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Aerial shot of museum building
Photograph: Chau Chak Wing Museum/Brett Boardman

The best museums in Sydney

Deadly animals, hot rocks, mummified corpses and buried treasure – Sydney's museums are anything but boring

By Alannah Maher and Time Out editors
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Sydney is home to some pretty fascinating museums, places where you can learn about ships, time, military history, the police force and more. 

Head out on a journey of discovery as you learn about fascinating natural histories, scientific endeavours, design innovations and the many surprising stories that have made this city everything it is today.

If your interests are more piqued by the bizarre, be sure to check out these six unusual museums in Sydney.

Sydney's best museums

Large sculpture of goddess Hathor.
Large sculpture of goddess Hathor.
Photograph: Chantel Le Cross

1. Chau Chak Wing Museum

Museums Camperdown

Art, science, history and ancient cultures meet under one roof at Sydney's newest museum, whose collections are 150 years in the making. The museum combines three powerful collections from the vaults of the University of Sydney – including three ancient Egyptian mummies. 

The new Australian Museum
The new Australian Museum
Photograph: Australian Museum/Alistair MacDougall

2. Australian Museum

Museums Darlinghurst

Funnel webs, king browns, red backs, salties – find Australia's most deadly here, stuffed or behind glass – as well as some prehistoric terrors. Laugh in mortality's face, glory in the wonders of natural history, and scare the rellies off your sofa bed and onto the next flight home.

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3. Powerhouse Museum

Museums Ultimo

This hotbed of science, design and innovation is big on hands-on exhibits for budding gadgeteers and button-pushers, as well as blockbuster fashion, design and pop-cultural exhibitions.

Vivid at Australian National Maritime Museum
Vivid at Australian National Maritime Museum
Photograph: Supplied

4. Australian National Maritime Museum

Museums Darling Harbour

Whether it's the Harbour, the beaches or Finding Nemo, Sydney's bound to the water like a babe to the breast. Circumnavigate the ANMM if you're keen jump aboard a submarine and live out all your Hunt for Red October fantasies.

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Hamocks at Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Hamocks at Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Photograph: Kit Baker

5. Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Museums Sydney

Home to convicts, wastrel women, immigrants, law courts, a vaccine institute and a government printer, this place has seen it all. Discover the people who built this city and, if you're really quiet, hear their footsteps echo down the halls.

6. Museum of Sydney

Museums Sydney

Smack bang on top of the foundations of Australia's first Government House, the MOS is a celebration of the city's past, present and future. With video walls, poetry, storylines and panoramas out onto the city, this is a one-stop shop for visitors and curious locals.

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7. Justice & Police Museum

Museums Circular Quay

For history with a macabre twist of the knife, look no further. This old court house has seen many rapscallions sentenced for dastardly deeds. Spiked gates and winding stairways take you to pokey cells, murderous mug-shots and weapons to make the stomach turn.

Interior view of the Sydney Jewish Museum.
Interior view of the Sydney Jewish Museum.
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Jewish Museum

8. Sydney Jewish Museum

Museums Darlinghurst

It's not just for WWII buffs or the Jewish community. The SJM explores human rights through the lens of the Jewish experience, and in doing so, help us to understand our present. 

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Elizabeth Farm homestead
Elizabeth Farm homestead
Photograph: Douglas Riley

9. Elizabeth Farm

Museums History Rosehill

Parts of the original 1793 construction – the oldest surviving European building in Australia – remain. They also have the oldest surviving olive tree in the Museum's gardens. The interior has been restored to its 1830s condition, while the museum’s genteel tearooms are open weekends only between 10am and 4pm. 

Old Government House
Old Government House
Photograph: Supplied

10. Old Government House

Things to do Parramatta

This world heritage listed monument is Australia’s oldest public building, built by convicts between 1799 and 1818. Today it boasts the nation’s most important collection of Australian colonial furniture, as well as early textiles and significant homewares from the time of the colony's early governors.

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Family looking through telescope
Family looking through telescope
Photograph: James Horan

11. Sydney Observatory

Museums Millers Point

Originally built in the late 1800s, Sydney Observatory opened to the public in 1982. Night tours (booking essential) include a talk and tour, 3D Space Theatre session and viewing through a 40cm (16in) reflecting telescope. You can also explore Sydney Observatory on a self-guided day visit or daytime staff-guided telescope and 3D Space Theatre session.

12. Susannah Place Museum

Museums The Rocks

Note: this museum remains temporarily closed, check here for updates.

The Rocks once teemed with working-class Aussies. Built in 1844, their terraces invoke humble glories and provide plenty of fodder for history buffs and nosy parkers.

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Science Space Wollongong Planetarium
Science Space Wollongong Planetarium
Photograph: Supplied/Science Space

13. Science Space

Museums Science Wollongong

It’s worth a trip down south to Wollongong just to visit this fun, interactive science museum. Science Space is a big cheerful building near the beach that boasts more than 90 interactive exhibits. See your body through a heat-sensitive lens, test your strength, come face to face with animatronic dinosaurs, and be amazed by the power of magnetism. 

Learn about Sydney's Aboriginal history and contemporary culture

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