I always wanted to visit Sydney and it was my first destination when I travelled to Australia. Australia is a popular destination for Singaporeans and it remains one of my favourite countries so far – the country has a nice vibe and people are friendly. It's also an easy place to live in. Sydney is a vibrant city in itself, offering beautiful architecture to behold, peaceful beaches to sun-bathe and surf at and pockets of places that have something going on all the time.
Accommodation isn't cheap in the city, and I was lucky enough to visit a friend who was staying there. Before you go to Sydney, read GET.com's Sydney Travel Guide where we will show you the top things you must do, see, eat and buy in this vibrant city!
Top Things To See In Sydney
Sydney Opera House
The iconic structure that defines Sydney is no doubt the Sydney Opera House. It is considered one of the most distinctive buildings of the 20th century and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June, 2007.
The building comprises multiple performance venues, hosting over 1500 performances annually and attended by over a million people.
A wide range of performances is held in the venues including four key resident companies: Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Watch a performance there or go for an organised tour to uncover the stories and magic behind this iconic building.
After visiting the Sydney Opera House, take a lovely walk up to the Botanic Gardens where you'll enjoy a superb view of downtown Sydney.
If you are looking to enjoy some natural landscapes in Sydney, a visit to the Blue Mountains is mandatory.
Well, the mountains are not really blue, but they got their name from the seemingly blue hue they project from the densely populated eucalyptus trees.
The atmosphere here is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil from the trees, which when combined with dust particles and water vapour, scatters "blue" rays of light reflected into the atmosphere.
It's a nice day tour out of urban Sydney to enjoy some fresh air and walk around this mountain rich in history.
Aborigines from Australia are recognised as the first people to inhabit the Blue Mountains. Explorers had first seen the mountains as an impassible barrier for further exploration during the time of Captain Cook.
Today, the Blue Mountains are easily accessible by car, train or coach. Key attractions include the famous Three Sisters, the scenic railway & Skyway and the Katoomba falls.
The scenic railway is worth an experience; it is the steepest passenger railway in the world. While the railway experience itself is short at just around 300 metres, you can choose your own adventure of adjusting your seat position to take the adventurous "cliffhanger" option at a steep 64 degree angle or select a more laid back option.
The mountains are bigger than the usual touristy area of Katoomba, so if you have more time, you can explore the other parts and even stay a night or two in retreats around the area.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
Australia is home to some of the wildest animals in the world, the unique marsupials (such as kangaroos, koalas and wombats) also live here and are almost only found in Australia.
The Featherdale Wildlife Park offers a close up experience with some of these animals – you'll get to see baby kangaroos roaming freely around and of course, carry the iconic koala bear!
If you are travelling with kids, it's a great place to bring them to to discover some wildlife and animals that they may not have seen before in their lives.
You will be able to hand-feed various animals at your own convenience for just $2 and watch various feedings of other animals throughout the day.
Most importantly, cuddle up with the koalas at no extra charge! It's about 45 minutes away from downtown Sydney so it would probably make sense to start your day early here before going for your Blue Mountain visit.
Top Things To Do In Sydney
As most of us know, Sydney is home to many great beaches. One of the beaches that I visited during my trip was Manly beach. In fact, the main point of the journey was actually to take the ferry to Manly!
The Manly Ferry is a great way to catch the major sights of Sydney, providing picture perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It's also a great way to catch the seabreeze on a sunny day. What's more, you get to have some time to hang out at the Manly beach when you arrive.
Even if you aren't a beach bum, there are plenty of other things to explore on Manly. You can visit the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, rent a bicycle, or walk up from the beach towards the North Head sanctuary. There are also many surf shops, restaurants and cafes around for you to spend the day and fill your stomach.
Circular Quay is one of the top tourist attractions in Sydney. It's a place where many things go on at the same time.
The scenery here is spectacular because it is located on the harbour and it has so many attractions. The main points of interest are the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks area.
It's a wonderful free activity to do and a great way to take in the atmosphere of the vibrant city.
You'll see people working, street entertainers, ferries coming in and out of the harbour, busy cafes and restaurants and it's also a nice place to take a romantic stroll at night.
Nearby, explore The Rocks, an area steeped with history; today, there are more than 100 heritage sites and buildings in The Rocks.
If you happen to be around on the weekends, remember to check out The Rocks Markets which features some 100 stalls selling stuff like food, crafts, jewellery, art, beauty products and homeware.
In every major city of Australia, you can almost always find a Chinatown but none of them are as big or vibrant as the one in Sydney.
Sydney's Chinatown used to have a shady past, comprising of opium and gambling dens. Today, it's a far cry from what it used to be and has turned into a key location where Asian restaurants congregate and a place for celebration of Chinese festivals.
In fact, the area has expanded way beyond its original heart on Dixon Street to include 12 other city streets.
A short walk from Chinatown on the south end is a large compound called the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
You can tell by the traditional roof pavilions and pagodas that the place has an Asian origin. The garden was presented to Sydney in 1988 as a gift by Guangzhou to celebrate Australia's bicentenary celebrations. There's even a teahouse within that serves dim sum!
Another highlight of Chinatown is the Chinatown Night Market that takes place every Friday at 4 pm.
In sync with the Chinatown vibe, the market sees a mishmash of stalls selling clothing, jewellery, paper lanterns, mobile phone accessories, stuffed toys, and of course, food!
The Night Market's stalls sell street food delicacies from every corner of Asia, ranging from Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Japan and China.
What To Eat In Sydney
Australia was formerly a British colony so it is no surprise that their cuisine is strongly influenced by British and Irish traditions.
There's a huge emphasis on agricultural products such as beef and lamb which are considered staples in the Australian diet.
They also have an abundance of seafood, thanks to a fishing zone that is considered the third largest in the world.
In fact, one of the delicacies we eat during Chinese New Year here, the abalone, can be found widely in Australia. Other main ocean species harvested here include lobster, tuna and salmon.
Sydney Fish Market
The best places to get the freshest seafood is always at the fish markets. This seafood paradise is just 2 km south of the CBD in Pyrmont.
As with other fish markets, activity typically starts before sunrise, and you'll see truckloads of fresh seafood and fishing boats coming in if you get there early enough.
The bustle and noisy chatting is a joy to experience. If you are staying in an apartment, you can always buy fresh seafood to cook. Or else, try to squeeze in for a spot to have your seafood there.
Ribs And Rump In Manly
If you happen to take the ferry to Manly beach, remember to stop by Ribs and Rump in Manly for a hearty burger or some of the best Australian prime cuts or ribs.
Located on the upper level of South Steyne, you'll enjoy an ocean view together with great food that makes a memorable meal in Manly.
Australians are coffee-obsessed, and that's no exaggeration. In fact, they've created one of the staples in coffee menus – the "flat white".
In fact, the popular coffee chain Starbucks which has dominated coffee markets all over the world could not make their mark in Australia. There are so many little cafes around Sydney that you can walk right in and almost always get a decent cup of coffee.
Where To Shop In Sydney
Being a cosmopolitan city, there's no lack of shopping malls and shops selling international brands. There's even an outlet store not too far from the city.
Birkenhead Point Outlet
If you have some extra time and want to do some shopping, you can always take a bus to reach Birkenhead Point Outlet malls for half a day.
There are over 100 shops there; familiar brands include Armani, Asics, Calvin Klein, Bonds, Crabtree and Evelyn, Furla and Hugo Boss. The mall is right next to a marina as well and has no lack of cafes and restaurants to rest your tired legs after your day of shopping.
Paddington's Weekend Market
With the initial intention of starting as a market to encourage local designers, craftsman and artists, the Paddington's weekend market has now grown to over 150 unique stalls filled with creative goods and crafted products. The market opens every Saturday at 10 am and has been operational since 1973.
The markets also sell a selection of food and it's always a nice idea to eat and relax under a tree or in a nearby park.
George Street is Sydney's equivalent to Orchard Road in Singapore. Located near the CBD area, the street houses a couple of huge malls which can provide hours of shopping pleasure.
Even if you are not looking to buy something, some of these architectural wonders are worth a look.
Two of these malls are located at George Street: the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade. The former features close to 200 designer labels, specialty stores and food establishments.
Some familiar names include Bally, Coach, Victoria's Secret and Topshop. The more than a century-old building is also a sight to behold; its elaborate Romanesque architecture with stained glass windows, arches and intricate tiled floors are worth your admiration even if you aren't a fan of shopping.
Similarly, the Strand Arcade provides a stylish shopping experience, with shops selling top designer labels, jewellery, as well as beauty salons.
The arcade was one of the first Victorian buildings in Sydney designed to take into account the harsh Australian climate.
The roof was made of tinted glass to reduce glare, and the access gallery on the top floor was designed to shade the lower levels.
More than 120 years old, the Strand arcade continues to stand proud in the heart of modern Sydney's CBD.
For some serious shopping, head to Bondi Junction Westfield which is a huge six storey complex filled with over 400 retail shops.
A great way to spend the day would be to head to Bondi beach in the morning and have some time relaxing and shopping at the mall after.
Most shopping malls in Sydney close early by Singapore standards – between 5:30 to 6 pm daily, so start early and leave your nights for leisurely drinks and dinner.
Money Saving Travel Tips For Your Trip To Sydney
Saving money on your trip starts way before you're actually at your holiday destination. You can start saving money on your bookings in advance. One of the best ways to save on your plane tickets and hotel bookings is by using a rewards credit card especially designed for travellers.
These kind of cards are called travel credit cards and they usually let you earn rewards when you use them to book your trip. Some also let you earn points, miles or cashback when you use your card overseas or even on local purchases.
Some good travel cards even give you free travel insurance (so you don't have to spend any money on getting it on your own) when you use the card o purchase your tickets. Other cards offer travel discounts when you book your tickets or your hotel through certain travel websites.
Here's GET.com's pick of the 2 best credit cards for cashback-conscious travellers.
If you're travelling on a budget you might want to rent a room through Airbnb.com instead of a hotel. Hotels in Sydney are rather on the expensive side.
Although, if you book your hotel online you can find cheaper rates than if you go to a hotel in person and enquire while there. Here you can find the cheapest hotel rates in Sydney.
If you're an adventurous type or if you're travelling alone and want to meet some locals, you could try couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing basically means staying as a guest at a host's home, for free! You might be offered a couch, a mattress or even a nice double room - there are so many different options and hosts available.
Keep in mind that couchsurfing shouldn't be considered as a "free hotel". You should be courteous with your host and spend some time to get to know them - maybe you can even cook them a meal or bring them a souvenir from your home country as a sign of gratitude.
To save money on your meals, try not to eat each of your 3 daily meals at a restaurant. You could buy some food at a supermarket and pack some with you for your day trips around the city and nature sites. Remember to bring some water and drinks along, too!
Then you can treat yourself to dinner at a restaurant to relax and chill in the evening. If you only eat one meal per day at a restaurant you can save a lot of money in total.
Here's our pick of the 2 best credit cards for budget travellers.
To save even more money on your next holiday, be sure to check out or 5 money-saving travel tips here.