Australia is notorious around the world for being one of the most expensive travel destinations and Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, is no doubt the most expensive of them all.
For those travelling on a budget it can be quite a turn off finding out how expensive Sydney really can be. However, with the right mix of paid and free (or really cheap) activities, you’ll be able to visit Sydney without busting the budget.
Don’t skip out on one of the most beautiful cities in the world (modest local speaking!). Check out my list of best free things to do in Sydney below. And as a bonus, I’ve added a few extra money saving tips specific to Sydney at the end too.
Free Things to Do in Sydney
1. Take a walk around the outside and up the stairs of the Sydney Opera House.
2. Browse through the free modern and contemporary art exhibits at the Art Gallery of NSW.
3. Enjoy the harbour views from the North Head Lookout.
4. Explore the expansive Centennial Parklands and maybe enjoy a picnic.
5. Take in a bit of Sydney history at the Rocks Discovery Museum.
6. Stare in awe at one of Sydney’s loveliest buildings, St Mary’s Cathedral.
7. Explore one of Sydney’s oldest buildings, Government House, on a free guided tour.
8. Watch, or even join, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian community in March each year as they celebrate Mardi Gras with lots of glitter and feathers.
9. Browse for souvenirs at the weekend market in The Rocks.
10. Take a stroll through Hyde Park under the leafy trees and around the Archibald Fountain.
11. Enjoy the beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens, perfectly positioned on Sydney Harbour.
12. Peruse Sydney’s latest catches at the Sydney Fish Market.
13. Join in on Sydney’s annual cultural arts celebration at the free events offered as part of the Sydney Festival.
14. Enjoy the free fun for the whole family activities at Sydney Olympic Park.
15. Find a bargain by the beach at Bondi Beach Community Market.
16. Bring in the new year on the world’s most beautiful harbour watching the best New Years Eve fireworks there is.
17. Don’t climb, rather walk over a Sydney icon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the footpath.
18. Spend Saturday in the sun at the cool Paddington Markets.
19. Absorb the beauty of Queen Victoria Building and watch the famous clock chime on the hour.
20. Let the kids run wild at the adventure playground in the Darling Quarter.
21. Enjoy the spectacle of Sydney’s most famous structures lit up with colour for Vivid Festival.
22. Learn about Australia’s maritime history at the Australian National Maritime Museum
23. Enjoy the aromas at the Carriageworks Farmers Market.
24. Hike around the edge of one of the world’s most spectacular habours on the Sydney Harbour Circle Walk.
25. Walk the famous Bondi to Coogee path to enjoy the views of some of Sydney’s beaches.
26. Cool off after all that walking with a swim at one of Sydney’s best beaches.
27. Snorkel through the reef at Shelley Beach, Sydney’s most accessible reef.
28. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art to see ground-breaking contemporary art displays.
29. Join the daily free walking tour of Sydney to get yourself orientated.
30. Soak up the atmosphere at Sydney’s coolest market, Glebe Markets.
31. Soak up the fun at Luna Park.
32. Hike up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach.
33. Test your knowledge at a local pub with some evening trivia.
34. Enjoy the views of Sydney from Observatory Hill.
35. Check out the views from The Gap at Watsons Bay and walk out to the South Head.
Extra Money Saving Tips for Sydney
- Walk as much as you can. The CBD, Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Circular Quay and The Rocks areas are all close to one another and can easily be explored on foot.
- If you need to take public transport, grab an Opal Card with top up available from as little as $AU10.00.
- Buy groceries at the supermarket to make your own lunch. And if you have cooking facilities in your accommodation, stock up on basics to cook an easy dinner too.
- Eat out in pubs and RSL clubs. Meals are cheaper and portions are generous, often big enough to share.
- Check if an attraction you want to visit has a free or reduced rate day or evening.
- Save by buying tickets to multiple attractions at once with attraction passes.
- You’ll find free wi-fi in select cafes, McDonald’s and public libraries. Don’t pay the extortionate prices at your hotel.
- Take day trips yourself rather than booking expensive tours. The train runs right to Katoomba in the heart of The Blue Mountains.
Where to Stay in Sydney for Cheap
Hotel prices in Sydney are quite honestly ridiculous! If you don’t want to stay way out of town, schlepping in on public transport each day, then you do have a few options to help you save some money.
Hostels are not just for backpackers and young people. They also have private rooms, some with private facilities and are much cheaper than hotels. Here are two that I recommend:
Sydney Harbour YHA
Hostels don’t come better located than this one. With stunning harbour views from the rooftop, Sydney Harbour YHA is located in the heart of The Rocks and walking distance to everything. Rooms come in all configurations and some have private facilities.
Check availability, prices and book
Located right in the heart of the CBD. You can walk everywhere including Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Circular Quay. Rooms are simple but the hostel itself is packed with useful facilities to help you make the most of your cash. Rooms are either shared or private.
Check availability, prices and book
Or why not book an Airbnb stay. There are many value for money options in the CBD and outskirts that could help you save money on your visit to Sydney. Plus, if you use this link to sign up, you will get up to $45AUD off your first booking.
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Over to you!
What have I missed? Add your suggestions for free things to do in Sydney to the comments. Or tell me what you’d most like to see and do in Sydney?
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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.