The ultimate guide to Sydney

5 things to do in Circular Quay, Sydney

Circular Quay is the most happening place in Sydney. Supposedly the birthplace of both the city and the nation, this place is to be not missed while in Sydney. An evening stroll or a busy market, Circular Quay and The Rocks have everything to offer to get the feel of the Sydney city.

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Sydney Opera House

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Where is Circular Quay?

Circular Quay is a harbour area located in Sydney. It is the hub to the ferry transport of the Sydney harbour. The quay has an international shipping port and is a tourism hub in Sydney. It is also the home to the World famous Sydney Opera House.

Sydney harbour has some islands that can be visited by public and Circular Quay is the gateway to those islands. For a detailed guide on visiting these islands, read my post on 4 islands in Sydney harbour.

Are you in Sydney during the winter season? Then read my post things to do in Sydney winters to find all the cool things you can do in this beautiful city.

Sydney Opera house at night

How to get there?

Circular Quay is part of the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) line. It has a connectivity from all modes of public transport in Sydney and is probably the best and cheapest way to travel to Circular Quay. There are frequent trains that run between the train stations of the CBD (Central, Wynyard, Town Hall, St James, Museum and Circular Quay). There are light rails that run between the various stops within the CBD. And Circular Quay is also reachable by buses and ferries.

  • Up-to-date information on the timings and the routes can be found on the Transport for New South Wales (NSW) website.
  • One can use Opal transportation card or debit/credit cards to pay for the fare on Sydney public transport.

Note: There is a baggage storage facility at the International terminal, refer the Stasher website for more details.

5 things to do in Circular Quay

There are plenty of things to do in Circular Quay. It has museums, islands, many restaurants and cafes where one can dine in with some amazing views of Sydney harbour and the Opera house. For a Sydney travel guide, read my ultimate travel guide.

Royal Botanical Garden

Established in 1816, Royal Botanical Garden is a collection of many gardens and plants from all around the World. It is a huge garden in the middle of Sydney CBD. The garden houses a curving glasshouse space with different species of plants.

Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

The complex also has many statues and structures with fountains. One needs at least half a day to cover the botanical gardens. There are temporary exhibitions and events that are hosted at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

  • Refer Royal Botanical Gardens official website for more details on the species of plants and events.
  • Opening timings: The gardens are open everyday of the year. However, the timings are seasonal and vary between 7 AM and 8 PM depending on the month. Refer the website for information.
  • There is no entrance fee to visit the gardens.

Did you know that the garden has about 5000 kinds of plants under cultivation?

Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House and the Harbour bridge

Sydney Opera House

Everyone in the World has definitely heard of Sydney Opera House. It is one of the most famous landmarks that did make it to the UNESCO World Heritage structures in the World. Sydney Opera House is opened officially in the year 1973. It is around 185 metres long and each roof weighs up to 15 tonnes.

Do not miss a performance at the Sydney Opera House. Refer the official website to see the events going on in the Opera house.

  • It is free to visit Sydney Opera house.
  • There are standard tours that are run everyday, which costs around AUD 42. Visit the official website for more information on the tours.

Did you know that more than 10 million people visit Sydney Opera house every year?

Sydney Opera House at night

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest and heaviest steel arch structure in the World. It weighs up to 52,800 tonnes. It is adorably known as a ‘coathanger’ by the locals.

  • The best way to experience the harbour bridge is to walk across it.
  • There is no entrance fee to walk on the Sydney harbour bridge.

One can climb Sydney Harbour Bridge to get the views of the harbour from a 134 high bridge. Read Bridge climb for more details.

The Bridge Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Opened in the year 1991, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is the collection of contemporary Australian art.

  • The entry into this museum is FREE.
  • The museum has a cafe at the top floor where one can enjoy coffee with views of the Sydney Opera House.
  • The museum is open every day except on Mondays between 10 AM and 5 PM.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Customs House

Opened in 1845, Customs House is a heritage listed museum space in the Circular Quay area. It is a gateway for newly arrived goods, and ideas.

  • There is no entrance fee to visit Customs house.
  • It is open every day:
    • between 8 AM and 10:30 PM between weekdays,
    • between 9 AM and 10:30 PM on Saturday and
    • between 9 AM and 5 PM on Sunday.
Customs House

Cocktails at Opera Bar

Just below the Opera house is the Opera bar. Enjoying cocktails with some amazing views of the harbour makes it a great place for an evening to spend time with friends or family.

  • Open from 11:30 AM to 12 AM on Friday and Saturday and from 11:30 AM till late between Sunday and Thursday.

Enjoy some delicious cocktails with a view of the harbour.

Opera Bar

Safety for solo female travelers

Sydney is very safe for solo female travelers. It is in fact one of the safest cities that I have traveled in so far. I have had no issues or concerns whatsoever. However, like any other city in the World, be cautious and know your surroundings especially while traveling at nights.

Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

Closing notes

While traveling in Sydney, Circular Quay is definitely the must visit spot. It has great vibes and is an awesome place to spend a day easily. Traveling to Sydney is not complete without spending a day or two at the Circular Quay.

Sydney Opera House

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15 comments

  1. I didn’t know much about Sydney before reading your article but really appreciate how you’ve brought this neighbourhood to life. The Botanical Garden looks incredible, and I can only imagine how different their displays would be from what I am used to seeing in Europe. The Harbour Bridge looks like it would have such incredible views, and a nice walk across it would be a great experience as you’ve highlighted.

  2. I havent been to Sydney before but only know off the harbour bridge and opera house. So I coudln’t tell you what else is there or name of neighbourhoods. So I have learny quite a bit from this post and looks like Circular Quay will be one of the areas I will hit up for sure on my next visit to Australia. Of course I want to walk along the top of the bridge and capture the famous view of the opera house but I would just love to wander around the area and see if there are any hidden secrets.

  3. I loved visiting this area when I was in Sydney. I took a ferry from the Quay to the Taronga Zoo and got a great view of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, but I wish I had found the spot in a few of your photos where you get a magnificent view of them both — especially at nighttime!

  4. I’ve been to all the places you mentioned above and did the free stuff. But it is my wish to visit again someday (hopefully with more money), so I could watch a show at the Sydney Opera House and do the Bridge Climb. Especially the Bridge Climb — it looks super cool!

  5. So many great things to do in Circular Quay. I can’t believe that plant from the Botanical Gardens, it looks like something out of Little Shop of Horrors! It’s such a spectacular harbour, I guess just having a glass of wine as the sun goes down over that view would be an amazing thing to do as well.

  6. Don’t have much idea about Sydney but the Circular Quay has amazing things to do. I only know about Opera house, I loved the views from Harbor bridge. This should be in my Wishlist whenever I visit Sydney. The Museum of contemporary art looks interesting and sunset by the bridge is perfect to end the day.

  7. I have only heard about the Sydney harbor bridge and opera house but didn’t know about Circular Quay. It surely looks like a vibrant place and it will be fun to stroll around this place and enjoy the many attractions next to it.

  8. Wow Circular Quay looks the perfect place for a great holiday. Being a fan of nature, Botanical Gardens would be the place where I would land up spending the maximum time. Sydney Harbour Bridge looks beautiful too and would love to try out some cocktails in Opera Bar. Getting more and more attracted towards Australia.

  9. Okay…so I did not know so much about the place where the famous Opera house is. I knew of the islands but what amazes me is that there is something more than just the landmark building. The botanical garden sounds like fun. And I have heard that the climb up the Harbour bridge is not for the faint hearted. A really nice introduction and guide to the place.

  10. I too loved Circular Quay in Sydney as it is really very vibrant and beautiful place of city. Good to know it is birthplace of city and nation too. Royal Botanic Gardens is my favorite as so much greenery in between busy city. I missed Contemporary museum and Customs house and they really look beautiful and during my next visit, would visit them too.

  11. These place look super cool. Especially the opera house, I would love to listen to an opera here. The whole place has that magical vibe, which makes it so inviting. Very well compiled article, I would say.

  12. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are iconic, but was not aware that the area was known as Circular Quay. The MCA seems to be an interesting place, I guess the cafe there is great to have a coffee with a view.

  13. Opera House looks interesting place to visit. And we would love to visit the largest steel arch bridge in the world The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Thanks for sharing your experience with us

  14. My friend lives in Sydney and they have been calling me for quite some time… I loved reading this! Got to know so much!

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