On A Budget: Essential Sydney

One thing I always hear from travellers is how expensive Australia, and Sydney in particular, is. Well I’m here to tell you that you can experience the sights that Sydney is famous for on little-to-no money.

Aside from the nocturnal view of the city from Milson’s Point that I mentioned in my previous post, there are a plethora of  sights to see if you’re doing Sydney on a budget. These are, coincidentally, also the things I think you should tick off the list if you’re only here for a couple of days. 

Paddy’s Market:

Nestled into the bustling streets of Haymarket, just a short walk from Central Station and Darling Harbour, is the popular tourist spot where you can buy…well just about anything. Stall after stall selling luggage and liquorish to cuddly koalas and kangaroos. Pop here for all your souvenirs or just to roam around and enjoy the international crowd.

China Town:

Just around the corner from Paddy’s is Chinatown. Again, only a stone’s throw from Central Station, it’s the place to go for a taste of Asia in Australia’s biggest city. Restaurants range from lavish ten-course banquet buffets to pokey little pork roll stands but there’s something for every palate (please be sure to ask for translations if you’re not feeling up to stomaching some tripe). The area is full of character and colour and for a minute or two, the air thick with the familiar smells of Asian cooking, I felt like I was back in Hong Kong.

Darling Harbour:

Darling Harbour is the perfect place for a pretty view over the water. There’s a huge playground complete with water fountains which is great if you’re travelling with kids or in Sydney as an au pair (and also for yourself as the Summer temperatures soar). There are cafes, restaurants and fast food options all around but it’s just as lovely to pack a picnic and sit on the grassy area next to the water. Just beware the seagulls!

There are often firework displays on the weekends as there’s always something to celebrate in Sydney; you can check out the Darling Harbour website to help plan your evening. Christmas saw inflatable sea-worthy Santas bobbing around and February has been renamed The Month Of Love so why not take your darling to watch romantic fireworks and get your heart a’fluttering.

More tips of courting in Sydney to come in a later post!

Hyde Park:

I may be a little biased on account of the many romantic memories made in this particular green haven, but Hyde Park is lovely. There are often temporary events held in this central park, which runs parallel to Sydney’s main drag, George Street, and alongside busy Elizabeth Street. There were the Night Noodle Markets in October as part of Sydney’s Good Food Month (told you there was always something on) which saw the park turned into a giant dinner party with delicious cuisine from across Asia, beer tents and some pretty lights to illuminate the fun. 

On its off days, Hyde Park is a peaceful retreat for an afternoon picnic or late-night romantic stroll through the park. There’s the Pool of Reflections next to the Anzac Memorial, although you’ll have to share that with an Ibis or ten, and a whole lot of greenery and shady spots to enjoy the warm Sydney weather. Right next to Oxford Street, it might just be the perfect place to cure your Mardi Gras hangover(s) over the next few weeks, but there’s not much in the way of flora and fauna if that’s what takes your fancy. But never fear! Because there’s always…

The Royal Botanical Gardens:

Sydney likes to boast about these gardens, and for good reason. They stretch out for over thirty hectares (that’s a lot of walking) and are the most central of Sydney’s three main public gardens; the others being Mount Annan and Mount Tombah. My favourite spots are the Rose Garden and Herb Garden, but I always try and squeeze in a trip to the Art Gallery of New South Wales where they have often have visiting exhibitions such as their current ‘America: Painting a Nation‘ installation. You could spend a whole day there and can I recommend you do. Split all that walking up with a picnic at Mrs. Maquarie’s point where you can have lunch with a view of Sydney’s calling cards – the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Entry to the park is free, as is the general admission to the aforementioned art gallery, although there are also additional workshops and exhibitions available which you might like to fork out a few dollars for.

Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay:

So you’ve seen the Opera House on your day in the Botanical Gardens but it’s time to get up close and personal. Pop to Circular Quay and watch the boats coming in, tuck into some fish and chips then carry on along the waterside up to the white goddess. The Opera Bar is nice for drinks, although not cheap as you might expect, but there’s also seating along the curve of the water which has great views of both the building itself as well as Harbour Bridge sitting to your left. 

Bridge Walk:

Now, you can pay all that money to do the walk that makes you climb up the structure and over the bridge from a great lofty height, or, if you’ve got a while to spare, why not walk over via the footpath? It will take 30 minutes at a steady pace but closer to an hour if you’re the ambling and taking photos type. You’ll get great views of both the Opera House and the harbour and once you get to the other side you’ll be right by Luna Park and…wait for it…Milson’s Point! (Can you tell I love that place?)

Manly Ferry:

You’ll hear many a Sydneysider and long-time tourist alike say to ditch the sightseeing boat and catch the ferry to Manly. In fact, it’s one of the first tips my grandparents gave me before I headed over here, along with ‘You know the Opera House isn’t smooth, it’s scaly, very disappointing’ and ‘We saw the world’s biggest condom shop in Kings Cross. Condom kingdom. Will you see if it’s still there?’. It costs around $14 for an adult return, although prices in Sydney fluctuate quite regularly in my experience. The 30 minute ride will give you great view, photo opportunities galore and a free, all-natural sea breeze hairstyling session. Head early in the morning to spend the day in Manly exploring the wharf, beaches and shops (more info to come in a later ‘Beyond Bondi’ post) then time your return journey so that you can catch the sunset over the city skyline before landing in Circular Quay. 

Sydney’s a pretty big old place, and although the places I’ve pointed out here are all within the CBD (that’s Central Business District), for those unable to walk long distances, especially when the weather’s scorching, you’d be wise to clue up on public transport and How To Get Around (coming soon!).

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