Sydney, Australia is the biggest and most transient city of the nation, and it is easy to see why it is one of the most popular destinations for both international and domestic travelers.
Whether you are planning an extended visit or only 3 days in Sydney, you won’t be disapointed with the discover accessible beaches, bars and warm (ish) weather. This scenic city attracts all walks of life.
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Of course, due to the popularity and size of Sydney, it’s also on the expensive side. There’s a glamour to certain aspects of Sydney, and the famous Sydney landmarks but with careful consideration, it is still possible to explore Sydney, Australia on a budget.
Each time I have traveled up from my hometown of Melbourne to Sydney, I am immediately struck by the warmer, sunnier weather, spectacular harbor, easy public transport and incredible brunch spots.
It’s also worth noting that with the glamour and business side to Sydney there is sometimes a superficial element. But my experience is there are plenty of bars and restaurants outside of these pockets which offer a unique and authentic experience of the city.
*UPDATE JULY 2020. These classic Sydney restaurants and bars listed below are delivering direct to your door during COVID restrictions. Scroll down for further info!
TAMALERIA AND MEXICAN DELI
THE ROYAL GEORGE
FRANKIE’S PIZZA Live Music has returned, with the usual COVID precautions.
Which poses the question, how to know the best places to go in Sydney, to try all these delicious food and drink options, and at reasonable prices?
Sydney is a spectacular city on the world map, don’t let your travel budget get in the way of discovering all Sydney has to offer, including Sydney landmarks and the glamorous side of Sydney. Here are some tips and starting points below to navigating Sydney, Australia on a budget.
WHERE TO EAT
Key areas for brunch are Surrey Hills, Darlinghurst and Potts Point as a starting point. These are all easy to get to from Darling Harbour and the CBD by train. Wandering through Surry Hills and surrounding suburbs on a sunny Saturday is one of the best past times in Sydney. Delicious brunch spots include:
REUBEN HILLS (Surry Hills)
Strong on coffee, this sunny cafe was previously a coffee roaster and is a staple for Surry Hills locals.
GYPSY ESPRESSO (Potts Point)
Grab a coffee or a baguette with extra spice and you’ll be glad you stopped by for an extra twist.
BILLS (Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Bondi Beach)
Not the cheapest (but still mid range prices). The toasties, cereals, bloody marys and bellini’s are part of the unique menu. Need we say more?
FRANKIES PIZZA (CBD)
At $6 a slice, this pizza bar is on of the best places to go in Sydney, for a night out playing pool and watching bands. Craft beers, ciders, along with pinball machines and live music make this the perfect grungy night out.
These are not your basic and ordinary pizzas either. Choose from margherita and 4 cheese to vegan pizza, potato pizza and the classic meats lovers pizza.
GOURMET NOODLE HOUSE (Berala)
Most of the noodle dishes at Gourmet Noodle house are between $10 and $15.
Gourmet Noodle House is known for its authentic food, quick service, friendly waiters and cosy atmosphere. Note there is also a takeaway menu. Even when this dinner spot is busy you’re a served quickly. Note, cash only and suitable for kids!
TAMALERIA AND MEXICAN DELI (Dulwich Hill)
Tamaleria and Mexican Deli Zomato
Authentic Mexican on Marrickville road by Rosa Cienfuegos, this restaurant is an institution for the mexican food lover who is looking for next level mexican experience.
The tacos, tamales and nachos are all served with incredible flavours, and at a reasonable price.
Annd, when you’ve put aside a bit extra $:
LOVE.FISH (Darling Harbour)
Love Fish is a reasonably priced and popular restaurant, due to it’s ethically sourced local seafood and notable casual atmosphere. The salmon appears to be the most reviewed and acclaimed dish on the menu, not to mention the octopus, crunchy fries and salads.
MAYA MASALA (Surry Hills)
A vegetarian, indian restaurant comprising fresh and tasty plant based food at reasonable prices.
Specialising in “seasonal vegetables, house blended spices and handmade desserts” the meals here are served in a casual atmosphere.
This family run restaurant was established in 1988. Starters begin under $10, and mains between $10 and $20.
Related Post: 20 Best Eats in Melbourne, Australia
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WHERE TO DRINK
Things to do in sydney at night.
Here is a list of some of the best places to go in Sydney at night, to grab a drink and take in the nightlife.
Between the high class new bars constantly popping up in the city, where to locate a drink at a standard price in a relaxed atmosphere, without wading through the sea of after work drinkers, only to pay $20 per cocktail?
Here are some starting recommendations below, for the best bars while in Sydney, Australia on a budget:
THE ROYAL GEORGE (CBD)
Italian Prosecco for $10 a glass to Chandon at 412 a glass, this upmarket venue owned by the same people as the popular IVY, the drinks are very well proced and in the CBD merely blocks from Darling Harbour.
Their website includes a full menu with well priced nibbles and share plates from $10.
Located in the George Street Sydney, a warm and dimly lit atmosphere is welcoming and worth your $.
CARGO BAR (Darling Harbour)
Located on King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour, the drinks here range from 10-$12 by the glass.
Known for its tasty meals, views, casual vibe and fast service. Not always overcrowded, this is another bar worth checking out in the Darling Harbour district.
THE ROOK (CBD)
Located in York Street Sydney, this bar is down to earth but with spectacular views from high above York street in central Sydney, making this one of the best places to go in Sydney for a drink.
A rooftop bar with a “Rooky” happy hour 4-6pm Monday to Saturday to grab a beer or wine for $5 or Sprits for $10. Stick around 6-7pm if you’re still keen, and they offer $8 Gins.
BEST SHOPPING ON A BUDGET
Shopping in Sydney, Australia on a budget is definitely possible.
If your travel budget doesn’t cover high end shopping and spending big on seasonal fashion, try some markets for a more individual look, or take in the culture and atmosphere- who doesn’t love a bustling market in a new city?
BONDI MARKETS (Bondi Beach)
Vintage fashion and keepsakes, second hand books, or food and flowers to nourish and brighten your day. Every Sunday at Bondi Beach Public school, 10am- 4pm
SURRY HILLS MARKETS (Surry Hills)
What better way to see Sydney Australia on a budget, than by visiting iconic markets?
Years ago, while staying for 3 days in Sydney, and wandering around inner city Sydney, the sun was out and we stumbled upon the Surry Hills Markets.
Immediately, we could see this community vibe and huge amount of stalls were worth checking out, and were quickly absorbing the atmosphere while searching for a bargain.
The stalls which drew us in were the vintage clothes and homemade goods. A lovely escape from the money and shine of the harbour, and a peek into the locals and their community.
Located in Shannon Reserve, Crown street Surry Hills, there are more than 60 stalls and a community cafe. This market has been in action since 1981 and know what they are doing.
Other stalls include antiques, books and recycled goods. This market is a definite to add to your list if you love a well established market and a bargain.
Even wandering around the atmosphere alone and grabbing a coffee will give you a sense of the community of this area.
SYDNEY VEGAN MARKET (Moore Park)
Open on the 3rd sunday of the month, this market is accessible for all those on a budget, has free parking and stalls selling products less than $10.
This market openly aim to challenge the expensive side of veganism. The market impressively has up to 130 businesses contributing per month.
A stage with local music sets the atmosphere, with stalls selling clothing, books, plants, fresh vegan food and drinks, eco supplies and homewares.
PADDY’S MARKETS (Haymarket)
These iconic markets sell fresh produce, clothing, homewares, jewellery and the list goes on. Accessible by train to Town Hall station or central station)
Enjoy browsing souveniers, key chains, clothing, and head upstairs for coffee and food.
Related Post: Broome, WA on a budget
ATTRACTIONS & TIPS
7. HARBOUR BRIDGE
Instead of paying to climbing the iconic Sydney landmark, you could walk across the pedestrian footpath (free) and climb the Harbour Bridge southern pylon for $15. From the top, there’s 360 degree views, and information and history at each level on the construction of the bridge.
6. OPERA HOUSE
Another iconic Sydney landmark, the Opera House is free to visit the foyers, and is one of the best places to go in Sydney.
To see a show, there a deals and offers for cheaper balcony seats (under $50).
Alternatively a drink at the Opera bar with harbour views at sunset is highly recommended!
5. BONDI ICEBERGS POOL
This famous Bondi Icebergs pool and sauna at Bondi Beach are open to the public year round. Open 6am until 6pm. Pool admission is $9 per adult and less for kids. With a swimming club which began in 1929, and the only winter “icebergs” swimming club in the world, this pool is worth the visit if in the Bondi region.
4. BONDI BEACH
There is a quality to Bondi Beach which is difficult to describe. A special place with some nostalgia and all walks of life. 8 km from the central Sydney, a visit to Bondi is well worth it for a walk along the buzzing foreshore.
If you swim, stay between the flags, as there are lifeguards patrolling the beach year round. The nearby restaurants and bars are perfect for lunch or an afternoon beer.
Related Freebie: 3 SECRET BEACH GETAWAYS AUSTRALIA
3. ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. A visit for some time out in the middle of the city, or attending one of the events the gardens are a perfect way to save some money while soaking up the Sydney culture.
If you visit Manly beach, and you will discover the reason Manly is popular. A surf beach perfect for well, surfing, gazing out to, or grabbing fish and chips nearby you’ll feel like you’re on summer vacation only a short ferry trip from Sydney CBD.
Claimed as one of Australia’s “leading Art Museums”, NSW Art galley has almost everything is free here! Except some of the specialty art exhibitions.
Well worth the visit if the weather is cooler and you’re an art lover.
1. SYDNEY TOWER EYE OBSERVATION DECK
The Sydney Tower Eye observation deck costs under $25 per ticket, with a view from the city’s highest building, harbour, its bridge, the Opera House, and the sweeping 360 degree views at daytime or night time for all the shining lights of the city.
Binoculars are set up to see 100 kms in every direction, or zoom into sweeping spectacular views. See towards the the Blue Mountains, the blue Pacific Ocean, the north and south coastlines, and their surrounds.
HOW TO GET AROUND SYDNEY
Each time I have caught the train in Sydney I am pleasantly surprised how easy and seamless it appears to be to get around the central part of the city. Double decker trains assist with space and comfort and they seems to arrive often and on time.
Compare this to the Sydney traffic gridlock and you’ll save heaps of time and money taking public transport. The easy maps and train to the airport also add to the city experience and saving the budget.
WHERE TO STAY ON A BUDGET
Where to stay in Sydney Australia on a budget, while being safe and able to access all the city has to offer? Here are some recommendations as a starting point:
DEVERE HOTEL (Potts Point)
$60-70 per night
Clean and accessible, this budget hotel is located Potts Point, inner Sydney and close to cafes and nightlife. Helpful Staf
WOOLBROKERS HOTEL (Pyrmont)
Close to waterfront Darling Harbour Deals from $65 per night for a double room
AIRBNB (All Sydney)
You get way more for you dollar on airbnb. Ensure you choose a central area or close to where you’ll be spending most days and nights, to avoid travelling too far at all hours and stay safe.
Airbnb have deals from $30 and up per night for sunny, studio apartments close to the CBD or other lively locations such as Darlinghurst or Darling Harbour.
Sydney, Australia on a budget is very possible. With careful planning and weighing up where you’d like to stay, eat, drink and explore, the city and surrounding suburbs have a liveliness and provide plenty of options for backpackers, to holidaying families, group travelers, day trippers and every traveler in between.
Whether it be 3 days in Sydney, overnight or and extended visit, researching ahead of time with at least some sort of plan, will prevent you from being high and dry, and paying top prices out of necessity.
Saving some hard cash for the more special activities will pay off and you are guaranteed to enjoy your trip all the more. Happy travels!