While Sydney, Australia, is often thought to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is not impossible to travel there on a budget. Planning out some free activities for your trip can help curb your spending but still allow you to experience the city. To help with the trip preparation, here is a list of 10 free things to do in Sydney, Australia.
Hike the Blue Mountains
The area of the Blue Mountains is located in the central areas of the Sydney Basin and contains myriad hiking trails for people of all athletic abilities. You can do short strolls, intense all-day hikes, or longer treks that involve camping in the wild. Diverse flora and fauna inhabit the area, and deep valleys, jagged cliff faces, dark caves, streaming rivers, and dense rainforests help to diversify the scenery. There are also unique rock formations, like the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, and Kings Tableland. So where did the Blue Mountains get its name? The area is covered in Eucalyptus Trees, which give off a mist of Eucalyptus Oil that appears as a blue haze under the sunlight. When you look from a distance, the mountains seem to be enveloped in blue smoke.
Click here for detailed directions on how to get to the Blue Mountains by car, train, and coach bus.
Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens
When I was living in Sydney, this was my favorite thing to do on a nice day. First of all, the Royal Botanic Gardens feature an array of natural trails and sites, like an Oriental Garden, the Australian Native Rockery, the Rare and Threatened Plants Garden, and the Sydney Tropical Centre. Moreover, it is located along the Sydney Harbour, giving visitors a peaceful ambiance as well as photo-worthy views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. For art lovers, public art and sculptures are scattered throughout the gardens, and those with talent often go with their sketch books to recreate the natural beauty of the place. If you’re interested in a free guided tour, they run at 10:30 AM daily and at 1:30 PM Monday through Friday, beginning at the Information Center.
Take a free walking tour with I’m Free
I’m Free Tours offers daily free walking tours at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. During the three hour tour, visitors will learn about the history of the city and culture (did you know that in its early days Sydney was a convict colony?) as well as see major sites like Hyde Park, the Sydney Opera House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Rock’s District, The ‘Rum’ Hosptial, and more. The tours begin in Town Hall Square on George Street. Click here to see a map.
Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the largest steel-arch bridge in the world, is a popular activity for both locals and tourists. The bridge was opened on March 19, 1932, after six years of construction and contains 6 million hand driven rivets and a surface area equivalent to sixty sports fields. Actually going across the bridge will give you a unique vantage point of the iconic landmark, which the displaced people of Europe viewed when coming to Sydney after WWII, as well as views of the city and harbour. While you can access the bridge from both sides, most people start their trek from the Rocks neighborhood, where you will be able to access the the pedestrian bridge path from Cumberland Street.
Take in the religious sites of Sydney
For those interested in learning about the religious culture of the city, Sydney has a lot to offer. St. Mary’s Cathedral is an English-style Gothic church and a symbol of the spiritual origins of the city, as it was the first Roman Catholic Church in Australia (the first stone for the project was laid in 1821). The stained glass windows of the church were made in England and bright mosaic floors are featured throughout the building. Fourteen large “Stations of the Cross” paintings, church bells, a fine organ, and the church crypt are also major features of St. Mary’s. On Sundays at noon, visitors can partake in free guided tours of the cathedral and crypt.
You can also visit the Sze Yup Kwan Ti Temple in Glebe. The temple was built in 1898 and is one of the only two temples that still exist in Sydney from pre-modern times.
View some art at a local gallery
Sydney is home to many excellent art galleries, some of which are completely free to enter. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, which showcases modern and contemporary art from around the world, is enormous, with five levels of galleries, rotating exhibitions, films, music, and more. The gallery also gives free one-hour guided tours. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also worth a visit, as it is the only art museum in Australia “dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting, and collecting contemporary art from across Australia and around the world”. Free guided tours are available on a daily basis. For something fun and unique, vist The Art of Dr. Seuss, where you can see limited edition prints, sculptures, and drawings by the legend himself.
This is a very popular and worthwhile activity to do while in Sydney and even a bit historical as people have been doing it since the 1930’s. The walk, which includes many boardwalks but also a lot of uphill terrain, takes you along the coastline and gives you the opportunity to visit various beaches and parks, even a beautiful cemetery with Palm Trees, while taking in spectacular and natural views. At a little under four miles, walkers will visit the beaches of Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, and Coogee while getting in a good workout.
Browse the many weekend markets
Weekends in Sydney feature an array of interesting markets that are fun and free to explore. The Rocks Market, an open-air fair located on the lower end of George Street on Saturdays and Sundays, features souvenoirs, art, gifts, jewelry, handmade goods, bath and body products, and more. The Paddington Market, open on Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM on Oxford Street, is also a great choice, with over 200 stalls of Australian-made goods. If you want something with more of a flea market feel, head over to Paddy’s Markets, which have two locations. One is open only on weekends and is located off Parramatta Road, a three minute walk from Flemington Rail Station and across from Sydney’s Olympic Park. The other is open Wednesday through Sunday and on public holiday Mondays in Haymarket on Hay Street, a five minute walk from Town Hall.
For a full list of Sydney markets, click here.
Be entertained by street performers and live music
Walking around Sydney, you shouldn’t be surprised by impromptu dancing, singing, and circus acts. If you’d like to heighten your chances of seeing a live street performance, there are a few places that are better than others. A visit to Circular Quay will almost guarantee you a live performance, as will a stop at Martin Place and the Central Station Tunnel. For some great live music venues that charge no (or a very cheap) cover, check out Scruffy Murphy’s on Tuesdays and weekends and 3 Wise Monkeys seven nights a week.
Get cultured at a museum
Museums, especially free ones, can be a great way to learn about the city you’re visiting while keeping your trip budget-friendly. The National Museum of Australia is free to enter and gives insight into the land, people, and culture of Australia. Another free favorite is the Rocks Discovery Museum, which tells the story of The Rocks area from its pre-European days to now. Also, on the first Thursday of each month it’s free to enter the Australian National Maritime Museum.