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Celebrate Christmas in the City

Home > Sydney > Cheap | Christmas | Community Events | Day Trips | Kids | Lists
by Brydie Wright (subscribe)
I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out for more about
Published November 29th 2016
The Christmas city for free (almost)
What does Christmas in the Sydney CBD mean to you?

A shopping bonanza? Crowds upon crowds? Or, just plain something to be avoided?

No doubt if you're a parent with small children, it might be the latter and the whole dream of maxing out your credit cards on Christmas presents and entertainment would belong to the distant past of your singledom. Still, doesn't it make you a bit sad you don't get into the city more these days, especially when all the decorations come out?

Martin Place, CBD, Christmas tree
The spectacular centrepiece at Martin Place

Well, after a day out in what my four-year-old calls the 'Christmas city', (i.e. the Sydney CBD), I would suggest you don't let anything put you off making the trip this year. Based on the experience of one adult and one child, I would even argue that you could do this day pretty cheaply if you approach it as a tour of free Christmas hotspots, rather than a chance to get all your shopping done.

First of all, the bus or train trip into town, if not done as part of the daily grind, can actually be a very enjoyable, especially for a little person who will find it all very adventurous and exciting. And yes, the crowded footpaths will be especially full on at this time of year but the good news is that with the city road works, main thoroughfares like George Street are becoming a lot more pedestrian friendly without the high volume of traffic.

QVB, Christmas tree
Swarovski tree at CBD

The first stop in our Christmas tour is Martin Place and the impressive towering Christmas tree with a Santa's sleigh Lego display right at the base. OK, it's not quite the same without the lights but the CBD is not always an easy place to take kids at night and at least your toddler will be wide awake and can still enjoy the sheer scale of the giant tree in the daylight.

Next stop on our Christmas trail is the QVB and my son is happy to sit quietly in his stroller for once, just watching the busy world of city workers pass by. I have always loved the opulence of the QVB and like many Sydneysiders, visiting the floor-to-ceiling tree in the centre of the complex is a 'must see' at Christmas. We made a real activity out of it and spent about half an hour looking at the Swarovski encrusted tree from the vantage point of each level, riding the escalators and enjoying the piano player on the second floor.

Hyde Park Christmas tree

The view from the top is spectacular and the wonder is enhanced by the arboretum-style Santa's grotto that gives a wonderful opportunity for Christmas photos in a very special setting. Still, if you've not budgeted for this, there is no obligation and a circuit around the top floor, taking it all in, gives you the same experience without having to wait in the queue.

So, what could possibly top this free Christmas experience, or even try? Well, it would never be a complete visit into the CBD in December without visiting the Christmas window display at David Jones. The wonder of this experience never leaves you and this year, though perhaps not as grand as recent years, the story of the bears that help Santa prepare the toys for delivery on Christmas eve, will be a delight to little ones and worth just stopping and taking time out for the older passers-by.

By this stage in our adventure, we've actually only spent on the bus fare as we've packed some snacks and water bottles to get us through but let's be real, you're going to want to spend some money while you're in the city, so the food court at Myer is a great treat to cap off the day, or get some sushi and sit under a tree at Hyde Park. The beautiful Christmas tree provides a beacon that will entice the kids and a perfect backdrop for your Christmas picnic.

Expenditure for our day out? Just under $25. What do you reckon you can do it for?
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Why? Christmas activity
When: December 2016
Where: Sydney CBD
Cost: Free
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