We all know Sydney isn’t exactly the cheapest city in the world, and living here I know this all too well. Things can really add up if you’re not paying attention to your spending while you explore this beautiful city. While it’s nice to indulge sometimes, there’s plenty of things us locals love to do in this harbour city that won’t cost you a thing! Here’s a great little list of free activities that will keep you busy in Sydney, as recommended by a local.
1. Visit one of Sydney’s beaches
Sydney is lined with beautiful beaches – the coastal lifestyle is of the city’s greatest draw cards. Unlike lots of other places around the world where beach access is privatised, beaches in Sydney are completely free for all to enjoy! Whether it’s iconic Bondi, northern Palm Beach or down south in Cronulla, hit the beach and enjoy the sand between your toes.
2. Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery Of NSW is the biggest art gallery in the Sydney, and while there are usually seasonal exhibits which require admission tickets, the majority of the art is free for the public to admire. The gallery has an impressive collection of art on multiple levels, with a great display of indigenous Australian pieces. It’s a great place to visit for a date, family day out or solo for some creative inspiration.
The MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is another great art gallery in Sydney, located in Circular Quay. There are lots of free galleries inside the museum filled with great contemporary art, and the rooftop cafe has a stunning view of the harbour you won’t want to miss!
4. Walk along the Harbour Bridge
The Harbour Bridge is an absolute Australian icon, and you’ll probably find most visitors to Sydney have seeing the bridge on their bucket list. If doing the offical climb to the top of the bridge is a little out of your budget (it’s not cheap!), try taking a free walk along the bridge’s pedestrian path and enjoy the same view. A slow stroll will take about 30 minutes, and the view will definitely be worth the walk.
5. Bondi to Bronte walk
Another free activity that Sydney-siders love is the famous beachside walk between Bondi and Bronte beaches. You’ll get your steps up while being treated to beautiful ocean views!
6. Enjoy the gardens and water fountains in Darling Quarter
Just a quick walk from Darling Harbour, the newly-updated Darling Quarter area is full of restaurants, water fountains and playgrounds. Make your way down and relax by the water features, or have a cheeky swing in the park.
7. Stroll around Paddy’s Markets
If you’re looking for souvenirs, Paddy’s Market in Haymarket will already be on your radar. But this Sydney market has much more than just ‘I love Sydney’ keyrings. Paddy’s Market has a whole section down the back dedicated to fresh produce, as well as stalls for clothes, electronics and questionable lingerie. Get lost wandering around the aisles – a bit of window shopping never hurt anybody!
8. Check out the views at Circular Quay
Even as a local, I love coming down to Circular Quay every once in a while to soak up the views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Admiring these Sydney icons with the ocean breeze in your hair is an experience money can’t buy – literally, because it’s free! A little tip – the best panoramic view is from the platform inside Circular Quay train station, so don’t forget to stop and take pictures if you get off the train here.
9. Walk the steps of the Opera House
While you’re in Circular Quay enjoying the views, you’ll definitely want to visit the famous Opera House. If a prestigious show in the Opera House is a little out of your price range, not to worry – you can walk up the steps, around the front perimeter and have a peek inside for free.
10. Admire the view from the top of Queen Victoria Building
The historic Queen Victoria Building is home to many luxury boutiques, and is largely a thoroughfare for people getting from point A to B in the city. Ditch the crowds on the lower levels and make your way up to level 2, where you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the building’s stunning architecture for free – don’t forget your camera!
11. Relax in one of Sydney’s parks
Sydney City is full of green spaces, all of which are open freely to the public. Visit the Botanical Gardens for a beautiful area of manicured gardens, Hyde Park for the War Memorial, or Observatory Hill for an alternative view of Sydney Harbour.
12. Enjoy the light and sound exhibitions of Vivid
During the winter months, Sydney city puts on Vivid – a free display of night-time art around for the public to enjoy. You can expect colourful art projected onto iconic buildings around the city, and well as interactive light and sound installations which come alive at night. The city gets extremely busy during Vivid winter nights, but crowds are part of the fun in my opinion.
13. Plane-spotting at Brighton-Le-Sands
If you like aviation, this one’s for you! Sydney is one of the few places in the world that has its airport situated in the heart of the city, which makes for awesome plane-spotting. Get yourself down to Brighton-Le-Sands beach, where you can watch planes fly in and out whilst sitting on the sand.
14. Browse for books at Kinokunya and Dymmocks
Looking for a great free activity that will keep your mind busy? Spend some time browsing in Japanese bookstore Kinokunya, or head down the road to the classic Dymmocks store in Town Hall. You could spend all day flipping though the books at either of these stores, both which have cafes if you’re looking for a coffee to go with your page-turner.
15. Visit the Grounds of Alexandria
Part restaurant complex, part garden oasis, the Grounds of Alexandria is a new Sydney icon in the age of Instagram (you’ll recognise it as the backdrop for many influencer shoots!). The food at the Grounds of Alexandria can be a bit pricey, but it’s completely free to wander around the complex, and is totally worth visiting for an earthy vibe that will transport you to the countryside.
I hope you like this list of free things to do in Sydney!
Want to read more about Sydney? Check out this post on 11 Awesome Places To Eat In Western Sydney.