By Briana Seftel
Australia’s largest city is a buzzing, spectacularly beautiful metropolis that’s never too far away from the surrounding beauty of New South Wales. Famous for its harbor, scratch the surface of Sydney and you will find endless treasures, from culinary to historic. Whether you plan on spending one day or one week here, you’ll need to know what to see and where to go. Here are the top 10 things to do in Sydney!
1. Cruise the Sydney Harbour
With its nickname “Harbour City,” you simply cannot go to Sydney without visiting its harbor. Regarded as one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world, it was here that the British first arrived in the late 1700s. One of the best ways to experience the harbor is by cruise, which depart throughout the day from the Circular Quay. For those wanting to save a few extra bucks, you can take a ferry to one of the many points along the harbor and explore on your own.
2. See a show at the Sydney Opera House
This iconic structure, completed in 1973, is perhaps the most recognizable image of Australia, apart from kangaroos and koalas. See a show and hear the incredible acoustics at the Opera House, which hosts more than 40 performances each week. If opera isn’t really your thing, you can also opt for a two hour guided backstage tour, taking place daily at 7am (don’t worry, breakfast is included!)
3. Get up close and personal with animals at Taronga Zoo
With more than 4,000 animals and a picturesque harborside setting, it’s no secret Taronga Zoo is one of the most popular attractions for all ages. Say hello to all the Aussie animals you could dream of, including koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils and platypuses. Kids will love the zoo’s Wild Ropes adventure with its zip-lines and suspension bridges. To get to this zoo, you must catch a ferry from Circular Quay.
4. Hang ten at Bondi Beach
Out of Sydney’s more than 100 beaches, Bondi Beach is arguably the most iconic. On a sunny day there’s no better place to spend a lazy afternoon than on this fine stretch of sand. But don’t think of Bondi as just a beach: it’s actually an entire village filled with cafés, restaurants, shops and hotels known as the “Bondi Bubble.” If you’re looking to catch a few waves, Bondi is a great place to learn how to surf.
5. Go off-the-beaten path at the Royal National Park
Just 18 miles south of the city, the Royal National Park is a wonderful area to take in the beauty of New South Wales. This 58 square mile national park is the second oldest national park in the world, after Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. Popular for its coastal walk, beaches, watering holes and bushwalks, you could easily spend an entire day exploring this hidden gem.
6. Go on a pub crawl in The Rocks
Considered the birthplace of modern Sydney, The Rocks was where British settlers first arrived in 1788. In addition to its cobbled lanes, markets and charming architecture, this harborside quarter is also home to Sydney’s oldest pubs - perfect for a pub crawl! Sip Australian craft beers and munch on Aussie favorites like sausage rolls and meat pies.
7. Enjoy the catch of the day at Sydney Fish Market
Seafood lovers won’t want to miss the dazzling array of freshly-caught goods at the Sydney Fish Market, the second largest fish market after Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji market. Business begins bright and early at 5:30am with a live auction, while visitors can purchase a behind the scenes tour to see the action up close. Choose from a variety of restaurants serving the catch of the day and enjoy your meal by the waterfront.
8. Peep the art at Art Gallery of NSW
Established in 1871, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is Australia’s premier art museum showcasing works by past and present Australian and international artists. In addition to incredible Aboriginal artwork, the gorgeous, light-filled colonial building offers stunning views of Sydney and the harbor. Plus, admission is free!
9. Scale the top of Sydney Harbor Bridge
Adventure seekers will want to scale the top of Sydney Harbor Bridge, known affectionately as “The Coathanger.” Book a BridgeClimb and scale the bridge, which is 440 feet above seal level at its peak. Whether you choose a climb at dawn or dusk, visitors will have unbeatable views of the harbor and city skyline. Scared of heights? You can also just walk or bike across the bridge.
10. Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains
Okay, we know this last one isn’t technically in the city, but if you plan on spending a few days or weeks in Sydney, then you must make a trip out to the Blue Mountains. Just under a two hour drive, the Blue Mountains National Park spans 2.5 million acres of bushland, forests, sandstone cliffs and charming townships. The most famous feature of the park is a rock formation known as the Three Sisters.
Bonus: One Central Park
Not to be confused with New York’s Central Park, this mixed-use building in Sydney is one of the most unusual skyscrapers you’ll ever see. Look up and be amazed by the greenery growing out of every crack and crevice, making it the world’s tallest vertical garden.