choose from six different Asian food outlets).



If you’re staying in beachside Bondi, don’t go past Bills for breakfast (they’re renowned for their scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes!). You’ll also find them in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. In the evening, scoff down sensational pasta dishes at A Tavola.

Sydney travel guide
Image: bills

Where to shop in Sydney

The suburbs of Paddington, Kirribilli and Bondi all host weekly open-air markets, which bring the city’s emerging designers, artisans and creatives together.

Paddington Markets is the ‘go-to’ for fashion, accessories and jewellery (the globally successful womenswear brand Zimmermann started right here). Rummage through the general market stalls at Kirribilli Markets for pre-loved fashion and curios, or snaffle a one-of-a-kind item at the Art, Design and Fashion Market — usually held once a month (check the website for dates). You’ll find a bit of everything at Bondi Markets, including a trove of vintage wear.

For a shopping experience steeped in history, head to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) or the Strand Arcade in the CBD. Both are elegant Victorian-era buildings, which have been restored to their original glory.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Queen Victoria Building. Image: Bigstock

Ways to relax in Sydney

Sydney’s world-famous beaches are every bit as spectacular as their reputation.

Top picks are Shelly Beach near Manly for snorkelling, any of the Northern Beaches for catching a wave, and Balmoral Beach on the North Shore for families-friendly facilities. Bondi Beach is the city’s most famous patch of sand (the popular TV series Bondi Rescue is filmed here) and is the starting point for the popular Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.


Budget


For a relaxed stroll in an urban setting, head to Central railway station’s Devonshire Street tunnel to access The Goods Line. Like Manhattan’s famous High Line, this 800-metre-long elevated city park is built along a disused rail corridor. You’ll pass the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, which is better known to locals as the ‘paper bag’ building. Continue heading north to bustling Darling Harbour — one of the city’s key tourist precincts.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: The Goods Line. Image: Destination NSW

If you’re up for some harbourside R&R, Barangaroo Reserve is a great spot for a picnic. It offers a range of recreational amenities and shimmering panoramas of the inner harbour.

No visit to Sydney would be complete without spending some time on this majestic waterway, and harbour cruises depart from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour all year round. From April to November, whale-watching boats head out onto the open ocean. See the harbour highlights along the way and meet the giants of the deep as they migrate up and down Australia’s east coast.

For drinks with a view, the Manly Wharf BarWatsons Bay Hotel and Opera Bar all have enviable waterfront locations. If you have little ones in tow, both the Coogee Pavilion and The Newport cater to families.

Sydney travel guide
Sydney travel guide: Blue Mountains National Park

Those looking to explore further afield on a day trip have plenty of options to choose from. Go bushwalking in the scenic Blue Mountains, taste top drops in the Hunter Valley wine region, or sandboard down massive dunes in Port Stephens.

Where to stay in Sydney

Vibe Hotel North Sydney

There are plenty of good reasons to consider staying in North Sydney during your visit to the Harbour City, not least of all the thrill of travelling to and from the CBD over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. North Sydney is just two stops by train from the CBD’s Wynyard Station, and offers a plethora of local bars, restaurants and shopping options. It’s an easy stroll down to the harbour and world-famous Luna Park.

The new Vibe Hotel North Sydney is the perfect accommodation option for business and leisure travellers looking for a stylish and sophisticated accommodation offering in North Sydney. The hotel has 187 rooms and suites, with an emphasis on connectivity. Each room features a workspace and USB charging points, and Wi-Fi is complimentary. When it’s time to unwind, the hotel has a fabulous rooftop pool and recreation deck. The Eat Street dining precinct is located beneath the hotel.

Take a tour of the Vibe Hotel North Sydney:

Take a sneak peek inside the new Vibe Hotel North Sydney – The Big Bus

We were thrilled recently to get a sneak peek at the fabulous new Vibe Hotel North Sydney, and to put together this video preview. If you are looking for somewhere to stay in the heart of the North Sydney business district, this hotel offers a range of stylish rooms and suites, and a fabulous rooftop pool and recreation deck.

Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport

Budget-friendly airport hotels aren’t generally known for going out of their way to provide a memorable stay, but the Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport breaks the mould. The hotel opened in 2017 and offers comfortable king and twin rooms, that are contemporary in style. Basic kitchenette facilities are provided, and Wi-Fi is complimentary. The late 11am check-out is a nice touch.

Downstairs, T’s Bistro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are regular lunch specials, and the dinner menu features plenty of hearty Aussie favourites. There’s a very affordable wine list to go with it. The lobby bar is open until late.

Take a tour of the Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport:

Check into the Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport before you fly – The Big Bus

We recently had the opportunity to take a look around the snazzy Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport (which opened in late 2017), and to put together this video preview. If you are looking for somewhere cost effective to stay at Sydney Airport that offers more than just the basics, this is the option for you.

Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport is located a short distance from the domestic airport. In theory you could walk it, but a well-priced shuttle service is available.

Sydney Harbour YHA

For Sydney digs with a bit of a difference (there’s a pun in there, which will soon become apparent), the Sydney Harbour YHA is located on Cumberland Street in the heart of The Rocks and encompasses The Big Dig archaeological site — an excavation of colonial remains between Cumberland and Gloucester Streets. Staying at the hostel is superb value given the location. It offers shared and private rooms, all with ensuite facilities. Anyone can stay at the facility. You’ll automatically become a YHA member when you check in. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable.

The Rocks Walking Tour
Image: YHA Sydney Harbour

The Big Dig is visible from the central atriums of the accommodation wings, which adds to the experience — as do the artefacts on display around the hostel. Free Wi-Fi is provided in the communal recreation area, which also features a fully-equipped shared kitchen. The views of the bridge, Opera House and city from the rooftop deck and BBQ area are superb.

Browse our range of Sydney tours and experiences here. We offer a Best Price Guarantee and COVID-19 Cancellation Guarantee.

Do you have any tips to add to our Sydney travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Cindy Bingley-Pullin considers herself a freelance writer, wanderluster, corporate bee and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office, she pursues her combined passions of travel and writing. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia’s Voyeur magazine, International Traveller, Fitness First magazine, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

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