Free things to do in Sydney
Thanks to the stratospheric rise of the aussie dollar, Sydney has now leapfrogged New York and London as one of the world’s most expensive cities. Yet while “Sydders” can take a shark-sized bite out of anyone’s pocket, there’s still plenty of free things to do in Sydney that don’t involve simply lying on a beach.
Easily the most atmospheric part of Sydney, the Rocks harbourside district is where the first Europeans stepped ashore on 26 January 1788. Strolling the cobblestone streets is, of course perfectly free, though its addictive weekend market should come with a wallet health warning.
Two of the finest free museums are the National Maritime, which traces the country’s many links with the ocean and the Australian Museum, which, as well as the usual dinosaur skeletons, displays some pleasingly lethal creepy crawlies. Also free are the excellent yet often overlooked museums of the University of Sydney.
You could easily spend a day wandering around the NSW Art Gallery, whose vast collection includes Asian masterpieces as well as European Impressionist, Aboriginal and colonial works. For free contemporary art don’t miss the newly expanded MCA or the Brett Whitley Studio.
An oasis of calm (at least when its raucous fruit bats are asleep) Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a perfect escape from the hectic downtown area. Also within the park is the imposingly colonial Government House (free entry), a kind of pint-sized Buckingham Palace, surrounded by manicured grounds.
Taking a dip in one of Sydneys thirty outdoor ocean pools is a classic Aussie experience. The water’s warm enough for year-round swimming and mercifully free of anything that will bite you (well, bar the odd hyperactive toddler). One of the most atmospheric pools is Bronte Baths (free), built in 1887, and overlooking the equally lovely Bronte Beach.
Why pay over $200 (£130) to climb the Harbour Bridge, known affectionately locally as “the coathanger”, when you can snap up the same panoramic views for free by walking across? The 1.15km HarbourBridge walkway is best accessed from the north shore so you can keep your eyes on the Opera House as you stroll (or cycle) across.
For the inside track on any city it’s hard to beat a local guiding you around, especially for free. The aptly named I’m Free Tours offers fun, three-hour walking tours accompanied by savvy locals. Look out for the guides – hard to miss thanks to their lime-green t-shirts – at Sydney Town Hall.