When it comes to Sydney sightseeing, most people will instantly think of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. However, there is so much more to this fascinating city than the obvious tourist spots, and if you want an authentic Sydney experience, it is important to embrace the vibrant lifestyle and culture of the city.
Whether you’ll decide to explore Sydney on your own or benefit from participating in an organised Sydney tour, here’s how to explore Sydney like a resident of the city, giving you a real insight into one of Australia’s favourite destinations.
Brunch is a weekend must for Sydneysiders, but when you’re exploring Sydney as a visitor, feel free to enjoy a mid morning snack any day of the week. Brunch is seen as an important social event here, as people get together with friends to enjoy some tasty food and a leisurely start to the day.
While it is possible to find traditional, high-fat fry ups at many venues across Sydney, there is a definite shift towards healthier, organically sourced food on the Australian brunch menu these days. A typical brunch in Sydney now will involve fruit juice, whole grains, avocado and yoghurt, with very little meat on the menu.
If kale and smoothies aren’t your thing, however, don’t worry – Sydney enjoys a thriving coffee culture. Wherever you go for brunch, you’ll be able to find an excellent quality expresso or flat white to give you the kick you need at the start of the day.
If you want to know where to go for brunch in Sydney, the Central Business District (CBD) is the place to be. There are simply so many high-quality cafes and restaurants located here that it is difficult to go wrong. However, if you prefer an ocean view, you can easily find it in Bondi, where you can enjoy a leisurely brunch in one of the many cafes on Campbell Parade, overlooking the famous Bondi Beach.
If you want to shop like a Sydneysider, you need to explore the many fascinating markets that Sydney has to offer. These are the places where you will be able to sample the local produce fresh, as it is meant to be tasted, and find unusual handmade gifts and souvenirs of your visit.
First on your list should be a stop at Sydney Fish Market. Sydney is famous for its beautiful seafood, and this lively market is where you will find the freshest and best examples, with over 100 species of fish being sold here each day. Located in Pyrmont, the Sydney Fish Market offers behind-the-scenes tours four days a week, and also houses the Sydney Seafood School, where expert chefs will train you in the best ways of cooking seafood.
Lovers of fashion and art should head to the Kirribilli Art, Design and Fashion Market, held in Milsons Point on the second Sunday of each month. This is the venue up-and-coming local designers choose to exhibit their latest creations, from clothes to art, sculpture and even homewares. The atmosphere here is vibrant, with live music performed throughout the day.
For gifts and souvenirs, The Rocks Markets are an essential stop on your Sydney sightseeing tour. Here you will find a huge selection of handcrafted artisan goods, many made from locally-sourced, natural materials. The Rocks is also an area of huge historical and cultural significance, as it was the first place in Australia to become a European settlement. Among the markets and the charming narrow lanes here you will also find the Rocks Discovery Museum, which offers an excellent way to discover Sydney’s history through the rich and exciting story of this small but important area.
On the subject of museums, if you really want to explore Sydney like a local, it is essential to find out more about the history and culture of the city. Sydney boasts some world-renowned museums and art galleries, and these are not just visited by tourists – Sydneysiders also love to soak up the cultural offerings of their city.
A good place to start is the Museum of Sydney, which celebrates all things Sydney-related, bringing the history of the city to life through its varied exhibits and installations. You can also see the remains of Australia’s first Government House, which once stood on the very spot now occupied by the museum.
Sydney’s extensive contributions to many areas of history and culture can also be discovered by paying a visit to Darling Harbour. Here you will find the Australian National Maritime Museum, which explores the unique relationship Australia enjoys with the ocean, including a replica of Captain Cook’s famous ship, Endeavour. Darling Harbour is also the location of the Powerhouse Museum, which is dedicated to science and technology, with a wide variety of interactive exhibits enjoyed by adults and children alike.
If you want to take in some world-class art, Sydney’s galleries cater for all tastes. A visit to the Arts Gallery of NSW is an essential part of the Sydney experience, offering the finest examples of Australian and international art from throughout the ages, all housed in a beautiful neoclassical building. If your taste in art is more modern than traditional, however, you should head to the Museum of Contemporary Art, located at Circular Quay. This stunning Art Deco exterior houses some of the most innovative modern art from Australia and around the world.
If you are exploring Sydney with the family, a stop at Luna Park will be enjoyed by all. This old-fashioned amusement park is the perfect place to indulge in some nostalgia, with traditional fairground rides in a vintage setting over 80 years old. A ride on the magnificent fairy-lit Ferris Wheel also offers some of the best possible views over Sydney Harbour.
However, if you are looking for a more sedate way to enjoy some traditional outdoor pursuits, head to Hyde Park, Australia’s oldest public park, which provides a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city for visitors and Sydneysiders alike. With over 16 hectares of green space to explore, Hyde Park also features the Anzac War Memorial and the famous Archibald Fountain, as well as excellent views of St Mary’s Cathedral and the Sydney Tower. An ideal place for some rest and relaxation while sightseeing in Sydney.
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The beach is an integral part of the Sydney lifestyle, and it is impossible to explore the city or its surrounds without spending some time relaxing on the sand. While most visitors to the area automatically head for the world-famous Bondi Beach, Sydney is also home to many other beaches, which are better alternatives if you want to find a less crowded, more secluded spot. This is an option many Sydneysiders choose instead of negotiating the international crowds at Bondi.
For a secluded and peaceful beach experience, try Redleaf Beach or Milk Beach. These beautiful inlets are located along Sydney Harbour, so they are not visited by the surfer crowds due to the lack of waves, making them safe and picturesque beaches for families. If you do want to enjoy the surf, however, Palm Beach offers a quieter alternative to Bondi. Recognisable as the location for the television soap Home and Away, Palm Beach also gives you the opportunity to visit the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, built in 1881.
Those who enjoy snorkelling will love Shelly Beach, a tranquil, sheltered spot which is home to a huge variety of marine life. However, if you prefer a livelier beach scene, Bronte Beach is an ideal setting for the whole family. Located on the edge of a charming park and surrounded by beautiful sandstone cliffs, Bronte offers excellent sunbathing and surfing in a vibrant setting.
To take in Sydney’s coastal views at their best, try the relaxing walk which takes you along the coast from Bronte Beach to Bondi. If you visit during October and November, this coastal route is the setting for the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition, featuring works from Australia’s top sculptors along the way.
A visit to Sydney’s Chinatown is the perfect way to end the day. Located in the CBD, Chinatown offers a wealth of top-quality restaurants providing a wide variety of Asian cuisines. Friday nights are particularly atmospheric here, with a bustling market offering tasty produce at every stall.
The Chinese New Year celebrations here are legendary throughout Australia, and this popular event is a must on the social calendar for Sydneysiders of all ages. If you are lucky enough to visit Sydney when this celebration is taking place, it should be an essential part of your Sydney experience.
If you are looking for a comfortable, relaxing and luxurious way to explore Sydney, simply get in touch with us. Our Sydney tours enable you to soak up the atmosphere and culture of the city, and are led by highly experienced guides who will introduce you to local life and ensure you have the most authentic possible Sydney experience. Contact the team and let’s get started on planning your Sydney adventure today.0