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Sydney consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, and that’s probably not news to most of you.
The GOOD news is that it’s possible to visit Sydney on a budget as there are plenty of free things to do in Sydney that allow you to experience the best the city has to offer without burning a hole in your pocket.
You don’t necessarily have to pay to get to see and experience all of Sydney’s most famous landmarks and stunning coastal landscapes.
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.
To help you out, we’ve listed our top free attractions in Sydney so you can make planning a budget vacation easier.
Free Things to Do in Sydney
Want to explore Sydney but don’t have the cash? Don’t worry, below are all the top free things to do in Sydney!
1. Free Walking Tour
View of Sydney from Cocktaoo Island
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 top sights and give you your bearings so you can then go it alone.
They also give you hints and tips for places to eat, shop and explore.
Although free walking tours are free, it’s customary to give your guide a tip if you enjoyed the experience. You can tip as much as you want though.
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
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 a 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.
The Bondi to Coogee walk ends at Coogee Beach and from here you can get a bus back to the CBD.
4. Royal Botanical Gardens
View from 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.
Top tip: You can book free guided tours of the gardens from the visitor centre.
5. Visit Government House
Located in the Domain and overlooking the Royal Botanical Gardens, is the Government House, which is the most sophisticated example of a Gothic Revival building in NSW.
The house is the official residence and office of Margaret Beazley AC QC, 39th Governor of New South Wales and her husband, Mr Dennis Wilson.
It was built in 1821 and was designed by Edward Blore, who was a famous architect for William IV and Queen Victoria.
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 Harbourfront area is very walkable. I often like to walk down from Central 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.
If you have time, you can extend your walk across the bridge, past Bradfield Park to Lavender Bay, passing by Luna Park and Wendy’s Secret Garden.
Circular Quay is a busy transport hub with many outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the harbour.
8. Explore the Neighbourhoods
Perhaps my favorite free thing to do in Sydney is to just wander around the neighborhoods. Each part of Sydney has something special and unique to offer. Some are hippy and artsy with street art and street performers, others are more historic.
If you’re looking for neighborhoods to get lost in, I highly recommend you check out…
This is one of Sydney’s most artistically-vibrant neighborhoods 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 Street.
The fashionable neighborhood 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
The Rocks Sydney
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.
There’s a story around every corner, and The Rocks possess some wonderful heritage buildings to admire and intriguing history and cobblestone lanes to explore.
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.
Newtown is a relaxed, bohemian neighbourhood with vintage stores, antique stores, and thrift shops. Head over to King Street’s to find indie bookshops and vintage clothing.
You’ll also find hip bars and cafes with a multicultural vibe. As you wander the streets, you’ll see restored Victorian buildings and street art. The most famous street art is a mural of Martin Luther King.
This is a popular area amongst University of Sydney students and so has a cheap, studenty vibe.
If you have some money to spare, check out what’s on at The Enmore Theatre, which regularly hosts comedy gigs and live music.
9. Ride the 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.
This is a great alternative to the “hop on hop off” buses, as it takes you past many of the top attractions in Sydney.
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, and Coogee.
You must visit the famous Bondi Beach at least once, even if you just go to look at the ocean at sunset.
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.
The Archibald Memorial Fountain and St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney Australia
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.
View from Observatory Hill
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 Saturdays with 150 unique stalls offering creative fashion and accessories.Bondi Markets – Open Sundays offering original designer clothing, handmade jewelry, arts, and crafts, retro furniture, vintage clothes, and more.The Rocks Markets – Saturdays and Sundays offering fashion, arts & crafts, jewelry, music & books, health & beauty, and 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 and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. Catch the metro light rail from Central.
16. Free Festivals in Sydney
Sydney is thriving with entertainment and festivities all year round, and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either. Here are some fun free festivals in Sydney to check out:
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 parades 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. Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of New South Wales 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.
Another free art gallery to explore is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which showcases cutting-edge Australian and International modern art.
Cheap Things to Do in Sydney
If you’re traveling on a budget, here are some cheap things to do in Sydney that won’t cost you a fortune:
1. Pylon Lookout
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.
2. Catch the Ferry to Manly
The $15 return ferry ride 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.
Plus, you get to explore Manly which is a great little spot to spend the day on the beach. Manly Beach is a popular and well-maintained beach that is great for families.
If you head over to the North Head in Sydney National Park you’ll find incredible views of the harbour and Hornby Lighthouse over on South Head. You’ll find many walking trails in Manly for those who love the outdoors.
3. Sydney Tower Eye
For $18 go up to the top of Sydney Tower Eye, 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.
If you’re travelling on a budget, then you might want to make use of the Sydney Attraction Pass. This gives you discounted entrance to many of the top attractions in Sydney, such as tours, museums, cruises, and wildlife attractions.
The attraction passes allow you entrance to either 3, 5, or 7 attractions of your choice. This is a great way to save money on attractions that would otherwise cost you more to see, such as The Sydney Opera House, Sydney Tower Eye, and the Australian National Maritime Museum.
How to Find Cheap Transport in Sydney
Sydney ferries with a view
Here’s a bonus tip for you! In Sydney, they have ‘Family Funday Sunday’, which offers discounted prices on public transport for families. Every Sunday for $2.50 per person you get unlimited travel on all trains, buses, ferries, and light rail. What a great deal!
Use Sunday as the day to explore places further afield such as the northern beaches or Royal National Park.
My Multi Day Pass – permits a whole day of unlimited travel on trains, government and private buses, and Sydney Ferries.
Where to Find FREE WiFi in Sydney
More and more free wireless Wi-Fi hotspots are being installed all over 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.
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are the top free things to do in Sydney, and as you can see, there’s plenty of attractions to keep you busy without costing you a fortune.
Before you go, make sure you have your accommodation covered in advance as this will give you more options, as well as help you find cheaper room prices.
Sydney is not a cheap destination, so the more you can plan ahead, the more you will save.
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