With a country the size of Europe, a million incredible things to do, and no amount of time long enough to do it all, it’s no surprise that Sydney ends up being only a short stop for many visitors to Australia.

With only two weeks to squeeze in everything we wanted to see, I’m guilty of being one of the flying visitors to the NSW capital, having only allocated two days in the city on my recent visit.

While I’d happily return and spend a whole week there, I’m glad I got to experience some of the highlights the city has to offer. If you’re also short on time, here’s my guide on how you too can make the most of a 24-hour visit to Sydney.

The must-sees in Sydney

As any first time visitor to the city, your natural first stop will probably be the Harbour Bridge and iconic Opera House.

We stayed in a central hotel in CBD and headed straight there after dropping off our bags, only to realise the receptionist had directed us towards Darling Harbour instead – the opposite direction to Circular Quay, where we wanted to go!

Realising we’d gone the wrong way, we ended up walking back through Hyde Park and in the reverse order that I’d intended on spending our morning. But if I’d gone the right way, my recommended first stop would be the Rocks, the city’s historic area where you can go for a morning stroll and have some breakfast. After that, I’d check out the Observatory Hill Park nearby for scenic views, and get your first sight of the famous harbour and bridge.

Quick disclaimer: this is the start of the day I’d planned to have, but sadly I never made it due to lack of time going the wrong way! What I can absolutely recommend from experience though is…

From the Observatory, walk along Circular Quay to the Opera House, and stop to marvel at the beautiful harbour and postcard view of Sydney.

vic sydney harbour

It’s funny how things look different in person than in photos because, despite its name, I never realised the Opera House was made up of multiple venues, and not a single building. It’s a stunning structure nonetheless, and up close you can really appreciate the smaller details on the tiles and windows.

After admiring the Opera House, continue along the path around it which will take you into the immaculate Botanical Gardens.

sydney botanical gardens

sydney botanical gardens

Stick to the route right around the water until you reach Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, for the best view back to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, in one picture-perfect spot.

sydney mrs macquaries viewpoint

When you’re done getting the perfect picture, you can spend some more time in the pristine gardens, before heading back to CBD or Circular Quay train station. Next, get a train or walk to Town Hall in Sydney, before changing onto the service for Bondi Junction.

Bondi Beach

From Bondi Junction station, look for the 300, 301, 302 or 333 bus which will take you directly to what is definitely one of the best beaches in the world.

bondi beach

I’ve seen plenty of photos of this beach, but being there in person seriously took my breath away. The golden sand, the blue sky, the sound of crashing waves, the hot sun on my skin – this was my Australian fantasy, and it totally lived up to the hype. Sadly though, it was somewhat short-lived (you’ll see why later).

By now you’re probably hungry from all the walking in Sydney, so stop for some lunch in one of the nearby restaurants, or grab some fish and chips to eat on the beach.

On the hill towards the right of the beach, you’ll find Bondi Icebergs, an outdoor swimming pool that’s been built into the side of the ocean. I’m pretty sure this is the coolest pool in the world, but if you don’t think so, please tell me what is and where I can find it! Bondi Icebergs is open to the public and costs only $6.50 for a dip.

bondi icebergs

Spend some time swimming and sunbathing here (or sunbaking, as the Aussies call it), and enjoy being on one of the world’s most famous beaches. I’d dedicate plenty of time here to relax because it’ll be hard to tear yourself away. But you definitely should, because up next is…

The coastal walk

Once rested and nearing sunburnt, head left from the Bondi Icebergs pool for the start of the Bondi to Coogee walk.

With well-maintained pathways running 6km along the coast, this walk offers absolutely stunning views from start to finish. Along the way are also some smaller beaches you can stop to enjoy, or take a break – you’ll need to climb some stairs on the route, but it’s not too challenging overall.

bondi to coogee

bondi to coogee walk

I’d hoped to do the whole walk to Coogee, but my first encounter with the Australian rain (and not the last) sadly dampened my plans. You can see the ominous cloud looming in from my photo below, but I couldn’t capture the forked lightning which soon followed!

bondi to coogee walk

If you’re also unfortunate enough to get caught in the rain, or just don’t fancy the full route, you can end your walk halfway at Bronte Beach instead. From here, you can get a bus all the way back to Sydney CBD, in time for a quick shower and dinner in the city.

bronte beach

And there you have it, a busy and full day of sightseeing, relaxing, and hiking in Sydney – all for free!

Have I missed anything? What else would you squeeze in for 24 hours in Sydney?

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