The ultimate travel guide to Sydney

I have been blessed to be living in this beautiful city ‘Sydney’ and to call it my second home. Having lived in three different cities in Australia, Sydney is the one city that convinced me to stay back in Australia. It is a city that won my heart and I cannot imagine settling anywhere else in Australia. This post aims at providing an ultimate travel guide to Sydney from a local Sydneysider.

Travel Guide to Sydney

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Travel Guide to Sydney

Introduction

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales (NSW) state and is one of the largest cities in Australia. It is famous for its Opera House and the harbour. The city is also the ICT capital of Australia.

Interesting facts about Sydney

Some of the interesting facts about Sydney and its landmarks are:

  1. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is adorably known as The Coat Hanger by its locals due to the shape and design of the bridge.
  2. The cost of building the Sydney Opera House was around AUD 102 million.
  3. Rugby League is the most famous sport in Sydney.
  4. Sydney is the 12th most expensive city in the World.
  5. The Sydney fish market is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is the 3rd largest in the World.

To know more about other interesting facts, read an article on SBS – 20 interesting facts about Sydney.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
Sydney Opera House viewed from Sydney Harbour Bridge

Getting to Sydney

  • International Flights – There are international flights from anywhere in the world to Sydney. AirAsia and Scoot are the budgeted airlines from South East Asia. The best and luxurious airline is Qantas.
  • Domestic Flights – Sydney is connected to most cities and towns in Australia. Jetstar and Tigerair are the budgeted airlines to travel within Australia.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Australia is during Spring (September to November) and Autumn (April to May) seasons. These are the times when it is not too hot or too cold.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
Sydney during Autumn season

Mobile apps that make life easy

  • Transport for NSW – The official app for Transport for New South Wales (NSW). This is very useful in knowing everything about public transport. The timings, the disruptions, and the fare are displayed.
  • TripView – To get up-to-date information about public transport, then this app is your friend. The app suggests all the modes of public transportation between two places. It is easy to use. TripViewLite is the free version.
  • Opal – The app displays the history of when the card was used, the remaining balance, and also helps in recharging the card.
  • Meetup – A great app to build a network and to meet the locals.
  • Google maps – One never gets lost (hopefully) with Google maps.
  • UberEats – For home delivery of food, UberEats is a good app.
  • Ola and Uber – For local taxi transportation, Ola and Uber are wonderful cheap options.

Local transportation in Sydney

Buy an Opal transportation card as soon as you come out of the airport. This is the card that you can use to travel around public transport. Opal card must be tapped in when boarding and tapped out when offboarding the transport.

Note: We can also use our credit or debit cards to tap in and out of the public transport. However, Opal cards generally get discounts after certain trips.

Transportation from / to Sydney Airport

One of the most common questions I get asked when fellow travellers travel to Sydney is the mode of transport from the airport to the city.

Sydney has two airports – one for domestic and the other for international flights. The airports are around 7 kilometres from Central train station, which is the main train station in Sydney. Taxis are the fastest way to get to airports undoubtedly, but both these airports are accessible through public transport.

There are two modes of public transports:

  • Trains – The most popular and quickest way to travel from and to Sydney airport is by train. There are plenty and very frequent trains (T8 airport train) between the Central station and the airport stations. Note: The two airports are two different train stations. It takes about 10 minutes from the Central station. Opal card is the best way to travel on trains in Sydney and around. The cost for one way travel is around AUD 18.70.
  • Buses – Route 400 travels frequently between Sydney airports and Bondi junction or Burwood stations. The cost for one way ticket is around AUD 5.80.

Tip: One of my friends suggested that the best way to get to airport and to avoid AUD 18.70 is by taking a train till Mascot train station and then taking the bus (400/420) from Mascot to the airport. This costs around AUD 3.5.

More up-to-date information about the timings, routes and the cost can be found on the Transport NSW website.

Transportation within Sydney

There are four modes of transportation in Sydney city:

  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Ferries
  • Light Rails

The main train station is Central train station.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
The Central train station

Places to stay

Being an avid traveler, I have learned to opt for staying at hostels and hotels that are in the city. Sydney has accommodation options varying from hostels to the most luxurious hotels. There are 5 star hotels like Four Seasons that provide rooms with spectacular views of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Staying at Central Business District (CBD), Town Hall, Central Station, and Circular Quay, would be my most preferred suburbs.

For budgeted stay, I always go to YHA Australia. The hostel and the rooms are clean and very well maintained. I generally have a pleasant stay with them.

Note: There is a YHA hostel near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I would definitely stay there if I am staying in a hostel in Sydney.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
YHA Sydney

Visitor Centres

In Australia, there are visitor centres in every city and town. They are a great place to get information on what to do and where to eat in a place. There is one visitor centre in the Rocks and if ever you get lost about what to do in Sydney, visit the Visitor Centre.

Visitor Centre
The visitor centre

Food

It was really hard for me when I had initially shifted here, as I was not aware of all the restaurants and cafes. But over the years, I realised that there are so many options for food in Sydney.

Coffee

We, Aussies, are coffee snobs. We love our coffee here and I would recommend trying out the coffee at different cafes. In the city, the Grounds is really good for a coffee.

The Grounds
The Grounds, Town Hall

Restaurants

Note: All my recommendations are either vegetarian or contain chicken.

Restaurants in my Bucket list – For a detailed list of restaurants and cafes I want to visit in Sydney, refer Restaurants bucket list (Sydney).

Australian

Must eat Australian-made food are:

  • Fish and chips – The fish and chips are a must. Some of the places, especially the coastal towns made really good fish and chips.
  • Lamington is a famous Australian cake. It is a sponge cake dipped in chocolate and coated with grated coconut.

One of the must-eats while in Australia is Lamington. Lamington is Australia’s very own dessert. It is definitely a piece of heaven on Earth. A common variation also has cream in between two lamingtons.

At Woolworths, a pack of 18 slices of Lamington costs just AUD 2.5. And did you know that in 2006, 21st July was declared as National Lamington Day?

Lamginton
  • Vegemite – I did not like this but one must definitely try. It is a dark coloured paste made from different veggies, yeast extract, and spice additives.
  • Tim Tams – These biscuits are the best thing made in human history.

To experience a luxurious and elite dinner, head to the 360 Dining restaurant at Sydney Tower.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
My birthday celebrations at 360 Dining

Thai

Below are some of the Thai cuisine restaurants that I recommend:

  • Chat Thai – My most favorite Thai restaurant in Sydney is Chat Thai. The food here is absolutely delicious and totally worth it. I would recommend visiting this restaurant for sure.
  • Sailors Thai – Another famous Thai restaurant at the Rocks is the Sailors Thai. The food is mouth-watering.
  • Chum Tang – The food here is out of the World for sure.

A must try and my favourite Thai snack is Miang Kham (Thai beetle leaf).

Indian

Most Indian restaurants are in Harris Park and Parramatta suburbs. These are the suburbs where most Indians stay. However, there are some good Indian restaurants in the city and northern suburbs as well.

Below are some of the Indian cuisine restaurants that I recommend:

  • Zaaffran – A great place for a perfect date! This is a restaurant that has food with a view.
  • The Taste of Village – An awesome place to enjoy Indian food. This is one of my favorites in Sydney.
  • Chatkazz – For a Mumbai street food experience, head to Chatkazz.
  • Dosa Hut – I love their Chicken 65 biryani. Most of their dishes are made of Chicken 65.
  • Mirch Masala – Anything that has come closer to the authentic Andhra style Chicken biryani is the Mirch Masala in Strathfield.
The ultimate guide to Sydney
Bhel Puri at Chatkazz

Malaysian

Below are some of the Malaysian cuisine restaurants that I recommend:

  • Mamak – I love this Malaysian restaurant. The food is very authentic and is superb.

Fast food

Below are some of the fast food options that I recommend:

Taiwanese

Below are some of the Taiwanese cuisine restaurants that I recommend:

  • Din Tai Fung – A must stop for Taiwanese food. The food is out of the World.
The ultimate guide to Sydney
Din Tai Fung, Chatswood

Cafes

Below are some of the cafes that I recommend:

  • Pishon Cafe – The cafe does have tasty cakes and pastries. It is absolutely beautiful and tasty.
  • Max Brenner – For a chocolate lover like me, this place is heaven. Everything is amazing here including their coffee.
  • Guylian Cafe – Another famous and my favorite cafe is the Guylian Cafe. I love the food here.
  • Lindt Cafe – Lindt chocolates need no introduction. And now imagine a cafe serving coffees and cakes made from Lindt chocolates.

Try the Japanese cheesecake at Uncle Tetsu and the famous Strawberry Watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
Belgium Chocolate Mousse at Guylian Cafe

Bars and Pubs

  • Nightlife – Sydney is home to many bars and pubs. The nightlife here is amazing. Refer Nightlife in Sydney for all the bars recommended by my friends and me.
The ultimate guide to Sydney

Things to do in Sydney

I wouldn’t lie if I said that Sydney is much more than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. There are plenty of things to do and see in this spectacular city. The following sections lists all the places and things to do.

Sight seeing places

  • Sydney Opera House – It does not matter if you loved the movie Dil Chahta Hai or not, ensure to see a play or listen to a concert at the Sydney Opera House. There is also an audio tour that is conducted which gives an insight into the history and architecture behind this marvel.
  • Visit the islands in Sydney Harbour – Yes, you read it right! Sydney Harbour hosts some amazing and beautiful islands with mindblowing views of the harbour. And these islands can be explored. Read 4 islands in Sydney Harbour post for all the details on visiting these islands.
  • Enjoy the beaches – There are so many beaches that are worth visiting. Manly and Bondi are the most popular beaches.
  • Visiting the museums – There are plenty of museums around the city that cater to everyone’s interests.
  • See the famous art piece – There is a famous art piece in Sydney Central Business District (CBD) and it is called the ‘Forgotten Songs’. This is a must-see in Sydney.
  • Floating forest – There is an interesting place where one can see a floating forest. The forest is on a 102-year-old abandoned ship. Click here for pictures.
  • Street Art – Enjoy the street art at Newtown or Bondi beach.
The ultimate guide to Sydney
Forgotten Songs

Adventure activities

  • Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge – If you love adventure, then climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge must be on your list. Read On the day of love for my experience and all the details.
  • Kayaking – Kayaking is a fun activity that can be done with the views of the Sydney Opera House. Eagle Rock Adventures is the tour group that conducts these activities.
  • Snorkeling and Scuba diving – Sydney is famous for its beaches. Be it Manly, Shelly, or Bondi, the beaches are absolutely spectacular. So, definitely snorkel at some of these pristine beaches.
The ultimate guide to Sydney
Bondi Beach

Seasonal

  • Jacarandas season – Sydney turns purple every spring. The spring starts in October and ends by December. Some of the places where Jacarandas can be viewed are in the Best places to find Jacarandas in Sydney.
  • Cherry blossom – A Japanese garden in Auburn has a Cherry blossom festival every year. Refer Hanami flowers viewing for pictures.

Animals and wildlife

  • Visit Taronga Zoo – I loved this zoo. It has so many collections of animals and reptiles. And most importantly these animals and reptiles are treated very well.
    • Cuddle a koala & Seeing kangaroos – Cuddling and interacting with a koala must be on every traveler’s bucket list. And how can you miss out on the kangaroos or wallabies. These animals can be seen at Taronga Zoo and Featherdale Wildlife Park.
    • Website: https://taronga.org.au/sydney-zoo
  • Whale watching – Humpback whales migrate every year from South to North. The migrating season is from May till October. It is pretty amazing to see them up close. There are whale watching tours that are conducted where one is taken on a boat to see these gentle giants. Read Whale watching in Sydney for more information and pictures.

Religious sites

  • Visit Helensburgh Temple – There is a famous Hindu temple with all the Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Helensburgh. It’s definitely worth a visit to pay respect to the Gods/Goddesses. Read Visit Helensburgh Temple for more details.

Shopping

The most popular and the sasta (cheap) place to find souvenirs, clothes, bags, and other random things in Sydney is the Paddy’s Market in Haymarket. It is a great place to find a lot of stuff for a very cheap price. The place is open from 10 AM till 6 PM every day.

  • Address: 9-13, Hay Street, Haymarket, Sydney 2000.
  • Closest train station: Central station.
  • Food: The market is right beside the Chinatown that has plenty of options to eat. And there is also a food court right above the market.

Free things to do

There are plenty of things that can be done in Sydney for free, refer Free things to do for all the information.

One can enjoy spectacular views of the harbour for free near Milsons Point (near Luna Park) and Balmain wharf.

The ultimate guide to Sydney
View from Milsons Point

One day trips from Sydney

  • Blue Mountains – Trip to Sydney is incomplete without visiting the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is the range of mountains in the West of Sydney. Even though ‘Three sisters’ are very famous among the tourists, I love the other walks in the Blue Mountains.
  • Wollongong – Wollongong is definitely my favourite hangout as a day trip from Sydney. The coastal city is absolutely worth visiting and there are plenty of things to do. As it is only 80 kilometres from Sydney, it makes it a perfect one-day getaway.
  • Kiama – The town is around 120 kilometres from Sydney. This is a great one day trip from Sydney. The Kiama blowhole, lighthouse, and the Bombo beach are must-see places.
  • Port Stephens – Port Stephens is a great place to witness the sand dunes. One can experience sandboarding here.
  • Berry – A chilled out relaxing town is Berry. I love to visit this town for a relaxed one day trip.
  • Sea Cliff Bridge – The Sea Cliff Bridge is the highlight on the Grand Pacific Drive. Click here for pictures.
  • National Parks – There are really good national parks in and around Sydney. These national parks are great for picnics and walks. Refer the official website of NSW National Parks for all the details.
The ultimate guide to Sydney
Muogamarra Nature Reserve

Annual events and festivals

The city has annual events and festivals that showcase from colorful lights on the famous landmarks around the city to the indigenous culture. Read What’s on Sydney for information on what and when these events are conducted.

The ultimate guide to Sydney

Hikes and Walks in Sydney

Sydney is blessed with amazing national parks and coastline. And this leads to abundant walks and hikes. Refer to my section – Hikes and Walks in Sydney for all the up-to-date information.

The ultimate guide to Sydney

Itineraries

The biggest hurdle and time consuming thing while traveling is planning an itinerary. I understand that! So stress not, I have listed few itineraries one can follow and cover the important places.

  • 10 days in Sydney – This itinerary is the most famous and searched on Google. It is ideal to spend 10 to 14 days in Sydney to enjoy and soak into this lively city.
  • 24 hours in Sydney – Sometimes we do visit a city for a day, so this itinerary caters to those who have really short period of time but still want to see a few places.
  • Top 5 things to do – I also get it when we travelers prioritises the top things to do or see in a city.
  • 10 Insta worthy spots – There are plenty of landmarks and sites in Sydney that are worth taking lots of pictures and are definitely worth posting on Instagram.

Safety for Solo female travelers

There are no questions about the safety for solo female travelers in Sydney. It is an absolutely safe city and I have never faced any issues or problems as such in the past 8 years. I completely recommend traveling here solo without any inhibitions and doubts.

However, I would still take precautions like any other city in the World when I am traveling alone. Avoid lonely places and be cautious while traveling alone at night.

The ultimate guide to Sydney

Conclusion

Sydney is multicultural and caters to all kinds of travelers. It has so much to offer. The city must be on everyone’s list of places to see and travel to. As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, I love this city. It is a city that has its own character and charm. And I strongly feel that every traveler should definitely visit this amazing city at least once in their lifetime.

The ultimate guide to Sydney

If you think I have missed out some sightseeing places or have other recommendations, please feel free to comment on this post or write to me on Raksha.Nagaraj@Solopassport.com or Solopassport@gmail.com.

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The ultimate guide to Sydney

37 Comments

  1. I am definately putting Lord Of Fries on my list. And will hit up The Grounds for coffee in the morning. I have not thought of sydney in terms of diversity of food options but it is good to see it in a different light. Thanks for the travel tips – including best season

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  3. I did not know that the Sydney Harbour Bridge is called The Coat Hanger by the locals, haha, but I can see why. I loved Sydney, I was there for 4 days a year back but I was unlucky because the whole time I was there, it was raining! I had plans, so many, that I had to cancel because of the weather and it was disappointing. I did make it to Manly and Bondi beach in those couple of hours that it stopped raining and I loved the coastal walks.

  4. We were sad when we had to cancel our visit to Australia this year. But we will definitely be back in Sydney one day. Good to get some tips for a return visit. We saw the Sydney Bridge from many angles but never knew it was known as the Coat Hanger. We certainly made the most of our Opal card. And loved that it worked on the local ferries. We made sure and had fish and chips. At Bondi Beach of course! We will be checking out Max Brenner for chocolates for sure! Thanks for the list of day trips for our planning.

  5. Ann

    Sydney happens to lie in one of my all time favorite country. Australia has long been on my bucket list, ever since I was a child actually after watching Blue Water high, but it lies so remotely so I have yet had a chance to visit. I am so determined to visit though, and once I do, Sydney will be one of the first countries I Want to visit. This blog post will be of great help to me when I get there (cause I WILL visit one day soon). As you say the city has so much to do and it would be weird if it was not on everyone’s bucket list.

  6. Brilliant guide to Sydney. You seemed to have covered it all. From the best apps to make your life easy to places to visit and even day trips. Reading through those made me realize that even a week in Sydney might not be enough. In terms of best time to visit, I would like to aim for the Cherry blossoms. Bet they will be heavenly

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  8. I have always been hesitant about finally taking the leaf and planning a trip to Sidney due to the cost. From all the information you have here it seems like it might be worth the splurge. Let’s see if it makes it into my travel plans as soon as we are a little free to travel safely.

  9. blair villanueva

    I’ve been to Sydney before the first lockdown and it was an awesome experience though it was a short trip. I like the Lindt Cafe and couldn’t help dreaming of those chocolates. The MCA is also a lovely museum, pity we didn’t visit the Powerhouse. Maybe next time!

  10. Awsome guide Raksha. Just about everything take care of. Will follow when we are there. Australia is in my plans for sometime now and need to put it into effect. The hikes,free things to do and the one day trips from Sydney would be great interest.

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  12. Pingback: The Comic Walk in Sydney - SOLOPASSPORT

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