5 Days in Sydney- Easy to Follow Itinerary

After 25 years working with visitors to the harbour city, I have created this 5 days in Sydney itinerary to highlight the best of the city. It offers a mix of must see sights and local favourites so you get a glimpse at local life while checking out the icons.

While this is a five-day itinerary, each day stands alone, so if you have fewer days, you can choose the ones that best suit you. We have included dining suggestions and public transport costs making this a great print and go itinerary for first time visitors.

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A Sydney Itinerary for first-time visitors

Before we begin, just a couple of points. This itinerary assumes you are staying in the centre of Sydney. If not, then make your way to the starting point, which I will outline at the top of each day. These are action-filled days – if you stay longer, feel free to slow the pace a little!

Still undecided about where to stay? Start by reading our guide to the different neighbourhoods in Sydney to help you choose the best location.

I also suggest the Opal transport for visitors’ article is a must-read, understanding public transport here will save you time and money! If you need dollars for exchanging currency in Sydney, I usually use Crown. They usually have great rates and there are branches across the city but importantly there is one in Circular Quay, making them super handy.

Day 1 – Circular Quay and The Rocks

This first day will have you ticking off Sydney’s big-name icons.

You will explore Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens and take a self-guided walk in the historic quarter of The Rocks.

If you still have some energy left, head up onto the Harbour Bridge from the Cahill Walkway. Watching the harbour traffic from the pedestrian deck is excellent!

Start the day at Circular Quay.

Breakfast suggestions

After you have eaten – or at least grabbed a coffee make your way to the Botanic Gardens.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

Even if you are not much of a gardener, these gardens are worth visiting. Along with beautiful garden beds, the area is dotted with old and new sculptures and water views that are hard to beat.

There are several specialist garden areas to explore. Green thumbs will probably benefit from a stop at the visitors’ centre to pick up some detailed information and a map that will let you head to the parts that grab your interest. Almost every corner you come to is signposted, so if you are unsure where you are, head to a corner and follow the signs.

Bennelong Lawn Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
This area looking down on the Opera House is called Bennelong Lawn

Enter via the Queen Elizabeth Gate by the Opera House and head to the right – we are heading to the garden’s upper level to begin our walk. Follow the signs to the Taipan Lawn Precinct or the Bennelong lawns that look out over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Snap a few photos and retrace your steps back the way you came.

You pass Government House along the way. If you arrive after 10 am you can also explore the Government House Gardens. There are also free tours offered several times a day

Continue on the upper path until you reach Folly for Mrs Macquarie – a sculpture by Fiona Hall. This is one of my favourite of the many sculptures in the gardens. It was inspired by the wife of one of the city’s first governors, who reportedly sat longingly looking out to sea waiting for news from home.

Mrs Macquarie's Folly Royal Botanic Garden
You can sit inside the sculpture and try to imagine how Mrs Macquarie felt so far from home.

Continue along the path and follow the signs until you reach the Calyx. The space is home to the largest green wall in the southern hemisphere. Entry is by gold coin donation.

From the Calyx head down the path towards the shop and visitors centre, I am not much of a shopper, but if you are looking for interesting souvenirs, this one is worth a look. You will also find bathrooms and a cafe nearby. See if you can find the topiary Koala that has recently become an Instagram sensation.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Topiary Koala
There are several topiary animals in the garden.

Just outside the Visitor Centre, you will find a Wollemi Pine, this tree, one of the world’s rarest, was discovered in the far corners of the Blue Mountains in 1994. Less than 40 survive, making it critically endangered.

From here, follow signs to the Lions Gate and head down the path to find the Boy with a Thorn sculpture, where you will find the view below.

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden
Canna Lillies and THAT view

From here, we will head to the point and the famous Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Postcard view Sydney from Mrs Macquarie's Point
The view from Mrs Macquaries Point is stunning any time of day

This is THE stop in Sydney for photographers. Once you have captured the perfect memory, follow the sea wall path back around to the Opera House.

Exploring the Opera House

The Opera House opened in 1973, and ever since, the world has been in awe of this building. I promise you it is as stunning as it looks.

In 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising it as one of the world’s most distinctive buildings.

You can book a tour to learn how the Opera House was built and see inside some of the performance spaces; however, if the budget is a little tight, it is also nice to walk right around the building and get up close to the tiles for a good look.

Opera House Tiles up close
Did you know there are two shades of tiles used on the Sydney Opera House

Wander inside the building by heading under the middle of it, where you see the roadway. You can usually enter the southern foyer and some other foyer areas, provided they are open.

Northern Foyer Sydney Opera House Purple Carpet
The Northern foyers are only accessible on a tour or at a performance

If you are unsure about a tour, I suggest you check out our detailed review of Sydney Opera House tours and see what you think. Tours last approximately 1 hour and can be booked in advance.

You could also consider checking out a performance

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Cahill Lookout and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Wander back along East Circular Quay towards the train station until you come to the glass elevator – head inside and up onto the walkway above the station for a bird’s eye view of the Quay.

Cahill Lookout view Sydney
The viewing platform on the Cahill Walkway

Make your way along the footpath – you will have a fab view over The Rocks from the western end of the path. It’s the perfect spot to capture some interesting photos.

Choose A Way Sydney
Get a bird’s eye view of The Rocks from this walkway.

Continue until you reach the end of the path, and you follow the signs to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walk out onto the bridge and check out the view of the harbour from a new angle.

Sydney Pylon Lookout View
There is no better way to watch the harbour traffic than from the bridge

Inside the southern pylon is a museum and lookout that will only cost you less than $20 and provide you with an amazing 360-degree view up and down the harbour. Read more about the museum and lookout here.

Head back down and retrace your steps into the back of the Rocks.

If you have worked up a hunger, you have a few options nearby.

  • Mid-range: Glenmore Hotel rooftop dining area – pub food and tasty salads
  • Mid-range: Australian Hermitage Hotel to try the coat of arms pizza or crocodile spring rolls
  • Mid-range: MCA – Graze, or the Rooftop café are excellent options; the menu at the cafe changes regularly to match the current exhibition.

If you are wondering if you should book a Bridgeclimb, take a read of this

Discovering Sydney’s Historic Rocks

After lunch, it’s time to explore Sydney’s oldest streets on our Rocks Self-Guided walk. This is the best-preserved part of the city, and its cobblestone streets and heritage-listed buildings are worth a couple of hours, even if you spend those hours working out, which is the oldest pub in the city.

George Street from the Cahill Expressway
The view of the Rocks captured from the Cahill Expressway.

If you prefer someone show you around I highly recommend this tour run by award wining operator Local Sauce.

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By now, you will be well and truly ready for a rest. Just remember that Sydney is not Spain. We eat dinner early, ridiculously early, especially Monday to Wednesday, when it’s hard to get a meal after 9:30pm anywhere but Chinatown! Later in the week, it is easier, but keep this in mind Sunday-Wednesday and check hours or make a reservation if you have a specific place in mind.


The super-organised among you may have found tickets to a show at the Opera House, in which case I can highly recommend the pre-theatre menu at Bennelong.

If you only have one day in Sydney, then take a look at our layover guide for more ideas. It might be nice to finish the day by taking the ferry to Manly for dinner, for instance, or spending less time in the Gardens and more in another part of the city.

Day One total transport costs: Zero!

Day 2 – From the Harbour to the Sea

Today we will spend most of the day by the water, beginning in Barangaroo on the western side of the harbour and finishing in Sydney’s east in Bondi or Coogee, depending on your stamina!

Morning – Start the day at Barangaroo – you can take the train to Wynyard and follow the signs to the waterfront. 

Barangaroo Skyscrapers 2019
Barangaroo skyscrapers are home to many financial and insurance institutions.


One of the most recently developed areas in the city and now home to many of our big financial companies the shiny new office blocks here have polarised the locals, some people feel the site is suffering from overdeveloped with high-rise towers, but it has really grown on me, and I like the energy here. These streets were pretty deserted a few years ago and are now teaming with life.

Barangaroo comes alive about 7 am weekdays, but if you are visiting on the weekend, you might find it more of a challenge to get breakfast here before 8 am.

After you have built up some sustenance for the day ahead, jump on the ferry from Barangaroo Wharf to Circular Quay.

ferry travelling under Sydney Harbour Bridge
Taking the ferry from Barangaroo to Circular Quay gives you a chance to travel under the harbour bridge.

I recommend this particular ferry route because the journey gives you a chance to visit both the western and eastern side of the harbour. Stopping at Balmain, Milsons Point and Circular Quay. From here, join a Watson’s Bay ferry.

The journey from Barangaroo to Watson’s Bay takes 58 minutes and provides many photo opportunities.

Watson’s Bay

Once at Watsons Bay, follow Wharf Beach around to reach some steps (aka Marine Parade) and then up onto Cove Street; follow this until it ends. Turn right and then first left, and you will come to Camp Cove Kiosk and this beautiful harbour beach.

Camp Cove Beach Watsons Bay
Camp Cove, above, is just a short walk from Watson’s Bay wharf 

From the end of the beach, you will see signs out to the South Heritage Trail that will take you around South Head to Hornby Lighthouse and some of the best views in the city. You can find detailed instructions on this Watsons Bay walk.

Watsons Bay Hornby Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse on South Head at Watson’s Bay

Head back the way you came, but this time, take Cliff Street, make your way to Robertson Park, and cross the road to Gap Park. There is a short walk here to the top of the cliffs and the lookout over the Pacific.

The Gap Lookout looking south Watsons Bay
The Gap Lookout looking south Watsons Bay

Once you have explored enough at Watson’s Bay, jump on the 380 bus to North Bondi Beach, sit on the right side of the bus for views back towards the city along the way.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach from the South
Looking over Bondi Beach from the path leading to Icebergs

The best-known beach outside the country is Bondi. Jump off the bus at North Bondi and head to the North Bondi RSL for a local beer with a fantastic view over (above) the beach. Alternatively, you could choose to eat at Watsons Bay Hotel before joining the bus to Bondi.

Lunch with a view

All refreshed? It’s time to walk along the beach and check out the local graffiti wall that lines the southern end of the wall separates the beach from the car park before making your way up to the Icebergs swimming pool and the famous Bondi to Coogee walking path.

Mulga Bondi Beach Graffiti
Mural by the artist Mulga on the Bondi Beach graffiti wall

Even if you are not up for the entire 6km walk, it’s worth at least heading to the top of the first hill for a fantastic view out over the beach.

Check out our Insider’s Guide to Bondi if you want to spend a little more time here.

You can take a bus back to the city from Bondi or take the walkway to one of the following beaches. Buses from each beach will bring you back to either the city or Bondi Junction train station. If you continue and complete the Bondi to Coogee walk, it makes for a huge day but lots of fun.

Bondi to Coogee walk path sydney
The beginning of the path on the Bondi to Coogee walkway

Some dinner inspiration

  • Budget: take a bus back to the city and head to Chinatown for some fantastic cheap eats.
  • Mid-range: Coogee Pavilion
  • Splurge: Make your way to Chippendale or Surry Hills and try Ester or one of the many restaurants on Kensington Street for some delicious Sydney eats.

Day Two total transport costs: $9.67 (Opal) weekdays. Fridays and weekends $8.90 for unlimited travel.

Day 3 – Blue Mountains

Sydney’s mountain retreat, The Blue Mountains, is a favourite day trip for locals and visitors. You can easily explore the area on a day trip from Sydney using public transport or take a guided tour or the Blue Mountains Explorer HOHO and let the experts help you uncover the best spots.

Whether you decide on a tour, the train, or to rent a car is personal preference; there are pros and cons to each option.

Blue Mountains Australia
The Blue Mountains is a 2-hour trip west of Sydney.

We will go over a few here but don’t worry; we have a detailed guide to each choice to help you work out the best one for you.

Dining ideas in the Mountains

  • Leura: Have a traditional high tea at the Bygone Beauties Teapot Museum or a lovely garden brunch at the Bunker Cafe Bar Restaurant
  • Katoomba: Head to the Bowery Kitchen and bar for food and service that won’t disappoint or Black Cockatoo Bakery in the main street for some of the best pastries in the mountains.
  • Medlow Bath: The Boiler House Restaurant & Pavilion Cafe at Hydro Majestic
  • Blackheath: Altitude Cafe does great sandwiches

Guided tours of the Blue Mountains

There are so many tours to choose from that you can become confused by the options; How do you decide what will suit you best?

Things to think about include:

  • How much time on the tour consists of rushing from spot to spot?
  • Is there any bushwalking, is there too much for you?
  • Does the tour stop at the Featherdale Wildlife Park on the way up, which may be something you would enjoy, or would you prefer more time in the mountains themselves?

There are lots of things to consider, so head over to our guide on how to choose the best Blue Mountains tour and make sure you find the best fit.

Go to the Blue Mountains by train

Travelling to the Katoomba by train will be loads cheaper than the other options and also relatively easy. It takes about the same amount of time as driving and possibly less than a tour bus.

Hop on Hop off bus in Blue Mountains
The Hop On Hop Off bus is a great way to get to the main sites in a day.

It’s my preferred option for taking smaller kids as you can move about on the train more easily, and they are less likely to get bored. 

When you reach the mountains, you can continue using the local buses to explore or take the Hop on Hop off Bus, where kids ride free!

Read our full guide to using public transport for exploring the Blue Mountains

Rent a car

If you want the flexibility to explore specific parts of the mountains or take some longer walks, then having a car is hard to beat. It’s also a good choice for anyone travelling with kids or photographers who want to hit as many of the top spots as possible in one day.

Check out our three self-drive itineraries for exploring the best of the Blue Mountains in one day.

Dinner: I am not sure you will be up for much more than a quick bite from or take away in your room after such a big day.

Day Three – total transport costs for the train option: $6.88 off-peak or $9.84 peak or Fridays and weekends $8.90. The daily Opal cap of $17.80 will kick in on a return peak hour trip on weekdays.

Day 4 – Get to know the flora and fauna

Today it’s back to nature with a choice between getting your Dr Dolittle on and visiting with the local wildlife or hitting one of the harbourside walks. If you are an early riser, you could manage both!

Visit Taronga Zoo

Known as the Zoo with a view, Taronga certainly is that, but it is also a modern zoo with quality enclosures and programs. Get up close to Australian animals, including less common ones like the tree kangaroos and the endangered and beautiful Southern Corroboree Frog.

Visit the Australian Walkabout area and book a koala experience for a chance to have your photos taken with these much loved sleepy creatures.

Taronga Zoo Birdshow with view Sydney harbour
The bird show is a crowd favourite at Taronga – the view’s not bad either

Aside from the Australian animals here, the rare Sun Bears from Asia and the Sumatran Tiger cubs are a huge hit. You can easily spend a half-day here, longer with small kids in tow.

Book your zoo ticket to save queueing on arrival

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If you are not a zoo person, and not everyone is, or you visited Featherdale Wildlife Park as part of your Blue Mountains tour, you might prefer to take a harbour bushwalk. 

There are two walks that I love to recommend that start or finish near the zoo. If you are not visiting the zoo, you could combine these into one longer walk culminating with fish and chips on Balmoral Beach.

Dining options for the zoo: My best tip for refreshments is to pack a picnic. The food is very ordinary and very expensive.

Walk option 1: The Cremorne to Mosman Walk

This scenic walk takes you past the manicured gardens and numerous harbourside homes that will have heading to buy a lottery ticket on the way home. From the wharf at Cremorne Point around to Sirrus Cove, once an artists colony, to Taronga Wharf, where you can take a ferry back to the city or begin your visit to the zoo.

Curlew Camp Mosman Sydney
Curlew Camp was an artists’ camp in the 1880-90s

Walk option 2: Taronga Wharf to Balmoral Beach walk

Another of my favourite walks, the 6km track to Middle Head and ultimately Balmoral Beach, follows the harbour’s curves along pretty tree-lined trails. You are likely to see some eastern water dragons and kookaburras along the way. I have written a detailed photo guide to help you find your way, but it is very straightforward.

Balmoral Beach Gardens
Balmoral Beach

There are a couple of lovely cafes, restaurants and tea houses on the route and a few chances to shorten the walk by jumping on a bus back to the wharf or the city via Mosman.

Dining options for days 4 and 5 are listed on the map at the bottom of the page. 

Day Four total transport costs: $14.22 with an opal or $17.60 without on weekdays or $8.90 on Fridays and weekends.

If you like to walk we have a plenty more for you to check out on this list of Sydney’s Best Harbour walks.

Day 5 – Explore the inner city suburbs

Depending on your interests, you should get away from the harbour and big attractions today and explore one of the city’s suburbs. You might like to book a free Sydney Greeter and have a local take you and show you their favourite spot. It’s best to request your greeter 3-4 weeks in advance, particularly in the summer.

If going it alone, you might like to choose from one of my four favourites neighbourhoods in the inner city.

Redfern and Chippendale

An excellent walk for art and architecture lovers will take you from the working class and Aboriginal heritage of Redfern through to a reborn Chippendale that has, over recent years, become a hub for galleries and design firms.

Brutalist looking Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio O'Connor St Chippendale
Brutalist looking Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio sits tight against a terrace of workers’ cottages.

I like to begin at Redfern Station and stroll to Chippendale; it takes less than 20 mins, but there is much to see along the way with interesting architecture and plenty of worthy cafes.

Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay

One of my favourite areas in the city, in part because of the incredible amount of art déco architecture here. Add some historic homes, fabulous harbour views, a popular weekend market and lots of good food, and you have more than enough reason to spend a couple of hours here.

Elizabeth Bay Art Deco Architecture Sydney
Meudon – inspired by New York’s iconic Flatiron building.

There are so many impressive buildings in these streets, including the Art déco gem above, that you will think you have stepped back a few decades. In contrast, the heritage-listed Colonial Regency Elizabeth Bay House will give you a glimpse of life in 1820s Sydney.

Finish up by walking back to the city via Woolloomooloo and grabbing a pie and pea floater at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.

Newtown & Enmore

From street art to craft brews, independent shops and watermelon cake. Newtown is best visited mid-afternoon or evening. Early mornings are a little quiet, and it’s worth noting some shops, particularly at the southern end, don’t open on Mondays.

Kyle Hughes-Odgers Mural in Mary Street Newtown.
Kyle Hughes-Odgers Mural in Mary Street Newtown.

While you don’t need much of a plan, I like to take the train to St Peters, which lies at the southern end of the suburb and stroll the full length of the main street, King Street, weaving in and out of the back streets when I spy a mural or charming house.

Make sure you save some time to visit one of the pubs or take a short stroll down Enmore road to Young Henry’s and try their “Newtowner.”

If you are not in the mood for beer, stop by Black Star Pastry on King Street and try the watermelon cake.

Black Star Pastry's infamous watermelon cake
Black Star Pastry’s infamous watermelon cake

We have a short self-guided walk in Newtown that you can follow or a longer Inner West street art walk for die-hard mural fans.

This street art and small bar tour covers similar ground to our self guided options but let’s you totally relax and put the map away!

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Manly and the Northern Beaches

Surf, snorkelling, craft beer and fish and chips make for a top day out. After your 30-minute ferry ride, wander down the Corso to Manly Beach and on to Shelly Beach.

East Manly Cove
East Manly Cove

You can get picnic supplies at the Aldi supermarket on the wharf when you arrive and enjoy a beach picnic or dine at one of the waterfront restaurants at either the waterfront or the beach. There are plenty of options to choose from.

Check out our full list of things to do in Manly for more ideas.

If you are not one to sit still too long, you might like to take a walk up to the North Head Sanctuary for fantastic views and some war memorials and walking trails or visit Q Station, the old quarantine centre for a ghost or history tour.

Day Five total transport costs: Potts Point – $4.40, Newtown $7.08 Opal Manly $15.02 Opal. The daily cap will kick in at $17.80 Fridays and weekends flat rate of $8.90.

Your last evening in Sydney

After your day exploring, you might like to do some last-minute shopping; head to QVB for boutique shopping, Pitt Street Mall for the big brands, or Paddy’s Market to pick up cheap souvenirs.

Early evening drinks should probably include a view. Why not go to a rooftop bar? For something a little different, a western harbour view. I like Zephyr Bar at the Hyatt Regency that offers fabulous views of the sunset over Darling Harbour, or the Henry Deane bar on the edge of Barangaroo Reserve with its glass-encased top floor bar.

Zephyr Bar Darling Harbour Sydney
An extensive cocktail list and a perfect sunset spot.

And there you have it- Sydney Expert’s five day Sydney itinerary, all things I would recommend to my family or friends visiting. Keep an eye out for our next itinerary, which will have a family focus.

I hope you have an unforgettable time in Sydney!

5 days in Sydney map

Only have 3 days in Sydney, don’t worry we have you covered.

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18 thoughts on “5 Days in Sydney- Easy to Follow Itinerary”

  1. This is such a great itinerary. I have done everything on your day one, twice, and missed so many things in Sydney. Now I want to come back for another visit. Sydney is such a great city

  2. My university city and one of my favourite places in the world. Anyone who follows this itinerary will have seen a wonderful amount of this city. I love that you included inner west suburbs like Newtown, Enmore and Redfern.

  3. Such detailed and awesome itinerary. Sydney is high on my bucket list, so saving this one for sure. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I was only in Sydney for two days, and it was not enough! Hoping to stay there for at least 5 days, if not a week. Definitely saving this!

  5. Love this post! So much detail, I feel like I could visit Sydney and not plan anything, just follow along. I haven’t been in 20 years, so maybe it’s time?

  6. You just reminded me how fabulous Sydney is. I love the walks you describe. Maybe it’s time for a visit.

  7. I love Sydney. I’ve only visited once but spent over a week in the city, with nothing else to do other than being a tourist (while my husband was working half the day – we went with him on a work trip), so I had time and I’ve done pretty much everything on your itinerary. I remember that the Opera House has two different colored tiles – I took the tour with the kids. At the Botanical Gardens was the first time we saw flying foxes; there were so many of them there at the time… Your post makes me miss Sydney and its vicinity. We loved our day trip to the Blue Mountains, too. Thanks for a great tour.

  8. You always have the best Sydney tips and this is a great itinerary! Five days seems like a good amount of time for a first-time visitor to the city. I will have to bring Max here so I’ll save this post for later 🙂

  9. You’ve got all of the best spots in Sydney covered, Paula! Any of the day itineraries would make a fun day out, whether you are visiting Sydney for the first time or been living here for years. I have to visit the botanic gardens again to check out the carnivorous plants and topiary koala!

  10. Hey,
    I’m arriving to Sydney at August.
    Is it too cold or too rainy?

    We thought to go to the blue mountains for more than one day and to sleep there on one of the small towns.
    What do you think?

    Thank you!

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