10 free things to do in Sydney, Australia

blue mountains 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.

sydney harbour bridge Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

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.

bondi beach Do the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk

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.

Tips for traveling Cuzco, Peru, on a budget

traveling on a budget through cusco, peruWhen traveling in Cuzco, Peru, it can be easy to spend more money than you budgeted for, especially with the myriad tour agencies offering treks and sightseeing adventures as well as the many restaurants offering overpriced comfort food. Luckily, there are still ways to save money on food, activities, and accommodation while traveling through this popular city.

Eating on a Budget

One thing to remember is that while you may be drawn to the big, touristy eateries because they are familiar and comfortable, you are going to end up paying the price. Look around a bit and you’ll see that there are plenty of smaller restaurants that can give you delicious food at a budget-friendly price. For example, in their blog Jack and Jill Travel the World, the bloggers talk about how a lunch at Jack’s Cafe, a popular tourist restaurant, will cost about 20 soles, while at the eatery right next door patrons can order a soup, a main course, and a drink for only 5 soles.

Some other venues to try if you are eating on a budget in Cuzco, Peru:

  • The market- About a ten minute walk from Plaza de Armas, you can fill up on an array of foods here without spending much money. For instance, an egg sandwich will cost about 1.20 soles, while a meal of rice and fish will be about 3 soles.
  • Prasada– This ambient vegetarian eatery is located in San Blas, Cuzco, and serves delicious fare and decent portions at a cheap price. Some menu items include vegetarian tacos for 5 soles, pizza for 3.50 soles, and lasagna for 5 soles.
  • Chifa StatusChifa is a word used to describe a fusion style of food that mixes creole Limean food with Chinese-style cuisine. Some examples of chifa-style fare include wontons, fried rice, and noodles, which often include different types of meat. At Chifa Status, which is located near El Mega Supermarket on Av. de la Cultura, you can get delicious chifa dishes for 2-3 soles.
  • Kukuly– Located on Calle Waynapata 318, this cozy little eatery offers a daily set menu of soup, a meal, and a drink for 6 soles.
  • El Encuentro– This vegetarian restaurant is located at Santa Catalina Ancha 384 in the Plaza de Armas and serves a set menu that includes a make-your-own salad bar, soup, an entree (usually a stew or bean dish), and tea, all for 7 soles.

salt pans in maras, peruCheap Activities in Cuzco, Peru

While there will obviously be some worthy activities that will be expensive, for example, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, there are still many fun things to do in Cuzco that will not cost a fortune. Here are some examples:

  • Visit the colorful salt pans of Maras and the ruins in Moray– Maras is located about 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) north of Cuzco and is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The salt pans have been used since pre-Incan times to extract salt from the local subterranean stream. Moray is an archeological site located about 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) northwest of Cuzco. Here you can see unique Incan ruins that form terraced, circular depressions in the Earth. You can visit these sites by doing a day tour, which will cost about 20 soles for transportation, 5 soles for admission to Maras, and 10 soles for admission to Moray.
  • Learn to salsa dance- If you are looking for a free and fun activity, many bars around Plaza de Armas can offer free salsa lessons to anyone interested. However, if you are serious about learning salsa and want a truly quality lesson for a reasonable price, Salseros Cusco on Colla Calle offers group lessons for 1 hour each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with class times varying by skill level. Classes cost 10 soles.
  • Take a day trip to Ollantaytambo– Know as the “living Inca city”, Ollantaytambo is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is a modern day city as well as a pre-Incan site. There are many things to see here, such as impressive ruins, the Temple of the Sun, the Lagoon of Yanacocha, the rural community of Willoc, and much more. If you’re into the active outdoors, you can hike up the pre-Incan granaries (across from the town’s main ruins) for a complimentary view of the city.
  • Learn about Chocolate at the ChocoMuseo– Located in the Plaza Regocijo, you will not only learn about chocolate itself and the production process, but also its history since the Maya were around 1,000 years ago. You can enjoy free chocolate samples, participate in chocolate workshops where you make your own chocolate, and visit a cacao planation and talk to the farmers who work there. Admission to the museum is free.
  • Browse the Sunday market in Chincero- If you’re looking for a more traditional market, this one is a lot less touristy than the market in Pisac. From 9AM until just after midday, you can come here to buy local produce and handicrafts. If you still want to shop later on in the day, from 4PM until 5:30PM the town also hosts a market catered to tourists in the city’s main plaza located right near the church.

cheap hostels and accommodation in cuzco, peruCheap Accommodation in Cuzco

The following hostels all offer rooms for under 20 soles and come with high overall ratings on hostelbookers.com:

  • Ecopackers– With a 92.8% rating, this accommodation offers both shared and private rooms (although a private room will cost you about 43 soles, which is still very inexpensive). Luggage room, linen, and breakfast are included, internet is available, and there is a game room and 24-hour reception.
  • The Point Cusco– Rated at 90.2% with 6, 8, and 12 bed dorms available (there is also a 6 dorm room with an ensuite bathroom). Luggage room, linen, and breakfast are included, and if you need airport pickup this can be arranged for 20.40 soles. Services at this hostel include internet, 24-hour reception, a bar, restaurant, lockers, game room, lounge area, tours desk, and currency exchange. Credit cards are accepted.
  • Backpacker Bright Hostel– This hostel comes with an 83.1% rating and includes shared and private accommodation (private will be about 31 soles). Expect free luggage room and linen, as well as an on-site restaurant, tour desk, lockers, and 24-hour reception.
  • Wild Rover Backpackers Hostel– This hostel comes with a 90.9% rating and features free luggage room, breakfast, and linen. Other facilities include a bar, restaurant, tours desk, lockers, lounge, pool tables, and 24-hour reception. Dorms range from 4 to 14 person dorms, many of which include an ensuite bathroom.
  • Dream Hostel– Rated at 81.3%, shared and private accommodation are available (private will be about 30 soles). This hostel includes free luggage room, breakfast, linen, and towels. Other features of the hostel include a bar, restaurant, lounge area, car park, tours desk, 24-hour reception, internet, washing machines, and lockers.