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A Perfect 24 Hours in Sydney

Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Sydney! It’s a lucky traveler who gets to spend 24 Hours in Sydney. Sydney is such a disgustingly fun city that you could do nothing but sit at Sydney Harbor all day staring at Chris Hemsworth lookalikes walking by and still get your money’s worth.

But if you manage to get off your duff and do some sightseeing, you will find amazing Asian art, cemeteries, jumping koalas, and tourists in dire need of a history lesson.

These are just some of the best things to do with 24 hours in Sydney, but there is so much more to explore. Come with me, and though we might not get to make out with a Hemsworth, not even Larry Hemsworth, we’ll still have a whole bunch of fun.

Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Sydney is this excellent Sydney harbor cruise with tons of amazing reviews.

Or if you want to explore all the best activities in Sydney, check this search engine right here to find the best deals!

24 hours in sydney

24 Hours in Sydney

Where to Stay?

Sydney is a large city with an excellent public transportation system, so you can stay pretty much anywhere and still get around. However, I do suggest staying near the harbor because that’s where the main attractions for this itinerary are. Also, the harbor is damn beautiful, and you’re going to want to look at it as much as you can.

That’s why I recommend staying at the QT Sydney. It’s a perfect distance from everywhere in Sydney: Bondi Beach, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and of course the harbor. The hotel has an excellent staff and facilities like a spa, a restaurant, and a cafe. I’m sure you will be very comfortable here.

If you want to book a room at this hotel, just click here.

If you want to book a different hotel for your 24 hours in Sydney, just click here! This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay for your 24 hours in Sydney. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

24 hours in sydney

24 Hours in Sydney

Morning: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

We begin our 24 hours in Sydney with a truly special destination. The Museum of Contemporary Art is probably my favorite contemporary art museum in the world. First off, it is FREE, and second, it has regular docent led tours and they are FREE. The word free is probably my favorite word in the English language, unless it is followed by the word Willy.

Because it’s a contemporary art museum, their exhibits change frequently. After all, you’ve got to stay current with the contemporary art trends. This year Spiderman may be hot, but next year it’s Batman who is all the rage. There’s lots of cool/crazy works of art in the collection, but I will be happy to get you started with…

Approximately top 5: MOCA

24 Hours in Sydney
1) You must go on one of the docent led FREE tours

I was so impressed with these excellent and thoughtful tours. The docents are both knowledgeable and passionate. I highly recommend going on a tour of the collection highlights because your guide will definitely explain to you better than I can why there is a sculpture of Spiderman looking at a freaky head in the museum. Like, I could try to tell you about the artistic implications of Spiderman’s tushie, but it would just sound better with an Australian accent.

If you’re really motivated, you can take another tour of any special exhibitions going on. I can’t possibly predict what those would be because I am not a contemporary art psychic.

24 hours in sydney
2) Worth exploring? by Richard Bell

Bell is an Aboriginal artist, and according to our guide, he uses documents in his works of art. In this piece, he uses one of the Certificates of Authenticity that sometimes come with a work of art produced by an Aboriginal artist to question the ways in which white Australians have claimed ownership over the Aboriginal population.

After all, why should an Aboriginal artist have to produce a document for a white buyer in order to prove that their work is authentic? Do white artists have to produce such documents to prove that their work is “authentic”?

I knew almost nothing about race relations in Australia when I arrived to spend 24 hours in Sydney, and Bell’s work made me curious to learn more about the subject. I always say a good work of art is one that makes you ask questions that stick with you, and if you feel likewise, don’t miss Richard Bell.

24 hours in Sydney
3) The door was open by Nicolas Folland

This chandelier is the work of art I am talking about here, not the painting, and the light fixture is actually encrusted in ice. Supposedly this is meant to make the viewer think about global warming, but all I can think of is what a fancy lady you would feel like if you had a chandelier covered in ice in your apartment.

I wonder if I did something big to fight global warming that they’d give me a chandelier like this to put in my apartment. Hey, it’s worth a shot.

24 hours in sydney
4) Play connect the dots

OK, don’t actually touch these dots because I’m pretty sure they’ll kick you out of the museum. This work looks like a collection of red sticky dots, but they are actually replicas made out of, I believe, plasticine. I think this is one of those pieces that’s meant to make you ask, “What even IS ART, anyway?”

24 hours in sydney baskets
5) Explore the art of the first peoples of Australia

Perhaps the best part of the museum are the works created by contemporary Indigenous Australians. Our docent pointed out that works like these are often not considered art that belongs in a museum, because they are objects like baskets and shoes, whereas paintings and sculpture, which are more likely to be done by wealthy and educated artists, are considered worthy to place in a museum.

Now, paintings and sculptures are totally delightful, but what stick-in-the-mud would want to claim that these fabulous baskets hanging from the ceiling, looking like killer worms, don’t belong in a museum? I imagine only John Lithgow’s character from Footloose would say such a thing, and I hope the killer basket worms eat him.

24 Hours in Sydney Sydney Opera House

24 Hours in Sydney

Afternoon: Explore Sydney Harbor

After the museum, you’ll want to get some time during your 24 hours in Sydney for basking in the glow of Sydney Harbour and people watching. Sydney is famous for its beaches, which are absolutely stunning, but I have to say that I think the views from the Harbour boats are even more spectacular.

The Harbour, which spellcheck is mad at me about spelling with an “ou”, is the first thing anyone thinks of when they imagine spending time in Sydney, and there’s a ton of things to do here. Let me help you get started with…

Approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Sydney harbor

24 hours in sydney
1) See the writers walk

Begin by exploring the ground, and you will spot the Writers Walk made of medallions dedicated to various scribes, whether or not they were Australian or even thought about visiting Australia. Here’s Joseph Conrad.

Or you could spot a message left by our future alien overlords, Kang and Kodos

24 hours in sydney

The possibilities are endless!

24 hours in Sydney
2) Take a cruise around the harbor

The High Tea Tour is a pleasure cruise around Sydney Harbour that lasts about one hour and fifteen minutes, from 2:30-3:45. You have to book your tickets on the website in advance because the tour does sell out. But it’s easy to buy your tickets.

Check rates and availability right here!

A three course tea, a glass of champagne, and a pot of tea is included with the ticket. Even if eating tea is not your thing, you can still enjoy the gorgeous views of Sydney Harbour! The coolest part is getting a glimpse of Luna Park.

As a native New Yorker, I feel the need to point out that the first Luna Park was in Coney Island in our very own Brooklyn. But New Yorkers don’t mind sharing our amazing ideas with the world…

24 hours in Sydney
3) Enjoy a fancy high tea for lunch!

Though there are definitely better places than a harbor cruise for fine dining during your 24 hours in Sydney, I definitely felt like you get your money’s worth with the high tea.

You begin with assorted tea sandwiches, which included a blini with a shrimp on it. This was tasty, but I don’t think Queen Victoria would approve of blinis as tea sandwiches.

As you can see, there are two other plates on the tea tray. As is traditional, one plate had scones and the other plate had sweets on it. I liked looking at the cute little cupcakes the most, but I preferred eating the fresh fruit tart with custard. Tart with lashings of custard is truly Britain’s greatest culinary achievement.

Even though the food was tasty, the best part was the rose champagne. Rose champagne is my favoritest drink because it makes me feel like a fancy, fancy lady with a chandelier made of ice. Or more specifically, what I imagined it would be like to be a fancy, fancy lady when I was a little girl having tea parties with my stuffed cat.

24 Hour Tip

Sadly, I cannot feed you the high tea through my computer, so you’ll just have to go ahead and book the cruise if you want to try the treats for yourself.

Check rates and availability right here!

4) Visit the rocks discovery museum

No 24 hours in Sydney is complete without a little Australian history, so head on over to The Rocks. The Rocks is a historic area next to the harbor. Like everything else in Australia, The Rocks area used to be home to the Aboriginal population.

Then, after the British colonists moved in, it became a crime-ridden slum filled with prostitutes and sailors and sailor-prostitutes, like something out of a Sherlock Holmes story.

Now of course, it has been gentrified. You can get fancy coffees and buy artisanal pickles and sneakers or whatever there.

24 hours in sydney

I recommend starting at The Rocks Discovery Museum before going on to explore the neighborhood. This museum will give you a good foundation for understanding the neighborhood’s journey through time: from Aboriginal home, to den of vice and iniquity, to trendy hotspot. Actually, that sounds exactly like the history of every gentrified neighborhood ever.

The coolest things in the museum were all artifacts related to George Cribb, former resident of the Rocks. Like any good colonial Australian, George was an enterprising ex-convict. He came to Australia on a prison ship and promptly took up with another convict named Fanny.

Sadly, George was already Secretly Married, and when his wife came over from London, George gave Fanny some money and the old heave-ho. Later George’s wife died, and he remarried a woman named Sophia who later left him for his nephew. It’s like a 19th century version of Neighbours!

24 hours in sydney
5) Find amazing views!

When you are done with the Rocks Discovery Museum, spend the leisurely afternoon of your 24 hours in Sydney exploring the buildings of The Rocks on your own.

You can actually climb up the area near Sydney Harbour Bridge. (This is different from climbing the bridge itself, which looks expensive and terrifying.) Then you can explore the area from a height and get some sweet views of the harbor!

24 hours in sydney

24 Hours in Sydney

Evening: Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House has had my heart even since I watched Carmen Sandiego steal it on an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I dreamed of attending a show there.

Lucky for me, there was an event that was just perfect while I was in Sydney. This was a Greatest Hits concert of some of the most famous arias in opera history, from Carmen to La Boheme to Nessun Dorma from Turandot.

Even if you are not an opera buff, I recommend ending your 24 hours in Sydney with a concert. You don’t need to follow along with the plot because there was a humorous introduction to each song given by the director of the program.

24 hours in sydney

The singing was beautiful, and the audience even got to join in on singing the chorus to the drinking song from La Traviata. So if you go to the concert, you will be able to say that you sang at the Sydney Opera House!

The intermission was also one of the highlights of the show. This is because you get to buy some champagne and food and eat it on the balcony of the Opera House, which has spectacular views of the harbor.

Bonus! You will not need to worry about where to get dinner on the evening of your 24 hours in Sydney! And what’s classier than dining at the opera? Perhaps only eating high tea under a chandelier made of ice.

A Perfect 24 Hours in Sydney 1

24 Hours in Sydney

Tools For Travel

  • A portable cell charger so that your phone won’t die a miserable death during your 24 hours in Sydney.
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your 24 hours in Sydney
  • My favorite guide to Sydney
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds.
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take your life from blah to AMAZING!
24 hours in sydney

24 Hours in Sydney

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a beautiful box of Australian meat pies. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Sydney.

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Sydney, and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Australia at the best time of day. In fact, Expedia even helped me figure out that it was best to fly round-trip from NYC to Melbourne, and then fly from Melbourne to Sydney. Play around with their search engine and see for yourself.

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to your 24 hours in Sydney ASAP.

24 hours in sydney

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Sydney!

What would you do with 24 hours in Sydney? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Sydney right now? What’s fancier than an ice chandelier next to Spiderman’s butt? And when is Netflix Australia going to make a miniseries about the life of George Cribb? Please email me at and let me know!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in Sydney that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Sydney.

And if you’re lucky enough to visit Melbourne too, I’ve got you covered here and here.

A Perfect 24 Hours in Sydney 2
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