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Things to Do in Sydney - page 3

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Art Gallery of New South Wales
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When it comes to finding a great deal, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (NSW) is one of the top spots to hit in Sydney. Everything from the permanent galleries and celebrity talks to live performances and Wednesday night films are free to the public.

Since 1871 this international destination, complete with grand courts, light-filled halls and stunning harbor views, has been showcasing one of the most diverse collections of artwork in the country. Travelers may have to pay an additional fee for temporary exhibits, but the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of NSW is large enough that visitors can while away a day soaking up Sydney culture.

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Observatory Park
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This elevated perch in the heart of downtown offers sweeping views of the Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. Dotted with huge Moreton Bay fig trees, grassy ObservatoryPark is a great spot for a picnic and attracts joggers, lunching office workers, and visitors to the Observatory.

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Australian National Maritime Museum
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Be it surfers on the beaches, the discovery of Australia via the sea route from Europe or the subsequent commerce and immigration—Australia is closely tied to water. The Australian National Maritime Museum acts accordingly in featuring rich exhibitions ranging from the time of the Eora First People to the First Fleet all the way to the present. Visitors learn how convicts traveled in dark and damp accommodations and how passengers sailing to a new life survived long ocean journeys through reconstructed stories made up of artifacts and mementos left behind.

Those interested in military history can make their way to the Navy exhibit, which explores naval traditions during war and peace times. Here, visitors get the chance to test a submarine’s periscope and try out a soldier’s cramped bunk bed. The museum even has its own fleet, with many of the vessels accessible via guided tour. Anchored in the harbor are a warship, the destroyer HMAS Vampire, a submarine and an exact replica of the HMB Endeavour, the ship with which James Cook reached Australia in 1770, among others. The submarine was decommissioned only in 1999 and is still in close to operational condition. Its diving alarm often gives visitors quite a fright.

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Museum of Contemporary Art
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Since 1991, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art has showcased the works of today’s Australian artists in a gallery on the Circular Quay. Boundary-pushing solo exhibitions are the focus, while the permanent collection includes work from contemporary Aboriginal artists. The museum’s rooftop cafe boasts a fresh menu and harbor views.

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State Library of New South Wales
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Opened in 1826, Sydney’s State Library of New South Wales is the oldest library in Australia and a repository for a huge and diverse collection of books. The iconic building is also home to over 1 million photos, maps and manuscripts. Architecturally grand from the outside, inside is modern, bright and attractive, and the Mitchell Library looks straight out of a movie with its book-lined walls.

The library also has five historic galleries in the Mitchell Wing which host both permanent and temporary free exhibitions — from collections of 18th-century Australian natural history illustrations to the diaries of Australian men and women writing in WWI.

Next to Parliament House and the Royal Botanic Gardens on Macquarie Street, the State Library of New South Wales also has its own book club. And on a regular basis there are also talks on literary, historical, and contemporary issues. Film screenings and workshops are often held at the library too.

You can also get to know the library better on one of its tours — there’s an introductory one if you want to get to know the services and resources, and there are also regular history and heritage tours. In the verandah and reading rooms are express computers that can be used for up to half an hour without a library card. There’s also free wifi available throughout the library, and, as well as having an onsite bookstore and gift shop, the library has its own cafe, Cafe Trim where you can pick up coffee and cake or a sandwich.

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Sydney Town Hall
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The steps of this iconic building in the heart of Sydney’s central business district serve as a popular meeting place for both travelers and locals, but it is what’s found within its walls that make a visit worthwhile.

Built in the 1880s, this sandstone structure is the political powerhouse of the city, housing the Sydney City Council chamber and the offices of the lord mayor, the deputy lord mayor and the city’s councilors. But what catches the eye of most visitors is the building’s Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ. Two-hour guided tours include a look at Centennial Hall, the Lady Mayoress’s Rooms, the Reception Room and the former site of the Old Sydney Burial Ground, in addition to a stop at the world-famous organ.

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Museum of Sydney
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Life in Sydney isn’t all about the beach and surfing, but about culture as well. Located inside the walls of a majestic building from 1788, the former residence of Gov. Arthur Phillip, the Museum of Sydney informs visitors about the history of New South Wales’ capital in an entertaining way. The collection displays archaeological finds, utensils from the everyday life of the Aborigines and the first settlers, as well as documents and pictures about the development of Sydney to Australia’s largest city.

Multimedia presentations and computer animations bring the history of the former penal colony to life, and although the museum mostly informs guests about the city’s history, it also takes a critical look at the clash of cultures that happened between the Aborigines and European immigrants.

The museum's location in itself is deeply symbolic. It was here that in 1788, the Cadigal, a group of Aborigines inhabiting the area, and the English first encountered each other. The sculptures in front of the museum, called the “Edge of Trees,” accordingly symbolize the Cadigal looking on from the edge of the trees as Arthur Philip’s fleet anchored in the Bay of Sydney and hoisted the Union Jack to formally found the first British colony on Australian ground.

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Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
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Sumptuously decorated and timelessly elegant, central Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building is an unforgettable shopping destination. Built in High Victorian Romanesque style in 1898, and now meticulously restored, it stands on the site of the original Sydney markets.

The QVB's soaring central dome boasts translucent stained-glass clad in copper on the outside, and the shopping area takes up several balconied floors linked by grand staircases. Tiled floors, pillars, colonnades, balustrades, and arches. Chiming clocks and interesting historical displays complete the QVB’s flamboyant decor.

Originally the shops included tailors and florists; today there’s a wide range of specialist stores, from stationers to couturiers, cafes and coffee shops.

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Sydney Central Business District
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Nowhere in Sydney has a quicker pulse than the city's Central Business District (CBD), where travelers shopping on Pitt Street converge with the city's top business professionals, and financiers making deals in skyscrapers peer down at pedestrians below. Beginning at Circular Quay in the north, the Central Business District runs south for 2 miles (3.2 km) to the central rail line and extends east to west from the trees of Hyde Park to the ship masts of Darling Harbour.

While one of the best ways to experience the bustling district is simply by strolling on foot, travelers can also people-watch and explore the area on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. More than just modern construction and skyscrapers, there are still a handful of historic pockets in the downtown area, including Macquarie Street, which features early 19th-century barracks, churches and state offices. For a classic Sydney CBD meander, begin at Hyde Park and take Macquarie Street up to the Sydney Opera House, or cruise the stalls of the Pitt Street pedestrian mall while en route to Circular Quay.

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Australian Museum
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While visitors to Sydney do have the option to venture into the outback in search of Australia’s natural wonders, the Australian Museum, located in the heart of Sydney’s central business district, makes getting up close with the wild a whole lot easier.

Wander through air-conditioned hallways filled with more than 40,000 artifacts, including examples of rare native minerals and exotic tropical birds. An all-access pass grants entry to even more galleries filled with ancient archaeological wonders and indigenous Australian artifacts. Popular cultural exhibits also delve deep into the nation’s aboriginal roots and link contemporary time to the far off past. Wildlife fans should be sure to check out the quirky Surviving Australia exhibit, which showcases the country’s weird and wild through six distinct sections that illustrate animal adaptation and survival.

Please note: The Australian Museum is temporarily closed for renovations. The reopening is scheduled for spring 2020.

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More Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney Olympic Park

Sydney Olympic Park

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In 2000, Sydney Olympic Park hosted athletes from around the world, all of whom arrived hungry for gold. And while these games are now more than a decade behind us, this world-class facility still draws travelers and locals looking to experience the Olympic spirit.

The park is made up of several venues like ANZ Stadium, Sydney Showground, Athletic Centre, Aquatic Centre and Sports Centre.

At the park, visitors can wander through the scenic stretches of well-kept boardwalk that winds through protected wetlands or settle the score in a match at the world-class tennis center. Bikes and Segways are available for hire, which makes exploring the grounds just a little more manageable. The Urban Jungle Adventure Park, with its high ropes course, is a popular stop for families and thrill-seekers, and weekend archery clinics help travelers hit the bull’s-eye. Travelers can explore the park solo or hire a guide for an in-depth Olympic experience.

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Paddy's Market

Paddy's Market

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With two locations in the heart of Sydney, Paddy’s Market is quickly becoming a must-visit for visitors to Sydney.

Flemington Paddy’s Market is the place to go for local produce. If you’re after some of the best fruit and veggies in Sydney then visit the Flemington location. As well as Paddy’s Market, there’s a flower market in the area. Visit on the weekend to see Sydney’s Paddy’s Market come alive with clothes, gifts and souvenirs vendors, as well as a Swap and Sell Market selling second hand goods.

The Haymarket location is the one most people think of when they think of Paddy’s. The Haymarket market near Chinatown has a flea market vibe with clothes, souvenirs, some produce, jewellery, flowers and more. Haymarket Paddy’s is easier to get to, plus it has the added benefit of being next to some of Sydney’s best Chinese restaurants.

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Milsons Point

Milsons Point

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Travelers love Milsons Point because of the uninterrupted views of Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. During hot summer nights, locals gather on this tiny peninsula in Sydney Harbour opposite Sydney Cove and watch the sun dip down over the central business district skyline. This quiet spot has become a destination for those looking to capture a perfect picture of the city.

When day turns to night, young couples can be found holding hands as they stroll along the neon-lit midway of nearby Luna Park. The low-key crowd will appreciate the well-manicured suburbs of the north shore that are ripe with quiet cafes, continental restaurants and plenty of friendly locals.

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Sydney Observatory

Sydney Observatory

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The Sydney Observatory is part of the Sydney Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Built in 1858, the observatory is one of the most important places in Australian scientific history. Visitors can check out exhibits related to astronomy, meteorology, and timekeeping, as well as the planetarium and the oldest working telescope in Australia.

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Hawkesbury River

Hawkesbury River

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Along with its main tributary the Nepean River, the Hawkesbury River circles the area where Sydney is located. Visitors to the Hawkesbury Valley can enjoy boating, riverside dining (the oysters are most popular,) and see the last remaining river boat postman, which delivers mail to a few of the smaller riverside towns. Hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, and fishing are available in the natural surrounding area.

The Hawkesbury region is was one of the earliest colonial settlements in Australia. As such there are many historic buildings and Heritage Trails listed with the National Trust. Many travelers also choose to stay on the river in a houseboat, or in one of the small towns. Richmond and Windsor are the most central and well known, but there are various other small settlements to see as well. Or visitors can explore the many farms, orchards, and vineyards of Hawkesbury — 15% of all produce grown in Australia is found here.

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Goat Island

Goat Island

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This rocky 13-hectare island in the heart of Port Jackson is as rich in history as it is in sandstone. Once home to an explosives store and later a convict stockade, Goat Island has housed the Sydney Water Police and even served as a film set. What originally served as a destination for some of the nation’s biggest criminals (who were forced to labor in the massive quarries), is now part of Sydney Harbour National Park.

Popular walking tours guide travelers around this much-storied island, with stops at the Queens powder magazine (where ammunition was once stored) and at the old convict quarry and sleeping quarters. Learn about life on Goat Island, the punishments endured by prisoners and their attempts to escape.

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360 Bar and Dining

360 Bar and Dining

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Perched at the top of Sydney Tower, 88 stories above the streets of the Central Business District (CBD), the rotating restaurant 360 Bar and Dining ensures that every corner of the city is visible right from your table. It takes exceptional food to draw your attention away from the view, but the chefs have mastered the challenge.

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White Bay Cruise Terminal (WBCT)

White Bay Cruise Terminal (WBCT)

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Located near the historic Anzac Bridge, the White Bay Cruise Terminal (WBCT) is a busy port and the entryway for many cruise passengers headed into Sydney. Visitors can enjoy a variety of day trips into the modern, cosmopolitan city, which offers plenty of historical, cultural, and natural attractions.

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Parliament House

Parliament House

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Sydney’s Parliament House is a complex of buildings that has housed the Parliament of New South Wales since 1829. Listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register, the site consists of the north wing of the Rum Hospital building (which was built in 1816 as part of the country’s first hospital) flanked by two Neo-gothic buildings.

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Nielsen Park

Nielsen Park

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Located in the suburb of Vaucluse in eastern Sydney, Nielson Park is a popular attraction in the larger Sydney Harbour National Park. Its tree-lined shores are perfect for spending an afternoon soaking up sun and dipping toes into the surf or picnicking with friends. The netted swimming pool and food kiosk add to this beach’s appeal, but travelers should note thatNielsonPark is popular among the family set, which means the sandy shores are rarely quiet and always filled with energetic kids.

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Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

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If you’re visiting Sydney and watching the sunset while standing out on the sand, then you must be standing on Shelly Beach—the only westward facing beach on Australia’s eastern coast.

Located south of popular Manly, Shelly Beach is a smaller and quieter place to soak up some sun. The waters here in Cabbage Tree Bay are part of a protected reserve, where a small reef creates calm conditions for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Over 150 species of marine life inhabit Cabbage Tree Bay—and the shallow waters of 30 feet or less means there’s actually a good chance of finding them.

On Shelley’s western end, out towards the reef, watch as surfers rip apart waves at the surf spot known as “Bower’s,” and even when the waves are overhead, Shelley Beach is still protected when compared to east-facing Manly. On the short stroll from Manly to Shelly, stop to admire the Fairy Bower pool that juts out into the sea, or grab a bite at Le Kiosk restaurant across the street from the sand. Above the beach, on the rocky headland, a small bush trail leads to a viewpoint gazing back towards Manly, where the pine-lined shore and golden sands combine to form one of Sydney’s most classic coastal scenes.

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White Rabbit Gallery

White Rabbit Gallery

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Spread out over four spacious floors, Sydney's trendsetting White Rabbit Gallery is the largest collection of Chinese contemporary art found outside of China. Privately owned by Judith Neilson, the gallery features work from hundreds of artists and completely changes every six months to feature a new collection.

The White Rabbit Gallery styles its exhibitions from over 2,000 pieces of modern art personally sourced by Neilson on trips to China and Taiwan. Thought provoking and visually fierce, the featured art has included everything from paintings and sculptures to calligraphy, photography, and games. Opened in 2009, the White Rabbit Gallery as become a fixture in Sydney's art scene and is a popular stop on private art tours in the city.

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Royal National Park

Royal National Park

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Known to locals as “the Royal” or “the Nasho,” Australia’s Royal National Park has been a favorite nature escape for Sydney locals since 1879—and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its diverse landscapes range from eucalyptus forests and ancient sandstone cliffs to wildlife-rich wetlands and sandy beaches beckoning for a swim.

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Bradleys Head

Bradleys Head

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Extending out of Sydney Harbour’s north shore, Bradleys Head overlooks many of the sights of Sydney, and visitors flock here for views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Fort Denison. Many will come and linger with a picnic or a fishing spot, or take off on one of the many hiking trails. The popular Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk grants even better views of the bay, with the option to continue a longer walk onto the Split Bridge track.

The mast of the HMAS Sydney, a ship of the Royal Australian Navy that fought naval battles in World War I, is mounted on the headland as a memorial. Cannons left over from past defenses still stand, and the Athol Hall that once served soldiers their meals now operates as a modern cafe. Bradleys Head is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, and offers a new perspective of the city.

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