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City Circle: Sydney's Hidden Attraction

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by My Splendid Family (subscribe)
Mother of two young children looking to make them smile in the city of Sydney without breaking the bank. Visit my blog at to see what else I get up to.
Published January 13th 2017
Is the City Circle the Most Overlooked Sydney Attraction?
For many city train commuters, the Sydney City Circle is a pain as it makes their journey longer. Others travel through just a few of the more bland City Circle stations and most are just too busy rushing somewhere to take much notice anyway. But what many of these commuters don't realise is that they are travelling through a working museum that is definitely worth a closer look for local and tourist alike.

museum station logo
Museum Station Logo

Sydney's City Circle is made up of six stations - Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, St James, and Museum. Each has their own character, and four are particularly worth a closer look.

So all aboard as we take the armchair tour of the City Circle.


central station grand concourse hall
Central Station's Grand Concourse is reminiscent of European train stations

historic pictures central station
Wander through Central Station and you will find historic pictures

Marvel at the European-style train station with grand hall right here in Australia and reminisce about a past trip to Europe. It is where the regional and interstate trains depart from. Central station also caters for suburban trains so if you arrive there by suburban train you will need to follow the signs to the Grand Concourse (platforms 1-7). Warning - you will be left wishing Australia had high-speed trains to whisk you off to another city for the weekend! Wander around and you will discover historic photographs of Central Station with now defunct trams running right up to the front door.

Circular Quay

city circle circular quay view
Circular Quay Station is the scenic station

Enjoy the spectacular views of Circular Quay framed by the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. You don't even have to leave the train! This station must surely rate as one of the most scenic ones in the world so it is worth getting off to take a picture from the platform. If you are playing tour guide to visitors with limited time this might just be the way to give them a quick dose of the quintessential Sydney icons.

St James

st james station original fixtures
St James Station has many original wrought iron and brass fixtures

St James Station Historic Photo
St James Station is the art gallery of the City Circle stations with historic photos everywhere

St James Station is the art gallery of the City Circle tour. Here you will find lots of historical photos all around the place as well as the odd piece of modern art. It has many of its original fixtures still in place. The wrought iron fencing and brass fixtures are sure to impress. But somehow this station lacks the charm of Museum Station which is our next stop.


museum station
Visiting Museum Station is like taking a step back in time

Museum by name, museum by nature. But it's actually named for the nearby Australian Museum. This station will probably never get the facelift that Town Hall station is currently undergoing - and with good reason. Step off at Museum station and you will feel like you are stepping off in a different era. The benches, signs, clocks, and tiled walls are all frozen in history. Even the advertising is made to look old. While modern changes exist for reason such as safety, they don't negatively impact this living museum.

Town Hall and Wynyard

We bypassed these stations on our tour as they are more functional than fancy for locals. However, if you are playing tour guide and your visitors are from another city, consider if they would be impressed by the subterranean world beneath Sydney that takes you from Town Hall Station through to the Pitt Street Mall (travelling underneath QVB and Myer). There is nothing like it anywhere else in Australia.

This tour is best attempted out of peak time as commuters rushing around will get in the way of your photographs and will make it difficult for you to enjoy the tour at your leisure. Off-peak is also the cheapest time to do it if you need to purchase a ticket. If you can attach your tour to the beginning or end of a train trip into the city then this tour is FREE at any time. If not, Off-peak tickets with an opal card are $2.36 for an adult, $1.18 for gold/concession/children 4 years and up.

City Circle is actually a horseshoe rather than a circle so when playing tourist you do need to pay attention to the train you are getting on so you don't end up leaving the City "Circle". Trains run in both directions on a very regular basis so you can hop on and hop off to your heart's content and start and stop the tour at any City Circle Station.

All stations in the City Circle are wheelchair accessible. Families with prams will find the tour easy but be ready to lift prams onto the train in some locations where the gap between station and platform is a bit too wide for comfort. Little kids will be kept well entertained by the passing trains and new sights while you explore the City Circle.
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Why? Take time to explore what you usually rush past
When: Off-peak Monday - Friday and weekends
Where: Start at any of the City Circle stations
Cost: FREE if attached to a city train journey, otherwise $2.36 per adult for an off-peak ticket.
Your Comment
A fantastic idea for an article, My Splendid!
by Elaine (score: 3|8509) 1743 days ago
Funny enough I have thought the same thing while traveling to the city and experience the stations. Nice work on the article.
by RC (score: 3|1221) 1742 days ago
It shouldn't change provided we hold on to these things and respect it :)
by RC (score: 3|1221) 1740 days ago
Oh! Yes I love the oldness of the stations I get taken to another place every time I am in them, I'm not sure what it is the by gone era the wonder, mystery imagining coming up to the streets and seeing horses and ladies in long dresses l love them I hope they never change
by tanya (score: 1|37) 1740 days ago
nice article but I think you should be warned that to view most of the attractions of the stations means you have to pass through the ticket machines taping on and off will cost you each time you pass through unless you are fast enough to get the reverse tap
by roses (score: 0|6) 1739 days ago
Hi roses,

In that case, I'd suggest doing the tour on a Sunday when fares for adults are capped at $2.50 per day. You could take all the time you wanted that way and go in an out of the stations as much as you wanted.

With two little kids we didn't want leave the stations so tapping off wasn't an issue for us.
by My Splendid Family (score: 1|60) 1739 days ago
Is this on Facebook?
by great (score: 0|6) 1738 days ago
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