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24 Hours in Sydney

Home > Sydney > Nightclubs | Lists | Fun Things To Do | Beaches | Bars
by James Penn (subscribe)
Music, art, food, film, books, languages, travel. I like these things and like to write about them as well.
Published May 22nd 2013
The perfect itinerary for a whirlwind Sydney visit
So here's the deal: a friend from overseas calls and says they'll be arriving at Kingsford-Smith first thing in the morning with a 24 hour stopover in Sydney. Being a local Sydneysider (and coincidentally having the day off) it obviously falls to you to show them just what this city has to offer. So where do you take them? What do you show them?

Taking for granted that this mystery visitor has had a good sleep on the plane and won't be needing to rest here is my itinerary for a 24 hour whirlwind Sydney tour.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, 24 Hours in Sydney, 24 hour Tour
Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Photo by Ian, Wikimedia Commons

Pick up your charge at the airport and jump straight on a train to Circular Quay. Grab a coffee and walk around to the Opera House where you can take the obligatory tourist photos of your friend standing in front of the Harbour Bridge and posing on the Opera House steps. Afterwards you can stroll around Farm Cove through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Mrs Macquarie's Chair.

Sydney skyline, skyline from Balmain, 24 hour tour balmain, 24 hour tour ferry
The Sydney skyline seen from Balmain. Photo by Adam.J.W.C, Wikimedia Commons

Head back to Circular Quay and jump on a ferry to Balmain. Catching a ferry across the Harbour is an absolute must for any visitor to Sydney and the short ride to Balmain offers plenty of opportunities for your tourist friend to practice their photography skills. Apart from fantastic views of the city's skyline they will no doubt enjoy the close-up look at the Harbour Bridge this route affords. An added bonus is you get to point out Luna Park, North Sydney, Kirribilli, Darling Harbour and Goat Island; Sydney attractions that can't be fully included in this whirlwind tour.

Balmain Ferry, 24 hours in sydney balmain ferry, 24 hour tour, sydney ferry
Take a ferry to Balmain. Photo by Adam.J.W.C, Wikimedia Commons

Once you've arrived in Balmain make a beeline for Darling Street. Balmain is known for more than just food but by this point your guest is likely to be feeling peckish so take your pick from the neighbourhood's numerous cafés. If your companion has a sweet tooth you might want to recommend Adriano Zumbo's Patisserie. If on the other hand they're more of a health food fan then try Brioche Organic Bakery for a low GI, gluten free brekky.

Take some time after refuelling to do some window shopping up and down Darling Street and to wander around the side streets of Balmain taking in the historic buildings of one Sydney's oldest suburbs.

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Balmain Watch House; one of Balmain's historic sandstone buildings

Head to Gladstone Park and jump on the 433 bus to Glebe. Work your way along Glebe Point Road towards Broadway, and stop in for a coffee at one of the many cafés along the way. As one of the longest serving on the strip Badde Manors is always a safe bet, but its popularity means that it's often pretty full. In that case there's Well Connected just a couple of doors down or Clipper Café across the street, both of which are worth a visit.

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Badde Manors Cafe, Glebe

After the caffeine top-up head across Broadway to Victoria Park and into Sydney University. Here you'll be able to show your visitor that Sydney does indeed possess some buildings that are more than a few years old and not completely made out of glass (although the nearby law school might beg to differ). Grab some snaps in front of the clock tower and inside the quadrangle before heading back down to Broadway to grab a bus into the city.

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The lake at Victoria Park

Sydney university clocktower, 24 hours sydney sydney uni, 24 hour tour sydney university
Sydney University Clocktower

Jump off the bus at Haymarket and wander down through Chinatown. There are plenty of places here where you can stop for lunch (as well as plenty that will try to rope you in) but head for the Eating World food court, Sydney's version of an Asian hawker market. The meals are cheap and there is a huge variety on offer meaning almost every taste is catered for.

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Dixon Street, Chinatown

After lunch it's probably time for a little retail therapy so lead your visitor to the Queen Victoria Building on George Street. Apart from being an impressive edifice in itself, you can also find plenty in the way of retail fashion, art, jewellery and of course, food and drink. Take some time to stroll along each level and then rest your feet while grabbing a coffee at one of the QVB's many cafés.

After recharging it's time to head out east so jump walk over to Elizabeth Street and catch the 333 bus to Bondi Beach (don't forget you'll need prepaid bus tickets). The ride along Oxford Street does take a while but it allows your guest the chance to see a few points of interest in Darlinghurst and Paddington while resting up and gathering strength for what's still to come on the tour.

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Inside the Queen Victoria Building

Bondi Beach is pretty well the only item on this itinerary that cannot be skipped or left out. If experience has taught me one thing it is that tourists to Sydney want to see Bondi, even more so than they want to see the bridge or the Opera House. Yes, Sydney has better beaches. Yes, Bondi is overrated and expensive. We all know this and can repeat it until we're blue in the face but for visitors to our city nothing sums up the Aussie way of life better than our most famous patch of sand. So bite your tongue, get out there and have a splash in the saltwater and catch some rays on your beach towel. Just remember to make sure your companion 'slip, slop, slaps', otherwise they might be in for an uncomfortable onward flight!

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The world famous Bondi Beach. Photo by Adam.J.W.C, Wikimedia Commons

After having a dip, set off on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. The stunning walk to Coogee is about 6 kilometres and takes roughly two hours to complete. However, if your visitor is showing signs of jet lag and/or exhaustion by this point you might want to consider just walking to Bronte, which is no less impressive but a much shorter walk, clocking in at about half an hour.

From Coogee you can jump on the 370 bus which will take you all the way to Newtown. Get off at Newtown Square and head straight for the Town Hall Hotel. After the long coastal walk your guest is likely to be feeling quite thirsty, so stop in for a couple of cold schooners before dinner in this well known (and perhaps even slightly notorious) local pub.

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The Town Hall Hotel, Newtown. Photo by Newtown grafitti, Flickr

After quenching your thirst it's time for some food, and Newtown's King Street is one of Sydney's premier eat streets. There are restaurants catering for practically every cuisine here: African, Mexican, Italian, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Thai, Modern Australian, the list goes on and on. There are also plenty of cafés, pubs and burger joints that offer food along King Street so you really will be spoilt for choice!

Not only does Newtown have an abundance of eating establishments, it's also not short of places to drink. From one end of King Street to the other you will find pubs and bars of all shapes and sizes. Stop in for a few drinks at the newly refurbished Marlborough Hotel or, if small bars are more your thing, head to Corridor Bar for a few cocktails.

At this point, some of you (or your jetlagged visitor!) might want to call it a night and head home. Others might just be getting going, and want to party the night away. It's really up to you, but in the case of the latter, head down to Newtown station and jump on a train to Kings Cross (you'll need to change at Town Hall).

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Kings Cross: Sydney's place to party. Photo by luke_reynolds, Wikimedia Commons

Yes, it is seedy and it can be on the rough side, but this is where Sydney comes to party. There's no shortage of places to spend the night drinking or dancing, ranging from the downright sleazy to the very exclusive. For something in between the two take your tourist friend to the World Bar. If live music is more what you are looking for, try FBI Social at the Kings Cross Hotel. Wherever you end up spending the night, just remember to get your friend back to the airport in time for their flight! After such an active 24 hours in Sydney, sleeping on the plane won't be a problem at all!

So what do you think? Does my itinerary give a fair picture of Sydney? Is there anything or anywhere I have left out that you think absolutely needs to be included in my tour? Would you add something else or maybe even avoid any of these places? Let me know where you would take a 24 hour visitor to Sydney in the comments section.
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Why? To show off our city
When: Anytime friends drop in
Where: All over Sydney
Your Comment
A great itenary
by quentin (score: 0|3) 3369 days ago
I liked your list James.It took alot of thought. I certainly would add Saint Mary's Cathedral in College Street and Mackillop Place in North Sydney.Excluding Mackillop Place is like going to Rome and not visiting Saint Peter's Square. Toronga Zoo is another place I would choose. I'd leave Newtown and King's Cross for my friend's next visit.
by marym (score: 0|3) 3364 days ago
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