The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Sydney: What To See, Do & Eat

Are you planning a trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia? Here is everything you need to know for a fantastic trip to Sydney.
The Ultimate Guide to Sydney. Photo: Jamie Davies | Unsplash

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Sydney is the largest city by population in Australia and is a must-visit for anyone travelling to the country. 

Located in the eastern state of New South Wales, Sydney is home to the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House. 

Sydney is also known for its fantastic food and drink scene and beautiful beaches. It’s also the perfect base for day trips and weekends away.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Sydney, here is everything you need to know. 

Facts About Sydney 

Sydney Harbour. Photo: Dan Freeman | Unsplash

Home to 5.3 million people, Sydney is the largest city by population in Australia. 

Like everywhere else in Australia, English is the predominant language in Sydney. However, there are several other international languages spoken within their respective communities in the city. 

The currency in Sydney (and everywhere else in the country) is the Australian Dollar (AUD). 

Best Time to Visit Sydney 

Sydney Opera House. Photo: C.Valdez | Unsplash

Sydney enjoys warm summers and mild winters. However, the best time to visit Sydney is from September to November and February to May. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowd is not at its peak. 

June to August (winter) is considered the cheapest time to visit Sydney because of the cooler weather and fewer crowds. 

How to Get Around Sydney 

Sydney Trams. Photo: Luke White | Unsplash

The public transport in Sydney is some of the best in the country. Once you arrive at the airport, the cheapest and fastest way to get to the city centre is by train. 

The train departs from underneath the airport and gets you to the city in around 20 minutes. 

Once you’re in Sydney and ready to explore, there are numerous ways to get around, such as

  • Train
  • Tram
  • Ferry
  • Taxi/Uber
  • Bus
  • Walk
  • Car hire 

If you’re staying in the city centre, the best ways to get around include walking, catching the ferry and trains (especially if you want to go to the eastern beaches).

If you plan on venturing outside the city to the Blue Mountains, the best thing to do is hire a car so you can travel at your own pace. 

Where to Stay in Sydney 

Sydney CBD. Photo: Seb Zurcher | Unsplash

Each area of Sydney has its own unique charm and vibe, which is what makes the city so great! 

Here are five of the best areas to stay in Sydney. 

Circular Quay

If you want to stay in an area close to popular attractions and fantastic restaurants, Circular Quay is the place. 

Circular Quay is the area that has everything. It’s the hub for buses, trains and ferries, making it easy to get around the city. 

You’re also within walking distance of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. 

Since Circular Quay is one of the most popular areas to stay, there is a range of accommodation types to suit all budgets. 

  • Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour (high-end accommodation) 
  • Rydges Sydney Harbour (mid-range accommodation) 
  • Sydney Harbour YHA (low-end accommodation)

City Centre 

If you’re visiting Sydney for the first time, the best place to stay is right in the heart of the city. 

The city centre boasts countless places to eat, drink and shop every day. This area is also within walking distance of many other suburbs, such as Kings Cross (for nightlife), Circular Quay and The Rocks (for transport and restaurants) and Darling Harbour (for shopping). 

Accommodation is usually more affordable in the city centre, too, compared to Circular Quay. In the city centre, you can find a range of accommodations.

  • Four Seasons Hotel Sydney (high-end accommodation) 
  • Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel (mid-range accommodation) 
  • The Grand Hotel (low-end accommodation) 


If you are planning a trip to Sydney to experience the wonderful beaches, Bondi is a great area to stay. 

Bondi Beach is arguably the most famous beach in Sydney, and the suburb boasts stunning views and great restaurants and bars. 

Bondi is a great place to stay because it’s also so close to other beaches. You can walk along the coast from Bondi all the way to Coogee, which makes for a great walk where you can stop off at various beaches along the way. 

However, Bondi is one of Sydney’s most expensive suburbs, so accommodation prices can be quite high. 

  • QT Bondi (high-end accommodation) 
  • Hotel Bondi (mid-range accommodation) 
  • The Village Bondi Beach (low-end accommodation) 

Kings Cross 

If you’re a backpacker or budget traveller, Kings Cross is the best place to stay as there are numerous hostels in the area, and it’s renowned for its nightlife. 

Kings Cross is full of bars, clubs and cheap eateries, making it an ideal place for those looking to enjoy the nightlife of the city. 

With so many places in the area open 24 hours, Kings Cross is often busier in the middle of the night than at midday.

Kings Cross is definitely the most affordable area to stay in Sydney. 

  • Larmont Sydney by Langham (high-end accommodation) 
  • No9 Springfield Potts Point (mid-range accommodation) 
  • Sydney Central Backpackers (low-end accommodation) 

Darling Harbour

Formerly a dockyard, Darling Harbour is known for its many places to shop, drink and eat. 

While Darling Harbour may not be as scenic and convenient as Circular Quay, it’s still a very popular spot, especially for families. 

Darling Harbour is known for its shopping and is flanked by the two malls of Harbourside and Cockle Bay Wharf. 

There is a range of accommodation options available in Darling Harbour. 

  • Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour (high-end accommodation) 
  • Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour (mid-range accommodation) 
  • Nomads Sydney (low-end accommodation)

Where to Eat in Sydney 

Bondi Icebergs. Photo: Eriksson Luo | Unsplash

There are countless restaurants and bars in Sydney that will blow your mind. From waterfront dining to restaurants 34 storeys up, here are some of the best places to eat in Sydney. 

Opera Bar

Located on the waterfront to the left of the Opera House, the Opera Bar is a must while in Sydney. 

Head there in the late afternoon to grab a drink and meal to watch the sun go down behind the Harbour Bridge. 

The Opera Bar provides some of the most beautiful views in Sydney. 

Bondi Icebergs 

Situated on the southern end of Bondi Beach, Bondi Icebergs is just as impressive as the beach! 

Bondi Icebergs is a swimming club (hence the giant swimming pool), but anyone is welcome to visit the restaurant and enjoy delicious food and even better views. 

Find a seat on the terrace and enjoy the breathtaking views of the waves crashing against the pool and the long stretch of the beach. 


Perched on the edge of Rose Bay, Catalina is a romantic fine-dining restaurant that offers uninterrupted views of the harbour. 

Since the restaurant is right on the water, the main ingredient used in most of its dishes is seafood. 

While this restaurant may be one of the more expensive ones in Sydney, if you love great food and jaw-dropping views, you must make a reservation at Catalina. 


Australians love cuisines from all over the world, but one standout in Sydney is Italian, and that’s exactly what you get at Ragazzi. 

This restaurant features a 300-strong bottle list and a simple menu focused on quick bites and pasta. 

Ragazzi is a great place to visit in the early evening for a delicious dinner with tasty wine. 

The restaurant only caters to 40 people, so it’s best to book in advance to secure your spot.


Located in The Rocks, Quay is Sydney’s quintessential fine dining restaurant. 

Boasting uninterrupted views of the Opera House and exquisite dishes, if there’s one restaurant to splash out your cash in Sydney, it’s Quay.

Known for serving art on each and every plate, no matter what dish you choose, it won’t disappoint. 


Another standout restaurant in Bondi you must visit while in Sydney is Sean’s.

Known for boasting stunning views over Bondi Beach, Sean’s has been operating for nearly 30 years and is the benchmark for paddock-to-plate dining. 

The unique thing about Sean’s? Not only does the restaurant serve comforting home-style meals with modern tastes, but the menu actually changes every day! 

The menu depends on the farm harvests in Bilpin, the freshest seafood, poultry and livestock from their ethical farmers each day.

Best Things to do in Sydney 

Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo: Leigh | Unsplash

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sydney, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the city

Ride the ferry to Manly 

While many Sydney locals catch the ferry from Manly to the CBD for work, the journey is one of the city’s most beautiful. 

Hop on the ferry in Circular Quay and enjoy 30 minutes of stunning views as you travel across the harbour to Manly. 

Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, CBD and even Taronga Zoo. 

Once you arrive in Manly, head straight to the beach for a swim or walk along the promenade. 

Walk from Bondi to Coogee

One of the most popular things to do in Sydney for both locals and tourists is the Bondi to Coogee walk.

The walking track can be divided into two sections, each with its own highlights, with Bronte Beach being the halfway point. 

Depending on how often you stop to take in the breathtaking views, the walk can be completed within three hours. You can either walk back to Bondi or catch the bus. 

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge 

The Harbour Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in Sydney, but did you know you could climb it?

While many people walk along the Harbour Bridge daily, climbing it gives you a different perspective of the city with breathtaking views. 

And although this experience may be the most expensive one you do in Sydney, it’s worth it for the views and to say you’ve done this once-in-a-lifetime activity. 

Visit Taronga Zoo

While Taronga Zoo may only be a short ferry ride across the harbour from the CBD, it feels worlds away. 

Unlike many zoos around the world that keep their animals in small enclosures, Taronga Zoo is home to a range of animals and is passionate about sustainability, conservation and public education. 

Because of where it’s located, Taronga Zoo boasts stunning city views. 

While the zoo may be large, the zoo train and Sky Safari make it easy to get around. 

If you’re up for an even more unique experience, it’s possible to stay the night at the zoo in safari-style tents. 

Visit the Opera House 

The Sydney Opera House is considered one of the most famous and distinctive buildings to be constructed in the 20th century, making it one of the places you must see during your trip.

Opened in 1973, the Opera House now functions as a multi-venue performing arts centre. It has several theatres, rehearsal rooms, two main halls, restaurants and bars under its roof. 

If you don’t get a chance to go inside the Opera House, seeing it from the outside and admiring all of its intricate details is an experience in itself. Head to the Opera Bar next door and admire the exterior of the building with a drink in hand. 

Or, if you prefer to admire the Opera House in nature, head next door to the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

Established in 1816, the Royal Botanic Garden is Australia’s oldest botanic garden and is home to a large collection of exotic plants from around the world. 

Wander through the gardens marvelling at all the plants, or even have a picnic with stunning views of the Opera House.

See the Three Sisters 

If you plan on having a hire car during your trip to Sydney, you must make the 90-minute drive to the Blue Mountains. 

The Blue Mountains National Park is known for its dramatic scenery, deep canyons, pretty waterfalls and eucalyptus forests.

However, the most impressive sight within the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters, a sandstone rock formation that towers above the Jamison Valley. 

Visit Darling Harbour 

Darling Harbour is one of the most popular areas in Sydney, and for a good reason! It’s Sydney’s largest recreational and pedestrian precinct, home to a great variety of attractions for everyone to enjoy. 

From waterfront dining to regular fireworks displays, exciting museums and huge playgrounds for kids, there is something for everyone in Darling Harbour. 

Darling Harbour also has two large malls, making it one of the best places in the city to go shopping!

Grab a drink at one of Sydney’s best bars 

Sydney has a vibrant bar scene, making bar hopping a popular activity while in the city! 

Some of the best bars to grab a drink at include

  • Cantina OK – home to the best margarita in town
  • Old Mate’s Place – a hidden bar on Clarence Street 
  • Bar 83 – located 83 storeys high in the Sydney Tower, Bar 83 boasts stunning views of the city
  • Maybe Sammy – a local favourite in the heart of The Rocks 

Best Beaches in and Around Sydney 

Bondi Beach. Photo: Road Trip with Raj | Unsplash

Sydney is home to one of the most famous beaches in Australia, Bondi Beach, so you can guarantee other beaches in the city are worth visiting. 

If you’re planning a trip to Sydney during the summer, here are some of the best beaches you need to visit

Freshwater Beach 

Located north of Manly, Freshwater Beach, or Freshie as the locals know it, is a favourite beach for families because of the gentle, reliable waves. 

Freshwater Beach is much less touristy than Manly, so you’ll definitely be able to find a spot on the sand away from the crowds. 

There is a 50m ocean pool at the north end of the beach, so if you’re up for swimming a few laps, jump in! 

After a day on the beach, head to the Harbord Hotel for some classic Australian pub grub. 

Coogee Beach 

While the most famous beach in the eastern suburbs may be Bondi Beach, the local favourite is Coogee Beach. 

This sandy strip of beach is one of the most family-friendly beaches in the area because of its calm waves and fantastic facilities to make your day more enjoyable. 

Put your towel down on the sand or find a spot on the lawn to lay down your picnic rug and enjoy what the beach offers. 

Like Freshwater Beach, Coogee Beach also has an ocean pool where you can swim a few laps! 

After a day on the sand and in the sea, head to the Coogee Pavilion for an afternoon margarita and snack. 

Bondi Beach 

No trip to Sydney would be complete without visiting the famous Bondi Beach. 

There’s a reason why thousands of locals and tourists flock to the beach every year! From fantastic waves, clear blue water and a long stretch of sand, there is plenty to do at Bondi.

Spend your day relaxing on the sand and cooling off in the ocean. Hungry for lunch? Head to Bondi Icebergs for food and better views of the beach. 

If you’re there until the evening, there are plenty of restaurants along the strip worth heading to for dinner.

Manly Beach 

Located across the harbour from the CBD, Manly Beach is worth a visit during your trip to Sydney. 

The ferry to Manly itself is scenic, but once you arrive at the beach, you’ll feel a whole other level of relaxation.

Manly Beach has everything you could want for a perfect beach day. You can swim, surf and even snorkel in the clear waters at the beach. If you’re looking to try surfing for the first time, Manly Surf School offers lessons for beginners in the calm waves in the shallows. 

After a dip in the ocean, head along Marine Parade to Shelly Beach, a less busy but just as beautiful beach around the corner.

With plenty of restaurants and bars lining the promenade at Manly, you can stay for dinner and head back to the CBD on the evening ferry.

Bronte Beach

Bronte Beach is Bondi’s low-key little sibling and is worth visiting during your trip to Sydney. 

Bronte is a family favourite in Sydney because it has some of the best ocean pools in the city, perfect for the little ones. 

There is also lots of picnic space on the grass behind the beach, where you can set down your picnic rug and enjoy some food with a fantastic view. 

Wattamolla Beach 

While this beach may be known to locals, it’s a bit of a hidden gem for tourists. So, if you like seeking out places that aren’t that popular, this is the beach for you. 

Wattamolla Beach is the beach located furthest south on this list, but it is definitely worth the trip.

The emerald-green waters at Wattamolla Beach are perfect for snorkelling, swimming and even fishing. 

Pack a picnic and spend the day at the beach, as the picnic and BBQ area is one of the best in Sydney. 

Final Thoughts 

Sydney Opera House. Photo: Gez Xavier Mansfield | Unsplash

Sydney is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations, and for a good reason! It’s the city that has it all, from world-famous attractions to stunning beaches and everything in between.

If you’re planning a trip to Sydney, this guide has everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip. 

When will you start planning your trip?


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