Everything you need to see, do, and eat in Sydney — for cheap!
Thanks to a bustling business sector, world-class architecture and museums, and a wealth of diversity, Sydney earns its place as a world city. A lot about it even reminded us of NYC! But that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank; you can experience the best in Sydney on as little as $100-$150 per day for two (we spent US$116 / A$150).
After 3 weeks of eating in and picnicking, we were ready to do a bit of dining out. While in Sydney, we ate breakfast at our AirBnB, but went out for some delicious — and cheap! — eats for our other meals.
- Soda Factory: This speakeasy-style bar has A$1 gourmet hotdogs on Tuesdays. Get there early as it gets crowded and they do run out.
- Funky Pies: These vegan pies are to die for, and are a hearty meal in Bondi when served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas for A$12 each.
- Brooklyn Hide: Surprisingly worthy of the name! Go at lunch for the bagel sandwiches, or stick with the traditional bagel with shmear.
- Sea Bay: A no-frills BYOB Chinese spot famous for its dumplings. If you’re lucky, like we were, perhaps a friendly stranger will be unable to finish his wine and gift you with half a bottle.
- O Organic Produce: We checked out this somewhat bougie cafe on our way to the train station on our last morning, and the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich was definitely worth the stop.
Like Melbourne, many of the best sights in Sydney are completely free.
- Museum of Contemporary Art: This museum makes for a quick but interesting visit (many of the galleries are reserved for paid special exhibitions) right at the Sydney Harbour.
- Art Gallery of New South Wales: Like the National Galleries of Victoria, this museum boasts the state’s collection of Australian and international art. It also ranges from Medieval to Contemporary works and during our visit, also offered a couple free special exhibitions.
- Sydney Opera House: Like we had to tell you? A selfie with the famous architectural gem is obligatory.
- The Royal Botanic Garden: From Sydney Harbour, follow the coast past the Opera House and continue walking through the gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair — the best spot in Sydney to watch the sun set.
- Cogee to Bondi walk: Hop a bus to Cogee (or Bronte if you’re not up for the longer walk) and follow the coast to world-famous Bondi Beach for breathtaking views and an enjoyable walk. Afterwards, take a nap in the sand.
- Yoga at the Sydney Tower Eye: I’m not usually one for visiting tall buildings (I don’t really see the point), but if you’re a yogi, I think it’s absolutely worth the A$25 to take a class at the top of the Eye before it opens to the public. Such a peaceful way to start the day! (Note: class is only on Wednesdays.)
- Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge: Yes, you could spend hundreds to walk the very highest points of this famous bridge, but why bother when you could just traverse it by foot (no harness required) for free?
Like Melbourne, there are hostels in Sydney, but they’re ridiculously expensive for what you get. Instead, we stayed with AirBnB in the neighborhood of Darlinghurst, which was a super funky, cool area with lots of coffee shops and nightlife. We paid about $56 per night. Don’t forget to use our AirBnB referral link for a free $20 travel credit!
Allow me to say: You do NOT want to have a car in Sydney. Just returning our rental car was enough of an experience for us. Instead, stick with public transit, which will run you between $2-3 per trip. The Opal system is used across all the city’s buses, metro, and even the commuter trains out to places like Newcastle.
You can purchase cards at a station or at vendors like convenience stores, then simply tap on when you board the bus, and tap off when you leave. Uber is also present in Sydney; if you’re in a group larger than two or going to or from the airport, it may make sense to take Uber instead of public transit. Don’t forget to use our referral code CT86E to get your first Uber ride free!
Our 3-Day Sydney Itinerary
Day 1: Sydney Harbour
What better way to start your Sydney visit than with a trip to its famous harbor? Walk the bridge for a beautiful view from above, then head down to the Museum of Contemporary Art. If the weather is nice, grab a ferry to Manly. And of course, no visit is complete without many (many) photos with and of the Sydney Opera House.
Day 2: Sydney’s Southern Beaches
Take the bus to Cogee and then take a leisurely and picturesque walk to Bondi. I would definitely consider a dip at the swim club right at Bondi Beach, or you can stick with the free and equally beautiful Bondi Beach. Don’t forget to wander the streets of this kitschy beach town before heading back to Sydney.
Day 3: Royal Botanic Gardens and Surrounds
Start your day at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, then head into the neighboring Royal Botanic Gardens. Just before sunset, walk to the end of the gardens at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair to take in the sunset and say farewell to this beautiful city.
Been to Sydney? Which of your favorite sights did we skip?