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

what to do in sydney

Narrowing down the best parts of Sydney is no easy feat, although we will try. The first layer comprises the household names: Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach. Then there are the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods, such as Surry Hills and Newtown, which offer unique dining and shopping experiences. At the same time, the Royal Botanic Garden provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. For a culture dose, start with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Australian Museum, and the Sydney Festival. Overall, Sydney is a diverse and exciting city that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a resident or a first-time visitor, Sydney is one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic cities. We have just the guide to help you explore everything the city offers.

what to do in sydney
Photo: Ian Lumsden

Top Attractions

Even if you’ve lived in Sydney your entire life, there’s not one person who doesn’t stop to look at the Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge, especially at sunrise or sunset. Its beauty demands attention. Travel further north of the bridge and get up close and personal with kangaroos, koalas, and other native Australian wildlife at Taronga Zoo. Back in the city’s heart, explore The Rocks’ charming cobblestone streets, quaint shops, and lively bars and restaurants.

No visit to Sydney is complete without a stop at its most famous beaches. Bondi Beach is a hub of activity and excitement. You can swim, surf, or sunbathe on the beach or explore the surrounding neighbourhood, which is filled with trendy cafes, restaurants, and shops.

what to do in sydney

Food and Drink

Sydney has always been a food city, but in recent years, the dining and drinking scene has exploded, spilling into diverse neighbourhoods, creating culinary pockets in and around the city. In the trendy Surry Hills, indulge in everything from gourmet cuisine to casual eats, with a range of international flavours on offer at some of the best restaurants and bars crowned in Sydney. In the bohemian neighbourhood of Newtown, find an eclectic mix of dining and drinking options, channelling dive bars, vegan eateries, and breweries.

Potts Point is a chic neighbourhood known for its upmarket dining and drinking scene. Visitors can enjoy everything from modern Australian cuisine to innovative cocktails, with a focus on quality ingredients and creative presentation.

Then in Sydney’s newest dining neighbourhood, Barangaroo, expect gourmet food trucks to fine-dining restaurants focusing on fresh seafood and harbour views.

Although if you walk along any street in Sydney, we can guarantee you will find a trendy cafe, a family-restaurant ladling traditions-old pho into big bowls, and plenty of sushi spots.

what to do in sydney
Photo: Jean-Jacques Halans / EyeEm


Sydney is blessed with beautiful parks and green spaces, providing locals and tourists plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Firstly, there’s the iconic Royal Botanic Garden, a tranquil oasis that offers stunning views of the harbour and the city skyline. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the gardens, home to over 7,500 species of plants.

Centennial Park is a sprawling park located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. You can enjoy various activities, from horse riding to cycling, or relax in the park’s peaceful surroundings and watch the ducks.

While there are several well-known parks in Sydney, there are also a few hidden gems. Explore Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden in the heart of Lavender Bay. Visitors will find colourful flowers in the spring, trees, sculptures, and stunning views of the harbour and the city. For locals, it’s a popular spot to relax in the evening with a cheeseboard and watch the sun disappear behind the city skyline.

what to do in sydney


One of the best ways to explore Sydney is on foot. From harbourside hikes to off-the-grid trails and dog-friendly circuits, Sydney’s walks offer a variety of beautiful natural environments, providing locals and tourists with the perfect opportunity to explore the city’s stunning coastal and harbour scenery.

The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is a popular six-kilometre walk that takes you along the stunning coastline of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Revel in breathtaking ocean views and stop off at numerous beaches, parks, and cafes along the way. Bondi to Bronte is another favourite coastal walk. The Spit Bridge to Manly Walk is a 10-kilometre walk that takes walkers along Sydney’s northern beaches.

If you’re looking for more of an adventure, head to The Royal National Park Coastal Walk, a 26-kilometre track through the stunning coastal scenery of Sydney’s southern suburbs, revealing hidden beaches and more.

For something a little more slow pace but equally as beautiful, the Barangaroo Reserve Walk is a two-kilometre walk that takes visitors through the newly developed waterfront precinct of Barangaroo. Take in the stunning views of the harbour and explore the park’s native gardens, sandstone walls, and cultural installations.

what to do in sydney
Photo: Leo Patrizi


Sydney is no London or New York, but we do have a few shopping precincts offering a range of retail experiences from designers to local names. Located in the heart of the city, Westfield Sydney is a premium shopping destination that provides a range of high-end international and Australian brands. Visitors can enjoy luxury shopping, gourmet food, and state-of-the-art cinemas under one roof. Nearby is Pitt Street Mall, a bustling shopping precinct home to various international and Australian brands. Shop at flagship stores, department stores, and fashion boutiques, and enjoy the mall’s lively street performances and entertainment.

Venture to the Paddington Markets, a popular shopping destination for unique and creative goods from local designers and artisans. You can browse a range of fashion, accessories, and homewares stalls set amongst the charming terrace houses of Paddington. If nothing catches your eye at the market, stroll its beautiful tree-lined streets to find high-end boutique shopfronts selling clothes, jewellery, makeup, and more.

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