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Sydney is one of the best cities in the world. Want to laze on a beach? Sydney has it. Want great food and wine? Sydney has it. Love great architecture and hunting hidden gems? You’ll find plenty of that too. 7 days in Sydney is the perfect time to experience a bit of all of this, but if you don’t know where to start, this 7 day Sydney itinerary will help you out!
I sort of accidentally kept gravitating back to Sydney when I was in Australia on a working holiday visa, so much so that I ended up living there for 6 months. In that time I tried to fit in as much of this fantastic city and its surrounds as I could. I would be up for sunrises at Bondi, saw in 2 new years there (yes, I ticked NYE in Sydney off my bucket list TWICE!) shopped at loads of local markets and took plenty of day trips.
Now, Sydney isn’t known for being the cheapest place to visit but I promise you that you can spend 7 days in Sydney on a budget and still see everything you want to. So much of the best things to do in Sydney are free so this one week Sydney itinerary is perfect if you’re travelling on a budget.
Looking for a shorter Sydney Australia itinerary? Check out my 3 day Sydney itinerary for more inspiration!
You might also like:
- 34 Budget Friendly and free things to do in Sydney
- 10 of the best affordable bars and restaurants in Sydney
- Day trips you can take from Sydney using public transport
Getting from the airport to Sydney
Sydney’s airport is thankfully not far away which is great if you’ve had a long flight. You’ll need to pick up an Opal Card (this is the top-up transport card for Sydney) at the airport to use public transport to get to and around the city. Here are the options you have.
Bus and Train combination
This is the cheapest way to get from Sydney airport to the city, but also the longest. Catch the 400 bus from outside the terminal to Mascot train station and from here you can get the T8 train line to the city. Altogether, this will take you about an hour but only costs about $6 so it’s great if you’re on a tight budget. You’ll need an Opal card to use the bus and train.
This train service runs about every 10 minutes and gets you into the city in less than 15 minutes. Adult tickets cost $19.40 which is made up of the cost of the train ticket and a ‘Gate Pass’, or you can get an Opal Card and top it up with enough money for the journey. It’s expensive but definitely the most convenient.
There are a couple of shuttle booking agents at the airport if you prefer to travel this way. They cover drop-offs for most regional areas and suburbs which makes things a bit easier for you. The cost of these will depend on where you need to get to.
How to use public transport in Sydney
Sydney has a fantastic public transport network that includes, buses, trains, light rail, ferries and trams. None of these accepts cash payment for tickets so you will need to get an Opal Card. They are free to get but you need to top up a minimum of $20 for adult cards. If you don’t pick one up at the airport, you can get them to form most 7Eleven’s, small stores and the major train stations, but take at the Opal website for more information.
To use them, you simply tap on and tap off and it will calculate the cost of your fare. Travelling in rush hour is more expensive BUT they do cap it at $16.10 per day. On Sunday’s it’s capped at $2.80 which is fantastic!
Where to stay in Sydney
As you have a lot of things to do for your 7 days in Sydney, I recommend you stay within the CBD or the inner suburbs like Surrey Hills, Darlinghurst, Erskineville, Glebe and Paddington. I personally love Booking.com as it allows you to search for accommodation in the Sydney CBD area so you know you’re going to be close to the sites.
If you want to be close to the harbour, Rydges Sydney Harbour in The Rocks has rooms overlooking the Harbour Bridge and is really affordable for the view you get. The Ibis at Darling Harbour is also in a great location with a nice view. There are some great boutique hotels in the inner suburbs as well as more of the big chains like Radisson and Marriott.
If you’re visiting on a budget, I recommend the Sydney Harbour YHA or one of the Base hostels (you can find and book them using HostelWorld) or to take a look at Airbnb. Travelling as a couple, Tom and I often found Airbnb to be cheaper than 2 beds in a hostel. When you’re spending a week in Sydney, it pays to have a look at different options.
Your 7 day Sydney Itinerary
Day 1 – Circular Quay and The Rocks
Nothing beats seeing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge for the first time so start your morning off at Circular Quay. Catch the train here and you’ll be treated to the best train station view as soon as you get off. Circular Quay is always, always busy but it’s such an exciting place to be.
Head out of the station and follow the crowds right, towards the Sydney Opera House. Its sails might not be as white as you thought but for me, it’s as every bit as impressive. You can take a Sydney Opera House Tour if you want to see inside.
Carry on round the bay through the much more tranquil Royal Botanic Gardens which has a number of displays on show each week. As you follow it around you’ll reach Mrs Macquarie’s Point which has one of the best (and most iconic) views of Sydney. I must have visited here 100 times but I can never get enough of it.
Make your way back towards Circular Quay and stop off for some lunch with a view at The Opera Bar. After having a bite to eat and a nice cold beer (I recommend Coopers or Stone & Wood by the way), keep walking round to The Rocks. This is the oldest part of Sydney and one with a great buzz.
The Rocks has a fascinating dark history and if you want to learn more about it, I recommend joining a free walking tour with I’m Free at 6pm. If you’re visiting on the weekend you’ll find the fantastic markets on but if not, you can visit Sydney’s oldest pub, some great rooftop bars or the Rocks Discovery Museum.
Keep walking through The Rocks and you’ll find yourself right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge where you have yet more views of the harbour and Opera House.
Nothing beats seeing the harbour come to life at night! A great spot to watch it happen is up on Observatory Hill (sort of between the Harbour and The Rocks). If a cruise ship is in the harbour then you’ll most likely see it backing out and turning around to leave Sydney.
For dinner, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in The Rocks or if you’re looking to finish your day in style, book on to a dinner cruise.
Day 2 – Sydney CBD, Daling Harbour and China Town
Want to really get to know Sydney? Learn from a local! Join the I’m Free Walking Tour and dive into the hidden gems of the CBD. On this walk, you’ll get to hear about the darker side of the city, see the main attractions and also dive underground to see what lies beneath the roads.
The walk ends by the cruise ship terminal in Circular Quay, close to The Rocks. You’ll know from yesterday that there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat around here so pick something you fancy to fuel you for the rest of the afternoon.
Looking for places to eat for cheap in Sydney? Take a look at my guide here.
Nothing beats seeing a city from above and you can get a bird’s eye view from the Sydney Tower Eye. You will have probably seen the tower whilst walking around the harbour so you’ll have an idea of just how much you can see from up there.
Included in the ticket is their 4D cinema experience which is actually really interesting and access to the observation deck. There’s also a fast track ticket available meaning you can skip the queues (well worth it), or if you’re looking for some thrills, you can also do the Skywalk around the edge of the building! You can check availability and prices below.
Darling Harbour and China Town are your go-to places this evening. There is a big Chinese community in Sydney and China Town is an exciting and vibrant part of the city. There’s a fantastic night market every Friday where you’ll find delicious street food and cool stalls to browse. If you’re not there on Friday then there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. I also highly recommend grabbing some bits from the bakery there – they have some delicious treats! If you’re looking for a bargain dinner then head to the Dixon House food court where you can choose from a bunch of restaurants in there.
Just across from Chinatown is the shiny Darling Harbour which is also full of great restaurants and bars. If you’re there on a Saturday then they also do a free mini fireworks display from the water.
Day 3 – The Blue Mountains
1 week in Sydney would not be complete without a day trip here. The Blue Mountains National Park is 2 hour drive or 2 hour train ride away from Sydney. The park is a whopping 2700km square, but don’t worry, there are some great ways to see some of the most popular but still incredible spots in just 1 day.
If you have access to a car then you will easily be able to drive between the top spots like Leura, Katoomba, Wentworth Falls, Scenic World and Echo Point for the famous Three Sisters. Alternatively, you can catch a train to Katoomba and then use the hop on hop off bus service to get around.
I highly recommend buying your hop on hop off bus pass in advance to avoid the queues when you get to Katoomba. You can buy a pass which also includes access to Scenic World so you can skip the queues here as well. Grab your pass online here to save yourself some precious time! If you’re not fancying a visit to Scenic World, then you can buy the standard hop on hop off pass in advance here as well.
Take a look at my guide to the Blue Mountains to get more of an idea about how incredible it is!
Day 4 – Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk
Morning and afternoon
One week in Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a trip to one of the worlds most famous beaches. But to make it more than a day on the beach, do the stunning coastal walk between Coogee and Bondi. I have no idea how many times I’ve done this walk but it never gets old and it’s definitly one if the best beach walks in Sydney.
To get to Coogee, catch the train to Bondi Central and then the bus to Coogee. Coogee Beach is actually one of my favourites, along with Gordon’s Bay but the whole walk is stunning. Make sure you bring your swimmers as there’s plenty of places to take a dip.
When you reach Bondi, you’ll see the famous Icebergs ocean pool and also some great street art on the wall along the walkway. There are changing rooms and some bars and restaurants if you fancy something to eat.
Dinner tonight is all about something a bit different. A short walk from Sydney Central Station and you’re in Chippendale, home to a hidden gem – Spice Alley. This alfresco food court is tucked away a little bit but I love it. There are 6 Asian eateries that make Spice Alley where you’ll find a range of noodles, curry and rice dishes and some delicious desserts.
Day 5 – Sydney Suburbs
Sydney’s suburbs are the key to the city’s quirky heart. If you love street art, make your way to Newtown where you will find plenty of it, along with vintage stores and plenty of places to eat. To find the best of the street art, take a look at this street art trail that will guide you around the suburb.
I upcycling is more your thing, a few suburbs away you’ll find the awesome Reverse Garbage. This shop is full of people’s unwanted items such as fabrics, furniture, garden ornaments- you name it, it’s there. To top it off, there’s a great market that takes place every Sunday which is full of fresh produce and homemade goods.
For lunch, some of the best places I’ve eaten at are in Newtown. For one of the best burgers ever (IMO), go to Marys or for delicious Asian food, check out Belly Bao. One of the most unique places is Lentil As Anything. This restaurant is a vegetarian restaurant with a daily changing menu. The restaurant runs on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis so there are no set prices for the food. The premise around this is that the restaurant is a place for everyone to be able to come together and have a meal.
If you want to feel like you’re far away from the city, spend your afternoon mooching around Glebe. This leafy suburb is the place for hipster cafes and bars. It’s also known for being quite an artsy area with galleries and more street art to explore. Glebe also has the best market if you love picking up second-hand clothes.
Surry Hills is a fantastic area to wander around in the day, but I think it really comes alive at night. There are so many places to eat here and some quirky bars to visit. I recommend Via Napoli where you can tuck into meter-long pizza or the Dove and Olive for a tasty pub meal.
Don’t forget to check out my guide to finding cheap places to eat and drink in Australia if you’re on a budget!
Day 6 – Manly or the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk
I. Love. Manly. It’s another one of Sydney’s most popular beach suburbs and it’s a fantastic place to spend the day. I’ve given 2 options for this day because the Spit to Manly walk is awesome, but if you want a beach day, heading straight to Manly is just a great.
Option 1 – Manly
The best way to get to Manly is to catch the ferry from Circular Quay in the morning. A top tip to save money is to visit Manly on Sunday to take advantage of the cheap transport.
When you get to Manly, walk along the Corso and you’ll get straight to the beach. This is a popular surfing beach but if you want something calmer, walk around to Shelly Beach which is great for snorkelling.
Manly is also a great place to try out some water sports. You can go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding with Manly Kayak Centre, take a snorkelling tour or take a surf lesson with Manly Surf School.
Option 2 – Spit Bridge to Manly Walk
This 10km walk is one of the most beautiful coastal walks in Sydney. The route takes you through the Sydney Harbour National Park with incredible lookouts, Aboriginal artwork at Castle Rock Beach and plenty of places to swim. If you’re visiting at the right time of year, keep your eyes open for whales!
Along the way there are some idyllic places to have a picnic so be sure to take some food with you. Clontarf Reserve is one of the most popular spots, right by the water. There are also places to fill up water bottles along the way so make sure you have one. I love my insulated water bottle as it keeps water cold for up to 12 hours – no more lukewarm drinking water!
The signs for this track will be marked Manly Scenic Walkway, MSW or just simply ‘Manly’ so make sure you follow those. The walk will take about 3.5 hours and is a mixture of boardwalks, track and walking across beaches, but all in all, pretty easy.
Shelly Beach is the perfect place to have a BBQ on the beach and watch the sunset. Grab some things to cook up from the supermarkets in Manly and make use of the public BBQs there.
Day 7 – Watsons Bay and Luna Park
For the last day of your 7 days in Sydney, take the bus to Watson’s Bay, Australia’s oldest fishing village. It’s really peaceful there and a nice quiet place to relax. To get there, you can catch a bus from the city, but I recommend getting the ferry from Circular Quay to enjoy the views.
From Watsons Bay you will get some great views of Sydney Harbour as you walk along the sandy beaches. The bay is perfect for swimming as well. While you’re here, take a walk up to Hornby Lighthouse via more beautiful beaches. The views are spectacular and chances are, it won’t be too busy!
You will have seen Luna Park plenty of times during your one week in Sydney (I mean, how could you miss the giant face at the entrance), but it’s well worth getting over there to experience it. You can catch the ferry over to Milsons Point, right next to the park. Luna Park was built in the 1930s and you’ll be transported back in time with by the rides that are there.
Stay over the north side for your final evening in Sydney and watch the city come to life. Walk to Lavender Bay and watch the sunset over the city and the lights come on at Luna Park. It’s awesome!