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christmas tree, people

How to spend Christmas in Sydney on a budget

Silly season can take a chunk out of your savings and when you’re spending it exploring a new place, it basically drains your bank account. Don’t freak out if you still want to celebrate the festivities – we’ve made you a list and checked it twice. There are heaps of options for where to be during the festive season, all conveniently close to our Wake Up! Sydney Central location. 

Wallet gif
(Source: GIPHY)

WAKE UP! SYDNEY CENTRAL 

Spending silly season making new friends is the best solution for your budget! Wake Up! is all about the festive spirit and is absolutely unbeatable when it comes to indulging guests in the ultimate festivities. Even before Christmas Eve there are so many things to do at the hostel with friends you’ve just made.

There are pub crawls, pizza nights and parties down at Side Bar that are unmissable. As an added bonus, there is even a champagne breakfast on Christmas Day. Take a minute to just imagine it – waking up to a complimentary glass of bubbly on the most wonderful day of the year? (Don’t mind if I do). After a champagne breakfast, you can join the troops as we hit the beach and celebrate the best festive event, summer style.

ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS 

Walk a little further from the Opera House and you’ll find yourself in lush greenery next to the harbour. The gardens are free to explore, but if you want a more educational experience, there are events on offer here. Take time out of your day to be immersed in nature, have a cute picnic and get lost in this massive garden. Follow the path along the water and be led to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. It has beautiful views of the harbour and is a stunning sunset spot that’ll blow your Instagram game out of the water. 

THE ROCKS 

Walk towards the Harbour Bridge and deeper into The Rocks. Get up and close with the bridge at Hickson Road Reserve. The Reserve is a popular spot for locals and photographers alike, with stunning views of both the Harbour and the Sydney Opera House. Bring your food and rest in the reserve for the greatest aesthetic festive picnic with a view. Saunter around The Rocks and find art installations in streets and lanes, or check out their many specialized retailers. Go on a Friday or the weekend and catch The Rocks Markets, with artisan wares and plenty of street food.

SYDNEY OBSERVATORY 

Just a 15 minute walk away from Circular Quay is the best spot for sweeping views of the city that’ll knock your socks off. Sydney Observatory and its surrounding park, Observatory Hill, are perfect for Instagram-savvy travellers. Not only does it have the ultimate view, but Sydney Observatory is open for general admission. Whether you want to go on a self-guided tour of the astronomy spot, or pay a little extra and take a peek at the night sky near Christmas, the Observatory has you covered. 

LAVENDER BAY AND LUNA PARK 

If you don’t want to stake out money for rides but still want to know what the hype is about, then take advantage of free entry and walk around Luna Park. Go for a dip in North Sydney Pool next door or explore around the outside of the park. Walk deeper into Lavender Bay and find the Lavender Bay Ferry Wharf, with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop. Escape from the city without leaving it; find the coveted Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden and let its lavish, tropical feel transport you to another world. 

HYDE PARK AND ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL 

Close by is Hyde Park, a park smack bang in the centre of the city. The park, along with St. Mary’s Cathedral, are a classic spot for a sunny summer day. In the park is Archibald Fountain, an extravagant fountain and a tourist hub with the Sydney Tower Eye in the background. Take pictures, relax by the fountain or explore the greenery of the park before moving on to St Mary’s Cathedral.  

QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING 

A short walk from our Central location, or a 1min train ride away from the station, is Queen Victoria Building. Immerse yourself in history and walk amongst the retailers who have made their home in this historical building. Treat yourself with a sweet snack or just enjoy a cup of coffee while people-watching. Right underneath the building are more shops that lead deeper into the building and towards another shopping centre. This is the perfect day trip if you want to soak in the history of Sydney whilst still satisfying the inner shopaholic. Walk around and admire the vibrant decorations while you window-shop. Catch it at the right time and you might find a Christmas tree or two! 

DARLING HARBOUR

Darling Harbour is the best location to be if you want to celebrate on a budget. There are plenty of shops around the Harbour, but bring a bite to eat while sitting and admiring the views at Cockle Bay Wharf. There are plenty of Christmas decorations to get you into the celebrating mood, so take your time to admire the festivities. Stay for the night and witness the free summer fireworks on Saturdays.

Darling Harbour
Image: Darling Harbour (Source: @darlingharbour)

CIRCULAR QUAY 

Just a short train ride from our Wake Up! Sydney location, Circular Quay is budget wonderland. Walk around the harbour, hop on a ferry to somewhere new or pick a direction and explore. The tourist hub is always embracing the Christmas spirit, with some decorations and special events. It should be less crowded on Christmas Day, so take the time to walk towards the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks. If the sails of the Sydney Opera House are more appealing, then take the trek there and spend a few minutes soaking in the city on the steps of the Opera House.

STALLS, MALLS AND MORE 

If you would rather explore the streets alone, there’s plenty of free entertainment in the city centre. From Pitt Street Mall to Martin Place, with giant Christmas trees and fireworks at night. Sydney takes its festivities seriously, with food and entertainment to keep everyone happy so there’s always something on offer. Pop into Green Square Christmas Fair and get lost in their 30 market stalls, join Australia’s largest free Christmas concert at The Domain or have a sing along at Carols By the Sea in Bondi.

Christmas Light Rail tunnel
Image: Christmas Light Rail tunnel in Sydney (Source: @phebrown)

SO MUCH TO DO

Don’t spend silly season counting your coins; pack your water bottle and head out! Here is the ultimate cheat sheet for places to be and things to do when you’re celebrating the festive season on a budget. Pack plenty of food and make sure to check retail hours if you’re looking to eat out on Christmas Day. And if you’re too lazy to go out on Christmas Day, you know that Wake Up! has only the best activities planned for you.


by April Maung

A Sydney-based journalist keen to walk the streets of Tokyo and explore Parisian cafes. Absolutely in love with cat videos and chocolate-filled donuts. Catch her on Instagram at @aprilyoon.

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