The best things to do in Sydney

One of the world’s great cities, Sydney is an Aussie icon that’s as much about cosmopolitan style as it is about board shorts, pubs and beach culture.

Aerial view of ferries on Sydney Harbour sailing past the Sydney Opera house, with city skyline in background. Image credit: Destination NSW
  • Jetstar
  • October 2021

Blessed with stunning good looks, a sunny disposition and a wealth of attractions, Sydney is a charmed city. With its iconic landmarks, Instagrammable beaches, divine culinary scene and healthy outdoor lifestyle, it’s the perennial overachiever. And the most famous sights – the Bridge, the Opera House and Bondi Beach – are just the surface of what there is to see and do here. Beautiful weather, superb museums and art, inner-city street culture, expansive parks and great nightlife… when it comes to city escapes, few a more spectacular than Sydney.

Be like Pacman and eat your way through the city

From fish and chips by the beach to seafood platters overlooking the harbour, Sydney’s a destination filled with quintessential food experiences. And whether it’s a well-priced steak at an art-deco pub or creative cutting-edge cuisine at a restaurant you booked six months in advance, there’s a scene to satisfy all moods and occasions. More interesting menus revolve around ever-changing interpretations of Modern Australian comprising what’s seasonal and what’s local. And along with authentic multicultural cuisine and delicious seafood, the markets are a must for sampling local produce. Cafe culture is ingrained here too, and from the inner-city backstreets to the fashionable beach suburbs, there are plenty of quality brunch menus to choose from.

Takeaway sign outside the front of Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Sydney. Image credit: Destination NSW
Start with the classics. Image credit: Destination NSW

Be wowed by Sydney’s blockbuster sights

When it comes to knockout attractions, few cities land a better one-two punch than Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Showcased along its sparkling harbour, this tea-towel worthy image simply doesn’t get any more Australian. But this iconic duo is more than a photo op. Be sure to sign yourself up to do the bridge climb – one of the city’s most popular activities. And if you can’t make a show at the Opera House (hosting anything from live bands and musicals to classical recitals and, yes, opera), book a tour to head inside this architectural masterpiece.

Scenic views of Sydney Harbour, Opera House and the Bridge, from Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney. Image credit: Destination NSW
Sydney’s two most famous sights sit beside one another. Image credit: Destination NSW

Take in the city’s rich history and culture

Sydney is more than just a pretty face. There’s plenty to keep you busy here beyond the beaches, including museums, galleries, live music and performance art. The Australian Museum makes for a good starting point, taking in the city’s history from both an Indigenous and colonial standpoint. The Rocks Discovery Museum and Hyde Park Barracks Museum also offer fascinating insights into a storied past. The Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia are the two essential stops for art lovers, but for something uniquely local and contemporary, be sure to add the Brett Whiteley Studio and White Rabbit to your list.

Sculpture ‘Moon in a Dew Drop’ by artist Lindy Lee on display at the entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, The Rocks, Sydney. Image credit: Destination NSW
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is a must-see. Image credit: Destination NSW

Rev yourself up for a night out in Sydney

While Sydney’s nightlife may be a little tamer than it was in days gone by (Kings Cross, we’re looking at you), it’s still a city that can party with the best of them. From your classic terrace watering holes and ritzy rooftop cocktail bars to inner-city dives and all-night dance clubs, whatever your scene, in Sydney you can find it. Its celebrated LGBQTI community is centred along Oxford Street with a lively strip of bars and clubs. For local bands and cool pubs don’t miss the inner west, while for cocktails and nightclubs, lively CBD spots are worth jumping in the queue for.

Interior view of patrons enjoying a night out at Kings Cross Hotel, Potts Point. Image credit: Destination NSW
Fun nights out at Kings Cross. Image credit: Destination NSW

Lay out your towel for a day at the beach

As if Sydney wasn’t beautiful enough, it has an entire coastline of stunning beaches. Everyone knows the most famous one, Bondi Beach, but that’s only skimming the water. Coogee, Manly, Bronte, Clovelly, Cronulla, Palm Beach – these are some of the well-known names among Sydney’s bays and hidden coves with inviting patches of sand. Most are patrolled by surf-life saving teams and offer excellent surfing and swimming – the latter in the ocean or beachside in saltwater pools. Otherwise, you can take in spectacular coastal views along the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Beachgoers enjoying a summer's day at Bondi Beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Image Credit: Destination NSW
Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach. Image Credit: Destination NSW