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Best Things To Do in Sydney

Sydney's famous beaches are some of the city's most popular attractions for locals and visitors alike. Although they can get crowded on warm Aussie days, beaches like Coogee, Bondi and Manly cannot be missed. And if you'd rather take to the water, exploring Darling Harbour or Sydney Harbour by boat is a must. Sydney Harbour also offers prime views of some of the city's most famous landmarks, including Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There are plenty of museums to explore, too, such as the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Australian National Maritime Museum, while the Royal Botanic Garden and The Rocks neighborhood are ideal for a leisurely stroll.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Sydney

Free
The Sydney Harbour Bridge stands next to the Opera House as one of the city's most iconic landmarks. Lovingly called the "Coathanger" by locals, this towering structure holds the distinction of being the world's largest steel arch bridge. And while you can capture stunning pictures of the bridge from one of Sydney Harbour's ferry boats, for an unforgettable experience, sign up for a bridge climb through BridgeClimb Sydney. Ranging from nearly two to nearly four hours in length, the bridge climb provides visitors with panoramic views of the Harbour, Sydney skyline and Opera House.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge stands next to the Opera House as one of the city's most iconic landmarks. Lovingly called the "Coathanger" by locals, this towering structure holds the distinction of being the world's largest steel arch bridge. And while you can capture stunning pictures of the bridge from one of Sydney Harbour's ferry boats, for an unforgettable experience, sign up for a bridge climb through BridgeClimb Sydney. Ranging from nearly two to nearly four hours in length, the bridge climb provides visitors with panoramic views of the Harbour, Sydney skyline and Opera House.
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#2

#2 in Sydney

Free
Many visitors say that Sydney Harbour's 150 miles of shoreline and more than 30 square miles of water make it the most beautiful natural harbor in the world, and they just might be right. Blue water laps up to sandy shores over which landmarks like the Royal Botanic Garden and the Sydney Opera House preside. Another iconic site, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, towers above the harbor's waters. But for the best view of Sydney Harbour, travelers must pay a visit to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, which sits at the tip of one of the area's peninsulas.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Sydney Harbour
Many visitors say that Sydney Harbour's 150 miles of shoreline and more than 30 square miles of water make it the most beautiful natural harbor in the world, and they just might be right. Blue water laps up to sandy shores over which landmarks like the Royal Botanic Garden and the Sydney Opera House preside. Another iconic site, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, towers above the harbor's waters. But for the best view of Sydney Harbour, travelers must pay a visit to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, which sits at the tip of one of the area's peninsulas.
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#3

#3 in Sydney

Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the sailboat-inspired structure – submitted during an international design contest held in 1956 – features more than one million tiles on its four roof shells and six theater and music venues with top-notch acoustics. Bold purple carpeting and sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge also await visitors in the Sydney Opera House's foyer, while a picturesque boardwalk – complete with a trendy bar – sits outside.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sydney Opera House
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the sailboat-inspired structure – submitted during an international design contest held in 1956 – features more than one million tiles on its four roof shells and six theater and music venues with top-notch acoustics. Bold purple carpeting and sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge also await visitors in the Sydney Opera House's foyer, while a picturesque boardwalk – complete with a trendy bar – sits outside.
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#4

#4 in Sydney

Free
Darling Harbour is a pedestrian district filled with a number of entertaining things to do. For instance, you'll find the largest film screen in the world at the LG IMAX Theatre Sydney, as well as the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Harbourside Shopping Centre. Multiple kid-friendly attractions and the city's convention center are also found here, not to mention some delectable cafes and restaurants.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is a pedestrian district filled with a number of entertaining things to do. For instance, you'll find the largest film screen in the world at the LG IMAX Theatre Sydney, as well as the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Harbourside Shopping Centre. Multiple kid-friendly attractions and the city's convention center are also found here, not to mention some delectable cafes and restaurants.
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#5

#5 in Sydney

Free
Though it's a bit smaller than its better known northern counterpart Bondi, Coogee Beach is the quintessential spot for those looking to soak up some sun and swim in Sydney's famous waters. Snorkeling is also a popular pastime here, and the scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is a must. Plus, the eateries along the shore give beach bums several places to refuel.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Coogee Beach
Though it's a bit smaller than its better known northern counterpart Bondi, Coogee Beach is the quintessential spot for those looking to soak up some sun and swim in Sydney's famous waters. Snorkeling is also a popular pastime here, and the scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is a must. Plus, the eateries along the shore give beach bums several places to refuel.
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#6

#6 in Sydney

Free
Earning its name from the sandstone rocks that line Sydney Harbour, this neighborhood is as quaint as it is cool. Its cobblestone streets and 19th-century buildings are oh-so charming, but the shops, pubs, restaurants and galleries are very fun and very au courant. Plus, its prime location next to attractions like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge makes this trendy neighborhood extremely convenient for tourists.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The Rocks
Earning its name from the sandstone rocks that line Sydney Harbour, this neighborhood is as quaint as it is cool. Its cobblestone streets and 19th-century buildings are oh-so charming, but the shops, pubs, restaurants and galleries are very fun and very au courant. Plus, its prime location next to attractions like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge makes this trendy neighborhood extremely convenient for tourists.
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#7

#7 in Sydney

Free
At first glance, Manly Beach, which is located about 10 miles northeast of downtown Sydney, may be just as crowded and active as other area beaches like Bondi and Coogee. However, this sprawling shoreline draws tons of praise from beachgoers, in part because of its distance from the city and prime surfing waves. Those who are hoping to swim, though, may want to venture elsewhere since these waters are known for their rough waves. Former travelers also suggest arriving early if you're planning a weekend trip and want to beat the crowds.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Manly Beach
At first glance, Manly Beach, which is located about 10 miles northeast of downtown Sydney, may be just as crowded and active as other area beaches like Bondi and Coogee. However, this sprawling shoreline draws tons of praise from beachgoers, in part because of its distance from the city and prime surfing waves. Those who are hoping to swim, though, may want to venture elsewhere since these waters are known for their rough waves. Former travelers also suggest arriving early if you're planning a weekend trip and want to beat the crowds.
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#8

#8 in Sydney

Free
Founded in 1816, the 74-acre Royal Botanic Garden abounds with bright and colorful flora and fauna. The park is broken into multiple areas, including Latitude 23 – an enclosed nursery with orchids, ferns and lilies – and an herb garden. Another popular area is the Palace Rose Garden, which houses nearly 1,800 roses and is a well-known Sydney wedding venue.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Royal Botanic Garden
Founded in 1816, the 74-acre Royal Botanic Garden abounds with bright and colorful flora and fauna. The park is broken into multiple areas, including Latitude 23 – an enclosed nursery with orchids, ferns and lilies – and an herb garden. Another popular area is the Palace Rose Garden, which houses nearly 1,800 roses and is a well-known Sydney wedding venue.
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#9

#9 in Sydney

Free
In 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned a bench for his wife, and the city's convicts obliged him by carving Mrs. Macquarie's Chair out of a sandstone rock overlooking Sydney Harbour. To this day, the landmark remains a top attraction thanks to its location, which provides picture-perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge within a single frame.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Mrs. Macquarie's Chair
In 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned a bench for his wife, and the city's convicts obliged him by carving Mrs. Macquarie's Chair out of a sandstone rock overlooking Sydney Harbour. To this day, the landmark remains a top attraction thanks to its location, which provides picture-perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge within a single frame.
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#10

#10 in Sydney

Free
Bondi Beach is best known for its gnarly waves, which make it one of the top surfing destinations in the world. But if you're not ready to hang 10, don't fret. Bondi is also nice for strolling, sunbathing and swimming. Despite its popularity (and its plentiful souvenir shops and surf and fashion boutiques), Bondi maintains an alternative, edgy feel. Topless sunbathing is allowed here as well, though it's mostly limited to areas without children.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is best known for its gnarly waves, which make it one of the top surfing destinations in the world. But if you're not ready to hang 10, don't fret. Bondi is also nice for strolling, sunbathing and swimming. Despite its popularity (and its plentiful souvenir shops and surf and fashion boutiques), Bondi maintains an alternative, edgy feel. Topless sunbathing is allowed here as well, though it's mostly limited to areas without children.
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#11

#11 in Sydney

Considered one of the world's most significant convict locations, this UNESCO World Heritage site was once used to house convicted men and boys brought to Sydney from Great Britain. After Great Britain stopped transporting prisoners to Australia in 1840, convicts were moved to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour and the former barracks were converted into the city's Female Immigration Depot. The Hyde Park Barracks Museum also served as a hostel for orphan girls fleeing the Irish Potato Famine and an asylum for elderly women before shutting its doors in 1886. After its closure, the historic building lay in shambles until an extensive restoration began in 1975. Now the property operates as a museum and archeological treasure.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Considered one of the world's most significant convict locations, this UNESCO World Heritage site was once used to house convicted men and boys brought to Sydney from Great Britain. After Great Britain stopped transporting prisoners to Australia in 1840, convicts were moved to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour and the former barracks were converted into the city's Female Immigration Depot. The Hyde Park Barracks Museum also served as a hostel for orphan girls fleeing the Irish Potato Famine and an asylum for elderly women before shutting its doors in 1886. After its closure, the historic building lay in shambles until an extensive restoration began in 1975. Now the property operates as a museum and archeological treasure.
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#12

#12 in Sydney

Free
Situated in the same park complex that houses the Royal Botanic Garden and Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, the Art Gallery of New South Wales features a variety of indigenous, colonial and contemporary art collections. Everything from photography and Pablo Picasso paintings to aboriginal art and Tang dynasty ceramics can be found here. Additionally, several free artist talks and demonstrations are held throughout the year.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Situated in the same park complex that houses the Royal Botanic Garden and Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, the Art Gallery of New South Wales features a variety of indigenous, colonial and contemporary art collections. Everything from photography and Pablo Picasso paintings to aboriginal art and Tang dynasty ceramics can be found here. Additionally, several free artist talks and demonstrations are held throughout the year.
... more

#13

#13 in Sydney

No harbor city would be complete without a maritime museum, and Sydney's is one of the best. Here, you can view exhibits about everything from fish X-rays to pirates, but that's just scratching the surface. The standout at this maritime museum is the 14 ships docked in Darling Harbour. All are open to museumgoers to board and explore. Notable vessels include the HMAS Vampire, a destroyer ship; the HMAS Onslow, a submarine; the James Craig, a three-masted barque ship; and the Akarana, an 1800s racing yacht.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Australian National Maritime Museum
No harbor city would be complete without a maritime museum, and Sydney's is one of the best. Here, you can view exhibits about everything from fish X-rays to pirates, but that's just scratching the surface. The standout at this maritime museum is the 14 ships docked in Darling Harbour. All are open to museumgoers to board and explore. Notable vessels include the HMAS Vampire, a destroyer ship; the HMAS Onslow, a submarine; the James Craig, a three-masted barque ship; and the Akarana, an 1800s racing yacht.
... more
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