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Studying Abroad in Sydney: What to See, Eat, & Do

I lived and studied in Sydney, Australia during my junior year of college (from February – June 2019). These five months not only allowed me to travel throughout Australia extensively, but to truly immerse myself into Aussie culture by studying, working, and living in Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District). In honor of packing my bags and moving Down Under this time last year, I am going to share everything there is to see, eat, and do in Sydney! I hope everyone reading is able to visit Australia in their lifetime because it is truly the most incredible place I have ever been. And if you’re studying abroad in Sydney soon, get ready for the adventure of your life!

Studying Abroad in Sydney: What To See

Where to begin. First, Sydney is huge. And I mean really huge. It’s seven times the size of Paris… and I thought Paris was overwhelming. Sydney is very spread out and very residential. You’ll need to take a train or bus to get from neighborhood to neighborhood, so buy an Opal card and get ready to explore the Sydney sights!

Sydney Opera House

I think this one speaks for itself. Do yourself a favor- don’t just take a photo from the outside. Take a tour of the Opera House or see a show to check out the inside. The architecture is truly incredible.

The Sydney Opera House and harbor on a quiet afternoon
Sydney Opera House & Harbor

Pro-tip: By doing an Opera House tour, you’ll get a discount on food and drinks. Don’t miss happy hour at the Opera Bar!

Enjoying cocktails at the Opera Bar
Happy hour at the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Before the Opera House was built in the 1970s, this was Sydney’s most famous sight. Check out the bridge in one of many ways: walk across it, bus over it, take a train to North Sydney, or even climb it (more about this one later!).

My study abroad friends and I posing in Circular Quay in front of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Posing in front of the Sydney Harbor Bridge at Orientation

Circular Quay

Pronounced “Circular Key”, this is where the Harbor Bridge and Opera House are located! This is also the main transportation hub for Sydney harbor. Almost all boats depart from here, including giant international cruise lines!

There are tons of souvenir shops and restaurants located here, but unless you want to pay a fortune, I’d try one of the restaurants listed below instead.

The Rocks

The Rocks is Sydney’s most historic area as this is where the Europeans first colonized. This neighborhood is situated underneath the Harbor Bridge and is full of narrow laneways. The Rocks is known for its quaint restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. Sydney’s oldest pub is also found here!

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located here and has a rooftop cafe that is great for brunch and doing work!

Pro-tip: Every weekend there are markets in the Rocks! Check it out for local goods and gifts.

Photo of Sydney's historic Rocks neighborhood
Sydney’s historic Rocks neighborhood

Darling Harbor

There is a ton to do in Darling Harbor, including the Australian National Maritime Museum, the SEA LIFE aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a ferris wheel, and a lot of shops and restaurants. This is also where you’ll find the Marquee Casino and nightclub.

Pro-tip: You can’t study abroad in Sydney without seeing the fireworks in Darling Harbor on a Saturday night!

Darling Harbor at sunset
Darling Harbor at sunset (Thanks for the photo Kaitlyn!)

Bondi Beach & Iceberg Pools

Probably Australia’s most iconic beach! Bondi is not only an incredible beach for swim and surf, but also a super fun area to hangout in. There’s a skate park, the Iceberg pools, cafes, and great shopping.

Pro-tip: It costs $8 AUD to swim in the Iceberg salt-water pools!

Manly Beach

Manly is another fun beach neighborhood to explore. You’ll need to set aside several hours in Manly because it’s a 30 minute ferry ride north from Circular Quay. Once you’re there, check out the beach and the shops on Manly’s pedestrian Corso.

Taronga Zoo

This zoo is commonly referred to as “the zoo with the view” because of its pristine views of the Sydney harbor. Don’t miss the free-flight bird show!

View of Sydney harbor, bridge, and Opera House from the Targona Zoo
View of Sydney Harbor & Bridge from the zoo! Can you spot the Opera House?

Royal Botanic Gardens

These gardens are HUGE! I loved running and walking in this park because of the views of the bridge and Opera House. There are also many events hosted in this park.

Luna Park

Luna Park is Sydney’s very own amusement park! This charming park is located in Milsons Point in North Sydney right under the Harbor Bridge.

Luna Park lit up at night
Luna Park at night

Studying Abroad in Sydney: What To Eat & Drink

Spice Alley

You can’t study abroad in Sydney without hitting up Spice Alley! Spice Alley is located down Kensington Street in Sydney’s Chippendale neighborhood. It’s a hidden, narrow street full of Asian food stands. Not only is the food to die for, the street is so charming!

Fruitologist

If you like açaí bowls, don’t miss this place! Located about a 10-15 minute walk from Bondi beach, Fruitologist is a supermarket with an outdoor fruit stand. They sell the BEST smoothies and açaí bowls, made fresh right in front of you with fruit from the supermarket!

Acai bowls from Fruitologist in Sydney, Australia
Acai bowls from Fruitologist… with extra PB of course.

Frankie’s Pizza

Fun rock & roll themed restaurant serving late-night beer and pizza. Frankie’s is located on Hunter Street in Sydney’s CBD.

The best part? It’s open until 3:30 am.

Slices of pizza from Frankie's
And they sell by the slice!

El Camino Cantina

There are El Caminos all around Australia- Melbourne, Sydney (in Manly and the Rocks), Byron Bay, and Brisbane! This Tex-Mex restaurant serves the BEST frozen margs. There are different margs served each month and also complimentary chips and salsa!

Pro-tip: Become an El Camino Amigo (member) for extended happy hour and drink deals!

Margs and chips at El Camino in Sydney
Happy hour at El Camino in the Rocks

Criniti’s

Inside the Harborside Shopping Center in Darling Harbor, you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants! We loved Criniti’s for delicious Italian food on the water!

The Australian Hotel

If you’re studying abroad in Sydney and want to eat the most unique meal of your life, check out the Australian Hotel in the Rocks neighborhood! Here you’ll find the famous Coat of Arms pizza- Kangaroo on one half and Emu on the other! If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the saltwater crocodile pizza!

Fun Fact: The Kangaroo and Emu are a part of Australia’s national symbol, the Golden Wattle. They are some of the only two animals in the world who can’t move backwards, representing Australia’s continuous forward progress!

Coat of Arms pizza at the Australia Hotel in The Rocks, Sydney
Kangaroo, Emu, & Crocodile pizza… yum!

Sydney Eye Tower

Check out the Eye Tower for drinks! One of the top floors has a rotating bar, perfect for a cocktail, cheeseboard, and view!

Cocktails and cheeseboards in the Sydney Eye Tower
Happy hour in the Sydney Eye Tower

Coogee Pavilion

This restaurant is located right on Coogee beach and is soooo cute! I had the best fish & chips of my life here.

Pro-tip: Check out Sunday Session at the Coogee Pavilion! Located on the upstairs deck, Sunday Sesh is basically a classy daytime party held each Sunday! Aussies definitely don’t let Mondays ruin their Sundays… that’s for sure.

Sydney Fish Market

Located in the Pyrmont neighborhood is Sydney’s Fish Market! Walking through here is such a cool experience, especially knowing all the fish arrived from the harbor that morning! Try the salmon!

Sushi from Sydney's fish market
Lunch break!

Speedos Cafe

Located on Bondi Beach, this trendy cafe is the perfect place to grab a yummy brunch. Aussies take their brekkie very seriously.

Anita’s Gelato

The best ice cream in Australia! There’s an Anita’s near Central Station and at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

Studying Abroad in Sydney: What To Do

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

Begin your walk at Coogee Beach and follow the coastal path 3.5 miles to Bondi Beach! Along the way you’ll pass Gorden’s Bay, Clovelly beach, Bronte beach, and Tamarama beach. This is truly the most picturesque hike I’ve ever done!

Check out this guide for more information!

Pro-tip: Spend some time at Bronte beach. Not only is it a good halfway resting spot, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches!

Bondi to Coogee coastal walk in Sydney
The Bondi to Coogee walk hugs this coastline!

Rose Bay to Watsons Bay Walk

Another beautiful hike! Beginning at Rose Bay, this walk weaves through several residential neighborhoods before turning into a coastal walk that brings you right to Watsons Bay. Set aside about 4 hours for the walk!

Once you’re in Watson’s Bay check out the Watson’s Bay hotel for yummy food and drinks!

This guide covers directions for the walk.

Pro-tip: For the quickest trip back to the CBD, hop onto a ferry from Watson’s Bay to Circular Quay!

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb

Probably my number one recommendation when studying abroad in Sydney! As mentioned above, the Sydney Harbor Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in the city. To enjoy it fully, I HIGHLY recommend climbing it! Yup. Climbing it.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb is an experience like no other. You’ll get harnessed to the bridge and climb the steel rods all the way to the summit, which sits 440 ft above the harbor. While climbing, your guide will explain how the bridge was built in 1923, and point out significant sights from up above!

Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Lindsey and I on top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge!

Explore Chinatown

Sydney is a very diverse, international city, so its Chinatown is quite the adventure! I highly recommend checking out the markets here and trying some traditional Asian food.

Pro-tip: Visit Paddy’s Market in Haymarket for cheap souvenirs!

Harbor Cruise

You can’t leave Sydney without doing a harbor cruise! We went on a cruise one evening with Sunset & Sparkle and loved it because of the wine and appetizers on-board. Watching the sunset over the harbor should definitely be on your Sydney bucket list!

Sydney harbor cruise!
Kaitlyn and I on a harbor cruise!

Grounds of Alexandria

One of my FAVORITE places in Sydney! Located in Alexandria, this oh-so-Instagrammable spot is full of food stands and markets, including a flower shop! I recommend eating brunch here!

If I could rent this place out for my wedding one day I totally would

For A Fun Night Out…

Movie Night at Soda Factory

The Soda Factory is a hidden bar and diner located in Surry Hills in Sydney. The food here is so good, especially on Movie Mondays when drink and food packages are available!

Bars in Newtown

Newtown is a diverse, bohemian neighborhood located in Sydney. King Street is full of bookshops, thrift stores, cafes, and fun bars! The hip bars and multicultural restaurants in Newtown are bustling with locals and University of Sydney students. I highly recommend bar hopping in this neighborhood! Check out Holey Moley– an indoor mini golf course and bar! Don’t miss out on this par-tee!

Scary Canary

Scary Canary is a fun bar located in Sydney’s CBD. Don’t miss this spot on a Tuesday night for their famous silent disco and Scary jars!

Pro-tip: You’ll have to pay a $10 cover if you arrive after 9 pm.

Ivy Nightclub

Also located in Sydney’s downtown CBD is this can’t miss club. Ivy has three floors, multiple bars and DJs, and even a rooftop pool!

Pro-tip: You’ll have to pay a $10 cover if you arrive after 10 pm.

Enjoying a pool party at Ivy in Sydney
Ivy has pool parties too!

Glenmore Hotel

This place isn’t actually a hotel, but an awesome 3-floor restaurant and bar. There’s a rooftop bar that overlooks the Opera House and Sydney Harbor! The Glenmore is located in the Rocks.

View of the Opera House and Sydney harbor from the Glenmore Hotel
One of the best views in the city!

Argyle Nightclub

Also located in the Rocks, this club was so fun! The Argyle is an indoor/outdoor club with several different rooms to hangout in, all playing different music!

Bonus Tips

  • Sydney’s summer begins in December and ends in late March. Temperatures average 80-90° F each day and will cool down to about 50-65° F in winter, which begins in June and ends in September.
  • Take a free walking tour of Sydney! It’s a great way to get more familiar with the city when you first arrive.
  • Check out some of speakeasy bars located in Sydney’s CBD! We went to: Grandma’s Bar, Mr.Ming’s, Palmer & Co., Employees Only, and Stitch!
  • Take a day trip to the Royal National Park! Located about an hour train ride from Central Station, this park is a great place for hiking and home to the famous Figure 8 Pools.
  • There is a famous festival in Sydney called Vivid that takes place annually from late May-late June! The light shows and events during this month are unbelievable! Take a harbor cruise.
Sydney's Opera House and skyline lit up for Vivid!
Sydney’s Opera House and skyline lit up for Vivid!

I hope these recommendations help you make the most of your time Down Under and to enjoy everything that studying abroad in Sydney has to offer!

Here is the video I made about my semester abroad in Australia!

Want to learn more about studying abroad in Australia?

Here are all the posts I’ve written about my semester abroad in Australia:

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