The ultimate guide to Sydney

5 Things To Do in Circular Quay, Sydney (2024)

Circular Quay is a pulsating hub of activity and culture at the heart of Sydney’s vibrant waterfront. For the intrepid explorer seeking an exhilarating blend of urban energy and maritime allure, there are many things to do in Circular Quay, which unfolds like a captivating chapter in the city’s narrative. Forget the conventional tourist places because Circular Quay invites many experiences beyond the ordinary.

Whether you’re a solo adventurer or seeking thrilling escapades with fellow travellers, this iconic precinct promises excitement against the stunning backdrop of Sydney’s skyline. Join me on a journey through the dynamic offerings that make Circular Quay a must-visit destination for those who crave more than just the usual tourist haunts.

Sydney Opera House

Pulsating with life and energy, Circular Quay stands as the epicentre of Sydney’s vibrancy. Revered as the rumoured birthplace of the city and the nation, this locale is essential to your Sydney itinerary. Whether you opt for a leisurely evening stroll or immerse yourself in the bustling markets, Circular Quay and The Rocks collectively embody the essence of Sydney, providing an all-encompassing experience that captures the city’s spirit.

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About Circular Quay

Situated along the Sydney waterfront, Circular Quay is a bustling harbour area intricately connected to the city’s ferry transport network. Not only does it boast an international shipping port, but Circular Quay also stands proudly as a central tourism hub in Sydney, hosting the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera house at night

Beyond its immediate charm, Circular Quay is the gateway to several enchanting islands dotting the Sydney Harbour. If you’re eager to explore these islands, delve into my comprehensive guide in the post highlighting four must-visit islands in Sydney Harbour.

Finding yourself in Sydney during the winter season? Look no further – dive into my post on winter activities in Sydney to uncover many cool experiences awaiting you in this stunning city.

How to Get to Circular Quay?

Nestled within the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) circuit, Circular Quay serves as a vital transportation hub with seamless connectivity to all modes of public transit in Sydney. Offering both convenience and affordability, it is perhaps the optimal way to journey to Circular Quay. The CBD is well-linked by frequent trains traversing stations such as Central, Wynyard, Town Hall, St James, Museum, and Circular Quay. Light rails seamlessly weave between various CBD stops, and buses and ferries provide additional access to Circular Quay.

For the latest updates on schedules and routes, refer to the Transport for New South Wales (NSW) website. Travellers can effortlessly settle their fares using the Opal transportation card or debit/credit cards, adding a layer of ease to their Sydney public transport experience.

Important: A baggage storage facility is available at the International terminal. Please consult the Stasher website for more details.

Where to Stay in Circular Quay?

Circular Quay in Sydney has a selection of luxurious 5-star hotels, offering impeccable service and breathtaking views. While specific offerings may vary, here are a few noteworthy 5-star hotels in the Circular Quay area:

  1. Park Hyatt Sydney: Nestled near the Sydney Opera House, this upscale hotel offers luxurious accommodations with stunning harbour views.
  2. InterContinental Sydney, an IHG Hotel: Positioned near Circular Quay, this elegant hotel combines modern comfort with classic charm, providing a sophisticated stay.
  3. Shangri-La Sydney: With panoramic views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, this 5-star hotel promises a lavish experience in the city’s heart.
  4. Four Seasons Hotel Sydney: Situated near Circular Quay, this renowned hotel offers opulent rooms and suites with sweeping views of the harbour and iconic landmarks.
  5. The Langham, Sydney: Located along Kent Street, this 5-star hotel boasts luxurious rooms, a day spa, and a waterfront dining experience.

5 Things To Do in Circular Quay

Circular Quay offers plenty of activities to indulge in. There’s no shortage of options, from museums to scenic islands, numerous restaurants, and charming cafes. Enjoy delightful dining experiences with stunning Sydney Harbour and Opera House views. For a comprehensive Sydney travel guide, explore the insights in my ultimate travel guide to Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

Royal Botanical Garden

Founded in 1816, the Royal Botanical Garden is a diverse collection of gardens and plants from across the globe. This expansive garden encompasses a sprawling landscape in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD). At its core lies a gracefully curved glasshouse, a sanctuary showcasing an array of plant species worldwide.

Numerous statues and structures adorned with fountains within the complex enhance the botanical experience. Allocating at least half a day is recommended to fully explore the Royal Botanical Gardens’s richness. The gardens often host temporary exhibitions and events, adding an extra layer of dynamism to the visit.

Were you aware that the garden nurtures approximately 5000 different types of plants in its cultivation?

Royal Botanical Garden Sydney
  • For comprehensive details on plant species and upcoming events, please visit the Royal Botanical Gardens’ official website.
  • Opening Timings: The gardens welcome visitors every day of the year, with seasonal timings ranging from 7 AM to 8 PM, depending on the month.
  • Entrance to the gardens is free of charge.
Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Undoubtedly, the Sydney Opera House is a globally recognized icon that has secured its place among the UNESCO World Heritage structures. Officially unveiled in 1973, this architectural marvel spans approximately 185 meters, with each roof boasting an impressive weight of up to 15 tonnes.

Ensure you catch a performance at the Sydney Opera House, and for a comprehensive list of ongoing events, consult the official website.

  • Admission to the Sydney Opera House is free.
  • Standard tours are conducted daily, with a cost of approximately AUD 42.
Sydney Opera House and the Harbour bridge

Were you aware that Sydney Opera House welcomes over 10 million visitors annually?

Sydney Opera House at night

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge holds the title of being the largest and heaviest steel arch structure worldwide, boasting an impressive weight of up to 52,800 tonnes. Affectionately dubbed the ‘coathanger’ by the locals, this iconic landmark is a symbol of Sydney’s charm.

  • For an unparalleled experience, strolling across the harbour bridge from Circular Quay is highly recommended.
  • Entrance to walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is free.

For those yearning for a more adventurous perspective, consider embarking on a Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb to witness breathtaking views of the harbour from the soaring height of 134 meters.

Sydney Harbour Bridge - At the peak

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Established in 1991, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) houses an impressive collection of contemporary Australian art.

  • Admission to this museum is complimentary.
  • The top floor features a delightful cafe where visitors can savour coffee while enjoying panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House.
  • The museum welcomes visitors every day, except on Mondays, from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Customs House

Dating back to 1845, Customs House is a heritage-listed museum space in the Circular Quay vicinity, serving as both a gateway for newly arrived goods and ideas.

  • Entrance to Customs House is free of charge.
  • The operating hours are as follows:
    • Weekdays: 8 AM to 10:30 PM
    • Saturday: 9 AM to 10:30 PM
    • Sunday: 9 AM to 5 PM
Customs House

Cocktails at Opera Bar

Nestled just beneath the Opera House, Opera Bar offers a splendid setting to relish cocktails while soaking in breathtaking views of the harbour, creating the perfect ambience for an evening with friends or family.

Operating hours are as follows:

  • Friday and Saturday: 11:30 AM to 12 AM
  • Sunday to Thursday: 11:30 AM till late

Indulge in delightful cocktails accompanied by the scenic beauty of the harbour.

Opera Bar

Bonus – Nurses Walk

Unveiling itself as a concealed treasure within the bustling streets of Sydney, Nurses Walk emerges as one of the city’s best-kept secrets. While it may not be situated directly at Circular Quay, this slender alleyway gracefully winds through the historic precinct of The Rocks, just behind the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

Is Circular Quay Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Sydney stands out as an exceptionally safe destination for solo female travelers. It ranks among the safest cities I’ve explored, and I’ve encountered no issues or concerns during my visits. Nonetheless, exercising caution, particularly when traveling at night, is prudent, as is the case in any city worldwide. Familiarizing yourself with your surroundings enhances the overall safety of your solo adventures in Sydney.

Royal Botanical Garden Sydney

Closing Notes

When exploring Sydney, Circular Quay is an absolute must-visit destination. Radiating fantastic vibes, it’s the perfect spot to spend a leisurely and enjoyable day. A trip to Sydney is incomplete without dedicating at least a day or two to immerse yourself in the charm of Circular Quay.

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