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Wendy Whitley's Secret Garden
Photograph: Robert Polmear

The best things to do in Sydney for free

Entertain yourself in and around Sydney without spending a cent

Maya Skidmore
Alice Ellis
Written by
Maya Skidmore
&
Alice Ellis
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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. Some of the best things in life really are free. Here's where you can find them in Sydney.

Stay thrifty with one of these 25 fun (and delicious) things to do in Sydney for under $25.

Looking for cheap places to eat? Here's our pick of the best cheap eats in Sydney.

Free things to do every day of the year

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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.

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Free things to do today

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.   
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. 
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  • Things to do
  • price 0 of 4
  • Mosman
If you’ve ever wanted to get seriously close to a Sumatran tiger (without there being a terrible ethical or safety problem in the way), now is your chance. Tiger Trek is an experience that's free (included in the cost of your Taronga Zoo tickets). Attendees are invited to get into a flight simulator that takes them (very quickly) from Mosman to the Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra. Upon landing, you travel through an Indonesian-inspired village, meandering down a path past village shops and through a rainforest that looks uncannily like you’re in Indonesia. At the end, you'll get the chance to meet the three Sumatran tigers who were born at Taronga Zoo in 2019, as well as their beautiful mother, father, uncle and grandmother.  With only 350 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, these tigers are incredibly important. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, but as seen through Tiger Trek, all is not lost. Deforestation in Indonesian rainforests has decreased by 75 per cent since the folks over at the zoo began monitoring it in 1990. There has been a steady increase in the consumption of sustainable palm oil worldwide, with shoppers far more aware of the devastation caused by unsustainable palm oil harvesting than ever before. It's easy to feel helpless when it comes to this stuff, which is why one of the coolest parts of Tiger Trek is Choice Mart – this end room of the trek has been built to look like a supermarket check-out, complete with interactive touch screens that show
Rozelle Collectors Market
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Rozelle
A new wardrobe doesn’t have to mean popping tags on hundreds of dollars worth of swag, especially when you’re shopping at this long-standing secondhand market in Rozelle. The schoolyard of the Rozelle Public School has been a hive of weekend crate digging for more than 20 years, and while some stalls have almost earned long service leave, there are always newcomers keen to swap their good and chattel for some cold hard cash.The market runs on Saturdays from 9am to 3pm, and you can find bargains for less than you’d spend on a coffee – it’s all about the chase. Don’t be afraid to dig down into the tables of tops and skirts, T-shirt piles and racks of leather jackets. And if you don’t need vintage boots, a floral dress or a designer bargain, stroll through stalls selling antiques, cut glass crystal, old suitcases, DVDs, furniture and bric-a-brac. When you’re completely overstimulated head to the top right corner of the market where a handful of food stalls sell Himalayan fare, fresh juices squeezed on demand, gozleme, and dim sum. Because it’s a school there are no soft drinks sold on site, but a watermelon and rockmelon juice should sort out any dusty heads, and if nothing in the second-hand market grabs your attention, you can always grab a plant from the garden stall on your way out.   Want to know about markets in other parts of Sydney? Here's our guide.
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  • Art
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  • Sydney
If we didn't tell you these artworks were done by teenagers that are probably less than half your age, you wouldn't have a clue. Sorry, we didn't mean to make you feel old, but we're sure all will be forgiven when you're revelling in the new generation of talent. Returning for its annual visit to the Art Gallery of NSW (Feb 8-Apr 21) plus other galleries around the state, ArtExpress proves that great art knows no age limit. Our state's shining showcaser of art is hosting the talents of Year 12 artists from across NSW who laboured rigourously for their Visual Arts course during the HSC.  Amongst the pressure of essays, readings and classwork, Year 12 students studying Visual Arts need to produce a ‘Major Work’; a piece of art that represents and explores the many social and political issues that are close to their hearts as young Australians. Students may approach this major work in whatever media form they prefer, with the ArtExpress exhibition ranging from textile and fibre to photomedia to ceramics – and everything in between. A prized spot on the walls of our state's gallery within this exhibition is possibly one of the greatest forms of recognition for young NSW artists following all the blood, sweat and tears of their art-making process during the HSC. Of the 8,660 Visual Arts major works submitted for examination this year, only 50 have been chosen for the showcase. The artists hail from high schools all over the state, with students from cities, regional suburbs and a
  • Art
  • Photography
  • price 0 of 4
  • Camperdown
Explore the hidden marvels of Sydney University's Chauk Chak Wing Museum, where a captivating retrospective of renowned Gomeroi/Gamilaraay photographer Barbara McGrady is currently on display. This new free photographic exhibition chronicles significant social, political and historical moments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Sydney over the last 30 years. Hero images feature the Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, Ash Barty receiving a Dreamtime Award in 2017, the Koori Knockout, and the premiere of The Sapphires movie.  Barbara McGrady, or Aunty Barb as she is known in her community, is not only one of the first Aboriginal female photographers, but one of Australia’s most important documentary photographers. Her works celebrate the diverse contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and reveal an insider’s perspective into historical events, such as the death of TJ Hickey, and the Black Lives Matter protests.  Barbara McGrady: Australia Has a Black History puts a spotlight on these major political events of contemporary Aboriginal life, which are rarely portrayed positively by mainstream media. Other incredible works of McGrady’s included in the exhibition capture Indigenous performances, high-profile individuals, and community events including protests and social gatherings in and around Redfern.  “The chosen works for Barbara McGrady: Australia Has a Black History fall into three categories: sport, activism, and community,” sai

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. 

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