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The energetic city of Sydney needs little introduction – its iconic harbour and buzzing beachside suburbs are renowned and recognised around the globe. With the promise of a city and beach holiday rolled in to one, the list of things to do in Sydney runs long, especially if you’re looking to sample a bit of everything. As many of our Travel Experts have lived in Sydney, our in-depth knowledge goes further than the major tourist hotspots, but then again you’re probably going to want to do them too. With both in mind, here are our top things to do in Sydney.  

See Sydney Harbour Bridge

Probably one of the most, if not the most, iconic landmark in Australia, the coathanger-shaped Sydney Harbour Bridge should be the first thing you see when in Sydney. Linking the north and south shores of the harbour, the bridge spans 503 metres between the city and Milsons Point with over 200,000 vehicles crossing daily. While the sight of the world’s largest steel arch bridge will undoubtedly take your breath away, its history will also prove fascinating; the bridge opened in 1932 after eight years of construction and over 1,400 workers toiled on the 134-metre-high overpass without the use of safety rails.

Climb it: Since 1998, visitors have been able to scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb. Unlike when it was built, the climb features safety rails and equipment for when you're climbing the 1,332 steps under and above the bridge and along the arch, until you reach the top for that unmissable panoramic view and a group photo of your experience.

Cruise by it: Sydney hosts a number of harbour cruises where you can marvel at the bridge from the comfort of a cruise ship, complete with dinner, drinks and million-dollar views.  

Fly over it: Prefer to take it the sights from above? We can arrange a helicopter tour of Sydney or for you to fly over Sydney Harbour in a seaplane for the ultimate scenic experience.

All of these experiences can be added to your tailor-made itinerary. For inspiration, see some of our example Sydney holidays.

Tour Sydney Opera House

Just nextdoor to the Harbour Bridge, the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House make it Sydney’s other famed structure. The modern and unique design (including one million tiles on the roof!) comes courtesy of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won an international competition to design the Opera House. While construction began in 1959, due to numerous delays and financial issues, it wasn’t completed until 1973. Worth the wait though, the Opera House isn’t just for opera but includes a number of rooms within the complex including a concert hall, two theatres, recording studio, forecourt amphitheatre, restaurant and bars.

How to do it: The best way to fully soak up the incredible nature of the Sydney Opera House is by joining a behind the scenes tour. This can be added onto your tailor-made Sydney holiday and is already included in our Sydney, Rock and Reef itinerary. Alternatively, if you don’t have time for a tour, talk to your Travel Butler about booking dinner at the onsite Bennelong restaurant which specialises in Australian produce and wine.

Swim at the beaches

Few cities in the world enjoy the pleasures of both city and beach living quite like Sydney. Locals can knock off from work in the city at 5:30pm and be swimming at Bondi Beach before 6pm. As a result, beach culture is very much a part of the lifestyle in Sydney and one worth adopting during your visit. Here are some of the best beaches to visit: 

Bondi Beach: the most famous beach in Sydney, we can arrange a tour of Bondi Beach for you or, to enjoy the full experience, a surfing lesson. If you’d prefer something a little more glamorous, book a table at Icebergs for lunch and enjoy views of the beach and the Icebergs pool (pictured above).    

Manly: enjoy the iconic ferry journey from Circular Quay to Manly for a day at the beach.  

Palm Beach: visit the real-life beachside setting of Home & Away.

Bronte: this quiet beach is beloved by locals for its coastal walk and ocean-side pool.

Your own private beach: for a truly unique way to experience Sydney’s beaches, we can arrange a scenic seaplane flight to the city’s peaceful northern beaches, like the one included in our Highlights of New South Wales itinerary. During your flight you’ll not only soar over Sydney Harbour, but your pilot will pick out a secluded beach only accessible by seaplane or boat for you to enjoy a picnic lunch on.

Visit Taronga Zoo

In Sydney real estate, it's all about harbourside location and the residents of Taronga Zoo arguably have the best view in the city (giraffes especially). Perched atop a bushy hill overlooking Athol Bay on Sydney's north shore, the 185-acre zoo is home to around 4,000 native and international animals housed in spacious simulated natural habitats. If you visit just one section, make sure it’s the Wild Australia area, where you can view many of the country's unique native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, emus, echidnas and wombats.

How to do it: You can reach the zoo via a 15-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay on Sydney’s Harbour, and then walk for 19 minutes or take a bus to the zoo entrance. For a unique experience (especially if you’ve got kids), we can arrange the Roar and Snore experience, where you’ll stay at the zoo in a safari-style tent overlooking Sydney Harbour, and enjoy a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this animal haven.  

Explore the suburbs

There are plenty of things to do in Sydney, but sometimes the best way to see the city is to explore it for yourself. From wandering the historic streets of the Rocks, to shopping and café dining in Surry Hills, Sydney is a great place to explore on foot, stopping off at the boutiques, coffee shops and parks, and getting a real taste for local life.  

How to do it: For a good overview, we can arrange a tour of the city and surrounding areas for you. To plan ahead, check out our Sydney by suburb guide.  

For more ideas on things to do in Sydney, be inspired by our tailor-made Sydney holiday itineraries