From the popular things to do in Parramatta to things best known by locals, we have found plenty of reasons to spend some time exploring Sydney’s second city.
Today we encourage you to head west to Sydney’s second-biggest city, a mixing pot of culture and history where you will find a ton of food, fun and natural beauty waiting to be discovered. To help you find it, we have compiled a list of what we consider the best things to do in Parramatta this year.
Parramatta sits on the Darug people’s land – the Burramatta clan cared for this land for more than 12,000 years.
- Places to visit in Parramatta
- Things you may not know about Parramatta.
- Lake Parramatta Reserve
- Historic Sites in Parramatta
- Playgrounds and Kids activities in Parramatta
- Do Something Active
- Shopping in Parramatta
- Things to do near Parramatta
- What to do in Parramatta at Night
- Where to Eat in Parramatta
- The best places to grab a drink in Parramatta
- Parramatta Festivals
- Where to stay in Parramatta
- How to get to Parramatta
Places to visit in Parramatta
The places in our list will help you learn more about the city’s history, discover some great outdoor spaces to burn off some energy or enjoy the many varied cafes and restaurants; there are plenty of interesting places to visit in Parramatta.
Things you may not know about Parramatta.
- The settlement here is only 10 months younger than Sydney’s CBD.
- The area was originally called Rose Hill; however, Governor Phillip changed it to Parramatta, the name the Aboriginals called the area.
- The ferry once took a week to reach the city from Sydney.
- Many say the name is taken from that word Burra meaning eel, and matta, meaning place; however, Mrs Macquarie noted in her diary that the word meant “head of the river”.
- The first train in the state ran between Central and Parramatta in 1855.
- Parramatta officially became a city in 1938.
Lake Parramatta Reserve
Well known by locals but rarely visited by those from outside western Sydney, Lake Parramatta Reserve offers some beautiful bushland walks that the whole family.
There is plenty to see and do here; you can rent a rowboat, take a swim or settle in for a picnic.
It is also home to Arrunga Bardo Aboriginal Bush Food Garden, where you can take a self-guided walk.
Historic Sites in Parramatta
The historic properties are among the city’s top attractions.
Old Government House
Parramatta Park is one of the 11 Australian Convict Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Georgian Styled Old Government House in Parramatta Park is the oldest surviving public building in Australia. It was the home of Australia’s first ten governors. You can tour the building, book in a high tea. When you are done, head to the Rumsey Rose Garden for a wander through its collection of rare heritage roses.
You will also find the Burramatta Aboriginal Landscape Trail in the park’s western section is a short walk through the land returned to its pre colonisation condition.
Where: Parramatta Park
How: Short walk from the train station
More: Visit the National Trust website for more.
Experiment Farm Cottage
This was the site of the first land grant in the colony. Convict James Ruse was granted land here in 1789 to build a farm. Ruse became the first person to grow grain in Australia successfully, a step towards proving that settlers could become self-sufficient.
The house was built in 1834 and is one of the oldest standing in Australia. It is managed by the National Trust, and guided tours are available.
Where: 9 Ruse St Harris Park
How: Short walk from Harris Park or Parramatta Train Stations
More: Visit the National Trust website for more.
Australia’s oldest homestead was the home of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, who established the wool industry in Australia.
The farm is a very hands-on museum, and they run an interesting activity program. Once you are finished touring the property, you are welcome to picnic on the grounds, which have been recreated using images of the gardens from Macarthur’s time living here.
Where: 70 Alice Street Rosehill
How: 909 from Parramatta train station
More: for times and bookings, visit the Sydney Living Museums site.
Other historical sites you can visit include:
- Parramatta Female Factory
- Lancer Barracks
- Lennox Bridge
- Hambledon Cottage
- St John’s Cemetary
- St John’s Cathedral, Church Street
- Parramatta Town Hall
We recommend history lovers download the Dictionary of Sydney App and take the Convict Parramatta walk.
Playgrounds and Kids activities in Parramatta
Parramatta Park Playgrounds
Paperbark Playground – Fully renovated in 2019, this inclusive all-abilities park will keep the kids happy for hours. There are a fabulous water play area and lots of great activities for younger kids.
Domain Creek Playground on the western side of the park is a great choice for older kids. There is a flying fox, trampolines and five different age-appropriate areas to explore. Uncover picnic tables are located nearby.
Parramatta River Foreshore Reserve
It is a great playground for older kids right on the river – you can’t miss it if you are walking the riverside path. There is a fun bumpy slide, a large climbing wall and a cool sand play area.
James Ruse Reserve
Home to a fantastic water play park that you can reach easily from the station if you don’t have a car. Much of the area is undercover, making it perfect for staying safe in the heat. There is also a skate park.
Tip: good stop-off point on a walk to Elizabeth Farm and walking distance from the Station.
Where: Hassall Street – open the Google map
Do Something Active
Stretch your legs on a walk through Parramatta Park; the 3.2km loop walk around the park is an easy and enjoyable stroll.
Lake Parramatta walking tracks
There are two walks at Lake Parramatta: She-Oak Track is a 1.5km pram friendly track through a forest of Redgums, She Oaks and gorgeous blackbutt. For more of a challenge, the Lake Circuit is a little over 4km and particularly lovely in spring when wildflowers are blooming.
Parramatta Riverside Walk
3.5 kilometres – Murals depicting indigenous history line the footpath by artist Jamie Eastwood, a Ngemba man. The murals begin at Heritage and Visitor Information Centre.
Tip: Keep an eye out for the epic bumpy slide at the Foreshore Reserve.
Related: There are a dozen easy family bushwalks here if we have inspired you to get walking.
Jump on your bike
There are two rides that cyclists should check out; the first is the 3.5 kilometre Parramatta Heritage Ride.
The second is a 3.2km loop cycle lane around Parramatta Park. This is a great spot to build your cycling confidence with cars restricted.
Need a real challenge Parramatta Valley Cycleway might be just the thing, a 15-kilometre-long path from Ryde to Parramatta
Try your hand ar archery or clay shooting.
Head to the Archery Centre and see if you can hit the target. They also offer Laser Tag and Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting.
Shopping in Parramatta
Westfield Parramatta shopping centre is the 3rd largest mall in Sydney and one of the top 10 in Australia. There is plenty here to keep you busy bagging a bargain, but there are also some unique shops worth tracking down.
Peter Wynn’s Score is a mecca for sports lovers, particularly NRL supporters. This is the place to go for all your sporting needs but particularly fun for gifts like branded tissues, bandaids, coffee mugs, and other stocking stuffers.
Things to do near Parramatta
Sydney Olympic Park
Only a short trip from Parramatta Sydney Olympic Park attracts more locals than tourists these days. There is enough to do here to keep you busy for a full day out.
Use the facilities built for the Sydney Olympics; there is archery, a swimming centre and explore the Badu Mangrove Boardwalk.
What to do in Parramatta at Night
Check out the Barry Wilde Bridge on Parramatta River. The bridge opened in 2012, and while it is a pretty enough water feature during the day, it comes alive at night when an LED light show runs on the half-hour.
Riverside Theatre – A diverse program makes Riverside a great venue to keep on your radar. Everything from comedy to ballet and mostly at affordable prices.
Bankwest Stadium – If the Eels (NRL) are playing, Bankwest Stadium’s atmosphere makes for a great night out, whether you love NRL or not.
Dine on Eat Street – Church Street Parramatta is affectionately known as Eat Street and home to dozens of restaurants and cafes.
Do a Pub Crawl – You can cover four pubs in an easy flat 2,5km loop that starts just near the station.
Start at The Commerical in Hassell Street, where you can enjoy unpasteurised draught from their fresh beer tanks and a cheap $14 dinner in the beer garden. Happy hour runs Monday to Friday from 5 pm-7 pm.
From here, make your way to The Albion Hotel at 135 George Street, which happens to be dog friendly, just in case you wanted to have a beer or two with your four-legged friend.
Next up, The Woolpack (1796), which is one of the ten oldest pubs in the country, where happy hour runs from 5-7 pm on weekdays.
Finally, finish at the General Bourke, where Friday’s happy hour runs until 9 pm!
Where to Eat in Parramatta
We are not experts in the local food scene, but these are some places we have enjoyed on our days out here.
For food that will delight your camera as much as your mouth, The Social Hideout is possibly the most Instgramable dining spot in Parramatta.
Pho Pasteur – this is our go-to dinner stop when we find ourselves here. The master stock for the pho is outstanding. One of the reasons our list of recommendations is short is that we always head back here!
The Friday Farmers Market in Centenary Square each Friday is a great place to grab some lunch or fresh fruit and veg to take home.
For a fast-food fix, it’s hard to beat Betty’s Burgers in the New Parramatta Square dining area right by the train station.
If you love Indian food, then a visit to bordering Harris Park is a must; the suburb is home to the largest Indian population in Sydney, 39% of residents. You can explore on your own, just bring an appetite and let your nose lead you. Alternatively, you could book a guided tour with Taste Food Tours.
The best places to grab a drink in Parramatta
- Uncle Kurt’s – describe themselves as “Jewish Deli meets Brooklyn Dive Bar – Straight outta NYC” and is most definitely worth a visit!
- Nick and Nora’s – The best spot for cocktails with a view in Parramatta.
This year’s festival dates have not been confirmed but keep an eye out for updates on these three popular events.
Where to stay in Parramatta
Parramatta can make a good spot for a family staycation or an affordable city break. The is an excellent range of hotels to choose from; these are our favourites.
How to get to Parramatta
Train: The Parramatta CBD is about 35 minutes by train on a limited stops service from the city’s centre. Services leave from Wynyard, Town Hall, Central and Redfern regularly.
Ferry: The 75-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay 14 km west up the river to Parramatta wharf is a bit of a day trip in itself. Along the way, you pass Cockatoo Island, Olympic Park and the SS Ayrfield shipwreck in Homebush Bay.
It’s a great family day out on a Sunday when transport prices are capped.
Drive: The drive is approximately 25 kilometres from the city via the m4
We hope we have given you plenty of ideas for things to do in Parramatta next time you are visiting. If you have any questions, head over to the FB group, and we would be happy to help!
Feature image credit Destination NSW