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There’s no need to break the bank… here are my top recommendations for the best free things to do in Sydney.
Being an Aussie, I’ve visited Sydney quite a few times in my lifetime (and twice in the past year alone). It somehow perfectly blends trendy suburbs with a bustling city and beautiful beaches. It’s also massive, meaning there are lots of fun things to do and places to eat.
Today, we’re focusing on the best free things to do in Sydney, New South Wales. I’ve broken them down into categories like outdoor and indoor activities. But I hope this comprehensive blog post helps you plan your own trip to Sydney.
Free things to do in Sydney
Free markets in Sydney
Hi, my name is Hayley and I love markets. Here are my picks for Sydney’s top markets.
1. Glebe Markets
Glebe Markets is probably Sydney’s most famous and popular weekend market. It happens on the grounds of Glebe Public School every Saturday, which is fortunately just a hop and a skip away from the CBD. There are over 200 stalls selling everything from vintage and pre-loved clothing to homewares to artwork to jewellery and food. On my last visit, I bought a really cool silver ring, which I now wear every day. So go for a stroll then grab some food and enjoy it on the grass while listening to live music.
2. Rozelle Collectors Market
Rozelle Collectors Market is another beloved Sydney market happening every Saturday for 20+ years. It’s known for its secondhand and antique clothing, collectibles and accessories. It’s the kind of place where you have to be patient to find the treasure amongst the trash.
3. The Rocks Market
The Rocks Market occurs every weekend in The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest and most historic neighbourhood. You’ll find homemade wares, artwork and jewellery here, as well as street food with a side of Sydney Harbour Bridge views.
4. Sydney Fish Market
One of the most popular free things to do in Sydney is to visit Sydney Fish Market. It’s the world’s third-largest fish market and it’s open daily. You’ll find Australia’s biggest variety of seafood here, as well as lots of eateries and gourmet deli products.
5. Manly Market
Its aim is to be the best arts and crafts market in Sydney. Take my word for it, Manly Markets gives it a red hot go. The stalls feature locals selling artwork, handmade products and more and they’re all lined up opposite Manly Beach.
6. Paddington Markets
Paddington Markets is another Saturday market but this one focuses on local artisans selling clothing, jewellery and handmade products. There are over 150 stalls to peruse, as well as an international food court where you’ll find handmade chocolates, freshly baked pastries and other delights.
Free outdoor adventures in Sydney
Australia is known as an outdoor paradise and Sydney is no exception. From city strolls to beach days, here are the best free things to do in Sydney in the sunshine.
7. Explore Newtown
Newtown reminded me so much of Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighbourhood. They both feature terrace-lined back streets and main streets filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques. But my favourite part was the street art. I followed this map and found so many incredible pieces. While in Newtown, don’t miss grabbing a drink at Young Henry’s and dinner at Little Turtle.
8. Head to Darling Harbour & Darling Quarter
Now, there are plenty of places in both these adjacent areas to spend money. But I still recommend going for a stroll through the area while in Sydney. Darling Harbour has water views, but Darling Quarter has a children’s playground and towering palm trees in the middle of the city.
9. Stroll through Sydney CBD
I don’t think Sydney CBD has as many great shops and things to do compared to Melbourne CBD. However, the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is a historic masterpiece that’s worth checking out. If architecture is your thing, the GPO building is also beautiful. While in the area, I recommend visiting Forgotten Songs, a public art installation as well.
10. See the view from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Okay, I’m still yet to visit this iconic spot in Sydney, but sources tell me the views from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair towards the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are breathtaking. In fact, some say it’s the best view in Sydney, but you can be the judge of that!
11. See the sunset from Observatory Hill Park
Okay, if there’s one thing you do from this list of free things to do in Sydney, I hope it’s see the sunset from Observatory Hill Park. Home to the Sydney Observatory, it offers sweeping panoramic views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the harbour.
12. Visit Circular Quay
I mean, can you even say you visited Sydney if you didn’t see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House? I think not. Fortunately, they’re located opposite each other in Circular Quay, which is also home to the city’s main ferry terminal and plenty of eateries.
13. Explore The Rocks
As mentioned, The Rocks is my favourite Sydney neighbourhood. I adore the historic architecture, cobblestone streets and Sydney Harbour Bridge views. While in The Rocks, I recommend visiting The Rocks Discovery Museum (also free, but more on that below) and checking out the views from Campbells Cove and Hickson Road Reserve.
14. Swim at Murray Rose Pool
Sydney has both beaches and tidal pools for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. One of the best Sydney tidal pools is Murray Rose Pool in the prestigious Double Bay. It’s massive and a great place to spend a summer day in Sydney.
15. Spend the day in Manly
Okay, so you will need to spend money to get to Manly. I highly recommend getting the public ferry for more breathtaking views (is this a running theme?). But once you arrive, there are plenty of free things to do in Manly to keep you busy. Enjoy the Manly to Split walk, walk down and swim in sheltered Shelly Beach and window shop along The Corso. While there, I recommend heading to Chica Bonita for lunch.
16. Head to Hyde Park
While in Sydney, tick off a visit to Australia’s oldest park by strolling through Hyde Park. Located in the heart of Sydney, it’s home to 16 hectares of wide open spaces. Popular attractions within the park include the ANZAC Memorial, Sandringham Memorial Garden and Fountain, the Nagoya Gardens, and the Archibald Fountain.
17. Explore the Royal Botanic Garden
There’s so much to see and do inside Sydney’s Royal Botanical Garden. To get the most out of your visit, join a free guided tour, which happens daily at 10:30 a.m. (more info here). But popular places to visit within the Royal Botanic Garden include The Calyx, Government House, the Lotus Pond and the Harbour View Lawn.
18. Visit Bondi Beach
Famous Bondi Beach is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most popular beaches. But on a sunny day, its long stretch of sand is the perfect place to be. Visit this post for more Sydney beaches to visit.
19. Do the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Walk is a six-kilometre coastal walk that takes you along rugged cliffs and past sheltered beaches and sandy bays. Prepare for stunning seaside views.
20. Join a free walking tour
If you’ve read any of my Europe blog posts, you’ll know I’m low-key obsessed with free walking tours. I know they’re technically not free as tips are appreciated, but I think they’re a fantastic way to learn more about a city and get insider tips. There are a couple of companies offering free walking tours in Sydney, including I’m Free Walking Tours and Locl Tour.
21. Stroll across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Now, it does cost to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But the next best thing is to walk across it for free! The Harbour Bridge Walk is 1.5 kilometres one way and there’s a designated pedestrian walkway, so you can leisurely take in the harbour views from above.
22. Visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden
Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden is often called Sydney’s worst-kept secret, attracting visitors from around the world. Wendy transformed the lush private garden following her husband’s death and it’s now open to the public. From its Lavender Bay location, you can enjoy harbour views. It’s been lovingly landscaped, with winding paths, seating areas and sculptures.
23. Explore Luna Park
If you’re looking for fun Sydney activities, guess what? It’s actually free to enter and walk around Luna Park, Sydney’s iconic theme park with its 1930s Art Deco architecture. But yes, you’ll need to pay for tickets if you want to enjoy any of the rides.
24. Enjoy a picnic in Centennial Park
Centennial Park is Sydney’s largest park, so there are plenty of things to do. You can go horse riding, explore the park on a pedal car, do a self-guided walking tour, visit the Centennial Park Labyrinth and take the kids to The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden. But a picnic in Centennial Park also sounds pretty good to me too!
Free indoor activities in Sydney (for when it’s raining)
In case you visit Sydney when it’s cold or rainy, here are some indoor things to do in Sydney for free.
25. Powerhouse Museum
The Powerhouse Museum is a free contemporary museum focusing on arts, science, innovation and design. Its permanent collection includes an actual train, the Strasburg Clock and The Mars Lab.
26. Green Square Library
Look, I know I’m a book nerd, but I wouldn’t normally say a library is a must-visit attraction. However, Green Square Library is an award-winning underground library with a stunningly colourful book feature wall, large open spaces and lots of study desks.
27. Art Gallery of NSW
Founded in 1871, the Art Gallery of NSW is one of Australia’s largest public art galleries. There are daily guided tours, as well as an extensive collection of Australian and international artwork.
28. Museum of Contemporary Art
There are seriously so many free museums and art galleries in Sydney, including the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s the only contemporary art museum in Australia with a permanent collection, which includes over 4000 works by Australian artists. The museum is housed in the Art Deco-styled former Maritime Services Board building in Circular Quay with an additional modern wing.
29. The Rocks Discovery Museum
One of the best free things to do in Sydney with kids is visit The Rocks Discovery Museum. The family-friendly museum is located in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse. It’s home to archaeological artefacts found in the area and its displays tell the story of The Rocks from pre-European settlement to the present day. There’s lots of interactive fun for the kids!
30. White Rabbit Gallery
The White Rabbit Gallery showcases one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art. It features both permanent and temporary exhibitions and is a must-visit for art lovers.
31. St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral is the church of Sydney’s Catholic community. Founded in the 1820s and built in the Gothic style, it looks like it belongs in Oxford, not Sydney CBD. Spoiler: The interior is just as spectacular as the exterior.
32. Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s free lunchtime concerts
I think this is a local Sydney secret, but the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the Royal Botanic Gardens hosts free lunchtime concerts during the semester on Wednesdays and Thursdays (and some Saturdays). They take place in the beautiful Verbrugghen Hall and include a “smorgasbord of music.” You can purchase tickets here.
More budget-friendly tips for your Sydney trip
- Stay in a hostel. I’ve stayed at Wake Up! Sydney and I definitely recommend it. It’s located across the road from Central Station and within walking distance of several of the places mentioned above.
- Enjoy free festivals. So two of my visits to Sydney have coincided with two massive annual Sydney events: Vivid Sydney and NYE. While I had mixed feelings about my Luna Park NYE experience, I did enjoy the light installations across the city for Vivid, so I definitely recommend visiting this Sydney festival.
I hope this post featuring the best free things to do in Sydney Australia keeps you busy!
If you’re visiting any other Australian cities soon, check out my archive. I have plenty of content on Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. I also have a post on fun things to do in Sydney and whether you should visit Melbourne or Sydney.