Despite Sydney being a tad expensive, I have found ten free things to do in this city, to help your budget stretch that little bit further.
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With every city around the world, it’s handy to know where you can find free and fun things to do – and Sydney is no exception! I lived in this wonderful city for four years and experienced most of what this city has to offer, from parks and gardens to iconic monuments and museums. Being on a tight backpacker budget during my first year in Sydney, I understand the importance of seeking out the free attractions to make your cash stretch a little further.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best free things that this city offers, so be sure to add them to your bucket list. I suggest you pull on a comfy pair of shoes and fill up your water bottle as this will involve a lot of walking, so let’s get going!
1. ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
The gallery’s entrance is flanked by impressive marble columns followed by a modern foyer with coffered cement ceilings. What I loved here was the play on the old and new marrying together so well.
The 19th and 20th Century European Art section is my favourite part of the whole museum. There is a magnificent painting from the year 1960 by German painter Neo Rauch, which looked like a 60s version of blocking someone on social media who is no longer your BFF.
Make sure you check out my favourite painting in The John Schaeffer and 19th Century European Art Gallery, called “Requiescat 1888” by Briton Riviere. It shows the body of the dead Black Prince (Edward III of England 1330-1376) lying dead in his armour, with his faithful dog guarding his master through the night… I think I might have something in my eye!
Don’t miss the excellent Sidney Nolan room too! The Ned Kelly pieces are my personal favourites. Take my advice. Skip the Minimalism and Abstraction section unless this is your thing. It really is skip-worthy!
Art Gallery Road, Sydney, NSW 2000 | www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
2. BONDI BEACH
This country has the most incredible coastline with thousands of stunning beaches, but this is the one on everyone’s bucket list! I believe you go to Bondi for the vibes, café culture, friendly locals, and great shopping, not the beach. As far as beaches go, sorry folks, I have seen way better, which I will share with you on this blog.
Bondi Beach, NSW, 2026 | http://www.bondibeach.com
3. DARLING HARBOUR
There is so much to see and do in Darling Harbour that you would struggle to see everything in one day. There are some great bars, such as Blackbird Café and Pontoon, as well as many eateries, including the Hard Rock Café, which only opened a few years ago. As far as attractions go, this is where you come to have fun. You have the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Zoo and Madame Tussaud’s all in the same area. Just a short walk to the opposite side of the harbour is the Maritime Museum and Harbourside Shopping Center, and my personal favourite, the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
Recently, they have added their own Ferris Wheel called “Star of the Show.” It’s no London Eye, but it does change colour and looks lovely at night with the rest of Darling Harbour lit up behind it. Make sure to check out the free War Memorials outside the Convention Center, which are an emotionally moving tribute.
Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.darlingharbour.com
4. SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE AND THE NEW YEARS EVE FIREWORKS
Located on Circular Quay is the most famous bridge in the world, the iconic Harbour Bridge, more affectionately known as the Coat Hanger by the locals. You can walk across for cracking views of the Oprah House and harbour day or night
The bridge also hosts the world-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks each year at midnight. It was December 2006 when I experienced this once-in-a-lifetime event. The anticipation started to amp up at around 11:30 PM and there was a real party atmosphere. The excitement and buzz of the event were well worth waiting all day for.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.sydneyharbourbridge.info
5. HYDE PARK
There is nothing like a lovely green space in a busy city, where you can escape to for some quiet time or wander amongst the tree-lined pathways and forget your daily worries, and Hyde Park offers you just that.
There are several notable statues and monuments in the park, such as the ANZAC Memorial, which has a collection of artifacts from past wars, and a statue of Captain Cook, who helped discover Australia and map the east coast. Also, check out the Archibald Fountain, named after J.F Archibald, with its beautiful water feature surrounded by imposing-looking statues.
Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au
6. QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING (QVB)
Whenever I shop in Sydney, this is always my favourite place to start. It will feel like you have stepped back in time, with the detailed patterned tiles, ornate balustrades’ and industrial style look. The cleverly extended underground connects you to Town Hall Train Station as well as other department stores and shopping areas on Pitt Street, so it’s great for a chilly or rainy day.
Head to the top floor and take in the view from above of the beautiful floor tiles. Be sure to check out the interesting mini exhibits behind the glass, almost like a micro museum of artifacts on the first floor.
If you are ever here around December, I highly recommend checking out the annual Christmas tree that stretches up to the 5th floor and is the biggest one I have ever seen. It’s amazing!
455 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.qvb.com.au
7. ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS
The Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney are some of the most beautiful I have ever visited. There are so many Instagrammable spots, lush greenery to explore that you could easily spend a few hours here relaxing on the lawns or following the paths which lead you past beautiful statues and flower beds.
Some of the highlights include the Rose Gardens, with its roses surrounded by neatly boxed hedges, and the Armillary Sphere garden, lined with colourful plants and great views down to the water. There is even a full-size Koala made of plants and flowers, which is really cool! Head to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair for the best views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
If you have got kids with you, don’t miss out on the Choo Choo Express. This bright red train chugs along through the park, which would be a fun way to explore and cut out some walking if it is particularly hot. [>>>>> Full Post Click Here <<<<<]
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au
8. ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL
With Australia having a relatively short history, I ignorantly assumed that this cathedral wouldn’t be that impressive. I am happy to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised. St. Mary’s Cathedral is beautiful and best of all, it’s free!
It is built from Sydney sandstone in a Gothic revival style with beautiful stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the bible, including one in particular by the front door of a King being beheaded. So yeah, welcome to the church. Please come on in!
The cathedrals crowning glory is its magnificent altar. There are colourful figurines of saints, which interestingly are all of women. Definitely give this place a look. It’s a little treasure!
St Marys Road, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.stmaryscathedral.org.uk
9. THE ROCKS
In 1770, Captain Cook landed his ship, the HMB Endeavor, on Sydney’s harbour, and thus sprang up Australia’s first city. The rest is history! Meander through the streets and you will understand where the area gets its name, as everything is made from or carved out of stone. There is a small but impressive museum called The Rocks Museum, which is completely free, explaining early colonial life and the harsh beginnings the first settlers had to endure. There are plenty of artifacts on display, too, so that you can truly imagine what life was like for them. Nowadays, it is an upmarket area and gets incredibly busy at the weekend, especially when the great markets are on, which happens to be one of my favourites in Australia. It offers a great atmosphere, views, and awesome wears. Definitely worth a visit!
There are still many old colonial and Victorian-era buildings too, such as the First Central Hospital, the old Bank, and Police Station with their grand facades. They are now home to several boutique shops and cafes. Also, check out Nurses Walk, the narrowest street in Sydney. I came across it one afternoon while still daylight and found it so spooky. Halfway down the lane, you will see how noticeably thinner it gets, to the point where you can’t stretch your arms out entirely at the bottom. I kept looking behind me, thinking I was being followed! Creepy!
The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000 | http://www.therocks.com
I’ve only been to Manly once. It was with my husband Zac on Valentine’s Day many moons ago. Just like Bondi, you come here for the atmosphere, not the beach, but it’s still a beautiful area. Take the ferry from Circular Quay in the morning and sit outside at the front. If you’re lucky enough, you might see dolphins jumping alongside the ferry.
When you alight at the pier, the beach is just to your left. There’s the free Manly Art Gallery and Museum further along the esplanade, displaying some cool art from local artists. We also had the most amazing fish and chips in one of the restaurants on the main street too.
Many Beach, Manly, NSW 2095 | http://www.manlyaustralia.com.au
Are you planning to visit Sydney after the pandemic is over? Have you visited this wonderful city before? Let me know in the comments below.
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