Sydney Unveiled: What To Do in Australia’s Most Vibrant City

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Advisor - Jeremy Barber
Curated By

Jeremy Barber

  • Sydney

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Australia

  • History

  • Local culture

  • Hidden Gems

The famous Sydney Opera House.
Curator’s statement

Sydney is a breathtaking international city of contrasts, with a rich history and culture that blend seamlessly with modern sophistication. This trip guide will take you on a journey through Sydney's best neighborhoods, from the historic Rocks to the trendy Newtown. You'll serendipitously discover secret spots and you'll learn about the city's complex and controversial history. Whether you're interested in art, culture, food, or simply relaxing on the beach, Sydney has something to offer everyone. This is one of the finest cities our world has to offer for discovery.

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Things to do in Sydney

The Three Sisters are an unusual rock formation in the Blue Mountains.

Welcome to Sydney where the vibe is so good!

Start off your visit with an unforgettable stroll over the course of a few days from the Beulah Street wharf in the posh Kirribilli neighborhood to the expansive Botanical Gardens. If you need to be ambitious, this entire walk can be abbreviated to an day. The area outlines what feels like the center of the entire country… Trust me, the views along the way are nothing short of striking and iconic. Kirribilli is one of the most established and affluent neighborhoods here with views facing the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and towering Downtown. Along the way, don’t miss the historic Rocks area, where the echoes of colonialist history blend seamlessly with a vibrant market scene. Take your time to soak in the atmosphere and maybe snag a unique souvenir to commemorate this incredible journey.

To recharge, the rooftop café at the Museum of Contemporary Art offers not just delectable meals but also a panorama of the city’s skyline cascading down to meet the harbor. You might even spot cruise ships docking here, rising above the urban landscape. The Rocks and Circular Quay waterfront, nestled beside the central business district, are dotted with fantastic 4 and 5-star hotels boasting Instagram-worthy views of the Bridge, Opera House and the picturesque harbor. I’ve got you covered in that department! Finishing the rest of the long walk, continue onward to the Opera House where you can stop to enjoy a production or a culinary delight at it’s celebrated restaurants. Then follow the harbor front walkway as it snakes around the Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair where you will see Sydneysiders having some down time and teaching the rest of us the art of living in the moment. Nearby, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is absolutely wonderful.

Definitely venture to the iconic Bondi Beach neighborhood, where coastal views will leave you spellbound. Commence your journey at the Aboriginal Rock Carvings at the Bondi Golf & Diggers Club, and meander towards the famed Bondi Icebergs Club where you can purchase a day pass to this iconic oceanic pool club. Sydney’s coastal region presents a myriad of beaches, cliff pools and tidal pools to suit every mood. From the most tranquil to the most exhilarating, each spot promises an unforgettable golden hour experience. This is a city and country that enjoy life at the waterside!

Ready for some fabulous entertainment? Catch a riotously fun drag and dine show at Priscillas at the Imperial Hotel, a lively experience that exemplifies Sydney’s tolerant spirit. For the wildlife enthusiasts, I highly recommend visiting worthy wildlife sanctuaries, a testament to the country's commitment to conservation. You’ll be amazed by the incredible work being done here and your heart will squish into a puddle.

Getting around Sydney is an absolute breeze, thanks to the city’s efficient public transport system. With an Opal card in hand, you’ll have easy access to trains, buses, and ferries. Wander through the neighborhoods on foot to experience Sydney like a true local. Seeking authentic Sydneysider vibes? Look no further than the trendy Newtown and Redfern areas near the University of Sydney, brimming with eclectic cafés, shops and homes adorned with captivating street art, murals, and frescoes. Savor the local artsy vibe and indulge in some people-watching, making unforgettable memories at Carriageworks, a trendy institution hosting a fantastic multi-arts urban cultural precinct in a historic carriage workshop rail yard. Don’t forget to explore the weekly farmers’ markets and pop-ups here for epic foodie experiences and have fun wandering the district. The energy is youthful and vibrant.

Escape the city bustle on a captivating day trip to the Blue Mountains, where serenity and natural beauty await in the charming town of Leura, nestled amidst the mountains. Prepare to be awestruck by the eucalyptus-scented forests and the awe-inspiring Blue Mountains National Park. You’ll notice by the characteristic earthly blue glow of the horizon, perfumed with the essence of eucalyptus tree oils. Spot lookout points that offer breathtaking vistas of the prehistoric landscape, including the remarkable Three Sisters geological formation. Take in the majesty of Jamison Canyon’s hidden paradise, where the cascading Katoomba waterfalls accompanies thousands of cockatoos nesting in the cliff walls trees. The area is also a stunning backdrop for the many winery experiences available to experience – they are renowned. Need more ideas for the Blue Mountains? Check out my guide detailing a refreshing day trip to the Blue Mountains.

If you can, try and take your journey beyond Sydney! Combine your trip with a visit to the enchanting Red Centre, where the otherworldly landscapes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta await to hypnotize your soul. Heading north is another option to tropical Queensland to dive into the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest. Looking for urban charm? Melbourne or Brisbane offer unique cultural scenes and vibrant city life, while Perth emerges as an up-and-coming destination, soon linking non-stop to European hubs with some of the world’s longest flights.

Each experience in Sydney reveals a new layer of the city’s captivating personality. Food and dining here is incredible as well. I remember frequenting the most memorable cafés and bakeries. There is also a myriad of east Asian and healthier whole-foods concepts – Sydney has everything, but it’s done way better here. Keep your eyes peeled for hidden laneways and street art that add an urban touch of magic to your exploration. Public art is a true highlight here, and you’ll likely stumble upon artistic vignettes like the Angel Street Birdcages – a floating marvel of metallic birdcages above the urban lane serenaded by a soft soundtrack of long-lost birdsongs. As your expert in Australian experiences, I can further recommend many more activities here in the Emerald City. Prepare to immerse yourself in Sydney’s beauty, culture, and vibrant energy, for this place will surely be etched in your memory forever.

Day trips

Day Trip to Blue Mountains from Sydney.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Australian Kaleidoscope: A 2 or 3 Week Expedition.

Advisor - Jeremy Barber

Travel Advisor

Jeremy Barber

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Sydney.