Soak Up Art, Science, and History at 9 of Sydney’s Best Museums and Galleries

best museums sydney

Whether it’s raining, hailing, 40 degrees, or a balmy 25 degrees, Sydney’s museums are not only a draw for tourists but locals too. Even if you spent your primary school years visiting museums, there’s always something new to learn to look at.

Museums and galleries are a window into culture and history. An art gallery can spark creativity; a museum can help you connect with the past. At the end of the day, getting a culture fix at museums and galleries help us appreciate the planet around us.

With that said, whether you’re visiting Sydney for the first time or have lived here for 20 years, here are the museums and art galleries you can’t miss in Sydney.

The Best Art Galleries In Sydney

best museums sydney

Art Gallery of New South Wales, CBD

Is there anywhere more iconic than the Art Gallery of New South Wales? As Sydney’s foremost fine arts destination, this beautiful, grand building houses a diverse collection of classic Australian and European masterpieces and modern, contemporary, Asian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander art.

This gallery is also home to the renowned Archibald Prize, Australia’s top portrait award, making it a creative hub. It’s also free, so there’s no excuse.  Beyond art, the gallery offers lectures, films, live music, and dining at its cafe and restaurant, led by acclaimed chef Matt Moran.

best museums sydney
Photo: Anna Kucera

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Circular Quay

With the backdrop of the Opera House on one side and Harbour Bridge on the other, you can’t miss the MCA. The best news is that it’s free for general admission. You can, of course, purchase tickets for additional galleries and exhibits.

Unlike other art galleries, the MCA is committed to democratising art so that it’s accessible to everyone. Inside, you’ll find works from contemporary local and international artists. There’s always something on here, whether it’s a guided tour, an exhibition, or a hands-on art event, anyone can get involved in.

best museums sydney
Photo: White Rabbit Gallery

White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale

A little lesser known than the big-name galleries, the White Rabbit Gallery has been a cornerstone of Chippendale’s thriving arts scene since 2009. Here, the charitable gallery shines a spotlight on contemporary Chinese artists, housing over 2,000 works from nearly 700 artists.

The White Rabbit Gallery also consistently promotes around 35 artists at any given moment. Don’t miss the delightful Tea House on-site, offering a selection of Chinese teas and handmade dumplings. Did we mention admission is free?

best museums sydney
Photo: Felicity Jenkins

Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills

This little studio in Surry Hills is managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and is completely free, apart from some events that may charge a small fee. The studio is home to Brett Whiteley’s unfinished paintings, art equipment, and collections of reference books, and the graffiti wall covered with quotes and images. The exhibits are constantly changing, bringing to light sketchbooks, paintings, sculptures, and more.

The Best Museums In Sydney

best museums sydney

Australian Museum, Darlinghurst

Perched on the historical remains of Australia’s Government House, the Australian Museum is essentially a life-size almanac of the country. The building was demolished in 1845, only to be rediscovered in 1983 during an archaeological excavation, which also revealed a number of artefacts.

Today, the museum displays these artifacts, offering a deep dive into Sydney’s rich history nearly two centuries ago, as well as Australia’s history. There’s a Wild Planet exhibition, hologram dinosaurs, and, for the adults, Nights at the Museum, where live music and a pop-up bar provide an after-hours culture fix.

best museums sydney

Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour

If you find yourself strolling along Darling Harbour, duck into the Australian National Maritime Museum, where the country’s deep maritime history comes alive in interactive exhibitions. With artifacts dating to 1606, when Europeans first landed on these shores, the museum unravels the seafaring narratives of both European settlers and Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Beyond the exhibits, it hosts one of the world’s most extensive floating fleets, featuring warships, submarines, and majestic tall ships, which you can step onto for a closer look at life at sea.

best museums sydney
Photo: Katherine Lu

Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

Whether you’re a railfan, an aviation geek, or simply love engineering and technology, the Powerhouse Museum is for you. The post-modern building houses over 380,000 artifacts, with interactive exhibitions for kids and adults, including a Zero Gravity Space Lab where you can get a taste of weightlessness and life in space.

best museums sydney
Photo: Powerhouse Museum

Sydney Observatory, Millers Point

Nothing is cooler than a planetarium for any age, whether you’re eight or 45. That’s a fact. The Sydney Observatory is no exception. Housed inside a heritage-listed sandstone building overlooking Sydney’s harbour, the observatory is the perfect stargazing spot. You don’t even need a telescope. Although, when you do pull yourself away from the vistas, inside the building is an interactive experience about the universe.

Explore the stars and galaxies and join a tour to get a better connection to astronomy, meteorology, and science.

best museums sydney

Sydney Jewish Museum, Darlinghurst

Not many know Sydney has a Jewish Museum, yet here we are. Since opening in 1992, the Sydney Jewish Museum has been dedicated to telling the history of the Holocaust. There are historical artefacts, videos, interactive media, and personal testimonies to comb through on a visit.

This museum is a profound testament to Jewish heritage. Yet, its tolerance and universal significance message resonates with people of all religious backgrounds.

Related: 10 of the Best Greater Sydney Walks You Can Do in a Day

Related: The Sydney Essentials: 20 Things You Have to Do in the Harbour City

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