Sydney's full of wonderful surprises. You've seen photos of the Opera House, but did you know you can explore it from every angle, taking a backstage tour, sipping cocktails on the terrace or soaring past those iconic sails aboard a scenic flight? And you know about Bondi Beach – but have you heard that it's in a neighbourhood that's superb for strolling, gallery shopping or just chilling out over a flat white?
Two days aren't nearly enough to see everything that Australia's most energetic city has to offer, so don't even try. Instead, focus on a few blockbuster highlights that will set your heart racing and soothe your soul. You're sure to be back for more.
Discover some of Sydney's incredible attractions in our gallery.
48 hours in Sydney
48 hours in Sydney
You won’t want to waste a minute, so kickstart your Saturday by setting out early and heading for Jørn Utzon’s architectural wonder, the Sydney Opera House, where backstage tours commence at 7am. Step under the sails and sweep back the curtains to glimpse its inner workings, from pulleys to props, sequins to sound-checks. Then breakfast like a diva in the Green Room.
You’ve admired the Harbour Bridge from the Opera House – now, it’s time to conquer it. The Sydney BridgeClimb offers a choice of three guided routes through the structure; if you opt for the Express, they’ll get you to the summit and back in 2.25 hours. Zipped into a fetching jumpsuit and securely fastened with a carabiner, you’ll be gasping at the incredible views.
At the southern foot of the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest district: its 18th century shanty town evolved into the heart of Australia’s glitziest city. Traces of the quarter’s historic character survive, and markets bring a buzz to the streets at weekends. For lunch, choose something tasty from the street food stalls on George Street, under the bridge, or pop into the Australian Hotel for its signature Coat of Arms pizza, made with emu, kangaroo, bush tomato and lemon myrtle mayo.
For more open-air shopping, zip across to Paddington, one of Sydney’s favourite fashion and art districts. Paddington Markets, held each Saturday, are Sydney’s answer to London’s Camden Lock, but with much better weather. You’ll find everything from ironic cushion covers and vintage oddments to sundresses and panama hats here.
This morning, you learned that there’s more to the Sydney Opera House than just opera, so why not head back to put theory into practice? You could sip cocktails or a glass of cool Hunter Valley wine on the glorious Opera Bar terrace, right on the harbour, then enjoy a light supper of oysters, charcuterie or fish and chips before heading into the magnificent auditorium for a Saturday night concert, comedy gig, talk or show.
This local track, loved by international A-listers and everyone else besides, leads past Bondi Beach along dramatic sandstone cliffs to tiny Tamarama and Bronte Beach, where you can stop for a revitalising espresso before heading back. In October and early November this walk hosts the visual feast that is Sculpture by the Sea – but the people-watching is fantastic no matter the season.
Pale sands and surf are obvious reasons to visit the famous beachside suburb of Bondi, but its thriving shopping district is another. Designer fashion, organic eats, vintage jewellery and pop-up markets are all up for discovery on the relaxed beachfront streets. Don’t miss Aquabumps gallery – local artist Eugene Tan’s distinctive beach photography has an international following, and his prints are on sale here.
When it’s time for a break, zone in on the Bondi Markets which populate the grounds of Bondi Beach Public School between 10am and 4pm on Sundays (10am–5pm in January and February). There’s always a good selection of fresh, edible goodies on offer in the food court. Alternatively, cruise over to Icebergs, a Bondi icon, for a chic lunch of Italian-style cuisine overlooking the Bondi Baths, Sydney’s coolest outdoor pools.
To finish your weekend on a glamorous high, hop into a Sydney Seaplane at the pretty harbourside suburb of Rose Bay for a fabulous scenic flight, zooming past the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and spectacular waterfront suburbs, before touching down outside one of the best dining spots on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Perched above a sandy bay, Jonah’s Whale Beach is an acclaimed restaurant with rooms that’s hosted a galaxy of stars over the years. Dine here on some of Australia’s best modern cuisine, then retire to your luxuriously appointed suite and drift off to sleep to the gentle sound of waves crashing against the shore.