Top 16 Free Things to do in Sydney - Central Business District
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24th Jun | 11 min read

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 use 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

Photo credit: Bob Linsdell on Visualhunt / CC BY

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 harbor and the port town. There is also a sitting deck for people to ogle at all that Sydney has to offer.

3. Cadmans Cottage

Photo credit: SqueakyMarmot on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

After you get off on Watson Road, make your way to 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 in 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

Photo credit: denisbin on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

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

Photo credit: djgr on Visual Hunt / CC BY

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

Photo credit: Sidneiensis on / CC BY

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 a design resemblance to the Notre-Dame in Paris.

Find out more about St Mary's Cathedral here.

8. St James Church

Photo credit: Greg O'Beirneon CC BY

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

Photo credit: Studio Sarah Lou on Visualhunt / CC BY

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 stories, 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.

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DAY 2- Museum of Contemporary Arts to Waverley Cemetery

All the places noted here are within walking distance. However, if the distances between Sydney Fish Market to Paddington Markets and Centennial Park to Waverley Cemetery seem too big for you to walk we’ll also show you alternative ways to get there. The total walking distance is approximately 15 km taking roughly 3 hours and 15 mins in total. You can find the map link here.

10. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Photo credit: VirtualWolf on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Located on George St,, this museum was previously known as the MCA. It showcases the contemporary artwork of living artists. The Museum of Contemporary Art is extremely vocal of the traditional owners of their land belonging to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. It houses over 4000 works from Australian artists. Being a free entry and a non-profit, the museum is indeed a true artist's exhibition.

Other than enjoying the exhibition you can also visit the rooftop cafe.

You can learn more about the MCA Australia here.

11. Sydney Tower Eye

Photo credit: mertie. on Visual Hunt / CC BY

From the MCA to the Sydney Tower is a straight kilometer walk South through Pitt Street. Turn left on Market Street. The tower will be on your left.

This tower, which is also known as the Flower Tower, is an observation deck. It’s more than 1000 feet tall and located on Market Street. It’s one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the city and also a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. The main observation is more than 160 feet in diameter.

12. The Great Synagogue Sydney

Photo credit: BobMeade on / CC BY

The synagogue is located on Castlereagh St. So when you take a left from Market St onto Castlereagh Street you’ll find The Great Synagogue on your left.

Just as the synagogue is known as the largest worship center for the Australian Jewish community, it’s also just as famous for its architecture. Architect Thomas Rowe combined Romanesque and Byzantine influences with Gothic detailing in particular.

Other than its obvious physical beauty, this synagogue is historically important. As a result, it’s enlisted in the heritage list. It also united the York and Macquire Street congregations.

In order to visit the inside, you’ll have to take an organized tour.

13. Sydney Fish Market

  Photo credit: Sarah M Stewart on / CC BY

On your way to the Sydney Fish Market, you will pass Madame Tussauds, while this isn’t free, Tussauds is definitely a major tourist attraction as there are only 13 in the world and this is the only one in Australia. 

From the Tussauds, if you take the Pyrmont Bridge and continue through the Pyrmont bridge road, you will find the market on your right, opposite Pier 99.

This market is the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere. It trades above 13,500 tonnes of fish over a year and is a must-visit when it comes to exploring Sydney. Take the 'Behind the Scenes at SFM' tour to get the best exposure to this place. We suggest you pay attention to the auctions as they are extremely fast-paced.

Also, you can take the seafood cooking class at the Sydney fish market. It is a short class of 3 hours with plenty of wine, water, and tea to go around.

14. Paddington Markets

  Photo credit: charlotteinaustralia on / CC BY

Now from the Sydney Fish Market to the Paddington Market is a bit too far for some travelers to walk. We propose that in this case, you take the subway. You can find the map here. 

This market has been open every Saturday since 1973. It started initially as a market to encourage local fashion designers and craftspeople. If you have a spare hour to spend, make sure you come here for the local art, the falafels, and the handmade crafts.

15. Centennial Parklands

If you make your way onto Gordon St and take a right on Cook Rd you will reach Centennial Park in 2 km.

The Centennial Parklands are known as the lungs of the city as it seems to be the only source of fresh air in the bustling city of Sydney. The parklands include Queens Park, Moore Park, and of course Centennial Park. In total, the Park extends to around 360 hectares.

The park features formal gardens, ponds, grand avenues, statues, and heritage buildings. Also a natural amphitheater at the foot of sandstone cliffs with panoramic views of the Sydney skyline and open spaces to host outdoor events.

16. Waverley Cemetery

If life was a Hollywood film, all cemeteries would have looked as beautiful as the Waverley.

To reach the cemetery continue through Darley Rd, from the park, and get to Macpherson St. Continue through and take a right on St Thomas Street. The Waverley Cemetery should be on the left. Next to the Bronte Early Education Centre.

If you want you can also take the bus via Clovelly Rd to Waverly. You can find the bus route here.

This heritage-listed cemetery is on the cliffs of Bronte in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. The cemetery is famous for its largely intact Victorian and Edwardian monuments. It looks nothing short of a movie set with the white tombstones creating contrast with the blue ocean. 

We’re hoping you enjoyed our two-day itinerary of Sydney CBD. If you’re looking for more free things to do in Sydney you can connect with the many locals on GAFFL.

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    Dr.Bhupendra Chandra Acharya
    March 25, 2021 at 1:10 PM

    Sydney appears to be a very beautiful city.I hope to visit Sydney.