A Travel Guide to Exploring Sydney Australia

How to Explore Sydney on a Solo Trip

Sydney is a spectacular city, not only because of the imposing Opera House and the massive Sydney Harbour Bridge but also because of its stunning contrasts, its lush green parks, its historic buildings, its beautiful architecture, its markets, its lovely beaches.

Sydney is a city of celebration. Anywhere and throughout the year. And a lovely place for people who love to travel solo in Australia. You can get a feel of the city just strolling around in its tiny backstreets, in its beautiful parks, in the beachfront avenues, everywhere you can soak in the distinctive flair of this unique Australian city.

When in Sydney, you do not need a city map to find your way and reach your destination. Just step out of the door to naturally wander off, let Sydney guide you through its vibrant city life.

View of Sydney City from Taronga Zoo
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10 Top places to visit in Sydney Australia

1. The Rocks Precinct

Rocks Precinct is a beautiful place packed with tiny colonial streets, historic hotels, shops, and many excellent pubs. While walking through its narrow streets, you may feel you are in a theatre setting with stunning contrasts of land and sea landmarks.

Each angle offers a different and vibrant view: slices of the massive harbour bridge peep out of old buildings, the deep blue of the ocean water mingles with the dark grey of the asphalt, the glimmer of water reflection on the creamy tiled roof of the Opera House.

The Rocks Precinct dates back to 1788 and has a fascinating history, from convicts to maritime commerce to today’s historical tourist precinct. You can also go stargazing at the Sydney Observatory, a heritage and scientific site in Australia.

The Rocks precinct gets a unique charm at weekends, with The Rocks Markets amidst sandstone and cobbles. These colourful markets are a Sydney institution with over 200 eclectic stalls to choose from. An array of local arts and crafts stalls that draw multitudes of people.

You can learn more about The Rocks Markets.

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2. Hyde Park

You will not be able to walk past Hyde Park without stopping there for a while. This heritage-listed Park is the oldest public parkland in Australia, containing well-kept gardens and magnificent fig-tree-lined avenues. You will find the Pool of Reflection and a beautiful monument to honour Anzac Soldiers within the park. And just across the road, you can admire St. Mary Cathedral.

Throughout the year, there are many festivals, parades, and events, like the Sydney Food and Wine Fair and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander celebration.

This park is also a popular place among the locals. You find many park benches where you can sit for a lunch break or a rest from shopping,  listen to street music performances, relax on the grass,  watch people walking by, or enjoy the shade of lush towering trees—Hyde Park boulevard. From there you can also visit the Australian Museum located in nearby College Street. This museum is worth a visit.

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3. The Botanical Garden

The Royal Botanic Gardens is a massive park with hundreds of different species of plants and birds. Please take one of its tours at 10:30 am to learn fascinating things about the park’s aboriginal culture. It also has a beautiful ‘Choo-Choo Express’ that passes through every 30 minutes. On it, you can relax and enjoy the scenic wonders of the park and learn a lot.

4. Circular Quay

Circular Quay is one of Sydney’s primary focal points because of the enormous commuting hub with the ferry quay and the train station and for being an accessible location for entertainment with buskers, street vendors, walkaways, parks. Circular Quay is linking on the eastern side to the Sydney Opera House. On the western side, a short stroll along the harbour walkaway takes you to the Rocks District and to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can view a beautiful collection of modern art from Australia and worldwide.

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The park around the museum is also an accessible location at weekends for a lunch break or chill out on the green — the photo you see here on a sunny Sunday morning.

5. Museum Of Modern Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is a fantastic place with over 4000 works by Australian contemporary artists. It is housed in a magnificent sandstone Art-Deco building overlooking Circular Quay. Come here to immerse yourself in its gorgeous art forms ranging from paintings to photography, sculptures, and intricate works by Aboriginal artists.

6. Sydney Harbour Bridge

This bridge is a heritage-listed steel arch bridge lying across Sydney Harbour. You can explore this fantastic site by using its pedestrian-only walkway. An imposing bridge that links the southern and the northern point of the harbour and joins Sydney City to North Sydney. On the bridge’s western side, you can travel by car, train, and cycle, and pedestrians use the eastern side. Walking over the bridge is an excellent way to experience it. However, the Harbour Bridge climb is something special.

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Is the Harbour Bridge Climb worth it?

Yes, it is. To reach the summit, 134 meters above Sydney Harbour, you must not be suffering from giddiness and not be afraid of heights, though. The sight from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the most rewarding view over the city you can get.

The alternative to the Bridge Climb?

But if you are afraid of height, do not worry. There are many more ways. You can have a stunning view of Sydney Harbour Bridge from Pylon Lookout. Located at the bridge’s south end entrance, this is the cheapest and easiest way to view the harbour from above. The best views of the Opera House can be seen from Milsons Point, in the direction of The Rocks.

Pylon Lookout View of Sydney Harbour Bridge
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7. The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is the iconic building in Sydney. Sydney’s symbol is a masterpiece of architecture, and its beauty has become an iconic symbol in the world. To stand in front of the Sydney Opera House gasping in amazement is one of those  “once-in-a lifetime-dreams” everyone wishes to fulfil one day. If you want to see the Sydney Opera House up close, you can view this magnificent architectural building from inside with one of the Sydney Opera House Guided Tours.

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This is a famous venue for performing arts at Sydney Harbour. It hosts more than 2000 shows a year, including stand-up comedy, indie rock gigs, orchestras, ballet, and international concerts. The best time to visit is early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds. There are even frequent guided tours to give you more insight into its history and learn some exciting things about the Sydney Opera.

8. Darling Harbour

Located near Sydney’s city centre, this harbour is a vibrant place with amazing laneways, world-class dining, and some fantastic cultural institutions. At Darling Harbour, you should pay a visit to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It is a place where you can explore the off-beaten path and relax in an inner-city oasis. It is incredibly calm with swaying willows, babbling waterfalls, and serene pathways filled with exotic, blooming flowers.

Australia Sydney city view
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9. Paddy Markets And Sydney Markets

Paddy’s Markets in Sydney consist of over 1000 stalls divided between two large markets in Haymarket and Flemington. Flemington Market sells fruits, vegetables, and on weekends they have clothes, gifts, and souvenirs. The Haymarket location is like a flea market with a lot of incredible things to pick from. Besides this, you will also come across the Sydney Flower Market, which has a wide variety of fresh-cut flowers from 170 traders.

10. Sydney Beaches

Sydney is famous for its beach culture, and it is home to a wide range of dazzling golden beaches. Here you will find some of the best places to go swimming, surfing, and taking some fantastic walks.

Bondi Beach

The most popular Sydney beach is Bondi Beach, where people come to enjoy a day of fantastic surfing or relaxing at a beachfront cafe. You can take a trip along the 6km Coogee Coastal Walk with views of beach cliff-tops and great cafes along the way from the beach.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach is a trendy beach spot connected by ferry to the Sydney Circular Quay. It is an excellent place to start your day and explore the several little bays and beaches on the way up to Palm Beach. From Manly, you must try the Spit Bridge Walk spanning over 10km one-way. It is a breath-taking walk where you will see sculptural rock shelves and beautiful cliffs that look spectacular at dawn and dusk.

Related Posts for your Sydney Solo Trip

If you love the outdoor and adventure, check out this page with fun things to do in Sydney.

If you love food, here are the best eateries in Sydney.

Click here to browse through all Sydney Day-Tours.

Go on day-trips from Sydney by public transport.

Places to visit around Sydney

There are many places that you can visit in Sydney Surrounds, by public transportation.

Here are my picks.

Royal National Park – Cronulla and Bundeena

In New South Wales, you will find the 151-square kilometre Royal National Park. It’s a protected national park with something for everyone: swimming, trekking, picnicking, bike riding, and outdoor adventures. You can access the park by driving or taking the picturesque option of a ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena.

Bundeena is a small community within the National Park that is fantastic for bush-walking, picnicking, and discovering Aboriginal carvings at Jibbon Point. Cronulla is a beautiful beach town with trendy cafes, a great music scene, and exotic dining places.

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Northern Beaches

In the north of the coastal suburbs of Sydney, you will find some beautiful beaches. The Whale Beach has a secluded bay where you can see golden red sand and some lovely beach swimming pools. The other is Palm Beach which is a charming place with glittering blue waters and golden sand. It runs from Little Head to Barrenjoey Head for 2.3km. It even has a heritage-listed lighthouse at Barrenjoey and is a fun place to enjoy water sports, ferry rides, and cruises.

How to get to Sydney City from the Airport

How to get into the city from the Sydney Airport

The easiest way is to use the train. It only takes 13 minutes into the city. You need to pay an access fare of 14.30 dollars on top of the standard fare. Check for more details on the Airport Link site.

You can also take bus no 400 or 420 to the nearest train station, Mascot Rail Station, catch the train there, and you will not need to pay the Airport GatePass fee. Or you can take the same bus to Bondi Junction and from there the train. Check the Sydney Airport Link for calculating the airport fare.

And here is a Map of the Sydney rail network.

If you plan to spend a week in Sydney, it may be worth purchasing an Opal Card to save money on transportation in the city. I recommend purchasing the Opal if you are staying a few days and make the most out of it. You can read more about the Australian Transport Cards.

For more information on how to get to Sydney City from the Airport, check the official site.

There are alternatives to trains and buses. By shuttle bus, directly to your hotel. The price is between 18-20 dollars; you can purchase your ticket at the terminal, 1 and 3, or book it online.

It will cost you around 40-50 dollars on normal traffic conditions by taxi to the Sydney centre. I would avoid it if during peak hours.

How to get around the Sydney CBD

I would say walking is the best way for the city centre. However, for longer distances, the best way is to use the buses and the city trains. The 555 is a free bus that rides in a loop between Central Station along George Street to Circular Quay. If you plan to use the ferry to explore the Sydney Harbour and more of Sydney surrounds, get a free Opal Card to save money on ferry and train fares.

Where to stay in Sydney Solo

For yous solo stay in Sydney, I recommend the YHA Sydney Harbour. This is a top-notch budget accommodation. You can book a private room for around 100 dollars. Or a bed in a shared female dorm for 50 dollars.

If you like a hotel with style, my tip is Pier One Sydney Harbour. I stayed there a couple of nights during Vivid Sydney and loved it.

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How to Explore Sydney City
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First published in 2014, last updated in March 2021


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