While Sydney is home to world-class events, indulgent dining experiences and premium shopping, there are plenty of things to see and do in New South Wales’ capital that won’t cost a cent and will still allow travellers to get the quintessential Sydney experience. Ranging from art therapy at the renowned Art Gallery of NSW or a free city walking tour, these activities are must-haves on any Sydney itinerary, whether you’re a solo backpacker or travelling as a family or as a couple.
- Catch the amazing sunset over Sydney Harbour
Sydney’s deep-water harbour is one of the busiest waterways in Australia and is visually iconic thanks to the world-renowned Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. In addition to its architectural wonders, the area around the harbour is also embellished with pockets of bushland and natural beauty. Arguably the most stunning time of day to admire the skyline is at sunset; golden hour and dusk sees the harbour transform by the second with red, orange and pink skies, followed by the illumination of the city lights.
- Embark on one of the Coastal Walks between Bondi to Manly
With the opening of a new 80km urban walking track linking Bondi and Manly in late 2019, travellers are now able to walk between two of the world’s most iconic beaches. Some of the popular trails include the South Head Heritage trail, the Hermitage Foreshore Track, and the Bradleys Head Walk. The tracks, which are rich in Indigenous heritage, pass through some of the city’s most spectacular coastal and harbourside suburbs, with some of them offering vistas of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Whether you take a couple of hours to explore a small section of the walk or seven days to experience the whole 80 km, there are countless highlights along the way including the majestic historic beauty of Vaucluse House and significant aboriginal sites at Grotto Point.
- Enjoy Free Live Music at Opera Bar
Arguably the most iconic bar in Sydney, Opera Bar offers chill alfresco vibes with unparalleled views of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Music lovers can indulge in the bar’s daily live music from a variety of local and internationally-known artists free of charge.
- Whale Watching from Barrenjoey lighthouse
Those who are looking for something out of the city can head for a day trip to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which stands at Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches. Built in 1881, this heritage lighthouse is just an hour’s drive from Sydney’s city centre. The iconic Sydney attraction was made famous from its feature in the television soap opera Home and Away and is also ideal for whale watching. Those visiting between May and September should bring their binoculars as they might be able to get a glimpse of the gentle, majestic migrating whales.
- Art therapy at Art Gallery of NSW
One of the most important public galleries in Sydney, the Art Gallery of NSW was established in 1871 and exhibits fine international and Australian art in one of the most beautiful art museums in the world. Modern and contemporary works are displayed in expansive, light-filled spaces, while those looking for older art can head to the splendid Grand Courts for a distinguished collection of colonial and 19th-century Australian works and European old masters. There are also dedicated galleries celebrating the arts of Asia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Running until 2021, the free ‘Under the Stars’ exhibition celebrates thousands of years of admiring the night sky, bringing together artworks by Indigenous artists with those made in many different eras by many different cultures.
- Family Day Out at Parsley Bay
Lauded for its great combination of park, playground and beach access, Parsley Bay in Vaucluse is ideal for a fun-filled family day. The bay is hidden in the Eastern Suburbs, making it an excellent place to avoid the crowds. In addition to the enclosed swimming area, picnic facilities and playground, there is also a short bushland walking circuit (15-20 minutes return), for the energy-filled toddlers that still haven’t had their fill of activities at the end of the day.
- Browsing at Carriageworks Farmers Market
Get a glimpse of some of the best organic produce that Sydney and New South Wales have to offer at Carriageworks Farmers farmers market every Saturday. Expect a host of Certified Organic stalls offering fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, flowers, oils, nuts as well as delicious gluten-free pastries, hearty pies and sumptuous cakes.
- Explore Sydney on a Free Walking Tour
There’s no better way to explore a place than with a local; walking tours such as I’m Free and Free Tours Sydney offer various walking tours that delve into the history, culture and architecture of the city and are peppered with interesting tidbits and insights from the local guides. From the iconic spots to hidden gems, the free walking tours are a great way to discover the best of Sydney.
- Street Art around Newtown and Bondi Beach
Tucked on the western fringe of Sydney’s CBD, art aficionados will appreciate Newtown’s stunning street art. Since the 1980s, this suburb has made its mark with its wide range of prominent graffiti and street art. You’ll be able to admire visual art ranging from large-scale painted murals to hand-painted political slogans. If you’re still keen for more art inspiration, head to Bondi Beach where you’ll find the iconic Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall. Over the years, the wall has hosted the work of some of the best-known street artists across the globe. Featured artworks have ranged from collages, stencils, pop art, textworks, love notes and memorial portraits.
- Go for a Dip at the Maccallum Harbour Ocean Pool
On the western side of Cremorne point, Maccallum Pool is a heritage 33m harbourside pool with its architectural style dating from the 1920s. Accessible by ferry from Circular Quay, you can access this pool free of charge and it allows you to soak in the sun with the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in full view.
- Darling Quarter Playground
Darling Quarter is a free wonderland for kids and adults alike. Renowned as one of the most comprehensive in the city, the playground is a bustling, colourful hub with boundless opportunities for kids of all ages to slide down, climb up, run around, scramble over, swing on. Aspiring gymnasts can test their skills on the 18.7m-long balance ropes, while The Octanet is ideal for budding explorers to climb. While their children play, parents can soak up the buzz on the Village Green or at the theatre, or wander through the art exhibition space and pop-up markets when they’re on.
- The Calyx at Royal Botanic Gardens
Located within the heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, The Calyx is defined as ‘the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower bud’. Known as the jewel of the Royal Botanic Garden, The Calyx boasts stunning architecture and the largest vertical floral display in the Southern Hemisphere. A café by day and an event space by night, the Calyx is considered one of Sydney’s most unique and show-stopping venues and is a must-visit.