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Alone on the Harbour image
Photograph: Maxim Boon

The best things to do when you're alone in Sydney

There’s nothing lonely about enjoying marvellous Sydney adventures for one

By Olivia Gee

It can be difficult to master the art of hanging out by yourself. But a bit of introspection and calling all the shots can be extremely rewarding. There ain’t nothing wrong with a little people watching in one of Sydney’s best parks, or ordering a feast for one at the best restaurants in the city.

So, carve out some ‘you’ time and explore these exciting, relaxing and delicious solo activities in Sydney.

The best solo adventures in Sydney

people's backs on a bench
Photograph: Anna Kucera

1. Get cosy in a café corner

Restaurants Newtown

There’s a certain charm to spending the better part of a day at a café. Bunker down at the Rising Sun Workshop in Newtown, starting your day with one of their warming breakfast ramens. With a motorbike repair shop off to one side, a comfy Chesterfield upstairs and happy-to-chat waitstaff, Rising Sun is somewhere you’ll want to stay till dinner.

Generic mannequin with hat
Photograph: Creative Commons

2. Go bargain hunting

Shopping Op shops Balgowlah

Shopping for second-hand finds can be a cut-throat business and you’ll often do your best work op-shopping alone, snagging all those one-off bargains for yourself. If you’re revamping your office attire, the Lifeline in Balgowlah will deck you out in sensible-but-sexy threads and more. Venture further back in the pre-loved cycle and hit up some of the city’s best vintage shops.

Pouring drink at the bar at Giant Dwarf
Photograph: Daniel Boud

3. Laugh like nobody’s watching

Comedy Surry Hills

The crowd will be laughing with you at Sydney’s many comedy clubs and open mic nights. Start with a show at Giant Dwarf – a stage for funny folk in Surry Hills (it recently moved up the road from the old Cleveland Street Theatre). The comedy club-style venue is big enough for you to melt into the crowd, but doesn’t demand fancy dress or airs and graces for the occasion.

Bartenders serving at Baxter Inn
Photograph: Anna Kucera

4. Make bartender friends

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

Heading to a bar alone can be daunting. Luckily, your friendly neighbourhood bartender can save you from any awkwardness. Head underground to the Baxter Inn for some top quality banter paired with fine Scotch whisky. You’ll need to get in early to nab a stool at the long bar, where you can also experience an informal mixology masterclass.


5. Treat yo'self

Health and beauty Balmain

You’re on your own, so enjoy some ‘you’ time. Sweat out any bad juju in a sauna, and scrub away your troubles with a zesty full-body exfoliation. Spend time getting the full treatment at Nature's Energy Balmain Bath House, where you can live the highlife for a little less than some of the swankie inner-city spa spots.

6. Become an art critic

Art Chippendale

Exploring Sydney’s diverse art galleries on your own means you can really absorb everything the ever-changing exhibitions have to offer. You’ll find epic alternative collections of post-millennial Chinese art at Chippendale’s White Rabbit, plus there’s a fab gift shop where you can pick up some cheaper arty fun. Oh, and there’s dumplings.

Vintage clothes stall at Glebe Markets
Photograph: Anna Kucera

7. Forage market stalls for the best finds

Shopping Markets Around Glebe, Glebe

It’s difficult to navigate popular weekend markets while trying to keep track of another human, so take advantage of this glorious time alone. The Saturday morning Glebe Markets are fashion-focused, with over 200 stalls leaning towards vintage threads and quirky accessories. But even if you’re not in the market for a wardrobe refresh, it’s a great place grab lunch and chill on the lawn, listing to live melodies by local musos.

Sew Make Create
Photograph: Supplied

8. Learn to make something new

Things to do Chippendale

There’s safety in numbers, so pick up some new skills in a group workshop at Sew Make Create. There’s regular classes spanning the world of textiles, and the focus on beginner skills is helpful if you’re visiting on a whim. You can try your hand at everything from cross stitch to dress-making in a collaborative space – and you may end up making some new friends.

Hibernia Tattoo
Photograph: Daniel Boud

9. Make another kind of mark

Shopping Tattoo parlours Surry Hills

Why not shock everyone with a new tattoo when you re-emerge into your social circle? Hibernia Tattoo in Surry Hills is by appointment only, which makes for a more personalised experience and gives nervous noobs a bit of privacy. You’ll also deal with the artists directly throughout the design process.

Gardens looking at the city.
Photograph: Brian Yap

10. Contemplate life in the great outdoors

Things to do Sydney

Craving some wide open spaces? Put your walking shoes on and head to a park. The Royal Botanical Gardens will serve solo explorers best. You can work on your botanist skills and practice identifying native flora, or become an anthropology wizard with all the people watching you'll do. Worst case scenario: there's free WiFi in the park.

Observatory Hill outdoor gym with blue skies
Photograph: Emma Joyce

11. Tone that tush in the fresh air

Sport and fitness Gyms Millers Point

If the sun is still shining, head to an outdoor gym for further self development. The workout spot on Observatory Hill has all the equipment and instruction manuals a solo gym junkie could ask for, and is conveniently under-used, so you won’t have to constantly face off muscle men for the pull-up rings. There’s also a public bathroom and bubbler nearby.

12. See a show in a theatre with attitude

Theatre Woolloomooloo

It can be a treat to get through an entire theatre production without interruptions, but if you enjoy informed discussion after a performance, or are partial to a post-show beer, head to the Old Fitzroy Theatre. Housed in the belly of Woolloomooloo’s salt-of-the-earth pub, the Old Fitzroy Hotel, it’ll keep you cultured with a season of theatre and in good company with friendly locals at the bar and a fun crew behind it.

Manly to Spit Middle Harbour
Photograph: Hamilton Lund / Destination NSW

13. Walk off your lonesomeness

Sport and fitness Walks Balgowlah Heights

There’s nothing like a brisk walk to clear your head. The Manly to Spit coastal walk also presents multiple swimming spots to refresh your body and mind along the ten-kilometre hike. The view will keep you company, morphing from craggy cliffs to sprawling ocean vistas, and if you take the route backwards you’ll finish up in suburban Manly for a quick snack before you catch the ferry home. Remember, always tell a friend before venturing on a solo bush walk.

Quad bikes on sand dunes
Photograph: Supplied

14. Screw ’em all and leave

Travel Short getaways

Go on, get out of here! You may have fallen in love with the city, but distance makes the heart grow fonder, so take a day trip. All the action at Port Stephens is well worth the two-hour drive. Hop on the back of a tour with other adventurers for camel riding or sand dune quad-biking.

See the colourful side of the city

Jenny Munro
Jenny Munro
Photograph: Ken Leanfore

The best public art in Sydney

Art Public art

Public art – in any city – is a notoriously fraught business. No matter how hard you try to make everyone happy, every work will have its detractors – but Sydney has some seriously awe inspiring works to discover. 


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