Beginner's Guide to Sydney, Australia

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Sydney is such an iconic city known around the world. I mean, everyone's seen a photo of the famous Opera House! It is a city that has it all: downtown city life, beautiful beaches, and a plethora of green parks. Here is a guide to help you out on your first trip to this awesome city:

Getting from the airport

One of the EASIEST airport-city transfers I've ever done. Right when you walk out of the terminal, you'll see a sign for the metro and it's right inside the airport. You can use your card or cash to purchase a one way ticket or refillable metro card. It's only 15 minutes to get to the city & costs $19 from the international terminal and $17 from the domestic. So yeah it's a little bit pricey, but it is hands-down the nicest metro system I've ever encountered in all my travels. You get what you pay for!

Where to stay

I highly recommend Sydney Backpackers because of the price and location. There are a couple other options that are a little cheaper, but their reviews aren't great. It's a basic hostel, but very clean and well-run. There's a kitchen for cooking, TV room, bathrooms on each floor, and they even have $1 tacos on Taco Tuesday up on their rooftop chill area! Pretty sweet.

What to do

Opera House

The icon of Sydney! Take a stroll along the coast and see the magnificent white, architectural masterpiece. There are lots of places around the harbor to grab food, gelato, or a cold drink- so just relax and soak in the views. Click here to check out the current exhibitions and concerts being held at the Opera House.

Botanical Gardens & Mrs Macquarie's Point

Such a peaceful area of Sydney, right next to the Opera House. The gardens are completely FREE and quite large so you can spend 1-2 hours just roaming and finding different sections with gorgeous views. Walk up to Mrs Macquarie's Point inside the park which offers great views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Hyde Park

A nice, green park right in the middle of the city! You can walk through this park on your way to the Opera House and Botanical Gardens. Grab a coffee & breakfast toastie to enjoy in the park before you start your day.

St. Mary's Cathedral

Right next to Hyde Park is a beautiful Catholic Church. You can't miss it on your way up to the Opera House.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Another icon in the Sydney skyline! You can walk along the bridge for free or just admire it from afar. You can even climb the bridge if you have that kind of cash flow- tickets start at $148.

Observatory Hill Park

Yet another green park in Sydney! This one is up on a hill and offers great views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. You'll also find lots of people working out here- if that suits you.

The Rocks

A super cute area filled with quaint architecture and many cafes. It's right next to the ferry terminals on your way towards the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Grab a bite to eat, browse through the cute shops, or just snap a couple photos.

Watsons Bay

You can take the ferry right next to the Opera House to Watsons Bay! It takes about 20 minutes and only costs $6.12. You can load your metro card and use it to board the ferry. Once you arrive, head to the Fish & Chippery for some takeaway Fish & Chips for $18.

After that, take a stroll up to the Sydney Harbor National Park Gap Bluff where you can walk along the coast and admire the amazing cliff views.

Bondi Beach

Probably the 2nd famous thing in Sydney- I mean, there's even a TV show named after it! It is a BEAUTIFUL beach with turquoise waters and fluffy sand. There are even some green fields around it and some nice viewpoints. You can also pay $8 to take a dip in the famous Bondi Icebergs Pool.... or just go snap some photos.

Coastal Walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach

This is a beautiful walk along the coast from Bondi Beach all the way to Coogee Beach. Along the way you'll see lots of artwork displays, cliff/rock formations, and nice beaches like Tamarama Beach & Bronte Beach. In total the walk is 6km.

Angel Place

This isn't an absolute must-do, it's just an artsy photo-op. It's an art exhibition called “Forgotten Songs” designed by Michael Thomas Hill. As you stand underneath the birdcages you can hear the sounds of 50 birdsongs that represent the 50 birds that were once heard in Sydney before European settlement.

Moore & Centennial Park

Again, not absolute must-do's but I always love finding green parks to lay down and read a book or enjoy a sandwich. These 2 parks are right next to each other: Moore Park is filled with sports practices (I stayed and watched a pickup rugby game for awhile) and Centennial Park has multiple ponds and horses that are on their daily walks from the Equestrian Center.

Day trip to the Blue Mountains

If you have the time you can take a day trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney! A beautiful World Heritage site known for its stunning natural beauty

Photo by

Workshop Espresso's F.A.T.

What to eat

Near Downtown Sydney

Workshop Espresso: try the F.A.T - Feta Cheese, Avocado, Tomato... so good!

Frankie's Pizza: pizza by the slice & cool atmosphere

Jumbo Thai: cheap, yet delicious Thai

Concrete Jungle: try the Pulled Pork burger- it comes with an egg & swiss cheese on top

Gigi Pizzeria: vegan pizza with super fresh ingredients

Shuk by Where to Sydney © | Facebook

Near Bondi Beach

Bill's: best breakfast in town

Shuk: fresh, Mediterranean food

Bondi Tony's: amazing burgers- sounds weird, but try the vegetarian burger with a beef patty

Fish Bowl: delicious poke bowls


- Check out Woolworth's: It's a grocery story that has it all, and will help you save money. I would get protein shakes and bars for breakfast and it would be super cheap. They also have delicious salad kits and fresh food that's ready for you to eat! At the end of the day before closing, they'll mark the fresh food down so things like a 6" sub will be $1.80

- Get OPAL: this is the refillable metro card. It makes your life easier since you can use it for buses, metro, and ferries. You can easily refill your card at any convenience store or metro/ferry station

- Drink the tap: Tap water is completely safe to drink in Australia, so save some money by refilling your refillable bottle instead of buying new ones. Plus, you help the environment. Win-win!

- Use Apple Maps: I tried using but the public transportation information isn't on there. Apple Maps is great because it knew all the timetables for the trains/buses. It was super helpful.

- Get a SIM: If you're in Australia longer than a week, I definitely say get a SIM. Even though most places have wifi, it's always nice to have- especially for the Apple Maps to check public transportation times. If you're staying in Australia for awhile or need a lot of data, I recommend OPTUS: 35GB for $30 which is valid for 28 days. Otherwise you can use vodaphone for shorter trips/less data: 4GB for $10 or 8GB for $20.

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