What to do in Sydney

Sydney city is a beautiful one with plenty of buildings and shopping malls lovingly interspersed with gardens and parks. There is so much to do but, unlike most cities, it isn’t all crammed together in one tiny space bustling with cars and people. In my opinion it is like being in London, only quieter. With more beautiful places. And less people. And cockatoos and ibis instead of boring grey pigeons. Basically miles better than London! Here are just a few of the many things you can do in this vibrant city, I’ll let you explore the rest of the city yourselves!

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Cockatoos in the Botanical Gardens



Opera House and Harbour Bridge

You cannot visit Sydney without seeing the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Just as iconic as the Statue of Liberty is to New York, as the Eiffel tower is to Paris and as the Colosseum is to Rome, the Opera House is to Sydney. Those white sail shaped roofs against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour water is a picture that has been seen by most across the globe, yet it doesn’t beat seeing it in person. They are larger than I expected them to be, and surprisingly separate, as the most famous view of the landmark (below) does not show the gaps between the sails. I believe the 3 best views you can get of the Opera House is from the ferry to/from Manly, from The Rocks, and from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and if you are lucky enough to visit Sydney during Vivid festival then you will get an even more spectacular view.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge


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Sydney Opera House during Vivid Festival


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A different view of the Opera House




Manly creates the perfect day trip from the city and is especially popular on cheap travel Sunday’s. Just hop on a ferry to Manly and make your way straight to the beach! Personally I found this beach nicer than the more popular Bondi beach (ooooh controversial I know!) as it was more sheltered here and so was miles less windy (obviously this is why Bondi is more popular for surfers). This meant I could enjoy the sunshine more and not get freezing cold within minutes of being on the beach like at Bondi. This area is very popular with families with young children and also surfers so it can get busy. I quite happily relaxed for a few hours here watching the volleyball club play and the beginner surfer classes take to the waves. There are plenty of restaurants obviously with numerous fish and chip shops to choose from. Also don’t miss the ice cream stall at Manly pier called Gelatissimo, they do the best ice cream!

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Manly Beach



Cheap travel day Sunday

One fantastic scheme that Sydney city runs is the cheap travel day on Sunday. If you have an opal card this means that every Sunday you can take as many trips as you want and your total for the day will be just $2.50! I used this day as my day to get around as there is so much money to be saved. So one day I went whale watching (see below) and the other I went to lots of shopping malls, the botanic gardens, the cinema and art galleries (the Gallery of New South Wales is a good one) across town. If you want to get a ferry at all then I suggest you do this on cheap Sunday’s as ferry trips are usually expensive.

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This gorgeously green building is home to one of Sydney’s shopping malls



The Rocks weekend market

If you know me at all then you will know that I love a market, especially if there are food stalls. So when I visit a new city I try and seek out the best markets. One market I did visit in Sydney is The Rocks Weekend Market. This is certainly not the biggest market I have been to (I’m looking at you Chatuchak in Bangkok!!) but I loved it. There were little gazebos each with handmade craft items, delicious speciality food, Australian style souvenirs, and many more. My purchases from one morning included strawberry and apple liquorice, a Sydney greetings card, raspberry lemonade, a wooden kangaroo and some spaghetti carbonara made in a giant cheese! I had my eye on some gorgeous handmade jewellery stalls which were out of my budget but instead made do with getting as many free samples of food and beauty items as possible. There is always live music going on as well which makes a really nice atmosphere to while away a few hours.

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Market stalls at The Rocks



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Spaghetti in a giant cheese!



Darling Harbour

This area of Sydney is a little beauty, with gorgeous restaurants lining the harbour for alfresco dining on warm evenings and beautiful boats passing through the waters, its not one to miss! There is also plenty to keep kids entertained with the likes of Madame Tussaud’s, Wildlife Sydney experience and the Sealife centre to name a few.

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Darling Harbour during Vivid Festival



Whale watching

If you are a fan of the gentle giants of the sea then you have 2 options for a chance to spot them. 1, you can fork out potentially $80AU (almost £50) to go on a tour where it is not guaranteed to see them, but if you do, it is likely they will be close. Or 2, you can do the thrifty option like I did and spend just $2.50! Spending £50 to potentially not see any whales seemed stupid. So I downloaded a whale watching app called Wild About Whales NSW where people plot exactly when and where they have seen whales, what species and what behaviour they witnessed. I looked in the past few days where the most whales had been spotted and used my $2.50 travel day opal card to get me there (Manly) in the morning. Bring binoculars if you have them and watch where the whale watching tour boats are. I spotted 3 boats in one spot across the harbour so zoomed in on my camera and saw 2 humpback whales! I watched the pair swim around the whole bay until they were below me just metres from the coastline. This was even closer than the tour boats as they have to keep their distance. Tip; look out for them blowing as this is easiest to spot, especially when the water is calm.

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The Blue Mountains

When you are hiking your way up a mountain, through a forest, or going past waterfalls and amazing views, it is hard to believe you are only an hour from Sydney’s bustling city centre. The Blue Mountains, famous for their bluish tinge looking across the horizon, easily provides a day of adventure for hikers of all ages and experiences. There are so many trails to choose from and a good starting point is the Visitor centre at Echo Point in Katoomba. Have a chat with one of the staff at the centre to find out what trail best suits you and go visit the Three Sisters before heading off. This rock formation is from an ancient Aboriginal legend which says that 3 sisters fell in love with 3 brothers from a different tribe. This was forbidden, so the angry brothers decided to try and steal the sisters away, causing an almighty war between the 2 tribes. The local witch doctor feared for the sisters lives and so turned them to stone to protect them while the war was ongoing. Unfortunately the witch doctor died in battle and so the three sisters could not be returned to their human form, which is where they still are today. This is a great starting point for a hike, with trails ranging from an hour to 6 hours or more, so it is up to you what difficulty you choose. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, a packed lunch and your camera for those amazing views!

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The Three Sisters


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Get your taste buds tingling at Spice Alley

Down a back alley is probably the last place you would imagine to find a foodie paradise, but that is exactly where you will find Spice Alley. This little haven of Asian street food sells famous dishes from countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese which is all really fresh and really fast. There are lots of tables and chairs here so order and pay for your food (by card/loaded card) and take a seat for a few minutes while your food is cooked. I had some delicious duck pancakes here which were the best I have ever tasted!

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Incredible duck pancakes!



Bars and pubs

If you are after a drink in the evening then there are two places I can recommend. The first is the 36th floor of the Shangri-La hotel. This place may be pricy but the views over part of the harbour are fantastic so try and get a seat by the window, or if you have a few more pounds to spend then eat in the restaurant here for even better views! If you are after something cheaper then the Glenmore rooftop bar is another option. This rooftop may only be on the third floor but it has stunning views of the Sydney Opera House lit up at night, so go check it out.

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View of Sydney Opera House from the Glenmore


View from the Shangri-La



Have you visited Sydney? If you have, what was your favourite thing you did there?


2 thoughts on “What to do in Sydney

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