If you are looking for some free and cheap things to do in Sydney, then this is the article for you!
For most travellers who visit Australia, their big trip to the country starts in Sydney. The country’s most populated city is truly beautiful with world-class beaches, a captivating waterfront and a stunning skyline.
The Australian city of Sydney is known for its vibrant people and incredibly diverse range of activities. But it can be very overwhelming when trying to get your bearings in the bustling metropolis, so we offer some tips on how to plan your first trip there. And unfortunately, Australia is not a cheap destination.
In this blog post, we will be discussing 15 different activities that won’t break the bank! This includes everything from museums to theatres. So if your budget is tight, but want to enjoy yourself in Sydney, keep reading!
Best Free Things to do in Sydney
I have been living in Sydney now for nearly 8 years now, and I’ve uncovered a number of things that are either free or very cheap to do around the city. This guide has over 18 different alternatives to explore Australia’s most populous metropolis – from incredible walking tours, art galleries, beaches hikes, and much much more!
Let’s dive in…
Sydney Opera House Tours (Paid)
The Sydney Opera house offers different types of tours, including an Architectural Tour and Internal Tours. You will be taken on a journey to uncover untold stories, anecdotes, and the history of the building. With the architectural tour, you’ll learn how in the mid-1950s, Australia and a man from Denmark, Jørn Utzon, created a sculpture on Sydney Harbour that changed the course of twentieth-century architecture.
We advise pre-booking the tours, to prevent disappointment. Prices and availability can be found on the Sydney Opera house website. Students can enjoy a nice discount if they have a valid student ID.
New South Wales Art Gallery Tour (Free)
Located on George Street in Sydney CBD, The NSW gallery houses some of Australia’s most iconic paintings and sculptures by Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan or Brett Whitely. This tour takes about 45 minutes and gives visitors insight into how art has evolved over time in Australia while providing examples from both Indigenous culture and Western traditions. A great way to learn more about what makes up Australian artwork! No reservations required so you can just walk in and join!
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk (Free)
This is a 15km walk through Sydney’s eastern suburbs and showcases some of the most picturesque neighbourhoods. You can start at Bondi Beach, travel down past Tamarama Beach with its quaint shops and cafes before finishing up at Coogee which boasts an elegant amusement park, beautiful coastline views as well as home to Australia’s first surf club. The whole journey will take about six hours so make sure you bring your walking shoes but it’ll be worth it for this memorable experience that gives visitors a taste of what Eastern Sydney has to offer!
The Rocks Walking Tour (Free)
A walk around The Rocks will show off some of Sydney’s most charming heritage buildings as well as give guests a taste for what life was like during colonial times when European settlers first began arriving here from their Mother Countries seeking fortune and adventure. Stop by St Mary’s Cathedral where famous explorer Captain James Cook married Elizabeth Batts before making your way past the oldest public school in Australia, The Sydney Grammar School.
Sydney Harbour Boat Tour (Paid)
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Sydney from a different perspective then this is it! Take advantage of free entry to explore one of the natural wonders of the world and see for yourself why so many people are enchanted by its beauty. There’s plenty to do onboard with your family as well including face painting, live music and complimentary ice cream at every stop. It doesn’t get better than that!
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney (Free)
Entry to the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is always free but there may be additional fees for parking in certain areas or events such as concerts.
Probably the number one hot spot in the garden is Mrs Macquarie’s chair. Here you will find large tourists groups, taking selfies with the opera house in the background. This is the number one spot visited by people going to the gardens and definitely make sure you head to this panoramic spot. It offers amazing views of Sydney’s harbour. This includes the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Oriental Garden is dedicated to Asian plants and flowers, and the Succulent Garden has several varieties of succulents and cacti on display arranged in a garden of pebbles and stones. Right in front, there is also a collection of rare and endangered plants to be found.
When wandering around make sure you check out the majestic Moreton Bay fig trees with their enormous trunks, generous canopies, and tropical air roots which connect the trees’ long and thick branches with the ground underneath, sometimes some meters away from the actual tree trunk. The trees are absolutely massive and very impressive to see (not easy to take a picture off, so go check it out yourself)
The Gardens are also home to a number of exotic plants and palm trees, a pyramid-shaped glasshouse for palm trees, a farm greenhouse as well as a range of endemic plants. So, there is so much to see and do in this garden.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb (from $0 – $195)
This iconic bridge provides amazing views of both the harbour itself but also beautiful vantage points from which you can see Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, Kirribilli Point Lighthouse and Pittwater Parklands when it’s clear enough! The climb is a steep incline that takes about four hours to complete.
You can however also walk over the bridge for free! There is a walking path on either side of the bridge so you can enjoy different views of Sydney Harbour.
The pedestrian footway is only located on the eastern side of the bridge, and to the right of you is the constant flow of traffic and trains which occupy the western side. Access to the bridge near Milsons Point Station. I live on this side of the bridge, so when I do the walk, I like to walk towards the city. Not only it that easier for me, this way you are walking towards Circular Quay, so the views just get better and better along the way. Additionally, you are walking towards the Opera House, so you are not turning your back on Sydney’s most iconic building.
The walk across the bridge should take from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how many times you stop to admire the harbour and take photos.
Bondi Beach (Free)
One of the most iconic beaches in Sydney, this is where surfers and swimmers alike come to enjoy themselves on beautiful sunny days. Parking can be difficult during peak times but it’s free at all other times! If you want a more private experience, try going for an early morning or late afternoon swim when there are fewer people around.
There’s also plenty of shops and food nearby so if you do have time after your dip head over to Bondi Junction Plaza for some retail therapy before heading back home!
Additionally, surf while the tide is up, explore rock pools when the tide goes down and wait for whales to swim by during their annual migration.
Manly Beach ($11 weekdays/$15 weekends)
If you don’t mind the long ferry ride, Manly Beach is a great place to spend the day. Pack some fish and chips from one of the many food outlets on offer and go for a stroll past North Head before getting back on board!
If you can’t be bothered with such an adventure then stay near Circular Quay where there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby. Alternatively, head over to The Rocks or Darling Harbour which have heaps of shopping complexes as well as open spaces perfect for picnics.
Museum of Sydney (Free)
The Museum of Sydney is free and provides an interesting insight into the life of Sydneysiders from 1788 to the present day. This includes everything from a buggy that was used in World War II for transporting soldiers injured on-site, to some photos with fascinating stories like how people washed their clothes before modern machines were invented. The museum also has two floors dedicated entirely to hands-on activities which are always great fun!
St James Church (Free)
This little church in St James’ Square is worth visiting as it’s one of the few old buildings left after the WWII bombings. It also hosts regular art exhibitions inside its hall and during summer months open rooftop concerts are held here too.
Sydney Tower Eye ($49 for adults)
The Sydney Tower Eye is a great way to see all of the sights and get an overview of the harbour. The view from here takes in everything from Bondi Beach, to Manly Cove, and up past Palm trees in Rose Bay on one side, with views across to North Head on the other. Even Sydneysiders who live here have been known not to go near this place – so it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhere new! It also has a 360-degree revolving restaurant at its summit which offers excellent food as well as some fantastic panoramic views over both Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.
If that isn’t enough there are two floors dedicated to the exploration and to help you understand the history of Sydney.
The Rocks (free)
It is worth taking a walk around The Rocks, with its historic buildings that date back as far as 1788. This area was once an important maritime hub but now it’s more famous for being home to many excellent pubs, restaurants and cafes – perfect if you’re looking for somewhere quiet to relax after touring the sights! You can also find plenty of souvenirs here too from small shops selling everything from old postcards and spices, through to modern art galleries.
TIP: There are several museums in this area so be sure not miss them out! When visiting keep your eyes peeled for some Aboriginal paintings on the walls which represent traditional stories about Sydney’s original inhabitants, the Cadigal people.
If you’re craving some more greenery in your city break then head to Hyde Park (free). This is a green oasis that offers perfect picnic spots and shady benches for when you want to take a moment’s rest from exploring. You’ll also find an open-air theatre here hosting free concerts throughout the year so if music is your thing, this might just be the best place to spend an evening!
Take A Stroll Through The Queen Victoria Building (Free)
The Queen Victoria Building is built in 1898 and over the years has become a number of different things: The Sydney Markets, a concert hall, offices for the City Council.
Queen Victoria Building was once on the verge of being demolished, but today it is a vibrant complex with 150 storefronts occupied by cafes and boutiques. The best way to experience it is simply having by coffee and taking in the beauty of the neoclassical design all around you.
If you are still interested in the building and its history, you can join a tour for AU$15 per person, and it is about 45 minutes long.
The tour starts 11:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Just go and see the Concierge Desk on the ground floor.
Another great thing to do is explore the rest of the building and head up to Level 3. It has two clocks on separate levels that chime at different times, one for British royalty and one for Australian history.
Admire The Architecture Of St Mary’s Cathedral (Free)
Sydney has a beautiful sight to see in the historic St. Mary’s Cathedral, sitting at Hyde Park end and rolling back on history for years along College Street. St. Mary’s Cathedral was first built back in 1888 as an act of worship for God but later they changed their opinions about religion which is why it’s currently still open as a church with the original interior intact!
In the year 1812, the construction began on the original St Mary’s Cathedral. However, the first cathedral caught fire and burned down in 1865. It took eight years for construction to restart but it became an ongoing project and wouldn’t finish until 2000.
Today with its spectacular Gothic-style design and prominent location, it is a wonderful place to visit.
You can get into this impressive building for a quick walk-through without paying an entrance fee, making it an easy choice for our top free things list.
Taronga Zoological Park Guided Tour ($20 AUD per person)
Located on 200 acres near the ocean just below the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo is home to more than 500 animals which makes it one of the world’s largest zoological gardens. The zoo boasts a free guided tour experience that takes visitors on an informative and fun journey through Australia’s unique animal species with knowledgeable guides who can answer any questions you may have about wildlife in this country.
Wander around Sydney’s Famous Weekend Markets (Free)
Sydney is infamous for its epic weekend markets. And even if you aren’t in the mood to buy anything, it’s always worth stopping by to check them out.
Some of the most popular markets are listed below:
Paddy’s Markets (Sydney CBD)
Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets are a major hub for local tourists and are an easy place to start looking at souvenirs. The market also has fresh produce and numerous clothing options that can be found among dozens of vendors at each location.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00
The Rocks Market
The best place for a weekend market is the Rocks Markets and it’s also a great spot to stroll or take in the view. Combine your visit with a tour of The Rocks to really appreciate the history of the neighborhood.
Hours: Friday: 10:00 – 15:00 and Saturday/Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00
Bondi Markets are an awesome place to go for a Saturday morning market. Off the beaten path, this weekend market is always buzzing with people and has everything from vintage clothing to retro furniture to handmade jewellery to arts and crafts.
Hours: Saturday: 09:00 – 13:00 and Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00
The Best Cheap and Free Things to do in Sydney
Sydney is a city with many free and cheap activities so don’t worry if you are on a budget. There are the beaches, walks along the harbour or just exploring Darling Harbour to enjoy some time in nature without having to pay for anything! If you want something more active there’s plenty of markets around town where bargain hunters can find treasures while enjoying live music performances.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have because there will always be something fun happening that won’t cost a thing!
What has been your favourite low-cost activity in Sydney? Leave me a comment below and let me know what it was – I always look forward to hearing about all my readers’ adventures!
Additional Sydney Resources
- 10 Epic places to check out the Sydney Opera House
- The ultimate Sydney bucket list
- Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
- Spit Bridge to Manly Coastal Walk
- Whale watching in Sydney’s Harbour
- mini-guide to Bondi Beach
- Sydney by night | all Must do’s and see’s
The best Sydney Travel Itineraries
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