Cospaceworld logo

The 15 Must-Visit Attractions in Central Sydney for Solo Travellers

30 May 2024 | Australia, Highlights, Play, Sydney

Budget-friendly icons and rare finds that showcase Sydney’s vibrant heritage

Trying to get to know Sydney as a visitor? While exploring all Sydney’s highlights could take more than a lifetime, you can squeeze into your trip a few varied attractions and activities that’ll shed light on all sides of the city, from its history and culture to its nightlife and dining scenes.

In this guide, we introduce you to 15 of the best things to do in Sydney, including the bucket-list must-dos and a few lesser-known spots for insights into the local way of life.

Add the attractions in this article to your travel itinerary, and you’ll taste the best of the city’s cuisine, discover popular tourist attractions, uncover the local history, see iconic landmarks, and party until the early hours.

Sydney must-visit attractions

Sydney’s best attractions at a glance

To help you skip through this article to the Sydney attractions that best match your interests, here’s a quick peek at what’s coming up:

  • Sydney Opera House – Probably Sydney’s most iconic landmark
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge – Probably Sydney’s second-most iconic landmark
  • The Rocks – One of Sydney’s oldest districts with heritage-listed buildings and pubs
  • Bondi Beach – The most famous beach and surfing destination in Sydney
  • Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – Australia’s oldest botanic garden and an Aboriginal site
  • George Street and Pitt Street – Sydney’s top shopping destination
  • Sydney Tower Eye – The Southern Hemisphere’s second-tallest observation tower
  • Hyde Park – Australia’s oldest public park
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales – A distinguished gallery that was recently expanded
  • Kings Cross – A nightlife and entertainment hub with a notorious reputation
  • Macquarie Street – Home to some of Sydney’s most prestigious buildings
  • Sydney Fish Market – The centre of the city’s local seafood industry
  • Darling Harbour – A waterfront district of tourist attractions and dining complexes
  • Newtown – A bohemian inner-city suburb with diverse diners and vintage boutiques
  • Chinatown – One of the most distinctive areas of Sydney and a mecca for foodies
Places to visit in Sydney

The best attractions and activities in Sydney: a closer look

From iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House to vibrant districts like Newtown and Kings Cross, here are 15 attractions that’ll give you a glimpse into every side of Sydney’s culture.

1. Sydney Opera House

Designed to resemble the sails of a giant yacht by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the Sydney Opera House is arguably the most famous landmark in Australia.

Sydney Opera House

Inside, there are five performance spaces and concert halls that host live entertainment from theatre to opera. As many rooms have just undergone a decade of renovation worth nearly AUD 300 million, now’s the ideal time to catch a show at this distinctive icon – around 40 shows take place per week.

If no shows tickle your fancy during your stay in Sydney, you can get an insight into the inner workings of the Opera House during a walking tour. As you explore the backstage areas, you’ll learn about this landmark’s history, architecture and resident performing arts companies like the Australian Ballet.

If you’re more interested in the architecture than the interior, you can soak up views of the building from the harbour by taking the public ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, Watsons Bay, Mosman Bay or Taronga Zoo. Tickets cost as little as a few dollars – use an Opal card to get the best deals.

Visit the Vivid Sydney festival (usually from late May to mid June) to see the Sydney Opera House at its most spectacular, when the entire exterior is illuminated during a larger-than-life light and sound show.

Sydney Opera House during the Vivid Festival

2. Sydney Harbour Bridge

Standing proudly by the Opera House, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the city’s CBD to the North Shore. It opened in 1932 after nine years of construction, and it remains the tallest steel arch bridge on the planet to this day.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

You don’t need to spend a cent to soak up incredible views of the Harbour Bridge. Some of the best free viewpoints include the Blues Point Reserve bayfront park, the Circular Quay railway station and – a classic – Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, which was carved into a sandstone ledge by convicts over two centuries ago.

A less touristy free viewpoint is the Observatory Park. Although relatively unknown to visitors, this greenspace is home to the Sydney Observatory, which became Australia’s first public observatory when it opened in 1859.

Sydney Harbour Bridge view from Observatory Park

If you can spare a few dollars, the Opera Bar offers a fantastic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can also admire the bridge from the water by taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Milsons Point Wharf or the quiet beachside suburb of Manly – tickets can cost as little as a few dollars.

Those who want to splash out can take in panoramic views of the harbour and Sydney’s cityscape by climbing over the bridge’s arch with BridgeClimb Sydney. Ticket prices per adult range from AUD 298–424, depending on the time of day you wish to climb.

BridgeClimb Sydney Harbour Bridge

3. The Rocks

Considered to be Sydney’s oldest district, The Rocks is home to some of the city’s oldest permanent buildings, dating back to the early colonial period. You’ll also find traditional pubs, galleries, restaurants and shops as you explore the area’s atmospheric lanes.

Historic buildings at The Rocks

Those interested in the area’s history might enjoy a tour of Cadmans Cottage. Built in 1816, this heritage-listed former sailor’s home and water police station is now one of Sydney’s oldest-surviving residential buildings.

You might also want to check out The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, Sydney’s oldest continually licensed hotel dating back to 1841, and the Susannah Place Museum, which occupies a row of four working-class terrace homes constructed in 1844.

Visiting The Rocks for its plethora of traditional and trendy pubs and bars? The Glenmore Hotel is a long-established venue with a cocktail bar, a menu of premium delicacies and a rooftop offering sprawling harbour views. Other popular watering holes include the Hero of Waterloo Hotel, Endeavour Tap Rooms and Fortune of War.

The Rocks backdropped by Sydney Harbour Bridge

For insights into Sydney’s local art scene, browse the displays at indie galleries such as Gannon House Gallery and ATTY Gallery. The Rocks is also home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, which occupies an Art Deco building facing Sydney Harbour.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, gifts and trip mementos, you should visit The Rocks Market on Saturday and Sunday between 10 am to 5 pm, when you can hunt for local crafts at this popular open-air waterfront shopping destination.

4. Bondi Beach

A world-renowned surfing destination, Bondi Beach is one of Sydney’s most popular golden strips of sand, yet it still boasts an edgy atmosphere that attracts many alternative types.

Bondi Beach

While surfing is a popular activity here, particularly in South Bondi (which sees the biggest swells), Bondi Beach is a fantastic place for a summer stroll, sunbathing session and swim.

Facing the golden strip of Bondi Beach are plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques selling the latest in fashion and surfing gear.

If you want to enjoy a variety of Sydney’s coastal attractions while you’re here, follow the six-km Bondi to Coogee walk. Along the way, you’ll pass stunning inlets at Clovelly, Bronte and Tamarama, a variety of patrolled beaches, and plenty of plaques, signs and parks that shed light on the region’s Aboriginal heritage. When you arrive in Coogee, you can relax on a gorgeous strip of sand without crowd jostling.

5. Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

When you need a break from Sydney’s urban hustle, take a stroll through the 30-hectare Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Built in 1816, this is the oldest botanic garden in Australia and possibly the Southern Hemisphere. And the site’s aboriginal history goes back much further than that.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

This free outdoor attraction comprises multiple distinct areas. Highlights include the Palm Grove, the Australian Rainforest Garden, and the thousands of roses that decorate the Palace Rose Garden.

Inside the curving glasshouse of the Calyx exhibition space, you can admire a range of temporary plant-themed exhibits and a vast wall of greenery.

Before the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney was established, the site was used by the Gadigal people as an initiation ground. You can learn more about this site’s fascinating past by booking an Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour with a First Nations guide.

While you’re traversing the park’s numerous walking trails, you can stop at vantage points that offer sprawling views of the harbour, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. A few of the best viewpoints include Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Harbour View Lawn 33 and Fleet Steps.

When you need to take a load off your feet, you can stop for drinks and local bites at a restaurant such as Botanic House or Terrance on the Domain.

6. George Street and Pitt Street

Many of Sydney’s most famous shopping destinations are located on George Street and Pitt Street, which run adjacent to each other through the CBD. Lots more shops reside in the side streets and Victorian-era arcades in this area.

George Street, Sydney

One of Sydney’s most spectacular malls is the neo-Gothic Queen Victoria Building (QVB), which boasts an ornate interior that’s been restored to its 1898 design, complete with wrought-iron balconies, mosaic floors, stained-glass storefronts and over 20 Byzantine-inspired copper domes. You can browse goods ranging from housewares to designer clothing at shops across its five floors.

Queen Victoria Building in Sydney

Just a few blocks from the QVB is the Strand Arcade, a historic glass-domed Sydney landmark that hosts upscale restaurants, high-end boutiques and flagship stores of Aussie designer labels like Dion Lee and Aje.

The QVB is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, with extended hours until 9 pm on Tuesday (11 am to 5 pm on Sunday). The Strand Arcade is open daily from 9 am until either 4 pm, 5:30 pm or 9 pm (11 am to 4 pm on Sunday). Both these famous shopping destinations are within easy walking distance of the Town Hall light rail and train station.

7. Sydney Tower Eye

Rising to 309 metres atop the Westfield Sydney shopping mall, the Sydney Tower Eye is Sydney’s tallest structure. In fact, it’s the second-tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sydney Tower Eye

From this observation deck, you can take in panoramic, birds’-eye views of the entire of Sydney and its suburbs. You can also dig into local and international bites at the café or one of the tower’s revolving restaurants.

While not for the faint-hearted, the SKYWALK experience gives you the chance to feel the wind in your face as you admire Sydney from a glass-floored, open-air viewing platform in the sky.

You can also gain insights into Sydney’s most iconic attractions by attending the 4D cinema viewing at the top of the tower.

The Sydney Tower Eye is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, and the nearest train station is St James, just a couple of minutes away on foot. Ticket prices start at AUD 26.40 per adult. 60-minute SKYWALK tours that include unlimited access to the indoor observation deck start at AUD 95.

8. Hyde Park

As an expansive outdoor greenspace in the heart of Sydney’s city centre, Hyde Park is an ideal spot to soak up the sun, take a break from the busy streets and do a bit of people-watching. It’s also Australia’s oldest park, making it a prime spot for history buffs.

Sydney Hyde Park

Within this 16-hectare park are shaded picnic spots amid sprawling lawns and trees plus beautiful displays of flowers. You can also walk to memorials such as the Art Deco Anzac War Memorial (1934) and the bronze Archibald Fountain (1932).

Towards the north of Hyde Park is Queens Square, home to a variety of Sydney’s finest Georgian Buildings, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Supreme Court and St James’ Church.

Sydney Hyde Park Archibald Fountain

If you want to browse Australia’s largest exhibition on natural history, head to the Australian Museum towards the east of Hyde Park.

9. Art Gallery of New South Wales

Situated in the beautiful greenspace that is The Domain, the Art Gallery of New South Wales occupies a 19th-century building with a neoclassical façade. A major renovation saw the gallery’s exhibition space double in 2022, sealing its reputation as a national cultural institution.

Art Gallery of New South Wales

While exploring the galleries and Grand Courts in the restored historic museum building, you’ll see international masterpieces that range from Tang Dynasty ceramics to Pablo Picasso paintings. Highlights include a vast collection of 20th-century Australian art plus one of the nation’s largest collections of Aboriginal art.

The new eco-friendly display space has even more Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal art, plus collections of European, Asian and contemporary art.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. It stays open until 10 pm on Wednesdays, when you can enjoy live music, talks and films on top of the displays.

10. Kings Cross

Kings Cross may be Sydney’s most notorious red light district, but it also has a happening nightlife scene with a bohemian vibe that makes it attractive to backpackers.

Sydney's Kings Cross and the Coca Cola Billboard at night
Photo © Luke Zeme (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Back in the 1920s, Kings Cross was known as the city’s artistic quarter. During the 50s, the area transformed into the centre of Sydney’s beatnik scene. The Vietnam War saw Kings Cross turn into a hub for ‘adult entertainment’ for American troops, but the hippie movement kept the area’s bohemian spirit alive.

Today, Kings Cross is home to lively bars and nightclubs, plus cultural venues such as theatres and galleries. You’ll also find plenty of hostels, hip cafés, boutiques and trendy restaurants.

While you’re here, you might want to take a selfie with the Coca Cola Billboard that has become a local landmark since it was erected in 1974. On top of boasting historical significance, the billboard holds the record for being the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

11. Macquarie Street 

Stretching a mile from the Sydney Opera House through the CBD to Hyde Park, Macquarie Street is one of the first planned streets in Sydney, home to some of the city’s most important historical and governmental buildings.

Hyde Park Barracks on Macquarie Street 

The street is named after Lachlan Macquarie, who was the Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Many buildings that you can still visit today date back to the early 19th century, including the NSW Parliament building, the State Library of New South Wales, The Mint, Sydney Hospital and the Hyde Park Barracks (which are all right next to each other).

While you’re in the area, you might want to gain even more insights into the local history by visiting nearby attractions like the Customs House and the Museum of Sydney.

When your brain needs a break, explore Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney or the waterside icons of Sydney Harbour.

12. Sydney Fish Market

The Sydney Fish Market is one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. On top of being at the centre of the city’s local seafood industry, the market boasts many incredible dining experiences for foodies. It’s also a great place to soak up a slice of the local culture.

Sydney Fish Market

You’ll find over 100 species of fish being sold at the daily auctions, which start at 5:30 am. On top of seafood stalls and auctions, the market hosts bakeries, restaurants, cafés, gourmet delis and even wine shops.

13. Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a pretty waterfront area that’s home to many of Sydney’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s also a central hub of shopping, dining and family entertainment.

Sydney Darling Harbour

One of the highlights of Darling Harbour is the Australian National Maritime Museum, where you can climb aboard a replica of the HMB Endeavour, the research vessel commanded by James Cook.

Other popular museums and educational venues at Darling Harbour include the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Madame Tussauds Sydney.

When the sun goes down, grab food and drinks from the trendy bars and restaurants at the King Street Wharf dining complex. Here, you’ll find a range of local and international delights. Head to Manjits Wharf for Indian favourites or The Malaya for tasty Southeast Asian dishes. Popular bars like Cargo Bar and Bungalow 8 stay open until 2 or 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

14. Newtown

Located ten minutes from central Sydney by car, Newton is a hipster-packed, street-art-filled inner-city suburb that attracts fashionistas to its eclectic range of boutiques, vintage shops and thrift stores.

Newton in Sydney

You can stock up on rare music t-shirts at stores like Stitch Up Sydney and Storeroom Vintage. At Real King Vintage, you can browse racks of second-hand designer goods from brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Head to Route 66 for classic American wear.

The dining scene is as diverse is the shopping scene in Newtown – you’ll find cuisines ranging from Thai to Turkish at the district’s restaurants, which cater to all budgets. Many visitors claim the gelato from Cow & the Moon is the world’s best.

15. Chinatown

A treat for the senses is Sydney’s Chinatown district, nestled between Central Station and Darling Harbour in the pedestrianised zone of Dixon Street. Statues of lions guard the street at both ends.

Chinatown in Sydney

The main draw of Chinatown for visitors is the food. In addition to Chinese cuisine, Chinatown’s restaurants and street food vendors serve delicacies from across Asia.

Explore the Chinatown Friday Night Market from 4 pm to 11 pm to taste treats from China, Thailand, Vietnam and beyond. Alternatively, visit the district in the late morning for yum cha, which is a traditional Cantonese brunch.

Any bucket-list experiences to add?

Getting to know Sydney in the space of a few weeks or months can be challenging. By visiting the diverse array of bucket-list attractions and hidden gems in this guide, you can get to know just about every side of this eclectic city, from its history to its nightlife.

Whether you want to dance the night away, shop till you drop, top up your tan on an iconic beach or capture professional-grade photos of iconic landmarks, the bustling metropolis of Sydney has something perfect for you.

We’ll keep this guide up to date to the best of our abilities to help you navigate the cultural capital of Australia with confidence. With so many things to do in Sydney, we could use your help.

What are your favourite attractions in Sydney? What activities do you think are underrated? Do you think any bucket-list activities in Sydney are overrated? Do you have any money-saving tips for our community of digital nomads? Let us know in the comments below.

Josh Saunders

Josh Saunders

I've been writing my way through Europe, Asia and Oceania for just over a decade, providing SEO copywriting, editing and content strategy services to travel-industry clients ranging from startups through to Fortune 500 giants. Now, I'm on a mission to connect digital nomads with the world's best destinations for work and leisure.


Global Nomad's Guidebook

Filled with guides and recommendations on the best coworking spaces, hostels and things to do in the world’s most exciting destinations for digital nomads and remote workers.

Recent Posts

Cospaceworld square logo


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This