Things to do in Sydney

With its world-class cuisine, cutting-edge street culture, sport, fashion, majestic scenery and iconic buildings, districts and beaches, Sydney is truly a world city and right up there with London and New York as one of the top cities in the world to both live in and visit.

Sydney is regarded by locals as the capital of Australia in all but name and is a thriving centre for both business and the arts. Festivals, sporting events and carnivals are underway all year round, especially during the summer.

Below are some of the main attractions not to be missed when visiting Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

Opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House, with its iconic roof resembling a billowing white sail, is the most recognisable symbol and picture postcard image of both Sydney and Australia and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than just a feast for the eyes to be admired from afar, although it is particularly breathtaking when viewed on a harbour cruise, many of which depart from Circular Quay, Sydney’s main ferry terminal, it is also one of the busiest centres of performing arts in the world and houses a large complex of theatres and halls. Visitors can also take a ‘behind the scenes’ tour and enjoy spectacular views of Sydney Harbour from one of the Opera Houser’s many bars and restaurants.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Completed in 1932 at a cost of A$20 million, the bridge is an engineering masterpiece, which took eight years to complete. For the thrill seeking and intrepid traveler, the Bridge Climb offers the opportunity to walk to the top of the 50-storey-high bridge (over the cars and trains thundering across the deck below). If you’re afraid of heights or on a budget, visitors can of course, walk or cycle across the bridge free of charge.

The Rocks

Sitting at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks is a neighborhood of winding streets, sandstone cottages and some of Sydney's oldest buildings. It was site of the first landing from Plymouth, England in 1788 and is today a busy tourist enclave with cafes, restaurants, galleries, museums and weekend markets. Be sure to check out the Hero of Waterloo inn, the Sydney Observatory and Cadman's Cottage (Sydney's oldest building, built in 1816).

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a major Sydney tourist site. The precinct is packed with restaurants and shops, as well as a number of tourist attractions, which include the Powerhouse Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussaud's, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, IMAX Theatre and the tranquil Chinese Garden of Friendship. Adrenaline junkies can also enjoy harbour jet boat rides, simulated flights and racing car adventures.

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is home to over 350 different species of animals, including gorillas, elephants and giraffes, as well as native Australian wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas, platypus, wallabies and echidnas.

Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Art Gallery of New South Wales boasts the world's largest permanent exhibition of Aboriginal art. The gallery’s Australian art collection covers the early colonial period through to the mid-20th century. The gallery also features a notable Asian Art collection.

Sydney Tower

At 309m (1,014ft) the Sydney Tower is the city's tallest building and offers stunning views over the harbour and the Olympic Park. Visitors to the 250m-high observation deck can enjoy the Skytour, a 35-minute virtual tour/ride on the podium level. There is also an opportunity to undertake the thrilling Skywalk, an outdoor tour on two glass-floored platforms. For a more sedate but equally majestic alternative, dine in the rotating restaurant for a unique and spectacular view of the city.

George Street & Queen Victoria Building

George Street is the oldest street in Australia and is full of high-rise office blocks, shops and historic buildings. An architectural highlight is the Queen Victoria Building, recognisable by its domes and stained glass windows. Other famous landmarks include Sydney Town Hall and the neo gothic St Andrew’s Cathedral. The area also boasts many designer boutiques and jewellery stores.


A great place to shop for Chinese items or feast on authentic Asian cuisine. With its iconic lion gates at each end, this small district is also famous for its Friday night market. On the first full moon after January 21st, the streets of Chinatown come to life during the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Sydney Beaches

Sydney boasts some fantastic beaches. The legendary Bondi Beach, with its great surf, cafés and cosmopolitan vibe, is less than a 15-minute drive from the city. Other top beaches include Coogee Beach, Cronulla Beach, Bronte Tamarama, Maroubra and Manly, which is a 30-minute ferry ride from the city and a favourite seaside destination, with its beachfront promenade, netted ocean pool and superb shops and restaurants.

Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens cover 30 hectares of green space in the heart of the city and is Australia's oldest scientific institution and home to over one million specimens.

Hyde Park

Named after Hyde Park in London, the Sydney variant provides welcome relief from the din of the central business district. The park is a sanctuary of lush green lawns, shaded picnic spots and beautiful fountains.

Centennial Parklands

A grand old European style park, the Centennial Parklands features landscaped gardens, statues, historic monuments, houses, ponds and wildlife habitat areas.

Blue Mountains

A UNESCO World Heritage Area of stunning natural beauty consisting of 664,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, with dense eucalyptus forests, rugged gorges, waterfalls, aboriginal rock paintings and more than 140 km of hiking trails. The Blue Mountains is one of the most popular day trips from Sydney.
Highlights include the much photographed massive rock formations called the Three Sisters, Bridal Veil Falls, and the hair-raising ride down the Jamison Valley on the Katoomba Scenic Railway.

Royal National Park

Surrounded by 21 km of surfing beaches and rugged cliffs, Royal National Park is a haven for nature buffs and beach lovers. It is the second oldest national park in the world and lies about an hour's drive south of the centre of Sydney.

The Hacking River provides fantastic opportunities for fishing and boating, while the forest offers prime bushwalking and picnic spots. Along the coast, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, fishing and whale watching are all popular activities.