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One Day In Sydney: What to do with limited time

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Australia is one of the most spectacular and picturesque countries to visit in the world. Its stunning diversity of wildlife, its beautiful coastline, and dynamic urban centres make it one of every traveler’s must-see destinations. But with so many places to see, and often limited time to fit it all in, can you get away with only one day in Sydney?

The short answer is yes!

Sydney is one spot that absolutely needs to be on your Australian list of places to see, and today I’m here to help you out with a list of must-dos that you can pick and choose from if you’re working with limited time.

A look at the city with only one day in Sydney Australia.

Sydney has been known by many around the world since the city hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. However, beyond the games, there are many great things to do and see in the city that will please any type of traveller.

Before planning your trip make sure to compare and get cheap travel insurance and then book your tickets for Sydney today!

If tuned in a few weeks ago, you may have caught Marie’s foodie guide guest post on where to dine in Sydney and today we have Alex, an Aussie himself and blogger, here to outline his perfect day itinerary in Australia’s largest city.

Here’s what to do with one day in Sydney, Australia

After many years of contemplating the amount of time and effort it would take to get to Australia, you finally jumped on some cheap flight deals. Chances are you’ve landed in Sydney, Australia’s largest city. If it’s your first time in Sydney, you’re probably facing the same dilemma I face when I first land in a big city; “What now?”

Admit it, we’ve all been there, taking your first steps out of the airport and now what? You’re definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to this stunning city, but it can be overwhelming when you first land. Don’t worry I’ve got you covered with a 24 hours in Sydney itinerary!

Oh- and if you’re traveling to Sydney with kids, the following guide can be easily adapted!

From the Sydney airport

When arriving at Sydney’s Airport, you’ll see that you have multiple options for getting into the city. If you’re travelling by yourself and on a budget, I would suggest taking the Airport Link. The trip will cost $18 one way and only takes 12 minutes to get to Central. It also goes all the way to North Sydney station.

If you need to get to any other parts of Sydney, use Transport NSW to plan your trip via public transport. Simply enter your location and where you want to go, and the app will create a route for you. If you’re travelling with more people, a cheaper option would be to catch a taxi or order an Uber.

Get your morning cup-of-joe.

No doubt after a night (or multiple nights) of traveling, and then getting to your hotel to drop your bags off (or if you’re lucky they can offer an early check-in!), you’re going to need a coffee. You’ll soon find that Australians are so crazy about coffee. They have a massive coffee culture, and sure know how to make a damn good one!

Because of this, it doesn’t particularly matter where you get your coffee, as anywhere is pretty good. If you’re a coffee enthusiast check out Timeout’s Best Coffee in Sydney list. To complete the Sydney experience, order a flat white coffee, grab an outdoor seat and enjoy some brunch (a Sydney favourite is “Smashed Avo on Toast”).

Check out the Circular Quay

Your next stop after breakfast will take you to the stunning Circular Quay, easily accessible by train. If you’re looking for a postcard moment, this is it. From Circular Quay you’ll be able to take in stunning views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and the sun glistening on the harbour. What’s great about Circular Quay as a tourist destination is there are so many things to see and do.

If you’re an art enthusiast be sure to take yourself to the Museum of Contemporary Art right on the water! Additionally, if you’re keen to explore Sydney’s convict past take yourself on a self-guided walk around The Rocks.

A Picnic Lunch in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens

After you’ve taken in the views of the harbour, it’s time to make your way to your next destination. Easily accessible from Circular Quay by walking around the Sydney Opera House (if you want to take the scenic route), lays the Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney. The botanical garden is the oldest botanical region and scientific institution in Australia and houses thousands of different species of plants, trees, and flowers.

This beautiful garden is the perfect pit stop for lunch. So get yourself a bite to eat at one of the various cafes and eateries on the grounds. I would recommend buying one of the picnic baskets, and picking a beautiful spot in the sun! If you’re keen to find out more about the botanic gardens, the garden offers free guided walks.

An Afternoon of Art: Explore Sydney’s Museums

There are endless opportunities to soak up the local culture in Sydney. With several different art museums to choose from, you are sure to find both classic and contemporary pieces that may be of interest to culturally minded travelers. There are also museums dedicated to Australia’s indigenous culture. If you are an amateur anthropologist or historian, then you may find yourself spending the whole day floating from one museum to another.

What I would do, is after you’ve taken in the views and sunshine of the botanical gardens, it’s time to take yourself to the next activity; the Art Gallery of New South Wales located only a 15-minute walk from the gardens. Even if you’re not a huge fan of art, the stunning architecture of the gallery will be enough to entice you to enter.

The gallery is one of Australia’s oldest and largest galleries and is home to a magnitude of Australian and international art. Entry into the gallery is free, and with that, you’ll be able to view a large collection of the permanent collection that features art from colonial Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, and contemporary Australian art. The gallery also plays host to international exhibitions, where entry will incur a fee.

An EVENING High: Dinner with a view.

No doubt that after a long day of travelling, exploring, and sightseeing you’ll want to take it easy this evening and get into bed early to sleep off the jet lag. If you’ve got a higher budget for your trip, and aren’t afraid of heights I would recommend dining at 360 Bar and Dining.

In this restaurant you’ll be dining at around 300 meters and the rotating restaurant will offer you uninterrupted 360° panoramic views of Sydney.  But keep in mind that this meal will set you back around $90/person. In my opinion, with only one day in Sydney, it’s more than worth it…

If you’re looking for budget eats I would recommend checking out Spice Alley in Chippendale, and Mamak in Sydney. If you’re not quite sure and want to walk around and stumble upon a great eatery, Newtown, Surry Hills, and Bondi, are culinary hotspots.

With only one day in Sydney, be sure to check out Bondi Beach.

With only one day in Sydney, you may also be interested in the following activities.

With so much to see and do in this city, there is no way to fit it all into only one day in Sydney. Make sure that your travel plans are flexible and that you have the opportunity to stay longer if more than a few of the items on this list seem interesting to you! Or if time is really a constraint, then prioritize and plan for one of these more niche experiences. 

Visit the Opera House and catch an event!

Topping the list of things that you need to see during your day in Sydney is the famous Opera House. Known throughout the world as one of the most recognisable landmarks in the country, the Sydney Opera House is a wonder to behold. 

Beyond the stunning exterior, however, a visit to the Opera House offers travellers the chance to get a taste of culture. The venue houses many different events and performances throughout the year. Be sure to check online before you visit to see if there are any upcoming events that might be of interest to you.

You can find other events going on in the area at Darling Harbour.

If there's a particular event you want to see, fit it into your one day in Sydney at the opera house.Relax On Bondi Beach

No visit to Australia is complete without several days spent at the beach. I didn’t include this in the itinerary, because with only one day in Sydney, this might not be your priority.

BUT, if the weather forecast looks promising, and the infamous Bondi Beach calls your name, who am I to deny you? It’s one of the most famous and popular beaches in the country, and perhaps the world, any traveler is sure to be impressed.

Whether you plan to swim or simply want to soak up some sun, Bondi is where you want to be.

Climb The Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you want to get a great view of the water and most of the city, then you cannot miss the opportunity to climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Fortunately, it is entirely legal and common to climb the bridge, and there is a designated pathway to the top. 

This might not be for the faint of heart, however, and can take a good part of your one day in Sydney. The trek can take most people at least a few hours and, if you are afraid of heights, then stick to more horizontal activities.

There are other ways to see the harbour too, such as the Sydney Harbour Coffee Cruise! If you want to see the city from up high with a backdrop of the blue mountains, check out the observation deck at the Sydney Tower Eye.

With one day in Sydney, you have to see the Harbour BridgeSee Australia’s wildlife.

Australia is home to a number of unique animal species. You can see many of these, as well as animals from all around the world, at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. If you are more interested in aquatic wildlife, there is also the Sydney Aquarium to consider.

Cute Kangaroos in Sydney Australia

Like you, I’ve been in your shoes, stepping off a plane in a new place and thinking to myself “what now?” contemplating whether I want to spend the day sleeping away the jetlag or making the most and seeing the city. Well, with this article I hope to have cleared some things up and made your planning just a bit easier. Of course, there are so many more things to do in Sydney than the above, and you’ll need at least a three days to really get a feel of what Sydney is about! So go on, get out there!

Which of the above activities would you want to try with only one day in Sydney? Have you ever been to this city? If not, is it on your list?

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