17 Free Things to Do in Sydney

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Sydney consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, and that’s probably not news to most of you.

The GOOD news is that it’s possible to visit Sydney on a budget as there are plenty of free things to do in Sydney that allow you to experience the best the city has to offer without burning a hole in your pocket.

You don’t necessarily have to pay to get to see and experience all of Sydney’s most famous landmarks and stunning coastal landscapes.

And with some smart choices and careful planning, your trip to Sydney doesn’t have to leave you heavily out of pocket, but full of admiration.

To help you out, we’ve listed our top free attractions in Sydney so you can make planning a budget vacation easier.

Free Things to Do in Sydney

Want to explore Sydney but don’t have the cash? Don’t worry, below are all the top free things to do in Sydney!

1. Free Walking Tour

view of a city next to a body of water
View of Sydney from Cocktaoo Island

Why not start your visit to Sydney with a free walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide? Rain, hail or shine the guys from I’m Free Walking Tours walk every day at 10.30am and 2.30pm.

The 3-hour easy walking tours of Sydney will show you the top sights and give you your bearings so you can then go it alone.

They also give you hints and tips for places to eat, shop and explore.

Although free walking tours are free, it’s customary to give your guide a tip if you enjoyed the experience. You can tip as much as you want though.

2. Walk Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

View of the Sydney Opera House from walking over the Harbour Bridge

Instead of paying $200+ to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a MUCH cheaper option is to simply 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 1.4km 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.

3. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

family walking along the Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach coastal walk.
Bondi to Coogee coastal walk

The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is one of my favourite free things to do in Sydney. It is a stunning walk and the perfect way to spend a gorgeous few hours in Sydney.

This 6km walk features stunning views of cliffs, bays and rock pools and passes the beaches of Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay. Stop along the way for a swim, or stop at a cafe for a drink and a bite to eat.

To get to Bondi Beach, jump on a train at Central Station and depart at Bondi Junction Station. From there take a bus to Bondi Beach.

The Bondi to Coogee walk ends at Coogee Beach and from here you can get a bus back to the CBD.

4. Royal Botanical Gardens

view of opera house and harbour bridge from the Royal Botanical Gardens,
View from Royal Botanical Gardens

You cannot beat the serenity of the city and Sydney Harbour views from the Botanical Gardens. Spending half a day in the Gardens is a relaxing and free way to enjoy one of Sydney’s top spots.

Pack a picnic lunch, a blanket and a bottle of wine. Then 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 Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Top tip: You can book free guided tours of the gardens from the visitor centre.

5. Visit Government House

Located in the Domain and overlooking the Royal Botanical Gardens, is the Government House, which is the most sophisticated example of a Gothic Revival building in NSW.

The house is the official residence and office of Margaret Beazley AC QC, 39th Governor of New South Wales and her husband, Mr Dennis Wilson.

It was built in 1821 and was designed by Edward Blore, who was a famous architect for William IV and Queen Victoria.

The house is open Friday – Sunday 10.30am – 3.00pm and on public holidays, with viewing by guided tour only.

6. Picnic in Centennial Park

Centannial Park, Sydney

Centennial Park is an oasis not far from the CBD. It’s a great place for a picnic and to enjoy Sydney’s lush oasis of ponds, grassy hills and woodlands.

Opened as a public open space in 1888 the park was the venue for the inauguration of Federation in 1901, and includes a dedicated cycle and rollerblading track, as well as the opportunity to go horse riding.

For information on getting there click here.

7. Walk the CBD and Sydney Harbour Front

ferries leaving Circular Quay with tall buildings in the background
Circular Quay

The Sydney CBD and Harbourfront area is very walkable. I often like to walk down from Central Station to Circular Quay along either George or Pitt Streets so I can feel the beat of the city for a short 30-minute stroll.

Once at Circular Quay, wander and take photographs of Sydney’s famous landmarks, The Harbour Bridge, Opera  House, and enter the Royal Botanical Gardens.

If you have time, you can extend your walk across the bridge, past Bradfield Park to Lavender Bay, passing by Luna Park and Wendy’s Secret Garden.

Circular Quay is a busy transport hub with many outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the harbour.

8. Explore the Neighbourhoods

Perhaps my favorite free thing to do in Sydney is to just wander around the neighborhoods. Each part of Sydney has something special and unique to offer. Some are hippy and artsy with street art and street performers, others are more historic.

If you’re looking for neighborhoods to get lost in, I highly recommend you check out…

Surry Hills

This is one of Sydney’s most artistically-vibrant neighborhoods with old terrace homes. Surry Hills has 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 Street.

Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia
Surry Hills

Paddington

The fashionable neighborhood is famous for boutique shopping and the Paddington markets held on Saturdays. Also known for art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and rows of pretty Victorian terraces.

Darling Harbour

This lively harbourside precinct is just a 10-minute walk from the CBD and has cafes, a large kids playground and a program of fantastic free Sydney entertainment every week.

Stroll along the foreshore of Cockle Bay, admire the boats in the harbour, or simply people-watch. If you want to eat here on a budget head to the food court.

The Rocks District

yellow pub on corner sydney
The Rocks Sydney

You must explore the historic Rocks District. It’s the oldest section of the oldest city in Australia, and possibly my favourite part of Sydney.

There’s a story around every corner, and The Rocks possess some wonderful heritage buildings to admire and intriguing history and cobblestone lanes to explore.

Yes, we all love free and this is what you will find when you visit the Rocks Discovery Museum.

Spend some time on the three floors learning more about the history of the area and the stories of those who lived there during the early years of white Australia.

Newtown

old buildings of newtown

Newtown is a relaxed, bohemian neighbourhood with vintage stores, antique stores, and thrift shops. Head over to King Street’s to find indie bookshops and vintage clothing.

You’ll also find hip bars and cafes with a multicultural vibe. As you wander the streets, you’ll see restored Victorian buildings and street art. The most famous street art is a mural of Martin Luther King.

This is a popular area amongst University of Sydney students and so has a cheap, studenty vibe.

If you have some money to spare, check out what’s on at The Enmore Theatre, which regularly hosts comedy gigs and live music.

9. Ride the Free Bus Shuttle

Don’t want to walk? The free CBD shuttle (route 555) runs every 10 minutes on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets.

This is a great alternative to the “hop on hop off” buses, as it takes you past many of the top attractions in Sydney.

10. Hang out on the Beach

The beaches are famous and a must for free things to do in Sydney (besides the parking fees).

From the Northern Beaches to the Eastern Suburbs you have many great beaches to explore. Our favourites include: Palm Beach, Freshwater, Manly, Bronte, and Coogee.

You must visit the famous Bondi Beach at least once, even if you just go to look at the ocean at sunset.

Bronte Beach in Sydney, Australia
Bronte Beach

11. Walk through Hyde Park

Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and the city’s central open green space popular among office workers who want some fresh air, a quick siesta, or some time out from the concrete jungle.

Hyde Park contains numerous monuments and statues, and the central pathway through the park is an impressive fig-lined road. Over the summer months, the park is a hive of activity.

The Archibald Memorial Fountain and St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney Australia
The Archibald Memorial Fountain and St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney Australia

13. St Mary’s Cathedral

Situated next to Hyde Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral is an English-style Gothic church and a symbol of the spiritual origins of the city, as it was the first Roman Catholic Church in Australia.

On Sundays at noon, visitors can partake in free guided tours of the cathedral and crypt.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

14. Observatory Hill

Just behind the Rocks District, you will find Observatory Hill, a popular park with locals, workers and visitors.

Observatory Hill gives you a million-dollar view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour and is worth the climb up the hill to take a picture of.

man hugging dauther with view of Sydney Harbour Bridge at Observatory Hill, Sydney, Australia
View from Observatory Hill

15. Hit the Markets in Sydney

The temptation will be there to spend money, but you can also enjoy the markets by just wondering around taking photos. The best markets in Sydney to visit include:

  • Paddington Markets – Open Saturdays with 150 unique stalls offering creative fashion and accessories.
  • Bondi Markets – Open Sundays offering original designer clothing, handmade jewelry, arts, and crafts, retro furniture, vintage clothes, and more.
  • The Rocks Markets – Saturdays and Sundays offering fashion, arts & crafts, jewelry, music & books, health & beauty, and souvenirs.
  • Paddy’s Markets – Huge market near Chinatown selling fruit & vegetables, clothing, CDs, flowers, sunglasses, jewellery, tourist souvenirs, and much more.
  • Sydney Fish Market – authentic working fish market and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. Catch the metro light rail from Central.

16. Free Festivals in Sydney

The Sydney Opera House during the Vivid Sydney Festival of lights.
Vivid Festival

Sydney is thriving with entertainment and festivities all year round, and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either. Here are some fun free festivals in Sydney to check out:

  • New Years Eve – Is there a better setting and fireworks display in the world? And it doesn’t cost anything to see 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 – Sydney is transformed into a spectacular canvas of light, music, and ideas.
  • 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.

17. Art Gallery of NSW

The Art Gallery of New South Wales 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.

Another free art gallery to explore is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which showcases cutting-edge Australian and International modern art.

Cheap Things to Do in Sydney

If you’re traveling on a budget, here are some cheap things to do in Sydney that won’t cost you a fortune:

1. Pylon Lookout

On the Sydney Harbour Bridge visit the Pylon Lookout for just $11 and get fantastic views plus 3 levels of exhibits and learn about the history and construction of the Bridge.

2. Catch the Ferry to Manly

Sydney Harbour aerial views of bridge and opera hoes

The $15 return ferry ride to Manly is one of the best ways to experience Sydney Harbour.

The scenery on the way over and back is stunning as you cruise by the City Skyline, Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Botanical Gardens.

Plus, you get to explore Manly which is a great little spot to spend the day on the beach. Manly Beach is a popular and well-maintained beach that is great for families.

If you head over to the North Head in Sydney National Park you’ll find incredible views of the harbour and Hornby Lighthouse over on South Head. You’ll find many walking trails in Manly for those who love the outdoors.

3. Sydney Tower Eye

sydney tower in the middle of high rises

For $18 go up to the top of Sydney Tower Eye, the city’s tallest free-standing structure standing at 309 m (1,014 ft) above the CBD. It has an observation deck with awesome views of the skyline.

Sightseeing Passes

If you’re travelling on a budget, then you might want to make use of the Sydney Attraction Pass. This gives you discounted entrance to many of the top attractions in Sydney, such as tours, museums, cruises, and wildlife attractions.

The attraction passes allow you entrance to either 3, 5, or 7 attractions of your choice. This is a great way to save money on attractions that would otherwise cost you more to see, such as The Sydney Opera House, Sydney Tower Eye, and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

How to Find Cheap Transport in Sydney

ferry cruising past sydney opera house
Sydney ferries with a view

Here’s a bonus tip for you! In Sydney, they have ‘Family Funday Sunday’, which offers discounted prices on public transport for families. Every Sunday for $2.50 per person you get unlimited travel on all trains, buses, ferries, and light rail. What a great deal!

Use Sunday as the day to explore places further afield such as the northern beaches or Royal National Park.

My Multi Day Pass – permits a whole day of unlimited travel on trains, government and private buses, and Sydney Ferries.

Where to Find FREE WiFi in Sydney

More and more free wireless Wi-Fi hotspots are being installed all over Sydney (and about time!!), in cafes, restaurants, food courts and hotels.

Bring your own laptop or mobile device and connect to free wireless at City Libraries and these locations:

Also, Urban Spoon is a good resource to search cafes and restaurants offering free wireless.

Before You Go

view of sydney harbour bridge, luna park and sydney harbor with buildings and sailboats at sunset

So there you have it, those are the top free things to do in Sydney, and as you can see, there’s plenty of attractions to keep you busy without costing you a fortune.

Before you go, make sure you have your accommodation covered in advance as this will give you more options, as well as help you find cheaper room prices.

Sydney is not a cheap destination, so the more you can plan ahead, the more you will save.

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18 FREE things to do in Sydney, Australia. You don't have to break the bank on your visit.

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65 thoughts on “17 Free Things to Do in Sydney”

  1. Wow, that view from Observatory Hill is amazing – I have never heard of it! Will have to attempt to get there next time I am in town!

  2. Jeremy Branham

    I love the parks! I try to spend time there in every city I visit. Sydney looks like it has some great ones.

  3. Great post guys, had one in the works from my time there recently but maybe I’ll hold off posting it for now 🙂

    Having taken the free walking tour it’s well worth someones time. Having never been to Sydney before it was a great overview to the city.

  4. Thanks for a great article – we have just returned to living in Sydney and we have already done a couple of things on your list! We did the walk across the Harbour Bridge a few weeks ago which is fantastic, checked out the markets and The Rocks and Chinatown (and had a last ride on the monorail). You have a few more things here which we will also check out over coming months.

  5. Australia is truly an amazing country! Love the pictures you have here 🙂 Even in such an expensive city, such as Sydney, we can actually find free stuff. The warmth of people we meet is a perfect example of something that is free, yet remains extremely precious. 🙂

    1. Fortunately there are free things to do in every city around the world, and sometimes they are the best things like engaging with the people and just getting lost on foot.

  6. ah!!! I miss this city so much! Seeing your picture of the Bondi-Coogee walk makes me smile since Coogee was our favorite beach. I can’t wait until we go back again!!!

  7. Last month i visited the Sydney and this is very beautiful city to see. Before going to Sydney, i have read your post and noted the main things to do in Sydney and i really enjoyed a lot. Your post is very helpful for me. . Thanks

  8. This is a really good, thorough list. I love the way so many of these free things to do are also some of the BEST things to do in Sydney.

    Those free walking tours look like an amazing service for travellers, I’m surprised they’re able to do them for free!

  9. wow! thanks for posting this! very helpful and inviting. anyone who reads this and sees the beautiful pictures will be so excited to go and see Sydney! i’m planning to visit during the holidays and will definitely try most, if not all, of what you have lined up here. 🙂

  10. Hi
    We are visiting very soon and I was interested in the free walking tours . Where do you meet the guide for them
    This is brilliant information to know about I am glad I found you!

  11. I grew up in Sydney and hold on to some great memories of the city when the old style ferrys cruised the harbour ,lunar park “just for fun” ,the bridge , the opera house being built ,when the amp building was the tallest in the city(25 stories high) .Hanging out at Bronte , Tamarama ,and Clovelly . Doing that walk around the coast through waverly cemetary . Walking the cliff tops when the seas were huge and bodysurfing Tamma point . A beautiful city for sure .

  12. Hi Craig & Caz, I was in Sydney last weekend and undertook a lot of these free activities. We also went to Icebergs Ocean Pool at Bondi and had coffee from the pool deck and watched swimmers in the pool and the waves pumping into Bondi Beach. Afterwards we caught the $2.50 Sunday bus over to Watson’s Bay and got take-away fish and chips and sat in the park. Then we walked through The Gap National Park up to a lookout which has spectacular views of Sydney Head, the entrance to Sydney Harbour. I love Sydney for a short break – there is so much to do and see.

  13. Nice work! I came to read because I wondered what you’d found for free. It’s a beautiful spot, I like to just walk around the harbour, it’s always great being near water.

  14. Sydney is one of my favourite cities in the whole world. There’s always something new to do here even if you’ve stayed here all your life. There are always new festivals or events or restaurants opening up that have to be tried with your family and friends 🙂

  15. thank you am going to sydney I n December for a month and can’t wait to c all the sights thank u for all these free tips Eileen ?

  16. What a great post! Thank you for all the wonderful tips! My partner and I will be visiting Sydney this month and we will definitely check out most if not all your suggestions! Thanks!?

  17. Many thanks for sharing this wonderful info for the first time visitor. Otherwise I was quite worried to gauge the expenses to visit this beautiful city. I am planning to be there by the end of December 2015 on my fifteen days tour and would definitely take benefit of your valuable (free) advices.

  18. We are planning to visit Sydney in April for 6 days. This list is awesome and will help us figure out what to do. One of our prime objectives is see wild kangaroos. Any thoughts on that?

  19. My wife and I traveled to Sydney last Spring. Loved the city and so much to see and do. We enjoyed walking everywhere, especially hopping over to Manly for the day. Hyde Park is a great spot to sit back, relax and enjoy a picnic lunch as well! Can’t wait to return!

  20. Hoping to visit your fine land in early Mar…where might someone take a swim and esp. snorkel around Sydney…any for free? Hazards?
    Any tour or sm. pkg for a few days for best $ that you might recommend as well…..My Thks!

  21. This is going to be our “go to list” when traveling this summer with my daughter! Thanks for the great info! Does anyone know if you can tour the opera house – self guided or cheaper than whats listed on their website? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Melissa, I don’t think you can do self-guided besides walking around the outside areas. To explore the interior I’m assuming it would only be on a tour.

  22. Seems the free CBD shuttle (route 555) that ran every 10 minutes on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets no longer exists.

    1. True. It probably disappeared during this construction of the light rail network up George Street. Thanks for the reminder. Will update the post.

  23. I will be staying in Sydney for 10 days the end of November. I was thinking about renting a car to do a bit of exploring on my own. I would really like to see lots of kangaroos in the wild. Could you recommend any places for me to visit that would be a three hour drive or less from the city. Thank you.

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