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Sydney is Australia’s most famous city internationally. Most people will know of Sydney’s most famous landmarks, The Sydney Opera House and The Sydney Harbour Bridge. This post gives you a few more famous icons of Sydney, with words and photos to inspire your Sydney itinerary.
Of course, Sydney is not the capital city of Sydney, that title goes to Canberra, which is about 3 hours by road from Sydney, you can book a Canberra tour from Sydney here, or book Sydney’s #1 day trip, the Blue Mountains.
This post was updated with new photos in January 2024. The author, Chef James Long was born in Sydney Australia and trained as a chef in Sydney. He visits often to keep content up-to-date.
Please check and double-check prices, opening times and availability for yourself. We provide links where we can. All photos are original and copyright-protected.
What is Sydney Famous For?
You can use our index, below to find a particular famous place or attraction in Sydney, or scroll through and check out our photos!
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Let’s go through some of Sydney’s most famous places and attractions, one by one.
Sydney Tours and Trips to Book Now!
For loads of things to do in Sydney, including tours, passes, transfers and day trips, see this page. Here are a few other ideas for your time in Sydney:
- Sydney Opera House Tour
- Sydney Jet Boat Ride on the harbour (Highly recommended and a really fun way to see Sydney Harbour, departs Circular Quay)
- Sydney VR Experience
- Sydney Sea Life Aquarium (now featuring one of only 2 dugongs in captivity, a rescued baby, Pig)
- Sydney Tower Rotating Restaurant
- Blue Mountains Tour
- Sydney Whale Watching
- Sydney Attractions Pass
Take a Sydney Tour to See these Famous Places
You can book a Hidden Gems of Sydney half-day tour, which includes many of the places below, including the Pylon Climb and Lookout, Luna Park, Observatory Hill (Windmill Hill), The Australian Heritage Hotel, Church Point, and the steps of Sydney at Cambridge St. It’s a perfect way for first-timers to get to know Sydney, book here!
Alternatively, take the Sydney hop-on hop-off bus tour, to see all of Sydney’s most famous places with ease and comfort. Sydney is a very walkable city, but there are a lot of hills, thankfully, there is good (cheap) public transport, plus tours such as the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Sydney is famous for having the biggest natural harbour in the world. Sydney Harbour, or Port Jackson Harbour, is an inlet of the Tasman Sea, in the south west of the South Pacific Ocean. It is said to be the largest and deepest natural harbour in the world, but both Poole Harbour, UK and Pogo Pogo Harbour (American Samoa), are actually bigger. Poole is shallow.
This is all a bit controversial and you’ll find many answers to that question, which is the biggest natural harbour in the world? Many people believe it to be Sydney’s Port Jackson Harbour. Others hold different opinions!
Sydney Harbour is certainly one of the most beautiful! It’s very much worth seeing Sydney Harbour in your lifetime.
Book a 1.5 hour cruise of Sydney Harbour here, allowing you to see the major attractions. While the public harbour ferries are cheaper, you won’t see everything there is to see.
There are many ways to see Sydney Harbour, including ferries, dining cruises, sight-seeing cruises(above) and even sailing and tall-ship options. The most exciting way, we think, is to book a Sydney Harbour Jet Boat adventure. We did this ourselves recently and it was a lot of fun! You will get wet, but you can use a poncho.
If you are catching the train into Sydney from the Airport, the train station is directly on Circular Quay. The photo below is the view from the train station, making this area of Sydney a very convenient place to stay.
Before Circular Quay was the busy hub it is today, the Indigenous people knew it as Warrung, meaning “Little Child.”
Circular Quay is a bustling hub of transport, heritage, entertainment and dining. It’s directly to the north of the Sydney CBD and has fantastic transport connections.
There are usually buskers and Aboriginal entertainers at the rear of the Quay, you should enjoy the atmosphere in this part of Sydney. There are restaurants and coffee shops on the Opera House side of Circular Quay.
It’s a very good idea to stay within easy walking distance of Circular Quay for your Sydney break or vacation. Take a look at the Pullman Sydney Harbour, for amazing views.
For a cheaper option consider the YHA Sydney Harbour. Check out their rooftop views! Hotels are very expensive in Australia, I can’t sugar that pill!
Darling Harbour is another bustling hub in Central Sydney. It’s the next large harbour area to the east of Circular Quay and only about a 10 minute walk.
The harbour is named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, the Irish Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. Long Cove was its previous name, but the whole area was referred to as Cockle Bay up to the point Darling named it after himself in 1826.
The dockside area along Darling Harbour was nicknamed The Hungry Mile by ship workers during the great depression. The area is now Barangaroo, and you’ll find public ferry terminals here along with the Barangaroo Reserve. The nearest train station is Wynyard Station, but there are also light rail (tram) stations at Darling Harbour near the Ibis Hotel and Maritime Museum.
This harbour is lined with restaurants, recreation areas and attractions. The Sydney Aquarium is here, along with Madame Tussauds and Sydney Wildlife Zoo. Many harbour cruises and dining cruises depart from here.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House stands on Bennelong Point, the eastern edge of Circular Quay. Benelong was a notable local Aboriginal man, and partner to Barangaroo. She also has an area of the harbour named after her.
Bennelong was the first Aboriginal man to visit Europe (1792) and return to Australia.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge has one of the longest spans of any bridge in the world and construction began in September 1926. The bridge opened in March 1932.
The Harbour Bridge is no longer the longest bridge in Australia, that honour now goes to Macleay Valley Bridge (2013) also in New South Wales.
You can cross the bridge by road or rail, and daredevils can climb the bridge for inspiring views. The Sydney Bridge Climb has been operational since the late 90s and groups of climbers depart regularly throughout the day, you’re sure to see them if you look!
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon for Amazing Views of Sydney
Most people don’t realise that there is a much cheaper alternative to a Harbour Bridge Climb. Between 10 am and 5 pm every day, you can enjoy the same views as on the Bridge Climb, but for a fraction of the price.
The Southeast Pylon is scalable in 200 steps, and only costs $25 per adult. It’s also less scary than the Bridge Climb! There is a museum and fantastic views of the harbour, city, and even the Blue Mountains
Walk to the Southeast Pylon from The Rocks, Circular Quay, or Darling Harbour. Beneath the Harbour Bridge, just before the south pylons, there is an archaeological site and the remains of early fortifications.
This area, Dawes Point Reserve, becomes a public picnic spot on weekends when The Rocks Markets are open (10 am to 5 pm). Along with picnic blankets, there are tables and chairs and games available here too.
The South East Pylon has been open to the public since 1934.
The Rocks, Sydney
The Rocks is a historic part of Sydney which lies in the shadows of the Harbour Bridge between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. The Rocks is just footsteps away from the Circular Quay International cruise ship terminal and is a must do for cruise visitors, particularly on weekends for The Rocks Markets.
There is no admission fee for The Rocks, it is simply an area of Sydney. You can book a 90 minute walking tour of The Rocks here, it’s the perfect cruise shore excursion and can fit easily into your itinerary.
The Rocks is home to narrow laneways and Sydney’s oldest pubs, this area is full of charm and history.
A first stop for history lovers must be the free Rocks Museum, the walk here from Circular Quay, will take you through some of Sydney’s ancient lanes and footpaths.
Check out the open-air Rocks Markets for street food and handmade goods on weekends.
The Markets are held from Friday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm mostly at Jack Mundey Place, Playfair Street and George Street, The Rocks.
The markets are big, and you can buy food, crafts, clothing, gifts, you can buy just about anything!
Where to stay in The Rocks, Sydney? Take a look at this hotel.
Bondi Beach isn’t really “in” Sydney but it’s certainly the most famous beach in Australia, thanks to the ongoing TV show, Bondi Rescue. Bondi is normally considered to be part of the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and it’s the closest real beach to the Sydney CBD.
Bondi Beach is easy to get to by train or bus from Central Sydney and the journey should take you under an hour.
Is it worth visiting Bondi? If you’re a beach lover or surfer, yes, it’s worth taking a look, and certainly if you’re a Bondi Rescue fan! You may just bump into one of the lifeguards, we spotted Harries on our recent visit.
Book your beginner’s surfing lesson at iconic Bondi, here. There’s no better place to learn to surf!
There is very good shopping near the Bondi Junction train station, if you’re in Sydney to shop check out Westfield Shopping Centre Bondi Junction, we found it much easier to shop here than in Sydney CBD where the shops are very spread out.
From Bondi Junction train station hop on a bus to Bondi Beach, it’s all very well signposted.
Sydney Botanical Gardens
The Sydney Botanical Gardens are to the right of Circular Quay as you look out at the water. Walk on past the Opera House and you’ll arrive at the Botanic Gardens.
The Gardens are a nice place for a walk and you should be able to see the resident fruit bats here.
Taronga Zoo and Other Zoos in and Around Sydney
Taronga Zoo used to be the zoo in Sydney, with breathtaking views of the harbour from Mosman, on the far side of the water. Visitors would normally visit Taronga and the Sydney Aquarium on Darling Harbour.
Things have changed a bit lately, there’s no need to catch the ferry to Taronga, if you only want to see Australian Wildlife, as there is now a small zoo, Sydney Wildlife, featuring the “Australian Big 5” right next door to the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium on Darling Harbour. (photo below)
If you decide to visit Taronga (it is a very good zoo and is home to Australian and international species), you can book your ticket, plus the return ferry ride, here.
I have to say the aquarium is looking very run-down compared to its former glory (it opened in 1988), but it is still worth visiting to see sharks and one of only 2 dugongs in captivity.
Pig the dugong is a forced rescue and cannot survive in the wild.
You can buy combined tickets for the zoo and aquarium.
Elizabeth Bay House
The iconic Elizabeth Bay House was built ‘at considerable expense’ and once stood as ‘the finest house in the colony’. Second in charge to the Governor, Alexander Macleay built this magnificent house with commanding views over the harbour before he descended into financial ruin.
The house remains as a testament to the once-aspiring times of the early Sydney days and admission is free 10 am to 4 pm according to the House’s website.
Elizabeth Bay House is east of the Botanical Gardens at Pott’s Point, overlooking Elizabeth Bay, 4.5km east of the Sydney CBD.
This heritage-listed island is the biggest in Sydney Harbour and you can get there by ferry easily for just a few dollars. The whole trip could take you just an hour or two, and it is worth going.
Visit and camp on Cockatoo Island for a unique history of Sydney, and indulge your senses in a ghost tour of the former convict penal establishment. For more information, see the Cockatoo Island website or simply book on Booking.com.
You can catch the ferry to Cockatoo Island from Circular Quay for Barangaroo (Darling Harbour) for around $5, entry to the island is free. You can even camp overnight on the island using one of dozens of safari tents, or indeed, bring your own tent.
The building in our photo above is also a holiday let. You can book both here.
Sydney’s Chinatown is in Haymarket, near the Central or Town Hall Train Stations. The famous Paddy’s Market is also in Haymarket, just over the road from Chinatown.
The most famous Chinese restaurant in Chinatown is possibly the Emperor’s Garden, but if you’re looking for “hole in the wall” Chinese food, we recommend you check out a tiny restaurant called Xi An, it’s cash-only.
Also, try the creme puffs near the gateway on the left in the photo above.
Sydney Fish Market
If you love fish and seafood and you adore markets, then Sydney Fish Market is the place for you. Learn more about Australian food, while enjoying fried and grilled dishes, plus good quality sushi.
The largest seafood market in Sydney, this fun marketplace offers more than just seafood. You can buy deli items, juices, fruit, wine, coffee, & baked goods, alongside the fish restaurants.
January 2024 – work has started on building a new Fish Market complex, but the old market (dating from 1966) is still open, we were there this week for breakfast. The watermelon juice is excellent!
An incredibly dynamic hidden gem of Sydney. The Fish Market is located at the corner of Pyrmont Bridge Rd and Bank St, Pyrmont. Super foodies can even book a class at the Seafood School. Check out the seafood cooking classes here.
You can walk to the Sydney Fish Markets in about 15 minutes from Darling Harbour, and 40 minutes from Circular Quay. The markets also have their own light rail station.
The fish market is open 7 am to 4 pm, every day except Christmas Day. But do check for changes on their website.
Every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, Glebe Markets is the most happening place to be in Sydney. This groovy market is all at once lively and zestful, with hip vintage and boho mixed with modern and eclectic wares.
Sit on the lawn enjoying exotic foods while listening to world beats, before hunting for the perfect re-worked, upcycled or funky article you never knew you needed.
Location: Glebe Point Rd and Derby Place, Glebe, that is south and east of the heart of Sydney. You can walk to Glebe Markets in about half an hour to 40 minutes from Darling Harbour.
Luna Park is that weird “face” on the other side of the water and almost beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a theme park, but a very old-fashioned one and kept immaculately. It’s almost like a museum to the fairground rides I remember as a very young child.
Don’t expect thrill rides as you would find at Universal or Disney, at Luna Park enjoy the candy floss (called fairy floss in Australia) and the gentle rides and amusements of yesteryear.
To get the get the train to Milson’s Point. The train goes over the Harbour Bridge. Alternatively, catch a ferry from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour (Barangaroo Wharf)
Just off the exclusive Eastern suburbs of Sydney lies Shark Island. A place so named for its shape, not its marine life.
This is a perfect place for a picnic with the best views of Sydney Harbour. Relax on the foreshore, hang out in the shaded interior or explore the many interesting rock pools surrounding the small island.
A national park fee of $7 is applicable to all visitors and you can catch a ferry from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay, or paddle your own kayak to arrive on this special island. Visit https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/picnic-areas/shark-island to arrange your National Park Pass.
Wendy’s Secret Garden
This stunning garden is located in Sydney’s Lavender Bay with wonderful views across the harbour.
When Wendy Whiteley’s husband Brett died, she invested her grief and her love into developing a government area adjacent to her house to become this beautiful space.
This public garden, not so secret anymore, is a perfect place for inspiration and contemplation. Sandwiched between office buildings and with an impeccably framed view of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Wendy’s Secret Garden is a great place to while away the day.
To get there you need to get to the northern side of Sydney Harbour, the gardens are close to Luna Park, get off the train at Milson’s Point and walk past or through the fun fair. Admission is free.
It is open 24 hours and is located on Lavender St, Lavender Bay.
The SS Ayrfield is an almost ethereal shipwreck which floats on the surface of Homebush Bay. The decommissioned ship which survived WWII has inexplicably given rise to a mangrove forest on its deck, making it an atmospheric photo spectacle and a total hidden gem of Sydney.
The 110-year-old boat is viewable from the southwestern shore of Homebush Bay. Homebush Bay is inland, along the river from Sydney Harbour, to walk would take over 3 hours, so you need transport to see this one! It’s near the Sydney Olympic Park.
Famous Facts About Sydney
Here’s a few famous facts about Sydney, that we didn’t already mention in our post!
- Sydney’s George Street is the oldest street in Sydney, and in Australia.
- The address of the dentist in Finding Nemo, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, doesn’t exist.
- Sydney is a filming location for many Hollywood movies, including The Great Gatsby, The Wolverine, and The Matrix.
- People from Sydney are called Sydneysiders.
- Sydney is the 10th most expensive place to live in the world. It’s officially more expensive than London, but cheaper than New York and San Francisco. In our experience Sydney is a fairly cheap destination in Australia, but Australia is a very expensive country to visit.
- Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000. 6.7 million tickets were sold for the Olympics, a new Games record.
- Over 5 million people live in Sydney (2023), that’s about a fifth (20%) of Australia’s total population.
- Sydney and Melbourne compete for the title of Australia’s largest city, the populations of the two cities are very close, both around 5 million. Brisbane is in third place.
- Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales, but not of Australia.
- Sydney is in the southern hemisphere, so summer is around Christmas! Sydney is quite cool in winter and warm in summer, as Queenslanders, we find Sydney’s summer months pleasantly cool!
- Sydney’s time zone is AET, Australian Eastern Time, but that can be AEST (GMT +10) or AEDT (GMT +11), as New South Wales observes daylight saving hours.
Want to head back to our main Australia Travel Blog page? Or maybe you’d like to explore the best places to visit in Queensland, Canberra, gems of Western Australia, or the vast Northern Territory highlights?