How to spend two days in Sydney

Travel Itinerary
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Freya Godfrey
Itinerary by: Freya Godfrey
a year ago
Travel Writer
Duration: 2 days

Itinerary Introduction

Surfing on Bondi beach, eating a famously healthy Australian brunch, crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge, and climbing the steps in front of the Sydney Opera House: Sydney is full of bucket-list experiences. The city has a brilliant food scene too, with fine dining spots, casual eateries, fantastic fresh fish and seafood – go to the Sydney Fish Market to see fishmongers hawking their catch – and restaurants that span the breadth of cuisines from around the world. And of course, you can't miss sampling a barbecue on the beach. Luckily, many beaches have public barbecues for your convenience. What's more, the city's many malls mean there's excellent shopping opportunities, whether you prefer searching for the latest trends in shopping centres, such as Westfield Sydney, or browsing for unique gifts in weekend markets. While you could spend weeks in Sydney, this itinerary will show you how to make the most of just two days in the Harbour City. Images by: flok85 from Pixabay; pattyjansen from Pixabay; chiaoyinanita from Pixabay; PeCre from Pixabay

Useful information about Sydney

A fun fact from Sydney

Although it's the country's largest city, and boasts many of its most famous sights, Sydney isn't actually the capital of Australia. For that, you'll have to head to Canberra.

Best times to visit Sydney

In its summer, which runs between December and February, Sydney is scorching hot, making it less pleasant than other times of year to pack your days with sightseeing stops. Instead, visit between September and November or March and May for cooler temperatures that still have the benefit of Australia’s warm and sunny weather. Low season is between May and August, so it’s a good time to visit to escape the crowds, but the temperature drops below 20°C.

Getting around in Sydney

With its regular schedule of buses, trains, and even ferries, Sydney is easy to navigate via public transport. Pick up a free Opal card to top-up with money for your public transport trips.

Where to stay in Sydney

If you’re visiting Sydney for the first time, or only for a short trip, it’s likely that you’ll want to stay as centrally as possible in order to maximise your time in the city. The best places to stay for sightseeing are therefore the Central Business District, or CBD, and Darling Harbour. You’ll find plenty of hostels, hotels and guesthouses to choose from in these areas.

Beaches in Sydney

You can’t visit Sydney without going to its beaches. Bondi Beach is the one that everybody knows, and it’s included on this itinerary, but if it’s too crowded there’s also Bronte, Tamarama and Clovelly nearby. Further away from the centre, Manly makes a brilliant day trip, with Shelly beach in the same area. Some beaches aren’t great for swimming, but are good for surfing, while others are known for their snorkelling, so do some research before you go to work out which is the best option for your trip.

Recommended clothing for Sydney

Sydney's sunny days make it important to cover up. In summer, wear a hat, a t shirt that covers your shoulders, and suncream every day to stay safe in the sun.

Alternative locations

Australia is a huge country, so to see its major sights, you’ll need at least two weeks. Don’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to visit the sacred rock of Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef – the latter can be reached from Cairns or the smaller town of Port Douglas. In Western Australia, there’s the Pinnacles Desert, wineries along Margaret River and Swan Valley, the city of Perth, and quokkas at Rottnest Island. For more of the country’s scenery, head to the stunning natural environment of Kakadu National Park, with its Aboriginal rock paintings, or the rainforest at Cape Tribulation. And to experience Australia’s fun-loving culture, choose Adelaide for festivals, or Melbourne for cool cafes and bars.

Sydney - Travel Itinerary

Day 1

Sydney's iconic sights

On your first day in Sydney, tick off the big hitters: Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach.
09:00 - 11:00

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW, Australia
One of the most recognisable sights in the city, Sydney Harbour Bridge rises up behind Sydney Opera House, connecting central Sydney and its business district, the CBD, to North Shore. It’s perhaps best known for the yearly fireworks display that takes place here on 31st December to welcome in the new year. Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, and is the world’s second-longest wide-span bridge. Traffic, a rail line and pedestrians can cross the bridge, and by following the pedestrian pathway, you can take in brilliant views over the water. But for the very best vista, go all out by booking a BridgeClimb, scaling ladders over the upper arch or following the steel steps inside the arch. The experience takes around three hours in total and costs from $198 AUD, and you’ll be equipped with outdoor gear, although come prepared by wearing comfortable, practical clothing. While visiting in the morning will give you the chance to take in clear views over Sydney from the bridge, it’s also worth coming again around sunset to see the silhouette of the bridge in front of a colourful sky. Image by Simon from Pixabay; image by pattyjansen from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

The bridge is at the northern point of central Sydney.

11:00 - 13:00

Brunch in Sydney

Sydney NSW, Australia
While in Sydney, it's something of a right of passage to experience the city's famous brunches. In fact, brunching is pretty much an institution here, with organic options, premium coffee selections and veggie plates to choose from in cafes all over the city. For beautifully presented food near the Harbour Bridge, head to Social Brew Cafe, whose casual interior belies a host of colourful brunch dishes, or try the healthy meals made from seasonal ingredients at Kitchen by Mike or Cross Eatery. Alternatively, stay on the North Shore side of the bridge and indulge in a breakfast burger at Goodfields Eatery or sip your coffee overlooking the water at Celcius Coffee Co. Image by Kate Darmody from Unsplash
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Notes

There are brilliant brunch spots across Sydney, so choose somewhere that suits your tastes and your itinerary.

13:00 - 15:00

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach, NSW 2026, Australia
After brunch, take a trip to Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi. This picturesque curved bay, with its soft white sand, is incredibly popular – and for good reason. There are fantastic places to eat nearby, and swimming here tends to be fairly safe. There’s great surf too, with the middle of the beach boasting bigger waves for more experienced wave catchers, while beginner surfers can try the northern end of the beach when there’s a north wind. For those who prefer to escape the waves as much as possible, Bondi’s natural swimming pool, known as Bondi Icebergs, provides sea water swimming in a swimming pool environment (although big waves do crash on the furthest edge). Try to time your visit with the weekend so that you can check out Bondi Markets, just behind Bondi Beach Park, where stalls sell a variety of homemade crafts, jewellery and vintage finds. Image by bonaserios from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

From Circular Quay, near Sydney Harbour Bridge, it's a half-hour bus trip on the #333 to Bondi Beach.

Travel time
0 hours 30 minutes
15:00 - 17:00

Bronte Beach

Bronte Beach, Bronte NSW 2024, Australia
From Bondi Beach, walk along the coastal path to Bronte Beach, to experience another of the best beaches in Sydney. The walk takes around an hour and a half, but it’s well worth the journey as along the way, you’ll have the benefit of stunning coastal views. Bronte Beach is a splendid spot for sunbathing, but while the waters here can be particularly strong, there are rock pools and a bogey hole (a natural rock pool that can be used at low tide) for safe paddling. Alternatively, go for a dip in the picturesque Bronte Baths ocean pool, which dates back to the 1880s, for a more sheltered swim. If the walk here has whet your appetite, experience another typically Australian meal by barbecuing at Bronte Beach's public barbecues, and pairing your meal with a glass of Australian "box wine", wine from a cardboard box. Image by Jack Bassingthwaighte from Unsplash
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Getting there

The walk along the coast between Bondi Beach and Bronte Beach takes around an hour and a half, depending on how many times you stop to take in the view. If you're in a hurry, jump in a five-minute taxi.

Travel time
1 hour 30 minutes
17:00 - 19:00

Sydney Opera House

Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Head back to central Sydney to visit the iconic Sydney Opera House. Perched on the banks of the harbour, the striking opera house is surrounded by water on three sides, and its shell-like structure hosts hundreds of performances each year. Alongside the main concert hall, which is home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, there’s the Joan Sutherland Theatre, where opera and ballet performances take place, a drama theatre, a playhouse, a recording studio and more. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Bennelong Restaurant, with its unique sail-shaped window and wood-beamed ceiling, serves creative cuisine with a view of the harbour. There are often kids’ shows during the day, but most performances start around 8pm. Unlike many other opera houses around the world, there’s no need to dress up to the nines (although you are more than welcome to do so if you choose), with smart casual the go-to dress code. If you don't manage to catch a performance, be sure to walk round the exterior of the building, and up its famous steps. Or consider booking a tour to learn more; there are architectural tours, backstage tours, accessible tours and kids' tours to choose from. Check what time the tours run on the Sydney Opera House website in advance of your visit. Image by Taschengeld from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

From Bronte Beach, you can take a fifteen-minute taxi back into central Sydney to visit the Opera House. Alternatively, make your way back to Bondi Beach to catch the #333 bus to Circular Quay, which will take closer to an hour.

Travel time
0 hours 50 minutes

Day 2

Historic sights and a trip to Manly

On your second day in Sydney, learn about the city's past at historic sights in the centre, before taking a ferry to popular Manly.
09:00 - 10:00

The Rocks

The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
Start your second day in Sydney by exploring the city's oldest neighbourhood, The Rocks. In the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge, this is also one of Sydney’s most interesting neighbourhoods, thanks to its historic buildings. Simply wandering along the lanes and brick alleyways here is a great way to experience the best of the neighbourhood, but try to also make your way to Campbells Cove for a wonderful view of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Take some time to stop for a meal with a view of the harbour and to visit the bustling Rocks Markets (Friday–Sunday), and come back in the evening for traditional pubs. Image by Eriksson Luo from Pixabay
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10:00 - 12:00

Museum of Contemporary Art

140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
While in The Rocks neighbourhood, don’t miss the Museum of Contemporary Art. The cool Art Deco building, with its blocks of black and white concrete split by walls of glass, sits at the water’s edge, and was once the home of the Maritime Services Board. Today, the building boasts arguably the best collection of contemporary art in Australia. Alongside an eclectic mix of temporary exhibitions, there are four main collections at the museum. The Ramingining Collection displays work from Yolŋu artists – an Aboriginal Australian people from the Arnhem Land in the northeast of the country. The Maningrida Collection features art from the Maningrida community, who are also from Arnhem Land. In the Arnott Collection, you'll find bark paintings donated by the Arnott family (famous in Australia for Arnotts Biscuits), and in the Smorgon Collection, there's Australian art from the late-twentieth century, donated by Loti and Victor Smorgon. The museum is closed on Mondays, with longer opening hours on Fridays. Image by Photoholgic from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

From Campbells Cove, it's a three-minute walk to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Travel time
0 hours 3 minutes
12:00 - 13:00

Royal Botanic Garden and Hyde Park Barracks

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Next, head to the Royal Botanic Garden, but take a scenic route via the UNESCO-listed Hyde Park Barracks on Macquarie Street for an insight into New South Wales’ history as a penal colony. This historic building was completed in 1819, and was originally designed to house male convicts. It has since held many different roles, including as an asylum and a courthouse. Hyde Park Barracks is now a living history museum, where visitors can learn about the role Australia played in the convict system, and the lives of convicts in Sydney in the 1800s, through an audio tour, technology-led exhibits, artefacts, and projected imagery. Be aware that the museum is only open Thursdays to Sundays. Continue on to the Royal Botanic Garden, where you’ll find 30 hectares of green space on the edge of Sydney’s urban centre. It’s often described as one of the world’s most important botanical gardens, due to its rich, historical landscape and diverse collection of rare plants. Interestingly, the land on which the Royal Botanic Garden now lies was also where European settlers in Australia cultivated their first farm – you’ll notice that the bay to the southeast is called Farm Cove. Aside from being a beautiful, green location to wander around, events are often held in the gardens, and there are many points of interest to look out for. There’s the Palace Rose Garden with its romantic Pavilion; the Calyx, a modern space for exhibitions; a peaceful fernery; a characterful succulent garden; a lotus pond; and thought-provoking statues such as the “Boy Extracting Thorn”. Image by falco from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

From the Museum of Contemporary Art to Hyde Park Barracks it's around a twenty-minute walk. Once you've had your fill of Hyde Park Barracks, head north up Macquarie Street for about fifteen minutes to enter the Royal Botanic Garden at the entrance just before Moore Steps.

Travel time
0 hours 30 minutes
13:00 - 14:00

Mrs Macquarie's Chair

1d Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
At the northeastern point of the Royal Botanic Garden lies Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. This whimsically named sandstone bench was carved by convicts in 1810, for Governor Macquarie’s wife. It has a wonderful view over the harbour, which Mrs Macquarie is said to have enjoyed, but it’s also a sober reminder of New South Wales’s past as a convict colony. Image by Mitch Ames from Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mrs_Macquarie%27s_Chair_2013.jpg)
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

From the entrance to the Botanical Garden, it will take you about twenty minutes to walk to Mrs Macquarie's Chair.

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
14:00 - 19:00

Manly

Manly NSW 2095, Australia
It’s not just central Sydney that has something to offer visitors – there’s a host of interesting neighbourhoods, paradisiacal beaches and impressive scenery to choose from across the city. In fact, you really do need more than two days here to get the most out of Sydney and its suburbs. So on your final afternoon in Sydney, take one of the most popular day trips, to Manly. The journey on the ferry alone is worth the effort, as you’ll set off from Circular Quay. This means that you’ll benefit from the best vantage point from which to see the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the water. Once you arrive at this northern suburb, you’ll find a stretch of beach that’s much less crowded than Bondi, but no less impressive. It’s also one of the city’s most desirable surf spots – in fact, the world’s first surfing contest was held here in 1964. When you’re not surfing the waves or lying under the shade of the trees dotted behind the beach, take a walk along Manly Corso, where you’ll find plenty of places to eat, drink and shop, all to the sound of street performers playing to the crowds. For something a little more active, take the 10km walk from Manly Beach to Spit Bridge, taking in smaller beaches along the way, or follow the Manly Scenic Walkway to Grotto Point Lighthouse to spot aquatic birds and view indigenous rock art. Finally, for the ultimate Manly experience, enjoy fish and chips on the beach before the sun goes down. Image by seanalucysmith from Pixabay; image by pattyjansen from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
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Getting there

The Manly Fast Ferry runs regularly from Circular Quay, which is around a twenty-minute walk from Mrs Macquarie's Chair. The ferry takes half an hour.

Travel time
0 hours 50 minutes
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