6 Free Guided Tours in Sydney
Exploring Sydney can be expensive, but being on a budget does not mean you have to miss out on the best things in Sydney. These free guided tours will help your money go a little further.
Every traveller knows that at some point on your holiday the money starts to run out. Finding free things to see and do on your trip is a bonus because it means you can save your $$$ for the really special things a city has on offer, like a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb or watching a performance at the Opera House.
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Book a Personal Tour with a Sydney Greeter
As one of the founders of Sydney Greeters, this organisation is very close to my heart. Part of the International Greeter Association, groups of locals around the world who love their hometowns so much that they offer free one-on-one tours of the city to visitors. These tours are called greets and are available seven days a week.
How does the greeter program work?
When you submit your booking, it will be shared (without your personal details) to volunteers who are available at the time of your request. Once someone accepts it, they will contact you directly to introduce themselves and propose an outing.
While there are many volunteers, it is not always possible to find a greeter for every guest, so it is important to give a few options for your availability. It’s best to book in advance – at least 3-4 weeks is best.
What happens on a greet?
Most greets will run for about 3-4 hours, although they can be longer if both parties agree. If you have a specific amount of time available, let your greeter know so they can plan around your schedule.
Your greeter will meet you at your accommodation or another central location, and you will explore part of the city together, chatting and learning more about each other along the way.
A greeter is not a tour guide. They know a lot about their city, but they are not trained or registered. Think of a greet more like two new friends meeting up. While the service is free, it is nice to offer to shout your greeter a drink or something to eat if you stop along the way as a way of thanks.
Check out the Facebook page to get an idea of what these experiences are like.
Join a free tour at the Art Gallery of NSW
If you are an art lover, you will love the range of free tours offered by gallery guides and volunteers at the NSW Art Gallery.
One thing you don’t want to miss is the tour of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection. These are offered at 11am every day.
Along with the general tours offered twice a day, there are weekly tours in Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese.
The galleries access program also offers Auslan, Tactile and sensory tours, and tours for people living with dementia and their carers. See the full range of access tours here.
Visit the Art Gallery website for the current times and any special exhibition programs.
When: several tours are offered each day – 11am, 1pm, 3pm
Where: Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road Woolloomooloo
Try a Free Walking Tour
Like many cities around the world, Sydney has a couple of free walking tour companies. The reduction in traveller numbers in 2020 has seen these tours drop from daily to a few days a week. As travellers return to Sydney, the number of tours on offer will increase.
I’m Free Walking Tours and offer a general Sydney sites tour daily at 10:30am. They also offer an evening tour of the Rocks, which is a fantastic way to learn about Sydney’s colonial history. They currently offer it Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday departing at 6pm from Cadmans Cottage.
A second company, Free Tours Sydney, has a 10.30am walking tour daily. Both free tour companies require you to make a booking on their websites.
Like all free tours, these guides are not paid and work for tips, tip what you can afford and what you think the tour is worth. The average tip is $10 per person.
When: Daily at 10:30am. Evening tours of the Rocks at 6pm
Where: Town Hall or Hyde Park or The Rocks
Free Tours Government House
Visit the beautifully decorated house and gardens of the Governor-General.
The house is occasionally closed for official functions. You can collect your tickets for the free guided tours tickets from the Gatehouse. You can walk through the gardens during the week if you don’t happen to be here on the weekend.
For security reasons, you will need to show a photo ID when you collect your free tickets from the Gatehouse. Check the website for further details.
When: Guided tours are offered every half hour between 10:30am & 3:00pm
Where: Government House Sydney Macquarie Street near
Tour the Royal Botanic Gardens
If you have an interest in gardens and horticulture, you will enjoy joining one of the volunteer guides on a 90 minute guided walk of the Botanic Gardens.
You will learn about the history of the colony, the garden, and more. I really enjoy these tours and they are a lovely way to see the best part of the garden quickly.
If you are mobility impaired, there is also a little train you can ride around the garden on. Get more details about the free gardens tours and other paid options like the indigenous heritage tour on the Botanic Gardens tours page.
All tours and walks depart from Information Booth outside the Garden Shop at the Palm Grove Centre. Bookings are required.
When: Daily at 10.30am
Where: Garden Shop Royal Botanic Gardens
Heritage Tour of the GPO at Martin Place
The General Post Office in Martin Place is one of the most beautiful public buildings in the city. Designed by James Barnet, a prolific and respected colonial architect it opened in 1874.
Discover the history of the building on a heritage tour offered by the buildings main occupant the Fullerton Hotel. Two public tours that run for ninety minutes are offered each week. There are also two private tours for in house guests.
Find out more about how to book here.
NSW Parliament House Tours
Explore the Parliament with a free guided tour. Tour the Legislative Chambers, and three of the most historic rooms in NSW Parliament House.
Don’t miss the Fountain Court and High Tea (served every Friday in the Strangers’ Restaurant from 12 pm to 3 pm, with the last seating at 2 pm.
When: Mondays and Fridays at 1.30pm
Where: Macquarie Street Sydney
Have you tried any of these tours? Do you know of any we have missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments
About the author: Paula Morgan, a born-and-bred Sydney resident, has been sharing this city and its secret spots for over 15 years. She’s not just about the iconic landmarks; she’s all about the hidden alleys adorned with street art, and the joy of discovering a new café or a fabulous restaurant tucked away in a corner you never knew existed and weekends away exploring regional NSW.