Sydney is a city that offers visitors more than just beautiful beaches and delicious food. There are so many things to see and do in this amazing place, it’s hard to know where to start!
Whether you’re looking for the perfect spot for your next vacation or just want some information about Sydney, we are here to help with these 10 reasons why Sydney is the most fantastic city.
Sydney is a vibrant city known for its yacht-studded harbour, superb beaches and the iconic Opera House with its towering sail structure.
Once a British colony of exiled convicts, Sydney has grown into Australia’s most diverse and cosmopolitan city with exciting food, arts, and entertainment.
Sydney is home to more than 5 million people and is currently Australia’s most populated city. Known as the Emerald City, Sydney is famous as a tourist hotspot, owing to its many iconic tourist and cultural attractions.
Sydney has a wide variety of sights, with historic streets and museums to explore, thriving markets, and shopping centres – grand old icons and gleaming modern retail palaces.
Elsewhere, you can enjoy coastal walks and its spectacular Harbour Bridge that could be climbed by day or seen in its full glittering glory at night from a bar with a view.
Whether you are backpacking worldwide, looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, or are a jet-setting executive in Sydney for transit, the city has something for everyone.
This list takes a detailed look at all the things that Sydney is famous for.
1. The famous Sydney Opera House
When you think of Sydney’s famous landmarks, the first thing that pops into your head is the iconic Sydney Opera House. This immediately recognisable building with its sails puts on more than 2000 shows per year for 1.5 million viewers annually.
Sydney’s Opera House is an architectural masterpiece that’s become one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks. Among the 40 shows a week performed here, you can choose from live music concerts, ballet, modern dance, opera, symphony orchestras and plays.
Past acts have included famous operas such as Lakme, Norma, La Traviata, and Die Fledermaus. In addition, the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House has played host to contemporary musicians and bands such as Patti Smith, Chet Faker, Florence + The Machine, Mary J. Blige, and Bob Dylan, amongst others.
You can take various tours to enjoy your Opera House experience to the fullest, including the daily one-hour standard time, the more expensive Food & Wine Tour, or the Backstage tour that includes a cooked breakfast in the Green Room with artists and staff for the company.
No postcards or tourist advertisement for Sydney is without the iconic Sydney Opera House. It is the most recognisable modern building in the entire world, listed as one of the best 20th-century landmarks of all time. Its celebrated white sail-like roof waves blend perfectly with the nearby boats sailing within the sapphire harbour.
This is an essential stop when visiting Sydney city and is well worth the hype it’s given. Due to its immense size and central location, you don’t even need to get up close and personal to admire this landmark, with several lookout points from all over the city.
However, getting closer does have its perks, with countless bars and restaurants so you can sit back with a local Sydney beer and marvel at it from the harbourfront.
Would you mind taking a tour to learn more about its colourful history and backstage stories, or head up to the Opera Bar to relax with a sea view? Before the show, book a table at Bennelong for an elegant meal, serving modern Australian cuisine in a cathedral-like setting.
To watch an act at the Sydney Opera House, affordable balcony box tickets cost an average of AUD 50 plus transaction fees.
2. The Sydney Harbour Bridge
For that perfect Sydney Instagram picture, hop over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge close to the Opera House. Locals affectionately call this bridge ‘The Coat hanger’ because of the shape of the steel arc.
On this adrenalin-pumping guided tour over the arch, you’ll hear stories about the history of the bridge and the city as you take in the fantastic views over Sydney harbour.
It doesn’t come cheap, but it includes all safety equipment and photos taken by the guide (cameras are not permitted).
Joining the tour is the only way to navigate the arch, but if you’re keen to explore the bridge independently, there’s a footpath parallel to the road that’s free. You could also pay a small fee and do the 200-step climb up the Pylon Lookout, which offers a fabulous bird’s eye view of the harbour.
Choose from walking or cycling across the bridge. Then, for that real adrenalin rush, climb to the top of the bridge with BridgeClimb for unrivalled spectacular views of the city and the Opera House.
Another famous sight within the city’s harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The iconic arched bridge connects two of Sydney’s main areas, stretching over the sparkling blue waters.
The harbour can be viewed from afar, with an array of restaurants, apartments, and attractions surrounding the area, letting you relax with a view. Otherwise, for all those adrenaline junkies, you can even climb to the very top of the bridge.
This gives you an extraordinary view of the entire Sydney and its surroundings, turning your decent trip into an unforgettable one.
This will allow you to pass under the bridge and get a great view of the Opera House from close.
3. Bondi Beach
When you say beaches, we say BONDI!
Sydney’s Bondi beach is world-famous. You’ve probably seen at least a few hundred pictures of it on Instagram and Snapchat, especially of the waves crashing into the Bondi Baths, the pool at the famous Iceberg Club.
Just 8 km from Sydney’s city centre, Bondi Beach is a busy stretch of beautiful golden sands. While you could easily spend a lazy day here relaxing on the sands, it’s also a great place to surf.
Bondi Beach is 30 minutes from Town Hall Station by train and bus and offers visitors insights into Australia’s easy-going beach culture. You can learn more about the beach and its history and meet a Bondi surf lifesaver on Let’s Go Surfing’s Discover Bondi Walking Tour.
Picnics and fish and chips on the beach are popular, or dine out at one of the vibrant cafés and bars overlooking the beach on Campbell Parade and in nearby streets.
Shopping for beach fashion and swimwear by Australian and international designers is a great way to spend a few hours. Places to stay range from hostels to stylish apartments.
Experienced surfers will find challenging waves at South Bondi, while newbies to the sport could take lessons from one of the surfing schools lining the beach.
Even complete novices can learn to surf at one of the accredited surf schools. Marvel at the skill of board-riders surfing near the beach’s southern end. On weekends mingle with locals at Bondi Farmers Market on Saturday and the Bondi Markets on Sunday.
Eating out is one of the attractions at Bondi. You’ll find award-winning restaurants with great views at both ends of the beach, which stretches for 1.5 km. Sean’s Panorama is at the northern end, and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is to the south.
It’s not just a famous shore for the locals, for Bondi Beach is known as the country’s most iconic beach, making appearances in films, tv shows, and books.
Join the crowds at Sculpture by the Sea in October and November, an outdoor exhibition of artworks along a 2 km coastal walk. Buy takeaway fish and chips on Campbell Parade and enjoy them at the beach. Sip cocktails at Icebergs as the Sunsets over the ocean.
The area swarms with relaxed vibes and soft sands, letting you swim, surf, snorkel or sunbake the day away. If you aren’t big on the ocean waves, Bondi’s large pool nestled right alongside the beach lets you enjoy the beach vibes without any sticky sand.
Board rental is also available, and when it’s time for a break, stop in at one of the beachside cafes or wander to Gould Street for a bit of shopping.
Bondi is a perfect example of the easy-going, laidback beach lifestyle that Australia is famous for. With its white sands and sandstone cliffs, spend your day at Bondi surfing or suntanning; you’ll be spoilt for choice!
4. The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Located in Sydney’s north, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park combines important history with scenic beauty, perfect for school excursions.
Bobbin Head is a great place for a family picnic, and parts of the park are ideal for cycling, fishing and bushwalking.
Australia’s second-oldest national park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is a recreational favourite for locals and visitors alike.
This large park, located in Sydney’s north, lets you feel at one with nature without leaving the Sydney metropolitan area. A heritage-listed park, it combines important history with scenic beauty.
The indigenous Garigal people originally inhabited Sydney. Interestingly, human settlement in the region can be dated to as far as 45-50 thousand years ago.
Are you curious about the aboriginal history of Australia? The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is 16 miles from Sydney’s CBD and is a great way to learn about aboriginal culture. This 37,000-acre national park boasts about 1,500 sites of aboriginal art.
You could opt for a 3.5-hour tour of the sites held by the Guringai Aboriginal Tours company to learn more about the culture of the Garigals.
Winding creeks and stretches of the ocean meet rainforest and eucalypts, rocky cliffs and mangroves. Camp at The Basin or spend your time exploring walking tracks, mountain biking trails, breathtaking lookouts and significant Aboriginal sites. You’ll still have plenty of time to discover its marinas, cafes, kiosks and well-equipped picnic areas.
If you’re more into nature than culture, you will not be disappointed! This national park offers multiple walks and hikes that range from the Great North Walk to the more accessible America Bay walking track.
5. Sydney’s museums & art galleries
Sydney is known for its patronage of arts and its dedication to science and the conservation of artifacts. Some of Sydney’s most well-known museums and art galleries are listed below.
The Australian Museum in Sydney
The oldest museum in Australia, the Australian Museum in Sydney, was opened in 1827. The museum is home to many significant collections that document the First Nations peoples, such as Garrigarrang (Sea Country) & Bayala Nura (Yarning Country).
The Wild Planet exhibition highlights the importance of biodiversity through 400 amazing animals and their connections to one another in the Tree of Life.
Experience the stories of Indigenous Australians in their own words, or discover Australia’s strange and notorious animals. With its combination of the latest technology, ongoing research and impressive collections, the AM always surprises.
Be inspired to explore, understand and care for this world at the Australian Museum.
The museum also has family-friendly exhibits of flora and fauna that will keep children fascinated. Be sure to check out their dinosaur exhibit that includes ten whole skeletons and eight lifelike models of these creatures.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum dedicated to contemporary art will call you with its massive collection of over 4,000 works by local Australian and international artists.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is Australia’s leading museum dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from across Australia and worldwide.
The MCA presents an engaging program of exhibitions and related special events. The MCA program covers the range and diversity of contemporary art from significant thematic collections and surveys of established artists, solo shows, new work by emerging artists, painting and sculpture to new media.
It is famous for its collection of Aboriginal and indigenous Australian art.
Located at Circular Quay on the edge of Sydney Harbour, the MCA is housed in the former Maritime Services building – a fine example of late Art Deco architecture.
General admission is free, and the museum itself is very accessible through public transport.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of NSW is one of Australia’s foremost cultural institutions. Established in 1871, the gallery showcases works by past and present Australian and international artists.
Sydney is famous amongst art lovers for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most extensive art galleries. The gallery has a wide range of collections, including Aboriginal/ Torres Strait Islander art, Asian, Australian, and Contemporary art.
The public exhibition space is open to the public, free of charge, and displays Australian art as it evolved from settlement to contemporary.
Near the Royal Botanic Garden’s eastern gate, the Art Gallery of NSW is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm, except on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Admission is free. On Wednesdays, you can enjoy the collections and talks until 10 pm with Art After Hours.
You can walk to the gallery from the Royal Botanic Garden or the city centre. Martin Place and St James are the closest train stations.
Australian and international exhibitions complement the permanent collections throughout the year.
6. Sydney’s food and dining precincts
Sydney is famous for being a food lovers’ paradise. No matter what cuisine you are after, there is every possibility that you will have multiple options available.
There are a few dining precincts that should be included on every list. For example, Spice Alley on Kensington Street is famous for its Asian food stalls.
Darling Harbour is home to beautiful cafes and restaurants, and if you are in the mood to celebrate, the high-end waterfront restaurants of Barangaroo will have you sighing in pleasure over their food!
Here’s a list of a few places of all that Sydney is famous for:
Asian at Chin Chin ($$$)
Oysters and Wine at Poly ($$)
Grilled meats at Firedoor ($$)
Italian with a Japanese twist at LuMi ($$$)
Yakitori and Ramen at Chaco Bar ($)
Sri Lankan cuisine at Lankan Filling Station ($$)
Seafood at Saint Peter ($$)
Pizza at Bella Brutta ($)
Lebanese at Nour ($$)
Malaysian at Ho Jiak Haymarket ($)
Indian street food at Chatkazz ($)
7. Watsons Bay
With spectacular views of Sydney Harbour and gorgeous sandy beaches, Watsons Bay is a beautiful place to relax and experience some of Sydney’s finest qualities.
Stroll along the picturesque coastline or wine and dine at one of Australia’s most celebrated seafood restaurants, Doyles on the Beach.
Tourists also visit Watsons Bay for the coastal walks and views of the Gap, an ocean cliff located on the east, offering stunning views of the Tasman Sea.
Watsons Bay is Australia’s oldest fishing village and remains a thriving local inlet famous for its splendid views, delightful park and fresh seafood. A ferry from Circular Quay across majestic Sydney Harbour is an enjoyable way to get to Watsons Bay.
With sweeping harbour views, Doyles on the Beach has long been a fine dining Sydney institution for fresh fish, lobsters, prawns and more. Doyles on the Wharf sells fish and chips on the jetty where Circular Quay ferries arrive and depart for a casual lunch.
Other inviting waterside venues are the Beach Club and the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Settle into an afternoon or evening of views, cocktails and the warm bustle of a friendly crowd. You can also enjoy delicious fresh seafood.
Walks around Watsons Bay offer magnificent harbour views. One walk from the harbour takes you north past Lady Bay Beach, which permits nude bathing, and then to South Head, where you can see the Hornby Lighthouse and enjoy breathtaking views.
Steeped in history, Watsons Bay is home to several buildings dating back to the 19th century. St Peter’s Church on Old South Head Road is a favourite. The southern coastal walk will also take you past the site where the full-rigged passenger ship, The Dunbar, was famously shipwrecked in 1857.
From Watsons Bay, it’s a short bus trip to Bondi and the world-famous Bondi Beach. The Watsons Bay bus stop is on Old South Head Road, near Salisbury Street. Take the 380 bus for the 30-minute scenic journey to Campbell Parade, next to Bondi beach.
If walks are your thing, do the Watson Bay walk to Bondi Beach, about 4.8 miles one way. The walk will take you past the Dudley Page Reserve with its views of the city and the Macquarie Lighthouse.
8. The Rocks
Once a convict settlement, the cobbled lanes of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood are now lined with markets, art galleries, cool cafes, boutique shops and pubs.
The Rocks are Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood, and it’s often called the birthplace of Sydney. It is a historic area because The Rocks are where Europeans first landed in 1788.
It began as a community of rowdy convicts and sailors but has grown into a modern settlement, famous for its architecture and style.
Next door is the Museum of Contemporary art, with more than 4,000 works by Australian and Aboriginal artists. Good spots for a rest stop include the Hero of Waterloo pub, reputedly haunted, and the rooftop bar at Glenmore Hotel, offering harbour views.
Come here to discover quaint alleyways, old heritage buildings, unique clothing boutiques, and fantastic harbour views.
9. The Blue Mountains
See the Three Sisters rock formation from Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba; it’s also the gateway to many walking trails.
Board the world’s steepest passenger railway and descend into an ancient rainforest with Scenic World Blue Mountains. Or get a panoramic view of the mountains from a glass-floored cable car suspended above a steep gorge.
Tours run daily from Sydney and Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. Scientists estimate limestone formations there date back at least 340 million years. The Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout tour starts at Faulconbridge train station.
Bordering Sydney’s metropolitan area, the Blue Mountains is a scenic mountain range bound by rivers on the east and north and lakes on the west and south.
These mountains are home to the Gundungurra people. Later, it also became a site for a prison town for convicts from Ireland and Scotland.
The Blue Mountains get their name from the natural blue haze created by vast eucalypt forests in this World Heritage area. Tiny droplets of oil released from the trees mix with water vapour and sunlight to produce distinctive colours.
Marvel at this wilderness region from cliff top lookouts. Explore waterfalls, valleys and rugged sandstone tablelands, and learn about the region’s ancient Aboriginal heritage. Deep inside the Jenolan Caves, you’ll discover limestone crystals and underground rivers.
There are numerous exhilarating activities in the mountains, from rock climbing and abseiling with operators such as the Blue Mountains Adventure Company to guided walks with Tread Lightly Eco Tours and Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout. You can even participate in a challenging three-day hike with Life’s an Adventure.
It’s just two hours by train from Sydney’s Central Station to Katoomba, where you’ll find buses to some of the leading attractions, such as Scenic World’s cable car. Alternatively, bus companies such as AAT Kings and Gray Line provide tours from hotels in the city centre.
The Greater Blue Mountain Area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in late November 2000 because of its “standing universal value”.
Over 400 different birds and birds can be found here, and the area offers some great hiking trails.
10. Sydney’s shopping
Sydney is famous for being one of the world’s style capitals and is a shopper’s paradise. Choices ranging from elite fashion brands to upscale designer fashion to local handcrafted clothing and jewellery boutiques.
Sydney has a great range of shopping places, but 2 Victorian-era shopping centres add a dash of regal beauty to the experience.
Find a mix of luxury and affordable fashion brands at Queen Victoria Building, revived to its 1890s splendour with intricate stained-glass windows and its original staircase. Then, go for an elegant break from shopping with high tea in the QVB Tea Room.
The Strand Arcade is a historic glass-domed landmark just a few blocks away, where Australian designer brands like Aje and Dion Lee are among its mix of high-end boutique stores, cafes and restaurants.
In the CBD, the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade dominate with their 19th-century opulence. Here you will find independent boutiques and antique stores that will have you browsing for hours.