Time Out Sydney

Here are 23 of our favourite things to do in Sydney right now – whether you're local or just stopping by for the weekend

Eat a lobster roll and drink a kickass cocktail at Waterman's Lobster Co

Waterman's Lobster Co

The interior at Waterman's Lobster Co is far more swish than the traditional lobster shacks you'll find lining the Eastern seaboard of the USA – the front area is dominated by a beautiful brass-top bar, and the rest of the place is all greys, soft woods and elegant glassware. It’s a ritzy look for a sandwich shop. But given lobster is the star of the show, and we're in a city that loves to show off, it makes a certain type of sense. And if we’re bringing those lobsters all this way, they certainly deserve a properly fancy send-off.

Go kayaking on one of these beautiful waterways

Sydney's best kayaking spots

No other city can boast such a range of beautiful places to go kayaking. Deep gorges, dense bushland, sandy beaches, wandering creeks – Sydney has it all.

Take high tea in Sydney

Sydney's best high tea

In a nod to our colonial past, Sydney is a bit obsessed with tea, towers of tiny sandwiches and buttery treats in the early afternoon. You can try a ceremony at Gunners Barracks or the Observatory, but our absolute fave is in the Tea Room at the QVB: high ceilings, gold-rimmed crockery and scones so light and fluffy they practically float into your mouth.

Shop like a local at Sydney's best markets

Sydney's Best Markets

Whether you're looking for a vintage frock or a crate of ripe avocados, Sydney has weekly neighbourhood markets that draw crowds of locals for locally-grown fruit and veg, indie arts and crafts, bric-a-brac, fresh-cut buds and all the coffee carts you could ever need.

Eat like a local at Billy Kwong

Billy Kwong

You can’t help but want to get involved with whatever thing chef Kylie Kwong is passionate about right now. It’s a list that just keeps on growing, from bush herbs to bespoke gin. She’s now at the forefront of a culinary push of Australian wine-makers, distillers, producers and brewers. Thankfully, she still has time to make Chinese food.

Sweat it out at an '80s aerobics class

Retrosweat - Surry Hills

Retrosweat has been taking over Sydney, one gym room at a time. Burn calories to the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Wham – all turned up to 11! The freestyle workout is best enjoyed with Lycra, scrunchies and sweatbands; step back to the '80s on Tuesdays in Alexandria, Wednesdays in Bondi and Thursdays in Surry Hills.

Drink world class cocktails at Bulletin Place

Bulletin Place

There are two things, straight off the bat, that make this pocket-sized CBD bar the standard setter it is. That’s the drinks and the service. The menu is, on the whole, fresh juice-based and relies heavily on whatever’s in-season. But go off-menu and be rewarded with a team with a staggering amount of cocktail knowledge.

Treat yourself to a world-class dinner at Bennelong


“By God, this is a beautiful place to eat a meal.” The thought is almost certain to strike at some point as you dine under the dominating, post-Brutalist arches of executive chef Peter Gilmore's new restaurant inside the Opera House sails. And that’s before you see the food. It's an experience everyone in Sydney should enjoy... at least once.

Walk from Manly to Spit Bridge

Sydney's best walks

You'll hear a lot about the Bondi to Coogee cliffside walk while you're here, and yes, you should do it. But if you end up in Manly (and you should do that, too), this is a must. All up, this is a 10km walk that can take up to four hours to complete – but the good news is it has multiple access points if you're after something less strenuous, and the views of the harbour and city will make you forget all about your aching feet. Consider getting sidetracked for a peek at the Grotto Point Light House along the way.

Sign up for one of Sydney’s best dance classes

Sydney’s best dance classes

Start the week with a ‘Monday Twerkout’, improve your pointe at Sydney Dance Company or take a beginners class in rock'n'roll at Miss Peaches. Time Out's tried-and-tested list of the best dance classes includes places where you can drop-in and swing, right up to term-length classes to master fancy footwork.

Eat all the smoky meats at LP’s

LP’s Quality Meats

There’s a deep, all-pervading smoke through everything you eat, which makes for a pretty specific menu. Our advice? Pick a couple of (quality) meats, and have a blast with the sides.

See a show by Sydney Theatre Company

 Sydney Theatre Company 2015 season

The current program from the STC – which boasts Andrew Upton (AKA Mr Cate Blanchett) as its creative director – is a big one: shows like King Lear, The Present and Orlando and stars like Geoffrey Rush, Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh. All this, and in the historic surrounds of Walsh Bay, perched right on the harbour at the edge of the city. 

Get a fancy cake from Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie

Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie

They're making some beautiful cakes over at Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie. Subtle and fine; it's like the kind that you find in France. Sitting in the relaxed atmosphere of the café – all concrete, white and wood – with the doors wide open to the outside, feels pretty lovely. And the fact that the chefs are right there in front of you in the open kitchen, shaping bread and carefully decorating the cakes, is a real point of difference to other bakeries around. And did we say they make beautiful cakes?

Set out at sunrise for Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture by the Sea is one of Sydney's key annual arts events, drawing around 500,000 to the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama to enjoy sculptures by top artists and emerging talents from Australia and abroad. To avoid the crowds, get there for sunrise – or wait until the end of the day for a perfectly-timed sunset stroll. 

Party at a boutique music festival

Return to Rio

Bypass the crowds and head to Return to Rio. The festival puts serious thought into delivering a left-of-centre weekend away, decking out the resort to the nines, encouraging dress-ups and selecting an eclectic line-up of established and upcoming musicians.

Drink all the beer at Sydney Craft Beer Week

Sydney Craft Beer Week

It's a monster line-up of sudsy fun for Sydney's dedicated craft beer festival. Manly’s 4 Pines Brewing Co are taking their beachside vibes across to Willoughby for a Caribbean cook-up, while beer nerds can really shine at Beer Trivia presented by Bottled Lightning Co, and those wanting a chance to see where the magic happens at James Squire Brewery can finally grab that golden ticket. It's Christmas for craft beer fans.

Tour Chippendale's burgeoning creative precincts

Chippendale guide - Bars & Restaurants in Chippendale - Time Out Sydney

There are so many galleries in Chippendale that they merit a crawl: start at contemporary Chinese art­ palace White Rabbit, then venture to commercial Galerie Pompom and its sister, artist-run-initiatve MOP Projects; for bleeding edge local art, check out Wellington St Projects.

Visit the Blue Mountains and stay at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

Hydro Majestic Hotel

The Blue Mountains are at the top of most Sydneysiders’ lists for a nearby getaway – any time of the year. The heritage-listed Hydro reopened in 2014 after a major refurbishment – you’ll want to pop in here for high tea with a view, and if you’re feeling indulgent, go on and book in for a romantic weekend stay.

Celebrate local music, booze and food at Newtown Festival

Newtown Festival

Newtown Festival celebrates neighbourhood pride and inclusivity. This year will see the return of the ‘Newtown Locals’ area of pop-ups from neighbourhood bars, cafés and restaurants – plus there will be more locally brewed beers on tap than ever before. Look out for featured authors in the Writers’ Tent, hands-on activities in the Vocal Local Village and performers at the popular Kids Zone.

Take a ferry to one of Sydney's islands

Islands in Sydney

Did you know that Clark Island used to be a humble veggie patch? Or that Cockatoo Island was once a prison? Sydney's islands are full of colourful history – and great places to lay a picnic blanket, too.

Enjoy a subterranean boogie at Cliff Dive

The Cliff Dive

It’s a bar you’ll want to drink in early and dance in late. Pad your stomach with some skewers before you start in on the booze here – and oh, the booze here. So much, so good. Make sure you order one of their famous monkey heads before moving to a Piña Colada. Then make your way to the dancefloor, a spacious spot framed by a school of paper fish, seaweed and a couple of cute jellyfish hanging overhead. Go on, make a splash.

Visit a landmark cultural institution

Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prizes 2015

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is the leading museum of art in New South Wales and Sydney, and one of Australia's foremost cultural institutions. It holds significant collections of Australian, European and Asian art, and presents nearly 40 exhibitions annually. Every Wednesday night it opens its doors until 10pm for the Art After Hours program; catch lectures, workshops, celebrity talks, film screenings – or check out the exhibitions. If you're hungry, check out Matt Moran's restaurant Chiswick at the Gallery.

Challenge yourself to a nudie swim

The Sydney Skinny Ocean Swim

Boy, oh, boy! You’ve got to be brave to take the plunge in the annual ocean swim with a difference. Last year one thousand people ditched their clothes and swam in the ocean together in Sydney’s most exhibitionist sports event. The Sydney Skinny first launched in 2013, an idea by Nigel Marsh, the author of Fat, Forty and Fired and Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up. Marsh came up with the concept after he was caught short without swimmers and decided to take a dip in the ocean anyway – it was a hot day, we’ve all been there.

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Updated on 19 Aug 2015.

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