Top 10 attractions in Sydney
From the iconic sails of the Opera House to the golden sands at Bondi Beach, Sydney is brimming with spectacular icons. Discover the city’s unmissable attractions by ticking these essential experiences off your bucket list.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is more than just an architectural marvel set on beautiful Sydney Harbour, it's also a world-class working opera house. The iconic sails host more than 1,600 performances a year – everything from classical ballet performances, innovative theatre and symphony music to contemporary dance and, of course, stunning opera productions.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed building offers daily guided tours, available in English, Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Meanwhile,Opera Bar has the best view in town, letting you sip cocktails as you marvel at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You’ll treasure the same views dining alfresco at the adjacent House Canteen.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks. Not only is it the largest steel arch bridge on the planet, but it also spans one of the globe’s finest natural harbours. Affectionately named the ‘Coathanger’ by locals, it’s an intrinsic part of the city; you can walk or cycle across it and even climb to its peak for incredible views.
Sparkling blue ocean, funky eateries and a laid-back beach lifestyle sum up the world-famous Bondi. Go for a swim in an iconic ocean pool at Icebergs, sip a fruity cocktail at a beachside bar like Hotel Ravesis, learn to ride the waves with the experts at Let’s Go Surfing or peruse the Saturday farmer’s markets.
Of course, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is a memorable way to appreciate the beauty of the area. The picturesque 6km track is carved into sandstone cliffs and offers uninterrupted views of the ocean, passing Tamarama Beach and Bronte Beach, before finishing in beautiful Coogee. Throughout October and November, you will also be able to view the world’s biggest annual free outdoor sculpture exhibition – Sculpture by the Sea – along the route.
Royal Botanic Garden
An oasis of 30 hectares in the heart of the city, the Royal Botanic Garden occupies one of Sydney’s most spectacular positions: wrapping around the harbour and sitting adjacent to the Sydney Opera House. With a long history dating back to 1816, it is home to an outstanding collection of plants from Australia and overseas.
Enjoy a stroll, pack a picnic lunch, join a free guided tour (the Aboriginal Heritage Tour is a highlight) or come for one of the many memorable events held in the lush antipodean-accented parklands.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
With more than 40 exhibitions annually and vast collections of Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, European and Asian art, there is always something new to discover at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The gallery is only a 15min walk from the city centre and admission is free, as are the daily guided tours. Stop for lunch or a coffee at the on-site restaurant, or visit on a Wednesday evening until 10pm for Art After Hours for celebrity talks, music, performances and other special events.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Housed in the former Maritime Services in Circular Quay, the MCA is Australia's leading museum dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art. Featuring more than 4,000 works by homegrown artists, including a strong emphasis on works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the gallery also hosts a continually changing range of exhibitions. Free guided tours are conducted each day and, once you are finished getting an arts and culture fix, the rooftop MCA Cafe and Sculpture Terrace offers modern Australian fare alongside incredible views of Sydney Harbour.
The Rocks is the birthplace of modern Sydney. With the arrival of European settlers in 1788, it was here that the convicts first set up house and shop. The best way to discover the area’s rich colonial history is on foot as you amble along cobbled streets and follow little laneways that house everything from markets to museums and galleries. Join The Rocks Walking Tours, which start at 6pm outside Cadman’s Cottage, before relaxing in one of the many historic pubs in the area such as The Fortune of War or The Glenmore.
Sydney Tower Eye
The 309-metre-tall Sydney Tower Eye takes you to the highest point above Sydney for breathtaking 360-degree views. On a clear day, the vistas stretch from the golden beaches of the Eastern Suburbs to the distant Blue Mountains. Starting with the 4D experience – a short film giving you a bird’s-eye view of the city – the visit then takes you to the observation deck, 250 metres above ground. Adrenaline junkies should opt for the guided Skywalk – which circumnavigates the tower along an outside ledge – and those interested in a tipple with an unrivalled panorama should head to Bar 83.
Just 12mins from the city by ferry, the award-winning Taronga Zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, including Australian native wildlife, as well as rare and endangered exotic animals. Open 365 days a year, admission includes daily keeper talks and shows, and access to the Sky Safari, Sydney's only cable car. For a unique stay like no other, book into the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga, an eco-retreat nestled within the zoo.
Sydney isn't the only global city with a Chinatown, but this one is bigger, better and boasts more than most thanks to the Chinese immigrants that started arriving in the 1800s. You can find everything here, from small specialist stores and sprawling Asian grocers to noodle bars in hidden food halls and tucked-away fine-dining restaurants. Not to mention lively markets and late-night karaoke. Must-visits include the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Paddys Markets, and foodie hotspots Mamak and Gumshara.