Sydney Travel Guide

·16 min read
Aerial view of Sydney harbor
Aerial view of Sydney harbor

Courtesy of Crown Sydney

Sydney is Australia's largest city and the capital of New South Wales, the country's most visited state. Located along the South Pacific Ocean on Australia's southeast coast, Sydney is home to more than a hundred beaches.

Once a penal colony where convicts from the United Kingdom were left to fend for themselves, Sydney grew during the 19th century to become a thriving port city. Today, nearly half of Sydney's residents, who refer to themselves as "Sydneysiders," were born overseas. Thus, restaurants representing nearly every international cuisine make the city a foodie paradise.

One of the city's most recognizable attractions is the iconic Sydney Opera House with its sail-like structures, the work of Danish architect Jorn Utzon whose design won an international competition. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, nicknamed "the coathanger" for its shape, is another notable attraction and part of the city's stunning panorama.

Sydney's moderate climate and variety of beaches and parks are ideal for outdoor activities. Hotels throughout the city's neighborhoods offer visitors a range of accommodations, from the beaches to the Central Business District.

Time Zone

Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) UTC/GMT +10 hours

From approximately October through March - Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) UTC/GMT +11

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Best Time to Go

Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The best times to visit Sydney for weather are the months of October and November (late spring) or March and April (autumn) when temperatures are comfortable and humidity is lower.

The peak times for tourism and the warmest weather are the summer months of December through February. The crowds are at their highest between Christmas and the end of January, a traditional time for Australians' summer vacations. Naturally, prices are higher during this season, but it's perfect beach weather. Also, the annual month-long Sydney Festival is held in January, and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts in Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day (December 26).

The low season, May through August, is chillier and prices are lower. It's still a pleasant time to be in Sydney, and the exciting Vivid Sydney typically takes place in May. The Sydney International Film Festival is held in August, and the Bondi Festival in June and July.

Things to Know

Currency: Australian Dollar AUD

Current Exchange Rate

Language: English

Calling Code: +61

Electricity: The plug is Type I, with three flat pins in a triangular pattern. Australia uses 230 volts (U.S. is 120 volts), so a converter may be needed for certain devices.

Vivid Sydney is a festival that brings outdoor light installations, music, talk, and creative energy to the city each year. Sydney's iconic Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, and several other buildings become the canvas for leading light artists with colorful displays.

Sydney's "coffee culture" makes it easy to find a great cup of brew from artisan roasters and skilled baristas. Some claim that the Flat White (espresso with steamed milk and only a thin layer of foam) was first served in Australia.

In general, visitors will find that prices are high in Australia, including in Sydney.

Tipping is not customary or expected in Australia where tax and service are included in the bill by law and minimum wages are higher than in the U.S. However, for excellent service in restaurants, taxis, hotels, tours, you may wish to add a small amount as a "thank you."

Retailers that sell wine, spirits, and beverages in Australia are called "bottle shops."

The Sydney Fish Market is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere featuring retailers, restaurants, and seafood cooking classes. Products from the working market, located a short distance from downtown Sydney, include prawns, oysters, sea urchin, crabs, and more.

How to Get Around

The Opal Card can be used on all public transport, including trains, ferries, buses, and light rail.

Sydney Buses: Buses connect all areas of the city, including those without rail or ferry transport. NightRide services replace most train routes between midnight and 4 a.m.

Sydney Rail: Trains operate north to the CBD and across the harbour to North Sydney as well as east to Bondi Junction and south past and including Sydney Airport. The main terminus for local and regional trains is Central Station at Railway Square. Maps and timetables are available at Transport NSW.

Intercity Trains: For many NSW destinations including the South Coast, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and Outback NSW, regional trains and coaches depart Central Station.

Sydney Light Rail: The network operates in both directions between Central Station and Dulwich Hill in Sydney's West.

Sydney Ferries: From Circular Quay Ferry Terminal in CBD, ferries go to Manly Beach and Taronga Zoo, for fast, convenient, and scenic trips.

River Ferry: The river ferry travels up the Parramatta River from Circular Quay to Parramatta with stops that include Sydney Olympic Park. Uber and Ola operate ride sharing in Sydney.

Best Hotels

The Langham, Sydney

Address: 89-113 Kent St, Millers Point NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9256 2222
Website

This luxury hotel offers 96 guest rooms and suites, some with expansive terraces and views of the harbour or city skyline. Pets also receive five-star service, with dog walking and pet sitting available. Set in the heart of The Rocks district among historic cobbled streets, this romantic property features an indoor pool, spa, and several dining venues.

the langham sydney
the langham sydney

The Fullerton Hotel Sydney

Address: 1 Martin Pl, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8223 1111
Website

Located in Sydney's financial and fashion area, the luxury hotel is housed in the historic former General Post Office. Guests can choose a room in the contemporary high rise section or the classic heritage building. The hotel is conveniently located near theaters, restaurants, and landmarks like the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Royal Botanic Garden.

Ovolo Woolloomooloo

Address: 6 Cowper Wharf Roadway, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9331 9000
Website

A luxury boutique hotel near the heart of Sydney CBD, the Ovolo offers spacious guest rooms, indoor pool, fitness center, and fun perks like a snack bag, cocktail hour, and all-day sweets. From its wharf location, guests are conveniently near public transportation and the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. Dine at Alibi on plant-based dishes for dinner and weekend high tea

Ovolo Woolloomoolloo Hotel, Sydney
Ovolo Woolloomoolloo Hotel, Sydney

InterContinental Sydney

Address: 117 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9253 9000
Website

This elegant hotel is set in the restored 1851 Treasure Building, with 509 guest rooms including 28 luxury suites. Located in the Circular Quay area, the hotel features views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Dining venues include the rooftop Panorama Lounge Bar for nightly cocktails and high tea on weekends.

Pier One, Sydney Harbour

Address: 11 Hickson Rd, Dawes Point NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8298 9999
Website

This unique hotel is built on and over the water near the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for stunning views of the harbour and Walsh Bay. The dog-friendly property provides rooms with direct access to the pier for convenience. In keeping with its maritime style, the Admiral Suite features floor-to-ceiling windows, private deck, and bathtub with a water view.

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Address: 199 George St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9250 3100
Website

Located in the Central Business District, this luxurious hotel is conveniently situated for shopping, dining, and exploring nearby Circular Quay and The Rocks area. Guests can choose city or harbour views from plush guest rooms and suites. The hotel features a spa, pool, and a variety of dining spots, including the poolside Cabana and bistro-style Mode Kitchen & Bar.

View from a living room at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
View from a living room at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Best Restaurants

Lankan Filling Station

Address: 58 Riley Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8542 9936
Website

This casual walk-in Sri Lankan restaurant features authentic dishes that include curries and the popular street food, hoppers—bowl-shaped pancakes often filled with an egg. Other dishes like curried minced beef crepes, sambals, and perfectly spiced goat curry are also on the menu. Reservations accepted; walk-ins welcome.

Interior of Lankan Filling Station
Interior of Lankan Filling Station

a'Mare at the Crown Sydney

Address: 1 Barangaroo Avenue Level 1 Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8871 7171
Website

Fine regional Italian dishes based on seasonal ingredients are featured in chef Alessandro Pavoni's latest venture. Elegant decor, traditional table-side preparations, and optional tasting menus add to the experience of dining at a'Mare. Reservations recommended.

Bistro 916

Address: 22 Challis Avenue Potts Point, Sydney NSW 2011, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9167 6667
Website

From classic steak frites to their lamb's brains specialty, this French bistro serves creatively prepared dishes along with an extensive wine list brimming with selections from France. Guests can also dine on lobster, mushroom, or duck frites and traditional bistro desserts. Reservations accepted; some tables available for walk-ins.

NOMAD

Address: 16 Foster Street Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9280 3395
Website

The extensive a la carte and clever tasting menus are inspired by the flavors of Spain, Morocco, and the Middle East. Wines highlight Australian producers with a focus on organic and sustainable growers. The offerings include Wagyu beef, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Reservations are recommended.

Porcine

Address: 268 Oxford Street Paddington, Sydney NSW 2021, Australia
Phone: 0423 015 032
Website

The atmosphere is lively and the menu is focused on pork in all its forms from chops to ham to pate, but there's also duck terrine, octopus, oysters, and a few vegetable dishes. Cocktails, beers, an extensive wine list, and an interesting selection of digestifs and non-alcoholic beverages provide many drink options. Open Thursday through Sunday. Reservations suggested.

A dinner setting form Porcine
A dinner setting form Porcine

Esteban

Address: 1 Temperance Lane Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9062 8565
Website

Authentic regional Mexican dishes, traditional cooking techniques, and quality ingredients with a bit of modern Australian flavor create an engaging menu that includes house-made corn tortillas, scallop aguachile, and tacos al pastor. A large selection of Tequila and Mezcal are featured in their craft cocktails. Reservations are "essential," but a few tables are available for walk-ins.

Automata

Address: 5 Kensington Street Chippendale, Sydney NSW 2008, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8277 8555
Website

This upscale, modern warehouse-style space is located in The Old Clare Hotel, a historic boutique property. The frequently changing tasting menu includes dishes like grilled duck hearts, Wagyu tri-tip, quail, king prawns, and creatively prepared vegetables and desserts. Open Wednesday through Saturday, with weekend late seating. Reservations required.

Things to Do

Royal National Park

Website

Walk, hike, paddle, picnic, and even take a dip in natural pools at this beautiful national park, the world's second oldest. While you're there, learn about the indigenous culture by taking a tour with an Aboriginal Discovery ranger to spot the historic remnants and rock art at Jibbon Headland, Cabbage Tree Basin, and other sites.

A man standing on a cliff in the Royal National Park during sunset
A man standing on a cliff in the Royal National Park during sunset

Sydney Opera House

Address: 110 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9250 7111
Website

This stunning building is home to classical music, theater, dance, and opera performances as well as indoor and outdoor dining. Backstage, architectural, foodie, and kids tours are offered. The Sydney Opera House, opened in 1973, is a World Heritage site and Australia's most visited tourist destination.

Royal Botanic Garden

Address: Mrs. Macquaries Road
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9231 8111
Website

The oldest botanic garden in Australia, the Royal Botanic Garden was founded in 1816 and focuses on plants of Australia and the South Pacific with a Rainforest, Palm Grove, and Rose Garden. Restaurants and picnic boxes are available for a relaxing visit with views of the Harbour Bridge. Take a tour to learn about the indigenous people who first occupied the area.

A general view of InBloom at The Calyx at The Royal Botanic Gardens
A general view of InBloom at The Calyx at The Royal Botanic Gardens

Taronga Zoo Sydney

Address: Bradleys Head Road Sydney NSW 2088, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9969 2777
Website

Located on the shores of Sydney Harbour, the zoo is home to more than 5,000 animals representing 350 different species. Tours, activities, shows, and an overnight safari called "Roar and Snore" are among the ways to experience Taronga Zoo.

Giraffes in front of the Sydney Opera House at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.
Giraffes in front of the Sydney Opera House at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.

Australian National Maritime Museum

Address: 2 Murray Street Sydney NSW 2024, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9298 3777
Website

The museum's exhibits and collections recognize the indigenous peoples of the area and the immigrants who came from afar to settle in Australia. Archaeology, science, history, marine life, and conservation are among topics covered in displays and photographs.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Website

The towering structure near the Opera House is another of Sydney's notable sites, one of the world's largest steel arch bridges. Admire it from a distance, walk across for free, or do the bridge climb, a guided "hike" of between two and four hours for the best views of the harbour, city, and Opera House.

Sydney's Beaches

Website

Bondi might be the best known of Sydney's beaches, but more than a hundred lie along the area's shores. Manly Beach, another popular spot, also offers restaurants, shops, and a variety of activities including surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming. On land, take the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk for a few hours of beach views and a pleasant workout.

A general view of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
A general view of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

Best Shopping

Mid City Shopping Centre

Address: 197 Pitt Street Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9233 2938
Website

This popular mall features more than 24 stores for fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and personal services. For trendy clothing, there's Forever New and Witchery, Peter Alexander for sleepwear, Kathmandu for outdoor and adventure gear, and Mimco for unique accessories.

Tramsheds

Address: 1 Dalgal Way Forest Lodge NSW 2037, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8398 5695
Website

This shopping area, set in a 1904 building, was once the Rozelle Tramway Depot housing more than 200 trams. Food, artisan vendors, wine shops, and local produce are offered by community-based retailers.

Queen Victoria Building

Address: 455 George Street Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9265 6800
Website

Set in a stunning 1898 building, the shopping venue includes high fashion brands like Coach, Furla, and Bally as well as toys, books, and housewares. Australian brands include Hunter's Cashmere Collection, Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers, and R. M. Williams for handcrafted footwear and accessories.

Shoppers fill the Queen Victoria Building
Shoppers fill the Queen Victoria Building

World Square

Address: 644 George Street Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 8275 6777
Website

In the heart of Sydney's CBD, this popular shopping spot features fashionable clothing, shoes, accessories, health and beauty products and services, and groceries. A variety of cafes, bars, restaurants, and a pharmacy make it a convenient stop.

Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet

Address: 19 Roseby Street Drummoyne NSW 2047, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9080 8636
Website

Sydney's largest brand outlet, located on Sydney Harbour, features more than 130 premium brands and a variety of restaurants in the open-air venue. Shops include Armani, Bally, Polo, and Converse as well as Australian designers Anna Thomas, Sass and Bide, and UGG.

Dux Collection

Address: 3 Playfair Street The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9252 0209
Website

High quality essential oils, personal fragrance, candles, room sprays, soaps, and exquisite gifts are created from 98% naturally derived plant-based ingredients. Presented in signature handmade wooden boxes and hand-cut glassware, items are beautifully packaged.

David Jones

Address: 86-108 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Phone: +61 133357
Website

Australia's leading premium retailer dates to 1838 and now offers 45 locations including the Elizabeth Street flagship store. Clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, homeware, food, and personal care products are offered from top international and Australian designers.

Neighborhoods to Know

The Rocks: This historic neighborhood is where Sydney started, so cobblestone streets, restored buildings, and vintage pubs exist there along with the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Museum of Contemporary Art. Explore with a guided walking tour.

Circular Quay: This transport hub for ferries, buses, and trains, located between the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, is also home to outdoor restaurants, shops, and street performers.

Darling Harbour: This lively neighborhood is ideal for families with the Sydney Aquarium, IMAX, Madame Tussauds, and a variety of dining and entertainment options. Take a harbour sightseeing cruise or visit the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Central Business District (CBD): The heart of Sydney is the business and retail center with skyscrapers as well as the Royal Botanic Garden, hotels, art galleries, museums, theaters, and vintage shops. Bondi Beach: The world renowned surfing beach is just about twenty minutes from downtown. Pacific views, seafood restaurants, nightlife, hiking, and water sports make this a popular area. Manly and Coogee are also great beach destinations.

Weather

Sydney has a humid subtropical climate, with rain spread fairly evenly through the year for a total annual rainfall of about 47 inches. In general, the weather is mild.

Summer (December-February) temperatures reach the high 70s with humidity in the 60-70% range. Autumn (March-May) sees less humidity and crisp temperatures. In winter (June-August), temperatures fall as low as mid 40s and rainfall is higher. Spring (September-November) becomes warmer with less humidity than summer.

July is the coolest month, and January is the hottest. August and September are the driest months of the year.

The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month:

January 67°F - 80°F
February 67°F - 80°F
March 65°F - 77°F
April 59°F - 73°F
May 53°F - 68°F
June 49°F - 64°F
July 47°F- 63°F
August 48°F - 65°F
September 53°F - 70°F
October 57°F - 74°F
November 61°F - 75°F
December 65°F - 78°F

Apps to Download

Opal: Sydney's contactless smartcard ticketing system for public transportation in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter, and the Illawarra. You add value to the card and use it to pay your fares.
iOs|Android

AnyTrip: Lets you track public transport vehicles in real time with a live map. It also shows upcoming departures from a variety of stations.
iOs|Android

Citymapper: This multimodal trip planner checks nearby departures in real time and finds the fastest route combining metro, train, bus, ferry, light rail, taxi, car share, or walking.
iOs|Android

Transit: Plan a trip with real-time data and next departures from your current location, locate nearby Uber drivers, get pickup time estimates, and book through the app.
iOs|Android

Moovit: Combines real time data from Transport NSW with live information from the user community, giving fastest routes, stops along the way, and alerts when your stop is approaching.
iOs|Android

Uber: For airport pickup, local rides, or 30-day advance reservations.
iOs|Android