Having grown up in Sydney my whole life, I thought I’d share some of my best tips as a local to fellow adventurers looking to make their way to the Harbour city.
For you first-time visitors, Sydney is the capital city of New South Wales, located on the south-east coast of Australia. It is one of the, if not the largest cities of Australia and one of the most beautiful cities that I have personally visited (and even better, lived in!).
This guide is essentially going to give you the best of the best of Sydney, or in other words, a must-see/do list for things that you won’t want to miss out on, on your weekend stay. Yes, a few of these things may seem a little touristy however, I still even do a couple of these things just to remind myself how much of a beauty this city is to live in (I’m a frequent traveller on the Sydney to Manly ferry and the views still make me pinch myself!).
What to see/do:
- Watch the sunrise over Bondi Beach. On a clear, fine day, you’ll be treated to a spectacular sunrise coming up from the horizon of the ocean. What better way to start your day?
- Take a stroll through Circular Quay. Easily accessible by public transport (just hop on a train to Circular Quay station), start your walk from the station and walk around towards the Sydney Opera House where you’ll witness a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you’ve got a spare couple of hours to kill, keep walking around to Farm Cove and up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. I recommend packing a bite to eat and having a little picnic whilst you soak up the beautiful harbour views!
- Catch a Sydney Ferry to Manly. Just 30 minutes away by ferry is the gateway to Sydney’s northern beaches. The ferry trip in itself is a great excuse enough to take the trip as you probably won’t be able to see Sydney Harbour in a more cost-effective way (just $15 for a round-trip ticket). Once you arrive in Manly, choose one of the many cafes or restaurants along the beachfront to grab lunch at, before taking a short walk around Manly Beach to Shelly Beach.
Where to eat:
I’m not going to lie – eating out in Sydney can be pretty expensive, you just need to know where to find delicious food that is still affordable (this is where I come in!). Here’s a list of some of my favourite places to eat in Sydney.
- $ Chur Burger: $10 burgers that are extremely tasty – you can’t really beat that! Located in Surry Hills and Manly.
- $ About Life: The closest thing to Wholefoods that Australia has, and it’s pretty damn good. Grab a takeaway box for $10 and fill it up with as much as you can in their Superfood Quarter – it’s a win/win with a healthy and affordable meal! Your most convenient location would be on Crown St. in Surry Hills.
- $ Gelato Messina: The ice-cream that everyone raves about and yep, there’s a queue for a reason! Have a taste of the salted caramel/white chocolate; I’d be surprised if you didn’t like it! Conveniently located in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst.
- $$ Bodhi Restaurant and Bar: Something a little bit different, but one of my favourite places to eat out as a vegan. During the day (11am-4pm), Bodhi does an all-vegan yum cha and for dinner (5pm – 10pm), they offer an all-vegan a la carte menu. I’ve only tried the yum cha, but I’m definitely due to go back for more!
- $$$ Quay Sydney: Being Australia’s most awarded restaurant, it’s no surprise that Quay is on the more expensive side of this shortlist. You’re going to Quay for a top, fine dining experience, not to mention a million dollar view of Sydney’s beautiful harbour.
Where to shop:
- If you’re down for some serious shopping in Sydney’s CBD, look no further than Pitt St. Mall. You’ll find a multi-storey Westfield complex, the Galeries Victoria, the Strand Arcade and Mid City Plaza – all on one street. A few of the most recent international chain stores that have hit Australian shores include Zara, Uniqlo, Topshop and H&M (due to open this month) which can all be found in Pitt St. Mall (except for Topshop which is located on the corner of Market St. and George St. and H&M which will be open at Glasshouse on Pitt St. Mall in 2015!)
- If you’re after a taste of Australian designers, check out the Strand Arcade where you’ll find the likes of Dion Lee, Jac + Jack, LIFEwithBIRD, Lover, Manning Cartell and sass and bide just to name a few. For more Aussie designers, including Bassike and Zimmerman, visit the David Jones store on Market St.
- While you’re in David Jones, navigate your way to the David Jones Food Hall – if you’re a foodie, this place is not one that you’ll want to miss!
Where to stay:
- I recommend staying somewhere quite central in Sydney’s CBD, close to Wynyard/Circular Quay. The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel on O’Connell St. in Sydney is just a stone’s throw from Sydney’s beautiful harbour and easily accessible by public transport.
When to visit:
In my personal opinion, the later months of spring (October and November) are the best time to visit Sydney as the temperature is generally above 20 degrees celcius and warms up to 30 degrees celcius. Arriving before December also generally means cheaper airfares and accommodation (because travelling anywhere at that time of year is generally more expensive due to holiday season) plus, you’ll also hopefully encounter fewer crowds.
If you’ve got any questions about visiting Sydney, feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to help you out as best as I can!