There’s so much you know and love about Australia’s biggest city.
There’s that harbour (stunning from every angle), those beaches and one or two of the world’s most famous architectural icons. Yet Sydney doesn’t rest on its laurels. The city centre’s western flank has undergone massive redevelopment (including the most talked-about new skyscraper in town) and some age-old institutions are shaking things up. All in all, the Harbour City is full of surprises waiting to be discovered. So, let’s get started!
Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Sydney. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
7.30am: Take an early morning coastal stroll
Wriggle into the Lycra to join the beautiful people who are up early to power-walk the Bondi to Bronte coastal trail. It passes the iconic Bondi Icebergs swimming pool, then up and over rugged headlands, and around gorgeous Tamarama Beach. If the water’s warm, take a dip and dry off on the golden sands.
9am: Do breakfast in Bondi
After working/walking up an appetite, head to Bill’s at Bondi Beach to see why the ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter is a must-try Sydney dish. If it’s too busy, try The Nine. Its all-day brekkie menu includes wellness porridge and a gluten-free flossy pancake.
11am: Learn the story behind an icon
Make your way back to the city by bus or train and head down to Circular Quay to watch the ferries come and go. Then circle around to Bennelong Point to the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House. Learn more about the history of this stunning building on a one-hour guided tour (there are three tours daily, Thursday to Monday). See the soaring interiors, admire the tiled white sails and watch memorable moments from past performances in the Concert Hall.
1.30pm: Enjoy fine art and lunch with a view
Skirt back past Circular Quay to reach the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in The Rocks. On level 4 is an indoor-outdoor café with a brilliant view across to the Opera House. The reasonably priced menu here includes burgers, salads and fish and chips (last orders at 3.30pm). Afterwards, explore the MCA’s exhibitions.
4.30pm: Discover Barangaroo
Follow the shoreline under the epic Sydney Harbour Bridge and past Walsh Bay (home to the Sydney Theatre Company) to the new Barangaroo precinct. Stroll through the stunning reserve (planted to recreate the landscape prior to British settlement), then on to Barangaroo South for sundowners with water and sunset views. There’s a mind-boggling array of bars and eateries to choose from, but Born by Tapavino is always good. Settle in for $8 happy hour sangrias and snacks such as warm cheese wrapped in jamon serrano and dotted with truffled honeycomb, and pan-fried king prawns with black sesame butter. For a more substantial dinner, Banksii Vermouth Bar and Bistro does a modern Mediterranean-influenced menu.
9pm: Be social in the city
Sydney’s small bar scene is the talk of the inner-city and offers plenty of options for a nightcap. Try The Baxter Inn in Clarence Street – a low-lit den that showcases hundreds of different whiskies.
10am: Insta your morning coffee break
Black Star Pastry, creator of the strawberry watermelon cake (deemed ‘the world’s most Instagrammed cake’) has four Sydney locations (including one in the city), but there’s nothing like heading to its spiritual home of inner-west Newtown. Sample that cake and have a coffee at the counter of the bakery’s bright minimalist space on King Street. If you prefer a savoury start, slurp on breakfast ramen at nearby Rising Sun Workshop.
Noon: Get amongst the mummies
Burn those breakfast calories by walking two kilometres to The University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum. Opened in late 2020, this fascinating museum (with free entry) unites three university collections. One of its most exciting spaces is The Mummy Room displaying Egyptian antiquities.
2pm: Feast on the flavours of Asia
Ready for a casual open-air lunch? Wander along Broadway towards Central Station to reach Spice Alley. This unusual lantern-strung food court, tucked away in a back lane enlivened with photogenic murals, features a variety of Asian eateries – including Indonesian, Japanese and Thai. Pull up a table and feel free to BYO drinks.
4pm: Walk The Goods Line
From Spice Alley, head to Central Station’s Devonshire Street tunnel to start exploring The Goods Line. Built along a disused rail corridor, this 800-metre-long elevated city park is Sydney’s equivalent of Manhattan’s High Line. A stroll along the thoroughfare will lead you past the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building – better known as the Frank Gehry-designed ‘paper bag’ building – and directly into Darling Harbour. Spend the rest of your afternoon enjoying everything this lively part of Sydney has to offer.
Need a place to stay?
Choice Hotels has you well and truly covered in Sydney with a range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Search online and book direct for a Lowest Price Guarantee.
About the writer
Katrina Lobley grew up in Queensland, moved to New South Wales after university, and stayed put. She worked as a writer on regional newspapers in Grafton, Orange and Wollongong, before relocating to Sydney in 1997 to take up a role at The Sydney Morning Herald. Katrina turned to freelance writing in 2001, and today she writes about travel, arts and culture for a variety of newspapers, magazines and online sites. Her favourite time of year is November, when the enormous jacaranda tree in her backyard finally breaks into bloom.