Sydney on a budget

Sydney is notorious for being the most expensive city in which to live and visit in Australia, but you can spend the weekend in the Harbour City without being a high-flyer to enjoy the sights on offer. In fact, a lot of them are free.

You can catch the Number 555 bus every 10–15 minutes. It does a loop of Circular Quay to Central Station in both directions. The bus runs every weekday from 9.30am to 3.30pm (9pm on Thursdays), and weekends from 9.30am to 6pm. Hop on and off at your leisure to take in the various sights around the city which appeal to you most.

Another great way to get your bearings, and to familiarise yourself with the sights and history of Sydney, is to join an I’m Free three-hour walking tour. The tour starts from the Town Hall in George Street twice a day, every day (except Christmas Day), come rain or shine, and concludes at Circular Quay. 

Built in the 1890s and restored in 1986, the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) occupies an entire block on George Street. Housing over 180 of the city’s finest shops, the building features a mighty centre dome, stunning stained glass windows and splendid Byzantine architecture. Spend an hour window shopping, grab a coffee and sit and watch when the ‘Royal Clock’ activates on the hour, from 9am to 9pm. Miniature trumpeters emerge from the clock’s turrets and six scenes from English royal history are displayed – including the beheading of King Charles I!

Originally a racecourse and sports ground, Hyde Park is Sydney’s central open green space. You can play a game of chess on the huge playable set located on the western side of the park, or take a stroll down the fig-lined pathway which links the impressive Archibald Fountain and the War Memorial. The memorial, built in 1934, is an art deco tribute to the Anzacs of WWI. It stands above the Pool of Remembrance and has a photographic exhibition underneath the building.

Just a short walk from Hyde Park, through The Domain, is the Art Gallery of NSW. Open from 10am–5pm (except Good Friday and Christmas Day) you can view a wide range of art for free, or pay to enter some of the visiting exhibitions.

Only a 15-minute walk from the Art Gallery, take the time to visit Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to enjoy views over the harbour to the Bridge and Opera House. On a clear day you can even see the Blue Mountains in the distance.

If you’re still feeling energentic and your feet aren’t too sore, take a walk around Circular Quay with the Opera House to the south, and the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks, one of the oldest parts of Sydney, to the north. Visits to The Rocks Discovery Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art won’t cost you a cent. A few minutes walk away is the Sydney Observatory, where entry is free here too. And for some great views and a real sense of why Sydney is so special, walk across the bridge, by taking the pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge roadway, from The Rocks at the southern end of the bridge to Milsons Point at the northern end. It should take around half an hour and you can jump on the train or ferry back to the city if you’re tired of walking.

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