There’s plenty to see when visiting the Land Down Under. From the famous Bondi Beach, to the Sydney Opera House, to the Blue Mountains – a World Heritage Area located outside the city – there’s just about a million things to do in Sydney. But one thing you absolutely cannot miss is the chance to explore the city’s museum scene.
Explore the history of Australia’s aboriginals, peruse art from prehistoric times to today, and learn about the reality of living on a naval ship. You can do all of these things when you take the time to explore Sydney’s cultural institutions!
If you’re planning a trip to Sydney, our experts have put together a list of the top museums and cultural institutions that you should consider adding to your itinerary.
A few of our favorites include…
- Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM)
- Madame Tussauds Sydney
- Sydney Opera House Tour
- Museum of Sydney
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- and more!
Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM)
Located in Sydney’s bustling Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum is a can’t-miss for those traveling with the family.
As the official hub of all things naval history, ANMM allows visitors to explore extensive collections of maritime artifacts, see a 3D film, and tour real historic naval vessels.
You’ll get to experience life at sea with hands-on, educational exhibits and explore topics relating to Australia’s discovery, unique geology, the Australian Aborigines, Australia’s naval defense and political climate, and more.
Check out the Action Stations experience and learn the compelling history of the Royal Australian Navy on the hi-tech, immersive journey that illustrates the danger and drama of military life at sea and the inner workings of the Navy.
Getting in: Australian National Maritime BIG tickets are included with the Sydney Explorer Pass.
Madame Tussads Sydney
Make your trip to ANMM a two-for-one and visit Madame Tussauds Sydney right next door.
Madame Tussauds Sydney features a hands-on approach to their exhibits, so you can get way up close to – even touch and put your arms around – all of the wax figures. You’ll get to walk through themed areas, including Music, A-List, Sports, Film & TV, History & World Leaders, Interactive Activities, and the All-New Fashion Experience.
Take a selfie with the likes of Obama, Her Majesty The Queen, Mahatma Gandhi, Katy Perry, Angelina Jolie, Michael Jackson, Ryan Gosling, Johnny Depp, and more. Each wax figure takes over 800 hours of modeling, so these guys looking just like the real thing.
Getting in: Madame Tussauds Sydney tickets are included on the Sydney Explorer Pass.
Sydney Opera House Tour
While it’s not technically a museum, it is one of the most significant building’s in the city and is definitely worth seeing more of.
The Opera House is UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits right on the gorgeous Sydney Harbour, with incredible views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. On a 60-minute tour of the uniquely-designed structure, you’ll learn all about why the Opera House is such an important part of Sydney’s history.
xplore the theatres and foyers where more than 1,600 concerts, operas, dramas, and ballets take place each year and learn all about its 58-years of history and 14-year creation process and the engineering challenges and solutions that the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, encountered along the way.
Getting in: Sydney Opera House Tour tickets are included on the Sydney Explorer Pass.
Museum of Sydney | Sydney Living Museums
Located in the first-ever Government House in Sydney, the Museum of Sydney works to protect the fragile remains of this historically significant site. Spend some time exploring the stories of Sydney and its people – both past and present.
Once the official home of Governor Philip in 1788, the building was a center of the country’s administrative and social life. Through the ever-changing exhibitions, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1700 and 1800s as you explore the stories of how the city came to be.
Explore Sydney inside and out in a whole new way at How Cities Work, a collection of immersive cityscape paintings and illustrations. Travel back in time to the 1930’s and 1960’s at Street Photography, full of black and white photos of Sydney’s civilians walking the streets.
Getting in: Museum of Sydney tickets can be purchased separately at the door.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art is Australia’s leading museum dedicated to showcasing the work of today’s artists.
Located right on the edge of the Sydney Harbour, the museum is home to a collection of over 4,000 historically and culturally significant pieces that celebrate Australian artists of all mediums. Between the permanent exhibits that explore years and years of Australia’s artistic background, to rotating special showcases that shed light on everyone from famed painters to little-known sculptors.
Experience the legacy of one of the world’s most famous photographers at David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948-2018. Goldblatt is best known for his documentation of South African peoples and culture. In this special display, you’ll see over seven decades worth of his awe-inspiring work – it’s a Sydney exclusive.
Getting in: the Museum of Contemporary Art is free and open to the public.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Established in 1871, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is home to a collection of international and Australian fine and contemporary art. It’s one of the most popular galleries in Australia and has been visited by over 1 million people.
Peruse the gorgeous exhibition halls that offer breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour, then explore the Grand Courts – an exquisite collection of colonial and 19th-century Australian and European works. With a mix of permanent and rotating special exhibits, the Art Gallery of NSW curates art of all mediums that tell the story of Australia’s history and beyond.
Enjoy Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage, a magnificent collection of works by modern art powerhouses like Cézanne, Matisse, and Piccaso. Explore the earthly pleasures of Glorious, a changing display of paintings, prints, ceramics, and more that work to invoke your innermost emotions.
Getting in: the Art Gallery of New South Wales is free and open to the public.
Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens are the perfect place for a mid-day picnic. Located right off Circular Quay, steps away from the Sydney Opera House, the gardens are home to tons of different plant life. Enjoy a casual walk, or partake in a free guided tour of the garden and learn more about its history and the Aboriginals.
Make sure to stop by The Calyx, the garden’s convention center where daily events and classes are open to the public. Shop around the boutiques, pop into a cafe or sign up for a yoga class!
Getting in: entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens is free, but certain special events throughout the year may be separately ticketed.
White Rabbit Gallery
The White Rabbit Gallery has quickly become one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art. The museum’s owner, Judith Neilsen, regularly takes trips to China and Taiwan to source new and inspiring masterpieces by Chinese artists.
The Gallery’s building was once a Rolls-Royce service depot in the 1940s, so it has a very luxurious and fancy feel to it. Since it’s on the smaller side for a museum, there are only two exhibits on display per year. They are both carefully curated and updated year after year with new and innovative paintings, designs, illustrations, multi-media presentations, and more.
White Rabbit Gallery has showcased over 700 different Chinese artists.
Getting in: entrance to the White Rabbit Gallery is free.
Remember to Save on Museum Admission
We hope you’ll add some of these world-renowned cultural institutions to your Sydney itinerary!
Remember, a number of these options are included on the Sydney Explorer Pass, where you can save up to 45% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
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