Australia, Oceania

What To Do In Sydney Your First Time

If you didn’t know yet, I will tell you now. Sydney is my favourite city in the world. Between its pristine beaches to its metropolitan city centre, Sydney is one of the best cities to live in, with a climate that (almost) never lets you down. I lived here for 3 months back in 2012, but went back three more times. And now, my sister has been living in Sydney for over 5 years. What are the highlights you cannot miss and the sights you need to see when you visit Sydney for the first time? I’ll give you my Top 10 Favourite Things for What To Do Your First Time in Sydney, Australia.

1. Sydney Opera House

To begin with, if you go to Sydney, chances are you have seen a picture of the Sydney Opera House. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was designed by a Danish architect, who won the international design competition around the building of this performing arts centre. You can take some pictures outside of the building or wander around inside for a bit, but it is also possible to do a tour through the Opera House or attend a concert, ballet or opera. 

#Explorers Tip: If you have a student card, you can attend any performance for a mere AU$47 (excl transaction fee) if you go to the box office from 9am on the day of the performance. Check this website for more information.

2. Sydney Harbour Bridge

Secondly, across from the Opera House is the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can take great pictures of it when standing in front of the Opera House, but you can also get a different kind of view from above. Climb the 134m tall bridge and experience a 360 degree view of Sydney.

#Explorers Tip: The Harbour Bridge is particularly pretty on New Year’s Eve, when a 15-minute fireworks show is unleashed from the bridge, Darling Harbour, and the Opera House. If you want to go to Sydney on NYE and want to see the fireworks for free, go to the harbour early in the day and grab a good spot. The first time, I sat in front of the Opera House at 11am and had a perfect view from there. The second time, we bought tickets for Opera Kitchen and arrived there around 7pm. The third time, I sat on ‘the other side of the bridge’ in the park Broughton St Lookout. All of these places were very good spots.

3. Royal Botanic Gardens

Close to the Opera House you will find one of Sydney’s many beautiful parks: the Royal Botanic Gardens. Wander around this park to wind down and relax, read a book in the sun, get a glimpse of a wedding around Mrs Macquaries Point, and check out the enormous eucalyptus tree in the park.

The view from Mrs Macquaries Point

4. Bondi Beach

If you think of Sydney, you think of Bondi Beach and its famous Bondi Rescue. Not only is Bondi a great beach to relax, swim and surf, it is also the starting point of the Bondi to Coogee Walk. This urban coastal walk takes you past a lot of great cliffs and beaches, such as Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, and Clovelly Beach.

Bondi Beach from above
What To Do in Sydney: Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk. You'll get this amazing view.
Bondi to Coogee walk

5. What To Do Your First Time In Sydney: Take the ferry to Manly Beach

Haven’t seen enough beaches yet? Take the ferry in 20 minutes from Circular Quay (the train station you need to get off to go to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House) to Manly. When you’re here, don’t skip the much smaller Shelly Beach, as it is often much quieter than Manly.

6. Taronga Zoo

Also on ‘the other side of the bridge’ is the world famous Taronga Zoo. Special about this zoo are not only the breathtaking view of the Sydney harbour (including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge) and the special Australian species in the zoo, but also the way the zoo is built. The entrance is on top of a hill, and from here you slowly spiral down the slope to the exit. In this way, you don’t have to miss anything and have an amazing view of Sydney. 

What To Do in Sydney? Visit Taronga Zoo!

7. Darling Harbour

Right behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge you will find Darling Harbour. Home to ample restaurants, the aquarium Sea Life Sydney, an IMAX theatre, and one of the pancake restaurants ‘Pancakes on the Rocks’. Just a bit further south is Sydney’s Chinatown and the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

What to do in Sydney: Go to Darling Harbour!

8. Buy Souvenirs From Paddy’s Market

When in Chinatown, definitely pay a visit to Paddy’s Market. This Chinese market has everything your heart desires from food to clothes and from souvenirs to make-up. You can get relatively cheap Uggs here, but it is also a good place to find an outfit for Halloween. In the upstairs area there is a supermarket, restaurants, and also a shopping mall.

9. Party in Kings Cross

Craving a night’s out? Sydney is the place to be. Around Central Station there are a lot of nice bars (Scubar, Sidebar) and the centre of Sydney offers fancy venues at night time (The Ivy, The Scary Canary, Marquee). But if you want to go all out, visit King’s Cross. Especially among tourists this is a famous clubbing area, so you will have a good time without a time. 

10. Visit The Rocks

Finally, The Rocks is one of the oldest parts of Sydney. Both locals and tourists mingle in the historical laneways and the open-air markets of the Rocks. If you haven’t been to Pancakes on the Rocks in Darling Harbour, do so here. You do not want to miss out on their fluffy pancakes.

If you haven’t booked a trip to Sydney yet, I believe the time to do so is now. Let me know in the comments what other hotspots you want to see added to this list. Last but not least, check out more of my blogs here.

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations, kickboxing, singing or horse back riding. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a civil servant, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.