48 hours in Sydney can be challenging when you don’t know the place and what to do. Even if the city isn’t that big, there are heaps of things to discover. After 5 years spent at Sydney, here are all our recommendations on what to do and where to go if you are only there for 2 days.
Table of Contents
48 hours in Sydney – Day 1
- Cross the CBD to reach the popular area of The Rocks and go for a walk along the Harbour Bridge to enjoy the view out over the city.
- Take the ferry to Watson’s bay and eat a nice Fish and Chips or have a drink taking in the calm beauty of this spot.
- Go to the Sydney Opera House at Circular Quay for that iconic view (and photo opportunity!). You can’t miss this one, surely!
- Walk around the Botanic Gardens. Right in Sydney’s city centre, you get great views back across the Harbour from this oasis.
- Enjoy the sunset from the Sydney Tower (CBD). Definitely on the pricier side but you get fabulous views across the whole city from here.
The CBD area spreads out from George Street, stretching from Circular Quay to Central Station. You need approximately 20min to walk through the CBD (without stopping).
In the CBD, you will find several shopping malls and stores lining the streets – it is the main shopping district as well as being the business district. Among them are Pitt Street Mall, Town Hall or Queen Victoria Galeries and World Square if you fancy having a browse.
You can also discover Sydney for free with a guide; don’t hesitate to join one of the FREE TOURS (every day at 10.30am and 2.30pm, starting from Town Hall next to the Ancre sculpture). Local guides with green t-shirts walk you around the city and tell you about history and anecdotes while pointing out the most famous sights such as the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, Hyde Park and many more…
There are also the classic tourist Hop On Hop Off buses, offering 2 tours with 35 stops for approximately $50. You can choose between Sydney and the Bondi tour. From those 2 levels buses you can see the city from above and stop whenever you want to (starting point at Central Station for Bondi Tour and Alfred Street for Sydney Tour).
The Rocks is the oldest suburb of Sydney, with buildings dating from 1788. Initially, sailors and dockers occupied this area. Then around 1800, gangs took over. Many reconstruction projects were started and then stopped by the world wars. The area has since been renovated and is now very popular with tourists, reputed for its market, cobbled streets, traditional pubs and gift shops.
Every Saturday and Sunday (10am to 5pm), the Rocks Market (at the end of George Street) is also a must do. With more than 200 stands, you will find independently designed products, jewellery, accessories, food – and a very nice atmosphere to start your weekend. You can also visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (140 George Street – Free – 9am to 5pm).
Sydney Harbour Bridge
This iconic bridge was built in 9 years and opened in 1932. The 503 meter arch links the CBD to North Sydney. A Bridge Climb is an unforgettable experience taking you all the way up to the top of the bridge (134m) with a stunning view on the city and the harbour (from $344). Don’t forget that the view from the footpath along the bridge itself is also amazing – and free! Or you can pay $24.95 to go to the Pylon Lookout located on the southern side of the bridge.
Accessible by ferry from Circular Quay (around 40min), Watsons Bay is a very nice area much beloved by locals. Situated East of Sydney, you will arrive by ferry in a small bay with a famous fish and chips restaurant. You can then cross the main street and go to lookout to enjoy views on the ocean and beautiful cliffs. There is also a short but nice coastal walk to do if you fancy stretching your legs.
Sydney Opera House
Registered as world heritage since 2007, it is probably the most iconic of Sydney’s monuments. The project of building the opera was born in 1940 when the Director of the Music Academy of NSW asked for a site to produce important theatrical and musical productions. An Architect competition was launched and in 1955, the project of a Danish architect, Jorn Utzon was picked. Construction started in 1959 and ended in 1973. There were many disagreements, additional budget and the architect even left the project in 1966. In 1973 it was inaugurated by Queen Elisabeth II. Since that date many changes have been made to the construction which has finally had a cost of more than 100 million dollars.
You can visit the Opera via a 1h tour ($43) or to go to a show. Prices vary depending on the show and on your seat but count on at least $100/seat. However a nice walk around the opera is also an enjoyable and free way to discover it and take some pics.
Royal Botanic Garden
From Sydney Opera House you can access the Royal Botanic Garden and enjoy a nice walk in the park. It is a perfect place to chill while looking at the CBD buildings, the Opera and the Harbour Bridge. Just next to the park, Andrew Charlton Pool is a nice public swimming pool with a good brasserie ($7/pp).
Right in the city centre, Sydney Tower (accessible from Westfield shopping centre) offers a 360° view over the city and surroundings. Pretty amazing when the weather is nice as you can even see the Blue Mountains (price online: $24.80/pp, at the counter: $31.50).
Enjoy the three different lounge bars on floors 81, 82 and 83 (Bar 83, Infinity and SkyFeast). Enjoy the sunset, glass of wine and cheese platter experience with your eyes on the incredible view of the city of Sydney.
48 hours in Sydney – Day 2
- Discover the Fish Market (or Paddy’s Market depending on your taste). Both have a great buzz and are a good place to kick off your day.
- Go to Darling Harbour for a nice walk along the waterfront, there are some great bars and restaurants along here.
- Take the bus to Bondi Beach. Another iconic location in Sydney, head to the beach for a dip or a surf – or just to watch the locals!
- Enjoy the coastal walk to Coogee Beach. This walk is a very scenic way of taking in the coastline, but you should allow an hour or two.
- End the day in Kings Cross bars, a lively suburb known for its night life.
Situated in the Asian market of Haymarket, Paddy’s Market is the biggest market in Sydney. With more than 1000 stands, it is the perfect place to find all kind of souvenirs (cheaper than the city centre shops)! You can also buy fruits and vegetables at low prices or visit the shopping mall above the market with outlet stores. The market is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Opened every day from 9am to 5pm, the fish market is a perfect spot to get some fresh products and discover a unique atmosphere. It is a good opportunity to try local fish.
Described as one of the most beautiful harbour by Arthur Phillip in 1788, Darling Harbour has kept all its beauty. There are many activities to do there. You can also enjoy free fireworks every Saturday night!
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
With more than 12000 marine animals (650 different species!), the aquarium is a small reproduction of the Great Barrier Reef. It is one of the most incredible aquariums in the world. Besides, the visit is really nice, perfect for a rainy day!
Book ONLINE – open from 9am to 8pm.
Chinese garden of friendship
This garden is an authentic Asian garden, calm and relaxing, it has a very innovating architecture. You can also enjoy a nice tea at the teahouse (open from 9.30am to 5pm). Entry is $8 per person.
The most popular of Sydney beaches, Bondi Beach is definitely special.
A few kilometres east of the city, it is the meeting point for young travellers & surfers. It is a perfect spot to enjoy the beach, sunbathing or try to surf with one of the numerous schools offering deals ($100 in average for a 2hours class).
For those wanting to discover the area, there are many coastal walks linking Bondi to Coogee (6km with some very nice views – see picture above). You will go from Tamarama to Bronte, less busy and more typical (more locals).
Kings Cross is the area for bars and nightclubs! You can find hype bars, nightclubs, fast foods and sex shops! At night, the area livens up and gathers all kind of people ready to party. A bit further, Potts Point is considered as the little NY of Sydney. You will find heaps of nice restaurants and cafes there.
Best time to visit Sydney
The climate in Sydney is pleasant all year round. Summer is a very busy time due to the holidays (from Christmas through to the end of January), and prices for everything are often higher. Summer in Sydney is hot but can also be rainy. Mid-season is therefore the best time to visit the capital of New South Wales.
– Option 1 – Get a cab: Easiest but most expensive – Between $30 and $50 depending on distance and traffic.
You can also catch an Uber (cheaper than a cab).
– Option 2 – Take the train: around $15.30 per ticket.
– Option 3 – Take a shuttle: around $15/pp. There are 2 counters at airport T1 and T2. You can book in advance at Redy2Go.