Local secrets & classic sights: The 10 best things to do in Sydney
There are so many incredible things to do in Sydney that you’ll never be bored, whether you’re a local or a visitor. From eating one of the world’s best dishes and exploring art galleries to climbing the Harbour Bridge and enjoying nature at Hyde Park - there’s truly something for everyone here.
To help you enjoy it all and discover the city’s secrets, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the 10 best things to do in Sydney. How many can you tick off?
Drink cocktails on a rooftop with views of Sydney Harbour
Sipping a cocktail, cold beer or vino with panoramic harbour views should definitely be on Sydney to do list, and luckily you’ve got plenty of bars to choose from.
Cafe Del Mar is a good place to start - it features an expansive terrace with stunning Sydney Harbour views, a long list of craft cocktails and live DJs every weekend. For something even more sophisticated, visit the Sofitel and take the lift to the top, where you’ll find Champagne Bar serving the best French bubbles alongside delicious bar food.
Down the road in The Rocks, The Glenmore is another great option, with frosty pints, classic Aussie pub food and a 180 degree view of the harbour. Could be a lot worse!
Eat the world’s tastiest dish at XOPP
Sydney is home to countless iconic dishes, from Mary’s juicy classic cheeseburger to Cacio e Pepe at Buffalo Dining. But there’s one that stands above the rest - it was even once called the best dish in the world by renowned Michelin-starred chef, David Chang.
We’re talking of course about XO Pippies at their namesake restaurant XOPP by Golden Century. The dish consists of hot freshly steamed pippieds slathered in a punchy XO sauce, bursting with chilli and rich umami flavours. We dare you to find something that tastes better than this!
See Sydney’s incredible art galleries and vibrant street art
Around every corner, you’ll find evidence of the harbour city’s vibrant, thriving art scene - from world class galleries to small independent art shops and epic public art. Delving into the creative heart of the city is one of the best things to do in Sydney.
Start by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the world’s leading collection of modern art from Australian creatives and First Nations people. Next, you’ve got to see the Art Gallery of NSW, which hosts a gigantic collection of art from all eras and corners of the earth.
Last of all, take a trip to the harbourside to soak in Darling Harbour’s incredible street art, from a night sky painted on an underpass to neon light sculptures illuminating Little Hay Street.
Experience the Great Barrier Reef at SEALIFE Sydney Aquarium
If the kids are in tow (or if you’re a big kid), a visit to SEALIFE Sydney Aquarium is a great thing to do in Sydney this weekend. But keep in mind, this isn’t your average aquarium!
Inside, you’ll find the world’s biggest interactive recreation of the Great Barrier Reef, featuring interactive light displays, gigantic sharks, and over 500 fascinating creatures. There’s also penguins, dugongs, turtles and dozens of glass tunnels which take you underneath the aquariums, closer than ever to the incredible sea creatures inside.
Discover Sydney’s incredible coast on a walking tour
Darling Harbour and the surrounding coastline is a ridiculously beautiful part of the city, with endless breathtaking views and countless brilliant restaurants and bars. If you’re in Sydney, looking for things to do - a walking tour in this area is a must do.
To get a local’s perspective, try an ‘I’m free’ walking tour, which takes in all of Sydney’s top attractions from the Harbour Bridge and Hyde Park to the Opera House and Circular Quay.
If you’re feeling independent, try a self-guided walking tour starting at Pyrmont Bay and hugging the harbourside all the way through Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, Dawes Point and through Circular Quay, ending at the Sydney Opera House.
Find your zen at the Chinese Garden of Friendship
In 1986, architects and gardeners from Sydney and sister city Gaungzhou in China came together to design the Chinese Garden of Friendship. They followed the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang or ‘the balance of opposing yet complementary forces’ to create a bastion of serenity right in the heart of Sydney.
The Garden may be in the middle of the city but it feels like it's miles away. Visit and you’ll wander serene pathways along babbling streams, see exotic plants and a shimmering lake full of exotic koi.
If you fancy staying for a while, experience The Gardens by Lotus, an onsite restaurant in a heritage listed teahouse serving dumplings, Chinese tea and fiery Sichuan cuisine.
See Sydney from the top of the Star of the Show Ferris Wheel
Here’s a bold claim - Sydney is the world’s most beautiful city. Where else has so much stunning architecture, pristine coastline and lush parkland so close to the city centre?
That’s why one of the best things to do in Sydney is to simply sit back and enjoy the scenery. There’s no better place to do that than from the tippy top of the Star of the Show Ferris Wheel, which is 35 metres tall at its highest point. From up there, you can see all over Darling Harbour, from the shimmering waters to the beautiful city skyline.
Darling Harbour is Sydney’s favourite harbourside destination. An urban playground for kids and adults, every part of Darling Harbour is an escape from the ordinary. Immerse yourself in this entertainment hub of innovative experiences, spaces and places and enjoy over 150 food and drink options, paired-perfectly with your Vivid Sydney experience.
This year, Vivid Sydney at Darling Harbour will be bigger and brighter as it transforms into a kaleidoscope of creativity, innovation and technology over 23 nights. Plus, for the first time ever, the Light Walk comes to Darling Harbour so be sure not to miss this one-of-a-kind over water experience at Cockle Bay!
To make your Vivid Sydney adventure even more memorable, why not stay at the centre of it all and plan a staycation at one of the many hotels around Darling Harbour? There are plenty that offer premium views of the vibrant, illuminated precinct right from the comfort of your room.
Pay a visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum
Australia is the world’s largest island continent so understandably our nation has a long and fascinating history at sea. The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) chronicles that intriguing history with a series of images, interactive exhibits and even real vessels that you can board and explore!
Be sure to check out their school holiday event programme and see what's on at the Museum today.
Have the coolest winter ever at Darling Harbour's Winter Festival
Slide off your slippers and swap your robe for pants because Darling Harbour's Winter Festival is giving you a better reason than ever to go outside this June.
The entire Darling Harbour landscape will come alive with a winter festival atmosphere featuring free activities, fireworks, an ice rink and slide, live performances, decorations, winter markets and the precinct’s best eating and drinking. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Sydney for all ages this solstice!