If you’re heading to Australia on your travel adventures, chances are you’ll be visiting Sydney. Whether you have a long week or just a day or two in the famous Australian city, there are plenty of things to do. And you don’t need a big budget to have a great time in the Opera House city. Here are five of the best free things to do in Sydney.
Hyde Park, Sydney
Nestled between Central Station and Circular Quay, Hyde Park is a great free thing to do in Sydney. This was the first place I visited after arriving, a weary traveller, at Central Station. Hyde Park is about a 20-minute walk from the train and, on a beautiful day, is sure to lift your spirits. With plenty of flora and fauna to enjoy, the park also boasts the beautiful Anzac Memorial. It’s a peaceful, serene place where you can sit, enjoy the water features, pay your respects to fallen soldiers and just have a quiet moment to yourself. Hyde Park covers 40 acres so there’s plenty to do and see.
Must Do: Visit the Anzac Memorial. Find the turtle hiding in the Archibald Water Fountain. Read a book in the sunshine. Have a quiet moment in the Sandringham Garden.
Also Nearby: St Mary’s Cathedral; Frazer Memorial Fountain; Australian Museum.
Getting There: Hyde Park is a 15-minute walk from Central Station or a 20-minute walk from Circular Quay. If you’re travelling by train, the nearest stations to the park are Museum (south side of the park) and St James (north-west side of the park).
Museum of Contemporary Art
If you’re an art fan, this is the place to go. Just a stone’s throw from Circular Quay and The Rocks, this museum is perfectly placed. Entry is free and there is plenty to see and keep you busy once inside. Even if you’re not an art fan, it’s a wonderfully calm and open place to go to escape the rain, use the loo, browse the gift shop or enjoy a coffee in the coffee shop (though that, of course, won’t be free). Each exhibition or gallery area is cleverly arranged so that it feels spacious and gives every visitor time to look and reflect.
Must Do: Visit every floor – photographs are allowed without flash so take some time to photograph some great art. If it’s sunny, step outside and watch the boats come into the harbour or see the Opera House sparkling in the sunshine.
Also Nearby: The Rocks; Circular Quay; Harbour Bridge; Sydney Opera House.
Getting There: The Museum of Contemporary Art is a short walk (mere minutes) from Circular Quay and The Rocks. If you’re travelling by train, get off at Circular Quay and walk from there.
Circular Quay is a hub of transport and eateries in Sydney. From here, you can catch a boat to North Sydney, sail over to Taronga Zoo, or just watch the boats come and go. But the best thing about Circular Quay is it offers a stunning – and free! – view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Yes, you can scale the bridge or pay to climb up a lookout, but there’s really no need when you can see it all for free from here! If you get hungry while you’re there, there’s Gateway across the road where you’ll have the world’s cuisine to choose from.
Must Do: Walk all around the quay and take in the views. Head towards the Harbour Bridge and walk underneath it, admiring the engineering of the structure and the initials carved lovingly into trees by wanderers from the world over. Take photos of the Opera House.
Also Nearby: The Rocks; Sydney Opera House; Harbour Bridge; Gateway; Museum of Contemporary Art; Royal Botanic Gardens.
Getting There: The easiest way to get to Circular Quay is to hop on a train and get off at, not suprisingly, Circular Quay station.
One of the oldest neighbourhoods in central Sydney, the Rocks is well worth a visit. Here, you can wander round cobblestone streets, look up at buildings from the eighteenth century and learn a little of the history of this area and Sydney as a growing city. You can learn about The Rocks in the museum there and also in an archaeological dig site. But even if you’re not a history nerd like I am, The Rocks is still a great place to visit. It’s now home to quirky, artisanal shops where you can by one-of-a-kind gifts to share with friends and family back home. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want a kangaroo scrotum on a keyring for good luck?!
Must Dos: Visit the market on Saturday morning, buy unique gifts and talk to the lovely, talented sellers there. Explore Nurses Walk, where you can buy Australian Alpaca wool and bypass Starbucks for the delicious, friendly, and infinitely more reasonably priced coffee at Aslan’s.
Also Nearby: Circular Quay; Harbour Bridge; Sydney Opera House; Gateway; Museum of Contemporary Art.
Getting There: Hop off the train at Circular Quay and you’ll find The Rocks behind the Museum of Contemporary Art, just a few minutes’ walk away.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Last but not least is the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. When it comes to free things to do in Sydney, this is definitely up there as one of the best! A short walk from Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House, this 30-hectare site has so much to offer. You could easily spend a whole day here exploring! With the Oriental Garden, views over the harbour, the famous Mrs Macquarie’s Seat, and plenty more, you will be spoilt for choice. There’s the Palace Rose Garden, a spring-flowering native rockery, space to sit, relax, play games, and a giant shrubbery koala. If you’re heading to the gardens towards the end of the day, though, be sure to check closing times as you don’t want to get caught out!
Must Dos: Take your time – walk round and walk round again. Say hi to the giant koala. Look out over the harbour. Find peaceful shade under your choice of tree.
Also Nearby: Circular Quay; Sydney Opera House; Government House; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Museum of Sydney.
Getting There: The Botanic Gardens is a two-minute walk from Circular Quay station.
There you have it: five of the best free things to do in Sydney! Have you been to any of these places? Where else would you recommend in Sydney? Drop your ideas in the comments below.
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More Things to Do near Sydney
If you’re looking to escape the CBD, there are some amazing day trips in and around Sydney. Read on to find out some of the best recommendations to help you have an authentic Australian experience!