By John Campo, a local whose knowledge of Sydney is a goldmine for travellers visiting the city he calls home.Edited by Elodi TroskieThe exciting, never-sleeping city of Sydney is a must-visit destination in Australia. As one of the biggest cities in Aus, there is way too much to do and to see to fit into just a few days! To make the best out of your time, start planning your trip with this itinerary for three days in Sydney. As a local, I’ve gotten to know my city very well and I love to help visitors experience all of the amazing things it has to offer! So here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Sydney in 72 hours.
Kickstart your trip to Sydney with a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Milsons Point. The eastern exit at Milsons Point will lead you to the steps that will take you to Harbour Bridge. Climbing Harbour Bridge is an incredible experience, but at about 350 AUD it can be quite pricey. For a budget-friendly alternative, I suggest climbing the south east pier instead, which will only cost you about 25 AUD. This is a great outdoor activity and a unique way to see the city view from above! Next up, walk along the Cahill Expressway to make your way to Sydney’s famous Opera House. As one of Sydney’s must-visit cultural sites, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Opera House. There is a one-hour tour that runs daily from 09:00 until 17:00. Tickets start at 42 AUD and can be booked online. Children up to the age of five enter free of charge.
For a late breakfast or much needed lunch break after your busy morning of walking and climbing around the city, opt for one of the cafes in East Circular Quay. The Opera House is one of Sydney’s most visited tourist attractions, so you can imagine how packed the surrounding area is with cool places to eat! For lunch, head to Opera Bar, a trendy beer garden in Bennelong Point that is open from 11:30 until late every day. Most days, it only gets really busy at night, and it’s a surprisingly quiet spot during lunch time. They have a wide selection of wine and beer, and you’ll have a beautiful view of the harbour. Another option is grabbing takeaways and having lunch in the nearby botanical gardens – one of my favourite spots in the area! If you go to the gardens, be sure to visit Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, an exposed sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench. I really like this spot because of the beautiful panoramic view of Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in its foreground – perfect for a relaxing lunch!
Take the afternoon to explore the historic laneways in the neighbourhood of The Rocks. This area has some of Sydney’s oldest bars and pubs, something I recommend all visitors to try out. The restaurants around here are known for their amazing harbour views – great for cocktails at sunset! Despite its historical features, The Rocks has a youthful vibrancy to it. A really cool museum in this area is the Museum of Contemporary Art, a trendy modern art house featuring international pieces – a must visit for the art lovers. The Rocks also has a really cool weekend markets with artisanal goods and street food. The Friday Foodie Market is a gourmet street food market that sets up shop at the Jack Mundey Place every Friday from 09:00 until 15:00, and The Rocks Market is an artisanal makers’ market that’s open every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00.
Evening & Night
Grab sundowners and dinner in The Rocks while you’re in one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Sydney. This is a great area to have dinner on your first night in Sydney to avoid being overwhelmed by the rush of the city centre. The historical pubs in The Rocks are some of the most charming features of this district (and a personal favourite!). A few suggestions for The Rocks’ iconic bars are the Australian Heritage Hotel, the Glenmore Hotel or the Hero of Waterloo. And as with many things in life, the best way to experience The Rocks in all its glory is by exploring it with a local! If you’re looking for something more unusual to do at night, there are also ghost tours available of The Rocks, which is quite an interesting way to see this neighbourhood after dark. Definitely not your average touristy activity!
Have a slow start to your second day in Sydney by walking around Hyde Park, Australia’s oldest public park. Hyde Park is a beautiful and peaceful place to take a breather from the rowdy city life, making it a popular hangout spot among locals who work in the city centre. If you’re interested in the history of Sydney, you’ll find this park very interesting. The southern part of the park houses the ANZAC Memorial Building and Visitor Centre, the Pool of Reflection and several other monuments and statues. On the northern side of the park, you’ll find the famous Archibald Fountain and a number of themed gardens filled with public art pieces. The park features almost 600 exotic and native trees – a green paradise that’ll recharge your batteries before continuing your city exploration! Throughout the year, Hyde Park also hosts cultural and musical events like the Sydney Festival, Australia Day and the Food and Wine Fair, so keep an eye out for upcoming events during the time of your visit.
For lunch, take the train or bus to Bondi Beach. Out of Sydney’s more than 100 beaches, Bondi Beach is probably the most famous - and it’s popular for a reason! This picturesque, white sand beach offers ideal conditions for surfing, swimming and snorkelling. There are plenty of options for eating and drinking in the area surrounding the beach. For lunch I’d recommend Bondi Icebergs Club, a winter swimming club located at the southern end of Bondi Beach. Established in 1929, Icebergs has earned its badge as a must visit location in Sydney with features like a pool, sauna, bar, bistro and a small museum showcasing how the facility has come to be. The bistro is a casual eatery that offers panoramic views of the beach and the scenic pool, whilst the restaurant can accommodate up to 200 people so it’s not required to book a table in advance.
After lunch, spend the afternoon hanging out at Icebergs or walk over to the beach. If you’re not interested in the water sports like surfing and snorkelling that make Bondi Beach so popular, you can just laze about, sip on tropical cocktails and work on your Sydney tan. The beach is really laid-back, giving it that free-spirited surfer’s feel so typical of Sydney’s beach sides. Sundays are usually the best day to visit Bondi Beach, when locals and visitors come from all over to share in the splendour of this beautiful beach. With a surfboard under your arm, you’ll fit right in! Stay on the beach to enjoy the sunset, after which you can head back to the city centre.
Evening & Night
That being said, if you do return to the city centre before the sun sets over Bondi Beach, you’ll be right on time to catch a sunset cruise along the Harbour – a must do activity in Sydney that I always encourage visitors to do. The Cocktail Cruise departs from the Darling Harbour King Street Wharf No. 1 at 17:00 daily. The cruise is 90 minutes long and returns back to the dock at 18:30. Tickets for adults are 55 AUD, including a complimentary drink, and tickets for children aged 4-15 years are 35 AUD. The range of dinner cruises present another cool option for an evening activity. Starting at 89 AUD per person, tickets for the dinner cruise are more on the higher end, but if your budget allows it, you’re in for a treat. Dinner, drinks and live entertainment is included in the ticket price (each cruise has its own itinerary). This is a sure way to end the day on a highpoint.
On the morning of your last day in Sydney, head to Pitt Street Mall for all your last-minute shopping needs. Located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, Pitt Street Mall is the one of the best shopping centres in the city. If you’d rather spend the morning doing something cultural, there are plenty of museums and art galleries in this part of Sydney. The Museum of Sydney is located not too far from Pitt Street Mall and will make for a great visit if you’re interested in the history of Sydney. The museum is built on the ruins of the house of New South Wales’ former Government House and preserves the remains of this symbolic site. The museum is open from 10:00 until 17:00 every day and admission for adults is 15 AUD. Grab brunch in true Sydney-style at one of the countless cafes in the CBD but leave enough room for the international cuisines waiting for you at lunch and dinner!
For lunch I’d recommend getting yum cha at one of the restaurants in Dixon Street Plaza. This market-style ‘pedestrian mall’ is located on Dixon Street in Haymarket and is packed with Chinatown stalls. Yum cha is the Cantonese version of brunch and usually includes Chinese tea and dim sum. The area around Dixon Street has the best Chinese restaurants in Sydney – something you have to try out as part of your culinary experience in Sydney! A really great option is Nine Dragons, which has been around for more than 30 years and was one of the first Chinese restaurants in Sydney serving yum cha. Another good option is Marigold Restaurant, one of the more upmarket restaurants in the plaza.
Continue the morning’s shopping adventure by exploring Paddy’s Markets and Market City. Paddy’s consists of two massive shopping markets in Haymarket (not far from Dixon Street Plaza) and Flemington and have been an integral part of Sydney’s recreation scene for the past 150 years. With more than 1 000 stalls, you’ll have more than enough to keep you busy for the afternoon. These two markets are open until 18:00 every day except Mondays and Tuesdays. If you’re visiting over the weekend, you can catch their special weekend markets like Foodie Friday, Fresh Food Saturday and Flemington Sunday. And if your shopping cravings haven’t been satisfied yet, you can head up to Market City just above Paddy’s – a hub of factory outlet stores where you can find clothes and shoes at great prices.
Evening & Night
When Paddy’s close at 18:00, you’ll be just in time to catch the sunset. I never get tired of Sydney’s sunsets and beautiful lookout points from where you’ll have incredible sunset views. The Cahill Expressway, running through the northern edge of the CBD, heading towards the Harbour Bridge, offers an amazing view of the city’s skyline. Then for dinner, I’d suggest going to Newtown, Sydney’s bohemian neighbourhood that is especially popular among the younger crowd. There are quite a lot of Asian restaurants in Newton that are generally very budget-friendly. Another really cool dinner option is visiting the hidden gem that is Thai Town. Located in the heart of the CBD, Thai Town is tightly packed with Thai restaurants and food trucks. You won’t find better pad thai anywhere in Sydney! This is the ideal laid-back way to spend your last evening in the city. Which aside from eating great Thai food, will be spent planning your next trip to Sydney!
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