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Best things to do in Sydney

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Where in the world: South Pacific  /  Australia  /  New South Wales  /  Sydney
After hitting up famous landmarks like Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, visitors can head to Bondi Beach to surf, swim, and work on that perfect vacation tan. After sunset, things to do in Sydney can include hopping from one bar to the next, an ideal way to experience the city's nightlife scene. For those looking for a quieter excursion, Royal Botanic Gardens offer a great spot for a picnic surrounded by neat floral arrangements.

Sydney is best known for its Theaters, Beaches, and Bridges.

Top 15 things to do in Sydney

1. The Rocks

Sitting in the shadow of downtown Sydney, the cobblestone walkways and pastel-colored colonial-style buildings of The Rocks form a juxtaposition with the shiny modernness that characterizes much of the city center. Settled in the late 18th century, the area quickly became a haven for a motley mix of sailors, petty criminals, and prostitutes. Now this upscale neighborhood houses fine-dining restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. You can step back into Sydney's colorful past by visiting local historical attractions such as Cadmans Cottage, the Garrison Church, the Merchant's House, and Fort Phillip Signal Station.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

One of the best free attractions in Sydney, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney offers 30 hectares (74 acres) of colorful native Australian plants, decorative fountains and statues, and animals such as possums, flying foxes, water-dragons, blue-tongued lizards, Australian birds, and butterflies. The free daily morning walking tour will introduce you to the gardens, while the scenic Choo Choo Express train tours departing throughout the day cover more of the site's expanse.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Darling Harbour

A harbor within the giant Sydney Harbour, Darling Harbour buzzes with activity right next to downtown Sydney. Shopping centers, museums, entertainment centers, restaurants, the largest IMAX in the Southern Hemisphere, Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, the Sydney Aquarium--the list goes on and on. You can head from attraction to attraction and then stay for dinner, or just stop in, snap a few photos, and people-watch from a cafe.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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4. Bondi Beach

Part of the Australian National Heritage List and one of the world's iconic stretches of sand, Bondi Beach is a must-see while in Sydney. About 1 km (0.6 mi) long and as wide as a football field is long, the golden sand and green parkland behind it provide ideal lounging space. If you plan to swim, head to the northern end; a rip-current on the southern end makes swimming hazardous but provides excellent surfing waves. If you visit during the summer, you might see whales and dolphins migrating from Antarctica to Australia's warm waters.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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5. Sydney Harbour Bridge

With its long arch rising 134 m (440 ft) above the glimmering blue waters of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge stands as the world's tallest steel-arch bridge. Nicknamed "The Coathanger" by locals, the bridge itself forms an impressive site with a giant steel arch extending from one massive granite-faced pylon to another. It connects downtown Sydney to the North Shore for cars, trains, bicycles, and pedestrians. When you cross it, you'll be rewarded with outstanding views of the Sydney skyline and Sydney Opera House. You can walk across the bridge for free or take the Bridge Climb to the top of the arch if you're feeling adventurous.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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6. Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House stands as an icon of Australian architecture and one of the world's most instantly recognizable buildings. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and inaugurated in 1973, the Opera House earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2007 for its unique appearance and engineering achievement. The multiple performance venues feature distinctive roofs of layered sails that look like seashells, and they reside on a peninsula jutting out into Sydney Harbour beneath Sydney Harbour Bridge. Snapping photos as you walk around the harbor represents one way to experience this landmark, but you can also enjoy one of 1,500 annual of performances inside. Start with a tour during the day, discovering some of the 1,000 rooms and listening to dozens of stories about the venue. In the evening, dine in one of the restaurants before taking in the opera, live music, or theater in one of its acoustically splendid rooms.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Manly Beach

Manly Beach stands as one of the best places to experience Australian beach culture. Captain Arthur Phillip gave the sandy area its name based on his perception of the masculine behavior of the indigenous people he met when he arrived in 1788. Now the long sandy beaches also are home to trendy shops and nightclubs. If you want activity, try surfing, windsurfing, parasailing, snorkeling, or scuba diving. If you prefer leisure, enjoy a picnic on the sheltered beach of Manly Cove. Only 11 km (7 mi) from downtown Sydney, the beach is easily accessible from Circular Quay via regular ferry or fast catamaran.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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8. Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium provides an outstanding venue for you to learn about Australia's marine ecosystems and the creatures inhabiting them. The aquarium holds more than 650 species and 6,000 individual fish coming from various Australian waters. At the Great Barrier Reef Oceanarium, peer through acrylic-glass tunnels to see sharks and colorful tropical fish swimming through coral reefs. In the Open Ocean Oceanarium, gaze at sharks over 3 m (10 ft) long and weighing up to 300 kg (660 lb). River exhibits introduce you to the marine life, including crocodiles, inhabiting Australia's waterways, and you can watch penguins in the Southern Ocean exhibit area.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. Bondi to Coogee Walk, Bondi

Surrounded by stunning scenery, the popular Bondi to Coogee Walk follows a clifftop trail for 6 km (3.7 mi). You'll encounter wide golden-sand beaches, green parks, tide pools, and vistas of blue ocean waves dramatically crashing into craggy rock faces. The medium-grade walk passes Tamarama, Bronte, Coogee, and Maroubra beaches, all of which have free electric barbecues. Tamarama is a trendy beach, and Bronte suits families. Mackenzie's Point serves up superb waves for surfing. Along the way, you can stop to relax on the beach, snorkel Clovelly Beach, or admire the view from one of the world's most beautiful final resting places, Waverley Cemetery.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Mrs Macquarie's Chair

While visiting Sydney Harbour, swing by Mrs Macquarie's Chair for a picture-postcard view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. To get a good spot, you may have to compete with numerous wedding couples, who prefer this exposed sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench to almost any other location in the city for their official wedding photographs. Convicts hand-carved the rock back in 1810, at the request of Governor Macquarie's wife (hence the name). Lore has it that she used to sit on the rock and watch for ships from Great Britain, enjoying the panoramic view of the harbor for hours on end. Two centuries later, you can do the same.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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12. The Opera House to the Botanic Gardens Walk

The Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens combine for an unforgettable day of sightseeing, but The Opera House to the Botanic Gardens Walk itself constitutes an important part of both attractions' appeal. You have a handful of options for how to take this stroll, but the 1.5-km (0.9-mi) route tracing Farm Cove is one of the most popular choices. When you reach the other side of the cove, turn around and take a photo of the Sydney Opera House across the blue water with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and city skyline in the background.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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13. Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbour Bridge

From the top of the southeast pylon on Sydney Harbour Bridge--87 m (285 ft) above sea level--you have panoramic views of Sydney, the Opera House, and the bridge itself. As you climb the 200 stairs, learn about the bridge’s construction and the workers who built it from informational plaques, exhibitions, and old footage spread over several levels inside the pylon. Interestingly, while providing some support, Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbour Bridge, with its granite façade, is mostly decorative.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Art Gallery of New South Wales

With its large collection of national art ranging from the period of settlement to today, Art Gallery of New South Wales is a great venue for learning about Australian art history. You can visit the general exhibition spaces for free and see dozens of works considered to be Australian masterpieces. In light-filled rooms, you'll find modern and contemporary works and grand views of Sydney and its harbor. Visit the Grand Courts to view paintings from European masters and 19th-century Australian artists, and make sure to spend time in the Aboriginal art galleries. The gallery also hosts temporary exhibits, so make sure to check the current schedule before you visit.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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15. Boat Tours & Water Sports

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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