Sydney may be a pretty exxy place to live in, 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. You know what costs no dollars? Going for a wander on one of Sydney’s best walks, or checking out the city’s coolest laneways (although you may be tempted to flash cash at fab cafés and shops). Got a few dollars for a date? Show off your fiscal responsibility and fine dining knowledge with these cheap hacks for fancy places, then follow these instructions for nabbing cheap theatre tickets in Sydney.
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Free things to do today
Head to the beach to do your Christmas shopping this weekend as this massive two-day market takes over Don Lucas Reserve right by Cronulla’s Wanda Beach. There’ll be more than 150 stalls packed with gorgeous gift ideas and festive foods and wares with a focus on vendors that offer creative and environmentally sustainable alternatives to your usual Christmas retail experience. You’ll find eco goods from #Untrashy, doggy treats and fashion from Eccentric Paws and Charli and Mollie Canine Couture, cupcakes, Christmas cakes and gingerbread houses from Baked Beauties, surfboards from Bay Masonry, potted plants, flowers and Christmas wreaths from Floral Fix and much more from a diverse pick of small and local businesses. The market is the collaboration of Cambridge Markets with the Sutherland Shire Council, Shire Talk, Tynan Motors and The Side Project. Head down between 10am and 4pm on Saturday or Sunday to browse.
Traditional photos on Santa’s knee are a bit done by now, you know? Move aside Saint Nick, why don’t you get a photo that will really light up your mum’s fridge this year with a gaggle of drag queens at the Imperial Hotel? Families of all kinds are invited into the Impy’s Priscilla’s dining room to pose with their own festively flamboyant brood of ‘Drag Santas’ for a portrait that will certainly spice up the family mantlepiece. The venues industry-renowned queens will be waiting for you underneath the mistletoe including Etcetera Etcetera, Ruby Slippers, Dammit Janet, Riot and Peach Fuzz. You’ll find these photo-ready festive fiends on the ground floor on Saturday and Sunday December 7 and 8, and the following Sunday December 15 between 11am and 1pm. The photos are professionally shot for free and the venue will be collecting donations for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. Children are welcome but not mandatory.
This partnership between Create NSW and Artspace highlights emerging artists and offers one of the finalists $30,000 for the purposes of a self-directed program of career development. But it's also one of the most exciting and provocative contemporary art exhibitions in the city. The 2018 NSWVAEF finalists are Shivanjani Lal, Rebecca Gallo and Connie Anthes (as collaboration 'Make or Break'), Amala Groom, Katy B Plumber, Harriet Body, Jelena Telecki, Shireen Taweel, JD Reforma, Leyla Stevens, Linda Sok and Nick Dorey.
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. Chef Josh Niland of Fish Butchery and Saint Peter in Paddington now has a permanent stall selling inventive seafood using lesser known varieties and flavours. His prawn toast is a certified hangover buster, and the few cooked items sold change with the tide. There are usually take-home packs of fish sausages and Ballina prawns as big as your hand. You can spend a whole lot of money if you want to here, but equally you could just grab a k
Every Inner Westie has a soft spot for Public House Petersham. This revamped mainstay on Stanmore Road has a long history of bringing good vibes to the neighbourhood, with regular parties, free movie nights and hearty feasts being a constant at the spacious pub. Now, they’re getting ahead of the summer music festival game and planning a series of their famous car park parties focused on female musicians. Aussie artists will be leading the bill, and there’ll be plenty of local beers being poured as well as a spit-roasted barbecue available for all festivalgoers. And the best part is that entry is totally free. The first of these fantastic parties is happening on November 9, with 2016 Triple J Unearthed winner Alice Ivy headlining the show with her indie-synth sounds. She’ll be joined by electro-disco family act Gauci, who’ll add a little more dreamy bounce to the stage. On December 7, the second She Sessions will bring pop groover Kira Puru to the pub, where she’ll blast out cheeky crowd favourites like ‘Molotov’ and ‘Fly’. The chicks from teen indie-pop supergroup Erthlings will be there to back her up alongside Sydney songbird Moody Beach (aka Melissah Marie).
Looping around the dandelion fountain in Fitzroy Gardens the Kings Cross markets are a community shopping fave. Though smaller than most Sydney markets, the curated Sunday offerings are diverse enough to ensure you have a gloriously full basket and belly. They also pack up at a hangover friendly 3.30pm, meaning you can scarf a crackling spiked pork pancake and impulse buy a house plant without having to get up at sparrow’s fart.Kings Cross markets recently updated their stalls to better reflect the changing Potts Point community. Posh puppies get a look-in with sachets of dried roo ribs and doggy craft beers (yes, really) from McPets. You can also pick up jars of Zeus’s ambrosial vice from Wanderer Honey, with selections in unusual yellow and amber gradients. Or, spice-up your antipasto plates with almond stuffed olives from the Stubborn Olive – a stall that also gives you $2 off purchases if you reuse your jars. You can also crunch on a four cheese blend toastie on Pioik sourdough from Great Wheels of Cheese.The markets are great for flowers and plants, with several stalls devoted to leafy finds. Massive bunches of blooms in buckets go for pretty cheap and apartment-savvy succulents and hanging plants are de rigueur. The Green Fingers stall has been going for over ten years and is a fab stop for scoring a healthy indoor plant to take home.
Summer is well on the way in Sydney, and to usher in the balmy evenings and sun-soaked weekends, the City of Sydney is opening five aquatic centres and pools minus the entry fee on December 7. You can enjoy a full day of paddling and extra fun games and events at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, Victoria Park Pool, Prince Alfred Park Pool and Cook and Phillip Park Pool from 10am-3pm. Beyond swimming laps and lazing in the summer sun, there’ll also be a range of cool-down activities happening at each location. Some of the free fun includes yoga sessions at ABC Pool and the Prince Alfred Park lagoon (you’ll want to be well-stretched before testing out your butterfly stroke for the season), as well as a technique-honing swimming class at Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool. Other extras across the aquatic centres include groovy giant pool floaties to laze on, lucky door prizes for keen paddlers, tours of the aquatic facilities, barbecues keeping tired swimmers fueled and music to get the pool party started. It’s also a great opportunity to sign up for pool memberships, as sign-up fees are being waived on the day and you’ll get the first two weeks free. Pool-goers with little nippers can also take advantage of the swimming classes offer and score a two-week fee reduction.
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 for $3, 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 such as flowering gum for $25 and eucalyptus for $12, but also more weathered bunches of roses and dahlias. Chippendale café Brickfields also has a stall selling sourdough loaves, almond croissants and generously sized white Chocolate passionfruit lamingtons. There’s also Brooklyn Boy Bagels and Paddy’s Irish Soda Breads, as well as coffee and Golden Gaytime brookies at Milklab Coffee. When we visit there’s only one ready-to-go food stall selling handmade gnocchi with napolitana sauce and parmesan. 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
You’ll be stuffing stockings with gorgeous ethically sourced gifts after visiting this feel-good market organised by Willoughby City Council. Trawl through fashion accessories, toys, homewares, beauty products, jewellery, cards and many more handcrafted items that all have a story to tell. You’ll find products like silver jewellery from Eden Ministries, Sri Lankan toys from Apsara, block printed quilts from Kalai, embroidered cushion covers from Global Conduct, Colombian bags and tagua jewellery from Koguis and Panama hats and hammocks from the Toucan Shop. Any gifts that you buy at this market give back to the person who made them, with money going to support economically disadvantaged artisans, farmers and producers.
Bar Pho has been a staple of the weekly produce and snack fare for the past eight years, and the warming basil, beef and star anise-spiked stock makes a solid argument for passing on the usual bacon and egg breakfast. This stall along with Fritter House (try the lion’s share with chipolatas, sour cream, two big corn fritters, bacon and salsa) and the Raclette Shack (oozy cheese-topped potatoes are always a great idea at 10am) make the markets an excellent brunching destination. Grab some grub, BYO picnic mat and sprawl out on the lawn before making your way to the produce section. In summer there’s juicy pineapples, bright peaches and greenery aplenty from Kurrawong Organics, and Mayfarm Flowers always have a great selection of native and tropical blooms to brighten up your home. You’ll also regularly find SOL Cups peddling reusable coffee cups, AB Cheese bringing all the dairy goods, organic nut butters from Chunky Dave and hand carved wood pieces from Byron Bay Chopping Boards. There’s also doggy ‘parking’, live acoustic music and pop-up yoga classes on the lawn. 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 first. Find more best markets in Sydney.
Free things to do on any given day
If you have visitors in town, this is a free way to check off many of the city’s historical sites in one go – and there’s a fact-filled guide to do all the talking.
The secret maybe well and truly out about this hidden garden, but it really is heart-warming story and a space worth sharing.
It’s one of Sydney's most popular walks – and for good reason. That coastline is spectacular, from every direction, and you’re in a pretty urban environment, so it’s one you can do on a whim.
Load up the picnic basket with economically baked muffins and last night's leftovers and take a road trip to find these cascading falls around Sydney.
This Willy Wonka of libraries could convert even the most ardent library sceptic. Soak up stories and knowledge among three levels bursting with greenery.
Okay, so the drinks aren't free – but the karaoke is! Book a room for up to 20 singing pals without spending your drinking dosh.
It's less than an hour's drive from the CBD, yet so many Sydneysiders haven't stepped foot in the pristine 15,091 hectares of bushland that lines the coast south of Sydney.
Got a wriggly little one? Let them run off some of that energy at these parks and playgrounds while you chill in the sun.
You'll always find a freely accessible exhibition going at this harbourside art gallery. And bar Chrsitmas, they're open every dang day of the year.
You may not want to brave the water on cooler days, but this little patch of sand in Manly is a beaut spot to sit and contemplate life whatever the weather.
Tour Sydney's street art for free
Sydney is home to a vibrant community of street artists, always ready to bring a splash of colour, a touch of provocation, or just the perfect Instagram backdrop to our city’s streets. But as with just about every piece of real estate in Sydney, these unlikely canvases are hotly contested spaces.