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The Essential Sydney Travel Guide

With the ocean to the east, the mountains to the west, and the bustle of the city at its heart, Sydney is a destination like no other, and we know all the best spots to discover.

Whether you’re visiting Sydney for the first time or you’re a seasoned traveller returning to your favourite destination, there’s always something new to discover in this ever-changing city. Follow our Sydney travel guide and visit with confidence, with your sights set on Sydney’s must-visit attractions.

Where to eat in Sydney
Dining by Darling Harbour in Sydney Credit: Tourism Australia

Where to eat in Sydney

Sydney is such a bustling metropolis, there are so many eateries to choose from. You could spend years in Sydney and never eat at the same place twice.

Where to eat in Surry Hills
Surry Hills is home to casual pubs where you can grab an oven-fresh pizza or tender chicken burger. But this suburb is also home to some of the most unique restaurants within the heart of Sydney.
A place like Arthur, in Surry Hills, is one of the best places to eat in Sydney for a totally unique experience. You won’t be able to wander in off the street, like the popular bars in the suburb. You’ll need to book ahead if you want to take in Arthur’s unique, set, multiple course menu. Explore our Surry Hills guide to find more restaurants to indulge at when in the area.
Q Dining
Q Dining in Circular Quay

Where to eat by Sydney Harbour

Moments away from the Circular Quay train station and just a short walk from the iconic Sydney Opera House, stroll into elegance at Q Dining for some fine dining and to enjoy their bright, open dining space. With a massive wall of glass that separates you from the outdoors, you’ll never miss a moment of taking in the stunning sights of Sydney.

Try the pan roasted snapper with diamond clams and pair it with a wine like the Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc. Or maybe the wagyu beef rump with a glass of the Whistler Shiraz. And of course, no meal would be complete without desert. Try the Zokoko chocolate mousse with salted caramel and praline ice cream if you have a sweet tooth or keep it savoury with an Australian artisan cheese selection with poached fruit and lavosh.

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Where to eat Vegan in Sydney

Every Sydney Vegan will tell you that the best vegan spot in the city is Bodhi. Stop by at lunch time for yum cha lunch and enjoy some vegetarian and faux meat dumplings. Whether you maintain a vegan diet or not, there’s plenty of amazing food that you’ll enjoy. Dine outside and enjoy the intersection of nature with all the brutalist charm of modern Sydney and the serenity of the nearby parklands.<o:p></o:p>

Dining at Sydney Opera House
Dining at the Sydney Opera House Credit: Tourism Australia

Where to eat in the centre of Sydney

In the heart of Sydney, there are plenty of restaurants that will call out to you, but the humble Alberto’s Lounge, an Italian eatery and wine bar, is one of the best. The menu is full of hand-made pasta that has been prepared with care and love for the food. The dishes feature a balance of subtle and bold flavours that dance across your tastebuds and keep you coming back for more.<o:p></o:p>

Ask the friendly staff for their recommendation of wine pairing from their extensive wine collection to take this charming dinner to the next level. Try wines from Tuscany and Sicily and even order by the carafe if you’re dining as a group. And just outside the window, you’ll spy a bespoke mural created by local artist Allie Webb for Alberto’s so that all your senses are entertained and delighted.<o:p></o:p>

Where to eat under the Sydney sun

Sydney is a city known for its amazing views, so why not grab a bite to eat while basking in the sun and taking in those views? Head to the suburb, Barangaroo and up to Untied, a rooftop bar and restaurant with some of the best brunch options in the city. Just make sure to book ahead of time to secure your spot as it’s one of the most popular destinations in Sydney.<o:p></o:p>

Where to grab cheap eats

Up and down the east coast of Australia, cafés will promise that they can deliver the best pies in Australia. But Harry’s Café de Wheels is determined to give them all a run for their money. Harry’s has been operating out of Woolloomooloo for over 80 years and has served guests including Frank Sinatra and Harry, the Duke of Sussex. Grab yourself a pie, a hotdog, or a burger—vegetarian options are always available. When you need a quick feed on a budget, with a side of retro-chic style, the iconic Harry’s is a must-visit Sydney staple.<o:p></o:p>

The iconic Messina Gelato bar
The iconic Messina Gelato bar Credit: Tourism Australia

Where to satisfy your sweet tooth in Sydney

A quintessential part of Sydney’s history, Messina opened their first store in Darlinghurst in 2002 and the city has been in love with their gelato ever since.<o:p></o:p>

If you’re not in the mood for an icy treat and you want something warm in your belly, head to Chinatown and to the Emperor’s Garden. No need to book a table, just stop by their window to grab a handful of their iconic cream puffs. Each puff is only 50c, which is great because as soon as you finish one you’ll be craving another.<o:p></o:p>

Sydney Harbour
Chug along the harbour in an iconic yellow and green Sydney ferry. Credit: Tourism Australia

Where to play in Sydney

Whether you’re travelling with kids in Sydney, discovering the city with a partner or friends, or exploring on your own, there are plenty of things to see and do in Sydney.<o:p></o:p>

Exploring Sydney

Discovering the best of Sydney means different things to different people. There are the classic attractions: Paddy’s Market for a day of shopping, the Sydney Opera House to take in a show, and the Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck for views of the city from up high. But Sydney is home to some hidden gems like the Paddington Reservoir Gardens—an old reservoir that’s now home to hanging gardens completely transport you to another place. There’s also Forgotten Songs, a permanent art installation of a seemingly endless collection of bird cages suspended above one of Sydney’s narrow streets.<o:p></o:p>

Take a stroll through the historic precinct of The Rocks, home to Sydney’s oldest cobblestoned streets and lose yourself amidst cosy specialty shops, bakeries and fine dining restaurants. Expect to find some of the oldest pubs in Sydney here. Our favourite is the Hero of Waterloo where you can experience the Folk and Jazz sounds of the Old Time Band on Friday evenings and weekends whilst sipping your favourite beer-on-tap.

For some excitement, kids of all ages (even the grown-up ones that might think they’re too old for an amusement park) will love a trip to Sydney’s Luna Park. Try thrill rides to get your adrenaline pumping, family-friendly rides for some fun with the little ones, and sideshow games to test your skills. 

Note: Luna Park is getting a facelift and will be transformed into a world-class amuesement park and tourist destintion fit for the 21st century. As result of the facelift the park will close for renovations on January 27, 2021 and re-open in mid-June 2021. For more information click here.

No trip to Sydney would be complete without visiting at least one of the city’s iconic beaches. Bondi Beach is known across the country, and for good reason. Cool, ocean waters crash against soft, white sands, and on a sunny day, the beach is full of like-minded beach-lovers looking to have some fun in the sun. Make sure you take a quick snap at one of the most Instagrammable places in Sydney, Bondi Icebergs Club. Your family and friends are bound to message you with some serious FOMO.
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Museum of Contemporary Art
Even the exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art blends classic and modern art styles Credit: Tourism Australia

Sydney Museums and Galleries 

One of the best places to visit in Sydney to take in the culture of the city is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Peruse the galleries and wander through roving exhibitions before heading up to the rooftop to grab a bite to eat from the museum restaurant. The restaurant’s menu is always changing to complement the exhibitions currently on display. The rooftop dining space looks out over the Circular Quay and is one of the best views in the whole city. Visit during the school holidays to take advantage of all the kid-friendly activities the museum offers!<o:p></o:p>

There’s also the Museum of Sydney where you can discover stories and histories from Australia’s past. This museum is one of the best activities in Sydney for kids, thanks to the hands-on learning opportunities available. Plan your trip so that you can visit a display that interests you, or pop by when you have a spare afternoon.<o:p></o:p>

For the science-lovers, the Powerhouse Museum (or the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) will be an unmissable attraction. Collections range from retrospectives of Australian guitars to speculative pieces about future homes to exhibitions about space exploration. And no one will forget the full-scale steam engine and locomotive exhibition in the museum that brings the age of steam travel to the present. The museum’s entrance is near an exit of the Goods Line, an elevated pedestrian walkway that helps Sydney pedestrians get around and is a very handy addition for Sydney tourists.
Bondi Icebergs Club
Beautiful summer day at Bondi Beach and Bondi Icebergs Club

Sydney's Eastern Suburbs

For a more secluded seaside escape, try heading north of Bondi beach towards Vaucluse. Within Nielsen Park is Shark Beach, but don’t worry about any nasties—Shark Beach is a popular swimming spot, though not nearly as popular as Bondi. Bring the towels and sunscreen and relax on the soft sands before enjoying a dip in the water, away from the crowds. Then head back up the shore to The Nielsen café for some fish and chips and a coffee.<o:p></o:p>

Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs might only be a quick trip from the CBD, but they can feel like a world away. Beaches, cafés, and coastal walks take centre stage with plenty of things to discover in the Eastern Suburbs along the way.<o:p></o:p>

The bucket list of things to do in Sydney

Sydney is known around the world for its incredible landmarks, attractions and fun-fill adventures in and around the city. If you are only spending a few days visiting Sydney then here is a great Sydney bucket list on the unmissable things to do in Sydney:<o:p></o:p>

  • Spend the day at the Sydney Opera House
  • Visit or better yet, climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Take a ferry over to Taronga Zoo
  • Soak up the sun at the world famous Bondi Beach and Bondi Icebergs Club
  • Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains
  • Take in 360 degree views of Sydney at Sydney Tower Eye
  • Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine at Watson’s Bay Boutique
  • Walk along the Bondi to Coogee coastal track
  • Take a ferry to Manly, stroll along the Corso and take a surfing lesson at Manly Beach
  • Visit the Sydney Fish Markets for fresh seafood, market goods and a range of quality dining options without the price tag
  • Boutique shopping in Paddington
  • Hop aboard a Harbour Cruise
  • Explore Paddington Markets
Best ways to get around Sydney

The city of Sydney is dotted with train stations that are connected on the city circuit line. Get yourself an Opal Card (the local public transportation card) and you can tap on and tap off. There’s also a comprehensive bus system that connects through the city if you can’t find a train heading to your destination. Public transport even includes the ferries that cross Sydney harbour. Sydney’s new light rail runs from Circular Quay to Central Station and beyond (even to Randwick and Dulwich Hill). Public transport is the best way to get around the city at low-cost.

The Hop on Hop off Sydney bus tour is also a great way to travel around Australia’s largest city, making sure to see all of Sydney’s best attractions.

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Where to stay in Sydney

There are plenty of options when it comes to Sydney accommodation, so many that you might feel overwhelmed by the choices. To make things easier, consider where in the city you want to stay.

Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, looking out over the bustling city and the serene harbour.

Where to Stay in Darling Harbour

A short walk from some of the best shopping in the city and home to timeless glamour, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will easily become your home away from home. Greg Brady, the hotel manager, encourages you to “live the French way at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour and step into a world of relaxation, romance and waterfront sophistication.” With an invitation like that, who could refuse? There are plenty of hotels in Darling Harbour if you are looking for a more family friendly or budget friendly options.<o:p></o:p>


Harbour Rocks Hotel
The historic Sydney Harbour Rocks Hotel, swathed in a warm and inviting aura

Where to stay in the Rocks

The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest suburb, full of charming, stone-laid laneways and historic buildings. When you book accommodation in The Rocks, you won’t be staying in a towering skyscraper. Instead, spend your time amongst the history in the Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney. Glimpse through time when you step inside and enjoy the city life just moments away when you step outside. Head to the rooftop and enjoy stunning views with your morning coffee. Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney is just one of many boutique hotels from the range of Accor properties.

Novotel Sydney Darling Square
Novotel Sydney Darling Square

The Novotel Sydney Darling Square prides itself on its ability to straddle two worlds. On one side, it’s a space of serenity, just moments away from the Chinese Garden of Friendship, while also being near all the exciting essentials of Sydney—the Convention Centre, Darling Quarter, Chinatown, and Darling Harbour. The newly refurbished Novotel simply breathes modern, simple elegance in its rooms and its façade. Discover more centrally located hotels in Sydney CBD.<o:p></o:p>

Where to Stay on a Budget

Staying in a city rarely comes cheap, but fortunately Sydney has plenty of budget accommodation options for anyone visiting on a budget. Stay close to the CBD delights as well as the enchanting, oceanic views of the harbour at the ibis Sydney King Street Wharf. This bright and modern hotel is full of bright, well-lit rooms that make for the perfect home base when you are out, exploring the city.<o:p></o:p>

Sydney City
The lights of the city give Sydney an entirely new aesthetic, come sundown. Credit: Tourism Australia

Where to Party in Sydney

Sydney is fun to explore in the day, but the city comes alive at night. There are plenty of nightlife hotspots scattered in every corner of Sydney, there’s sure to be at least one that draws you in.<o:p></o:p>

Try the underground bar, The Baxter Inn. Enjoy cosy interior decorating and treat yourself to one of their many, many whiskys. Order one from the top shelf and the staff ring the top shelf bell to celebrate. <o:p></o:p>

Step into vintage glamour at Eau De Vie. Enjoy their Cocktail Theatre—each cocktail inspired by a particular theatre from around the world—as well as signature cocktails from each member of the staff. And any theatre lover will be tempted to try one of Shakespeare’s favourite cocktails. If you want to learn more, you can book yourself in for a masterclass to learn from the experts. <o:p></o:p>

While many cocktails bars try to stand out from the crowd with exciting themes and entertainment, Grandma’s Bar does the opposite. Grandma’s evokes the welcoming atmosphere we associate with going to visit grandma. They pride themselves on their hospitality, offering a home away from home where you can enjoy a drink and a snack that’s been made with love, just like at grandma’s. <o:p></o:p>

Settle down with a glass of bubbly and take in the amazing city views from the Champagne Bar. With an extensive list of champagne on offer as well as cocktails for anyone looking to spice up their champagne or try something new, the pure decadence of the Champagne Bar will have you feeling like you never want to leave. <o:p></o:p>

When you’re ready to dance the night away to house and techno music, make your way to Goodbar. Goodbar has played home to international artists performing their music for lively crowds. The nightclub has two separate levels, one on the ground floor and one in the building’s basement, and both spots come alive on Friday and Saturday nights. <o:p></o:p>

How to unwind in Sydney

The beauty of Sydney is that you can enjoy inner peace surrounded by nature or a little self pleasure with a spa date.
The Sydney Botanic Gardens make for a great picnic spot, or the perfect spot to escape with a good book. Credit: Tourism Australia
The Sydney Botanic Gardens

Unwind in nature in Sydney

Once you’ve spent an evening making the most of Sydney’s nightlife, you might need some time to relax and recuperate. <o:p></o:p>

Grab yourself a picnic and head up the hill to the Dudley Page Reserve. The serene patch of greenery offers views of the city, the harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Opera House, all while feeling detached and calm. If you're with the family, the kids can hop on the swing set and play equipment or just run around and expend some of their limitless energy.<o:p></o:p>

Spend some more time in nature by heading to the Royal Botanic Garden and getting lost amongst the trees, if only for an afternoon. The 30 hectares of land includes areas dedicated to native plants, a serene pond where flora and fauna thrive, and a romantic rose garden that’s perfect for strolls with a loved one. Here you’ll also find Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair – a chair carved from exposed sandstone rock that has great historical significance. Take a seat and experience gorgeous harbour views, the perfect location for a holiday snap. <o:p></o:p>

Swissotel Sydney Spa
Sydney has plenty of day spas to choose from—when it comes to spoiling yourself, you’re spoilt for choice. Credit: Tourism Australia

Unwind at a Sydney Spa

If relaxing in nature hasn’t helped you unwind, consider a trip to one of Sydney’s amazing day spas. Check with the concierge if your hotel offers spa treatments, since some of Sydney’s best spas are within Sydney’s hotels.. For example, in the heart of the CBD, there’s the Swissôtel Sydney Spa. Skilled therapists combine techniques from all over the world to offer the best treatment to help ease your woes. Book yourself in for a treatment that will take care of your stiff joints and aching muscles to soothe your body so that you’re well-rested for your journey home or reinvigorated to continue your Sydney adventure.<o:p></o:p>

With plenty of activities and sights calling your name, all you need to do is start planning your Sydney trip. Book your Sydney accommodation and bring yourself one step closer to your dream Sydney escape. And if you want to explore beyond the CBD, there’s a whole world of Greater Sydney waiting for you.<o:p></o:p>

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