Who says Sydney's all about the outdoors? When the weather takes a turn for the worse, take shelter with our guide to fun things to do indoors in Sydney. There's something for everyone, from entertainment parks to sport and fitness classes, workshops and talks and cultural venues that are warm and dry all year round.
Want to test your problem-solving skills undercover? Challenge yourself at Sydney's best escape rooms. Keen to get freaked exploring spooky tunnels and buildings with sordid histories? Book in for a one of Sydney's terrifying ghost tours.
101 things to do indoors in Sydney
Want to impress your friends with un peu de français? Whatever the motivation, Sydney is brimming with language courses to suit your linguist needs, whether it’s saying hello in Arabic or signing your name in AUSLAN.
This little pocket of Alexandria is the perfect place to hide out on a rainy day. You’ve got indoor warehouses for climbing, boozing and bouldering, like Sky Zone, Rocks Brewery and 9 Degrees – plus an arcade of retro games, bowling and laser tag inside Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq.
Keen to lob a hatchet at a wooden target? Head to this warehouse in St Peters to perfect your throw. Whether your style is two hands over the head or a one-armed power hurl, you’ll release a lot of stress with every axe that sticks to the board.
Marrickville is home to a huge warehouse where you can hire a workbench and finally finish that DIY project. They also run workshops in metal work, leather work, floristry, ceramics, textiles and wood work.
This 56-seat Art Deco cinema is a world away from the sticky popcorn covered seats of the multiplex cinemas. Get away from the crowds for an afternoon screening of the latest releases, classic picks or an indie film that isn’t showing anywhere else.
If you've always wanted to have a crack at painting, but you’ve never had the courage to sign up for a class, now is the time to take the plunge with Cork & Chroma. This Surry Hills studio runs daily beginners’ painting sessions, fuelled by a healthy serve of wine.
Head to the Art Gallery of NSW on Wednesday for night-time exhibition access and a program of free music, screenings, and talks by experts, artists and celebs.
Hypochondriacs and WebMD enthusiasts, this one’s for you. For a stunning confrontation with your own mortality, pay a visit to this specialist museum housed within the University of New South Wales. In its possession are 2,000 specimens of human disease, obtained from the organs and tissue of autopsied patients who’ve generously given their bodies to science.
Penrith’s indoor skydiving centre is used as a training camp for professional divers and the local military. It has a powerful windtunnel that means you can learn to hold a good posture, turn from left to right and skyrocket to the top with your instructor.
Can't go outside because it's raining? The three-level Woollahra Library is bursting with greenery, from the vertical plant wall to the hanging vines that cascade from above; giving the feeling of being in the midst of an indoor garden.
Cure the Monday blues with hot dogs and feelgood films on the big screen. The Soda Factory screens classic movies such as Sister Act, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Stand By Me every Monday night from 6.30pm followed by live music at the Monday Jam ($5 door charge).
Interiors store Koskela runs workshops in embroidery, screen printing, jewellery making, carving and kintsugi – the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics.
Get closer to sharks, without entering the ocean. You can swim with sharks (who vary in size from 2.5 to 3.2 metres) and other marine life without a cage at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The question remains: are you brave enough?
Worth visiting for the space alone, Carriageworks is the latest incarnation of the Eveleigh Rail Yards. With a program of large-scale theatre, dance and installation works, Carriageworks is gaining a reputation as the venue for the most progressive Sydney drama, dance and art.
Just because it’s too cold for the beach doesn’t mean that you can’t swim! Go for gold with the Swim, Steam and Sauna package at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre.
The grand old dame of libraries is the oldest in the country – stepping inside you can almost feel the weight of all the words that have been read between its walls. The studious, and those seeking respite from the bustle of the outside world, can ensconce themselves in the high-domed, light-filled Mitchell Reading Room.
Swap Netflix for Tuesday night salsa or reggaeton at Latin Dance Australia. Grab a partner and bring your best moves to the beginners’ classes at the start of the week.
This state-of-the-art, four-floor temple to post-millennial Chinese art hosts Judith Neilson’s epic collection, a shop and a tea house that serves dumplings.
Climbers don’t use ropes or harnesses but instead scale shorter walls beside thick, padded flooring. The benefit here is that you won’t need a climbing partner, equipment or much training.
Taking a night tour of Sydney Observatory will make you feel small again. The museum is open to the public throughout the year and each twilight tour includes marvelling at constellations in the planetarium and looking through the telescope in the historic domed tower.
Party like/with an artist at this semi-regular social event, curated by a different artist each edition. Entry gets you late-night exhibition access, art-ivities, performances, party tunes – and a terrace bar with killer views.
This restored Art Deco theatre regularly shows retro films and old favourites like Chariots of Fire, Dirty Dancing and Reservoir Dogs, plus the so-bad-it’s-amazing The Room.
The free karaoke rooms at Goros often fill out on Friday and Saturday nights, but while you’re waiting there’s plenty of arcade games (and drinks and snacks) to keep you busy.
Sydney’s indoor trampoline park has multiple zones, so you can bounce off the walls, from side to side and into a pit of giant foam squares if you want to. Once you’re tired of jumping, they’ve got indoor climbing walls, dodgeball games and something called the Leap of Faith too.
Mondays are quiet in Sydney, but there’re hijinks to be had at Darlinghurst’s beloved beer barn. Trivia starts around 7pm and Oscar is your sassy host with a truly terrible cheesy playlist that features Cher and the Corrs – hilarious and awful. Winners walk away with a $40 bar tab.
You can’t help but be drawn to this cute cottage filled to the brim with succulents, ferns and leafy terrariums. Once inside, you’ll find more carefully curated greenery to purchase and take home.
There are three pages of tea on offer at this QVB classic. That’s a whopping 35 teas including their ‘splendid Earl Grey’ blend and a stand-your-spoon-up-in-it assam bari. Sitt up nice and straight on your little velour chair and pick at dainties off the three-tier tray.
The Powerhouse is the largest museum in Australia, with a collection of 385,000 objects, 22 permanent and five temporary display spaces, and more than 250 interactive exhibits. It covers science, technology, creativity, decorative arts and Australian popular culture – there's truly something for everyone.
In a RollerFit class you’ll learn to skate backwards, perform tricks and play games with other roller skating buddies. They run classes for all levels, so don't worry if you've never skated before.
Want to know more about coffee but don’t have a cent to spare? Reuben Hills do free cupping sessions every Saturday at 10am in their special lab above the café. You can sign up via their website and the sessions run for an hour.
And master many other hobbies at this venue that runs fun and affordable classes for Sydneysiders. They’ve got evening and weekend classes in cheesemaking, Japanese bookbinding, blending your own gin and even stuffing your own dead animals (Taxidermy 101).
Sydney Trapeze School runs classes and workshops including aerial, juggling jumping stilts, acrobatics, trampoline, tight-rope walking and flying trapeze. It’s also the only indoor trapeze school in Sydney, a short walking distance from St Peters train station.
The big apple on George Street regularly runs free talks and masterclasses from all sorts of people. They’ve held a class on street style photography with the man behind Men in this Town and a fashion illustration class inspired by Fashion Week. You don’t even need to own an iPhone to attend.
Visit the Opera House – but not as you’ve seen it before. Go behind-the-scenes and uncover the glamorous life of the performers that grace the famous stage. Tours run from 7am.
You and your co-players have just one hour to locate the secrets that Agent 'M' has hidden somewhere in the room. To find them, you're going to have to look for clues, follow a bunch of hints and crack a bunch of codes. OooOOOoOoooh.
If you’ve got an idea for a story, you can start putting words on the page with the help of the Australian Writers’ Centre. They run courses in creative writing, blogging and more.
You can cycle through the cliffs of Southern France or the harsh terrain of Arizona, all without leaving the CBD. Scenic Cycle is like a spin class but with beautiful locations projected on a screen.
Have your own Top Gun moment and write cheques your body can cash at Jet Flight Simulator Sydney. You take complete control of an aircraft within the safe confines of a warehouse in Alexandria. Simply select which airport you’d like to fly from – there are 22,000 on the list.
The SSS gives lessons on how to cook everything from pipis to octopus, and in every dang style you'll ever want. With cameo appearances from Sydney's best foodies, and with complimentary wine tastings, you'll be cooking up a storm in no time.
Break the ice and head to the Macquarie Ice Rink to glide into winter (without getting frostbite). There are multiple sessions a day as well as a Friday disco night and private lessons available.
Miraculously, the studio of Australia’s great expressionist has been kept the way it was when he died of a heroin overdose in 1992. Browse Whiteley’s books and records and see the unfinished painting he was working on.
Did you know the old (and allegedly haunted) Quarantine Station on North Head at Manly hosts ghost tours? If you are looking for a fright in the night then this extreme ghost tour is for you (ages 18+ only). Not advised for anyone with a fear of deadly infectious diseases.
Visit this multi-disciplinary arts centre and enjoy an exhibition, participate in a workshop, watch some theatre, live music or a film.
If you like your schooner with a side of danger (they are very sharp) and enjoy blowing off steam the old fashioned way (by throwing things at a wall) then perhaps consider these haunts that our resident, anonymous pub darts fanatic has highlighted as the best.
There are a number of indoor go karting tracks around Sydney. This one near Campbelltown is spread over an acre and it has a fleet of European Sodi go karts that you can race around the shot-blasted concrete track – great for tyre grip.
Turn after-work drinks into morning networking with Creative Mornings. The monthly breakfast lectures feature one speaker, usually from a design background, on topics from failure to taking risks. Tickets usually sell out within minutes.
Beautiful acoustics and a diverse all-year program of classical, choral, baroque and chamber music make this a great place to take time out and contemplate the bigger things in life – or just tune out with a soundtrack.
When it’s too cold and wet to enjoy the Japanese garden, go inside for the gallery’s exhibitions, or sign up for one of the weekly ceramics and embroidery workshops.
Kids (and adults) will be bouncing off the walls at this land of trampolines. There are two jumping indoor arenas to allow for maximum jumping fun in all kinds of weather and are open till late for the adults.
Whether you want to learn how to fondue (that’s ballet talk for bending, sinking or melting on one leg), high kick or get low, Sydney Dance Company is your one-stop shop for dance classes. There’s absolute beginner right through to advanced.
It’s all aboard for a one-way trip to public transport geekery at the Sydney Bus Museum, which has a huge collection of vintage buses kept at the hundred-year-old Leichhardt Tramshed. You’ll be able to poke around everything from the 1924 Ruggles, a cute, boxy little thing for only 22 people, all the way up to those stuffy white-and-blue Mercedes-Benz buses.
The narrow entrance to Strike King Street Wharf is somewhat akin to the bowling lanes that are the star of the venue, but there’s a lot more on offer here than pins and spares. There's also five schmick karaoke rooms, three escape rooms and a bright new Japanese pop-art aesthetic.
For a city whose history has always been entwined with its harbour, the sea and water travel, it comes as no surprise that this museum is one of the finest when it comes to maritime treasures. Enter the world of underwater warfare at the National Maritime Museum. Explore the last of the big gun destroyers, board a submarine and learn the difference between port and starboard.
Unlike many martial arts that have a strong spiritual component, Krav Maga is all about the practical self-defence. You’ll learn to get out of a choke hold, a seated choke hold, how to free yourself from someone dragging you across the room by your neck and how to throw off someone trying to choke you while you’re fighting a secondary opponent.
B. Lucky and Sons in the Entertainment Quarter is a neon-lit fun house where you can play Mario Kart (in costume, if you like), NBA hoops, Space Invaders, Air Hockey, Jurassic Park, the Claw, and many many more classic and new-age arcade games.
Monster Skatepark is one of the best-equipped parks in Australia, with an indoor street course as well as outdoor ramps. There are sessions for BMXing, skateboarding, girls only and scooters. If you’re a little rusty, you can hire helmets and pads at the park.
Learn about Australia’s flora and fauna, meet dinosaurs or better understand Earth’s many minerals. Take a look inside Trailblazers – an exhibition on Australia’s greatest living explorers.
Up to 40 people can play laser skirmish in any one game in Darling Harbour’s entertainment hub, which means you can rock up in the middle of a rainstorm with one friend and still have a blast battling it out with the kids.
Let loose and don’t worry about what anyone else is thinking – they can’t see you! Join the weekly No Lights No Lycra dance fitness parties in Bondi, Newtown, Parramatta and Warriewood.
Immerse yourself in a cocoon-like sensory deprivation tank. Filled with lukewarm water and mixed with Epsom salts, the relaxation pods create a weightless environment, which encourages deep relaxation.
There’s a lot more to taking a beautiful photograph than just pointing your iPhone at something. Find a digital camera and sign up for the five-week Camera Craft 1 course at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP).
What was once a soup canning warehouse in Rosebery is now home to providores, boutique bottle shops and artisan delis. The shopping precinct is an indoor market that includes natural wine and craft beer bottle shop the Drink Hive, family-owned traditional butcher Kingsmore Meats, plus organic grocery store Wholefoods House.
Papa Gede's, a much-loved laneway cocktail bar in the inner city, adds comedy to its cocktails list on the third Tuesday of the month. The line-up is curated by Chris Leben and Rose Piper, and tickets are $10 both online and on the door.
American architect Harry Seidler built this house for his parents, Rose and Max. The original 1950s colour scheme has been restored, and the furnishings are by important post-war designers such as Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. It’s run by Sydney Living Museums, and guided tours are available on request.
Take your pick of Aesop’s six signature facial treatments at the Paddington store. They cater to all skin types using their own suite of products.
Every month, Story Club pick a theme and gather sacrificial celebrities to wax lyrical in a giant armchair in front of a crowd and read true stories out of a giant book. It goes down monthly at Giant Dwarf.
Rock up to 107 Projects in Redfern on a Monday or Tuesday evening and you’ll find activewear-wearing folk seeking out one thing: a soul-soaring dance session. This is the ultimate drop-in dance class for wannabee groovers who have been too self-conscious to shake it in a structured setting before.
Fuel up at Johnny Wongs before heading up the next flight of stairs to face off in a bowling match. The lanes and balls are funsized, it’s always free and there’s DJs to keep you dancing between strikes.
Swingtime Dance School runs swing, rock'n'roll and balboa dance classes all over Sydney's Inner West. They're open to beginners, but if you already know a few steps you can take the advanced classes.
Yes. We're serious. It's a group of folks who get together and sing sea shanties. Every Monday night from 9pm, the Redfern Shanty Club bunkers together to clap, holla and fumble their way through renditions of ‘Barrett’s Privateers’, ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘Haul Away Joe’ at the Dock bar in Redfern.
Nothing is more satisfying than blasting your friend with harmless ammunition. Now you can play paintball without the paint and without going outside. ‘Reballs’ are soft rubber paintballs, meaning you can catch the train home without looking like a cartoon artist, and they shoot straighter as well. And it all happens under cover, so rain never stops play.
Play a social badminton game at All Sorts Indoor Sports. It’s open to individuals and teams, with racquet and shuttlecock hire available if you haven’t got your own gear.
This Surry Hills stalwart delivers the goods to those in need of a LOL fix on a Monday night. Comedy Lounge Mondays shows off local laughpeddlers who dish out snappy stand-up from 8pm, alongside happy hour drink specials.
Take in the city’s views from the top of Australia’s oldest operating lighthouse. Learn the history of this 19th-century building on a guided tour or (if you dare step outside) visit the grounds free of charge.
Baby, it’s cold outside – so get into the heated chambers of this Potts Point yoga studio and stretch like a cat against a hot radiator. They’ve got two studios warmed to 27 degrees and 37 degrees and classes include Hot Mat Pilates and Slow Hot Flow yoga.
The Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) runs short courses in screenwriting, documentary filming, radio presenting and assistant directing. You don’t need any prior knowledge or skills to apply.
You’ll get a workout while you learn the best strategies for indoor rock climbing. Sign up for a fun five-session course at two convenient locations. Warning: racing to the top gets addictive.
Built in 1844, this terrace of four houses – including a corner shop, original brick privies and open laundries – gives an idea of what 19th-century community living was really like. Entry to the museum is by guided tour only, between 2pm and 5pm (last tour is at 4pm). Book ahead if possible. Note that steep, narrow stairs are involved.
Whether you want to get down to grime and hip hop at their weekend parties, or feel like having a nostalgic night at the Naughty Noughties, you’ll be sure to have plenty of reasons to dance under the club’s sea of fake fishes.
This beloved Newtown boozer is famous for its expansive beer garden, but if it’s wetter than Davy Jones’ locker this is still an excellent place to loiter thanks to their dedicated pinball room. Gather all your gold coins, order a jug of Young Henrys or Stone and Wood and bask in the colourful glow of the eight pinnies that will put your reflexes to the ultimate test.
Discover the MCA’s collection with free guided tours running daily or explore the museum’s temporary exhibitions.
This social-experiment-meets-party connects groups via a roving dining experience, culminating in an after party with all those involved. It's a little bit Come Dine With Me meets First Dates, with a Sydney twist.
Outside of their standard yoga and Pilates classes, AerialFit offers brave yogis the chance to get creative in an unusual practice, hanging from hoops, silk fabrics and even a trapeze. They run six different suspended classes, each with a fresh twist of circus, dance and endurance.
Visit the ground floor of Coogee Pavilion and discover a games arena suitable for all ages. Play giant Scrabble, ping-pong or play petanque (boules).
Retrosweat runs weekly workouts in Sydney on Tuesdays in Waterloo and Thursdays in Surry Hills. You’ll jump and shout, stretch and flex to pop tracks from Prince to the Police. The 1980s never looked so good.
Did you know the Art Gallery of New South Wales screens free movies on Wednesdays and Sundays? The films change often, but you could get anything from Hollywood greats like Cabaret and Vertigo, or foreign language or Australian classics.