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Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour
Photograph: Steve Back/Destination NSW

50 things to do in Sydney at least once in your life

What are the best events and attractions in Sydney? We've created the ultimate bucket list

By Time Out editors
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Note: Many performances, museums and venues have been closed or cancelled due to current events. Events on this list may be affected by these cancellations – if you're unsure, please call ahead to confirm. 

Whether you're after natural beauty, glorious culture or rip-roaring good times, Sydney's bursting with experiences to suit every taste. We’ve picked out 50 of our favourite things to do in the Harbour City that are a must for visitors and Sydneysiders alike. Take a read and get cracking on this ultimate to-do list.

Hungry? Find the 50 best places to eat in Sydney right now, or why not see more of the city on one of these scenic drives?

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

50 fun things to do in Sydney

Young boy looking over Sydney harbour
Photograph: Murray Fredericks

1. Ride the iconic Manly Ferry

Things to do Walks and tours

What is it? Locals use it every day on their commute to work, but the Manly Ferry voyage is an impossibly beautiful treat.

Why go? While the motors chug soothingly, enjoy the scenery of Sydney Harbour as it glides by, taking you past the bridge, Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo and harbourside beaches such as Shark Beach and Camp Cove out to one of the city’s most popular beachside suburbs, great for bars, restaurants, shopping and snorkelling.

Don't miss: We suggest you hop off and explore part or all the Many to Spit walk for spectacular views of the north and south headlands.

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

2. Take a coastal trek from Manly to Spit

Sport and fitness Walks Balgowlah Heights

What is it? It's a 9- or 18-km coastal trek (depending on if you're going one way or returning to Manly) that takes you from sandy coves to beautiful vantage points of Sydney Harbour, up and down rocky staircases and to at least four secret beaches. 

Why go? The views are worth every drop of sweat you lose as you climb the stairs, and there are beaches here that you can only reach on this walk or by boat. 

Don't miss: At the pinnacle, look out for the Grotto Point Aboriginal engravings; you'll find the outlines of a giant kangaroo, boomerangs, a whale and several small fish carved into the Sydney sandstone. 

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Inside restaurant at Bennelong
Photograph: Anna Kucera

3. Have a five-star meal at Bennelong

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Sydney

What is it? Take a seat at one of the most in-demand tables in the city at this fine-dining institution housed within one of the Opera House's iconic shells.

Why go? Sure, it's great to marvel at Jørn Utzon's architectural masterpiece from the outside, but nothing compares to dining within one of the true wonders of the modern world. Not only will you have breathtaking views of the harbour and bridge, the food at this multi-award winning restaurant is some of the best in the Southern Hemisphere. Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch: every sense is in for a treat.

Don't miss: The dessert menu's gourmet take on Aussie classics are a must, such as the cherry lamington in a cloud of frozen white chocolate curls, or the pavlova shaped like the building it’s served in.

BridgeClimb 02
Photograph: Supplied

4. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Museums The Rocks

What is it? A chance to scale the world-famous "Coathanger".

Why go? You can see Sydney Harbour in all its majesty. We recommend the express climb, which is a little shorter and takes you up the inside arc so that you are surrounded by hand-riveted steel and feel a little like you’re inside the ribs of a metal skeleton.

Don't miss: The views out west. This is an incredible experince at dawn, dusk or at night. 

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5. Float above Camden Valley in a hot air balloon

Attractions Farms Campbelltown

What is it? A sunrise flight across country towns with Sydney city skyline on the horizon and the blue eucalyptus haze of the Blue Mountains in the other direction.

Why go? In the padded basket everyone gets a spectacular view of the sun rising in the east and the pink tones and long shadows hitting the countryside below, including the steep hills of the Razorback Ranges to the pretty church steeples of Camden.

Don't miss: It’s around a three-hour experience, starting at 4am, so don't skip the Champagne brekky that's all part of the ticket, served up at Otis Bar and Grill at Rydges Campbelltown.

6. Swim at the Instagrammable Bondi Icebergs Pool

Sport and fitness Pools Bondi Beach

What is is? It’s the most photographed ocean pool in Australia – at Sydney’s most famous beach. The 50-metre saltwater pool a popular spot for sunbathers and a bottleneck spot on the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Why go? The baths have been a landmark of Bondi for 100 years, and it’s only $9 for casual entry – giving you access to the pool and sauna.

Don't miss: Every Friday at 6pm, your swim gets a soundtrack, courtesy of the local bands showcased at Icebergs' Sunset Sessions.

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7. Drink local craft beers at Young Henrys brewery

Bars Newtown

What is it? You'll find Young Henrys at bars and pubs all over the country these days, but there's no better place to knock back a frosty Newtowner pale ale than right at the source.

Why go? You get a taste of Newtown's bohemian vibe thanks to an inclusive and diverse crowd, and it makes an ideal starting point for a brewery crawl around the rest of the Inner West.

Don't miss: Sydney food trucks park at the brewery every weekend, which makes it a busy time to visit, so shake a leg in order to secure one of the prized high tables.

Indigenous guide in Dharawal National Park
Photograph: Supplied

8. Take an Indigenous walking tour of Dharawal National Park

Things to do Walks and tours

What is it? Sixty minutes from Sydney’s CBD, Dharawal National Park has stunning scenery and until recently public access to the bushland was restricted. Now you can enjoy guided tours of the park every second Saturday of the month.

Why go? Guiding the way will be an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger, who will share local knowledge about flora and fauna, as well as Dreamtime stories that connect Indigenous Australians to the area.

Don't miss: Enjoy a short bushwalk and then picnic at Minerva Pool – a sacred women’s place for the Dharawal People (only women and children may enter the pool). 

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White Rabbit Gallery 2010 interior view (c) Time Out Sydney photographer credit Daniel Boud
Photograph: Daniel Boud

9. Marvel at contemporary Chinese art at White Rabbit

Art Chippendale

What is it? The state-of-the-art, four-floor gallery brings together 21st century Chinese art, with a rotation of four key exhibitions throughout the year. Founder Judith Neilson created the self-funded non-profit gallery to house her epic collection of post-millennial Chinese art. And entry is always free. 

Why go? White Rabbit is known for putting on bold and sometimes confronting exhibitions. 

Don't miss: Refuel with a plate of dumplings and toothsome tisanes at the in-house tea room. 

10. Celebrate Sydney's LGBTQIA history at the Imperial Hotel

Bars Erskineville

What is it? Erskineville's Imperial Hotel has been a safe space for the LGBTQIA community since the '80s. Drag is at the forefront, queer culture is celebrated, and the music is loud, proud and Palms-level perfection.

Why go? The front bar has a fabulously daggy disco after-hours with Diana, Cher, Madonna, and Whitney on heavy rotation. The basement also hosts regular parties from some of Sydney’s best queer collectives: Honcho Disko, Heaps Gay and Girlthing.

Don't miss: Drag ‘n’ Dine, every night of the week. Your zucchini noodles will be accompanied by one of Sydney’s star drag kings and queens. 

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The red and white stripped Hornby Lighthouse looking at South Head at sunset.
Photograph: David Finnegan/NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

11. Watch the sunset from the Hornby Lighthouse

Sport and fitness Walks Watsons Bay

What is it? On the leading edge of the South Head, you'll find one of Sydney's cutest lighthouses overlooking the calm waters of Camp Cove.

Why go? With the vast expanse of the mighty Pacific Ocean to the east and stunning city views to the west, a visit to this beautiful corner of the city is bound to leave you awestruck. You can make a day of it too, by taking the South Head trail from Watsons Bay. It's an easy amble and you can reward yourself for that lill' bit of cardio with a drink or two at the Watsons Bay Hotel afterward.

Don't miss: If you're travelling in from the city, catching the ferry from circular quay to the Watsons Bay terminus is a must. Not only will it get you to your destination swiftly, but it'll also treat you to a whistlestop stickybeak tour of the boujie harbourview residences that line the Foreshore.

12. Experience game-changing seafood at Saint Peter

Restaurants Seafood Paddington

What is it? A neighbourhood shrine to seafood that's become an international dining destination for fish fanatics.

Why go? Young gun chef Josh Niland is doing revolutionary things with the ocean's finest: dry-aging, using eyeballs to make chips and making pure magic out of offal. 

Don't miss: Head in for lunch if you want to catch the almighty sea urchin crumpets.

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13. Seek out the hidden oasis that's Wendy's Secret Garden

Things to do Lavender Bay

What is it? This secret garden, with full views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, is part public, part private land at the foot of artist Brett Whiteley’s home in Lavender Bay.

Why go? For years, the land was tangled, overgrown and strewn with rubbish, but when Whiteley died in 1992, his widow, Wendy, channelled her grief into creating a place of enchantment. Sydneysiders come to escape the busier parks and enjoy a picnic in the hidden oasis.

Don't miss: The chance to snap a pic of Sydney Harbour surrounded by towering fig trees and native plants. 

14. Paddle under the Coathanger with Sydney by Kayak

Things to do Walks and tours North Shore

What is it? A sunrise kayak and coffee tour with glorious photo opportunities that’ll make your hungover friends incredibly jealous. 

Why go? Instructor Laura Stone and husband Ben run weekly dawn tours that make the most of Sydney Harbour before most people turn and hit snooze. The harbour water is velvety smooth, and the kayaks are very stable so you don’t need to work hard to paddle around Luna Park and into position as the sunlight hits Sydney Opera House. 

Don't miss: Flat whites never tasted saltier than when you're bobbing under the Bridge, paddle under arm and wrangling a camera for that perfect Instagram shot. 

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Food at A1 Canteen
Photograph: Anna Kucera

15. Have a sambo at Chippendale's buzzy A1 Canteen

Restaurants Cafés Chippendale

What is it? Melbourne slays it on the all-day-dining front, but A1 is Sydney's breakfast-through-dinner force to be reckoned with.

Why go? Chef-owner Clayton Wells made a name for himself across the street at Automata, but it turns out he's a weapon when it comes to salads, sandwiches and epic daytime fare – and the coffee is some of the best in town. 

Don't miss: The muffuletta pressed sandwich pretty much broke the internet, and has earned cult status in Sydney’s lunch scene. 

16. Discover local street art on a Culture Scouts: Inner West Tour

Things to do Walks and tours Newtown

What is it? A three-hour walking tour of Newtown and Enmore where your local guide will point out the iconic and lesser-known street art of the Inner West.

Why go? You’ve heard of local artists Lister, Numbskull and Skulk, but how many times have you stopped to look at their work? There’s time on this to appreciate the works right under our noses, like Lister’s dancing ballerinas on the Hub building, or the sweeping layers of pink, blue and turquoise of ‘Save Our Coral Reef’ by Phibs and George Rose. 

Don't miss: The more discreet ways our street artists make their mark. We bet even residents would learn something new.

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17. Cool down with scoop of gelato at Cow and the Moon

Restaurants Enmore

What is it? A humble Enmore gelateria that defeated competitors from 22 other countries (yes, including Italy) and took out the title for world’s best gelato back in 2014.

Why go? In case you didn’t quite process the words written above: World’s. Best. Gelato. You’ve got 26 flavours to choose from every day, including sorbets.

Don't miss: The mandorla affogato is the one that wowed the judges, but the strawberry balsamic panna cotta is a dazzler, too.

18. Watch a cult indie flick at Golden Age Cinema

Film Surry Hills

What is it? A boutique, 60-seat cinema in Surry Hills where you can catch the latest indie releases as well as cult film screenings, attend weekly movie trivia nights and hang out in the golden age-inspired basement bar. 

Why go? The building was constructed in 1940 as the offices of Paramount Pictures. Two vintage projectors remain on the premises, although the new cinema uses a digital projector.

Don't miss: High-quality cinema snacks are offered in the adjoining bar – expect the finest choc-tops in Sydney. 

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People watching live music in a Sydney bar
Photograph: Jamie Williams/City of Sydney

19. Rock out to a gig at Frankie's

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Sydney

What is it? The heart of the business district is not where you’d expect to find an underground heavy metal after-hours pizza parlour, but Frankie’s doesn’t much go in for the expected. Chow down on a slice, knock back a beer and catch a live gig at this dive bar-cum-gig venue.

Why go? The front room feels like a pizza parlour from a movie set, but it’s more Ninja Turtles than Sopranos. There are postcards and old photos tacked to the walls; red and white tablecloths and candles in bottles; and they sure can bake the heck out of a pepperoni pizza. They’re open until 3am, seven nights a week, which means Mondays can redeem themselves with a set from the famous house band, a frozen Margarita and a tin of Pistonhead lager. Tuesdays is for karaoke, which is followed by two nights of live gigs at the heart of the working week. Fridays and Saturdays hit peak party, but there’s no rest for the wicked on Sundays – just more live bands.

Don't miss: Tucked away in the band room's back corner is Frankie's legendary collection of pinball machines. Drop a few coins and see if you can beat the high score.

Man swimming with view of city at Bronte Pools Baths
Photograph: Daniel Boud

20. Take a sunrise swim at Bronte Baths

Sport and fitness Bronte

What is it? Built into the rocky cliffside, this ocean pool is popular with early risers for salty laps and Instagram pics of the sunrise. 

Why go? The waves at Bronte Beach can get a little hairy for less experienced swimmers, but here you can enjoy the best of both worlds with a protected saltwater pool that has waves crashing at the walls. 

Don't miss: Try to get here before 7am – watching the sun breach over the ocean’s horizon from this vantage point is pretty special.

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Above sydney in Helicopter
Photograph: Emily Lloyd-Tait

21. See Sydney from the skies with Sydney HeliTours

Things to do Walks and tours Mascot

What is it? A helicopter ride that'll make you feel like James Bond as it ferries you over Sydney CBD. 

Why go? The cabin is mostly glass, so every seat gets excellent views. You'll hover over Darling Harbour before hooking out towards Goat Island to make a majestic run at the bridge. From here you'll head out towards the heads before taking a sharp right to track the coastline from Vaucluse to the golden sands of Bondi and Maroubra.

Don't miss: Be sure to capture that coastline with a decent camera as you glide from Vaucluse to the famous golden sands of Bondi and Maroubra before heading back into Botany Bay. 

22. Hit up Golden Century for a late-night feast

Restaurants Haymarket

What is it? This Sussex Street stalwart has been dishing up some of Sydney’s best Cantonese food since 1990, and it’s open till 4am every single night of the week.

Why go? There’s no way to wrap up a night on the tiles than a giant table here, with a gang of your nearest in dearest, bathed in the way-too-bright fluorescent lights in plain view of the live seafood tanks.  

Don't miss: The pippies in XO sauce is the magnum opus dish – even celebrity chef and Momofuku empire founder David Chang calls it the “best dish in the world”.

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23. Sample a next-level cocktail at PS40

5 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? Part bar, part laboratory, this sleek watering hole in the CBD boasts one of the most extraordinary cocktail menus in the city. Each creation defies conventional explanation to fuse flavour and theatre in perfect sync. 

Why go? PS40 co-owners Michael Chiem and Thor Bergquist have applied a jaw-dropping level of forethought and ingenuity to their craft. Their latest menu is inspired by their favourite festivals around the world. They even gave that menu a name: Festivus. If that sounds a little silly to you, remember that no bar commits to reinvention with more conviction than PS40 and that any idea or theme is just an excuse to let these gifted imaginations run totally free.

Don't miss: If you're not in the mood for booze, PS40 also manufactures its own bespoke line of sodas. You'll find these grade-A mixers behind the bars of many of Sydney's top establishments, but here you can cut out the middleman and sample them from the source.

Royal National Park
Photograph: Klara Kalocsay

24. Go whale watching or hiking in the Royal National Park

Things to do

What is it? It's 26 kilometres of national park with stunning coastline walks, secluded beaches, natural rock pools and rock formations that are Insta-worthy.

Why go? Whether you want to swim, trek, picnic, swim, bike ride, swim or just GTFO of Sydney for the day, the Royal National Park will provide an outdoors, adventure-filled day away. Tread with caution at hot spots like Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight rock pools.

Don't miss: Whale watching season runs from May to November and the Royal National Park is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures on their migration. 

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Sydney Opera House backstage tour
Photograph: Prudence Upton

25. Take a stickybeak into closed-off areas at Sydney Opera House

Things to do

What is it? It's a chance to see behind the scenes of Sydney Opera House, allowing you access to areas normally reserved for big stars and their entourages.

Why go? Guests meet at the stage door for an experience that will have you treading the boards of its illustrious stages and sneaking into the dressing rooms of the Concert Hall, Opera and Drama Theatres, Playhouse and the Studio. You’ll be regaled with the secrets and stories that go on behind the curtain, from pulleys to props, sequins to soundchecks.

Don't miss: Tours include a hearty breakfast served in the Green Room.

Outside at Museum of Contemporary Art
Photograph: VirtualWolf

26. Expand your mind at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Museums The Rocks

What is it? The harbourside MCA is the go-to venue for cutting-edge art on a local and international level.

Why go? The Museum of Contemporary Art often hosts exhibitions by huge international artists, including heavyweights like Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono and Grayson Perry. 

Don't miss: The MCA has a rooftop café and sculpture terrace with superb views of Circular Quay, including the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. 

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Let's Go Surfing
Photograph: Supplied

27. Hang ten at Bondi Beach with Let's Go Surfing

Sport and fitness Bondi North

What is it? Surfing a wave at Bondi should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you’re rusty with a surfboard, book in for a class at Let’s Go Surfing.

Why go? The school prides itself on the popular two-hour beginners’ course, which goes through the essentials of water safety (including Bondi’s dangerous rips), paddling and how to catch a wave. Each lesson starts on the sand, so you can ask embarrassing questions without fear. 

Don't miss: After your lesson, head to one of North Bondi's excellent cafés like Porch and Parlour or Harry's Bondi. 

28. Take a ferry to Cockatoo Island

Things to do Sydney

What is it? It's the largest island in Sydney's harbour and set at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers. It's been a film set, a gaol, a shipping yard and home to arts and culture festivals. 

Why go? Because it has so much history. Before 1839, when a prison was built to house convicts from Norfolk Island, it was covered with red gums and was almost certainly an Aboriginal fishing spot. The island had a brief stint hosting an industrial school for girls and a naval training ship for boys. However, the island was mostly used for shipbuilding and repairs. Today, the island is run by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which runs different types of tours.

Don't miss: There are camp sites, glamping packages, apartments or heritage holiday houses to choose from if you want to extend your trip to the storied island. 

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Nielsen Park/Shark Beach
Photograph: Creative Commons

29. Stroll past hidden beaches on the Hermitage Foreshore Walk

Sport and fitness Walks Rose Bay

What is it? This easy, breezy 1.8km walk rewards visitors with stunning views of the harbour for not a lot of effort.

Why go? Along the way you’ll catch views of the Harbour Bridge and Shark Island, as well as historic Strickland House, a heritage-listed Victorian Italianate mansion built in the 1850s.

Don't miss: You’d also be wise to pack swimmers and sunscreen, as you’ll pass by a number of idyllic harbour beaches.

30. Encounter the wildest locals at Taronga Zoo

Museums Mosman

What is it? A not-for-profit zoo with harbourside views featuring 4,000 animals from koalas and echidnas to giraffes and elephants.

Why go? You're guaranteed sightings of many Australian animals, plus threatened species. The zoo runs talks and animal encounters daily – and even glamping sleepovers. 

Don't miss: Taronga Zoo boasts some of the best harbour views in the city, and as you walk along its wide, snaking paths you’ll spot the Bridge and Sydney Opera House as often as you spot the wildlife.

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Art Gallery of New South Wales 2017 exterior daylight August feat Archibald Prize banners (C) AGNSW photographer credit Felicity Jenkins
Photograph: Felicity Jenkins

31. Visit cultural institution the Art Gallery of NSW

Art Sydney

What is it? One of Australia’s foremost cultural institutions holding significant collections of Australian, European and Asian art. 

Why go? The gallery presents nearly 40 exhibitions annually, and there are workshops, talks and film screenings each week – most of which are free to access.  

Don't miss: Here on a Wednesday? The galley is open till 10pm for workshops, talks, film screenings in a weekly program called Art After Hours.

32. Eat oysters at Sydney Fish Market

Things to do Pyrmont

What is it? The largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere is a working port and a popular lunchtime spot. 

Why go? Dine in or buy fresh seafood, or book into an early morning Behind the Scenes tours to weave your way around 55 tonnes of fish on the auction floor, learning key facts about how to buy seafood at its freshest. 

Don't miss: Get up early and catch the noisy wholesale fish auctions; they start at 5.30am, with tours for public starting at 6.40am.

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Sign at Beneath Driver Lane
Photograph: Graham Denholm

33. Browse Australian boutiques at Strand Arcade

Shopping Sydney

What is it? When it opened in 1892, the Strand Arcade was regarded as the very latest in shopping-centre architecture. It's still one of the most beautiful thoroughfares to visit today. 

Why go? The narrow, multi-level shopping arcade houses premium Australian fashion designers, including Jac+ Jack, Lover, Sass & Bide and Dion Lee. Plus, you can find vibrant and distinctive jewellery from local brand Dinosaur Designs and natural beauty products at Aesop. 

Don't miss: The very dapper hat collection at Strand Hatters. If you came to Australia without sufficient head protection, staff will sort you out with a stylish Akubra, Brixton or Panama. 

34. Find your way in to the Baxter Inn

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? The watering hole that kick-started our ongoing love affair with hidden cocktail bars and forever raised the (figurative) bar in Sydney’s bar scene.

Why go? Even now, after all these years, making your way through the dark tunnel and down the stairs at the back of the laneway is still a little bit of a thrill. And the service remains nothing less than impeccable.   

Don't miss: The jaw-dropping collection of whiskies now stretches to more than 1,000 labels.

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35. Dare to explore the Museum of Human Disease

Museums Science Kensington

What is it? 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, dedicated to medical maladies and anatomical curios.

Why go? This museum isn't for everyone, but if you're morbidly fascinated by the strange or macabre, you'll find plenty to gawk at. 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. You’ll see appetite-busting specimens of everything from tapeworms and typhoid to tuberculosis and teratoma, an alien-like tumour that grows its own hair, skin and teeth.

Don't miss: There are sections dedicated to lifestyle diseases that’ll have you signing up for the gym and throwing out your spirit cupboard, plus a trippy Oculus Rift exhibit where you can ‘walk’ through an artery.

Couple horse riding in Centennial Parklands
Photograph: Supplied

36. Trot around Centennial Parklands

Sport and fitness Moore Park

What is it? The beautiful and vast Centennial Parklands has great walking and cycling tracks, but it’s also one of the world’s only urban parks with riding facilities, with five riding schools that can take you out for a trot any day of the week. 

Why go? Centennial Park has a picturesque 3.6km horse track. Horse riding has always been part of the Parklands’ history and has been taking place since it opened in 1888. Open 365 days a year, the Equestrian Centre is home to 200 stables onsite. The best way to enjoy it is to take a one-hour circuit of the park with a professional instructor.

Don't miss: Take a picnic with you and enjoy the views of Sydney skyline from the edge of the pond. 

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37. Order the soufflé pancake at Edition Coffee Roasters

Restaurants Haymarket

What is it? A Scandi-Japanese café that's cooler than cool.  

Why go? Commit to the 20-minute wait for the soufflé pancake. Whipped to within an inch of its life, risen in the oven like a phoenix and served with a vanilla and white chocolate ganache and strawberries, this outrageously wobbly brekky dessert wearing Michelin Man rolls is even more than what it seems.

Don't miss: The single-origin coffees are ace and they make an A-grade chai, as well.

38. Bust a lung at Dynasty Karaoke

Nightlife Karaoke Haymarket

What it is? An unobtrusive doorway in the middle 
of Chinatown leads to an elevator, and into a Blade Runner-style idea of the Shanghai wine bar... which all leads to private karaoke rooms with a truly cheesy selection of songs to sing along to.  

Why go? It’s gaudy and shiny and over the top, with statues on everything, one-way mirrors on the private rooms, unisex toilets and touchscreen tabletop games if you get bored with the singing.

Don't miss: Staffers here seem to think that if they keep you fed and watered, you’ll stay all night. They’re right. We especially recommend the beef noodles. 

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39. Walk the Bondi to Coogee coastal path

Sport and fitness Walks Bondi Beach

What is it? It’s a six-kilometre stretch of coastline; you’ll walk by Waverley Cemetery, where it can get windy through the suspended walkway, past Clovelly Bowls Club, the secluded nook that is Gordon’s Bay, and on to Coogee where you can reward your efforts with a cold drink from Coogee Pavilion’s rooftop bar.

Why go? When Time Out has visitors in town this is one of the first things we recommend they do. It’s an easy-to-moderate stroll with stunning beaches and people every stretch of the way. 

Don't miss: The chance to live in your activewear all day long. No one will bat an eyelid. 

40. Go to true-blue Aussie pub the Unicorn Hotel

Bars Paddington

What is it? It’s the most resolutely Aussie joint in town. There’s no room for cultural cringe, because at the Unicorn they have a deep and enduring love for Australiana.

Why go? Get amongst the Jatz crackers and French onion dip, or a proper free-range, hormone-free schnitzel. They cook it right – a very hot pan to get that crisp, caramelised shell, and a liberal hand with the seasoning.

Don't miss: There’s also darts, pool and a piano man for Friday night sing-a-longs.

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41. Swim with sharks at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Attractions Wildlife centres Darling Harbour

What is it? The only cageless shark diving experience in Sydney. You can join a colony of grey nurse sharks on a 30-minute diving experience in Darling Harbour.

Why go? Though the grey nurse sharks range from one to three metres long in the tank, they’re placid creatures and do very little other than give you a curious side eye as they swim by. The biggest benefit of diving with them at the aquarium, rather than in the open ocean, is the guarantee of seeing so many sharks in one spot.

Don't miss: the colony of king and gentoo penguins who also call the aquarium home. 

People sitting on rooftop at Old Mates Place
Photograph: Anna Kucera

42. Drink with a bird's eye view at Old Mate's Place

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? A hidden cocktail bar in the centre of the CBD that ticks a lot of boxes. Snuggle up in a cosy booth beneath shelves of old books, or up on the rooftop on a balmy evening in the shadow of the nearby skyscrapers.

Why go? These are some of the most talented bartenders in town, so the cocktail game is mighty strong. They're not against cracking a VB open for you, either, and that makes us love the place even more.

Don't miss: Their booze-sopping Philly cheesesteak that’s so soft and melty you barely need to chew.

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43. Sleep under the stars with Bubbletent Australia

Travel Short getaways

What is it? Australia’s first bubble tent – aptly named Bubbletent Australia. There are three tents to choose from, each overlooking a different aspect of the Capertee Valley, the largest valley in the world.

Why go? All three offer total seclusion, which is not only pleasant but needed, since the central chamber of each one has a 360-degree view out, and in. Thanks to its high altitude and low light pollution, Capertee, two hours and 45 minutes west of Sydney, has some of the best stargazing near the city.

Don't miss: Book the ‘Virgo’ tent, and you’ll even get access to a wood-fired hot tub.

View of sydney harbour at Quay
Photograph: Anna Kucera

44. Splurge on a decadent degustation at Quay

Restaurants Australian The Rocks

What is it? Peter Gilmore’s inventive Australian dining institution is our pick for Sydney’s best fine dining restaurant. 

Why go? Whether you opt for six or ten courses, you’ll be looked after by a superlative service team that doesn’t miss a beat, taste native ingredients at their peak along the way and soak in peerless dress-circle harbour views that really put the ‘special’ in special occasion.

Don't miss: Gilmore’s also the executive chef at Bennelong, the bar and restaurant under the sails of the Opera House across the water. It’s the perfect pre- or post-show stop.

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The Cipher Room Espionage escape room
Photograph: Supplied

45. Beat the clock at the Cipher Room

Things to do Games and hobbies Erskineville

What is it? One of the best escape rooms in Sydney; there are three rooms to choose from, and in each room you have to solve a series of puzzles in the allotted time in order to escape.

Why go? The Cipher Room is a labour of love for its co-creators, Newtown locals Marise Watson and David Vella. Game designer Marise spent a year researching escape rooms around Australia and in New York before creating Espionage. Husband David is the builder who put together the room’s ingenious bits and pieces by hand.

Don't miss: The Cipher Room’s second game room, the Cabin, which has a serial killer theme and is decidedly scarier.

Palm Beach NSW Sydney
Photograph: Herry Lawford

46. Take a day trip to TV famous Palm Beach

Things to do Palm Beach

What is it? Palm Beach is the ideal Australian package. Located one hour away from Sydney’s CBD on the Northern Beaches, this hot spot is perfect for a relaxing day trip away from the commotion of the city. 

Why go? Fans of Home & Away may recognise the location as Summer Bay, but Palm Beach is so much more than Alf Stewart's favourite fishing spot – there is calm water on one side for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, and big waves on the other for surfing. Plus, you can walk to the lighthouse on the hill, which is a great spot for whale watching. 

Don't miss: The cheapest way to get there is by the L90 bus from Wynyard Station for $4.61 with an Opal card.

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Staff making banh mi sandwiches at Marrickville Pork Roll
Photograph: Pauline Morrissey

47. Queue for a banh mi at Marrickville Pork Roll

Restaurants Marrickville

What is it? The phrase ‘hole-in-the-wall’ is thrown around all the time, but this teensy Inner West sandwich shop specialising in Vietnam’s greatest edible export really, truly is.

Why go? Sydney’s best banh mi is a topic of fierce debate, but Marrickville Pork Roll is always a part of that conversation. Waiting in the never-ending queue is like a rite of passage, but thankfully they pack the fluffy rolls with cold-cut pork, pâté and pickled veg so fast you won’t be waiting long.

Don't miss: Should you find yourself in the city, you can get your hands on one of these bad boys at their second location in the thriving Darling Square precinct, as well.

Aboriginal Heritage Tour Botanic Gardens Sydney
Photograph: Supplied

48. Go on a bush foods tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens

Things to do Walks and tours Sydney

What is it? A 1.5-hour guided tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens where you'll learn about the Indigenous history of the land. You’ll learn about how the Gadigal people lived and worked with the seasons before the area was colonised.

Why go? Stingless bee colonies, climbing Moreton Bay fig trees and juicy Davidson plums are just a few of the natural wonders you’ll see (and taste) on this tour of Sydney’s harbourside horticultural oasis. You’ll walk by some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks as you trail around the fringe of the city looking back out to the Opera House, Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the Harbour Bridge.

Don't miss: You’ll also learn about the deep connection to seasonality – when wattles are in bloom you’ll know that whales are migrating, while stingless bee colonies act as natural barometer. 

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49. Enjoy a drink with a world-class view at the Opera Bar

3 out of 5 stars
Bars Sydney

What is it? Of any bar in the city, few can boast a view as iconic as the Opera Bar. But that's not the only reason to go here. There are multiple venues to sample, live music and DJs most nights and unbeatable people-watching opportunities. 

Why go? Beauty and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but Opera Bar is a glam exception to the rule. It manages to be both one of the most enviably located bars in the city as well as its most advantageous spot for a pre-show drink. On the day you snag a seat facing the Harbour Bridge up on the raised promenade you should go buy a lottery ticket, because lady luck has smiled on you. If you want to complete the perfect Sydney Instagram pic with a cocktail, you'll find at least a dozen concoctions that favour sweet, fruity, brightly coloured ingredients designed to pop with the right filter.

Don't miss: There's not just good drinking here – the food's no slouch either. You can order high-end pub staples that hover around the $30 mark if you’re stinging for a hot meal, but grazing is the optimal snack pace here. There’s a set cheese and meat board on the menu, but it’s worth wandering over to the dedicated small goods counter if you want to pick’n’mix.

Watermelon strawerry cake at Black Star Pastry
Photograph: Anna Kucera

50. Try the famous watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry

Restaurants Newtown

What is it? For starters, it's the most Instagrammed cake in the world. Texturally it is perfection – light, fluffy rose-scented cream, softly crumbed almond dacquoise and juicy watermelon. The topping of jelly-like strawberry glaze, fresh strawberries, Iranian pistachios and rose petals complete what is truly a masterpiece of baking. 

Why go? The brainchild of pastry chef extraordinaire Christopher Thé, the Newtown patisserie also trades in killer quiches, pies and all manner of sweets.

Don't miss: Black Star has outlets in Rosebery, Moore Park and the CBD, too. 

Eat at the best restaurants in Sydney

More great things to do across the globe

Uluru’s ‘Field of Light’
Photograph: Mark Pickthall, courtesy Field of Light, Uluru, Bruce Munro 2016

The 40 best things to do in the world right now

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Going out and doing things satisfies our need to explore, to learn and to grow (and then to brag about it on social media). Our hope is that the DO List becomes not just your bucket list, but your inspiration to experience and appreciate the corners of magic in the world.

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