Sydney, Australia is arguably one of my favorite places on Earth. While it definitely takes more than one day to experience everything this incredible city has to offer, it is possible to hit a majority of the city’s highlights in just one day. If you have a long layover, or just a really tight schedule, here’s how you should spend 24 hours in Sydney.
When in Sydney…
…do as the Sydnians. Sydnites? Sydnonians?
Start your 24 hours in Sydney like any true blue Aussie- with a good cup of coffee. Stop at a nearby cafe for your morning java before heading out to explore.
From wherever you are in Sydney, take a train and get off at Milson’s Point station. Milson’s Point is located across the harbour from the city, and offers some lovely views. This is also the starting point for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Harbour Bridge
Find the stairs that lead to the bridge’s pedestrian walkway. That’s right. You’re walking this bad boy. The walk will only take you about 20 minutes, but you will definitely want to stop and take some photos along the way. The view of Sydney Harbour is gorgeous from the bridge. Not to mention, you’ll get an up close view of one of the world’s most famous bridges!
The end of your bridge walk will leave you in a part of Sydney called The Rocks. This historical area is a favorite for its aged buildings and hip pubs. If you’re feeling hungry, head over to Pancakes on the Rocks. This popular restaurant serves all kinds of food, but is obviously most known for its delicious, gourmet pancakes. Don’t worry if there is a line; there’s always a line, but it moves pretty quickly.
The Sydney Opera House
As you make your way to the Opera House, you will pass through an area known as Circular Quay. This is the main hub for all the ferries in Sydney. You’ll find it’s usually pretty busy with people and street performers.
You are welcome to go inside the lobby of the Opera House, but in order to see the main performance area, you will need to sign up for a tour. This guided tour that will lead you through the Opera House, where you’ll learn all about its architecture and history. Tours are $37AUD for adults. Consider booking in advance if visiting during high season.
If you don’t want to spend money for a tour, at least check out the lobby bathrooms. Seriously, those sinks are magnificent. You can also venture outside of the Opera House for some great views of the Harbour Bridge. Don’t forget to take that iconic Opera House selfie!
The Royal Botanical Gardens
Located just to the east of the Opera House lies the Royal Botanical Gardens. This area is home to over 8900 different plant species from all over the world, including Australia and the South Pacific region. There are several tours that run through the gardens, but you are welcome to enjoy them on your own as well. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a flock of wild cockatoos- they like to hang around the gardens. Definitely take a walk out to the far end of the gardens to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. This area offers spectacular views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Related » Where to Find Awesome Views of Sydney
Hyde Park & St. Mary’s Cathedral
Heading south from the Botanical Gardens will lead you to Hyde Park and the incredible architectural structure that is St. Mary’s Cathedral. On your way there, stop by a bakery or pie shop and get yourself a traditional Australian meat pie. Find a nice bench in Hyde park to enjoy your lunch and some great people-watching.
The Sydney Tower
While in Hyde Park, if you look westward, then up in the sky, you should be able to see the Sydney Tower. It will be pretty easy to spot, as this is the tallest structure in Sydney. If you wish, you can go up to the observation deck at the top of the tower. Standard admission to the observation deck is $22.50AUD for adults. If you want something a little more extreme, try the Skywalk tour, where you’ll walk outside the top of the tower for amazing, unobstructed views. This is a bit pricey, at $70AUD per person (Save $20 by booking online!).
The Queen Victoria Building
This historic building is one of Sydney’s architectural gems. What once was a large and elegant market hall is now filled with high end shopping and restaurants. Even if you’re not in the mood for shopping, the beauty of this building is worth at least a walk through. Keep an eye out for all the gorgeous details, like the stained glass and the center dome.
No Sydney traveler should leave without visiting Paddy’s Market. This huge produce and flea market is, hands down, the best place to pick up all your Sydney and Australia souvenirs. They have everything you could possibly want and more. You will easily spend over an hour getting lost among the vendor stalls and perusing through everything. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday, so make sure your 24 hours in Sydney falls in that timeframe!
Dinner in Darling Harbour
As evening approaches, you’ll find yourself in Darling Harbour- a great place for dinner. There are many waterfront restaurants that offer delicious and elegant dining with a view. Choose a seat outdoors and enjoy the warm air as the sun sets.
Evening Ferry Ride
To finish off your 24 hours in Sydney, hop onboard the ferry from Darling Harbour. Sit in the open-air top floor and enjoy the breeze as the boat speeds along the harbour. The lights of the city will dazzle you, and the view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge all lit up will just about take your breath away. Simply relax and enjoy the ride, as the ferry takes you around the harbour to your hotel’s closest ferry wharf.
Looking for more to do in Sydney? Check out these 15 Free Things to do in Sydney. Or, try taking a day trip out to the Blue Mountains!