Things to Do in Sydney (Complete Guide)

Last updated: May 7, 2024

A complete guide to the best things to do in Sydney, including a top 10 and activity guides in different categories. Helpful for tourists as well as for locals!

Welcome to Sydney, a vibrant city where the sun kisses the sea and urban charm intertwines with natural wonder. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of Bondi’s waves, the tranquillity of the Royal Botanic Garden, or the flavours of a multicultural culinary scene, Sydney offers a symphony of experiences.

In this article, we’ll share the top 10 best things to do in Sydney for any tourist visiting Australia’s most beautiful city. Further below, we’re sharing additional guides to things to do in Sydney in various categories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney

In no particular order, here is our top 10 activities and attractions in Sydney.

1. Walk Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Also known as the “Coathanger” because of its arch-based design, the 134m high Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Sydney’s most recognisable landmarks.

This incredible piece of engineering opened in 1932 and connects the Sydney CBD with the North Shore. The best way to experience the beauty of this iconic landmark is by walking across the Harbour Bridge along the pedestrian walkway.

Access to this walkway is via the Bridge Stairs in The Rocks. If you’re starting from the other end, the access point can be found on Broughton St, just east of the Milsons Point train station.

If you have extra time to spare, we strongly recommend visiting the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. This lookout and museum combination offers fantastic Harbour views and great insights into the history of the bridge.

2. Explore the Royal Botanic Garden and Opera House

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Considered by many to be one of the most famous and distinctive buildings constructed in the 20th century, the Opera House should be at the top of your list of things to do in Sydney.

Opened in 1973, the Opera House now functions as a multi-venue performing arts centre, with several theatres, rehearsal studios, two main halls, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops under its roof.

Next door to the Opera House and facing Sydney’s impressive skyline is the Royal Botanic Garden, home to an enormous collection of exotic plants from around the world.

Established in 1816 and 30 hectares in size, the Royal Botanic Garden is Australia’s oldest botanic garden and scientific institution. Strolling through this green oasis is an absolute delight.

3. Visit the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters

One of Sydney’s most popular weekend getaway destinations is the Blue Mountains region, just over an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD.

This natural treasure is home to beautiful lookout points, dramatic sandstone cliffs, exciting bush walking tracks, deep canyons, pretty waterfalls, and much more. For inspiration, read our list of the best lookouts in the Blue Mountains and also our guide to the best hikes in the Blue Mountains to help plan your trip.

The most popular highlight of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters, a unique rock formation consisting of three sandstone peaks formed by land erosion.

The best views of the Three Sisters can be enjoyed from the Echo Point lookout, but it’s much more exciting to meet the Three Sisters in person by doing the short and family-friendly Three Sisters Walk from Echo Point to this rock formation.

4. Catch a Ferry to Manly

Manly ferry wharf
Manly ferry wharf

The scenic ferry trip from Circular Quay to Manly is the perfect way to experience the true beauty of Sydney’s famous Harbour. For many, this ferry trip is even more exciting than Manly itself.

Once in Manly, enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes and pubs, go for a swim, and do the picturesque walking trail to nearby Shelly Beach.

If you’re feeling active, manly can also be used as the starting point of two popular walking tracks. Both the Spit to Manly walk and the Manly North Head circuit walk can be commenced from the Manly ferry wharf.

5. Spend a Day in Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo Sydney
Taronga Zoo Sydney

Against the backdrop of the Sydney CBD skyline, Taronga Zoo in Mosman is a fantastic day out for the young and old. There are various ways to get to Taronga Zoo, but the ferry trip from Circular Quay is by far the best way!

Officially opened in 1916, Taronga Zoo is a true icon in Sydney and a must-visit for every tourist visiting Sydney. The zoo cares for over 5,000 animals from over 350 species, such as African lions, Red kangaroos, meerkats, and giraffes.

If visiting the zoo isn’t exciting enough, it’s also the starting point of one of the most enjoyable Sydney Harbour walking tracks. The Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk is a 6.5 km trail meanders past secluded beaches, picturesque bays, and impressive lookouts.

6. Explore The Rocks

The Rocks in Sydney
The Rocks in Sydney

One of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods, The Rocks, used to be a notorious convict settlement, but is now a popular tourist destination with friendly pubs, cobbled laneways, historic buildings and lots of great events happening throughout the year.

One of the best ways to explore this historic precinct is by doing a little pub crawl. Read our guide to the best and oldest pubs in The Rocks to help plan your day.

The Rocks is also the perfect place to see Sydney’s second iconic landmark, the Harbour Bridge, from close by. Make your way to Hickson Road to walk underneath the bridge. The views are pretty spectacular from there.

7. Discover Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island

Often undeservedly overlooked by tourists, Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage and National Heritage Listed island, situated right in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour.

Cockatoo Island has a surprisingly rich history as a shipbuilding yard and Commonwealth naval base, and also as a convict island.

Catch a ferry from Circular Quay, score a free map from the visitor centre, and enjoy a fantastic day out exploring this unique island. Read our guide to things to do on Cockatoo Island to help plan your day out.

8. Explore Darling Harbour and Barangaroo

Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour

Sydney’s largest recreational and pedestrian precinct, Darling Harbour, is home to a great variety of attractions for young and old.

Darling Harbour has something for everyone, from waterfront dining and regular fireworks displays to exciting museums and huge playgrounds.

Nearby Darling Quarter and the Barangaroo Foreshore are within walking distance and very much worth visiting.

All three locations have undergone significant upgrades in recent times and are now popular lunch and dinner hot spots for tourists, local office workers, and residents.

9. Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

Perhaps the most famous walking track in Sydney and New South Wales guides visitors from iconic Bondi Beach to trendy Coogee Beach, showcasing the sheer beauty of Sydney’s coastline.

Tourists from all over the world and local Sydney-siders alike come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views, and lots of parks, cafes, and restaurants on their way from Bondi to Coogee.

The track can be divided into two sections, each with unique highlights, with Bronte Beach located at the halfway mark. Depending on stops, the walk can easily be completed within 3 hours. You can then either walk back the same way or catch a bus to return to your starting point.

If you have the energy, walking back is a good idea because the views are always different and you will discover new things to see and experience.

10. Go Up to Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye
Sydney Tower Eye

If you want to see Sydney and its surrounding suburbs from high above, a visit to the Sydney Tower Eye is an absolute must.

That is where you get to enjoy the best views, from the second-tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere, including an exciting 4D cinema experience.

Visitors to Sydney Tower can choose from a range of unique experiences, such as dining or drinking at the rotating restaurant and walking on the observation deck at 820 feet above street level.

More Things to Do in Sydney

Are you spending more than a few days in Sydney? Check out the following themed guides to various things to do in Sydney.

Free Things

Free things to do in Sydney

With a pleasant climate and a great variety of natural sights and unique landmarks on offer, there are many things to do in Sydney that are completely free.

To help you save some of your hard-earned dollars, we have compiled a list of our favourite free things to do in Sydney that will spare your wallet.

Read more:

Free things to do in Sydney.

Romantic Things

Romantic things to do in Sydney

With so many great landmarks and attractions at your doorstep, Sydney is arguably the perfect city to get your romance on and execute the perfect date.

Indeed, Sydney is where you need to be if you want to get romantic with your partner as a couple. To help you out, we have shortlisted some of the best romantic activities in Sydney.

Read more:

Romantic things to do in Sydney.

Indoor Things

Indoor things to do in sydney

While many tourists may have the impression that the sun always shines in Sydney, Australia’s most beautiful city actually experiences 100 rainy days per year.

So, what do the outdoor-loving locals do on those rainy days in Sydney when we can’t go outside without getting soaked? We have compiled a list of the best indoor activities in Sydney.

Read more:

Indoor things to do in Sydney.

Nighttime Things

Things to do in Sydney at night

While Sydney is not particularly famous for its incredible nightlife, there is something to explore around every corner when the sun sets in the evening, as long as you know where to look.

Whether you’re an insomniac foodie, a late-night art lover, or just someone hoping to dance the night away, we have shortlisted our top picks for things to do in Sydney at night.

Read more:

Nighttime things to do in Sydney.

Unusual Things

Unusual things to do in Sydney

While the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and the Royal Botanic Garden are an absolute must on every tourist’s to-do list, there are also many things you can do in Sydney that are not so obvious.

We have outlined a list of ideas for unusual Sydney activities that will appeal to international tourists as well as to local Sydney-siders.

Read more:

Unusual things to do in Sydney.

School Holiday Things

School holiday activities in Sydney

Are you ready to launch headfirst into the long-awaited school holidays without knowing how to stay sane, entertained, or even productive during this blessed break?

We have compiled a list of fun and exciting things to do during school holidays in Sydney, with a range of outdoor as well as indoor activities.

Read more:

Things to do during school holidays in Sydney.

 

Top 10 things to do in Sydney

 

AJ Mens

AJ Mens is a digital publisher based in Sydney, Australia, and the editor-in-chief of Sydney Uncovered and Blue Mountains Uncovered.

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