Not only does Sydney consistently rank as one of the most visited and beautiful cities in the world, but there are also many FREE things you can do to experience the best this harbour city has to offer. See and experience Sydney’s most famous icons and stunning coastal landmarks.
Free Walking Tour
Instead of going it alone, start your visit to Sydney with a free walking tour escorted by a knowledgeable local guide. Rain, hail or shine the guys from ‘I’m Free Walking Tours’ walk everyday at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm and these three hour easy tours uncover the history of some of Sydney’s most fascinating sites, including a great tour through the historic hot-spots in The Rocks. Once you’ve got your bearings you can then go it alone.
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is possibly my favourite free thing to do in Sydney. This stunning 6 kilometre walk features incredible views of the ocean, cliffs, bays, rock pools and passes some of the best beaches in Sydney; Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay. Not to mention Bondi and Coogee. Stop along the way for a swim, or stop in at a cafe for a drink and bite to eat – it’s the perfect way to spend a few hours. To get to Bondi, jump on a train at Central Station and hop off at Bondi Junction Station. From there take a bus to Bondi Beach.
Walk Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney’s harbour rivals that of any in the world, and a great vantage point is from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. While you can climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the ultimate Sydney experience (from about A$160), an alternative option is to walk across for free and take in the same panoramic views on a lower level. Start from The Rocks at the southern end and take the gentle 1.4 km stroll across the bridge to Milsons Point at the northern end. Either walk back or catch a train from Milsons Point Station to Circular Quay Station.
Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens
It is hard to beat the serenity you get from the Botanical Gardens, a magical spot set near the city centre. Spending a few hours in the gardens is a relaxing and free way to enjoy one of Sydney’s top locations. Pack a picnic lunch, bring a blanket and a bottle of wine. Take a walk around the gardens to admire the many different types of plants and city views. You can also take a free self-guided walking tour. Be sure to check out Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which has one of the best vantage points in Sydney looking back over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, especially at sunset.
Walk the CBD and Circular Quay
The Sydney CBD and Harbour front is a very walkable area, and I like to walk from Central Station to Circular Quay – along either George or Pitt Streets – where I can feel the beat of the city for a short 30 minute stroll. Once at the Quay, wander and take photographs of Sydney’s famous landmarks including the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and enter the Royal Botanic Gardens. Circular Quay is a busy transport hub and it’s here you can jump on a ferry and head to Manly.
Hangout on the Beach
Sydney’s beaches are famous and a must for free things to do on your visit. Stretching from the Northern Beaches to the Eastern Suburbs, you have many great beaches to enjoy. My favourites include Palm Beach, Freshwater and Manly on the northern side. In the eastern suburbs, I like Bronte, Coogee and make sure you visit the incredible Bondi at least once in your life!
Walk through Hyde Park
When you take a stroll through Hyde Park you’re walking through Australia’s oldest park. The city central open green space is popular among office workers seeking some fresh air or a quick siesta. Hyde Park contains numerous monuments and statues and its central pathway is an impressive fig lined road. Situated next to Hyde Park is St. Mary’s Cathedral, an English-style Gothic church and a symbol of the spiritual origins of the city – it was the first Roman Catholic Church in Australia. On Sundays at noon visitors can partake in free guided tours.
Take in a Free Festival
Sydney puts on some of the best free festivals and events found anywhere in the world. Here’s a taster of some of the big ones coming up.
New Year’s Eve – Is there a better setting and fireworks display to bring in the new year than the one on display in Sydney? And it doesn’t cost anything to watch it.
Sydney Mardi Gras – One of the largest LGBT pride parades and festivals in the world as thousands of people make their way down Oxford and Flinders St on colourful floats.
Vivid Sydney – This unique event transforms Sydney into a spectacular canvas of light, music and ideas. Including the spectacular illumination of the Sydney Opera House sails.
The Sydney Festival – For three weeks each January, Sydney Festival offers a program of around 80 events involving artists covering dance, theatre, music, visual arts, cross media and forums.
Explore Sydney’s vibrant neighbourhoods
Darling Harbour is a lively harbourside precinct just a 10min walk from the CBD and has a large kids playground and a program of fantastic free entertainment every week. Stroll along the foreshore of Cockle Bay alongside the boats in the harbour. There are also free fireworks on at Darling Harbour on Saturday nights at either 8.30 pm or 9.00 pm.
If you continue northwards towards the Harbour Bridge you will arrive at the historic Rocks District. Dating back to the 1800s, this historic pocket is possibly my favourite part of Sydney. There’s a story around every corner and The Rocks possesses some wonderful heritage buildings, intriguing history and winding cobblestone lanes to explore.
Surry Hills is an artistically-vibrant neighbourhood with old terrace homes, a great mix of cafes, restaurants, wine bars and pubs serving a wide variety of cooking styles and cultures. Wander Crown Street, Bourke Street and Cleveland Streets. Further east you will find Paddington, a fashionable neighbourhood famous for boutique shopping and the Paddington Markets held on Saturdays. Also known for art galleries, cafes, restaurants and rows of pretty Victorian terraces.
The Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of NSW is free to enter and is one of Australia’s leading art museums with collections of Australian, Aboriginal, European, Asian and contemporary art. The modern and contemporary works are displayed in expansive, light-filled spaces, offering stunning views of Sydney and the Harbour.
The Pylon Lookout – On your walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge consider visiting the Pylon Lookout for just $11 – you’ll get fantastic views plus three levels of exhibits to learn about the history and construction of the Bridge.
Catch the Ferry to Manly – The $15 return ferry trip to Manly from Circular Quay is one of the best ways to experience Sydney Harbour. The scenery from the water on the way over and back is stunning as you cruise past the city skyline, Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Botanic Gardens. Time your return trip to Circular Quay to take in sunset.
Sydney Tower – For $18 go up to the top of Sydney Tower, the city’s tallest free-standing structure at 309 m (1,014 ft) above the CBD. It has an observation deck with great views of the skyline.
Cheap Transport – If you’re travelling as a family, for $2.50 per person the Family Funday Sunday pass gets you unlimited travel on all trains, buses, ferries and light rail.