As the capital of New South Wales, Sydney is the largest city in Australia and is famous for its superb beaches, its vibrant cultural scene and for its cosmopolitan, international population. This beautiful harbor city has a lot to offer budget and luxury travelers (and everyone in between)! This ultimate Sydney travel guide will help you plan an exciting and unforgettable trip!
What to Expect in Sydney
Before your trip to Sydney, don’t miss my 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Australia!
Language: English is the predominant language, although there are also several Asian languages also spoken among their respective communities.
Currency: The Australian Dollar ($). I found Australia, in general, to be quite expensive compared to most big cities I have traveled to. Meals can easily run $20 AUD and up for something quite casual. Even a meal at Maccas (aka McDonalds) will run you close to $10 AUD. Budget trips are totally doable, but expect to spend some money in Sydney.
Credit Cards and Banks: There are plenty of ATMs located around the city, while most stores will accept Mastercard and Visa, although acceptance for AMEX is usually only at larger retailers.
Climate: Sydney enjoys warm summers and mild winters, with even the record lows not dropping below freezing and summer highs regularly over 80 degrees. Cold season is from June until August while the warm season is from November until February.
Our Experience as a Lesbian Couple
We highly recommend Sydney as an Australia destination for LGBTQ+ travelers! We loved our time there and felt completely safe and comfortable as a lesbian couple. Home to a huge Mardi Gras celebration each year, Sydney is very welcoming and full of gay culture. We recommend visiting Newtown and Oxford Street for the local gayborhoods, and to plan your visit during Feb/March if you want to go to Mardi Gras.
Getting Around in Sydney
Sydney is separated into many different districts and neighborhoods; each offering a unique flavor of the city!
Darling Harbour: The main area of the city is dedicated to entertainment and tourism. Many of the harbor cruises depart from the docks here and it is also home to the aquarium and the National Maritime Museum.
The Rocks: Home to the amazing Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Rocks is a resurgent cosmopolitan area with vibrant nightlife and plenty of the city’s best hotels.
City Center: This is where the main business district is located along with the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Opera House, and a range of museums and landmarks.
Kings Cross: Known as a “Red Light District” of sorts, Kings Cross is full of characters. This suburb that never sleeps has nightclubs, restaurants, and everything in between.
Surry Hills: This is Sydney’s creative hub for design, fashion, and music. It’s one of my absolute favorite spots in all of Sydney with its uber-cute cafes.
Double Bay: Double Bay is one of the most cosmopolitan communities in all of Sydney. (It’s no wonder Double Bay has earned the reputation “Double Pay.”) Be prepared to pay a pretty penny here, but don’t miss nightlife hotspots Mrs. Sippy, Pelicano or Golden Sheaf.
Paddington: Paddington offers a wonderful range of boutiques and shops to explore along with plenty of cafes and bars. William Street offers the best shopping in all of Sydney. Don’t miss the Paddington Markets on Saturday mornings!
Where to Stay in Sydney
There are many neighborhoods across Sydney, but if it’s your first time visiting, I highly recommend looking for accommodation in either Sydney’s Downtown/CBD area, The Rock, and around Darling Harbour! You’ll find beautiful views and be situated to explore easily.
Here are the top hotels to stay at in Sydney!
The Russell Hotel is located in the heart of Sydney’s historic The Rocks district, and is just a 2-minute walk to Sydney Harbor. It has the original charm of its 1887 origins, but the rooms are modern and comfortable—such a unique property!
This industrial boutique hotel is set in a small neighborhood right outside of Sydney’s city center. Enjoy amenities in contemporary, clean, quality studios at a budget price!
The Shangri-La Sydney is a beautiful hotel located in The Rocks that offers a truly luxurious experience. Be sure to check out the famous Level 36 Horizon Bar for a cocktail with the ultimate view!
Located in The Rocks, the Park Hyatt Sydney sits on an amazing waterfront, and offers great views over the Sydney Opera House.
Built in a 19th-century warehouse that once stored wool bales, this unique hotel is within walking distance of all the main sights. The staff is genuine and attentive, plus the daily fresh breakfast is top-notch.
Where to Eat in Sydney
When in Sydney… you should try the fresh seafood and Australian favorites! There are so many restaurants around the city, representing so many kinds of cuisines, that it can be hard to narrow it down.
Here are the best restaurants in Sydney!
“Enlightened food, good for the body, great for the soul.” This vegan hot spot is full of delicious and fresh tapas, salads, and main dishes. The award-winning restaurant was one of the first places to serve vegan Yum Cha and Pan-Asian cuisine.
The Grounds of AlexandriaCafe, Farm-to-Table
After walking around the eclectic outdoor market, head to The Potting Shed for a TRUE farm-to-table meal. The atmosphere is incredible; all of the hanging plants, terracotta pots, bench swings, and fresh florals make you feel like you’re hanging out on your back porch. Plus they have some very creative and true-to-theme cocktails!
There is also a cafe, a bakery, and a garden where you can pick up smaller bites. If you’re in the city, stop by the Grounds of the City to check out the cool coffeehouse-inspired restaurant and cafe.
Chiswick WoollahraAustralian, Farm-to-Table
Enjoy garden surroundings at Chiswick in the heart of Sydney. Chef Matt Moran takes the best local ingredients and adds his own great presentation for a unique taste of Australian cuisine.
Located in Surry Hills, this small, intimate restaurant serves up some seriously authentic Italian food. Traditional recipes meet the best seasonal ingredients to produce stunning dishes.
Dining out can be a big budget breaker for travelers. Luckily, sushi comes cheap in Sydney! There are plenty of sushi spots scattered around the city that sell fresh and inexpensive sushi.
What to Do in Sydney
I’ve listed some of the top things to do in Sydney below, but if you’re looking for some hidden gems, be sure to check out my guide on 10 Things to Do in Sydney (That Aren’t the Harbour Bridge)! And if you have a few extra days around the Sydney area, consider taking a day trip out of the city and getting back to nature! I’ve compiled some of the top The Best Day Trips from Sydney.
Here are the top activities to do around Sydney!
The views from the Pylon Lookout are among the best in the city and, for those who complete the climb, there is also a small exhibition that looks at the bridge’s history.
For those who simply cannot decide which of Sydney’s beaches is the best, this walk takes visitors past many of the best beaches in the city, so it is well worth taking your swimmers (Aussie slang for swimsuit).
The iconic sands of Bondi are just four miles from the city center. With a series of beach bars and great surf at the southern end of the beach, it is a great place to get your bronze on and enjoy the sunshine.
Just a short distance west of central Sydney, the views over the Blue Mountains are breathtaking. Catch a train running to Mount Victoria every two hours.
Northwest of the city center, the Hunter Valley is home to several wineries that offer tasting sessions. Plus there are organized tours that will take you to several wineries.
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