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Explore Sydney: The Ultimate Travel Guide for Every Visitor

Explore Sydney: The Ultimate Travel Guide for Every Visitor

Sydney is one of the biggest cities in Australia and is famous worldwide, especially for its Opera. It attracts a growing number of tourists each year, whether local or international. The number of tourists (from overseas and interstate) visiting the city is around 40 million per year. Not only is the surfing culture very prominent, Sydneysiders in general are described as “laid back”. Here is our complete guide if you visit Sydney, so you won’t miss a thing during your travels in Australia!

How long to allow?

Minimum 3 days

Our fav. spots

Opera House, Darling Harbour, Bondi & Manly Beaches

Best season

From September to March

How to get to Sydney?

From overseas

From Europe or America, the flight to Sydney takes a long time, about 24 hours with at least one stopover. Check regularly price comparison websites such as Skyscanner or Kayak, and avoid flying during school holidays.

Within Australia

By Plane

If you’re coming from another city in Australia, the best mode of transport is by plane or bus. The rail network is not very well developed in Australia, so trains are not the best option. Buses are generally cheaper (expect to pay around $60 for an overnight bus from Melbourne), but here too the journeys are long… If you don’t leave it to the last minute, it is possible to find cheap flights. For domestic flights in Australia, the low-cost airlines to check out are Virgin and JetStar. Flying is generally more expensive but much quicker than taking the bus or train. Check the prices of both options before making your choice, you might find a good flight deal.

On a road trip

If you’re on a road trip, you can also plan to reach Sydney from Melbourne by van or car. See our 7-day Melbourne to Sydney itinerary.

If you’re arriving from the north, then check out our Sydney – Brisbane itinerary to make sure you don’t miss anything on the road!

How much time do you need?

If you are in a hurry, Sydney’s must-sees can be ticked off in 3 days. You will have to plan these three days a bit, so you get to see everything. Check out our 2-day Sydney itinerary to get an idea.

Nevertheless, you won’t get bored if you have more time to stay around, quite the opposite! You will have enough time to really get to know the city and also its surroundings … beaches, national parks, and more. You will definitely enjoy your visit to Sydney.

visit sydney 2

Best season to visit Sydney

Even though winter in Sydney is much milder than European winters, it’s not necessarily the best time of year. The ocean is cold and you won’t be able to swim. But it’s a great time for whale watching. Summer is a very busy time because of the summer holidays (from Christmas to the end of January). In addition, summer in Sydney is hot but often rainy. Nevertheless, the climate in Sydney remains pleasant all year round.

Accommodation Guide in Sydney

Accommodation in Sydney is expensive. There are different options depending on your budget and comfort, here are a few:

Hotels: Prices increase on the weekend and it is almost impossible to find a private room with ensuite for less than 130 AUD in the city centre. However, a good option if Sydney is the first place you visit after a long flight.

Hostels: Dorms (mixed or female/ male) or private rooms. Good for short a short visit in Sydney.

AirBnb: You stay with locals and share local experiences. This is a good option for short term visits.

Temporary sublets: Many travellers or expats go on short vacations and sublet their rooms. You find heaps of them on Facebook.

Shared Houses: If you plan to stay for several weeks, this is the most affordable solution. Just post an ad on Flatmates or Gumtree.

More information: Best suburbs in Sydney – Accommodation guide

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What to see in Sydney?

Visiting Sydney without seeing the Opera or Bondi Beach is a bit like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower … Here is a list of places you should see:

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Known worldwide for its original form and structure, the Sydney Opera House hosts approximately 1,800 shows each year. Discover the stories, history of the Sydney Opera House with a 1-hour long guided tour. Don’t miss the opportunity to have a drink at the Sydney Opera Bar, from where you have a breathtaking view of the Harbour Bridge.

It is also possible to climb the Harbour Bridge by booking a guided tour. Many travellers choose to do this amazing activity. Catwalks and ladders take you to the top of the outer arch, where the steady incline to the summit leaves you free to focus on the view. Admire the view of the Opera House and the tall buildings as far as the Blue Mountains to the west on a clear day.

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Royal Botanic Garden

It is a lung in the heart of the city! The park is full of flowers and trees, which makes it the perfect spot to relax, with an incredible view of the Opera. It is open every day from 7 to 17 or 20 o’clock, depending on the season. The park also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year.

The Rocks

You get to this historic district from Circular Quay. Once there, enjoy the view and a drink at Glenmore Hotel. There are free guided tours through the neighbourhood that tell you all about its history. Don’t miss The Rocks weekend market on George and Playfair Street (every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm).

Darling Harbour

Visiting Darling Harbour at night is amazing! Crossing the Pyrmont Bridge, you can admire the city lights. It’s also a nice place to visit at daytime, including Barangaroo on one side, and Cockle Bay Wharf on the other.

Paddy’s Market

Located in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s is the place to be for buying souvenirs. You will be spoiled for choice at unbeatable prices. You can also buy fresh produce (fruits and vegetables). Paddy’s Market is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

Sydney Fish Market

As the name suggests, this is the perfect place for fish lovers! On the terrace, you enjoy freshly caught fish and shellfish at affordable prices. The market is a little bit out of the centre but easily accessible by bus.

Coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach

On the Coastal Walk, you see Bondi and the beaches on the way to Coogee in about 2 to 3 hours return. You cross the beaches of Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and finally Coogee. Take the time to do this walk early in the morning. There is only one place to get food in Tamarama, so remember to take water and snacks with you.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 10 km.
By Bus: Many buses from the city centre serve Bondi (change at Bondi Junction).
Start of the walk: Near the Bondi Icebergs Pool.

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Manly Beach

Manly is a place that attracts an all kind of people: surfers go there for the main beach, hikers for a walk to Spit, window-shoppers for its small shops and art galleries, and beach fans for Shelly Beach and its crystal clear waters.
You can take the ferry to Manly from Circular Quay. We advise you to return to Circular for sunset. At that time, you see the red reflections of the sun on the Opera and the buildings of the city centre. You should visit manly if you are in Sydney.

If you want to be a bit more active, do the walk from Manly to Spit, which lasts several hours (18km round trip) and is well worth the detour.

⏰ Ferry timetables and fares

Opening hours: between 6:10 a.m. and 8:50 p.m. on weekdays, and between 9:40am and 8:30pm on weekends and holidays.
Price: $9.90 per adult, $6 per child.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By ferry: 20 min from Circular Quay.

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Watsons Bay

You can walk to Gap Lookout and continue on the Gap Bluff Walking Track. Then head to Camp Cove Beach for a swim. Pass Lady Bay Beach (beautiful nudist beach), to reach the Hornby Lighthouse, with a beautiful view of the bay.

If you are hungry when leaving the ferry at Watsons Bay, we recommend Doyles Seafood. The Beach Club is also a popular place for locals to enjoy a drink and nibbles.

Activities & Excursions

Taronga Zoo

Taronga is a huge zoo with a great view of the city. In just a few hours, you encounter all Australian animal species. See almost 4,000 animals including many native Australian animals, exotic species, and 20 daily shows and keeper talks.

🎟 What to do at the zoo?

Free shows and entertainment throughout the day and unique animals await you. Stroll through tropical vegetation and cross a jungle on the shores of the most beautiful bay in the world, or board the Sky Safari* (Taronga Zoo cable car) for a day in the heart of Australian nature. For an unforgettable night, book the Roar & Snore Pack (from $555) and meet the animals during a night safari.

The Taronga Zoo also offers retreats – Wildlife, an eco-retreat in the heart of the animal park! Taronga Zoo is an example of eco-responsibility and received the 2022 “World Luxury Hotel Awards – Top Luxury Eco Hotel – Australia” award. Different packages exist but the retreat mainly consists of being in the middle of the sanctuary surrounded by echidnas, koalas, or platypuses.

The zoo supports the conservation programs of animal parks in Australia and around the world so that wildlife and people can flourish together. Solar panels and recycling are part of its global policy so the sanctuary does not lose sight of its commitment to defend the animal welfare cause. Taronga remains an association in which every dollar is invested in saving animals.

⏰ Schedules and prices

Hours: Open all year from 9:30am to 5pm.
Price: $45.90 per adult, $27 per child (4 to 15 years old), free for children under 4 years old.
Up to 20% off with an online reservation
Reservations: Click here.

📍 How to get there?

Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088
By car: 10 km
By ferry: 17 min from Circular Quay, quay n°2 (departures every 30 minutes)

Whale Watching

Book a whale watching tour from June to November to make the most of your trip in Sydney. It is more common for whales to venture into the bay and sometimes even into the waters near the Opera House. In any case, leaving for half a day or a full day to observe those incredible creatures will be a superb memory.

Luna Park

A funfair-like amusement park in Sydney. A mix between entertainment and dreams. Welcome to Luna Park! Located at Milsons Point (North Sydney), this park is easily accessible by train, ferry or bus. High in color and sensations, you can explore its many attractions such as Big Deeper, SledgeHammer, Boomerang. A great day ahead.

Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye is the tallest structure in Sydney, and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. 250 meters above the streets of Sydney, you can enjoy unparalleled 360 degree views of the city and beyond. Spot the iconic landmarks and hidden gems of the city, and on a clear day you can even see the Blue Mountains, 80km away! The top of the Tower also has a restaurant that rotates 360°!

You can decide to admire the view from the tower or even venture to the Skywalk (a little adventure of an hour and a half outdoors!). The Tower is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (entrance until 7 p.m.). Prices vary depending on the activity chosen.

Info & booking: HERE

Scenic Flight

Book a flight by helicopter or seaplane is an ideal way to discover the bay. Many companies offer different types of flights: a scenic tour, a flight where you will be dropped off for lunch in a magnificent setting, or even a helicopter day trip. By seaplane you can also admire the sunset.

Learn to Surf

Book a surf lesson and learn to surf in Sydney… such an amazing experience and lots of fun ahead. One of the best option to learn is to start in Bondi… so ride on!

Where to go out?


The Opera Bar (Sydney Opera House, Macquarie St)

This bar/restaurant is located at the foot of the Sydney Opera House and offers a superb view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Its outdoor terrace has the best seats for enjoying the view. This place is very popular with tourists and locals, so it’s often crowded.

Other Bars

  • Bar 83 (Stunning views of Sydney Bay)
  • The Glenmore Hotel (for a city view from The Rocks)
  • Scary Canary (to start the evening on Kent St)
  • Maybe Sammy (award-winning cocktail bar at The Rocks)”

The trendy neighbourhood Surry Hills is a great place to go out for drinks: The Clock, Beresford, Dolphin, Surly’s, and live concerts … You’ll be spoiled with options.

Finally, if you want to go out the Australian way, just go to the neighbourhood pub! The sound volume may be very high, don’t be surprised.


Here too, you’ll have plenty of choices for partying in Sydney. If you want to party in an international hotspot popular with backpackers, the trendiest places are Ivy (a nightclub with an upstairs pool), Establishment, and Sash on Sundays.

Tip: Take your ID card absolutely everywhere. It is required in any bar at night.

Shopping in Sydney

There are many malls in Sydney, which are the main shopping destinations. Westfield is a chain of shopping centers in Australia. If you are in the city center, Westfield on Pitt Street offers a wide variety of shops and a huge food court. For incredible architecture, don’t miss the Queen Victoria Building, with slightly more upscale shops and the official UGGS store.

A bit out of the center, the Broadway shopping center is worth a visit for its architecture and green walls.

You can also do your shopping at the Westfield shopping center in Bondi Junction, which has a large number of international brands.

For a more bohemian shopping experience in Sydney, you might want to explore these areas:

  • Known for its eclectic and alternative vibe, Newtown is filled with vintage stores, quirky boutiques, and unique finds. King Street is the main thoroughfare, where you can browse through second-hand bookshops, retro clothing stores, and artisanal craft shops.
  • Surry Hills is a trendy neighborhood great for vintage and designer clothing, as well as unique homewares and art galleries. Crown Street and its surrounding lanes are dotted with independent boutiques offering everything from handcrafted jewelry to bespoke furniture.
  • Famous for its Saturday markets, Paddington is a haven for those who love unique clothing, handmade crafts, and one-of-a-kind accessories. The Paddington Markets are a must-visit, and the surrounding streets are lined with boutique fashion stores and galleries.
  • Held every Saturday, the Glebe Markets are a great place to find vintage clothing, books, records, and handmade goods. It’s a vibrant spot where locals and tourists alike come to shop, eat, and enjoy live music.
  • For a mix of historic charm and modern bohemian flair, The Rocks offers a range of artisanal markets and small boutiques. The Rocks Markets, open on weekends, feature a variety of stalls selling unique gifts, local art, and fashion.

Public transport in Sydney

The centre of Sydney is not very big. You can easily walk across the CBD, Darling Harbour, the Opera, the Royal Botanic Garden etc.

The public transport system makes it easy to get around. Just buy an Opal card at the airport or in town and recharge it. It is not possible to get on a bus without having a ticket. The idea is simple: we must “tap on” when getting on, and “tap off” when getting off the bus. Prices vary depending on the distance.

If you don’t want to get an Opal card because you’re only staying for a few days, you can pay with a bank card when boarding the bus. Check the city’s website for more information.

Day(s) trips from Sydney

Sydney is a city rich in exceptional places. But its surroundings are full of other treasures. So don’t hesitate to make time to visit the Sydney region.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Featherdale Wildlife Park is a wildlife preserve park that looks like a nature reserve. It is reputed to hold the largest collection of Australian fauna. It’s certainly touristy, but it allows you to get closer to the emblematic animals of Australia: hugs with koalas, selfies with kangaroos, penguins and even small Quokkas! Every day you can come and take your picture with them from 11 a.m. to noon… In short, not to be missed!

⏰ Schedules and Prices

Opening hours: Open all year from 9am to 4pm
Price: $38 per adult, $22 per child (3 to 15 years old)
Reservation: Click here.

Ticket and encounter with the Koalas – online reservations only, $58.50 per adult, $48.00 per child, $55.50 student rate.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

217 Kildare Rd, Doonside NSW 2767
By car: 40 km.
By train: via North Shore and Western Line, direction Blacktown Station.

Hunter Valley

Do you like cheese, charcuterie, bread and good wine? Then a stop in the Hunter Valley will delight your taste buds! Australia’s oldest wine region, there are over 120 farms for you to immerse yourself in the local wine culture. Taste Australian wines (sémillon and shiraz are the most common grape varieties), enjoy gourmet cuisine and escape to large green spaces.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 244 km north.
By organised tours (from Sydney): To visit the vineyards in Hunter Valley, do a tour that takes you about 3.5 hours. Most of them will take you to the heart of the vineyards, where you enjoy wine, sometimes accompanied by cheese or chocolate.

Figure 8 Pools – Royal National Park

Located south of Burning Palm Beach, the Figure Eight Pools are part of the second oldest national park in the world, the Royal National Park. It is famous for the shape of its basins that form natural pools in the rock. To get there, 3 kilometres or about 1h30 to 2h of walking awaits you. Put on your trainers and discover Figure Eight Pool and Wedding Cake Rock.

⏰ Schedules and prices

Hours: 7:00am to 8:30pm (these times may vary depending on the weather).
Price: $12 per vehicle for entry into the national park.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 55 km, direction Burning Palms Beach.
By train: 2 hours from Central Station, direction Otford.
On site: Departing from the Garrawarra Farm car park, walk the Burgh Ridge Track until it meets the Coast Track.

Our advice

  • Be sure to check the weather and the tide before going, the Pools are only accessible at low tide.
  • Do not venture there alone, the telephone reception is very poor and there is no rescue centre on site.
  • Finally, remember to put on a good pair of shoes (be careful, the rocks can be slippery from the water!).

Wedding Cake Rock – Royal National Park

The Wedding Cake Rock is a spectacular landmark that owes its name to its distinctive shape. Located by the sea, the hike to get there is from the village of Bundeena, via Jibbon Beach.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car from Sydney: 29km to Bundeena.
With the train: 1 hour by train from Central Station towards Cronulla, to the terminus.
By ferry from Cronulla: $7.60.

WARNING: It is forbidden to climb on the rock for safety reasons, under penalty of fines enforced by the park rangers.

Blue Mountains

For a 100% natural experience, go on a getaway to the Blue Mountains. Feast your eyes on a verdant national park, aboriginal sites, go hiking, discover the gigantic canyons, observe the bluish colour that emanates from the mountains… Different routes are offered for all walking levels. To admire the famous Three Sisters it’s only a short walk, while other hikes allow access to breathtaking waterfalls and canyons.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 129 km.
By train: 2h30 from Central Station, BMT line (Blue Mountains Line) to Katoomba. Then 3 kilometres (on foot or by bus) await you to the Three Sisters.
Organised tour: Day trip with cruise.

More information: Visit the Blue Mountains.

Port Stephens (Anna Bay / Nelson Bay)

Anna Bay is a real playground for those who venture out there! Located in the heart of the Central Coast, the bay reveals a landscape of thousands of dunes, where kilometres of sand stretch as far as the eye can see.

Camel rides, excursions to observe dolphins and sandboarding sessions will delight any visitor, young or old!

Our favourite? The ascent of Mount Tomaree Head to enjoy a breathtaking view. Pay attention to your surroundings as well, koalas often hide high in the trees.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 200 km north, 2.5 hours from Sydney.
With an organised tour: Boat trip from Sydney and 4WD in the dunes.
Good to know: Permits issued at the gas stations closest to the beach give you permission to drive a 4WD in the dunes.

Jervis Bay

White sand and transparent water, Hyams Beach is one of the must-see beaches in southern Sydney to admire the riches of the ocean.

Indeed, Jervis Bay is a famous spot for snorkelling and diving. Dolphins and whales inhabit the area (particularly during migratory seasons). It is possible to see them during the various boat trips. Also not to be missed: the Booderee National Park and the ruins of its lighthouse. Another great vantage point for observing marine life.

📍 How to get there from Sydney?

By car: 207 km.
Organised tour (departure from Sydney): Day in Jervis Bay by bike.

More information on: Weekend in Jervis Bay

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Practical Information


To enter Australia, you will need a valid visa. Here are some of the options: a tourist visa if you are holidaying in Australia, a WHV if you are less than 35 yo and want to travel and work in the country or a TSS visa (sponsorship) if you are sponsored by a company in Australia.

Where to eat?

Sydney, being a very cosmopolitan city, is full of restaurants. Depending on the neighbourhood you’re in, you find that some types of cuisine are more represented.

The CBD and Haymarket (Chinatown) include many Asian restaurants of all kinds: Chinese, dumplings, Korean barbecues, Japanese, etc. At Darling Harbour, you will find more diverse tourist restaurants with a beautiful view of the harbour.

In trendier neighbourhoods like Paddington, Surry Hills, and Newtown, you’ll find nice restaurants that offer expensive food called “fusion”. Barangaroo is the new business district with a nice view of the harbour.

Not all restaurants are willing to split bills, that is, to allow customers to pay separately.

Events in Sydney

Here is the list of the main events in Sydney :

  • Sculpture by the sea (October-November)
  • Vivid Sydney (May-june)
  • New Years Eve (31 December)
  • Mardi Gras (Feb – March)
  • City 2 surf (August)

Tips & Tricks

Bring your ID card absolutely everywhere, it will be required in any bar at night.
In the center of Sydney, there is a curfew: the bars serve no longer alcohol after 1:30am
There are many tips for saving money in Sydney.
To find all the tips, check out Sydney Travel Tips and Deals
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