Sydney is home to more than 5 million people and is currently Australia’s most populated city. Known as the Emerald City, Sydney is famous as a tourist hotspot, owing to its many iconic tourist and cultural attractions.
What else is Sydney famous for? Sydney is famous for its gorgeous blue harbour waters and landmarks including the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach and Harbour Bridge. It’s also known for its shopping and vibrant food culture.
Whether you are backpacking around the world, looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, or you are a jet-setting executive who is in Sydney for a transit, the city has something for everyone.
This list takes a detailed look at all the things that Sydney is famous for.
1. The famous Sydney Opera House
When you think of Sydney, the first thing that pops into your head is the iconic Sydney Opera House. This immediately recognizable building with its sails puts on more than 2000 shows per year for 1.5 million viewers annually. Past acts have included famous operas such as Lakme, Norma, La Traviata and Die Fledermaus. The forecourt of the Sydney Opera House has played host to contemporary musicians and bands such as Patti Smith, Chet Faker, Florence + The Machine, Mary J. Blige and Bob Dylan, amongst others.
There are various tours that you can take to enjoy your Opera House experience to the fullest, including the daily one-hour standard tour, the more expensive Food & Wine Tour, or the Backstage tour that includes a cooked breakfast in the Green Room, with artists and staff for company. To watch an act at the Sydney Opera House, affordable balcony box tickets cost an average of AUD 50 plus transaction fees.
2. The Sydney Harbour Bridge
For that perfect Sydney Instagram picture, hop over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge that is close to the Opera House. Locals affectionately call this bridge ‘The Coat hanger’ because of the shape of the steel arc.
Choose from walking or cycling across the bridge. For that real adrenalin rush, climb to the top of the bridge for unrivalled spectacular views of the city and the Opera House.
Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, home to kid-friendly spots such as the Sydney Aquarium, the Sydney Zoo and the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. This will allow you to pass under the bridge and get a great view of the Opera House from close.
3. Bondi Beach
When you say beaches, I say BONDI! Sydney’s Bondi beach is world-famous. You’ve probably seen at least a few hundred pictures of it on Instagram and Snapchat, especially of the waves crashing into the Bondi Baths, the pool at the famous Iceberg Club.
Bondi is a perfect example of the easy-going, laidback beach lifestyle that Australia is famous for. With its white sands and sandstone cliffs, spend your day at Bondi surfing or suntanning, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
4. The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Sydney was originally inhabited by the indigenous Garigal people. Interestingly, human settlement in the region can be dated to as far as 45-50 thousand years ago.
Are you curious about the aboriginal history of Australia? The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is 16 miles from Sydney’s CBD and is a great way to learn about aboriginal culture. This 37,000-acre national park boasts about 1,500 sites of aboriginal art.
You could opt for a 3.5-hour tour of the sites that are held by the Guringai Aboriginal Tours company, to learn more about the culture of the Garigals.
If you’re more into nature than culture, you will not be disappointed! This national park offers multiple walks and hikes that range from the 6.8 mile (one way) Great North Walk to the easier 1.1 mile (return) America Bay walking track.
5. Sydney’s museums & art galleries
Sydney is known for its patronage of arts and its dedication to science and conservation of artefacts. Some of its most famous museums and art galleries are listed below.
The Australian Museum in Sydney
The oldest museum in Australia, the Australian Museum in Sydney, was opened in 1827. The museum is home to many significant collections that document the First Nations peoples, such as the collections of Garrigarrang (Sea Country) & Bayala Nura (Yarning Country).
The museum also has family-friendly exhibits of flora and fauna that will keep children fascinated. Be sure to check out their dinosaur exhibit that includes ten whole skeletons and eight lifelike models of these creatures.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum dedicated to contemporary art, will call to you with its massive collection of over 4,000 works by local Australian and international artists. It is famous for its collection of Aboriginal and indigenous Australian art. General admission is free and the museum itself is very accessible through public transport.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
Sydney is famous amongst art lovers for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, one of the largest art galleries in all of Australia. The gallery has a wide range of collections including Aboriginal/ Torres Strait Islander art, Asian, Australian and Contemporary art. The general exhibition space is open to the public, free of charge, and displays Australian art as it evolved from settlement to contemporary.
6. Watsons Bay
Watsons Bay is a suburb of Sydney and is famous for its pristine beaches including Camp Cove and a legal nude beach at Lady Bay. Tourists also visit Watsons Bay for the coastal walks and views of the Gap, an ocean cliff located on the east, offering stunning views of the Tasman Sea.
If walks are your thing, do the Watson Bay walk to Bondi Beach, about 4.8 miles one way. The walk will take you past the Dudley Page Reserve with its views of the city and the Macquarie Lighthouse.
7. Sydney’s food and dining precincts
Sydney is famous for being a food lovers’ paradise. No matter what cuisine you are after, there is every possibility that you will have multiple options available.
There are a few dining precincts that should be included on every list. Spice Alley on Kensington Street is famous for its Asian food stalls. Darling Harbour is home to beautiful cafes and restaurants and if you are in the mood to celebrate, the waterfront high-end restaurants of Barangaroo will have you sighing in pleasure over their food!
Here’s a list of a few places of all that Sydney is famous for:
- Asian at Chin Chin ($$$)
- Oysters and Wine at Poly ($$)
- Grilled meats at Firedoor ($$)
- Italian with a Japanese twist at LuMi ($$$)
- Yakitori and Ramen at Chaco Bar ($)
- Sri Lankan cuisine at Lankan Filling Station ($$)
- Seafood at Saint Peter ($$)
- Pizza at Bella Bruta ($)
- Lebanese at Nour ($$)
- Malaysian at Ho Jiak Haymarket ($)
- Indian street food at Chatkazz ($)
8. The Rocks
The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood and is often called the birthplace of Sydney. It is a historic area because The Rocks is where Europeans first landed in 1788.
It began as a community of rowdy convicts and sailors but has grown into a modern settlement, famous for its architecture and style. Go here to discover quaint alleyways, old heritage buildings, unique clothing boutiques and amazing views of the harbour.
9. The Blue Mountains
Bordering on Sydney’s metropolitan area, the Blue Mountains are a scenic mountain range that are bound by rivers on the east and north and lakes on the west and south. These mountains are home to the Gundungurra people. Later, it also became a site for a prison town for convicts from Ireland and Scotland.
The Greater Blue Mountain Area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in late November 2000 because of its “standing universal value” (Source: UNESCO).
Over 400 different species of birds and birds can be found here and the area offers some great hiking trails.
10. Sydney’s dance theatres
Sydney is famous for the Bangarra Dance Theatre, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that has been performing cultural dances for more than 30 years. Their performances are a must-see with their incredible storytelling woven through dance.
Another dance group that offers insight into Australian Aboriginal tribes is the Aboriginal Dance Theatre Redfern. In addition to performances, they also offer short courses in Aboriginal dance forms.
11. Sydney’s nightlife
Sydney is famous for its vibrant nightlife, no matter what kind of a party you enjoy. Oxford Street is the place to be and you will find all sorts of bars, pubs and cafes there to help you have a great night out! Places like Café Sydney and Opera Bar are great to unwind with an amazing array of food and drink to choose from. And if it is dancing that you want, dancing is what you shall get at clubs like Arq, Chinese Laundry and Home.
12. Sydney’s unusual art in the CBD
Sydney is home to numerous artists and sculptures who find inspiration from the city’s changing landscapes and people. Don’t be surprised to find unusual graffiti popping out on buildings or sculptures in alleyways!
Here are two of my favourites:
‘Forgotten Songs’ Sound Sculpture
This is a very cool looking art installation that is an ode to the lost birds of Sydney. You will find this suspended above Angel Place, between George Street and Pitt Street.
The installation pays respect to the sounds of the various species of birds that were once heard in the city. The sounds played change according to the time of day, with nocturnal bird sounds replacing daytime bird songs as the sun sets.
Street Art in Newtown
Some of the best instagrammable spots in the city are in this neighborhood because of the creativity and sheer talent on display. While not all the art is political, every single piece is definitely worth a picture!
13. Sydney’s shopping
Sydney is famous for being one of the world’s style capitals and is a shopper’s paradise. Choices ranging from elite fashion brands to upscale designer fashion to local handcrafted clothing and jewellery boutiques.
In the CBD, the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade dominate with their 19th century opulence. Here you will find independent boutiques and antique stores that will have you browsing for hours.
In the more modern Pitt Street Mall and Westfield Sydney, you will find more than 200 local and international stores to choose from. Bargains are best found at Market City in Chinatown and at Birkenhead Point.
14. Hot air balloon sunrise rides over Camden Valley
A lesser known attraction in Sydney is the hot air balloon ride over the Camden Valley for the gorgeous views. Camden Valley is located in the Macarthur region with scenic views of the Razorback mountains.
Balloon Aloft offers an optional hotel pick up for their sunrise tours. They also throw in a hot cooked breakfast for their guests at the end of the tour.
15. Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
If you are traveling with children, this one is sure to get them all excited. One of Sydney’s most famous kid-friendly attractions is the Sydney Aquarium, which has 14 themed zones, including the world’s biggest Great Barrier Reef display.
The aquarium is also home to Pig, one of the four dugongs on display in the entire world. Marvel over the shark walk and shark valley exhibits. Don’t forget the little penguins in the South Coast Shipwreck zone!
Sydney is a city that needs to be experienced to fully comprehend its lifestyle. The Emerald City is undoubtedly a bustling melting pot of influences that retains its old-world charms without surrendering any modern conveniences. Sydney is a city famous for many things, a vibrant inclusive heart being one of them!
Hopefully, this list helps you decide what you want to do when you land in Sydney. If there’s something else that Sydney is famous for, share it in the comment box below!