10 Tips for a Perfect Weekend in Sydney
Are you planning a weekend in Sydney soon? Today we want to share our best tips to help you make the most of a short visit to our hometown. Here are ten snippets of advice on how to spend a perfect weekend in Sydney. Whether it’s your first time in Sydney or you are a regular, I hope you find something to make your visit a special one.
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10 Tips for a Perfect Weekend in Sydney
1. Stay in the area you want to spend your evenings
Choosing your accommodation is hard at the best of times, but on a quick visit, the wrong location can affect your enjoyment. Staying outside the city centre or surrounding “villages” may save you money, but you will lose precious time in transit.
What’s important to you – a morning beach walk, having a range of cafes to choose from for breakfast, dining options minutes from your door? Waking up to see the icons out your window?
We have a detailed guide to choosing where to stay in Sydney over on our Sydney site; however, here are five options to get you started:
- Harbour view splurge – Park Hyatt, Four Seasons or Shangri La are all excellent choices
- Budget stay with a view – it’s hard to beat the Sydney Harbour YHA private rooms.
- Foodie hotspot with great transport – Potts Point or Surry Hills
- Family-friendly hotels and spaces- Darling Harbour or Swissôtel on Market Street
- Beachfront views – Manly offers the better city commute for a short visit.
2. Avoid the temptation to be too busy
Sydney has a bunch of icons that you probably want to tick off on a first visit: the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge, a Manly Ferry ride, and a walk on Bondi Beach. We agree these are all worthy, but if it’s your very first time here, then this might be enough to pencil into your itinerary.
Leave the rest of your time for serendipity; you simply can’t see everything on offer with 48 hours in Sydney, and running around trying to will make it a lot less fun.
I suggest you divide your days in half – effectively giving you four-time slots. Assign one area to each. So a morning in Circular Quay, an afternoon in Manly, a morning in the eastern beaches, and an afternoon in an inner-city village-like Newtown or Potts Point. This will give you a mix of the different Sydney lifestyles and a better understanding of the city.
3. Get your head around Sydney’s very handy public transport system
On a two-day visit, a car will probably end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Sydney has many one-way streets, horrible weekend traffic, and expensive parking, which can be impossible to find.
Our buses, trains, and ferries are the perfect way to explore, and travel between the major sites is pretty straightforward. There is no need for adults to buy a transport (Opal) card anymore; just tap on and off with your credit or debit card; you can also use Google or Apple pay. Download the free Opal travel app for timetables and maps.
Tip: On weekends, all-day travel costs only $8.40
4. Check Sydney’s major events calendar
Sydney has some huge festivals like Vivid, Mardi Gras, and NYE, which are lots of fun, but they can also add a lot to your costs.
If you are visiting for one of these key events, we suggest you plan and book to get the best deals on your hotels. It’s also a good idea to book things like Bridge climb or an Opera House tour in advance so you can get the time slot you want.
5. Take at least one walk and ride at least one ferry
Sydney weather is well suited to walking most of the year, and there are dozens of walking tracks that are worth your time. We have written about them extensively, but if and find it very hard to pick just one.
Take a look at the Taronga to Balmoral walk if you want a decent hike that is not too challenging and offers spectacular harbour views. The Bondi to Coogee walk is hard to resist, and for a short walk combined with a ferry ride, we rate the South Head Heritage walk at Watsons Bay.
For your one ferry ride, we would go with either the iconic Manly Ferry, a very popular Sunday outing for locals, or the route from Barangaroo to Circular Quay, which includes a ride under the harbour bridge.
Melbourne might slightly edge Sydney out in the foodie stakes, but the game is strong here, and there are dozens of world-class options and plenty of delicious cheap eats.
Reservations are recommended for Friday and Saturday evenings, but some of the most popular Sydney restaurants don’t take reservations; you simply turn up and give them your name and mobile number and head to a nearby bar; they call you when your table is ready.
Our favourite inner-city eats you could try to include on a weekend in Sydney are:
- Breakfast – Devon in Barangaroo, Kepos St Kitchen, The Boathouse at Balmoral,
- Food with a view – Bennelong, Opera Kitchen, Ripples at North Sydney
- Splurge -Quay is our most decorated restaurant but Arai and Cafe Sydney rate highly too.
- Sweets – Rivareno Gelato, Flour and Stone, Black Star Pastry and Koi Dessert Bar
7. Consider a short guided tour
Many people shy away from tours, but a guided tour that closely fits your interests is a great way to find brilliant spots that you would be unlikely to uncover alone without hours of research.
Our favourites include:
- A Sydney small bar tour – I love this one of Surry Hills
- A free 2-3-hour booking with a Sydney Greeters – let them know you only have half a day available
- The evening walk in the Rocks with I’m Free for a crash course in colonial history
- Join a food tour, especially good if travelling alone, find the best eats in Sydney quickly
- Explore Chinatown with a local guide
- Take a street art tour in Sydney’s inner west.
8. Visit a market for your shopping fix
Sydney has a bunch of weekend markets, and a short stop at one of these is a great way to pick up some gifts or treat yourself to a mid-morning snack.
- Paddington – Saturdays – lots of handmade and emerging designers
- Kirribilli – Their Sunday (monthly) art and design market is a favourite of ours
- Bondi – Weekends – lots of eats, a great way to end the Coogee to Bondi walk
- The Rocks – Weekends- locally made souvenirs and more
9. See a show
There is plenty of choice from enjoying a performance by the Australia Ballet at the Opera House to catching the latest Sydney Dance Company show or play at the Wharf Theatre.
Check Tix Today for last-minute tickets, or sign up to the Opera House mailing list for the latest information and weekly deals for your visit.
10. Take in the harbour from above
Regardless of your budget, there is a way to admire Sydney from above. Here are our five favourites, including one of these on your itinerary for an unforgettable harbour view.
- Pylon lookout – a museum and an observation deck with 360-degree views
- Bridge climb – a sunrise or sunset climb will create an unforgettable memory
- Hit up a bar with a view – Bar 83 for something fancy or the more affordable The Glenmore in the Rocks.
- Seaplane flight – from Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach
- Helicopter view – a short flight over the harbour and beaches is a good alternative to the Bridgeclimb, especially for photographers.
Staying in Sydney a little longer?
We have another whole website in Sydney with over 250 articles to help you plan your Sydney getaway! There is also a Facebook group with lots of local advice.
First published May 2020, fully updated March 2023
Got a question? Head over to our Australia Travel Tips Facebook Group and ask a local.
2 thoughts on “10 Tips for a Perfect Weekend in Sydney”
Without sounding too gluttonous, Sunday in Melbourne is all about the food. Start late with a big breakfast: Melbourne treats breakfast as fine dining. Then wander around the city or head to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) before heading home for lunch and lazy-time. After that, maybe a bike ride around the MCG with the kids, then a perfect pizza in Carlton ( D.O.C. and Capitano are our picks), followed by a Pidapipo gelato and a browse at Readings bookshop. Perfect.
I plan my Melb visits around the cafes and restaurants I want to see so I completely understand where you are coming from. I must try a Pidapipo gelato next time I am there.
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