31 Free or Cheap Things to do in Sydney, Australia
Sydney, Australia is one of the best cities in the world to visit as a tourist, but it can be expensive! This blog is all about the many different free and cheap things to do in Sydney, Australia.
While this is a guest post written by Bryan from Budget Your Trip, we actually spent some time in Sydney a couple years ago and coincidently did most of the things on this list! We definitely agree that they are the best ways to have fun without spending a fortune!
Free and Cheap Things to do in Sydney, Australia
Sydney, capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities, is best known for its harbour front Sydney Opera House, with a distinctive sail-like design. Spectacularly draped around its glorious harbour and beaches, Sydney has visual wow factor like few other cities.
National Parks ring the city and penetrate right into its heart. There’s always a new restaurant to try, undercover bar to hunt down, hip band to check out, sports team to shout at, show to see, or crazy party to attend. On the coast, Australia ends abruptly in sheer walls of sandstone punctuated by arcs of golden sand. And what makes Sydney even more of a crowd pleaser are the many free or cheap things to do in Sydney.
1. Take the Bondi to Coogee Walk
This 6-kilometre walk features stunning views of cliffs, bays, and rock pools and passes the beaches of Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, and Gordon’s Bay. Stop along the way for a swim, or stop at a cafe for a drink and bite to eat. In late spring, check out the free Sculpture by the Sea near Bondi.
2. Stroll the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The climb will set you back at least a little bit price-wise, but you can get the next best thing for nothing by simply strolling along the pedestrian pathway at the bridge’s eastern edge.
As one of the symbols of the city, walking on the Harbor Bridge one of the free things to do in Sydney that you definitely need to do!
3. Enjoy the Art Gallery of NSW
Entry to Sydney’s premier art institution is free. Explore five levels of art at one of Australia’s most popular art museums, located within beautiful parklands overlooking Sydney Harbor, just 10 minutes’ walk from the city.
See an extensive collection of Australian art, including one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in the country, alongside European masters, Asian treasures and leading local and international contemporary art.
Visit on a Wednesday evening until 10 pm for Art After Hours and see a slice of Sydney culture with free celebrity talks, music, performances, films and special events. Don’t miss one of the free daily guided tours.
3. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens
These beautifully kept and appointed gardens have everything from succulents to herbs, as well as a tropical greenhouse. You cannot beat the serenity of the city and Sydney Harbor views from the Botanical Gardens.
Spending half a day in the Gardens is a relaxing and free way to enjoy one of Sydney’s top spots. Pack a picnic lunch, a blanket and a bottle of wine. Then take a walk around the gardens to admire the many different types of plants and city views. You can also take a free self-guided walking tour.
4. Enjoy Live Music at Opera Bar
This lovely terrace bar with beautiful harbour views has free live music each night and on weekend afternoons. It’s a great place for meeting locals and fellow travellers while enjoying some free entertainment.
If ou only buy one or two drinks, this is one of the best cheap things to do in Sydney!
5. Check out Luna Park
A historic fun park with great harbour views. There’s no entry fee to the park, but there is a charge for each ride, with adorable retro Coney Island offering the best value for money.
6. Spot sea creatures at Shelly Beach
The Sydney Aquarium is pricey but you can see plenty of marine life in its natural habitat at Shelly Beach. Take the Manly ferry and some swimming goggles.
Other good places to spot sea life are Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay.
7. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
Overlooking Circular Quay, this recently expanded gallery’s permanent collection can be seen for free, though its featured exhibitions will set you back quite a bit.
The MCA Collection contains over 4000 works by Australian artists that have been acquired since 1989. The Museum collects across all art forms with strong holdings in painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper and moving image, as well as significant representation of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
From Sydney, it is only a short drive to Byron Bay! Consider visiting and let this article about kayaking with dolphins in Byron Bay inspire you!
8. See the Royal National Park
The second-oldest national park in the world, the Royal, is home to over 100 kilometres of walking tracks through coastal rainforest gullies, overdramatic windswept cliffs, and down to pristine beaches. Camping and picnic sites abound.
There is a small charge per vehicle if you drive, but it’s free on foot.
9. Go to Church
Two of Sydney’s loveliest churches are separated by just a short walk across Hyde Park. St Mary’s is a prime example of English Neo-Gothic style with some interesting local touches in its crypt (free tours are available after Sunday Mass), while the elegant St James’ was designed by a convict architect, James Greenway.
10. Stroll the Spit to Manly Walk
One of Sydney’s best walks takes you from the Spit Bridge at Mosman, through the Sydney Harbor National Park with its fascinating Aboriginal rock art, past Manly Cove, across North Head and down to Manly’s famous beach.
11. Listen in at Conservatorium Wednesdays
Australia’s premier musical training institution, the Conservatorium of Music, hosts its Lunchbreak series during the academic year, with free classical music.
12. Experience history at The Rocks Discovery Museum
The Rocks Discovery Museum is a free, family-friendly museum which tells the story of The Rocks area of Sydney from pre-European days to the present.
Housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse, the museum is home to a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts found in The Rocks – some of which you can even hold. The exhibits are filled with interactive fun, using touch screens, audio and visual elements to bring the history of the area alive.
Four permanent exhibitions have been developed in close consultation with the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council which share the history and stories of the area and the impact of European settlement.
With free entry, it’s the perfect starting point for an exploration of Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, as well as the area’s rich Aboriginal heritage.
13. Walk through Hyde Park
Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and the city’s central open green space is popular among office workers who want some fresh air, a quick siesta or some time out from the concrete jungle.
Hyde Park contains numerous monuments and statues, and the central pathway through the park is an impressive fig lined road. Over the summer months, the park is a hive of activity.
14. Sunbathe on a floating pontoon
A perfect spot for families and less confident swimmers, the Murray Rose Pool is not really a pool but a harbourside enclosure with pontoons to sun yourself on. Open year-round.
15. Watch migrating whales at the lighthouse
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse is a 20-minute uphill walk from Palm Beach in Sydney’s north. It’s part of a popular hiking trail and offers stunning views of the spit below as well as the Pacific Ocean.
During winter (from May to October) passing pods of whales can be spotted migrating along the shoreline.
16. Take a Free Walking Tour
Why not start your visit to Sydney with a free walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide? Rain, hail or shine the guys from I’m Free Walking Tours walk every day at 10.30am and 2.30pm.
The 3-hour easy walking tours of Sydney will show you the sights and give you your bearings so you can then go it alone. Or, if you are willing to pay just a little bit, plenty of affordable activities and tours in Sydney are available.
17. Hang out on the Beach
The beaches are famous and a must for free things to do in Sydney (though there are parking fees if you drive). From the Northern Beaches to the Eastern Suburbs you have many great beaches to explore.
My favourites include: Palm Beach, Freshwater, Manly, Bronte, Coogee, and you must visit famous Bondi Beach at least once.
18. Catch the Ferry to Manly
The return ferry trip to Manly is one of the best ways to experience Sydney Harbor. There is a fee for the ticket, but it is minimal and the scenery on the way over and back is stunning as you cruise by the City Skyline, Opera House, Harbor Bridge and Botanical Gardens making it one of the best cheap things to do in Sydney.
19. Party with some new friends
Sydney draws travellers from all around the world, and many of the stay in some of the best party hostels in Sydney. Why not use one of these hostels as your base to see everything this dynamic city has to offer? And while you’re at it, you can meet fellow travellers, make new friends, and experience the nightlife. The amount you spend is up to you.
For advice on accomodation in Syndey, check out this blog by our friends from “You Could Travel” on where to stay in Sydney.
20. Take a Free Bus Shuttle
Need to get around the city, but don’t want to walk? The free Central Business District shuttle runs every 10 minutes on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets. Hop on and enjoy the ride.
21. Take in the view from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Be sure to check out Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which has one of the best vantage points in Sydney looking back over the Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. Time your visit to be there for one of the excellent free tours.
Mrs Macquarie’s chair is also the perfect place to take some photos, it is easily one of the most Instagrammable spots in Sydney!
Check out Markets
The temptation will be there to spend money, but you can also enjoy the markets by just wondering around taking photos, and therefore markets make great options for cheap things to do in Sydney. The best markets in Sydney to visit include the following:
22. Paddington Markets
Open Saturday’s with 150 unique stalls offering creative fashion and accessories.
23. Bondi Markets
Open Sundays offering original designer clothing, handmade jewellery, arts, crafts, retro furniture, vintage clothes and more.
24. The Rocks Markets
Open Saturday’s and Sunday’s offering fashion, arts & crafts, jewellery, music & books, health & beauty, souvenirs.
25. Paddy’s Markets
Paddy’s Markets is a huge market near Chinatown selling fruit & vegetables, clothing, CDs, flowers, sunglasses, jewellery, tourist souvenirs, and much more.
26. Sydney Fish Market
An authentic working fish market. Catch the metro light rail from Central.
Free Festivals in Sydney
Once you book your accommodation in Sydney, if you time your visit right Sydney puts on some of the best free festivals and events anywhere in the world including:
27. New Year’s Eve
Is there a better setting and fireworks display in the world? And it doesn’t cost anything to see it.
28. Sydney Mardi Gras
One of the largest LGBT pride parade and festivals in the world as thousands of people make their way down Oxford and Flinders St on colourful floats.
29. Vivid Sydney
Sydney is transformed into a spectacular canvas of light, music and ideas. All you need to bring is spending money for food or souvenirs – an awesome option for cheap things to do in Sydney.
30. The Sydney Festival
For three weeks each January, Sydney Festival offers a program of around 80 events involving artists covering dance, theatre, music, visual arts, cross-media, and forums.
31. The Pylon Lookout
On the Sydney Harbor Bridge visit the Pylon Lookout for just a small fee and get fantastic views plus 3 levels of exhibits and learn about the history and construction of the Bridge.
It’s not free, but it’s cheap and offers some spectacular views.
If you are heading to Brisbane after Sydney, be sure to heck out these places to see between Sydney and Brisbane!
And there you have it, 31 amazing cheap things to do in Sydney that will keep you from breaking the bank!
Did we miss something? Tell us if you know of any other awesome free or cheap things to do in Sydney, Australia in the comments.
-Bryan (Guest Author)
About the Author
Bryan is a travel addict and the co-founder of Budget Your Trip, which is dedicated to finding out how much stuff costs around the world. Also an avid photographer, he is happiest when experiencing new cultures and adventures in exotic locations.