What to do in Sydney in one day

The beating heart of modern day Australia, Sydney is a microcosm for the rest of the nation. Intensely modern, shiny and hip, the city has another side that bursts with history and tradition as well as boasting a natural beauty that is fabled the world over. Starting your day trip at the opulent Ovolo 188 Darling Harbour Hotel, move onto the technicolour delights of the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium before stopping to refuel for the morning at quality coffee-slingers Workshop Espresso. Next, you’re off to the dizzying heights of the Sydney Tower Eye before coming down to earth with some delectable Indian food at The Spice Room

Take in the city’s iconic Sydney Opera House before another coffee break with a distinctly French theme at La Renaissance Café Patisserie. Explore the historic The Rocks neighbourhood, once a dangerous ghetto but now resplendent with touristic sights and boho charm. Check out the mighty Sydney Harbour Bridge before a refined dinner at Est. restaurant and an equally as cultivated evening at the Sydney Theatre Company. To loosen up, head to the outstanding whisky bar The Baxter before rounding off your Sydney day trip at the über cool Chinese Laundry nightclub. This is big, brash and yet constantly classy. This is Sydney

09:00 – Stay at the Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour Hotel

Surely one of the very best places to wake up in Sydney is the Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour Hotel. A boutique offering that drips with industrial chic charm, this hotel combines luxury, style and location to create a unique experience for all guests. For a small hotel, the Ovolo 1888 packs a lot of features in, never compromising on quality and care for the stylish clientele who frequent this splendid establishment

Housed in a gorgeous 1888 maritime building, the Ovolo 188 Darling harbour has character in abundance. From the exposed wooden beams in the reception area to the bare brick walls that feature throughout, style is clearly of the utmost importance to the team here. The restaurant serves quality, fresh food at competitive prices within a rustic setting. Staff has great knowledge of the local area and of the city as a whole. Just a short walk from the hotel is the famous Sydney Fish Market, whilst the Harbourside Ferry station gives guests easy access to the rest of the city

Rooms here are a study in style, elegance and comfort. The industrial chic theme continues with original iron beaming and a minimalist decor, whilst striking contemporary art lines the walls to give a flash of youth and vivacity to your stay. All rooms come with free wifi, flat screen tv and iPads. If you upgrade to a suite, then sitting areas, patio and cocktail bar could be yours, a perfect way to add that extra touch of luxury. All guests receive access to a nearby fitness centre and Olympic-sized swimming pool, meaning that the famously active Australian lifestyle comes as a bonus here, and you can work on that six-pack for the beach later on  // Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour Hotel – 139 Murray St, Pyrmont NSW 2009

09:30 – Start with a splash at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

If the jet lag is already beginning to creep on then don’t worry, the first stop on this Sydney day trip will definitely serve as a wake-up call. Boasting over 700 different species of aquatic life, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is the perfect way for visitors to the city to discover exactly what lies beneath Australia’s crystalline waters. The answer is, pretty much everything. The sheer wealth of life on show here makes it a must see for any Sydney day trip, and the colours and life on show will serve as an ideal way to shake off any drowsiness from the flight

Visitors will be taken on a journey through Australia’s multiple aquatic ecosystems, with the aquarium divided into a range of sections according to location. There are areas specifically dedicated to Australia’s river life, while other sections tackle the country’s complex and fragile ocean habitats. Visitors have the chance to marvel at Dugong, Penguins, Stingrays and a variety of sharks such as Lemon and Grey Nurse sharks. There are also thousands upon thousands of kaleidoscopic tropical fish here, which are a truly delightful sight. The Great Barrier Reef display is the largest on the planet and seeks to explain the beauty as well as the problems facing the one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders

One particularly interesting area is the Sydney Harbour exhibition, where guests to the aquarium can learn about the rich ecosystem located just outside in the city’s famous harbour. It’s fascinating to imagine that beneath the busy waterways lies a whole other world just as complex and fast-paced as Sydney itself. One of the aquariums primary goals is to contribute to the conservation movement worldwide. The SEA LIFE Trust is involved with turtle and shark tagging and other projects across the world that looking to preserve what is an increasingly vulnerable marine ecosystem  // Sea Life Sydney Aquarium – 1-5 Wheat Rd, Sydney NSW 2000

10:30 – Resist the treats housed in Workshop Espresso

Whisper it, but some say that the current global coffee revolution, which has seen millions of us learn the difference between dark and light roast, a flat white and a latte, actually originated in Australia. Whether it rings true or not is yet to be confirmed, but if the coffee at Sydney favourite Workshop Espresso is anything to go by, it could very well be the case. A favourite with local office workers and hipsters alike, this downtown locale crafts its delicious beverages from top grade single origin coffee

The place buzzes around the clock due to its location and, probably more so, because it’s reputed to be the very best coffee anywhere in Sydney. The dark wood interior provides a cool respite from the all too often baking heat outside, meaning that Workshop Espresso is the ideal refuge. It’s a tiny café, filled with a sense of tranquility that all the best coffee shops seem to possess because a coffee break, after all, should be exactly that

Whatever you like to drink, this place will do it very, very well indeed. Whether it’s a silky espresso, a full-bodied americano or one of their various iced creations, you’re sure to be presented with a thing of beauty, made with a craftsman like devotion by the baristas at this local institution. It might be difficult to resist the treats housed in a temptingly transparent cabinet at the Workshop Espresso counter, and nobody would blame you for giving in. The pastries here are renowned for their quality, with all of it homemade and everything from croissants to donuts to crispy cannoli on offer. If that sounds a bit too heavy then you could always grab a fruit salad or a simple sandwich to fill any gaps in your belly until lunch, everything is freshly made and of top quality  // Workshop Espresso – 500 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

11:00 – Enjoy the views from Sydney Tower Eye

After a quick refuel, it’s time to tackle one of the city’s major sights. The Sydney Tower Eye, which is the name given to the main observation deck of the gigantic Sydney Tower, is a must for any day trip in the city. Standing at 309 m (1,014 ft) above the streets beneath, it is the second highest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere after Auckland’s Sky Tower. After being designed by Australian architect Donald Crone the tower was completed in 1981 after five years of construction. Today this attraction features high on the itinerary of most Sydney day trips, with views from the top that continue to blow visitors minds time and again

The Sydney Tower Eye portion of the tower sits on the main observation deck of the structure on level four. Located at 250 m (820 ft) above sea level, it is here that visitors can take in the magnificent views of the entire city, with the harbour particularly spellbinding from above. Quite recently the Sydney Tower Eye was given the honour of hosting Australia’s first and only 4D Cinema. Now, visitors can experience this state of the art installation as a film about the city exposes them to synchronised bouts of wind, fire and ice throughout

For an extra cost, you can take the famous Skywalk, an adrenaline-laced outdoor tour of the tower. Although not for the fainthearted, the Skywalk is a unique attraction that shouldn’t be missed by any thrill seekers taking a day trip in Sydney. The other three floors of the tower open to the public are occupied by different dining options whose views make them a popular choice with locals and tourists alike. On level one is 360 Bar and Dining, a revolving restaurant with magnificent vistas of Sydney. Next is a buffet restaurant where the views are likewise stunning, with the third floor taking in an enormous events space  // Sydney Tower Eye – 100 Market St, Sydney NSW 2000

12:30 – Enjoy lunch with a punch at The Spice Room

Australia’s proximity to Asia means that visitors can enjoy an incredible range of delicious, authentic food during their day trip in Sydney. At The Spice Room, classic Indian cuisine is interpreted with a modern perspective to produce elegantly unique food that never compromises on impact. Perched in the picturesque Circular Key area of the city, this restaurant is all about melding tradition with the contemporary. The building itself is magnificent, styled as a classic Indian Haveli mansion, the decor is resplendent with carved niches, engraved iron doors and stunning tile work

A tranquil atmosphere is enhanced by the use of a soft colour scheme, with much of the restaurant decked out in muted beige tones, just like a Haveli. The views are equally as lovely, taking in the local segment of the harbour area, on sunny days especially this place is a dream. Of course, the food here is very much the main event. One of the most interesting sections on the menu is the street food on offer, with Indian favourites like samosas and kathi rolls given a makeover and served to diners in an elegant, modern style

Next there are the main plates, with goat, beef, chicken, lamb and seafood all featuring in various divine curries and dry dishes, too. Vegetarians won’t have a problem, with dozens of dishes on the menu dedicated solely to humble yet delicious vegetables. There’s a real Tandoori grill, which is always a good omen at any Indian restaurant, whilst another bonus here is that all products used to create the incredible food are Australian, meaning your meal will be as fresh as possible. A truly top quality restaurant, bringing together the best of both Australia and India in beautiful surrounds, the reasonable prices at The Spice Room won’t bruise your wallet too much, which is yet another reason that this place takes the lunch spot on your Sydney day trip  // The Spice Room – The Quay Building, 2 Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000

14:00 – Visit the iconic Sydney Opera House

When Danish architect Jørn Utzon was given commission to design the Sydney Opera House, it was perhaps with a little playfulness that he composed it’s iconically spiky silhouette. However he could surely not have known that over forty years after it’s completion, the building would remain as one of the world’s most instantly recognisable and celebrated structures. Today, over eight million people every year visit this marvel of modern architecture in the Bennelong Point area of Sydney, making it prime territory for the third major activity of this Sydney day trip

Although this UNESCO World Heritage site is indeed famous for its Opera shows, the Sydney Opera House is actually home to four resident theatre and performing arts companies, including Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Together, these companies make up the bulk of the more than 1,500 performances that take place at the Sydney Opera House annually, a figure which makes it by far Australia’s busiest performing arts venue

The iconic expressionist design of the building is actually the result of a seriously problematic construction process, which saw both time limit and budget overrun massively as well as the eventual resignation of Utzon, the building’s architect. Today though, this is all in the past, as the Sydney Opera House enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s most impressive structures of any kind. The series of so called shells that cover the building are what give its unique personality, with over 1,000,000 tiles used in their construction. Inside, the immense concert hall holds over 2,500 spectators, with another five smaller halls bringing the buildings entire capacity to over 5,500. A mandatory factor in ay true Sydney Day Trip, this spectacular building is a testament to the potential of the human imagination that’s set right amid the city harbour  // Sydney Opera House – Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000

16:00 – Take a pit-stop at La Renaissance Café Patisserie

A pretty pocket of French class in Australia’s most cosmopolitan city, La Renaissance Café Patisserie is the perfect place to catch a little rest during a busy afternoon. Specialising in excellent coffee and even better sweet treats, this place is ideal if you skipped dessert earlier and are craving a hit of some sugary goodness. The decor of this tiny café brings to mind those charming little places that dot the French countryside and supply local communities with all manner of delicious pastries. The difference is that it’s located in a hip quarter of Sydney known as the rocks and the clientele is much more bourgeois-bohemian than salt of the earth villagers

Take a seat in the gorgeous private courtyard and pretend you’re in Montmartre or Saint-Germain for a while, grabbing a coffee with your tart, cake or whatever else it might be that you like the look of. There’s certainly enough choice here to please even the fussiest of day trippers. They specialise in macaron, the crispy, chewy little discs of delight that seem to have exploded into foodie fame over recent years in particular. Try the classic Vanilla or Pistachio flavour, or if that’s not your thing then head over the cakes and take your pick. All are excellent yet the Strawberry Tart is of particularly good quality, the pastry crumbly and the filling at once unctuous and refreshing

Not got much of a sweet tooth? No fear, La Renaissance also bake their own pies and other savoury treats fresh every day, with their Boeuf Bourguignon number outrageously good. Whether you choose to eat at this adorable little café or simply take a coffee and enjoy the tranquil courtyard seating area, it’s certain that any visitor here will be treated with the utmost care by the attentive staff, who leave guests feeling re-energised after a trip this excellent establishment  // La Renaissance Café Patisserie47 Argyle St, The Rocks NSW 2000

17:00 – Explore The Rocks and Sydney Harbour

Now it’s time to explore what is maybe Sydney’s most historic district, The Rocks. So called because of its multitude of local sandstone buildings, the area has been around since the 18th century and was once home to the city’s red light district and slum areas. Nowadays The Rocks is experiencing something of a renaissance, with cafés, bars and other cultural hot spots popping up all over its heritage-laden streets

Although far from completely gentrified, the Rocks is today one of the city’s main tourist centres. Visitors come to gaze at the historic buildings and charming street scenes, whilst plenty of souvenir and craft shops in the area keep people dipping in and out with their charming displays. At weekends is the Rock market, where proprietors of everything from bric-a-bric to artisanal soaps come to ply their trade to a mixed crowd of young urbanites, locals and tourists. Another of charming feature that’s particular to The Rocks is the area’s collection of historic pubs, which claim to be among the oldest in Sydney. If you find yourself with some spare time, see where the sailors used to spend their well-earned shore leave

Just adjacent to the area is Sydney Harbour, the city’s beating heart where visitors can jump on and off various ferries to get a better look at the area from its crystalline waters. The views are spectacular from the nearby Sydney Theatre Company, whilst at sunset, the district’s various marinas and walkways come alive with street performers of all ilk including musicians, dancers, poets and just about everything else that it is possible to imagine. Catch some sun as the day winds down at this delightfully picturesque segment of the city centre, a great way to continue your Sydney day trip  // Sydney HarbourThe Rocks, NSW 2000

18:30 – Experience the majesty of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Since 1932 this iconic arch bridge has graced the Sydney Harbour, stretching from the city’s central business district (CBD) across to the North Shore area. To understand its immensity, it’s worth knowing that the Sydney Harbour Bridge contains eight road lanes, two rail tracks, one pedestrian track and a cycleway. It is this size coupled with the bridge’s iconic design and breathtaking location that make it an essential part of every Sydney tourist’s itinerary. Measuring 134 m (440 ft) from top to sea level, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the planet’s tallest steel arch bridge

This means that the views from atop the bridge are truly spectacular, and visitors can experience them by taking part in the BridgeClimb, a dizzying expedition with qualified professionals that takes participants to the top of the bridge. It is one of the most popular activities for Sydney day trips, giving visitors both the beauty of the view as well as a serious kick of adrenaline, which the Aussies can’t seem to get enough of. For those day trippers without the adrenaline junkie gene there’s always the slightly less spectacular but nonetheless gorgeous views offered at the Southern Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Not only are the vistas lovely, yet inside there is a small museum that pays homage to the workers who built the bridge, an interesting way to pass a few minutes and learn something about the construction of this almighty landmark and dizzying feat of engineering. Affectionately known to locals as “The Coathanger” due to its shape, the Sydney Harbour bridge is perhaps, along with the adjacent Opera House, Australia’s most resonant symbol. Visitors to the city can enjoy this stunning arch bridge from all angles of the city, yet a visit to its peaks or at least the Southern Pylon is a mandatory stop on our Sydney day trip  // Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW

19:30 – Indulge with dinner at the divine Est. Restaurant

This place exudes class, offering modern French-fusion cuisine in a setting of timeless elegance. From the decor to the menu to the incredibly professional staff, Est. is certainly one of the city’s most respected gastronomic establishments. Renowned chef Paul Doyle cooks up innovative yet classically inspired dishes at this award winning restaurant, where this Sydney day trip stops off to refuel ahead of an evening filled with festivities

The grand, light-filled dining room adds a tone of luxury to the place, almost resemblant of an ancient greek villa with its towering white columns and use of pristine cotton throughout. The rest of the space exudes modern, minimal style with enormous windows and touches of steel giving Est. a contemporary feel. Even the quality of the cutlery and glassware here mirrors the restaurant’s philosophy of considered design and attention to detail. The highlight however, is the incredible food at Est. that will have you remembering this place long after you leave town. A melange of Australian produce, French execution and contemporary presentation, Est. is at the forefront of Sydney’s dining scene, having won numerous awards from newspapers and societies across both Australia and the globe. It is by no means cheap here, but the quality and originality of the cuisine are worth every penny and all things considered, there is great value for money to be had 

Highlights include the starter of raw kingfish, radish, nectarine, yuzu kosho, toasted wakame and shiso, a Japanese-inspired dish of unbridled elegance that makes use of the areas incredibly produce. The main course here is just as good, with slow cooked pork jowl, beurre bosc pear, parsnip, sherry vinegar and hazelnut is perhaps the best, most indulgent of them all. For those with a sweet tooth, the coconut sorbet, black sesame, passionfruit curd, pineapple, coconut caramel and tarragon (yes, that is all one dish!) somehow manages to be authentically Australian and deeply oriental all at once. At Est. visitors will experience a restaurant representative of the city’s top class dining scene whilst enjoying a meal that will live long in the memory  // Est – 1, Establishment/252 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

21:00 – Get cultural at the Sydney Theatre Company

Thought the Opera House was the best place in town to see a show? Guess again. Whilst certainly Sydney’s most glamorous performing arts centre, it comes a distant second to the Sydney Theatre Company as a showcase of Australia’s grass roots theatrical talent. To start off the nighttime segment of this jam packed Sydney day trip, the Sydney Theatre Company is the ideal way to end the day’s activities with a touch of class

Established in December 1978, the Sydney Theatre Company has since been at the forefront of Australian arts. Showcasing the best of local, national and international talent, both emerging and well established, this slick events space in the Walsh Bay area of town plays host to all manner of theatrical productions. Set into a 19th-century maritime building, the structure is today a wonderful example of the Australian ability to fuse told with new, tradition with innovation. From Pulitzer prize-winning writers to little known local up and comers, it is a truly democratic line-up here, be sure to check the theatre website for listings and tickets beforehand

There’s also a gorgeous bar inside the building, ideal for pre-show or post-show drinks, or perhaps both. The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf (the bar’s official title) is a huge open space playing hip music and offering gorgeous views from its enormous windows. The staff and clientele are, as you might expect, very artsy indeed, though as friendly as you would expect in this friendly city. There’s a lengthy wine menu as well as some cracking cocktails here. Drop by for an icy glass of Cabernet before the show and grab yourself a cocktail afterwards, because why not? This is, after all, your Sydney day trip. Enjoy the show  // Sydney Theatre Company – The Wharf, Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW 2000

22:30 – Sip on some truly fine liquor at The Baxter Inn

Oozing with an underground cool, this bar is home to perhaps Sydney’s most diverse selection of whiskies. Everything from Scotch, to Irish to Japanese produced amber can be found at this hip dockside institution, and a visit here is the best way to keep things revved up on your Sydney day trip. The decor is classic Americana, complete with worn out old sports posters and booths fashioned out of oak wood. The bare brick walls and ambient lighting add a touch of comfort to proceedings whilst the clientele is a refreshing mix of moustache-waxing urbanites, in-the-know professionals and connoisseurs of every ilk

It’s loud without being overbearing, a constant hum fills this bar which is exactly what we’re looking for to get our night out started. The characters here are as friendly as they are well dressed, so get chatting and make some new friends in this cosmopolitan yet convivial establishment. And then of course, there are the drinks. Served up by dashing barmen, the cocktails here are outrageously good and the skill of the boys making them is worth buying one just to see. They know them all here, classic and cutting edge, or visitors can simply describe what it is they’re looking for and they’ll whip something up in no time at all

One tip; try something with whisky. That’s because The Baxter Inn is practically overflowing with the stuff. Hundreds of bottles of whisky, all of different prices and origins, line the back of the bar area like the crowd at a cricket match. To really get a taste of what this place is about, ask for a glass of whisky first so that you can savour its refined flavours. Then, get yourself a cocktail with more of the good stuff thrown in there. You might never see a collection like this again, so make the most of it  // The Baxter Inn – Basement, 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000

23:59 – Let loose at the energetic Chinese Laundry

The climax of your Sydney day trip happens here, at one of the city’s coolest and most atmospheric nightclubs, Chinese Laundry. For years one of the most happening venues in town, Chinese Laundry today boasts institutional status among Sydney’s nightclubs, thanks in no small part to the venue’s sprawling size and it’s ability to attract some of the biggest names in house, electro and techno. Consisting of three huge rooms and a massive outdoor courtyard, Chinese Laundry is a behemoth of a nightclub. The clientele is mostly 21-40 year old’s who are quite often deeply into their music. This is because the acts who play at this nightclub are only the most exciting

Booming out the sounds of local up and coming DJs as well as headline international acts, the sound system here is of the highest calibre, meaning Chinese Laundry attracts the city’s electronic music lovers by the droves. That’s not to say that it’s pretentious here. On the other hand, the atmosphere is relaxed yet just glamorous and exclusive enough to make all visitors feel like V.I.P’s at Chinese Laundry. Whilst drinks are not cheap, it’s the ambience of this place that puts it in prime position on this Sydney day trip 

Dance the night away to the sounds of some of the planet’s best selectors and producers here, because that’s what everyone comes for. Sure, the people are beautiful, but they’re all too busy having the time of their life to be posing. Check their website for listings, there’s something different going on at Chinese Laundry every night of the week. Whether your tastes lie in dub, house, hip-hop or even drum n bass, there’s something to cater for your tastes here. Flitter between the various rooms and outdoor areas here and finish your Sydney day trip with a bang  // Chinese Laundry – 111 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000

We mapped out your day trip in Sydney

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Sydney

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

The city of Sydney in Australia is perfect for people who love to be active. Combing beaches and coastal views make this city gorgeous. During your Sydney day trips, explore nature at Sydney Harbor National Park, Royal National Park, or Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park. Whale-watching occurs from May to November and is a popular attraction. Take a costal walk from Bondi to Coogee or cheer on the National Rugby League. Hang out with animals at the Taronga Zoo or spend your days by the harbor, discovering the history of Sydney’s many islands

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a huge draw for tourists, and you can climb it! See an opera performance at the Sydney Opera House too. Swim and snorkel at Clovelly Beach or dive into Gordon’s Bay for the great “underwater nature trail”

Barbecues are a very Australian thing, so make sure you have a barbecued snag on the grill before you leave town. If you’re in the mod for something more exotic, try kangaroo or crocodile. Hamburgers with beets on top are also very popular

While is Australia, if someone asks you to bring your “bathers”, they mean your swimsuit. “Good on ya” is slang for “Good job” and “How ya going?” is similar to “How are you?” or “What’s up?” If something is “Ripper”, it’s definitely good

Summer in Sydney lasts from December to February, with temperatures in the 60s to 70s. Fall (March to May) is mild with low humidity and winter (June to August) brings cooler weather in the 40s and 50s. Spring (September to November) is warm

The Sydney Airport is a 13 minutes train ride away from the city and tickets are around $13. There are also many taxis to take you into the city for around $45 to $55 or hop on the hop for around $2.40

Sydney is very bike friendly and extremely walkable; you may not need a car or public transit. If you do prefer motor vehicles, zip around town in a taxi or take the bus to see the many sights

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides