Sydney Harbour night view

Top free things to do on your Sydney stopover!

I flew via Sydney en route to Tasmania, so decided to spend a few days in this perennially buzzing city. Considering that Sydney was just a stopover, I wanted to enjoy the city without spending too much moolah.

So, here is my list of top free (and almost free) things to do in Sydney!

1. Soak up some art and culture.

Sydney is home to the renowned Art Gallery of NSW which has an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, along with 19th Century Australian works and European masters. What I find most interesting is the Aboriginal art on display – I enjoyed trying to make sense of the dots and lines typical of such art!

Sydney Art Gallery NSW Aboriginal Art

Sydney Art Gallery NSW Aboriginal Statues Art

Focusing on Australian and Aboriginal art, the stylish Museum of Contemporary Art boasts a collection of over 4000 unique pieces. Located in The Rocks, a visit to the museum also makes for a good day out exploring this heritage-rich area.

Meanwhile the hottest enclave in Sydney has got to be the Chippendale area. From the top-notch restaurants to fabulous boutiques and galleries to Singaporean hotelier hero, Loh Lik Peng’s super-stylish Old Clare Hotel, Kensington Street is THE place to wander around.

Chippendale houses its own share of quirky private galleries and museums. One of which is the White Rabbit Gallery – a privately owned museum, borne out of the owners’ love for Chinese art.

Don’t be shocked as Zang Dali’s “mass hanging” of naked migrant workers greet you at the entrance! This installation is part of the current Vile Bodies exhibition, which runs till February 2017.

Sydney White Rabbit Hanging Display

Download the Chippendale gallery guide for more ideas on where to visit!

Best part about all these museums – free entry!

2. Picnic at Mrs Macquarie’s chair.

If you’re heading off to the Art Gallery NSW, you’ll see that it’s located at the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden of Sydney.

There are free daily guided walks from 10.30am, so you could do that first, then head off to the gallery. Or you can head straight towards Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for a vantage view across to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Time it for around sunset, bring a little picnic basket along and enjoy what is sure to be a lovely evening in Sydney!

3. Get a bird’s eye view of the iconic Sydney Harbour for just A$13.

One of the most popular things to do is to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But at around A$250 per person, it’s no small change and you might not want to spend that on “just a stopover”.

Well, the next best thing? Climb up to the Pylon Lookout. You get to read about the industrious men who built this iconic bridge as you head up towards a breathtaking view of Sydney’s harbour.

In fact, you can observe as the Sydney bridge climbers make their way up and possibly, think to yourself that you had made the better choice!

Sydney Opera House Pylon View
View from the Pylon Lookout
Sydney Bridge Climb Pylon View
Watch the Bridge Climbers in action

4. Be a beach bum for a day.

Although I have done this several times, there’s something so fun about catching bus No. 380 from Circular Quay to Bondi beach and spending a day there.

I usually only exert enough energy to reach for my ricotta hotcakes at Bills but if you’re feeling more athletic, how about a 2-hour walk from Bondi to Coogee where you might just spot the migrating whales from May-Nov?


Sydney Icebergs Bondi
By Tim Grubb (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Have a drink at the Opera Bar.

Now this is one thing I had not done despite my countless visits to Sydney. Normally I prefer to get my tipple on in less obvious surroundings but I decided to give this most blatant of places a try. And I must say, the Opera Bar was thoroughly enjoyable!

Having a seat overlooking the glitterati of the Opera House and the glitter of the Sydney Harbour bridge as the night fell made drinks at the Opera Bar a perfect nightcap for my stopover in Sydney!

Sydney Opera Bar food
The food at the Opera Bar
Sydney twilight harbour bridge view
As the sun set, I sipped my bubbly and enjoyed this gorgeous view!

Now of course, Sydney has plenty more museums, galleries, markets and shopping areas that you can explore for free, but these are my top 5 favourite free (and almost-free) things to do in Sydney!

And if you have 3 days in Sydney, check out my Food and Art Lover’s Guide to Sydney!

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