48 hours in Sydney
Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is a mecca for tourists from every corner of the globe. 48 hours in Sydney shows how this vibrant and bustling city with its beautiful harbour, pristine beaches and iconic structures, draws tourists for many reasons.
Are you staying in Sydney pre or post cruise? Or perhaps you’re heading to Sydney for a wedding or business trip. Then don’t let your visit be all work and no play. A good option would be to extend your time by an additional 48 hours in Sydney to see why millions flock here, and make the most of your time sightseeing. If you’re wondering what there is to do, here are our suggestions for things to do in 48 hours in Sydney.
First, as soon as you confirm the dates you will be in Sydney check out the shows playing at Capitol Theatre and book a show.
We’ve planned a full day today, so start your morning early with breakfast at The Rock’s. The Rock’s area features cobblestone laneways and old sandstone buildings from the colonial days and is minutes away from Sydney Harbour. Our recommendation is a Buttermilk pancake stack at Pancakes on the Rocks, a Sydney favourite that has been in The Rocks since the 70’s and is open 24/7.
After breakfast you can save a few dollars and skip the Harbour Bridge climb, burning off those pancake calories with a walk across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. “The Coathanger” as it is fondly referred to, is one of Sydney’s most iconic attractions. From George Street look for the sign pointing to the flight of stairs leading to the bridge’s pylon, near Gloucester and Cumberland Streets. The pedestrian walkway allows visitors to safely walk across the bridge. Wire mesh is in place for safety purposes, but a gap has been left at chest to head height to take photos. The 2.5 kilometre walk will take about an hour, depending on your pace. Unlike the paid Bridge Climb where you can’t take photos, the walk is completely free and you can take as many photos as you choose. So take your time as the view from the bridge is incredible and you can get some unique, postcard perfect photos of Sydney Opera House.
On the other side you’ll arrive at Milson’s Point and be able to check out another of Sydney’s landmarks, Luna Park. Luna Park is a fun park developed in 1935, the concept based on the original Luna Park in Coney Island, New York in 1903.
Jump on the ferry and head under the bridge, across the harbour to Circular Quay. Once there you can walk along to one of the 20th century’s most famous and distinctive buildings, the Sydney Opera House. Photographing this majestic building from the outside is only giving half the story. Take an Opera house backstage tour and get to see some of the areas restricted to the general public.
Inside you can capture photos from rare vantage points, marvel at the vaulted ceilings of one of the biggest pillar free chambers in the world, step inside the theatres and foyers, and sit in the elegant custom made white birch timber chairs. Learn the history behind the complex engineering problems causing escalating costs of the 14 year build of this masterpiece of human creativity that was UNESCO World Heritage-listed in 2007.
Outside get up close and touch the world famous shell tiles that cover the huge precast concrete shell sails that took four years just to figure out how to construct them. A further year was spent developing the 1,056,006 ceramic glazed tiles which were bonded to the ribbed structure of the sails. The appearance of the outside appears a solid white, but up close you can see (and feel) the chevron patterned, glossy white and matt cream tiles.
A visit to this multi venue, performing arts centre is dramatic and unforgettable. The mammoth building houses a Concert Hall, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Drama Theatre, Playhouse, The Studio and Utzon Room and has a seating capacity of 5,738 people. There are additional facilities like recording studios, cafes, restaurants, bars and retail outlets. Today the Opera House is one of the busiest performing art centres in the world, with over 3000 events to an annual audience of 2 million people. The venue conducts tours for over 200,000 people each year.
Head back to Circular Quay and take a ferry for a scenic, relaxing afternoon to see more Sydney sights. The ferry will take you past Fort Dennison, part of Sydney Harbour National Park that is a former penal site occupying a small island.
The ferry then continues on to Manly, where you can disembark and have a quick look around until the next ferry arrives. Manly is a beach side suburb of northern Sydney, where Norfolk Island Pine trees are a prominent feature for the popular seaside holiday resort with one of the world’s oldest surf lifesaving clubs.
Board another ferry to continue onto Watson’s Bay. At Watson’s Bay you can enjoy a truly Australian experience of fish n chips at Doyle’s. Doyle’s, a 5th generation, family run business serves Australian seafood, first opened their doors in Watson’s Bay in 1885.
After some time in Watson’s Bay take a ferry back to Darling Harbour. You can spend some time here or head back to your serviced apartments Sydney where you can take a moment to rest your feet before getting changed for the evening show.
Make your way to China Town for a Chinese meal before walking to the Capital for the show. After the show you might like to indulge in a late night snack at Harry’s Café de Wheel. Their signature heart stopper is Harry’s Tiger, chunky beef, potato mash and mushy peas, said to the best pie in the city. Harry’s Café de Wheel is possibly the first and longest running food trucks in Sydney, starting in 1938.
Next morning start the day with breakfast at one of the many great places in Darling Harbour. After breakfast you can choose from spending some time at Sea Life, Madam Tussauds or the National Maritime Museum all at Darling Harbour. Afterwards take a ride on the little train from Cockle Bay Wharf past the Darling Quarter Playground and Tumbalong Park to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Modelled on a typical private garden of the Ming Dynasty the garden gives an insight into the Chinese heritage and culture. Entering the garden you will be taken back to a quiet solitude, a peaceful refuge right in the heart of the city. The garden combines the elements of water, plants, stone and architecture. Running water, cool lagoons with lotus plants and colourful fish, willow trees with birds perching in them, bamboo swaying in the breeze, make this an idyllic spot for locals to recharge their batteries.
Around the corner you can have fun poking around in the giant flee market and spend some time shopping for souvenirs at Paddy’s Markets. Part of Sydney’s history and Sydney’s biggest markets there are over 1,000 stalls selling food, fashion, gifts and gadgets. No visit to the market is complete without sampling food and upstairs you can have a meal bringing you flavours from around the world.
But don’t shop too much, we have another treat planned.
A short walk down George Street, near Martin Place you’ll come across Angel Place and a very unique artwork installation, Unforgotten Songs. This display is a canopy of numerous suspended empty birdcages of all sizes at various heights, representing the birds that once lived in the area. Most have moved on or become extinct, forced out by European settlement. A taped cacophony of the birdcalls heard during the day, are different from the nocturnal bird sounds at night. This is a reminder of what has been lost to make way for streets and buildings.
Further along George Street is a group of beautiful heritage listed buildings. The first, St Andrews Anglican Cathedral, one of the city’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Consecrated in 1868, this is Australia’s oldest cathedral and a perfect example of the colonial desire to reproduce a part of England in Australia. This is a truly splendid building, small in size, but imposing with a harmonious interior. The proportions of the inside give a sense of grandeur and richness from the decorative details and carved Sydney sandstone.
Nearby is another landmark, the Sydney Town Hall, also built from Sydney Sandstone. Built in 1880’s, today the Town Hall serves as an important meeting place for the city of Sydney. Built on the site of an old cemetery the grand Victorian style building is lavishly ornamental. Today the building remains the only non-religious city building from the era to retain its original function and interior. The main hall contains the Grand Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ with tubular pneumatic action, installed in 1890.
Last, but no means least, is the late nineteenth century Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Constructed between 1893 and 1898 the Romanesque Revival building takes up an city block. Originally a marketplace, the dominant feature is the central dome with an interior glass dome and copper sheathed exterior. Consisting of four shopping levels, the top three have large openings that allow natural light from the ceiling to illuminate to the lower floors. Much of the tessellated tilework is original. The stained glass windows, including a cartwheel window depicting the arms of the City of Sydney allow light into the central area. The roof incorporates skylights running lengthways and the underground arcades lead from the Townhall railway station to the Myer building. The colonnades, arches, balustrades and cupolas are Victorian style as the name of the building suggests.
The upper level is especially spacious; the northern end was previously the Grand Ballroom and today is a tea room which is the epitome of style and quality. The beautiful Victorian styled ceiling features Baccarat crystal chandeliers. So ends the ‘tour’ leaving time for the finale of your visit to Sydney, a decadent high tea.
For those not interested in some high end shopping or a sumptuous high tea you have time to get transport (train to Bondi Junction, then change to a bus to the beachfront) to probably the most famous beach in the world, Bondi. Most Aussies would tell you this is the best beach in the world. You should have enough time to don your bikini or boardies for a dip in the inviting waters. Or your just wiggle your toes in the soft sand taking in the views of the sparkling water and vast stretch of beach with enviable surf conditions. The street running along the beach is full of restaurants and weekend markets. But for those who didn’t take the chance to experience Harry’s Café de Wheel’s famous pies after the show last night, this is your last opportunity. And for those who tried and are hooked this is your last call.
So, in just 48 hours you will have seen the Sydney icons and attractions, spent some time chatting with the locals and probably be taking home more bags than you came with. You will also have experienced a variety of cuisines that Sydney has to offer.
Take a short moment to rest with your feet up in your serviced apartment. All that walking for 48 hours in Sydney can be exhausting, but I’m sure, like us, you’ll be thinking of your return visit before you’ve even left. Check out these awesome ideas for where to play, stay and eat when you return to for a Sydney weekender
Does this sound like an itinerary you would like to do when you’re in Sydney? Is there somewhere you would have liked to see included?
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