Get us in your inbox

Search
Wendy Whitley's Secret Garden
Photograph: Robert Polmear

The best things to do in Sydney for free

Entertain yourself in and around the city without spending a cent

Written by
Time Out editors
Advertising

Sydney can be a pretty exxy place to live, but if you keep your bargain hunting eyes open, you’ll find heaps of free and cheap things to do on any day of the year.

Now, if you want to flash your cash in the Harbour City, you can book a luxurious staycation in one of the swankiest hotels in town, eat at one of the 50 best restaurants, treat yourself to a pampering at a spa, or sample the fanciest ways to eat cucumber at one of the city's ritziest high-teas.

But then again, the best things in life are free. Here's where you can find them in Sydney.

RECOMMENDED: Sydney’s best op shops.

Free things to do every day of the year

Advertising
Wander the city's laneways
  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

We know our friends in the south have the claim when it comes to laneway culture, but if you know where to look, Sydney can give Melbourne a run for its money.

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Free things to do today

  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • price 0 of 4
  • Sydney
Sydney’s most stunning outdoor cinema is undoubtedly the Westpac OpenAir Cinema, perched on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens with iconic views of Sydney Harbour. With pop-up bars and eateries, it’s a shame that the location is so underutilised during daylight hours. Well, until now.  You can take the opportunity to have a wholesome start to your day (or your year, hello resolutions!) with an early morning harbourside yoga session, under the shade of a pop-up studio, that wraps up with a mindful iced coffee sipping session and a light brekky (vegans and dairy-free girlies are covered, FYI). Gosh, that’s a damn nice morning and some smug Instagram content right there! And better yet, these classes are completely free this January and February.  View this post on Instagram A post shared by Time Out Sydney (@timeoutsydney) Running from January 19 to February 17, 2023, there are ten Sip & Breathe sessions open to the public, with advanced online booking required. The sessions are suitable for both beginners and more advanced yoga enthusiasts. You can roll solo, or peer pressure a loved one to book in with you. These “Sip & Breathe” sessions are being put on by Nespresso, which is teaming up with Virgin Active to promote its latest iced coffee capsule blends and recipes. An opportunity to take a mindful moment ahead of a busy day, the sessions run from 7.30am on Thursday and Fridays, and from 8.30am on Saturdays and Sundays. The experience consists of a one-h
  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • price 0 of 4
  • Darling Harbour
There’s nothing quite like the arts to help build bridges between different cultures. That was the premise behind the creation of the New Beginnings Festival, which was first launched back in 2014 to help refugees in Sydney connect with the wider community. The festival has blossomed since then – becoming a celebration of refugee, migrant and First Nations performing artists. And for the first time, it’s a major event on Sydney Festival’s program. This year, the free festival will be headlined by Triple J’s 2022 Unearthed Artist of the Year, Elsy Wameyo (a Kenyan-born hip-hop and R'n'B artist), as well as Birdz, a multi-award-winning rapper known for his hard-hitting lyrics. There will be other artists from various backgrounds, and they’ll all be performing on the wharves of the Australian National Maritime Museum, at Darling Harbour. The one-day festival will also feature stalls selling food and art by First Nations, refugee and migrant entrepreneurs (so pick up delicious eats from places including Peru, Lebanon and Sierra Leone).  New Beginnings is an initiative of refugee settlement service Settlement Services International (SSI). “Now in its seventh year, the festival continues to grow bigger in size and significance to allow a real opportunity for our First Nations, migrant and refugee communities to be seen, heard and celebrated,” says SSI’s arts and culture producer, Raphael Brasil.  The program is truly diverse: jazz singer and songwriter Athésia will be performing u
Advertising
Paddington Markets
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Paddington
Every Saturday, more than 100 stalls line the grounds of Paddington Uniting Church and the neighbouring public school selling Australian-made fashion, handmade crockery and metal costume jewellery. The market has been operating on the same day since 1973, and the all-weather event is a profitable fundraiser for the church. Many of the stallholders return week on week, like the elderly Japanese couple selling Bonsai trees and the Spanish shoemakers selling espadrilles. It’s predominantly an art, clothing and design market – and alongside the kitsch bric-à-brac and Australiana-print tea towels you’ll find straw hats from local milliners and soft Tunisian-made ‘Turkish’ towels from young Eastern Suburb entrepreneurs. Antique, vinyl and vintage stalls are few and far between, but leather satchels, beach photography prints and patterned baby rompers are two a penny. On a hot day locals gather at the shaded tables and stools by the snack stalls. Turkish women hand roll yufka dough at the gözleme tent and vegetables are blitzed in a blender at the fresh juice stand. Chin’s Laksa stall, proudly MSG and gluten free, is a popular choice – as are the vegan cookies and sourdough scones on offer at the bakery stalls. It has a bohemian flair compared to its Oxford Street location and customers joyfully take up fortune readings, as well as reiki and Japanese massage. It’s an oddball mix, but one that works strangely well in an area known for its designer boutiques and gentrified pubs. Ou
Manly Markets
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Manly
Off the main drag, but still central enough to attract the tourists, Manly’s weekend markets brings together organic food stalls with souvenir sellers that makes for an easy one-stop-shop for a bite to eat and a quick browse before you hit the beach. Sydney Road has market stalls on either side, which can get stiflingly busy in summer sunshine. On a Sunday morning you’ll find Patrick’s Farm and Rita’s Farm proudly selling certified organic produce from the Hawkesbury and Wallacia. You can pick up Hass avocados, lush green veggies like broccoli, leeks, fennel and spinach, plus earthy Dutch cream potatoes and butternut, and boxes of free range eggs.  Alongside the two main produce stalls at the church end of the street, there are fresh-cut flowers for sale, as well as a variety of stalls peddling coffee, baked goods and fresh breads.  Though the food stalls pack up around 2pm, the bulk of the market’s clothing and gift stalls are there till 5pm. The range is hit-and-miss, from backpacker chic yak wool cardigans, natural skincare products and silver jewellery to the truly excellent retro haul at the tent occupied by Redfern’s Queen Justine Vintage. In the market for a loud Hawaiian shirt? You’re in luck. Looking for an acid wash denim mini? They’ll have heaps.  At the end of the day, this seaside locale is a perfectly breezy place to search for obscure and handmade gifts on a sunny weekend morning, with the beach a very sweet 50 metre walk away.   
Advertising
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Campbelltown
Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens has assembled a range of her works to form the new exhibition Embracing Shadows, showcasing her 30 year career at the Campbelltown Arts Centre.  This free exhibition shines a spotlight on female identity and racial discrimination, two themes that Dickens' work engages with in a profound and honest way. She explores and melds mediums to create pieces that are pastiches of what it means to be a woman and a First Nations person in a post-colonial Australia.   Her influential pieces have seen the walls of Carriageworks, the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. She is a force to be reckoned with, immortalised recently in fellow artist and friend Blak Douglas’ Archibald Prize winning portrait of her.  Some of Dickens’ featured works include ‘Bound’ (2015), a set of straightjackets decorated to represent the difficulty of seeking liberation from abusive relationships, and ‘Return to Sender’ (2022), a repurposing of vintage postcards that contrasts derogatory greetings with empowering messages. The exhibition will also premiere ‘Disastrous’, a new series created following the record-breaking floods that devastated the artist’s hometown of Lismore in early 2022. Dickens has long been unapologetic for the provocative nature of her pieces, and treats art-making as a useful tool in the pursuit of catharsis. Speaking on the exhibition, she said: “I’ve been healing from the generational trauma ste
Carriageworks Farmers Market
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Eveleigh
It’s imperative that you do not eat before you visit the Carriageworks Farmers Markets. You’ll want to save maximum belly space for your personal version of The Bachelorette where you decide who gets your dollars and what delicious produce gets to come home with you. Maybe you like something soupy and savoury first thing? In that case go for the pho stand for a traditional Vietnamese start to the day. There’s a bibimbap stall that will even replace the rice with shredded cauliflower if you don’t believe in cheat days, and a classic bacon and egg roll for creatures of habit, from Farmer Rod’s Free Range stall. Once the hounds of your hunger have been quieted it’s time to prepare for your next meal, or seven. Maybe you need the sweet bite of Pickle Hill’s Worcester sauce for the pantry? Or some fresh goat’s curd from Willowbrae? While you’re there you may as well get some smoked salmon, fresh ravioli from Pasta Emilia, free range eggs, a load of beer and barley bread form the Bread and Butter Project, and some jersey milk butter to go on it. You can spend a whole lot of money if you want to here, but equally you could just grab a kombucha on tap and find a chair for some of the best dog-watching in the city. Hungry for more? Look at our list of the best markets in Sydney – produce or otherwise.   
Advertising
Kirribilli Art, Design & Fashion Markets
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Kirribilli
Fans of expertly curated market events such as the Finders Keepers will be happy to know there is a bi-monthly market offering a comparable experience a stone’s throw from Luna Park. The second Sunday of every month sees the art, design and fashion iteration of Kirribilli’s historic (est 1976) markets, centred on the weather-proof location of the Burton Street Tunnel right under Milsons Point Train station.  You’ll find quirky millinery by Nitascraft, hilarious knitted parrots, octopuses and Barbie outfits by Irene, and cool laser-etched wooden phone cases by Bare-wood. An antiques corner features groovy typewriters from the 1960s and several stalls offer funny and handmade greeting cards. Vintage spoons are refashioned as bracelets, and if you’ve ever hankered after a large photographic portrait of a wombat, you can get it here – the place is a goldmine for non-tacky Sydney souvenirs. On the last Saturday of the month is the general and fashion market, where punters have been known to snap up luxurious, one-of-a-kind finds from labels like Gucci, Zimmermann and Acne, thanks to the well-heeled crowds selling their wares. Arrival by train is recommended as parking is expensive and hard to come by.  There is an excellent food court area where you can get a roast pork roll, quesadillas, churros, gözleme, paella, blynis, dim sum, banh mi or gelato and sit down undercover to eat them while watching a talented teenage girl reinventing ‘Sweet Child ‘o Mine’. Afterwards, head over t
  • Art
  • Installation
  • price 0 of 4
  • Eveleigh
A major new immersive installation by one of Australia’s most important multidisciplinary artists comes to Carriageworks for Sydney Festival. Paul Yore’s work engages with the histories of religious art and ritual, queer identity, pop-culture and neo-liberal capitalism, recasting a vast array of found images, materials and texts into sexually and politically loaded tableaux and sculptural assemblages which celebrate hybrid and fluid identities, unstable and contradictory meanings, and the glowing horizon of queer worldmaking. Word Made Flesh is a new architecturally-scaled installation, anarchically composed of improvised makeshift structures, mixed media sculpture and found objects, collage and assemblage, painting, video, and pulsating sound and light. Conceived as a cacophonous, kaleidoscopic ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, this exhibition imagines a queer alternative reality, erected from the wasteland of the Anthropocene, performatively implicating itself into the debased spectacle of hyper-capitalist society. With The Huxleys' Bloodlines glistening and glittering alongside this exhibtion, Carriageworks will be a portal to queer new reality this summer.
Advertising
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • price 0 of 4
  • The Rocks
Art doesn’t always have to be about dead old white dudes from centuries ago. I mean, we love Michelangelo’s sublime Sistine Chapel, Van Gogh’s gorgeously glowing ‘Sunflowers’ and drifting into a daze with Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’, but here at Time Out towers, there are few scenarios that excite us more than the exhilarating shock of the new.  Nowhere is the MCA’s dedicated focus on the exciting artists of today made clearer than their annual Primavera showcase, which platforms up-and-comers 35 years and under. The longest-running contemporary art exhibition in Australia is the brainchild of philanthropists Cynthia and Ted Jackson, who wanted to honour the memory of their gifted jeweller daughter Belinda. Spring was her favourite time of year, hence the show borrowing the Italian term for the season that sees Sydney showered in petals from blossoming Jacarandas.  This year’s flourishing artists include local fast-rising star Julia Gutman, who breathes new life into found textiles from op shops, mates’ donations, and literally discovered scattered on the streets, to create tapestries thrumming with modern life, with a particular focus on femininity. We loved her recent work ‘Once More, With Feeling’, depicting her and her housemates lounging on a sofa, watching the classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode during lockdown.  Townsville-born, Melbourne-based artist Amrita Hepi is a gifted dancer who has twice taken home the People’s Choice Award during the Keir Choreographic
Bondi Markets
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Bondi Beach
If Bondi Markets were a person, they would a) be very healthy, and b) wearing two (organic) hats. Each weekend, Bondi Public School plays host to two different markets, with the Saturday edition bringing the Bondi Farmer's Market, and the Sunday bringing general marketware, fashion and vintage goods.  The Farmer's Market is an excellent way to kick off your weekend, with the old primary school playground playing host to a variety of lush local produce stalls, freshly fried fritters and brunchy delights a' plenty. There’s also doggy ‘parking’, live acoustic music and pop-up yoga classes on the lawn, with the festivities going until 5pm. In inclement weather the markets still go ahead, but often with reduced stalls. They also don’t open until 9am, so if you’re an early bird, pop across to the beach first for a walk or swim. Once you stock your fridge on Saturday, you can head back again on Sunday for the general fashion and market extravganza that kicks off from 10am to 4pm. Peruse the stalls for vintage finds, sustainable swimwear, delectable market eats and hidden treasures, all within close viewing distance of Sydney's most polarising beach. 

Eat like a baller on a budget

  • Restaurants

Dining out on a dime is one of this city's great thrills. Here are our picks for Sydney's best eats on a budget. We've tasted everything from banh mi to tonkotsu ramen, biang biang noodles and vegan burgers without breaking the bank. 

Recommended
    You may also like
    You may also like
    Advertising

    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!