Sydney, the oldest and largest of Australia’s major cities, is an enchanting mix of history, nature, culture, beaches and bars and restaurants. Bookended by a harbor on one side, the Blue Mountains on the other, Sydney is a must-see destination for every traveler.
The UNESCO-listed Sydney Opera House and arched Harbour Bridge dominate the harbor’s waterfront, but there are so many more sights to explore here. Here are a few of my personal favorites to add to your list as a first-time visitor.
Museum of Sydney
A modern museum built on and around the historic remains of Australia’s first Government House, it tells the story of this city. In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip chose this site for his residence and it soon became the center of administrative and social life in Sydney.
This is a fascinating place to visit, especially if you’re interested in the history of Australia. The building’s original footings were uncovered during an archaeological excavation and are now on display at the museum.
It’s administered by Sydney Living Museums and offers a mix of state-of-the-art installations, nostalgic memorabilia and changing exhibitions. The biggest draw is the giant video spine that spans the whole building and charts the physical development of Sydney.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of Sydney’s top attractions. With a huge collection of Australian and international works, the museum has everything from indigenous paintings to European old masters.
The renowned institution is tucked in the leafy Domain near Hyde Park. Its vast classical building houses a vast range of art from past to present.
The new Art Gallery of NSW opened last week after a three-year-long construction process. Built by SANAA, Japan’s Pritzker prize-winning architects, the 151-year-old institution’s sloping campus now includes a number of buildings, refreshed galleries and additional outdoor spaces.
Royal Botanic Gardens
A visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the best things to do in Sydney. The 30-hectare (74-acre) garden has a stunning display of trees and flowers, including many indigenous Australian species.
It’s also home to a number of research facilities, including climate-controlled glass houses and a tissue culture laboratory. These are used for horticultural research to study threatened species and their natural habitats.
This beautiful garden is a serene oasis on the edge of Sydney Harbour, with gorgeous views of the city and its iconic sights. It’s also a great place to take pictures and enjoy the fresh air.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art is an art institution dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from Australia and beyond. It showcases boundary-pushing solo exhibitions and a permanent collection of more than 4,000 works.
The museum’s permanent collection is devoted to the work of Australian artists and includes significant representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. It also features an extensive archive of artist notebooks, music, letters and sketches.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the best places to visit in Sydney. It has a range of interesting art exhibitions and offers plenty of opportunities for young people to engage with the arts.
One of Sydney’s most vibrant tourist precincts, The Rocks fuses centuries-old colonial history with quaint cobblestone laneways and some of the city’s top modern eateries.
The area is also home to a number of museums, historical buildings and markets. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a walk along the harbor or climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
If you want to learn more about the area’s rich history, check out The Rocks Discovery Museum, located in a restored sandstone warehouse. It’s packed with historical artifacts and interactive displays.