Stopping by Sydney for a short and sweet visit? Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to pack in some of the city’s best sights even if time is tight. Our local guides are sharing the perfect itinerary for spending an unforgettable 24 hours in Sydney!
Manly is one of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches and it exudes a laid back vibe that is so uniquely Australian. It’s a popular spot with locals, so it’s a good idea to go very early in the morning and catch the sunrise or early morning sun while cruising the harbor from Circular Quay. There are plenty of options for breakfast here, too.
From Manley Beach, catch the ferry back to Circular Quay and walk eastwards toward the Botanical Gardens. If there’s one available, join one of the indigenous guides as they show you some of the native bush foods the first Australians used to eat. The gardens are very close to the Art Gallery of NSW and Government House, so there’ll be plenty of places to take shelter if it rains. Established in 1816, the garden is one of Sydney’s oldest landmarks and has a spectacular harbor view. It also has a collection of rare and endangered plants.
Next up, take a 10-minute train ride from Circular Quay to Central to get to Chinatown. One of Sydney’s oldest precincts, Chinatown houses a heady mix of Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants from cheap as chips dumpling houses and hole in the wall noodle bars, to more upscale dining. There’s also an eclectic range of shops for trinkets and Chinese medicines, and it’s alongside the bustling Paddy’s Markets.
After lunch in Chinatown, take a 15-minute walk to Darling Harbour. Depending on the weather, you can while away a couple of hours at Sydney Aquarium and see its collection of over 700 species of marine animals including Australia’s famous sharks. If the weather is too good to be inside, simply meander through Darling Harbour, where you’ll find an assortment of shops and cafes, or have a close-up koala encounter at the Wild Life Sydney Zoo.
Jump on the train from Central for the 10-minute ride to Newtown. This is an eclectic inner-city Sydney suburb at its best. Tons of funky small bars, gay pubs with shows, and cheap and cheerful restaurants (especially of the Thai variety) are on offer. Newtown draws quite a colourful crowd at night and is open later than some other areas.
For travellers on a short visit, we recommend having a layover that will allow you to spend 3.5 to 4 hours in the city centre, including the 15 to 30 minutes needed for travelling to and from the airport.
The best way to get from the airport to see the sites is by taking the train, starting from the airport line, which will take just 13 minutes to the city centre. Purchase an Opal card at the airport at the station or from the newsagents.
If you want to visit Sydney in the morning or afternoon, head straight to Circular Quay to walk along the pier and see the Opera House and bridge. You could also just catch a ferry from there and see the harbor while riding along. Otherwise, stroll up George Street to the Rocks and hang out in one of Sydney’s historical pubs.
Sydney Harbor is the world’s most beautiful harbor, and the best way to catch the stunning views is by ferry. You’ll also catch some of Sydney’s famous landmarks on the way. You could walk along the quay in about an hour, longer if you include the Rocks or stop at the pub.
If you’re in Sydney for an evening or nighttime layover, check out some of the small bars in the CBD. Since 2012 Sydney’s small bar scene has exploded with speakeasy-styled bars, hidden bars, and bars that just have a great fun and intimate atmosphere.