Sydney consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, that’s probably not news to most of you.
The GOOD news is that it’s not impossible to visit Sydney on a budget, and there are many free things to do in Sydney that allow you to experience the best the city has to offer.
You don’t necessarily have to pay to get to see and experience all of Sydney’s most famous icons and stunning coastal landmarks.
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.
Free things to do in Sydney
1. Free Walking Tour
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 sights and give you your bearings so you can then go it alone.
2. Walk Across the Sydney 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
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 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.
4. 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.
5. Visit Government House
Located in the Domain and overlooking the Royal Botanical Gardens, why not check out Government House, which is the most sophisticated example of a Gothic Revival building in NSW.
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
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
The Sydney CBD and Harbour front area is very walkable. I often like to walk down fromCentral 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.
Circular Quay is a busy transport hub with many outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the harbour.
8. Explore the Neighbourhoods
Walk around one of Sydney’s most artistically-vibrant neighbourhoods 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 streets.
The fashionable neighbourhood 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.
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
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.
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.
9. 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.
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, Coogee and you must visit famous Bondi Beach at least once.
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.
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.
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.
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 Saturday’s with 150 unique stalls offering creative fashion and accessories.
- Bondi Markets – Open Sundays offering original designer clothing, handmade jewellery, arts, crafts, retro furniture, vintage clothes and more.
- The Rocks Markets – Saturday’s and Sunday’s offering fashion, arts & crafts, jewellery, music & books, health & beauty, 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. Catch the metro light rail from Central.
16. Free Festivals in Sydney
Once you book your accommodation in Sydney, if you time your visit right Sydney puts on some of the best free festivals and events anywhere in the world.
- 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 parade 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. FREE WiFi in Sydney
More and more free wireless Wi-Fi hotspots are being installed all over in 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.
18. 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.
Almost Free things to do in Sydney
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.
Family Funday Sunday – Travelling with a family? Every Sunday for $2.50 per person you get unlimited travel on all trains, buses, ferries and light rail. Great deal.
My Multi Day Pass – permits a whole day of unlimited travel on trains, government and private buses and Sydney Ferries.
Catch the Ferry to Manly
The $15 return ferry trip 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.
For $18 go up to the top of Sydney Tower, 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.
Tours, Sightseeing & Passes
Check out the Sydney Attraction Pass which offers exceptional value on tours, attractions, museums, cruises, wildlife attractions in Sydney
Plan Your Trip to Sydney
We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:
- 5 Best Sydney CBD accommodation – from budget to luxury
- Holiday Inn Sydney Airport – accommodation for stress free travel
- Booking.com has over 500 properties in Sydney including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
- Find your perfect Airbnb rental in Sydney here.
Flights to Sydney
- Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Car Rental in Sydney
- RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
Tours & Sightseeing