A Complete Guide To Sydney’s Must-Visit Museums, Galleries, Arts & Music
Ready to get your culture on in Sydney? Whether you’re a music-lover, history buff, art aficionado or a vulture for all things culture, Sydney has it all. From must-visit museums and art galleries, to iconic arts and cultural events, get ready to explore one of the world’s most unique and interesting cities with our complete guide.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Admission: Free entry. Some special exhibitions cost $.
Where: William Street in Central Sydney, close to Hyde Park.
What: Sydney’s Museum of Natural History exhibits artefacts from the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and The Americas. Permanent exhibitions include ‘200 treasures’ (which showcases ancient, rare and unique objects from the natural world) and ‘Wild Planet’ (with over 400 animals, extinct species, skeletons and fossils). Take a look at their website for current exhibitions.
Tip: Don’t miss the Indigenous Australia exhibition for an insightful account of Australia’s First Nations and the impact of ‘modern Australia’.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Admission: Free entry. Some special exhibitions cost $.
Where: Circular Quay, overlooking Sydney Opera House
What: Home to a huge collection of local and international art, Sydney MCA features over 4,000 works. There’s also a strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. If you’re an art-lover, you could easily spend hours checking out the many themed exhibitions displaying contemporary art from well-known and emerging artists.
Tip: After a wander through the stunning exhibitions, be sure to check out the rooftop cafe for a coffee or a sunset drink overlooking Sydney Opera House.
Admission: Free Entry
Where: Ultimo, close to Darling Harbour (a 5 minute walk from Wake Up! Sydney Central)
What: Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is the place to be for all things arts, science, space, innovation, and transport. Entry and exhibitions are free.
Art Gallery of NSW
Admission: All permanent and most other exhibitions are free.
Where: The Domain
What: The Art Gallery of NSW is one of Australia’s leading art galleries. With nearly 40 exhibits annually, you’ll find art featured from Australia, Europe and Asia. It also has one of the largest permanent exhibitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world.
Fun fact: The Art Gallery of NSW is celebrating their 150 year anniversary with a massive expansion called The Sydney Modern Project. This project will see a new art museum experience across two buildings next to the renowned gallery. The Sydney Modern Project is due to open in December 2022.
Australian National Maritime Museum
Where: Darling Harbour
Admission: Free entry. Special exhibitions cost $
What: One for the ocean-lovers! Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour is a centre for everything sea and maritime history in Australia. It’s home to a number of exhibitions, maritime collections and one of the world’s largest floating vessel collections. You can even jump onboard the HMB Endeavour replica to glimpse into the life of Captain Cook and his crew’s world voyage in 1768.
Hyde Park Barracks
Admission: $24 (adults)
Where: Hyde Park
What: Hyde Park Barracks is a UNESCO World-Heritage Listed museum that shares stories from Australia’s early colonial days, offering a fascinating insight into convicts’ history and its impact on Aboriginal culture.
Fun fact: It was originally built to house convicts and has since served as an immigration depot and law court.
MUSIC, COMEDY & FESTIVALS
Sydney’s Annual Mardi Gras Festival celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community with a whole host of events across three celebratory weeks. Join in the world-renowned Mardi Gras Parade, roll up to the annual Fair Day or drown yourself in glitter and dance your way through the many Mardi Gras parties that pop up in Sydney. Head to the Sydney World Pride website for dates.
When it comes to live music, you’ll find a gig to suit every taste in Sydney…every night of the week.
Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst – Inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1960 New York club, this warehouse-style venue is one of Sydney’s top live music venues.
Camelot Lounge, Marrickville – Jazz, Folk, Blues, Comedy & Cabaret… this intimate boutique venue in Marrickville offers great vibes guaranteed.
The Enmore Theatre, Newtown – The Enmore (Sydney’s oldest and longest-running live music venue in NSW) is over 110 years old. Catch awesome Aussie and International artists, and stand-up comedy here.
The Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park – The Hordern hosts world-class international artists in a huge stand-up area.
The Metro Theatre, George St – You don’t have to go far for live music. The Metro, on George St in the centre of Sydney, is Sydney’s leading independent rock venue.
Sydney Comedy Festival
When: April & May annually
Shows: Head to the official Sydney Comedy Festival website for tickets & info.
What: Every Autumn, hundreds of Australia’s best comedians and International acts flock to the city for Sydney Comedy Festival, Sydney’s largest annual comedy festival. Spread across some of Sydney’s iconic theatres including The Enmore and The State Theatre, you’ll find everything from stand-up performances to sketch shows for a whole month of comedy, talent and fun times.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Shows: Check out the Sydney Opera House website for all upcoming events and concerts.
Deserving a category in its own right, Sydney Opera House is no doubt one of the world’s most iconic buildings and houses some of the best performing arts and culture, all under one roof – or sail 😉
Catch a whole array of events and performances on offer with everything from musicals, theatre, comedies, art installations, concerts and symphonies to award-winning music artists from around the globe.
Can’t catch a show? You can also sign up for a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House ($43pp for 1 hour). The tour will lead you on an insight into the building’s history and through to the numerous concert, theatre halls and venues within.
ARTS & INSTALLATIONS
When: Annually. 2022 dates: 26 May – 17 June 2023
What: At the start of winter each year, Sydney lights up with VIVID Sydney’s annual celebration of creativity, innovation and technology. The award-winning VIVID light festival transforms Sydney’s urban landscape from Central Station (right next to Wake Up! Sydney) to Circular Quay, with glowing light art and vibrant 3D projections.
During the 23-day festival, see The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up with creative projections, discover hidden light installations tucked away in CBD laneways and soak up the magical lights across the city skyline.
Sculptures By The Sea
When: Annually. 2022 dates: 21 Oct – 7 November 2022
What: As if the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk wasn’t spectacular enough, once a year you can experience the walk with hundreds of amazing sculptures thrown into the mix. Sculptures By The Sea is the world’s largest free public sculpture exhibition presenting hundreds of pieces by Aussie artists and beyond, lining 2km along the coast. Previous years have seen a selection of sculptures including mirrored abstract pieces balancing on the clifftops, giant bronze statues and wild and wonderful installations created on the sand.
The National Indigenous Art Fair
When: Annually in July
Cost: Gold coin donation to support ‘First Hand Solutions’ program’.
What: The National Indigenous Art Fair takes place during NAIDOC Week (The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) in July, at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay. The fair celebrates the history and achievements of the First Nations and offers a fantastic insight into Aboriginal Arts and Culture with weaving workshops, art installations, art performances and more.
Wake Up! respects and honours First Nations Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of First Nations People on this land and commit to building a brighter future together.