Our list of the ‘Top 8 Free Things to do in Sydney - Coastal Area' included all of the places that we considered the best free to explore destinations when it came to the coastal area. This article, however, lists out all the places that you can see within the central business district of Sydney that won’t cost you a dime.
The central business district is the commercial center of the city. CBD for short, this city is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populated city in Australia.
Ideally, we think that the central business district is far too big to tour in one day. With this in mind, it's better if you break down the itinerary into two days.
We've also attached two pictures of the itineraries for the two respective days for you to save and for the next time you are looking for things to do in Sydney.
DAY 1- Sydney Harbour Bridge to Queen Victoria Building
All the places noted here are within walking distance. The total walking distance is a little more than 7 km taking roughly 1 hour 30 mins in total. You can find the map link here.
1. Sydney Harbour Bridge
Also known as the Coathanger of Sydney, the Harbour Bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge on the planet. Standing over 400 feet tall, the Register of the National Estate included this bridge as number 86 on the Australian National Heritage List. The history along with its superfluous existence has in fact transformed the steel bridge into a modern day iconic structure.
The size of the bridge was so extravagant to begin with, that the influx of tourists came as an extension, even while it was under construction.
Some popular tourist activities include visiting the Bridge Museum and Pylon Lookout.
There are also climbs that are organized routinely called the Bridge Climb, which is a climb to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This isn’t a free activity, but it’s immensely popular. It also involves a historical and cultural journey where the tour guides inform you about the social and historical implications of this bridge.
You can find out more about the bridge here.
2. Sydney Observatory
From the south end of the bridge, you can very easily walk to the Sydney Observatory. The walk will take approximately 9 minutes through Argyle street.
If watching terrestrial or celestial events is your bread and butter, the observatory is especially for you. This site was formerly a defense fort and is now being used as a public planetarium and space theatre. You can enter in the daytime for free and explore on your own or you can take a tour as well. While they aren’t free, if you’re someone who wants to take the tour, we highly recommend the night tours organized by the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. Even though the tickets are a little heavy on the wallet, it’s a great investment, trust us.
Other than the planetarium, the observatory hill also receives much tourist attention. The hill affords superb views of the harbour and the port town. There is also a sitting deck for people to ogle at all that Sydney has to offer.
3. Cadmans Cottage
After you get off on the Watson Road, make your way to the Argyle Street again and head East. Take the left on George Street and within 50 meters on your left you will see the Cadmans Cottage.
The cottage, named after its last Coxswain, John Cadman, formerly functioned as a water police station. It now functions as a heritage listed visitor attraction. Cadmans Cottage is the second oldest surviving residential building in Sydney. With Georgian architecture, this cottage is a rare example of an official colonial building. It gives you an inside look into the settlement and is a historical marvel.
Other than taking pictures by the cottage, which is free of course, if you want to spend more time (and some money) getting to know Cadmans Cottage you can take The Rocks walking tours, namely the Ghost Tour. We suggest you also visit the Rocks Discovery Museum and the Sussanah's Place Museum.
You can learn more about the rocks here.
4. Sydney Opera House
The walk from Cadman's to Sydney Opera House is more than a km. We suggest you take a walk through the First Fleet Park and around the Circular Quay while enjoying the breathtaking views. Walk north to reach the Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House is more than just an icon for the city, it is what Sydney is primarily recognized for. The site was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon on 1957. Since 2007, UNESCO recognizes it as a world heritage site.
This multi venue, performing arts center is home to 8.2 million tourist visits every year and it’s absolutely free to enter. Certainly, we do not have to emphasize how big of a tourist attraction this is.
You can learn more about the Sydney Opera House here.
5. The Royal Botanic Gardens: Government House and Sydney Conservatorium of Music
From the Opera House, if you walk for just a brief moment you’ll find yourself in the Royal Botanic Gardens. This garden incorporates the Government House and surrounds the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The Government House is the residence of the governor of New South Wales, Australia. The heritage listed site is primarily a tourist hotspot due to the grounds. There are an array of trees, shrubs, planters and lush greenery.
The Sydney Conservatorium, on the other hand, is less popular for its architectural importance. The Conservatorium is a faculty of the University of Sydney. Music students organize free classical music concerts here on the Conservatorium streets, every Wednesday. If you are ever here on a Wednesday, make sure you come here to enjoy the arts.
6. Art Gallery of New South Wales
From the Botanic Gardens Information center, it is only a few steps to the Art Gallery road. Take a right on Art Gallery road and the Art gallery of New South Wales will be on your left.
This gallery is one of the largest public galleries in Australia. Being completely free of cost, this gallery is mostly famous for its Aboriginal, European and Asian collection. Particularly, the works of Claude Monet are worth the whole trip to Sydney.
Read more about the Art Gallery of New South Whales here.
7. St Mary's Cathedral
If you continue down Art Gallery Road and take a left on College Street, you will see the St Mary's Cathedral on your left.
This is a Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the seat of the Archbishop of Sydney. The structure is modeled after the Lincoln Cathedral, UK. It also has design resemblance with the Notre-Dame in Paris.
Find out more about St Mary's Cathedral here.
8. St James Church
From College Street make your way up North, towards King Street. You can find the church on your left.
St James Cathedral follows the Georgian style of architecture that the Cadman's cottage follows as well. Many, to this end, identify the Cathedral as one of Sydney’s gems due to its architectural and historic importance.
You can learn more about the St James Cathedral here.
9. Queen Victoria Building
To reach the Queen Victoria Building step on King Street. Take a left on Elizabeth Street and then take a right turn on Market Street. After that, take a left turn on George Street, you will find the QVB on your right.
The QVB market is a heritage listed 19th century building designed by George McRae. It follows Romanesque architecture, has 3 storeys, sandstone clad walls and copper domes. The most dominant feature in particular is the great central dome that’s 62 ft in diameter and 196 ft tall.
QVB also has a statue of Queen Victoria in front of the southern entrance facing the Sydney Town Hall. The statue was formerly Irish and stood outside the Republic of Ireland legislative assembly until 1947. Until it was proposed to be moved to Australia during the renovation of the QVB.
Learn more about QVB here.
If you’re reading this post and thinking that some of these places would be cool to visit with a travel partner, you can find other travelers to meet up with in Sydney by checking out the trips below.