So, I heard the other day that the Aussie dollar crashed a little bit, which will mean that the big land down under’s prices may start to seem less steep to us foreigners who so love to visit one of the world’s greatest countries. However, it’s still not cheap over there by any stretch of the imagination, particularly in the big cities.
At the beginning of this year I stayed in Sydney (my boyfriend’s home city) for two weeks and I was flabbergasted by how pricey even simple things were like a bottle of water (equivalent to $4 USD) or a slice of their beloved banana bread ($8 USD). Even my boyfriend winced when we went to a smart Thai restaurant and had to hand over $40 for a meal that would have cost us less than $5 in Thailand.
But I was determined not to miss out on the best of Sydney and neither should you. Sydney is one of the best cities in the world and I soon found out it has some of the best activities and events to enjoy for free too. I hope this guide to doing ten awesome things in Sydney for free will help ensure your spending money goes a lot further.
1. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
I loved walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge because of the views it offered. It’s also fair to say that I became a bit obsessed with the bridge itself, however, no traveller should go to Sydney and not walk across the Harbour Bridge, at least once.
Look out for the “love locks” chained up on the metal wire at the most scenic points and also be careful of local workers from either side of the bridge power-walking or pounding the pedestrian walkway in their lunch hour. Also look up to spot the brave souls doing the Bridge Climb (which is sadly far from free) and take your time to enjoy and appreciate one of the most iconic engineering feats in the southern hemisphere.
2. Watch a free movie or two
One of Sydney’s most famous free events is the free open air films shown in Sydney Olympic Park. Recently renamed as “Movies by the Boulevard” locals and tourists alike are invited to bring a blanket, a picnic and some popcorn to watch some of the latest releases that are shown throughout the month of January, but note that because this is an event for families the films are likely to be PG rated at their raciest. If you’re not in Sydney at the right time or you fancy watching something for bigger kids then head to Selinas, a bar in the Coogee Bay Hotel, which plays free films on Thursday nights.
3. Stroll around the Royal Botannic Gardens
Though parts of the Royal Botannic Gardens are ticket entry only the majority of the open plan park area can be enjoyed for free.
The park fills a lovely gap between the CBD and the Sydney Opera House so get away from it all seeking out tropical flowers, fascinating cacti and wonderfully old and elaborately rooted trees. It’s also the perfect place to sit or lie back, relax and catch up on some guide book reading.
Alternatively if you have a thirst for local history and politics pop in to the nearby Government House, which is free entry.
4. Join a free walking tour
Still got some miles in your legs, then join a free daily walking tour with either Peek Tours or I’m Free Tours run by Sydney-siders who simply want to share their beloved city with travellers. I’m Free Tours offer two walks daily so choose from either the Sydney Sights three hour walking tour, which will take in all the key spots, or tag along on one of their evening walks in the Rocks exploring historic Sydney.
5. Enjoy some live music in one of Sydney’s best bars or clubs
It’s a misconception that Sydney’s nightlife is exclusively for those with pockets full of cash. There are still some great bars, clubs and music venues that open up their doors and let you in with no cover charge. Catch some live jazz at The World Bar in Kings Cross on a Monday evening, Rock Lily – a bar and music venue inside Sydney’s Star casino – has free live music five nights a week or dance to the beats of a DJ in the cavern like club GoodGod’s Front Room which is free entry every night.
6. Dance, drink and laugh at a free festival – Sydney Festival is one of the best free festivals in Australia. Stretching out over nearly the full month of January it takes over theatres, parks, beaches and other open spaces in Sydney bringing headlining acts, award winning productions and entertaining shows. Though some of the events require tickets many of the best, including the opening night in Hyde Park, are all free. Last year it was opened by Manu Chao, Kings of Convenience and Gurumul.
There are other free and ticketed festivals regularly taking place in Sydney, including the New South Wales Wine Festival in February and March where you can try Hunter Valley wines for free or have a few laughs for free at the Sydney Comedy Festival in April and May.
Find out more information about all of Sydney’s free and ticketed festivals here and of course don’t forget the best free fireworks in Sydney, and possibly the world, on New Year’s Eve.
7. Go on a coastal walk – It’s easy to forget that Sydney has many brilliant beaches, what with this great big city and the harbour fighting for your attention but with these beaches come some stunning coastlines.
Of course, you can spend a day on Bondi Beach for free (and we recommend you do as it allows for great surfer perving watching opportunities!) but there are also some beautiful coastal walks taking in the dramatic twist and turns of Sydney’s coastline.
We recommend the 6km walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach, via the beaches at Tamarama and Bronte, which are some of Sydney’s best. Download the free App called “Sydney Walker” to get access to free maps of the best coastal and other Sydney walks.
8. Learn how to cook Italian food.
There’s a rich history of Italian-Australians in Sydney and one local independent chain of Italian restaurants, Fratelli Fresh, has opened up their doors to offer free one hour cooking classes to the public so you can learn how to make pasta and other Italian delicacies. Classes are held in their Waterloo based restaurant at 4 o’clock on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons but booking in advance is essential. Find out more here.
9. Get a free history lesson or ten in Sydney’s free museums
Of course, it would be a disservice to Sydney not to mention all of its many brilliant museums and galleries, which are free to enter and explore.
Some of the best free entry museums include the State Library of New South Wales (where you could research if any of your ancestors were among the original convicts transported down under), The Rocks Discovery Museum, Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum, the Mint, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Maritime Museum in Sydney’s Darling Harbour (another good area to walk around for free) and Art Gallery of New South Wales. As the song (almost) goes, the best and most cultural things in life are free!
10. Explore Sydney’s Street Art as it happens
Tucked away at the bottom of trendy suburb Newtown’s long Kings Street is a live street art gallery being updated all the time.
Even though they’re running out of the wall space that the local council has let them paint on, the May’s Lane project shows now signs of stopping with graffiti, stencil and graphic art masters coming from all over the city to add their contribution.
And here’s a bonus round up of some more out of the ordinary free things to do in Sydney…
11. Do something unusual like get your fortune told, eat some free Greek food, go to a “laughter yoga” class or get crafting
Back in Newtown the Marlborough Hotel, known locally as the Marly, offer free psychic readings to patrons every Thursday night. They also make cracking cocktails at a relatively cheap price of $7.00 or sip on sparkling wine for $5.00 during Happy Hour, which is from 6 to 8pm
Just down the road at the Greek Orthodox Church delicious home cooked Greek food is served to those in need of a good cooked meal every weekday lunchtime. Admittedly this is a community service for local homeless people, however they are always on the lookout for volunteers and you will be fed for your time.
Back in Sydney’s CBD near Museum station from 12:45pm there is a free 30 minute Thursday lunchtime class on “laughter yoga” a type of yoga that aims to invoke natural laughter using yogic breathing and movement. It sounds pretty funny, and that’s exactly what it aims to be. Find out more information here and free outdoor classes can also be enjoyed in Newtown and Ashfield.
If working on a knitting, crocheting or a sewing project is your ideal way to pass a few hours then sign up to the Sydney Crafternoon Facebook Group to find out which cool bar or coffee shop is hosting their next free “Crafternoon” in Sydney East. Don’t forget your knitting needles!
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This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.Tweet