Local Tips for a Fun Budget Weekend in Sydney

Trying to plan a budget weekend in Sydney? You have probably heard how expensive the city can be, and that’s true it can be, but with some planning and our local tips, you can see the best of the city and take home some cash to start planning your next getaway!

Our itinerary assumes you will arrive in the city just after lunch on Friday.

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Sydney Expert’s guide to 48 hours in Sydney on a budget

A weekend in Sydney does not have to see you spending a small fortune. You can enjoy many of the best experiences in the city for free – add a modest budget, and you can include some great eats and a few happy hour drinks on the itinerary.

On a weekend trip, we think you should spend most of the weekend in the Sydney CBD and inner suburbs because there is so much to see. Save the day trips for when you have a little more time.

Accor Hotels have plenty of budget accommodation options in Sydney that are in the heart of the CBD and surrounding suburbs.

Day One in Sydney

Explore the Harbour, Manly and the Inner West

Your first afternoon in Sydney should be spent on Sydney Harbour. Head to Circular Quay and jump on the Manly Ferry.

Manly ferry
The Manly Ferry in the afternoon sun. Credit: Laszlo Konya

Once you arrive, there are plenty of things to do in Manly, but we think a walk down to the Corso and around to Shelly Beach is hard to beat.

Along the walk is the Bower Cafe, one of our favourite spots in Manly to grab a coffee – the view here out over the ocean pool is hard to beat, and it’s a great people-watching spot.

Bower cafe
The view from the Bower Cafe along the Shelly Beach walk

After you have had enough beach time, head back to Manly Wharf, and hopefully, you will be just in time for happy hour at the Wharf Hotel. They usually have some great bar snacks that will help tide you over till dinner.

Manly waterfront bar
Jetty Bar at the Wharf Hotel

As the sun begins to set, make your way down to the jetty to board the ferry back to Circular Quay. If you time it right, you will end up with some fabulous sunset photos of the Sydney Opera House to take home.

Now it’s time to find some dinner – you could make your way by train from Circular Quay to the inner-west suburb of Newtown, where you will find dozens of affordable dining options and some great small bars.

Young Henry's
A happy group enjoying drinks at Young Henrys on the Newtown Chewtown Tour

If you would like a local to show you around, there is a fun tour, Newtown – Food & Street Art that is perfect for getting an overview of the bars and street food.

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Day Two in Sydney

Put on your walking shoes and explore Sydney’s inner East and the famous Bondi Beach

Morning – Start your day with a walk; take the train or bus to Kings Cross and have a wander around the villages of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, and Woolloomooloo. Filled with Art déco buildings, pretty bays and plenty of history, it’s a lovely pocket of the city. You will also be spoilt for choice when hunger strikes with plenty of great cafes.

On weekends, Kings Cross Organic Market in Fitzroy Gardens is a fun stop with plenty of affordable treats.

El Alamein Memorial Fountain
El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens – home of the weekend market

If you prefer to keep moving, grab a pastry and coffee from Baked By Keiren on Elizabeth Bay Road and walk down to Beare Park to enjoy breakfast alfresco.

Now it’s on to the “Loo”, as locals refer to Woolloomooloo, to see the heritage-listed finger wharves. On the way, be sure to pass Elizabeth Bay House, once considered the finest building in Sydney.

If it’s time for lunch, grab a meat pie floater from iconic food truck Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, operating for over 80 years. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to Prince Harry has sampled Harry’s pies on their visits Downunder.

Woolloomooloo Sydney Australia
Woolloomooloo Wharf

From Woolloomooloo, you can easily walk back into the city via the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of NSW. If your feet or the weather are not up to scratch, then jump on the bus opposite Harry’s and ride back into the city.

Alternatively, if you prefer nature over the urban jungle, we recommend a Harbour walk. There are many pockets of bushland lining the waterfront that allow you to feel 100s of miles from the city and, soak up the harbour’s best views. Choose the length to suit you, from a 6km track to a short 2km boardwalk.

Afternoon – This afternoon, it’s time to head to Watsons Bay and the eastern suburbs. The short ferry ride gives you a chance to see the south of the harbour. If you are lucky, you might even glimpse a seaplane landing in Rose Bay.

Once you arrive in Watsons Bay, take the short hike up to the lighthouse for fabulous views of the harbour.

Watsons Bay Hornby Lighthouse

The walk also takes you past Camp Cove beach, one of the loveliest harbour beaches in Sydney. Retrace your steps to the wharf and head through the park to check out the sandstone cliffs of The Gap.

Camp Cove Beach Watsons Bay
Camp Cove is a great snorkelling spot

After that, jump on the 380 bus for the 20-minute trip to North Bondi. Once you are in Bondi, you have dozens of ways to spend the afternoon.

You could:

  • Grab drinks on the balcony at North Bondi RSL
  • Or an ice cream from Messina on Hall St
  • Check out the street art the lines the walls at the beach
  • Shop at the Bondi Markets every Saturday and Sunday
  • Walk the Coastal Track to Bronte
  • Take a swim at the Bondi Icebergs
Icebergs Pool Bondi Beach
The Iconic Icebergs Pool in Bondi

Evening – You may want to stay in Bondi for the evening, or you could take the 333 bus back to Town Hall and make your way to Darling Harbour.

The best cheap eats in Darling Harbour can be found in Darling Square, near Haymarket. There is a leafy outdoor eating area and Saturday nights often live entertainment, giving a fun atmosphere. The Ibis at Darling Harbour can make a great base for your stay.

The best way to travel around the city is to use public transport. You don’t need a pass; just tap on and off with your credit/debit card or phone’s PayPass app.

Your Last Morning in Sydney

A morning exploring the history of Sydney and the city’s newest precinct

This morning you will explore the Harbour Bridge, Sydney’s historic district, The Rocks, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art and have a stroll around Barangaroo Reserve.

Start your day by grabbing a coffee and pastry at Bourke Street Bakery in Barangaroo. I recommend grabbing one of their signature ginger brulee tarts to eat later when hunger strikes.

Barangaroo Reserve
Barangaroo Reserve

While you are there, take time to visit Wellama in the Cutaway and watch the six-minute video installation, which includes an Aboriginal Welcome to Country Ceremony.

Wellama Video Barangaroo

Follow the foreshore footpath through the six-hectare reserve that has been planted with over 75,000 native trees, plants and shrubs, many chosen because they existed on the site at the time of settlement.

Hero of Waterloo Hotel
One of the many old pubs in The Rocks

Exit the reserve and Towns Place to Hickson Road, which will lead you under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and into the heart of the Rocks. There are more than ten pubs in the Rocks so pick one and have yourself a nice cold beer.

Download our Rocks Self Guided walking tour; it will help you find all the best spots in the Rocks and give you a little history lesson too.

George St The Rocks
You can get the best view of the Rocks from the Cahill Walkway

Before you know it, your time in the Harbour City will be up, but over these 48 hours in Sydney, you will have seen a good cross-section of the city and no doubt found plenty of places you want to return to.

If you are flying into Sydney, we suggest you check out our Sydney Airport Guide that explains the budget options for getting to the city from the airport.

If you find by good fortune, you have an extra day, head to the Blue Mountains using our budget guide. The return trip can cost you less than $10!

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
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