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Sydney, Australia has a fascinating history and world-famous sights. Home to iconic Australian landmarks – like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge – a Sydney walking tour should be on every visitor’s to-do list. The top Sydney landmarks are found in the compact Central Business District, making it easy to see the sights on foot. We created this self-guided free walking tour of Sydney for visitors who want to see the famous landmarks in Australia at their own pace without booking one of the Sydney guided tours.
Sydney Walking Tour
Our easy-to-follow, free tour of Sydney is a great way to see Sydney in a day. We have included information on each sight and a useful Sydney walking tour map link at the end of the post. However, we recommend stopping at the Sydney Visitor Centre kiosk at Circular Quay (where our self-guided Sydney walking tour starts) to pick up a map and ask any additional questions you might have.
Looking for more things to do in Sydney? Our Sydney Itinerary is for you!
Self-Guided Walking Tour Sydney: Top Sydney Landmarks
We think our Sydney self-guided walking tour is one of the best tours in Sydney, Australia. The tour loops around the city and highlights the best sightseeing in Sydney for free. The route is about 8 miles long (13.5 km) and will take about 4-5 hours to complete. More time will be needed to enter any of the museums and attractions listed along the route. Most of the Sydney walking tour is on foot, however, we include one short ferry ride to get from Darling Harbor back to Circular Quay. The route is ideal as a Sydney one-day tour, but visitors with more time can split it into two days of sightseeing. Our free city tour of Sydney starts at…
#1 Circular Quay
Circular Quay is an ideal place to start exploring the city. Located on the north side of the Central Business District, Circular Quay is the beating heart of Sydney. A steady pulse of buses, ferries and trains transit through the harbor that is a must-see for tourists. While the harbor hosts top Sydney landmarks, it also has historical significance. Circular Quay was the landing site for the first ships carrying European convicts to Australia. It was from the penal colony built on these shores that Sydney grew into the city it is today. From the Circular Quay harbor, begin walking east and follow the shoreline north to…
#2 Sydney Opera House
The Opera House is, by far, the most recognizable Sydney landmark. The iconic building took 14 years to complete (1959-1973) and stands today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive staircase – nearly 100-meters-wide – leads to the entrance, but we recommend staying on the ground level and completely circling the structure to gain perspective before climbing the stairs.
Two halls of ‘stacked shells’ make up the award-winning structure that features amazing acoustics. The theaters inside (of which there are multiple) have hosted world-known musical and theatrical talents. The facilities can be toured (for a fee), but it’s free to walk around the exterior of the building. Walking along the west side of the Sydney Opera House, visitors can see and touch the tiles (which took three years to develop) that give the building it’s sailboat appearance.
Find out more information about visiting the Sydney Opera House and tour info here. From the Sydney Opera House, leave Circular Quay (but don’t worry, we circle back around to it to see other Sydney Harbour attractions, including the bridge and The Rocks). Walk through the gates to the east, then follow the path south to the raised grassy area of…
The Domain and Surrounding Sights to See
Originally used as a small farm for the penal colony, today the Domain comprises the expansive green space to the east of the Sydney city center. Paths crisscross through the park that are used for recreation and relaxation. Many historic government buildings and the Royal Botanic Gardens are found in or near the Domain. Continue following the path to the south to the…
#3 Government House
Built in the Gothic Revival style in the 1840s, the Government House is the vice-regal residence of the New South Wales’ Governor. The grand interior is open to visitors, as is the garden, which provides stunning views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House. Note: If the Government House is closed for official business, visitors can take in the view from Tarpeian Precinct – a small elevated park between the Government House and the Opera House. From the Government House, walk southwest into the Domain to the…
#4 Royal Botanic Gardens
Established in 1816, the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens feature an array of plant life. Free for visitors to stroll and admire, the park also offers a range of programs and tours. From the Royal Botanic Gardens, continue your Sydney city sightseeing tour and walk northeast to the point to…
#5 Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Hand-carved by convicts in 1810, the stone bench – now known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair – was a gift to the wife of the New South Wales governor. The viewpoint of the harbor – and especially of the Opera House and Bridge – makes it one of our favorite spots in all of Sydney. From Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, follow the walking path along the eastern shoreline to…
#6 Woolloomooloo and Finger Wharf
The Sydney inner-city suburb of Woolloomooloo developed as a working-class neighborhood around the bay of the same name. Extending into Woolloomooloo Bay is Finger Wharf, the longest wooden-piled wharf in the world, measuring 1,345-feet-long. The wharf was built in 1915 and used for 70 years as a busy shipping center. It fell to disuse in the 1970s, but has been completely revitalized with an upscale hotel/housing/restaurant complex. On the southern shoreline of Woolloomooloo Bay, find…
#7 Harry’s Café de Wheels
A Sydney institution, Harry’s Café de Wheels has been serving ‘Pie ‘n Peas’ since the late 1930s and is claimed to be Sydney’s best pie. Although not an original location, the restaurant displays old-time photos that show the history of Harry’s. If you are hungry, we recommend ordering a beef pie tiger-style. The three-inch, piping-hot beef pie is topped with mushy peas, mashed potatoes and gravy. The inexpensive pie can serve as lunch or a mid-morning snack. From Harry’s Café de Wheels, walk west on Cowper Wharf Road to the…
#8 Art Gallery of New South Wales
Opened in 1874, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of the largest galleries in Australia. The Art Gallery exhibitions – which are free to the public – include a range of art, including works from Australian and European masters, as well as entire galleries dedicated to Aboriginal and Asian works. From the Art Gallery of New South Wales walk northwest across the park to Shakespeare Place and Macquarie Street. Continue the Sydney city sights tour and stroll south past the historic government buildings.
Historic Government Buildings in Sydney
Not to be missed on your walking tour of Sydney are some of the top historic buildings of government.
#9 State Library of New South Wales
Established in 1826, the State Library of New South Wales – or Mitchell Library – is the oldest library in Australia. The building dates to the early 1900s and is open to the public (also in case you’re looking for a toilet!).
#10 Parliament of New South Wales
The New South Wales legislature offices and chambers are housed in a complex on Macquarie Street. Although the structure was expanded and renovated over the years, the historic Parliament House dates to the early 1800s. The unassuming structure was originally part of a hospital, but the space was converted to Parliament chambers in 1829.
#11 Old Sydney Hospital
Nicknamed the Rum Hospital because profits from rum sales were used to fund the building, the Sydney Hospital is the oldest public building in the city. Built in 1811, the structure is still used as a hospital today, specializing in ophthalmology and hand surgery. The bronze boar, Il Porcellino, that sits outside is said to bring you good luck if you rub its snout.
#12 The Mint
Originally built as a wing of the historic Sydney Hospital in the 1800s, the Sydney Royal Mint occupied the building from 1855 until 1926. The coining factory was the first outside of England. Since the mint closed, the structure has been used by several NSW government entities and today is the office of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. Mint Info. Continue walking south into…
#13 Hyde Park
Since the first European settlers arrived in Australia, the park was used as a recreational space. However, it was in 1810 that Governor Macquarie dedicated the space as Hyde Park (naming it after Hyde Park in London). The green space has been used as a Cricket Ground, a horse racetrack, an outdoor boxing ring, a rugby field and military exercise grounds. At the north end of Hyde Park is Archibald Fountain, which celebrates the relationship between France and Australia during World War I. East of Archibald Fountain, continue the free city walk of Sydney to…
#14 St. Mary’s Cathedral
The grand façade of St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Sydney features two Gothic spires. The towers stand at 245 feet – and make St. Mary’s one of the tallest churches in Australia. Building commenced in 1868 after previous churches on the site were destroyed by fire. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited St. Mary’s for World Youth Day. South of St. Mary’s Cathedral is…
#15 Australian Museum
Opened in 1857, the Australian Museum is actually the oldest museum in Australia. The collections are comprised of zoological and anthropological displays. Buy Advance Tickets. Re-enter Hyde Park and walk to the southern end where you will find the…
#16 ANZAC War Memorial
At the south end of Hyde Park is Sydney’s ANZAC Memorial. Opened in 1934 to remember the Australians who fought and died in World War I (the Great War), the memorial now stands to honor all Australians and New Zealanders who have served in the military forces. From the ANZAC War Memorial, walk north to Park Street. Go west on park and walk in centre Sydney to…
#17 Sydney Town Hall
Easily recognizable by its clock tower and grand staircase, the centrally-located Sydney Town Hall is a popular meeting place for locals. Built on former burial grounds in the late 1880s, the town hall is home to the Sydney City Council Chamber, the offices of the Lord Mayor and the Centennial Hall. The concert hall features the Grand Organ, which dates to the late 1800s. Just north of Sydney Town Hall is…
#18 Queen Victoria Building
Filling an entire city block, the Queen Victoria Building – or QVB, for short – was built between 1893 and 1898. The landmark Victorian-Federation era arcade, which features multiple domes, is listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register. The spacious interiors include four floors of retail space, cast-iron railings, original tile work and two clocks: The Royal Clock and the Great Australian Clock. At the south entrance is a large statue of Queen Victoria. From the north end of QVB, walk east on Market Street to….
NOTE: The Sydney Tower is only included on our Sydney city tour itinerary for visitors who want to go up the tower. If you do not want to go to the top of Sydney Tower there is no need to walk to the base of it – you can view it from various points around town. If skipping the tower, continue to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Walk west on Druitt Street to Sussex Street. Walk south on Sussex to Liverpool Street. Walk west and pass Dixon Street for the moment and climb the stairs to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Then, retrace your steps on Liverpool Street to Dixon and walk south through Chinatown.
#19 Sydney Tower
A popular tourist attraction since it was completed in 1981, the Sydney Tower stands at 1,014 feet in the center of the city. The tower features dining options, event space and an observation deck, called the Sydney Tower Eye. Located at 820 feet, the enclosed viewing deck provides 360-degree views of Sydney. Take the fast track to the observation deck with advance tickets! Walk west on Market Street to Kent Street. Walk south on Kent to Liverpool Street. Walk west and pass Dixon Street for the moment and climb the stairs to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Then, retrace your steps on Liverpool Street to Dixon and walk south through Chinatown.
#20 Chinese Garden of Friendship and #21 Chinatown
The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a traditional Chinese garden in Sydney’s Central Business District. The gardens, which were designed by sister city, Guangzhou, represent the bond between Australia and China. A significant Chinese population has lived in the city since the 1800s, but the current Sydney Chinatown was established in the 1920. The most decorative part of Chinatown lies along the short, pedestrian-only street, Dixon Street, and features ornate Chinese gates, shops and eateries. Continue walking south on Dixon Street to…
#22 Paddy’s Market
Housed inside an enormous brick building near Chinatown, Paddy’s Market has wall-to-wall stalls hawking everything from junk souvenirs (most featuring koalas, kangaroos, boomerangs and anything with “I heart Sydney” on it) to purses, wigs and costumes – all priced to sell. A few places at Paddy’s Market peddle brand name clothes that may or may not be authentic. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of booths, each aisle looks identical to the previous. A fun Sydney shopping experience and a feast for the senses, the Paddy Market is worth a visit.
If you have worked up a hunger – and were not tempted by any of the Chinese restaurants – detour to the Sydney Fish Market. You can follow these directions on Google Maps. If you choose to skip the Fish Market, follow these Google Map directions from Paddy’s Market to Pyrmont Bay.
#23 Sydney Fish Market
The Sydney Fish Market takes it up a notch on the sensory overload scale. The pungent scent of gutted fish wafts through the air at every turn – yet, the Sydney Fish Market is more civilized than Paddy’s Market. The market only has a handful of vendors – but a seemingly endless choice of seafood. Fresh caught fish, prawns, oysters and live crabs are appealingly displayed on ice. Lesser appealing option of salmon fish heads and slimy octopus are also for sale. The food court stalls sell everything from fried fish to sashimi, which can be eaten inside or under umbrellas on the docks. Read more about the Fish Market. From Sydney Fish Market, make your way to Pyrmont Bay using these Google Maps directions.
#24 Pyrmont Bay at Darling Harbour
A top Sydney entertainment district, Darling Harbour is a hub of activity. In addition to the many waterfront bars and restaurants, visitors will find popular Sydney tourist attractions such as the Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum and Madame Tussauds.
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
One of the popular Sydney family attractions, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium provides a home to more than 13,000 sea creatures. The aquarium displays are sectioned into themes, including the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit. Buy Your SEA LIFE Aquarium tickets now!
Australian National Maritime Museum
Explore the educational and interactive Australian National Maritime Museum to learn about life along the coast. Visitors can board in-water vessels, including the HMAS Onslow submarine and the HMAS Vampire battleship. Buy advance tickets.
Madame Tussauds Sydney
Walk the red carpet and meet your favorite celebrities…kind of. Get up close and personal with the lifelike wax figures for epic selfies and photo ops. Get your tickets in advance!
#25 Sydney Harbour Tours from Pyrmont Bay Ferry Wharf
Many public ferries and touristic Sydney Harbour tours depart from Darling Harbour. Hopping on a boat is a phenomenal way to get a better vantage point on your one-day tour of Sydney, Australia. Get a seat in the bow of the ship for a front row seat as you sail beneath the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge and cruise past the Sydney Opera House. Take the public ferry that departs Pyrmont Bay Ferry Wharf and ride to Circular Quay. When you arrive back at the Sydney docks, take a Circular Quay walk to the west into…
#26 The Rocks, Sydney
The Rocks has a storied past. The land was first settled by Aboriginal People – there is evidence of their presence dating to the 1400s. By the late 1700s, the area had become home to convicts sent from England. In the mid-1800s, The Rocks had grown into a port city full of debauchery. Then, in 1900, the plague broke out and The Rocks fell to the slums. An aggressive government cleansing ensued and many historic homes were destroyed. In the 1970s, Sydney residents took a stand against the destruction and fought to keep their community.
Throughout the Rocks district, several historic Sydney buildings still stand, including Cadmans Cottage House, Sailor’s Home and the Mercantile Hotel. New buildings have also risen in The Rocks, like The Museum of Contemporary Art, which is free to enter. Use this link for a detailed Sydney Rocks Walking Tour (which includes The Rocks, Sydney Walking Map).
The history of The Rocks – and of Sydney – is detailed at The Rocks Discovery Museum. Free to enter, the museum is housed in an 1850s building. Full of artifacts and stories dating back to the Gadigal people, the museum chronicles the events of The Rocks. From the Rocks Discovery Museum, walk south on Kendall Lane to Argyle Street. Walk west on Argyle under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the stairs on the south side of the street that lead to…
#27 Sydney Observatory Hill Park
The Sydney Observatory was built on this hill in 1858. The popular hillside park features stunning panoramic vistas of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, North Sydney, Miller’s Point and Darling Harbor. On the east side of the park, find the stairs that lead to the pedestrian path on the…
#28 Sydney Harbour Bridge and #29 Harbour Bridge Pylon
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world and an iconic Sydney landmark. Taking almost 10 years to construct, the bridge opened in 1932. Nicknamed ‘The Coathanger’ because of its long arch, the steel bridge is used by trains, cars, bikes and pedestrians. The total length of the bridge is 3,770 feet. Two pylons stand at each end of the bridge at a height of 292 feet.
Using the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the bridge, walk to the Pylon. The first pylon is open to visitors (for a fee) and guests are invited to climb 200 stairs for 360-degree views of Sydney Harbour. If you want to bypass the climb (and the fee), just walk along the Sydney bridge’s pedestrian path for free. Note, however, that there is a safety fence that hinders your view.
Thrill-seekers might want to consider the BridgeClimb, where participants are led on an expedition to the top of the Harbour bridge’s arch. Find out more about the epic climb.
#30 The Rocks for Evening Entertainment
End your Sydney sights walking tour back in The Rocks for dinner and drinks. Of the numerous bars and restaurants, we have a few recommendations.
- Squire’s Landing – Modern brewpub on the harbor with views of both the Sydney Opera House and the Habour Bridge.
- The Glenmore Hotel – Classic Australian pub with rooftop views of the Sydney Opera House.
- Fortune of War – Claiming to be the oldest pub in Sydney, they have been slinging beers since 1828.
- Lord Nelson Brewery – Operating as a hotel and pub since 1841 (and as a brewery since 1987), the classic Aussie pub has a good selection of local beer on tap.
Looking for some of the Best Australian Craft Beer? Read our article about a Craft Beer Walking Tour of Sydney!
Sydney Walks Map
Get everywhere we went by visiting Sydney with our Sydney Walking Tour Map on Google Maps.
Other Sydney Sightseeing Tours
Although we think our walk is one of the best Sydney tours, it might not be for everyone. We have a few suggestions if our Sydney tour isn’t for you.
Sydney Harbour Walks
If our outlined Sydney in a Day Tour involves too much walking, perhaps a Sydney Harbor Walk will suit you better. Walks around Sydney Harbour include the most iconic landmarks in the city. Walk the coastline from Circular Quay to The Rocks. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Rocks Discovery Museum. Walk to the Sydney Observatory, then up the stairs to the pedestrian walkway on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Then retrace your steps to Circular Quay and proceed to the Sydney Opera House. Continue walking east along the shoreline path to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Use this link for a Sydney Harbour walks map.
Guided Sightseeing Tours Sydney, Australia
If navigating the city sounds like too much of a hassle or you want to hear stories and history from a Sydney local tour guide, consider booking one of the Sydney group tours or Sydney private day tours. Here are just a few of the top guided and themed walking tours in Sydney.
3-Hour Guided Tour – See the highlights of Sydney on a guided tour. Get the details!
Aboriginal Tours Sydney – Learn about the Aboriginal People on a tour at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Find out more!
Sydney History Tours – Discover the city’s colonial history on one of the historical tours of Sydney. Learn more about this tour!
Sydney Culture Walks – Sydney cultural tours explore a range of topics – from Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian history to the coffee culture to Street Art and Craft Beer. Find the cultural tour your looking for here!
The Rocks Sydney Walking Tour – Guided tours delve into Sydney’s past in The Rocks. Whether you are looking for a private tour or a pub tour in The Rocks, book it in advance on Viator.
Free Guided Tour Sydney – While our free Sydney tour allows you to go at your own pace, there are free walking tours in Sydney where a guide leads the way. Just remember, the guides work for tips!
Sydney Attraction Pass
If you are planning on visiting attractions, a Sydney tourist pass can save you money. Rather than buying individual Sydney attraction tickets, you can pay one fee for a Sydney sightseeing pass that allows entry into multiple sights. Check out the Ultimate Sydney Pass, where you pay a flat fee for a specific number of sights. Some of the top Sydney tours and attractions included with the card are the Sydney Opera House Tour, Madame Tussauds, the SEA LIFE Aquarium, the Museums Pass, The Rocks walking tour and the Sydney Tower Eye.
What You Need For Your Sydney Walking Tour
- Sydney is a walkable city…but only if you pack the right travel shoes! I (Sarah) have always packed these shoes by Columbia and Skechers. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell. Also, remember to bring a water bottle, sunscreen and hat.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and lightweight budget camera).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any new city. Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving in Australia. Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, you’ll want to be sure to have a great day pack to carry all your essential travel items in!
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to Australia, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
- Get (and stay) organized for your vacation to Australia using our Trip Planning Printables!
We want to know: Are there any sights you would add to our self-guided Sydney walking tour? What are your must-see Sydney landmarks? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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