The vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Sydney is often the first place people think of visiting when they plan a trip to Australia. Sydney is hugely diverse with beaches, landmarks, parks, and the best of city life. Starting in Sydney will allow you to start your trip off on a high note.
With so much to see and do, you’re going to want to give some thought to how you approach your Sydney trip. Without a plan, chances are you’ll run out of time and miss out on some things. You should allow plenty of time for a destination like Sydney, even five days can easily get swallowed up by the best places to visit in Sydney.
To help you navigate your visit and show you what to do in Sydney in 5 days, we’ve assembled this comprehensive Sydney itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Sydney
When planning your trip to Sydney, it’s important to consider when you’d like to visit. You may think of Sydney as a place that’s perfect to visit year-round, but the city does experience four seasons and can get quite busy during high season.
If your first thought for visiting Sydney is to come in the summer, a word of caution: Summers in Sydney range from warm to downright hot. This means in hot weather people often rush to the beaches to cool off. And because it’s also school holidays in Australia, the beaches can get overly crowded. Even during week, expect Sydney to be at its busiest during the summertime.
The best time to visit Sydney is either side of summer. In September, October, November, March, and April you’ll find pleasant weather for sightseeing without it being uncomfortably hot and humid. This time of year also falls outside the main school holidays, so the beaches won’t be quite as busy.
Winter is also not a bad time to visit Sydney. While the months of May and June can be quite wet and cool, July and August are drier and with a light jacket you should find it pretty comfortable outdoors.
How to Get Around Sydney
To see the most of Sydney you’ll be traveling around the city quite a bit. Therefore, you’re going to need to make use of public transport if you hope to see the places on this Sydney itinerary.
Sydney’s public transportation consists of subways, buses, light rail, and ferries. All of public transport in Sydney is paid for by the Opal Card. The Opal Card is a contactless smartcard and can be topped up with credit before travel, fares are then deducted based on the distance of each journey. It’s also possible to use contactless credit and debit cards instead. Opal Cards are sold at the airport, train stations, as well as 7-11 convenience stores, supermarkets, and newsagents.
Another great way to get around Sydney is on a hop-on hop-off bus. The bus has about 33 stops between Sydney and Bondi and allows you to see all of the city’s main attractions at your own pace. Hop-on hop-off tickets can be purchased here.
Chances are you’ll be arriving into Sydney at Sydney Airport, which means you’ll want to use the Sydney Airport Link. It connects both the International and Domestic Terminals at the Airport with major city stations like Central Station, St James Station, and Circular Quay. The train takes around 20 minutes to reach Circular Quay, with a ticket costing AU$19.40. Otherwise, consider looking at hotel transfers, Uber, or taxis.
Where to Stay in Sydney
Finding the right accommodation and figuring out where to stay in Sydney can go a long way to making your trip easier and more enjoyable.
Sydney is quite spread out but is connected by a decent public transport which allows for more options when looking at the best places to stay in Sydney. Areas like Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Wynyard, and the Central Business District (CBD) are perfect as they’re convenient to get to and have everything you could need within reach.
The Shangri-La Hotel Sydney is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a great place for your Sydney visit. Ideally located in the Rocks, with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, this five-star hotel delivers on style, space, and comfort. It even has a day spa, fitness center, and indoor pool waiting for you once you’re done exploring the city.
If you’re after both comfort and affordability, a great option for your visit is 57Hotel. Situated close to Sydney Central Station, this four-star hotel is exceptional value for money and little touches like the express breakfast and boutique design make it a pleasant place to be.
You should also look at Airbnb for affordable vacation apartments in Sydney.
While accommodation in Sydney might not be cheap, you can rest easy with great backpacker hostels like Wake Up! Sydney Central. A huge hostel in the city center with dorms and private rooms, you may never want to leave thanks to the on-site cafe, bar, and trivia night. For other hostel ideas for Sydney, take a look at our Sydney hostel guide.
For more accommodation options in Sydney check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 5-Day Sydney Itinerary
Sydney is a fun and interesting place to explore, so you won’t run out of things to do while you’re there. While you may already be somewhat familiar with the best of Sydney and its sights, you’re going to need some help discovering the parts you don’t know. Sydney’s attractions are spread right across this vast city, from the city center to its extensive coast. With your 5 days in Sydney you’re going to see plenty of different parts of the city.
However, before we get to our Sydney itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $10 a week, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with SafetyWing, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere. One popular alternative, for example, is World Nomads.
Now that we’ve touched on that important topic, let’s look at all the best things to do in Sydney and how this Sydney travel itinerary can help you make sure you don’t miss anything.
Day 1: Sydney Harbour
With so much to see in Sydney, it’s best to break up your visit into different sections of the city to make the most of your time. Home to the most iconic sights in Sydney, you’ll want to begin with the part of Sydney Harbour around Circular Quay.
Circular Quay is the gateway to the city and where you’ll find the city’s main ferry terminal. From there you’ll be able to see the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Follow the waterfront around from Circular Quay and another of Sydney’s famous icons will pop into view – the Sydney Opera House. A truly unique building, the Opera House was completed in 1973 and is a world-class architectural landmark. You’ll probably want to spend a bit of time there getting photos of it and its gorgeous harbor backdrop. You can also book a guided tour and visit the inside of the Sydney Opera House.
Switching back through Circular Quay and heading the opposite direction along the harbor you’ll again find the Sydney Harbour Bridge looming large above you from Hickson Road Reserve. The Harbour Bridge not only links the sides of Sydney together, but is a heritage-listed landmark that defines the city’s skyline. While admiring it from the ground is one thing, it’s also possible to do a Bridge Climb all the way to the top. Just know that it takes several hours to complete and needs to be booked in advance here.
Between the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay lies a neighborhood called The Rocks. One of the more important historic parts of the city, the Rocks is full of heritage buildings along cobblestone laneways. While a little touristy with plenty of souvenir stalls, it’s known for its markets, as well as endless cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Down near the waterfront of The Rocks and close to Circular Quay sits the highly-respected Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). The MCA displays contemporary art from Australia as well as overseas, across all mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, and film. There is free entry and a revolving door of exhibitions.
Crossing Circular Quay one last time you’ll come to the expansive and beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. With pavilions, manor houses, ponds, and themed gardens spread throughout, it’s a fantastic place to simply wander about. That being said, make sure you don’t miss the views of the harbor from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Day 2: Bondi
After the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the next most famous place in Sydney is without a doubt Bondi Beach. While it’s not the only beach in Sydney, it is one of the most picturesque beaches that people have heard of. But as you’ll see, Bondi is more than just a beach, it along with the rest of the Eastern Suburbs have plenty to keep you occupied for a day.
There’s no question you’ll want to begin your day out on the coast at Bondi Beach. The long, crescent shaped beach is often quite crammed with beachgoers. A step back from the beach is the classic Bondi Pavilion where you can find food options and the grassy banks of Bondi Park out front.
Following the coast around, you soon reach a favorite of the Instagram crowd – Bondi Icebergs Club. This outdoor swimming pool sits right by the ocean, with waves frequently crashing over the pool’s edge on rough days. While you’ll need a pass to swim, it’s free to admire from the nearby cliffs.
Near Bondi Icebergs Club you’ll find the start of the classic Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk. Running along the shore of the Eastern Suburbs, this scenic trail takes you to Bronte Beach. Bronte is another classic Sydney beach with a laid-back vibe.
But why end at Bronte? Bondi to Bronte is only part of the longer Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, so if you continue along the coast, you’ll eventually reach the gorgeous Coogee Beach. Even if you don’t feel like swimming or sunbathing, this walk offers some of Sydney’s best seaside scenery.
Day 3: CBD and Darling Harbour
Now that you’ve had a chance to explore the city’s most famous spots, it’s time to get to know the bounty of interesting sights in and around Sydney’s CBD and Darling Harbour.
Starting the day a little differently, make a beeline for the Sydney Tower right in the city center. Standing at 309 meters high, the Sydney Tower is the tallest building in the city and from its observation deck you’re treated to unparalleled views across the entire city. But fair warning, the Sydney Tower Skywalk is outdoors and features a glass floor, so anyone afraid of heights might want to steer clear. Also, lines for the tower can get pretty long, so we’d recommend you purchase your skip-the-line ticket in advance here.
Back with your feet on the ground, venture over to Hyde Park, the city’s oldest park. It’s a beautiful park known for the splendid fig trees that line its pathways. Also within Hyde Park you’ll come across the Anzac Memorial, a monument that honors the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who served during the First World War.
Over in the Domain, another of Sydney’s many green spaces, sits the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This art gallery is an Australian institution and home to diverse collections of Australian, Asian, and European art. While regular entry is free, some special exhibitions like that of the prestigious Archibald Prize may require tickets.
Walking through the CBD, make your way down to Pitt Street Mall, the heart of Sydney’s shopping precinct. Lined with department stalls and big name brands, this pedestrian area is nice even just for window shopping, if you don’t have the money to spend. Whether you’re shopping or not, you’ll want to turn down into the historic Strand Arcade, an elegant heritage-listed shopping arcade from the late 19th century.
Thanks to its wandering shape, there are many scenic bays and coves in Sydney Harbour, but one of the most interesting is Darling Harbour. Not only is this area a pretty slice of the city but it is also an important cultural and entertainment precinct. The long list of activities possible there include the Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds wax museum, and the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Finish another long day of sightseeing with dinner in Sydney’s Chinatown in the suburb of Haymarket. It may only fill a few streets, but those few streets offer plenty of great options for food.
Day 4: North Shore
So far, the focus of this Sydney itinerary has been in showing you the part of Sydney that lies south of Port Jackson Bay. But Sydney doesn’t stop abruptly at the waterfront, there’s plenty more to be seen on the far side of the water. You don’t really need an excuse to take a ferry out onto the water, but if you want one, here are some places on Sydney’s North Shore that you’ll no doubt want to see.
As far as North Shore destinations go, there’s none quite as popular as Manly. One of the top ferry destinations from Circular Quay, Manly is perfect if you want some time on the Northern Beaches. A short walk through the lively Corso pedestrian area will have you at the golden sands of Manly Beach. This beach, which is across the road from the city center, stretches for two kilometers and has a decent swell for surfing. For a beach in the area that’s a bit less busy, continue north to Freshwater Beach.
2. Taronga Zoo
Wildlife is often on the minds of visitors to Australia, so hopefully a trip to Taronga Zoo will help scratch that itch. The zoo has a strong focus on conservation and rehabilitation of native wildlife and visitors will have the opportunity to see koalas, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats among other Australian creatures. But Taronga also has habitats for creatures across the globe, from capybaras out of South America to meerkats from Africa. As part of the daily schedule there are a variety of shows, encounters, talks, and behind the scenes activities to make this a visit to remember. You can purchase your skip-the-line ticket to Taronga Zoo here.
3. Luna Park
For some good old-fashioned fun, you can’t compete with the Luna Park amusement park in Milsons Point near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. First opened in 1935, Luna Park is now a heritage site. The park is home to all sorts of rides; the plummeting Hair Raiser, high-speed Wild Mouse, and vintage fun of the Tango Train. There are also classics like the park Ferris Wheel and Carousel, and activities for patrons of all ages.
Day 5: Blue Mountains
Having spent days wandering city streets and hopping from beach to beach, it’s time to see what lies inland of Sydney. And there’s really no competition when it comes to the majestic Blue Mountains. Just a couple of hours drive from the city, it’s the perfect place for a day away among stunning natural scenery.
Blanketed in eucalyptus trees and home to many gorges and ridges, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery to be seen in the Blue Mountains. The most popular attraction is the Three Sisters, a group of three sandstone pillars of rock jutting out of the mountainside. Aboriginal legends are tied to the spot, one of which says that three sisters were turned to stone here, hence the name.
The best viewpoint for the Three Sisters is at the Echo Point Lookout in the local town of Katoomba. Other spots in Katoomba to explore include the Katoomba Falls, Gordon Falls, and a selection of lookout points like Elysian Rock Lookout and Bridal Veil Lookout.
Wentworth Falls is the next town over from Katoomba and as you might have guessed, it too is home to stunning waterfalls. Wentworth Falls plummet 100 meters down into the valley below and are surrounded by hiking trails which offer superb views of this mighty cascade. One not for the faint of heart is the National Pass, a trail that clings to the cliffside and includes the Grand Staircase which was carved into the rock in the early 20th century.
Elsewhere in the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves are another natural formation not to be overlooked. These limestone caves are said to be some of the oldest of their kind in the world. Visits to the caves lead through eleven caves, with ancient formations illuminated to showcase their incredible nature.
You can book a day tour to the Blue Mountains here.
Day 6 and Beyond
If you thought what you could see of Sydney in 5 days was impressive, imagine what would be possible if you had a full week or more there. For those with more time in the city, here are some other awesome places to add to your Sydney itinerary:
- Surry Hills: Even though you’ve seen some of the suburbs around the CBD and on the North Shore, you’ve barely scratched the surface of Sydney suburban life. What makes Surry Hills a great pick of the inner suburbs is that it’s loaded with great brunch spots, small bars, and quality restaurants which will all delight your taste buds.
- Watsons Bay: Resting on the South Head peninsula, Watsons Bay is right at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Not only does it enjoy views out to the Tasman Sea and back to the city, but it also boasts incredibly scenic coastal spots like The Gap and Camp Cove Beach.
- Cape Solander Lookout: While you’ve seen plenty of Sydney’s beaches, this lookout in Kamay Botany Bay National Park near Cronulla offers another side to the region’s coastline. Walking trails run along the rocky cliffs of this scenic stretch of coast and it just so happens to be one of Sydney’s best whale watching spots.
For even more suggestions on places to visit, make sure to take a look at our guide to the best day trips from Sydney.
It’s clear that spending one week in Sydney will allow you to see a lot of the city and have fun while you do. There’s a reason so many people rave about how great a place Sydney is and hopefully you’ll too be one of those people after you’ve been. While it’s a great place to start, don’t forget that cities like Melbourne and Brisbane are just as worthwhile.
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