Welcome to our local’s guide on how to spend one day in Sydney like an absolute boss!
Australia, The Land Down Under, The Lucky Country, ‘Straya, The Land of Droughts and Flooding Rains.
Whatever you like to call us there is no doubt the name will give you visions of sunshine, happiness and endless landscapes.
For a lot of you travellers out there, this is exactly the reason so many of you spend a good part of your life savings just to come over here. The question that people have the most trouble with is, where to start?
Well, much to the dismay of people from Melbourne, the answer to that question for most tourists is to start in Sydney and keep going with the adventure from there. It’s really not hard to see why.
Sydney is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world and has enough attractions to keep a traveler busy for a long time.
Check out our guide on the best free things to do in Sydney!
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The Best Way to Spend One Day in Sydney
But what if you don’t have a long time? Whether you’re a budget traveler or in the city on business you might only have a day to see as much of the city as possible.
Luckily for you, we have put our heads together and decided on a short list of must-see areas if you only have one day in Sydney, and want to hang out in the city centre.
First up you’ll have to sort out where to stay in Sydney. Once that is figured out, the city is pretty much your oyster.
Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquaire’s Chair
A great way to start your day in Sydney is to head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens which are to the east of the CBD and just take your time wandering around the gardens during the morning when all of the wildlife is the most active.
READ MORE: Here’s our Australia travel guide to help you plan your next trip.
Originally the Botanic Gardens started as the farmland for the convict settlement and as the colony expanded they were turned into the gardens you see today.
There are several guided walking tours throughout the day and it’s worth checking out the park’s website to find out times.
While roaming through the roses and jungle areas the best place to head towards is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which has some of the most epic city views on the planet.
From this one point on the harbour it’s possible to see the CBD, the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, a good part of the Harbour and across to Taronga Zoo.
Sydney Opera House
After you’ve picked your jaw up from the turf start walking along the harbour side towards the Opera House. This is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and it only gets more grand and extravagant as you get closer.
The small details like the roofing tiles, curtain glass walls and pink granite foundation that contributed to the billion dollar price tag only become visible when up close to the Sydney Opera House.
The inside is even more impressive and tours are run every half hour in different languages. It is possible to see the different theatres, halls, foyers and the famous 10,000 pipe organ.
Just remember to book Opera House tours ahead online to avoid disappointment. There are over 40 performances a week so check out the schedule while you are there and you might be able to catch a show.
If you’re not attending a show, you can always just grab a drink at the nearby Opera Bar. This is one of the most famous bars in Sydney!
Circular Quay and The Rocks
From the Opera House it’s possible to keep walking along the harbour towards Circular Quay. Most ferries and harbour cruises depart from Circular Quay, so it’s a hub for tourists. There are often street performers here!
Nearby to Circular Quay is The Rocks. This area is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Australia and has several heritage-listed buildings, Customs House, The Museum of Contemporary Art, cafes, restaurants and bars.
It’s a great area to chill out, wander around and grab some food before taking a walk across the Harbour Bridge. On the weekend The Rocks Market also opens on George Street and has some great local craft and food.
Have more time? Check out these awesome day trips from Sydney!
Sydney Harbour Bridge
If you don’t have a spare $200 to do the Harbour Bridge Climb then it is actually really easy to do a walk across the bridge by yourself.
At the corner of Cumberland St and Longs Lane there is a small staircase access to the pedestrian walkway that goes across the bridge.
From here the walk can be done at any pace, taking in the views and watching Australians go about their daily lives.
When over the other side there are a number of attractions like Luna Park, Milsons Point Park and Kirribilli House.
The walk over the bridge is long so if you’re feeling a bit tired just jump on a train back to the city from Milsons Point Station or a ferry from Milsons Point Wharf back to Circular Quay.
Circular Quay is where most of the Harbour tours start.
Aboriginal History and Contemporary Art
Not to be forgotten here is the aboriginal heritage of the city. In 228 years Europeans have managed to change the face of the harbour but there are over 40,000 years of aboriginal culture upon which the city is built.
If you’re interested in seeing the city from the perspective of aboriginals head to the Australian Museum or there are some tours to check out here.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is another highlight of Sydney, located just a short walk away from the Australian Museum. If you still have time and you love a good art gallery, check out this iconic Sydney museum.
Cruise Through Sydney Harbour
Lastly, there is no better way to end your epic day in Sydney than by taking a twilight tall ship cruise on the harbour. Enjoy drifting towards the Harbour Bridge and Opera House under sail, with dinner and drinks flowing to keep up with the tranquil atmosphere.
It’s definitely something that you’ll be talking about for years to come! We recommend checking out the tour with Get Your Guide.
The things that we’ve told you about here barely scratch the surface of one of the planets most pulsing cities.
On top of what’s already mentioned, there are more attractions like Darling Harbour, Sydney Tower Eye, Taronga Zoo, Queen Victoria Building, North Head, all the beaches such as Manly Beach, Bondi Beach, The Blue Mountains, Royal National Park plus so many more.
You can adjust this one day itinerary to match your travel style as well. For example, if you prefer beaches and swimming to museums and landmarks, consider spending your day doing the Bondi Beach to Coogee Walk.
Swim at Bronte Beach or Coogee Beach in the morning before heading back to explore the Sydney CBD.
Just remember not to get caught up in the rush of trying to see everything. Take a minute to chill out, meet some locals and get caught up in the ‘no worries’ Aussie attitude.
And if you have more time than just a day, check our our comprehensive 3 days in Sydney itinerary!