Planning to spend a few days in Sydney and want to know what to see, where to eat and drink, where to shop and where to stay in the Australian city? Read my ultimate guide to Sydney, and I have got you all covered!
It’s 12 years ago I visited Sydney for the first time, and since then I’ve fallen completely in love with the city. In fact so much that I decided to move there for 1,5 years back in 2017.
I’ve seen plenty of beautiful cities since I started travelling, but I’ve never been to a city more beautiful than Sydney. The many waterways, the large number of beautiful beaches and coves, the fascinating architecture and the magnificent sunrises and sunsets you can experience hereabouts keep catching my eye.
What I really like about the Australian metropolis is the mix of big city life and world-class beaches. Combined with famous sights, amazing food, great shopping opportunities and the characteristic laidback Australian lifestyle, Sydney is an absolute must visit.
Here is my ultimate guide to Sydney packed with insider tips and tricks to ensure you make the most of your visit and have an epic time in Australia’s largest city.
My ultimate guide to Sydney, Australia
How to get to Sydney
Flights to Sydney
For most people Australia is far away and getting there requires a flight. Sydney has one major airport with several daily routes from all over the world.
Sydney Airport is located quite close to the city centre, and the easiest and fastest way to get there is by train. The Airport Link (T8) takes around 15 minutes and runs approximately every ten minutes. It stops at every major station in the city centre, including Central from where you can change to most other lines. Note that the Airport Link costs around 15 AUD. If you are travelling on a budget I can recommend taking the 400 or 420 bus from the airport to Mascot Station and change to the T8 from there. That costs around 6 AUD.
Trains and buses to Sydney
Australia has a great train network, and you can catch trains to Sydney from all capital cities except Darwin in the Northern Territory and Hobart on Tasmania. If you come from Canberra, Melbourne or Brisbane you can take regional trains, while you need to take the more expensive Indian Pacific train to get to Sydney from Perth and Adelaide. They say it’s worth it though!
Another way to get to Sydney is by bus. Greyhound is the most popular bus company that has routes all over Australia, including several routes to Sydney.
How to get around in Sydney
I love to walk around cities and explore at my own pace, and Sydney is no exception. The city is quite big though and not all areas are that interesting to walk around in. Sydney’s CBD, Bondi Beach, Surry Hills, Newtown and Manly are probably the most walkable neighbourhoods and are all best explored on foot.
The traffic in Sydney is often crazy, so the fastest way to get around is usually by public transport. Sydney operates with both trains, buses and ferries. The train system covers most areas and is extremely reliable while the buses run more inconsistently. Ferries cover large parts of the waterways and are quite reliable.
The easiest and cheapest way to use public transport in Sydney is with an Opal Card that is a travel card you can top up. You can get an Opal Card for free at most convenience stores and kiosks and use it all over the Greater Sydney Area. You can also buy tickets and use public transport that way.
Best time to visit Sydney
It’s always a good idea to visit Sydney no matter time of year, however, some months are slightly better than others.
Summer in Sydney (December to February) is high season. The city enjoys warm temperatures around 25 degrees on average, which makes it a pleasant time to visit. It’s worth noticing though that especially during late summer it’s often quite humid. Lots of events and festivals are held in the summer months, including the spectacular Sydney New Years Eve that you need to experience at least once in your lifetime!
Shoulder season runs from March to May and from September to November where Sydney enjoys warmer temperatures around 20 degrees. Autumn (March to May) is the rainiest period while spring (September to November) is the driest. If you visit Sydney in October or November the beautiful purple jacaranda trees bloom.
With temperatures around 15 degrees on average winter in Sydney isn’t that bad. However, it’s the low season and not that many people find their way to the Australian metropolis during this time of year (June to August). The winter highlight is the annual light festival Vivid Sydney that is held from late May to mid-June.
Where to stay in Sydney
Splendidly situated at the Woolloomooloo Wharf this luxurious boutique hotel will secure you an unforgettable stay in Sydney. The hotel is located in an old wool warehouse, and the modern interior design matches the industrial vibe perfectly. Although the decor should be what draws you the most to stay at Ovolo Woolloomooloo it’s worth mentioning that they also have several lounge areas, a bar, an indoor pool area and a gym etc. Read more, check availability and prices and book your stay here (affiliate link).
6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo (www)
Sydney Harbour YHA
Sydney Harbour YHA must be one of the best located hostels in the world. It’s situated right next to Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney and has a splendid rooftop from where you have a great view of the Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Despite the rooftop, the hostel enjoys other nice features such as air-conditioning, free wifi, food store and laundry service etc. Read more, check availability and prices and book your stay here (affiliate link).
110 Cumberland St, CBD (www)
The Russell Boutique Hotel
The Russell Boutique Hotel is a charming and modern place to stay during your time in Sydney. They offer a range of unique rooms two of which aren’t the same and nice facilities, including a private rooftop terrace from where you have an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour. Read more, check availability and prices and book your stay here (affiliate link).
43A George St, CBD (www)
The Urban Newtown
With an interesting mix of quirky people and vibrant restaurants, cafés and bars, Newtown is a great area to stay in Sydney. The Urban Newtown is located in the heart of the funky area and offers nice and modern rooms with many great features such as for example a kitchen in every room. Read more, check availability and prices and book your stay here (affiliate link).
52-60 Enmore Rd, Newtown (www)
The York by Swiss-Belhotel
The York by Swiss-Belhotel offers four-star serviced apartments in the centre of Sydney with everything you need, including a nice outdoor pool area from where you can take a dip and relax while looking at all the hustle and bustle down at the busy streets. Read more, check availability and prices and book your stay here (affiliate link).
5 York St, CBD (www)
What to do in Sydney
Walk the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
If you are keen on a little exercise I can highly recommend the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. The walk is six kilometres and takes you through famous beaches, beautiful bays with clear blue waters and stunning rock formations on the way. Take a dip, look at surfers or watch the sunrise or sunset from the beautiful route. It’s definitely a must do!
Bondi Beach, Coogee Beach (www)
Climb Harbour Bridge
Standing on top of the famous Harbour Bridge can be nerve-wracking. However, when you look out at one of the most beautiful cities in the world you quickly forget the height. At the summit, you stand 134 metres above sea level and have an amazing view of the whole city. A bridge climb is expensive but is totally worth the cost I would say. You can see the different prices here.
3 Cumberland St, CBD (www)
Swim in Bondi Icebergs
With its beautiful design and splendid location, Bondi Icebergs has become a Sydney Icon. Every day tonnes of people make it to Bondi Beach to among others take photos of the picturesque rock pool. However, why not also take a swim when you are there anyway? Especially in the early morning hours while the sun starts rising it’s absolutely amazing. Entrance fee is 8 AUD.
1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach (www)
Walk the harbourside
As mentioned earlier, one of my favourite ways of exploring a city is on foot. In Sydney, you can walk to famous sights such as Darling Harbour, Harbour Bridge, the Rocks, Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Garden that are all within a short walking distance from each other. Make sure to walk all the way to Mrs Mcqaurie’s Chair in the Royal Botanic Garden for a picture perfect view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Learn to surf
Sydney is a surfer’s paradise with plenty of beaches perfect for surfing. If you want to try the bloody difficult sport yourself, I can highly recommend booking a lesson or two at Let’s Go Surfing at Bondi Beach. Let’s Go Surfing’s competent instructors teach you the right techniques and make it a bit easier for you to be successful on the board. In addition, they usually bring a photographer who takes photos during the lesson that you can buy afterwards.
128 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi (www)
Spend a day in Manly
When taking the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay and step out at the Manly Wharf 30 minutes later you don’t feel like being in a big city anymore. Taking a day trip to Manly is the perfect way to escape all the hustle and bustle in the city centre. While in Manly, make sure to walk along the coast to Shelly Beach and explore the area around the picturesque little beach. When you get hungry, enjoy a delicious meal and a drink at The Boathouse or Manly Wharf Hotel.
Watch a performance at the Sydney Opera House
Even though the Sydney Opera House is most famous for its spectacular exterior I can highly recommend watching a performance inside the world famous building. Of course, opera is the obvious choice, but the Sydney Opera House offers all kinds of events and performances such as dance, theatre, concerts etc.
Bennelong Pt, CBD (www)
Watch the sunset at Watson’s Bay
There are plenty of reasons to go to Watson’s Bay; you find several walking tracks, including the South Head Heritage Trail that takes you to the characteristic Hornby Lighthouse, plenty of beautiful beaches and coves and great seafood restaurants. However, what I enjoy the most at Watson’s Bay is to watch the sunset from there. From Watson’s Bay, you have an amazing skyline view of the city, and when the sun sets the city is illuminated by the fading sun and all the colours that causes.
Looking for more stuff about Australia?
Where to eat and drink in Sydney
Restaurants in Sydney
If you are into French food and are ready to splurge a little bit Hubert is the place to go to. Hubert is a fine restaurant that serves all kinds of popular French dishes in beautiful classic surroundings. Their a la carte menu is perfect for sharing and gives you the opportunity to taste a variety of their many delicious dishes.
15 Bligh St, CBD (www)
Mary’s is a place like no other. There are no signs outside and you enter through what seems like a backdoor. When you are inside the walls are full of graffiti, the music is loud and you don’t think you can get anything to eat in there. But you can, and you should. The burgers at Mary’s are amazing and are served by the most laid-back waiters you can imagine, making it a unique experience.
6 Mary St, Newtown (www)
Riley St Garage
Riley St Garage reminds me of a cool New York City restaurant with brick walls, dark wooden interior and an industrial vibe. Their speciality is seafood, but Riley St Garage also serves lots of other dishes that are all great for sharing. Make sure to have a cocktail at the enormous bar in the middle of the restaurant before having dinner.
55 Riley St, Woolloomooloo (www)
I’ve got some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had at The Apollo. They serve Australian inspired Greek dishes that are made for sharing in beautiful surroundings with an industrial vibe. In addition, The Apollo has a nice drinks menu with a large variety of different cocktails, wine and beer, making it a great place to start a fun night out.
44 MacLeay St, Potts Point (www)
The Italian Bowl
If you love pasta as much as I do you will love The Italian Bowl. You pick your own delicious pasta, meat and sauce and see it being cooked right in front of you. Understandably, there is often a long queue of hungry people outside the restaurant, but it usually goes pretty fast to get to the counter and place your order.
255 King St, Newtown (www)
The Stinking Bishops
Wine and cheese is a concept the Australians are really good at, and at The Stinking Bishops, they are probably the best. The restaurant serves tasty cheeses and charcuterie and pairs it with delicious wines. You can choose between a large selection of cheeses and meats or mix it up with some snacks or mains if you would like to try something else as well.
5/63-71 Enmore Rd, Newtown (www)
One of my all time favourite places in Sydney is The Winery that is the perfect place to start a fun night out. As the name implies they are specialised in wines, and if the weather allows it you should definitely enjoy a glass or two in their beautiful urban garden. In addition, The Winery frequently hosts different events, and especially their “Bottomless Bellinis” is highly recommended.
285A Crown St, Surry Hills (www)
Cafés and coffee shops in Sydney
Celsius Coffee Co.
With one of the best locations at the Kirribilli Wharf, Celsius Coffee Co. is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast or lunch. The café is quite small and primitive, but they make great food that you can enjoy while overlooking the Sydney Harbour. Try their “Celsius Breakfast” for the ultimate Australian brekkie.
Commuter Wharf, Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli (www)
Four Ate Five
Four Ate Five is a nice and vibrant little café located in Surry Hills that is often packed with people. They make delicious breakfast and lunch dishes, and I find especially their salad bowls and their salmon bagel very tasty.
485 Crown St, Surry Hills (www)
There are tonnes of great brunch places in Bondi and one of my favourites is Harry’s. Traditional breakfast and lunch dishes are on the menu, and all dishes are made to perfection. Even though Harry’s is most famous for their brunch they also have a nice dinner menu.
2/136 Wairoa Ave, North Bondi (www)
Porch & Parlour
Porch & Parlous is probably the most beautiful café in Bondi. I love the shelled walls and the dark wooden interior that are the perfect surroundings when enjoying a nice brunch. Porch & Parlour is specialised in greens and makes gorgeous, delicious and healthy dishes. I’m especially a fan of their “Green Pea Pancake.”
17-18/110 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi (www)
Shuk is my favourite place to sit and work while enjoying a great cup of coffee and a bite. The place is beautifully decorated, there is a good atmosphere and it’s one of the few places in Sydney with free wifi that works perfectly. The menu is inspired by the Middle East and especially Israeli dishes dominate.
2 Mitchell St, North Bondi (www)
Bars in Sydney
Coogee Pavilion is one of the places I visited the most during the weekend while I lived in Sydney. It’s situated right next to Coogee Beach, and during the day the place is packed with people who bring their kids and take a break from lying on the beach and have a bite and people who come to have a cup of coffee, sip a drink or watch sports in their casual clothes. During the evening the clientele is mixed with people who are dressed up and ready for a party. Coogee Pavilion is a unique spot, and you can always find a reason to go!
169 Dolphin St, Coogee (www)
Palmer & Co.
One of my absolute favourite places to have a drink is at Palmer & Co. The bar is located in a little alley and doesn’t look like much from the outside. However, it might be one of the coolest places in Sydney. Palmer & Co. is a time warp from the 1920s where you instantly feel like you are part of a “Great Gatsby” scene when you step inside. The staff is dressed in fancy gowns and suits, the interior design is classic, the music is vibey and the cocktails taste great.
Abercrombie Ln, CBD (www)
Slip Inn is the place to go to if you want to have a fun Mexican inspired afternoon and evening. They have a lovely courtyard and it’s easy to spend several hours hanging out there. A fun little side note is that this was the place where the Danish Crown Prince Frederik met Crown Princess Mary during the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
111 Sussex St, CBD (www)
The Establishment is the place to go to if you are looking for a great and fancy party. The place is huge and always packed with people who among others stand around the beautiful 42-metre long marble bar and order delicious cocktails and expensive champagne.
252 George St, CBD (www)
The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room
The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room is located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD and is a great place to enjoy an after-work drink and dinner. They combine dining and vibrant nightlife in the best way and is definitely worth a visit.
225 George St, CBD (www)
Fast food, takeaway and ice cream shops in Sydney
Fishbowl Sashimi Bar
My go to lunch place while I lived in Sydney was Fishbowl Sashimi Bar, and I definitely wasn’t the only one who loved having one of their delicious pokébowls once in a while. During my 1,5 years in Sydney, several Fishbowl restaurants popped up all over the city. You now find Fishbowl Sashimi Bar 11 places in and around the city with the one in Bondi Beach being the original one.
180 Campbell Pde (Pacific), Bondi Beach (www)
You find several ice cream shops in Sydney, but the best one is by far Messina that is a chain with 11 gelato shops located all around the city. They have a large variety of flavours, and I especially find their cookies and cream, coffee and hazelnut flavours extremely delicious. My favourite Gelato Messina shop is the one located in Surry Hills.
389 Crown St, Surry Hills (www)
Food markets in Sydney
Bondi Farmers Market
Sydney has several markets, but my favourite one is the Bondi Farmers Market. Every Saturday from 9 am-1 pm you can find just-picked flowers, fresh fruit and veggies, organic meat and poultry, farmstead cheeses, artisanal bread, homemade jams and olive oils, herbs and spices etc. from the many stands.
Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach (www)
Spice Alley is a nice little laneway with a ceiling of glowing lanterns and several Asian street food stands that inevitably leads the mind to Asian climes. Enjoy an Asian salad or try a meal influenced by the Cantonese, Malaysian, Singaporean or Thai kitchen.
Kensington Street, Chippendale (www)
The Grounds of Alexandria
The Grounds of Alexandria is a popular spot in Sydney. It’s an urban garden area with a café, a restaurant and bar, a bakery and coffee shop, a little animal farm and a florist etc. Walk around, sip coffee, have a bite or just relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
The Grounds concept has become so popular that the owners have expanded and opened The Grounds of the City in Sydney’s CBD that can give you a good feeling of the concept. However, I would definitely recommend you visit the one in Alexandria for the best experience.
7A/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria (www)
Where to shop in Sydney
Assembly Label is an Australian brand that focuses on simplicity and good quality. They have a variety of basic styles in black, white, grey, beige and denim and retails lots of accessories such as bags, shoes and sandals, sunglasses, swimwear, jewellery, books and magazines. Despite the one in Bondi Beach, you also find Assembly Label in Manly, Mosman and Paddington in Sydney.
221 Bondi Rd, Bondi Beach (www)
Incu retails a curation of cool Australian and international brands and is a true fashion mecca. It’s difficult not to be tempted by all the beautiful styles and accessories from among others French A.P.C. and Isabel Marant Etoile, Swedish Acne Studios and Australian St. Agni when visiting the store. You also find Incu in Paddington.
The Galeries, 24/500 George St, CBD (www)
Queen Victoria Building
Queen Victoria Building is without a doubt the oldest and most elegant shopping mall in Sydney. It’s built in a Romanesque style and has so many beautiful details that alone is a reason to go. However, the shopping mall also has great shops varying from luxurious designer shops to delicious delis and souvenir shops.
455 George St, CBD (www)
The Standard Store
One of my absolute favourite clothing stores in Sydney is the Standard Store. I don’t know if it’s because they sell a variety of Scandinavian brands that I love or whatever it is, but the owners have really managed to handpick classic styles from brands all over the world that fit perfectly in my wardrobe. You also find The Standard Store in Barangaroo in the CBD.
503 Crown St (www)
The Waiting Room
Make sure to only enter The Waiting Room on payday. They retail a variety of high-end Scandinavian, European, American and local brands, and everything in the store is beyond pretty, including the interior design where marble and wood are the dominating materials.
14/200 Barangaroo Avenue, CBD
This was my ultimate guide to Sydney. I hope it has been an inspiration for you and given you an idea of what to do, where to eat and drink, where to shop and where to stay in the Australian city. If there is anything else you would like to know that you can’t find in this Sydney city guide, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.
Read more posts from Australia here.