Sydney is such a stunning city! There’s something here for everyone: foodies, outdoor lovers, culture geeks, and chill out-seekers. Oh wait, that’s right – most of those amazing things don’t come free… or do they? Check out my pro-tips for free things to do in Sydney. It’s a short and sweet read, and your wallet will absolutely love you for it!
Moving on from the ephemeral to a list of well-known free attractions in Sydney. The city is perfect for walking and touring around, so this guide will also begin with a few recommendations of where to go for a stroll, whether you are trying to escape crowds or get impressive shots for your Instagram feed!
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Take a Free Walking Tour
First, I would encourage you to join one of the free guided walking tours by I’m Free Sydney or Free Tours Sydney. The tours come free of charge, but you can tip your guide at the end of the tour. Prepare yourself for 2-3 hours on foot and remember to wear good walking shoes and pack a bottle of water.
Stroll Along the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Who couldn’t use a romantic or meditative walk on this stunning architectural pearl? Enjoy a stroll along the pedestrian pathway on the Eastern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge aka ‘The Coat Hanger’, surrounded with 53.000 tons of steel! Remember that climbing the bridge isn’t free and that, in spite of its 24/7 opening, the bridge may be closed for special occasions.
Visit the Sydney Opera House
Enjoy the stunning views over Sydney Harbour towards the bridge from the Opera House, or simply come closer to this architectural wonder designed by award-winning Danish architect, Jørn Utzon.
Walk from Coogee to Bondi
This walk (or should we call it a hike?) follows the coastline for 6 kilometers and lets you explore some of the most famous beaches of the city. Prepare yourself for beautiful views, sandy beaches, cozy cafés, and… water refill stations! Remember to keep hydrated on the trail – there will be plenty of opportunities to refill your bottle if you bring one with you.
Now you’ve spent all this time walking around, and you might want to sit down, relax and… not be disturbed. I get it! Why not relax in one of Sydney’s beautiful, grassy parks where you’ll find many cozy corners to hide with a book or bring your picnic basket.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Located near the Sydney Harbour Opera House, at Mrs. Macquarie’s Road, the Royal Botanical Gardens are open to and free for everyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Leave your worries and duties at home or your office desk and take a relaxing stroll through the beautiful gardens. For all you explorers who want to learn more about the history of the place and about all the different pants: free guided tours are offered to the visitors.
I had to feature the oldest public park in the city on the list! With the Archibald Fountain in its heart, Hyde Park is favoured by tourists as well as locals. Not too far from the park, you will find another architectural pearl…
St. Mary’s Cathedral
I’m not trying to preach here, but you might want to check out the longest church in Australia. The original church was destroyed by fire in 1865, and three years later, construction of the new church began. That did not finish until year 2000, though. (Choosing to include that fun fact simply to make you feel better about last time you were late for something.) Try to visit the cathedral on a Saturday around noon, when free guided tours of the cathedral and the crypt are offered.
This beautiful park gives you a panoramic view of Sydney, but you can also enjoy public art works, or simply admire the setting sun and the company of your special someone (the place has a cute, romantic vibe!).
“Barbie” in Bicentennial Park
Spoiler: no dolls involved! “Barbie” means barbecue in Australia! Even though you technically have to leave Sydney for this, Bicentennial Park is the perfect location for a BBQ on a budget, since free electric BBQ grills and picnic shelters are provided. If you come here with kids, you will be grateful for the many surrounding playgrounds, and it is a really great spot to escape the busy city if you are longing for change of scenery and clean air.
From art museums and galleries, free movie screenings, colorful festivals, and lunch breaks with classical music, Sydney is bursting with free cultural attractions:
Museum of Contemporary Art
On George Street, near Circular Quay, in a building you cannot possibly miss, you will find an astonishing art centre. The temporary exhibitions do require an entrance fee, but you can stroll through the permanent collection without having to pull out your wallet.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
An impressive collection of modern and contemporary as well as Indigenous and Asian art. The gallery itself is located in a classical-style building from 1871, which definitely enhances its vibe! Not so much into visual arts? Keep calm, read on, and visit the Art Gallery of NSW on a Wednesday night!
In addition to comprehensive art collections and permanent exhibitions, the Art Gallery of NSW hosts movie screenings and talks every Wednesday. Check out their website for schedule and further details.
Sculpture by the Sea
Enjoy the largest free-of-charge public sculpture exhibition in the world! On the beautiful coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach, you will find incredible sculptural artworks from Australian and international artists. Sculpture by the Sea is a temporary exhibition – it returns to Sydney every year in autumn, so check their website for details and precise dates.
Commercial art galleries
If you do feel like you could use more artsy stimulation but still don’t feel like paying for it, you can always visit the commercial art galleries (for example RoslynOxsley9). The exhibitions are smaller in size and change more frequently, which means that before going you might want to double check whether there is an exhibition on view or whether the gallery is temporary closed for installation, but it is definitely a way to enjoy some art without touching your savings. If you happen to tap into an opening night, you will be served complimentary drinks, too: hitting two birds with one stone!
Book launches at Gleebooks
Get inspired, meet-and-mingle with literature lovers, and grab a free glass of wine. There is no fixed schedule to the book launch events, but keep an eye on Gleebooks’ website to see when the next event will be. (Gleebooks is located at 49 Glebe Point Road.)
If classical music is your thing, you are going to absolutely love this. During the academic year, the music conservatorium hosts lunch breaks with classical music – completely free of charge!
Sydney’s Many Festivals
Ah, the vibe gets so much better whenever there is a festival in town! Luckily, Sydney has a festival for every taste and interest. The festivals usually come with a full program of free, or at least very affordable, cultural, social, and educational events. One of the highlights is Sydney Mardi Gras – one of the biggest, most vivid and vibrant LGBTQ+ pride parades in the world. Its program includes performances and visual arts, music gigs and talks and workshops.
Another worthy mention is the Sydney Festival, which goes on for three weeks every year in January. Art, music, dance, and theatre all combined. Make sure to check out “Black Out” – the Indigenous Program, and last but not least, Vivid Sydney is an important mention. You can expect a spectacular festival with amazing shows where light, music, and ideas – the three components of the festival – combine and sparkle together.
After all your cultural explorations, you might want to relax a bit again. Different beaches have different vibes, and depending on your mood and explorer’s determination, you can choose the location that fits you best.
If you’re an introvert wanting to relax, this pace will probably scare you away. It is the most famous, most iconic beach in Australia. It does not cost you a penny, so it’s a well-justified mention! Give it a try, visit at least once, and move on to further explorations…
One of the most intimate beaches in Sydney. It is perfect for introverts and/or bookworms who want to sunbathe or simply listen to the sounds of ocean away from the Bondi crowds.
One more option to tuck away from the mainstream and leave the crowds at Bondi. You will find a wide array of cafes and restaurants by the beach, as well as Corso – the pedestrian mall – so you, your hunger, thirst, and inner shopper will not be left unsatisfied!
Less for the white sands and relaxation, more for the sea creatures! This beach is a good spot if you want to explore the marine life and experience it in its natural environment.
Shopping might be a bit of a paradox on a free-things guide, but I do want to recommend a few of Sydney’s notable markets. If you don’t have the budget or backpack-space for buying, then simply go for the experience!
Also know as Paddy’s Market, the original idea behind this market was to encourage local fashion designers and various makers and craftspeople to showcase and sell their products. Nowadays, garments, accessories, and much more can be bought at the 150+ stalls that pop up every Saturday from 10am – 4pm on 395 – 435 Oxford St. Every week you will find new vendors, and there’s often live music, too! Insider-tip: Some stalls accept credit cards, but to avoid disappointments, make sure to carry cash around.
With the catchy slogan inviting you to ‘Shop, Eat, Drink & Chill’, the Bondi Markets pop up at Australia’s most famous beach front every Sunday from 9am to 4pm. You will find garments, handmade jewelry, vinyl records, vintage goods, and art. If your wallet allows, do some shopping, and if you’re on a tight budget, play treasure-hunt and see what gems you find at this incredible market.
Rozelle Collectors Market
Are you an early bird? Great! Rozelle Collectors Market starts as early as 9am every Saturday and Sunday. The market goes on until 3pm and offers a variety of preloved fashion, unique pieces of jewelry, and antiques. As the name suggests, this is where to go if you’re searching for one-of-a-kind pieces and collectibles. The market also has a food section with a tempting selection of local and international foods!
Not quite done looking at curiosities? Enter Sydney’s Luna Park through the bizarre mouth-gate and let the lights, retro signs, and entertainers enchant you. You will have to pay for the rides, but even a stroll through this fantastic site is an experience in itself. It has been operating since 1935, and since 2010, it has been featured on the State Heritage list. Go in the evening to get a glimpse of the incredible lights; this may just be the perfect way to end your day of free escapades in Sydney.