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I’m just going to tell you now, 24 hours in Sydney is not enough. I think I could have happily stayed weeks in this vibrant city – with so many amazing beaches, cultural experiences, hikes, and restaurants. However, our first trip to Australia was a very short one, so we didn’t have a lot of time in Sydney – because we had to focus on our main destination: the Great Barrier Reef!

Of course, we made the absolute most of our stopover even though it was short. And if you find yourself in a similar situation, we picked up some helpful tips! You can actually see quite a bit in just 24 hours in Sydney.

Where to Stay in Sydney?

If you only have one night in Sydney, it probably makes the most sense to stay near your must-see attraction. For us, that was the iconic Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. Luckily, there are plenty of hotels within a fifteen-minute walk of the Opera House as well as others a little further away in the historic The Rocks area.

We used travel points to stay at the InterContinental Sydney and really enjoyed it. The hotel is beautiful, and the staff we interacted with was great. Plus, it has a sexy little bar in the entry area.

However, there are multiple great hotels in Sydney. The Rocks area is a wonderful place to stay because many hotels have a view of the Opera House and it is still walking distance to a lot of the major attractions. Note that famous Bondi and Manly Beaches are not a short walk away, so you may want to stay nearby if those are your must-sees. We had initially planend to see both during our 24 hours in Sydney, but the rainy weather did’t make for a good beach day.

Our Must-See Sydney Attractions

Sydney Opera House & Sydney Bridge

The top must-see on our 24 hours in Sydney was the Opera House. We got in after dark, so we walked over to the restaurant right below it from our hotel for a late-night meal. The scenic outdoor eating area had a great view of the Sydey Bridge. We were there in mid-October and the weather was a little cool, but really comfortable. There was even a band!

syndey opera house at night

After our meal, we watched the Opera House change colors with very minimal other people around. It was lovely and we actually liked it more at night than we did when we admired it the next day in daylight.

Wandering Around & Museum Hopping

Despite gloomy, rainy weather, we really loved just walking around the area of Sydney we were staying in. This is a must for us when visiting a new city because you just get to see so much more on foot! We would have loved to have a nice sunny day, but we luckily had an umbrella and rainjackets on hand due to spending time in the Daintree where rain was likely.

We started our day with a great breakfast at a cute little cafe called Loftus Lane. They had unique drink optons, yummy food, and a super cute, feminine vibe.

Sydney has many great museums! Multiple are even free – including the Museum of Sydney that we toured. It’s a great way to learn more about the local history and culture. Just be sure to check open days and hours when planning your trip.

We also had a great time just looking at all of the different types of birds we weren’t used to seeing. Sydney is such a wonderful place to explore on your own!

birds in sydney

Exploring The Rocks Historic Nieghborhood

Since it was nearby, we also walked over to The Rocks since it is the oldest area of Sydney. It is famous for it’s old pubs and historic buildings. We didn’t partake in having any beers because we were already so tired and didn’t want to zap our energy. But, we loved walking around this hilly area. We also toured the free The Rocks Discovery Museum to get a better understanding of the history.

wandering the rocks area of sydney

Royal Botanic Gardens

Our absolute favorite part of our short visit to Sydney was wandering around the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s such an iconic and beautiful area of the city. The rain even let up for a while during our time wandering around. Luckily, The Calyx exhibit (donation-based entry) was indoors. We highly reccomend checking out what’s going on in this unique space!

sydney botanic garden

Getting Around Sydney

Sydney has multiple public transportation options available, including trains, buses, and ferries. However, we used a ride share service to get to and from our hotel then walked everywhere from there. With our bags and our later arrival, this worked best for us and wasn’t much more expensive than taking public transportation. Learn more about Sydney public transportation.

If we had more time, we would have loved to take the ferry to Manly Beach to explore that area more. We also would have definitely taken the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus Tour to see more of the city! We’re definitely looking forward to a return trip!

aerial view on our way to  our 24 hours in sydney stopover

Best Time to Travel to Sydney

Remember that winter and summer are opposite in Australia than in the Northern Hemisphere. January is usually the hottest month in Syndey at around 73F, while the coldest tends to be July at around 55F. Spring, September to November, tends to have the best weather. Although we ended up with a lot of rain in October, everyone told us that wasn’t normal weather.

Many people also flock to the large New Year’s Eve celebration in Sydney and it is certainly on our list to expreience one year. Just be sure to book far ahead if planning a trip at such a popular time. Sydney’s peak tourism times tend to be December to February.

As I noted, 24 hours in Sydney was not nearly enough. I’d plan for at least three days to a week and more if you plan to take any day trips to the Blue Mountains or other nearby attractions.

Read more about our recommendations for your visit to Australia!