Sydney is expensive—there is no doubt about that. Yet there are a few excellent things to do that don’t cost a thing. From museums and galleries to history, architecture, and even getting around, here are the best free activities in Sydney.
- One of the best freebies is the free entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in the Domain. It is one of the country’s, if not the world’s, best art galleries, offering art from ancient China right through to modern Australia. The Yiribana Gallery downstairs focuses on Aboriginal and Islander art and offers free guided tours Tuesday-Saturday at 11am.
- The excellent Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks offers free entry, except for one-off special exhibitions and events that may have a separate charge.
- The free Rocks Discovery Museum tells the history of The Rocks from its Aboriginal origins up through today. There are interactive things to do for the kids, combining the teaching of history with the marvels of modern technology.
- Government House, the former residence of New South Wales governors in the Royal Botanic Gardens just off Macquarie Street, offers free guided tours every half hour Friday-Sunday 10:30am-3pm, showing you around the interior furnishings and art collections.
- Lovely St. Mary’s Cathedral, by Hyde Park, offers free cathedral tours every Sunday at noon, and the crypt with its mosaic floor is open daily 10am-4pm.
- Check out the astronomy displays by day at Australia’s oldest existing observatory, Sydney Observatory, in The Rocks. The Observatory exhibition, access to the building itself, and gardens are free during the daytime and are open daily 10am-5pm. Unfortunately, nighttime tours do have a fee.
- You can climb the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, but that costs you. If instead you walk across it, for free (unlike the cars, which have to pay a toll), you get pretty much the same views and superb photo opportunities.
- Interested in literature? Follow the Writers’ Walk along the cobbled streets of The Rocks and along the promenade of Circular Quay, and read the 50 plaques celebrating Australian writers and critics such as Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Thea Astley, Peter Carey, Dorothy Hewitt, and James A. Michener.
- Customs House is a grand historic building with an interesting interior, a library of more than 500,000 books, and a mini-Sydney under a glass dome downstairs. And free Wi-Fi throughout is an added bonus.
- The Sydney Conservatorium of Music invites you to listen to its Lunchbreak series during the academic year, with free classical music every Wednesday. See http://music.sydney.edu.au/event-listings for the schedule.
- Take a ride on bus 555, which is a free shuttle bus that will take you up and down George Street in the CBD between Railway Square and Circular Quay. It is not only a great way to see the grand buildings lining George Street but also saves time and money if you are shuttling between sights. Check the timetable and route at www.131500.com.au.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef.