For most travellers, Australia can be one of the more expensive destinations on your itinerary. Especially if you’ve been backpacking for a while, and gotten very accustomed to the prices of somewhere like South East Asia.
Along with Melbourne, Sydney is regarded as one of the world’s most liveable cities. And with its combination of plush beaches, iconic landmarks, cultural institutions, dramatic cityscapes and diverse markets; it’s easy to understand exactly why. But Sydney also happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the world too.
However all is not lost, as there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this vibrant city without spending a penny. Here are our top free things to do in Sydney that won’t break the bank!
Take a walking tour
Explore the city’s major landmarks, while learning all about its history and culture on a three-hour walking tour run by I’m Free Tours. Stops include the Sydney Opera House, St Mary’s Cathedral, The Rocks district and more. Guided by a knowledgeable local, you can meet up with the twice-daily run trips via Sydney’s Town Hall.
Get your photo at the Harbour Bridge and Opera House
These are two of the world’s most iconic landmarks, so a trip to Sydney would not be complete without a snap at each. Walking across the bridge will additionally offer scenic views from varying points too. You can also discover more of Sydney’s major sights on the Sydney Harbour Walk. This 26-mile pathway has a variety of different routes, enabling you to plan out exactly what you want to see and in turn make the most of your stay. The paths also cover some of the city’s most striking scenery and attractions, and takes about a day to get around.
Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens
Swap the urban grind for the rural calm of these vast and stunning grounds, filled with exotic and native plants, nature trails and more. Explore its contrasting settings and diverse themes as you wander through the rare and endangered plants, tropical centre, Oriental garden and native Australian rockery. You’ll also notice interesting Aboriginal art and sculptures scattered across the parks as you make your way around, as well as a whole host of wildlife; including possums, flying foxes and bats.
As the gardens are close to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, you could easily combine your visit with these other famous landmarks. You could also time your trip with one of the twice-daily run free tours of the gardens.
Get cultured at one of the many galleries and museums
Walking around Sydney, you’ll notice how creatively orientated and atmospheric the city is, with vibrant art pieces beautifully adorning the streets and open spaces at every turn; and the abundance of rich heritage just ready and waiting to be to soaked up and immersed in. Many of the city’s museums and galleries also offer you a fascinating insight into the region and fortunately don’t always covet a charge. The following are all free to enter, or free to enter on certain days.
The National Maritime Museums offers the chance to explore the area’s naval and aboriginal history, while the Australian Museum houses exhibits that focus on Australia’s vibrant natural history. The Rocks Discovery Museum charts Sydney’s colonial past and both Customs House and Government House offer a mix of local history and innovative art.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is renowned as one of the best in Australia, showcasing everything from Aboriginal and colonial pieces to Asian and European creations. Its interactive exhibits combine music, film and spoken word elements; as well as work from the likes of Picasso. The gallery additionally offers free guided tours too.
The Museum of Contemporary Art offers an equally as appealing experience and tours at no cost as well. And if you’re a fan of Dr Seuss, there is a gallery dedicated to the inspirational literary figure, featuring rare prints and drawings by the celebrated author, which can also be bought. Lastly the White Rabbit Gallery deals exclusively in contemporary Chinese art. This quirky venue offers free entry Thursdays to Sundays and features tours and a charming tearoom.
Bask on the beautiful beaches
Home to some of the world’s most iconic beaches, head down to the likes of Bondi, Manly and Coogee for a spot of sunbathing and swimming. If you’re up for a bit of a hike, you could also hit up one of the many beach trails. Highlights include the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk and the Manly Scenic Walkway. Along these routes, you will be able to take in amazing views of the various beaches, parks, aboriginal rock art and coves along the way.
Roam The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay districts
While home to many of Sydney’s key attractions, these diverse areas can be explored and experienced without actually going indoors. Enjoy the architecture and outdoor entertainers at Circular Quay, the spectacular skyline of Darling Harbour and browse the historical sights in Sydney’s oldest quarter, The Rocks. Wandering these charming quarters are the perfect way to immerse yourself in Sydney life, while allowing you to still maintain that moderate budget.
Wander the markets
Become part of the buzz at one of the many lively weekend markets in the city. Grab a bite or meander through the array of souvenirs, art, jewellery, gifts, Australian-made goods and clothes at the likes of Paddy’s Markets, Rocks Market, Paddington Market and Eveleigh Market.
Enjoy the city’s open spaces
Should you require a break from the crowds, it is very easy to escape the hustle and bustle by heading to one of the many parks dotted across Sydney. The Olympic Park is one of the most impressive with its variety of parks, trails, arenas and mangroves teaming with wildlife. Just as picturesque is the Centennial Parklands, an English-style park that houses gazebos, fountains and gardens; as well as wonderful backdrops of the city. Bronte Park provides coin-operated BBQs as well as ocean views; while Hyde Park offers the chance to play on a giant chessboard.
By Sandy Dhaliwal