With the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House, beaches a train or ferry ride away, shopping in Sydney City and performance and street art wherever you go, here is an insider’s guide to what is by far Australia’s most popular tourist destination.

General Information
First of all, if you’re staying in or around Sydney, I highly recommend using public transport. Although it can be very crowded on trains, busses and ferries, it’s more worth it than driving. In Sydney, parking can be challenging to find, and it can be easy to get lost. In most of New South Wales, we use a system called Opal. An Opal Card is literally a smartcard you can purchase at train stations, at news agencies or in convenience stores where you load money onto it and tap on/off at train and ferry stations before you get onto the platform. On busses, there is a little pad you can tap the Opal Card before you take a seat and tap off as you get off the bus. There are cards for adults, children up to fifteen years of age and seniors/pensioners. Be careful, because Opal Cards can be very easy to lose.

Another thing is that although it’s really sad, there are a lot of homeless people in Sydney, but I wouldn’t recommend giving them money. Feel free to give out food items or coffee or anything physical expect for cash. If you give a person money, then more people will approach you.

Just like anywhere else, Sydney is safe to travel alone in as long as you appear to know where you’re going and what you’re doing. Most people mind their own business, but it’s still important to be wary of strangers. I would recommend travelling in a small group or in a pair so that people won’t approach you if you’re vulnerable.

This is obvious, but English is the most widely spoken language.

iconic, photography, and Sydney image

Circular Quay
Circular Quay is where you’ll find Sydney’s most iconic landmarks; the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. From the train station, you can see the bridge as soon as you walk out. If you’re walking towards the Opera House, you’ll find many street performers. I commonly see jazz musicians, human statues and for some reason, accordion players. Right next to Circular Quay is The Rocks, where you’ll find vintage buildings and a variety of restaurants. There are more things to do on Circular Quay then just looking at the bridge and the Opera House.

- Taronga Zoo is quite literally what you’ll expect. The zoo is always fun, but what sets Taronga Zoo apart from other zoos is Australia’s unique wildlife.

- Luna Park is an amusement park. There are thrilling rides and showbags, and the ferry ride to and from Milson’s Point, where Luna Park is located, adds to the experience.

light, night, and vintage image

- If you like abstract art, you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Admission is free unless you’re seeing an exhibit, which is only seasonal.

- If you like flowers, you can visit the Royal Botanical Garden. Just keep following the path to behind the Opera House until you see a gate. Again, admission is free. The Royal Botanical Garden is a personal favourite place of mine in Sydney. The actual grounds the garden is located is massive, and it’d take basically an entire day to explore it all. There is lots of variation in types of plants in their own subsections.

Sydney’s City Centre, or Central, is where most of the hustle and bustle is located. People mostly come here to socialise and shop at Queen Victoria Building. Apart from dining at the many bars and restaurants located around Central, here are some other things to do:

- Queen Victoria Building is an elegant shopping centre that is massive in size. If you get off the train at Town Hall station, you literally just walk up into QVB. At peak times, it can get so crowded that it’s hard to find space to walk. Right outside of the building you’ll find luxury brand outlets such as Gucci and Tiffany and Co.

architecture, staircase, and amazing image

- Hyde Park is a scenic park right in front of St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral. There you’ll also find the ANZAC Memorial building, pool of reflection and the Archibald Fountain. Surrounded by a city so busy, Hyde Park is quite peaceful in comparison.

- Unlike the Museum of Contemporary Arts, The Art Gallery of New South Wales houses traditional and orthodox artworks. There is a whole section dedicated to renaissance-like paintings (a personal favourite), Aboriginal artworks and even select HSC students’ art majors (what year 12 students who do visual arts have to hand in). Not to mention, the view from the art gallery that overlooks the city is stunning.

A personal favourite of mine, Haymarket (more commonly known as Chinatown) is where most South-East and East Asian cultures mix and mingle in Sydney. Haymarket is a short walk away from Central.

- Paddy’s Markets is where there is cheap little knick-knacks and clothes. You’ll find artists who commission their work in stalls. My advice is to be wary of the quality of some items and don’t buy ‘name brand’ items such as purses/wallets since it’s likely that they’re fake.

- Right above Paddy’s Markets you’ll find a staircase that literally leads to more retailers and even an arcade.

- Along Dixon Street you’ll find lots of Asian restaurants and street performers. There is a small shopping centre that you can duck into and find shops that sell clothes and art, as well as more places to eat.

- The Chinese Garden of Friendship is where you’ll find traditional Chinese architecture combined with the natural elements.

bamboo, art, and design image

Newtown has a cool, alternative atmosphere. Along the main street of Newtown, you’ll find vibrant works of art decorating the walls of buildings and stores that sell everything that is vintage/popular in the alternative scene. Like everywhere in Sydney, there are lost of bars and restaurants that specialise in cuisines from around the world. I highly recommend going to Newtown if you’re into alternative and edgier culture, just bring lots of money.

Beaches to go to
Before I list off beaches around Sydney, I’m going to give some safety tips that everyone should follow. It is absolutely essential for you to swim inside the red and yellow flags! They’re put in place because the water outside of the flags is too rough to swim in. Also, make sure to wear sunscreen. You should always put on sunscreen before going outside, but you’re more exposed to the sun at the beach and skin problems can arise.

- Manly beach is a personal favourite of mine. To get there, you’ll need to catch a direct ferry from Circular Quay. Every Saturday at Manly, there are cute little street markets located not far from the beach.

- Bondi Beach Sydney’s most popular beach. With its iconic pool that overlooks the sea, who can resist spending the day at Bondi swimming, sunbathing and maybe even catching some waves. To get to Bondi, you need to catch a train from Town Hall in Sydney.

- Maroubra Beach is a popular beach to go if you like surfing. There is even an outdoor gym free of charge.

australia, beach, and bondi image

Other things to see/do around Sydney
- Vivid Sydney is a collection of light instillations located all around Sydney that’s very Instagram worthy. It only happens once a year, around May-June (Australian winter). Be sure to wear warm clothes, as well as shoes that are comfortable to walk in.

- Mardi Gras Sydney is where the LGBT+ community show off their pride and celebrate love and freedom of expression. The Mardi Gras Parade is free to watch and cheer on.

- The Star City Casino is located in Pyrmont (close to Central) and is Sydney’s largest casino.

- Harbour Cruises are a fun and more intimate way of seeing Sydney Harbour. You can cruise through both Circular Quay or Darling Harbour.

Sydney and vivid image

There are a lot of things I’m missing from this list. I suggest going to https://www.sydney.com/ if you’re further interested in coming to Sydney.