So, you are in Sydney and would like to explore this amazing city? Even though Sydney is Australia’s biggest city, it is actually totally possible to walk around its most important places. Let me present to you the ultimate guide to exploring Sydney by foot. Special thanks to my dear friend Chris who lived in Sydney for a year and gave me this list of places in that particular order. I just added a few bits and pieces but in essence, this is his recommendation.
What to expect?
Now, how long this is going to take you depends entirely on you. If you’d just like to get a feel for the city and see all the must-see places, this itinerary is doable in just one day. I did it in one day and had a great time. However, at a lot of these places are optional activities to do, so this could probably take a few days if you would like to do them all. Same goes for how much this will cost you. If you are just passing by the places, this is completely free. Some of the optional activities are free as well, while for others, you would have to pay.
I did this walking tour around Sydney starting from my accommodation, the YHA Sydney Harbour, located in The Rocks. Obviously, you can start wherever your accommodation is located. I’ve included a map with all the places at the end of this blog post to give you an overview of where this guide is gonna take you. If you would like to find out about other things in and around Sydney, check out my blog post on that here.
Tip: If you are doing this in one day, it is gonna be a day full of walking. So why not have a good meal before you head off? I recommend breakfast at Simplicity Cafe located at Darling Harbour. They have vegan bowls and treats, and the Darling Harbour is actually quite close to your first stop of the way. And don’t worry, you will get to spend some time at Darling Harbour later in the day as well.
You’re gonna start off your day of exploring Sydney by foot at Wynyard. It is just a nice urban area close to Wynyard railway station which also makes it a good place to start when you are coming to Sydney from outside of the immediate city center.
One hidden gem on the way to the next location is Angel Place between George Street and Pitt Street. I am not going to say much about this, let the picture convince you to come here.
Circular Quay is the main ferry terminal in Sydney and in walking distance of both the Sydney Opera and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can catch a ferry to Manly Beach, amongst others, (check out my blog post on things to do in and around Sydney) or take a rest at First Fleet Park – although I sure hope you don’t already need one! You can already see your next stop from here, the Sydney Opera House.
Sydney Opera House
To get to this, truly iconic, building, just walk along the water from Circular Quay. There is no way you can miss the unique, shell-shaped landmark. And you might be surprised to find out that the “shells” aren’t actually white but more yellow when you come closer.
Optional Activities: Attend one of over 40 shows each week, enjoy the view with some food or drinks in one of the restaurants and bars around Sydney Opera House.
The Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney
Right next to the Sydney Opera House is one of the entrances to the Royal Botanical Gardens. You can definitely spend a lot of time in there. Just go with the flow and enjoy the different exotic and native plants or walk along the waterfront to the next destination of this itinerary.
Optional Activities: Have a look inside of the Calyx where you can have food, visit the ongoing exhibition or even join a workshop.
Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
This rock cut into the shape of a bench is located on a peninsula, reached through the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is a popular lookout point since you can see both the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from here. Consider going here for sunset for some spectacular views.
This harbourside suburb of Sydney was actually one of my favorite places in the city. Go for a stroll on the Finger Wharf, the longest timber-piled wharf in the world. You can also admire the artwork placed next to the waterfront or go to one of the cafes and restaurants with a nice view.
Vegan Eats: Unfortunately without a view on the water, Alibi Bar and Kitchen is still an amazing vegan place. Apart from their very cute location, they got a completely plant-based menu with some great options.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Continuing your day(s) of exploring Sydney by foot, next up is the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It’s the most important public gallery in Sydney. Up to you, whether you want to just pass by and take a picture of the impressive building (like I did) or actually spend some time there.
Optional Activities: You can obviously visit one of the Galleries and Exhibitions that are currently on in the Art Gallery. General admission to the Gallery is free and so are most exhibitions and events.
St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral is just steps away from the Art Gallery, so you won’t have to walk for long. It has the greatest length of any church in Australia. Due to its impressive architecture, it is a landmark between all of Sydney’s big buildings. The cathedral is open for visitors from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Optional Activities: For $5 AUD, you can visit the Cathedral Crypt from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Every Sunday after the 10:30 am Mass, there are free guided tours. For Mass and Confession times, look here.
Vegan Eats: Very close to St Mary’s Cathedral, you’ll find Bodhi Restaurant. Unfortunately, it was closed during my whole stay in Sydney (which was over Christmas and New Years Day). But a few people recommended this place to me, so I had to tell you about it anyway.
Hyde Park is right across the street from St Mary’s Cathedral. It is the oldest public parkland in Australia and contains the Archibald Fountain, as well as the Anzac War Memorial. You’ll be able to rest here and listen to musicians playing in the park.
Again, almost right across the street from Hyde Park (on the other side than St Mary’s Cathedral) you’ll find Westfield. This shopping center is comprised of over 350 stores on six floors, so you can obviously spend a lot of time here. It is a good option for a rainy day as well.
Optional Activities: Go shopping, have some food, or go up Sydney Tower which sits above the shopping center.
Queen Victoria Building
Westfield and Queen Victoria Building (QVB) are connected, so you wouldn’t even have to go outside to get from one place to the other. However, a look from outside is definitely worth it as QVB is not only noble on the inside. The Romanesque Revival building is quite the contrast to all the other modern buildings around it.
Optional Activities: Go shopping or have some food.
After all the last spots have been located almost directly next to each other, this might seem like a long walk to you as it will actually take you a little over ten minutes to get to Chinatown from QVB. By the time, I got to Chinatown, it was time for lunch which – if you ask me – is perfect timing as you’ll be guaranteed to find something delicious to eat here.
Vegan Eats: Check out this food court, my friend Chris dropped me a pin for. There are multiple restaurants down there. I went to a Vietnamese place in the back corner and just asked for something vegan. I wasn’t disappointed, the food was really good.
Another ten minutes away from Chinatown you’ll find Darling Harbour. If you’ve listened to my recommendation, you’ve already been here for breakfast. At Darling Harbour, you’ll find everything you need – cafes, restaurants, shopping complex, movie theater, museums and more. It is a major tourist site split in two by the historic Pyrmont Bridge.
Optional Activities: Visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship, go to one of the museums or watch the Saturday Night Fireworks over Cockle Bay.
Vegan Eats: There are a lot of restaurants and cafes at Darling Harbour. I am just going to list the three places I’ve been to (all of which I can recommend). Obviously Simplicity Cafe is one of them as I’ve already recommended that one to you. Lotus Barangaroo is a Chinese restaurant. They don’t have any vegan meals listed on their menu but if you talk to your waiter, he is going to tell you which vegetarian options you can easily make vegan. Spiced by Billu’s is a very nice Indian place to have food at.
This tourist precinct is one of my favorite areas of Sydney – you should definitely consider staying at the YHA Sydney Harbour located here. There are markets located here every weekend, as well as lots of different restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Optional Activities: Stroll across the markets.
Observatory Hill Park
Go here to get panoramic views of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. You can also have a look around Sydney Observatory for free, guided tours leave every hour for $10 AUD. Just ask at reception if you are interested in joining one.
Optional Activities: Sydney Observatory Tour
Walsh Bay Wharves Precinct
A short walk away from the Observatory Hill Park and not too far from The Rocks, you’ll find yourself in this harbourside area with cafes, restaurants, and theatres. Officially, Walsh Bay refers to the body of water that stretches from Dawes Point to Millers Point (both of which you will also visit on your tour).
You’ll probably get here naturally when you keep on walking from Walsh Bay. This historical park at the northern tip of The Rocks offers stunning views across Sydney Cove.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Are you ready? It is finally time to cross this famous monument. I don’t know about you, but I was really excited about this part of exploring Sydney by foot. The walk should take you anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes depending on how many times you stop to admire the view and take pictures.
Optional Activities: From the Pylon Lookout, you have a great view of the city. Additionally, there is an exhibition inside telling the story of the bridge’s construction. Admission is $15 AUD but it is free if you’ve done a Bridge Climb. Click here to read my blog post about things to do in and around Sydney, like the Bridge Climb.
Milsons Point and Luna Park Sydney
This suburb is located on the lower North Shore of Sydney and offers amazing views on Sydney Opera House and Sydney Cove which it is directly opposite of. One of the heritage-listed and definitely one of the most popular places in Milsons Point is Luna Park.
Luna Park is an amusement park with a total of 14 attractions, including a drop tower, a Wild Mouse roller coaster, and a Ferris wheel. Apparently, there is a $5 AUD fee for people just entering the park without going on any rides. However, I only found that out when researching for this blog post and strolled across some areas of the park without having paid anything.
Optional Activities: Enjoy the different rides Luna Park has to offer. You can find a price overview here.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this guide on exploring Sydney by foot. I hope you had as much fun as I had, please tell me about your experience! Thanks again to my friend Chris for this well thought out itinerary!