Let’s not beat around the bush, Sydney is an expensive city… Expensive to live in and expensive to visit… However, there are some great things you can do for free. Sydney is widespread and diverse and there is a lot to choose from. In order to plan your trip and your budget, I have a list of some of the best things to do in Sydney for free.
Gaze at Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world. With so many aspects and great photo locations, the harbour is impossible to miss and you can enjoy the gorgeous views for free. If you are visiting Sydney for the first time, it makes sense to discover the harbour at Circular Quay and walk around the Sydney Opera House. To encompass more views, a ferry ride is a very cheap way of getting around the harbour.
Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Along with the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge is the ultimate Sydney icon. It makes for a great walk between the Rocks and Kirribilli, to admire the harbour, the CBD and get your bearings around the city. If you want to add a little extra entertainment for a very small budget, don’t miss a visit to the Pylon Lookout.
Visit the Art Gallery of NSW
As you stroll through the Domain, you will come across the Art Gallery of NSW. The museum is an active cultural beacon with collections of Asian, European and Aboriginal Art. Always busy with temporary exhibitions (not always free), it is also a lovely place for lunch. I recommend a stroll through the galleries if you want to get away from the bustle of the city.
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour of The Rocks
To me, the Rocks are the most interesting neighbourhood in Sydney. Take an afternoon to walk around and discover Sydney’s colonial history. You will get a great insight into how the colony started and how the neighbourhood evolved in the last two centuries by just observing the architecture. For more detail on the self-guided tour of the Rocks, read my blog post here.
The Rocks Discovery Museum
If you are pressed for time and a full walking tour of the Rocks is not an option, at least make time to visit The Rocks Discovery Museum. Located in a restored sandstone warehouse amongst the cafe strip of the Rocks, the museum presents the history of Sydney from pre-European times to today through a wide-ranging series of displays.
Take a Break in Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral
With shaded alleys and accessible lawn, Hyde Park is where CBD workers relax at lunchtime, and makes for a pleasant walk to the Cenotaph. At the other end of Hyde Park stands St Mary’s Cathedral. Built in the Gothic style, it is a testimony to Australia’s Catholic heritage and is worth visiting for its beautiful stained glass.
Relax in the Royal Botanical Gardens
Set just behind the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens are a gorgeous nature haven and boast some of Sydney’s best views. There is a range of different gardens, free tours and it’s a great place to learn about Australian flora. I especially enjoy a walk around Farm Cove and a stroll to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Take a Free Walking Tour
There are various options available in Sydney and free walking tours are a great way to get your bearings around the city when you first arrive. There are tours every day at 10.30am. They will also point out the important landmarks and point of interest you may not be aware of!
Have The Most Fun at an Outdoor Festival
With its sunny climate, Sydney lends itself very well to outdoor events, in every season. I am amazed at how exhibitions enhance the Sydney scenery and I have a few favourite outdoor festivals.
If you visit Sydney in winter, don’t despair! During Vivid Sydney, the crisp nights play host to eerie light installations that glow in the dark. Sydney icons such as the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge play along and it makes for unforgettable sights…
For spring, the Bondi to Coogee walk hosts Sculpture by the Sea, a stunning collection of contemporary sculptures and installations. A typical coastal walk becomes a unique outdoor experience. I missed the exhibition this year, but here is my recollection of last year’s Sculpture by the Sea.
Take a Coastal Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Walk is a popular option for a coastal walk, however, there are many other options. I recently rediscovered the Sydney headlands, South Head, Middle Head and North Head. Which one will take your fancy?
Lay on The Beach
A visit to Australia wouldn’t be complete without a day at the beach. The beach is a such a quintessential part of the Sydney lifestyle and there are a plethora of beaches to choose from. From iconic Bondi to family-orientated Balmoral and surfing Maroubra, there is a wide selection and always one near you. The beaches in Sydney are accessible by bus, train or even ferry.
Climb to Barranjoey Lighthouse
The northernmost point of Sydney is a great day trip and offers stunning views. You can travel by bus to Palm Beach and climb Barranjoey headland. Free tours are available on Sundays.
Visit a Market
Sydney has plenty of open-air markets, with great food or wares. Strolling through a weekend market enjoying a coffee and gourmet food is a must-do for all Sydneysiders, young and old. Visiting a local market will give you a good sight in how relaxed and friendly the Sydney lifestyle is. Whether you are into food or fashion, there will be a market for you!
Admire New Year’s Eve Fireworks
In one of the most expensive cities in the world, the most iconic and spectacular event is free… Sydney treats fireworks as art and if you can grab a good spot, it’s an unforgettable experience. Whilst some locations charge an access fee, a number of vantage points remain free. Check out this post from Sydney Expert for more information.
You can discover Sydney on public transport, check out this website to start planning.
For more information on what to do in Sydney, please see my Pinterest board.
Do you have any tips for free things to do in Sydney? Please tell me in the comments below.