Whether you're strapped for cash or saving your dollars, Sydney is brimming with things to do, places to explore and events to enjoy that cost absolutely nothing.
From the great outdoors like coastal walks and bushwalking tracks, to the great indoors like art galleries and music gigs, take inspiration from our essential budget-friendly guide to the city, giving the lowdown on all the amazing free things to do in Sydney. Your bank balance can thank us later.
1. Take a walk
Nothing defines Sydney better than a stroll along the magnificent coast. It's a regular weekend ritual for locals – whether it’s for the Vitamin D, the endorphins or just the thought of digging into a delicious brunch somewhere afterwards.
From Palm Beach to Coogee, Sydneysiders have so much to choose from when it comes to hitting the trails. There’s also news of a brand new harbour trail that will weave it’s way through 80km of Sydney’s shore, stretching from Bondi to Manly. It’s set to open in a couple of years, but for those keen bean walkers out there, you can still piece together parts of this epic walk yourself in the meantime to get your hiking fix.
2. Stroll accross the bridge
If you’re a Sydney local, the thought of dropping $300 to walk over Sydney’s most famous bridge is likely to leave you cross-eyed. Never fear though, because you can still soak up the same breathtaking views of the harbour free of cost (and harness!). Albeit about a hundred metres lower, taking a stroll across the pedestrian walkway still offers those iconic views of the Opera House, The Rocks and Fort Denison. It will take about 15 minutes if you don’t stop for pics, but obviously you should – so factor in about 20 minutes one way.
3. Affordable art
Getting lost in a gallery, admiring art for hours on end is one of the best ways to spend a day in the city. Sydney’s art scene has serious cultural cred, with diverse and ever-evolving exhibitions popping up all over the city on any given day of the week. The best part is, they’re mostly all free to visit. From major galleries such as the AGNSW to smaller, upcoming art spaces like White Rabbit, there’s a place to inspire every type of gallery-goer.
The Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay is great if you're strapped for cash – they host a variety of free events and artist talks. They also feature a mystery theme, artist or exhibition each week as part of their ever-popular free ‘Mystery Tours’.
4. Park dayWhether you’re in need of a lazy, relaxing day sprawled out on the grass, or an active, pulse-pumping workout – Sydney has plenty of gorgeous green spots to stretch out in. For the more leisurely among us, opt for a picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Wendy’s Garden in North Sydney or Sydney’s newest foreshore park, Barangaroo Reserve (make sure to bring food from home to save $$.)
For those wanting to break a sweat, head to a park with a running track like the 5K loop in Centennial Park, or hit up an outdoor workout in one of these parks with outdoor gyms.
5. Beautiful beaches
Sydney is synonymous with coastal living, and is often referred to as the definitive beach capital of Australia. Our sandy shorelines stretch from the north, east and south sides of Sydney, ranging from bustling tourist hotspots like Bondi to quieter suburban inlets like Chowder Bay in Mosman. A day at the beach is completely free (this isn’t Europe, there's no overly-priced sunbeds), so all you’ll need to bring is a good book and a lot of sunscreen.
6. Window shop till you drop
Ok, so this one has the potential to end up quite expensive, but with a little bit of willpower and self control – window shopping can be quite a fun thing to do. Whether you’re building up a wish list for when you have more cash, or simply “just browsing thank you” – head to one of Sydney’s many shopping spots for a day of window retail therapy.
The Strand Arcade is probably the CBD’s prettiest shopping mall – it was built back in the 1800’s, but today is full of designer dress shops and gorgeous jewellery boutiques to gawk at.
7. Snorkel adventure
Given you’ve got the gear, snorkelling in Sydney is on point (and more importantly, free), with many of our most famous beaches teeming with sea life. From Manly to Botany Bay you’ll find plenty of underwater worlds to explore. So don your mask, snorkel and fins and dive into these great snorkelling spots.
Our pick has to be Gordon's Bay in Coogee – it’s the only spot in Sydney with a dedicated underwater trail. Once you enter the north end (close to the car park at Clovelly pool) , you’ll pick up a chain that makes a 500 metre loop around the bay.
8. Bike on a budget
Beachy rides to bush tracks, city trails to suburban climbs – Sydney is the ultimate city to hone your cycling form. Check out our guide to the most scenic cycle routesthat are guaranteed to have you two-wheeled obsessed. Or, for the less enthusiastic pedallers, set out on your bike and forge your own path around your neighbourhood instead. Perfect for a breath of fresh air, and great for your fitness, you can say goodbye to expensive cycle club memberships and stop those ghastly spin classes in their tracks. The outdoors awaits – and it’s completely free!
9. Take a hike
From the beach to the bush, Sydney’s walking tracks are just waiting to be explored. Totally free, hug the coast or head inland and set off on a day hike. If you’re wanting to stay in Sydney, the gorgeous Berowra to Cowan walk will occupy you for the best part of a day (part of the Great North Walk) or if you’re wanting to venture further, the Blue Mountains are only an hour and a half away and will leave you spoilt for choice.
10. Meditate your way to mindfulness
The ultimate me-time, meditation is one money-free activity you can literally do anywhere. It not only forces you to slow down, unwind and clear your mind but it’s proven to reduce stress – something we could all do with from time to time. Download a free meditation app like Calm or Smiling Mindand head to quiet spot, secluded beach or park and let the mindfulness flow.
11. To market, to market
Wandering around stalls packed with cute vintage clothes, jewellery and accessories might be a sure-fire way to empty your wallet. But if you demonstrate some serious willpower, heading to one of Sydney’s markets can wind up being fairly thrifty. They’ve usually got live music and entertainment on-the-go all day long, so just peruse the stalls or grab a spot on the grass and soak up the ambience.
12. Free gigs
Why fork out hundreds of dollars for festivals when you can rock up to a Sydney bar virtually penniless and enjoy local Sydney talent for free? Ok, ok, so you may have to sacrifice ten dollars for a drink, but once you’ve done that you’ve basically bought yourself a night-long concert – winning!
Our favourite spots are Opera Bar, The Imperial for Drag and Dine, and of course – the beloved Frankie’s(but make sure to budget for that inevitable slice of pizza at 1am!). See all our go-to spots for live music here.
13. Love don't cost a thing
The only thing better than doing free things in Sydney, is doing free things together with an equally thrifty partner in crime. Whether it’s your first date or your 50th, Sydney is brimming with free activities for you and your date to enjoy – and what's more, you won't have to fight over who's paying the bill.
Head to a park, take a stroll or go to a gallery – because you should be able to enjoy each other's company without splashing cash on fancy degustations (although let's not take them completely off the menu).