The Ultimate Sydney City Guide

with 29 Comments

 

TOP THINGS TO DO IN SYDNEY - WHAT TO SEE, WHERE TO EAT & WHERE TO STAY

Ah, Sydney - there's no better city to kick start your great Aussie adventure. Many first time travelers to Australia hold the misconception that the country is one vast desert, with kangaroos hopping across road intersections and koalas hanging off traffic lights.

Well, we have all of that - but, contrary to popular belief, we also have large populous cities. Human civilisation exists too. And, no. Not everything is on a mission to kill you in this country. Although, I've had encounters with Huntsmen spiders as large as my hand, which I'd attempted to vanquish with a vacuum cleaner only to realise that the rod was too small to suction a spider of that size.

Anyways, back to the point.So, what's the first thing you do in Sydney when you arrive? Brunch, duh.

Us Aussies make a mean brunch, and even meaner coffee. We are the Italians of the Southern Hemisphere. Booya.

I'm a Melbournian, and I hate to admit this - as cool as Melbourne is with its laneways and Berlin-like underground vibes, I'm not going to front and deny that Sydney just seems to have it all. World class food, iconic landmarks, tip top weather, astonishing beaches, and... did I mention food?

**If you are planning a trip to Melbourne, don't miss out on my take of the best places to visit in Victoria.

 

sydney-city
Photo credit: Jason Tong

 

THINGS TO KNOW

Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)

Best time to visit: November-March (warm season)

Food to try: Brunch, flat white coffee, Asian fusion, kangaroo steak, emu burger (I would pass on Vegemite and meat pies, just sayin')

Good to know: When out drinking, we tend to take turns buying rounds. Just say, "My shout!". But, be prepared to do some damage to your wallet, because alcohol is bloody expensive here.

Budget: Scrape up all your savings, this country will dig deep into your pockets.

Useful phrases:

"No" - Yeah, nah.

"Yes" - Nah, yeah.

"I'm full, thanks" - I'm stuffed, mate.

"I can't be bothered" - Ceebs, brah. / C-B-F (Can't Be F*cked)

"Want to go for a drink?" - Let's go smash some bevvies.

 

Discover more of Australia: 8 Incredible Sights in Victoria, Australia

 

TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE

Circular Quay

Guys, this is the postcard image you've seen of Sydney. It's where you snap cheesy photos in front of the Opera House and send it to your parents, catch ferries to Manly Beach or Taronga Zoo, soak up the views of the Harbour Bridge, or just simply sit back and have a cold bevvy at the Opera Bar and watch ships sail past.

This is also the port of embarkment for some of the largest and most luxurious cruise liners you'll find in the southern hemisphere. If you can spare enough time on your trip, a laid-back cruise to the Pacific Islands is an absolute must.

 

circular-quay-sydney
Pacific cruise liner docked at Circular Quay - take a look at cruises from Sydney here.

Chinatown

A trip to Sydney isn't complete without a visit to Australia's largest Chinatown. Soak in the unique architecture, buy some Asian treats from oriental grocery stores, and (most importantly) eat all the food at one of its many Chinese restaurants.

Chinatown was made for eating. Asians love to eat. I love to eat.

Start with the Chinese version of brunch, and get some yum cha in ya at East Ocean Restaurant, followed by lunch at Mamak for a taste of spice-licious Malaysian hawker street food. A few of the eateries in Chinatown operate until the wee hours of the morning, so you’ll never find yourself going hungry.

Darling Harbour

Best done at night, view the glimmering night lights of Sydney's skyline whilst enjoying a romantic dinner at the Harbour's array of fine restaurants. Or, hit up a bar and watch street buskers perform from a distance, and observe locals and tourists sauntering past.

Alternatively, visit during the day, and unleash the kids into Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussaud's, or Wild Life Sydney to get your fix of marine and Australian wildlife, and get up close and personal to Australian icons in wax form. If you're a kidult like I am - you're guaranteed have a blast.

 

darling-harbour-sydney
Soak in the sparkling night views of Darling Harbour

 

Queen Victoria Building

Located in the central shopping district of Sydney, the Queen Victoria Building is a heritage-listed landmark built in the late 19th century. Traditionally a business environment for tailors, hairdressers and florists - today, the building houses upmarket boutiques and international brand name shops.

Open from 9am until 6pm daily, take a stroll through the building or have a coffee break and admire the intricate Victorian architecture. Don't miss the Royal Clock displaying King John signing the Magna Carta to execute King Charles I, and, the Great Australian Clock exhibiting 33 scenes taken from Australian history.

Bondi Beach

As iconic as Bondi Beach is, like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Great Wall is to China, Stonehenge is to England.. well, you get my drift - it can be completely overrun by tourists and locals alike on a warm day.

I mean, once you've battled the hordes of eager beachgoers, copped some selfie stick whacks from Asian tourists flailing them around wildly, and finally manage to find a free spot on the golden sand - you'll still have to clamber your way over sunbaking bodies to make it into the water.

If that doesn't sound like your cuppa tea, then retreat to the rugged shoreside and wander down the scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to get your dose of ocean therapy, whilst simultaneously basking in the serenity of nature.

 

bondi-coogee
The picturesque Bondi to Coogee coastal walk | Photo credit: Karl Norling

Hyde Park

It ain't no Central Park, but it certainly is the oldest public park in Sydney. If you find yourself needing to escape the hustle and bustle of the fast paced city life, then this centrally located park is a great little retreat.

Join the Sydney-siders on a sunny day - you'll find them all soaking in some vit-D on the lawns.

If you're on the lookout for some of the best free things to do in Sydney, then this is a great starting point. Duck into St. Mary's Cathedral and admire the high ceilings of Australia's longest church, or swing by the Archibald Fountain and snap a quick selfie with Theseus and the Minotaur.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

When you're in need of some Zen, or if you simply want to experience a slice of China in the land downunder, then this little oasis at the bottom of Darling Harbour is a must-visit.

Need inspiration to write your next poetry piece? Looking for a place to practice a new yoga pose? This is it.

 

chinese-friendship-garden-sydney
Inside the Chinese-inspired oasis in the middle of the city

Fish Market

This is where all my folk hang. It's no secret - Asians love their seafood. When they hear $20 for a dozen oysters, they go batshit cray. Throw some king crabs and abalones in the mix, topped off with some lobster tails - you'll find them pitching up tents trying to turn the market into their home.

If freshly cooked seafood tickles your tastebuds, then you need to take a tram down from Paddy's Market and get some omega-3 in ya.

Manly Beach

Jump on a 20-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly Beach and explore Sydney's breathtaking northern beaches. Bondi may be Sydney's numero uno beach, but if you want to avoid the stampede of beachgoers and getting smacked in the face with selfie sticks, then nothing compares to Manly.

Spend the day sunbathing, or hire a boogie or surfboard and hit the waves - it's the best place to learn how to surf.

The pedestrian mall is packed with hip cafes, restaurants and ice cream vendors - you'll definitely be spoilt for choice when it comes to food. But if you're here for the all-Australian experience, then you need to get yaself some fish 'n' chippies from the Fishmongers.

Blue Mountains

If you've run out of things to do in Sydney, then it's time to take a day trip to the Blue Mountains. Indulge in the endless blue horizon, capture stunning panoramas of the World Heritage-listed nature park, breathe in the eucalypt forests, and ride the glass-floored cable car suspended over a deep gorge.

A two hour's drive from Sydney, it's the ideal place to admire the native bushland, explore underground caves and climb impressive rock formations.

 

blue-mountains-sydney
Take a break from the city & retreat into the Blue Mountains

 

Visiting Melbourne? Discover the Best Views Of The Melbourne Skyline

 

PLACES TO EAT & DRINK

It's a great big sin to start your weekend without a hearty brunch, and there's no better place in Sydney than the Grounds of Alexandria. Once a Four'n Twenty pie factory, you don't just simply eat there - being is an experience in itself. Get your camera ready and snap some pics in the enormous courtyard and organic garden where they have a farm-to-table policy.

Hit up Mr. Wong and indulge in Cantonese fusion cuisine at its finest to get your fix of mud crab, perfectly steamed xiao long baos and succulent roasted duck.

Catch the sun set over the Sydney Harbour Bridge over a few loose 'bevvies' at the Opera Bar, or head up to The Rocks to do some bar hopping with stunning views of the Opera House.

It's no doubt that Asian influence is visibly prominent all across Australia, and you won't find a better place to experience Asian culture outside of Asia than Sydney. Reminisce on Asian street food and hawker stalls at Spice Alley in Chippendale - the home of Kopi-Tiam - where four hawker-style diners serve up the best of southeast Asian cuisine below glowing lanterns in unassuming alleyways.

 

spice-alley-sydney
Meander through Spice Alley & experience hawker food at its finest

 

WHERE TO STAY

The best places to stay in Sydney are within the Central Business District, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay - the city is very much walkable, so basing yourself somewhere central is key.

If you want to be in the middle of all the action and find some of Sydney's best restaurants and eateries at your doorstep, the ideal place to find accommodation would be around World Square. If you're a sucker for views and want to wake up to all of the city's best sights, then book yourself a room around Darling Harbour or Circular Quay - but be prepared to pay the price.

For the best hotels in Sydney with extremely competitive rates, take a look at Webjet's range of impressive Sydney hotels.

Hotels

Ibis World Square - ideal if you want to be located centrally with all the shops, sights and eateries within walking distance.

Ibis Darling Harbour - open the blinds to incredible views overseeing Darling Harbour and Sydney's impressive skyline.

Intercontinental Sydney - for the utmost luxury seekers with mind-blowing views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

intercontinental-sydney

 

Townhouses/Apartments

Fraser Suites Sydney - located on Kent Street, smack bang in the hub of Sydney, you'll be closely located to the best places to eat in Sydney. Under 10-minute walk to Darling Harbour, and a casual 25-minute stroll to Circular Quay.

L'abode Darlinghurst - Ideal for families who are looking for a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet still want to be located within walking distance to the city. The place accommodates up to 6 guests, and is located in a quiet, historic laneway with European vibes.

 

labode-darlinghurst

 

GETTING AROUND

No bike? No worries. A great way to get around and see the photogenic city and coast of Sydney is to get yourself a bike and start cycling. You can hire a bike and go on your own adventure, or join a tour and make new friends while seeing the best of what the city has to offer.

The next best way to get around without breaking the bank is the almighty Uber. Taxis can get pretty pricey, and hey, they don't offer a bottle of water like you Uber driver does. Use my code andyl12633ui to get to your first Uber ride for free.

Australia isn't exactly known for its great public transport system. In fact, we are probably notorious for having one of the world's worst when it comes to punctuality and functionality. But if you must, the train is a decent way to get around.

Alternatively, you can jump onboard the big red Hop On Hop Off Bus that you're so used to seeing in every other major city in the world and see all of Sydney's sights from the open deck on top.

 

This post contains sponsored links, however, my opinion, is as always - my own.

Uncover more of the best of Australia below:

Have you been to Sydney, or are you a local? Give me a holla if you discovered something awesome or if I'm missing anything vital!

29 Responses

  1. Beautiful place. Australia is on my top 3 list of places I want to visit. Had to make a list on your suggestions

  2. Callie Wright
    | Reply

    These are some beautiful pic. I really need to check Sydney Australia out, Thanks for sharing.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Thank you kindly! You really do, it’s a beautiful city!

  3. Alison
    | Reply

    I already had Sidney on my list. Now it is up higher! I love visiting Chinatowns around the world, so I appreciate those tips. Great pictures.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Thank you! I hope you get to visit soon!

  4. T.M. Brown
    | Reply

    I’m in the same boat as so many others ~ Sydney is on my bucket list. I love everything you shared – such a comprehensive list of “must-see” places and “must-do” activities. Fantastic photos, too.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Thanks so much! I hope you get around to visiting soon!

  5. Tee
    | Reply

    I looove Sydney. Just the other day I was saying to my other half I wanna go back there – I live in NZ and have been to Sydney. Would consider living there too.. I thought the Olympic Stadium was quite interesting and would be a nice place for a tourist to visit (just my opinion). It’s a bonus that they have a big mall a few mins away.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Good tip! Of all the times I’ve been to Sydney, I’ve never actually visited the Olympic Stadium. That’s on my agenda for our next trip! I hope you get to visit again soon!

  6. Sheila Price
    | Reply

    SO gorgeous! I’ve never been to Sydney, but now I want to!

    • Tina
      | Reply

      It’s a beautiful city with amazing sights and food. Definitely try and visit once!

  7. Sarah
    | Reply

    This is bringing back so many memories! I was in Sydney 10 years ago and had such a good time 😊

    • Tina
      | Reply

      I think it’s time for a return trip 😉

  8. Sherry
    | Reply

    I am living in Sydney at the moment on a working holiday, loved reading this post as I now have new things added to my ‘to do list’!! (Chinese garden of friendship & Chinatown) 🙂 X

    • Tina
      | Reply

      I hope you’re enjoying the lovely city – the weather certainly beats Melbourne’s! Definitely would recommend a Malaysian restaurant called ‘Mamak’ in Chinatown. So delicious!

  9. Tatum Skipper
    | Reply

    hahaha those phrases are perfect and hilarious. Definitely something I would need to know when traveling there. Ugh, Sydney has been on my list for a while but its hard pulling the plug this far away from it! This is totally a comprehensive guide, those hotels are giving me serious FOMO.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Yeah, we just abbreviate everything because we’re too lazy to speak proper English. Hope you get around to visiting Australia in the near future!

  10. katelyn Thomas
    | Reply

    Sydney is high on my list of places to visit. I am afraid I won’t want to leave once I get there, though. Such a beautiful place and so many things to do. And the beaches and waterfront spots. How could you ever feel like you’d seen enough?

    • Tina
      | Reply

      I hope you get to visit one day! I think that goes for a lot of places in the world. Too many places to see in the world, too little time. Or finances hehe.

  11. Candiss
    | Reply

    While my Aussie friend moved from Sydney to London I still need to visit and I will be all over chinatown and the fish market when I visit! I love me some delicious food, especially asian food!

  12. NieNie
    | Reply

    Definitely pinning this post! Sydney, Australia is on my bucket list! What was your favorite part when visiting here?

    • Tina
      | Reply

      The food and the weather!

  13. Travellinn
    | Reply

    I went there many years ago, and it was nice to be taken back there through your post. Nice photos as well! 🙂

  14. Rachel Silverwood
    | Reply

    Any city that has a fine brunch is a yes from me haha… Loved your post! A really good and thorough guide, and the pictures are amazing 🙂 Although I used to watch the show ‘Bondi Rescue’ religiously I’d probably give the packed sand a miss and head to the suggested walk!

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Haha hi-5! Any city with good food is a win for me. Thank you! I only ever watched Bondi Rescue because there were a lot of six packs going around. I actually met one of the lifeguards from the show this one time I was in Sydney. Highlight of my trip.

  15. Chloe
    | Reply

    This is such a great guide to Sydney! I’m going to Oz for a year in November so I’ll keep this list handy for when I do visit this city. It looks amazing, I can’t wait to go!!

    • Tina
      | Reply

      How exciting – you’ll love it there! Great time to arrive as well, as we’re in the middle of a long and dreary winter at the moment. November is pretty much the end of spring – let the beachin’ begin!

  16. Jean
    | Reply

    Oh such a great guide! I’m from Melbourne and hate visiting Sydney but after reading this I could be convinced to go do more exploring.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      Nice one – I’m from Melbourne too! Thanks for your kind words. I go back mainly for the food… and the weather, I suppose. I hope your next trip is much more enjoyable!

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