Sydney harbour bridge and Opera House at sunrise

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Are you visiting Sydney for the first time and need help building an itinerary? Here's your guide to the must-do experiences - whether you’re in town for 3, 5 or 7 days! 

Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, is one of the best places to explore, and there’s truly no shortage of excursions and sites to see. From the iconic Sydney Opera House to the golden sands of Bondi Beach, this urban centre entertains nearly every kind of traveller. Whether you’re flying into Sydney for a short three-day trip or staying for a whole week or more, this guide will help you curate the perfect Sydney itinerary for your first trip to the city. 

It's time to explore Sydney’s top activities and experiences and help create an  itinerary that will provide you with a little bit of everything: iconic landmarks, city exploration, some history and culture, sand and surf, adventure, and, of course, family-friendly fun. No matter if you’re in Sydney for a weekend or week,  or who may be joining you on your next trip, you’re bound to find adventures, thrills, and more that will leave you in love with this city. 

Let’s start with the bucket-list items, followed by our 3, 5 and 7-day itineraries!

Must-do experiences in Sydney

Scenic views across Sydney Harbour of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Credit: Daniel Boud for Destination NSW

One of the best parts about visiting Sydney is that there are several must-see spots and must-do experiences – and many of them are close to each other. From iconic landmarks, sparkling beaches to impressive museums and vibrant gardens, it might feel like there’s a lot to tick off. . If you’re not sure what the essential spots and landmarks to visit are and you’re looking for a comprehensive list of the must-do experiences in Sydney, then you’re in luck. 

These are the top 5 places to visit in Sydney for first-time visitors:

  • Sydney Opera House
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Bondi Beach
  • Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
  • Circular Quay and The Rocks

For first-time visitors , an important consideration is where to stay in Sydney. To maximise your time and explore all that the city has to offer, we recommend picking accommodation in the city centre, the CBD. This allows you to be within walking distance of many of Sydney’s top attractions and close to public transport to explore further.  Circular Quay and Darling Harbour are also good options.


Sydney 3-day itinerary

Downtown Sydney skyline in Australia

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If you’re wondering if you can do Sydney in three days, the answer is yes! Three days is an excellent introduction to all that Sydney has to offer  With only a few days in this bustling cityscape, it’s important to make the most of your time. That’s why our carefully selected Sydney itinerary introduces you to the iconic sites that Sydney is known for, the stunning coastal landscaoe of this beautiful region, and the art and history that paints a captivating picture of Sydney’s significance as an urban centre. So, if you’re coming to Australia’s largest city for only three days or even just a  weekend, here’s how to spend your time:


Day 1 – Visit Sydney’s iconic sites

Sydney Opera House

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Start your day at Royal Botanic Garden, located in the centre of the city and the a beautiful spot to take in Sydney's iconic sites, especially on sunny days! Here, you’ll find 30 hectares of paths, trails, and more. 

Schedule at least a few hours in the morning to indulge in this natural paradise. Make sure to wander over to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to see the site where Mrs Macquarie, the wife of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, supposedly sat and watched the ships in the harbour. The site also offers one of the best views for a picture of Sydney Harbour. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy lunch with a view before you head to your next destination: Sydney Opera House.



After a lovely picnic at the Royal Botanic Gardens, take the short six-minute walk over to the Sydney Opera House – an absolute must-see spot if you’re in Sydney even for just three days. The Sydney Opera House is a symbol of the city’s love for the arts and one that people globally have come to associate with Australia’s largest city. If you’re a fan of opera and live performances, book tickets to see show. The opera shows typically last three hours, so keep that in mind when planning your day. 

For those who don’t have time for a show but still want to know more about the iconic structure, book a tour of the Sydney Opera House to learn more about this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and marvel at its stunning architecture. After your tour, head over to The Rocks to explore the historic buildings, pubs, and shops. 

It’s a wonderful place to get a taste of the city’s history and for a little retail therapy. You’ll also see some amazing views from Observatory Hill, where you can take in the cityscape. The Rocks is also the perfect destination for  walking tours, a drink at a historic pub, a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and more.



Once you have completed your exploration of the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and The Rocks, walk (or grab a taxi) to Barangaroo for the evening. Barangaroo, the newest waterside precinct in Sydney, offers a fun atmosphere,  delicious eateries, and more, making it the perfect place to stop after a day exploring. Here, you can find 90 different restaurants that are among the city’s top establishments, bars, and dessert. No matter what you’re in the mood for—whether it is fried chicken, cocktails, or a fancy date night for two—you’ll find all that and more at Barangaroo. 


Day 2 – Get up close to the Bridge and explore the harbourside

View of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and harbour on a sunny day

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Start your second day with one of the best touristy things to do in Sydney:  the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The famous arch was built in 1932 and remains one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, offering unparalleled views of the city’s centre. There are loads of ways to view and explore this area. More adventurous travellers can actually trek over the bridge for a once-in-a-lifetime view with BridgeClimb, and for those who want to take in the view of Sydney Harbour from on high, head to Pylon Lookout.

For those looking for a great view but less of an adrenaline rush, you can stick to areas like Circular Quay, The Rock, Milsons Point, and Blues Point Reserve to enjoy the fantastic view without the climb. 

Afterwards, take some time to explore the cobblestone streets of The Rocks – especially The Rocks Market if you’re in the area on the weekend.



Darling Harbour is an idyllic place to explore a variety of Sydney’s top attractions, particularly for families. Beyond its beautiful harbourfront views, Darling Harbour is home to WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, where you’ll experience up-close encounters with some of Australia’s diverse wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, and more. If you plan to come here, ensure at least 90 minutes to explore the zoo and book your tickets in advance

You’ll also be within minutes of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, home to Australia’s largest aquarium, with over 13,000 aquatic animals and 90 different tanks. It’s perfect for those travelling with young kids or travellers who love marine life and want to explore the distinct ecosystems that surround the city. Be sure to walk through the glass walk-through tunnel and visit the new penguin exhibit, where you’ll find King and Gentoo Penguins. If you time your visit well, you’ll also catch some daily shows that are sure to entertain. It’s best to book your tickets ahead of time and plan for at least 90 minutes to two hours here.  

For more of a low-key afternoon, head to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It’s hidden in the centre of Darling Harbour but offers travellers an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here, you’ll find koi fish, a diverse range of flowers, several walking trails, and waterfalls. Don’t forget to visit the Teahouse to try some traditional Chinese teas. Remember to bring cash for admission, which is $12 per adult and $8 per child. If you are coming with the family, bring $30 for a family pass. If you’re hungry for an afternoon snack or simply want to explore more, it’s only a 5-minute walk to Sydney’s Chinatown.



After exploring the attractions by day, we recommend staying in Darling Harbour at night, where you’ll have a chance to see the harbour light up. The best way to do this is to catch a cruise, whether it be a dinner cruise or a more relaxed sighteeing cruise. On these cruises, you’ll see more of the cityscape and other harbourfront areas. If you come to Sydney during Vivid (late May to mid-June), you’ll see the city in colourful lights and enjoy several special events that are definitely worth planning ahead for.


Day 3 – Venture to Bondi Beach

A beautiful summer's day in Bondi Beach, Sydney

Credit: Kristen Greaves for Destination NSW


What better way to start your morning than to head out to Bondi Beach, one of Sydney’s most popular beaches? Whether you want to swim, surf, walk or eat, there’s plenty to do in Bondi. The area is filled with coffee shops, smoothie bars and cafes to enjoy a beachfront breakfast, and Gould Street is not to be missed for its boutiques. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach. A two-hour surfing lesson on Bondi Beach is typically led by an experienced surf coach, so you’ll learn all the basics alongside other students.  You’ll be provided soft, safe surfboards, wetsuits, sunscreen, and zinc, so all you have to do is bring your swimsuit and a towel. 



After some food, sun and surf, experience the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. Considered one of the best walks in Sydney, it’s book-ended by two of Sydney’s most popular beaches and gives you the opportunity to view some of the most sites along the coast, including Bondi Icebergs Pool, and Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly beaches. The walk is about 6.4 kilometres, so be sure you have a great pair of walking shoes and some water. The journey in one direction should take about two to three hours, depending on your pace.

Once you finish your walk in Coogee, it’s time to grab some lunch. If you choose a restaurant along the beach, you’ll get to rest and recover while you admire the view. 



Head back to Bondi to watch the sunset and to have some drinks and dinner with a view of the famous Bondi Icebergs.  As one of Sydney’s best ocean pools during the day, Bondi Icebergs also has a casual bistro and a more upmarket restaurant,  Icebergs Dining Room and Bar,  for some nighttime fun. The whole area is also buzzing at night, with its restaurant and bar scene offering a lively atmosphere if you want to experience the local nightlife.  

Alternatively, Bondi is just a short distance from Darlinghurst, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from. 

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Sydney 5-day itinerary 

Aerial view of Sydney CBD, Hyde Park and St Mary's Cathedral

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Spending four or five days in Sydney means you have the benefit of being able to explore the city’s attractions at a more relaxed pace and you can experience even more of what it has to offer.

Let’s explore what to do with four and five amazing days in Sydney and how to fill your holiday itinerary, starting with the 3-day Sydney itinerary, which is recapped below:

Day 1 – Visit Sydney’s iconic sites

Start your day at the Royal Botanic Gardens, making a pitstop at Mrs Macquarie's Chair for incredible harbour views. Next, wander to the Sydney Opera House, where you can walk around and take pictures, book into a tour, or even see a show. Finish your day at Barangaroo for dinner and drinks. 


Day 2 – Get up close to the Bridge and explore the harbourside

You've seen the bridge from afar, now it's time to see it in all its glory - whether on the BridgeClimb tour, walking across from The Rocks to Milson's Point, or taking in the view from Pylon Lookout. Next, head over to Darling Harbour where you're spoilt for choice of activity - whether at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium or the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Finish the day by taking a picturesque harbour cruise. 

Day 3 – Venture to Bondi Beach

You've not been to Sydney until you've visited Bondi Beach. Start your morning with a swim, surf or walk through the area and enjoy the energy and great food. Then, it's time to tackle the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. On your return, we recommend you hang around in Bondi to take in its buzzy nightlife - dinner at Icebergs Bistro or the Dining Room is a great way to end your day!

Day 4 – Experience the city’s shopping, culture and food

QVB's main atrium, looking at the Royal Clock and historic shopfronts

Credit: Vicinity Centres for Destination NSW


As you begin day four in Sydney, a little bit of retail therapy is the perfect way to start your morning. The Queen Victoria Building, a historic destination that offers travellers a chance to shop and dine, is a Sydney icon. Here, you’ll explore high-end boutiques, cafés, and more. With a mix of different designers and brands, you’ll find a vast selection of items to shop to bring home. If you’re a tea lover, we recommend to book a high tea experience.

Another shopping centre worth the trip is Pitt Street Mall. This destination runs for about 200 metres from Market Street to King Street, and it is one of Australia’s busiest shopping destinations. You’ll find flagship chain stores and more than 400 different specialty shops. Between the Queen Victoria Building and here, you’re bound to walk away having found a souvenir or two to bring home. 



After some shopping, head is the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a destination that has been open to the public since 1871. Here, you’ll find various artworks, from sculptures to Aboriginal artwork to Monet. It’s genuinely one of the best places to see Sydney, and the main exhibit is also free to the public. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon out of the sun or simply to indulge in a bit of artwork and local culture. 

After you spend an hour or so visiting the free exhibit, head over to explore St Mary’s Cathedral, a stunning architectural feat complete with colourful stained glass, stone spires, and more. Be sure to dress appropriately if you plan on entering the cathedral and bring a camera to take photos from the outside of the majestic structure. 

Across the road from St Mary’s Cathedral is Sydney's Hyde Park.

Located in the heart of the city, Sydney’s Hyde Park is the oldest public park. It was named after the famous park in London of the same name and includes Archibald Fountain, which depicts mythical creatures and figures. Simply walk through the park to soak in the tranquillity, relax on one of the park benches, or visit the famous ANZAC War Memorial. 



As the day comes to an end, travel over to Surry Hills, one of the top foodie destinations in Sydney. You’ll find no shortage of restaurant options here, whether you’re seeking fine dining or easy meals that will satisfy your cravings. 

From Italian and Korean to Middle Eastern, Japanese and local Australian flavours, Surry Hills is a place filled with options. There are also some chic bars that you’ll want to explore if you enjoy a good drink and a vibrant scene amongst other Sydney locals and travellers.


Day 5 – Take a day trip from Sydney

Beautiful view from above at Wattamolla, from the coastal walking trail to Providence Point in Royal National Park, located South of Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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Morning and afternoon

Wattamolla Beach is the perfect destination to start your fifth day exploring Sydney after you grab some breakfast. Located within Royal National Park, this hidden paradise is a two-hour round trip from the city but offers a tranquil escape that offers a relaxing vibe and a wonderful experience in nature. 

Spend a few hours bushwalking, wildlife watching, and taking in the scenic views. In the warmer months, you can’t miss swimming, canoeing, or kayaking in the peaceful sheltered lagoon.

Given its location from Sydney CBD, plan to leave early and bring your best walking shoes, camera and swimmers. Bring money for parking, as it is $12 per vehicle, and it’s worth noting the parking lot tends to fill up quite fast, especially on the weekends. 

Alternatively, if you prefer a day trip of hiking, why not head out to the Blue Mountains? Located about an hour away from the city, you’ll have the chance to hike the many walking trails, visit Echo Point Lookout to see the iconic rock formation called the Three Sisters, or even enjoy a sky-high picnic. The most adventurous travellers will want to consider scaling the canyons. 

Regardless of how you choose to fill your day, be sure to bring plenty of water, proper attire for your adventures, and some snacks. 



After a long day, a trip to Paddington is an excellent choice for those who are still up for some exploration that’s close to the city. Located near Centennial Park, Paddington has trendy boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and cafes. The main attraction is Oxford Street, where you’ll find plenty of dining options and some quaint bars. Grab a bite to eat here, stop for a drink if you have the energy, and then head back to your hotel to rest up. 


Sydney 7-day itinerary

Friends dancing at the Oxford Street Party in Darlinghurst, Sydney

Credit: Alexandra Adoncello for Destination NSW

Many people wonder if seven days in Sydney is too much, but honestly, you could spend 10 days here with a well-booked Sydney itinerary and still have plenty to explore!

Sydney is one of those destinations you can spend days exploring and still feel like you’ve not seen it all. However, with a seven-day Sydney itinerary, you’ll truly get a taste of what Sydney has to offer beyond the most popular tourist attraction. 

Let’s explore what to do in Sydney in seven days, starting with a recap of days 1-5, with more details to be found in our Sydney 3-Day itinerary and Sydney 5-Day Itinerary:

Day 1 – Visit Sydney’s iconic sites

Begin your day by exploring the beauty of Royal Botanic Gardens, which has some of the best views of Sydney Harbour. Make your way to Sydney Opera House - one of Sydney's most iconic landmarks -  for a tour, a photo session, or even to catch a performance. Conclude your day at Barangaroo, where you can enjoy a variety of dining and drinking options.


Day 2 – Get up close to the Bridge and explore the harbourside

It's time to get closer to another Sydney icon - the Sydney Harbour Bridge. One of the easiest (and free!) ways to do this, is to walk across, but the more adventurous travellers can book into a BridgeClimb tour. After some exploration of The Rocks, make your way to sparkling Darling Harbour, where some of the key attractions include WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, an the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Finish your day with an evening cruise on the harbour. 


Day 3 – Venture to Bondi Beach

Sydney is famous for its coastal suburbs, and Bondi Beach is its most popular one. Start your morning at Bondi Beach, where you can swim, surf, or enjoy a beachfront breakfast at one of the local cafes. Afterward, embark on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, taking in the scenic views and iconic sites along the 6.4-kilometre trail. In the evening, head back to Bondi for sunset drinks and dinner at the Bondi Icebergs, or explore the lively restaurant and bar scene in nearby Darlinghurst.


Day 4 – Experience the city’s shopping, culture and food  

Indulge in some retail therapy at Sydney's Queen Victoria Building (QVB), and Pitt Street Mall. In the afternoon, isit the Art Gallery of New South Wales to explore its free exhibits, and then admire the stunning architecture of St Mary’s Cathedral. Stroll through Hyde Park to unwind before ending your day in Surry Hills, where you can enjoy a variety of dining options and explore chic bars for a vibrant nightlife experience.


Day 5 – Take a day trip from Sydney

A fifth day in Sydney gives you the time and freedom to venture out and explore beyond the city. Wattamolla in the Royal National Park is one of the best day trips from Sydney and is known for bushwalking, swimming, snorkelling and finish. Alternatively, Blue Mountains is another excellent day trip from Sydney.

For those who have the energy to explore Sydney's nightlife, head to Paddington for dinner and drinks. 


Day 6 – Explore Sydney’s northern suburbs

Aerial view on famous Manly Wharf and Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia.

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Once you’ve grabbed some breakfast, it’s time to make your way over to Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. This hidden gem in Lavender Bay is a garden that will make you feel like you’ve been transported into a faraway land. With paths, diverse plant life, and artwork throughout the destination, you’ll love seeing the mysteries tucked into this must-see spot. 

The creation of the garden was inspired by Wendy’s own artistic vision, making it a truly intimate setting and one that many travellers love when they visit Sydney. You’ll find you can spend as much or as little time as you like here—whether you wander the paths, take a book to read, or simply allow yourself to become immersed in the beautiful natural world around you. With this being one of the best free things to do in Sydney, it’s a must-visit destination and one that will make your morning genuinely relaxing and memorable. 

Once you’ve spent some time at Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, travel to Taronga Zoo, which is home to more than 50 different animal species. The zoo was officially opened in 1916, and today, there are more than 28 hectares to explore, and it has become known as a World Class Zoo. Not only will you see plenty of amazing animals, but you’ll also get quite the view of Sydney Harbour, so don’t forget to bring a camera.



Head over to Manly Beach, located in the north beaches of Sydney. With beautiful beachfront cafés, a bustling atmosphere and plenty of sand for everyone to enjoy, you’ll have your pick of how to spend your time here. Whether you opt for an afternoon spent at a café overlooking the water, wandering around The Corso and the Wharf or simply choosing to enjoy the beach and water, you can’t go wrong with an afternoon in Manly. 

Nature lovers will want to book a snorkelling tour at Manly Beach to see some diverse, colourful local marine life. With provided snorkelling gear and a guided tour, you’ll get to see some of the fantastic fish that the area is known for. You’ll also learn a great deal about the history of Manly Beach and how it has become so renowned worldwide. The tour lasts about two hours, so plan ahead and make sure that you come prepared with your swimming gear. 



After spending the afternoon at Manly Beach, it’s time to head back to the city. Hop on the ferry from Manly Beach to Circular Quay and enjoy the views of Sydney Harbour. Once you arrive, grab dinner at Circular Quay or head to The Rocks to explore some more dining options. 

For those travelling on a Friday or Saturday, another option is to go back to the city via Luna Park Sydney, an old-fashioned amusement park that offers fun for the whole family and some incredible city views. Open since 1935, Luna Park is one of the best spots for family-friendly fun. Park entry is free, but you’ll want to bring money for unlimited ride passes for the kids. With plenty of concerts, festivals, and captivating night views, you’ll enjoy several rides, including the Coney Island carousel and the Ferris Wheel. While you’re at the top of the Ferris Wheel, don’t forget to look out over the harbour and snap a few photos. If you choose to come to Luna Park, grab dinner in Kirribilli, where you’ll find numerous delectable eateries to choose from.


Day 7 – Hit up a few museums (and finish with food and dancing!)

Australian museum building on College Street, Sydney

Credit: Olga K from


To start off your last day in Sydney, head to Australian Museum to explore world-renowned natural history and anthropology collections. Australian Museum, the oldest museum in all of Australia, museum opened to the public in 1827 and has exhibits dedicated to Australia’s flora and fauna, including Aboriginal history and artifacts. It’s one of the best places to go to learn more about the nation’s history, as well as to see some impressive cultural artifacts, gems, and minerals. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Australia and its distinct history, then Australian Museum is a must. Following a few hours here exploring the several exhibits that are available to the public, it’s time to head to the Sydney Jewish Museum. 



Located just a few minutes from the Australian Museum, the Sydney Jewish Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Jewish Australians. With exhibits ranging from insights into the Holocaust to the lives of local Jewish Australians of recent years, you’ll find plenty of stories that will touch your heart. 

This is the perfect place to come to learn, experience, and hear stories from survivors. It’s only open until three in the afternoon, so be sure to plan ahead and get here early.Once you finish here, it’s time for you to head to Darlinghurst, which is one of Sydney’s most vibrant restaurant and bar scenes. 



For those who love entertainment, music, and more, Darlinghurst comes alive at night and is one of the best places to finish your week-long trip to Sydney, particularly if you are there on a Friday or Saturday. Popular areas within Darlinghurst to eat and enjoy a drink include Stanley Street, Victoria Street and Oxford Street. 

The nightlife in Darlinghurst is famous, especially if you find yourself around Oxford Street or Taylor Square, where bars, pubs, and clubs offer music and drinks for both locals and travellers alike. If you plan ahead, you’ll even be able to see a concert, so be sure to check the schedule so you’ll have a night to remember on your final night in Sydney. 


Flights to Sydney

Now that you have your itinerary sorted, it's time to book your flights! Virgin Australia offers direct flights to Sydney from major Australian cities, including:

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