Australia is renowned for its exceptional sunny weather and its true Australia has some of the best weather in the world. But much like everywhere else, contrary to belief, it does still rain and when it rains in Sydney, it pours. When it does pour you’re going to need to find things to do indoors in Sydney! Don’t get me wrong, Sydney in the summertime is magical. The beaches are some of the beautiful in the world. In fact, a lot of my favourite beaches in Australia were in Sydney. But when the heavens open it’s safe to say that beach days are off-limits in Sydney. In fact, the first day we arrived in Sydney, it chucked it down.
We’d just come from Queensland and experienced glorious sunshine for 3 months. Much to my dismay my first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House was through a condensated bus window. Chances are the weather when you visit Sydney will be perfect. But if you find yourself to be one of the extremely unlucky ones then here are some of the best things to do enjoy inside in Sydney!
Quick side note: I naturally associate bad weather with ‘rain and storms’ in Sydney but let’s not forget about the days it’s too hot to go outside! We experienced some corkers during our year in Australia. 42 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 80? No thanks! When the sun is scorching take some respite and find things to do indoors in Sydney! Honestly, the Australian sun will burn you a lot quicker than you think!
Indoor Museums in Sydney
Things to Do Indoors in Sydney – Go Inside the Opera House
Sydney’s most famous and iconic building has to be the Opera House. It first opened its doors back in 1973 after 14 years of hard construction. The Opera House has been a staple landmark in the city of Sydney ever since. Even though the Opera House can be enjoyed for free from the outside and, believe me when I say you could literally just look at it all day, you can go in and enjoy the inside too. There are shows on every night on the stage, take a look at the timetable here. But seeing a show can be expensive. If you want to explore the inside for cheaper, enjoy a guided tour instead.
There are actually so many different tours to choose from when exploring inside the Opera House. From the basic guided tour to a ‘tour and dine’ package or a ‘tour and tasting plate’. For most people visiting the Opera House, the standard tour will be exactly what you’re looking for. Learn all about the rich history behind the magic of this iconic build and how exactly it came to be. The views across the harbour are stunning from every single angle so bring your camera even on a rainy day.
If you do find yourself in Sydney on a perfectly sunny day the Opera House Tour is still awesome to enjoy. The standard tour only takes an hour and you’re bound to learn some facts about Sydney that you didn’t already know! The cost of the tour is $42 per person for a standard ticket so I admit, it isn’t cheap. But worth it if you’re looking for things to do indoors in Sydney and don’t worry I’ve got plenty of other free options in the rest of this post.
You can take photographs inside the Opera House and in the auditorium but never when a show is taking place. If you a take backstage tour photography is not permitted there either.
National Art Gallery of New South Wales
Another great spot to check out, whether you’re into art or not, is the National Art Gallery of New South Wales. If you are into art I recommend finding at least a whole afternoon in your Sydney itinerary to fully enjoy the gallery, it’s huge! Located in The Domain in central Sydney it’s super easy to find from the Botanical Gardens, it’s actually signposted all the way through! The art gallery is magnificent from the outside in, the architectural aspect of the building is inspiring:
The museum was established back in 1871 and showcases both 19th-century Australian art as well as modern and contemporary. It’s completely free to enter and enjoy the many exhibitions. There are some exhibitions that you need to pay for but you can have a glance at the website here to find out what’s on and what you might like to see. The one thing I’ll say about this Gallery is don’t expect to be able to do everything in one visit. Unless you’ve got a whole day to spend at there, which if you’re looking for things to do indoors in Sydney then you might, it near impossible to get around it all and enjoy it.
You can’t eat and drink inside the gallery but there is a cafe you can enjoy. All large bags have to be checked into storage beforehand, which is free. Cameras can be used but no flash allowed.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Located on the harbour front at Circular Quay this museum hosts the finest of Modern and Contemporary art in Australia. I must admit I’m not always a huge fan of the Contemporary arts but it’s a great place to have a wander around nonetheless and it’s indoors so you’ll be away from any bad weather! The museum only showcases the artwork of those that are still living, sounds morbid doesn’t it, but I actually think it makes it pretty unique. The museum holds over 4000 pieces of work so you certainly won’t get bored during your time inside!
If you’ve got a good imagination and enjoy edgy, colourful art then this might just be your place! You also get great views of the harbour through the long glass window panels too! If there’s one thing you should try do in a Sydney storm it’s watching it – those lightning bolts are incredible!!!
The museum is free to enter which makes it even better!
The Museum of Sydney
If you want to learn about the city your visiting then have a look at the Museum of Sydney! This building is actually one of the oldest in the city! It was the first Government House in the city. Today you can learn about the history of Sydney and the European settlement inside the museum. The Museum of Sydney is located right in the middle of the city on Corner Phillip and Bridge Street so it’s super convenient. There is an entrance fee of $15 per person so really think about how much you want to learn. I would recommend the on of the Art Galleries over this spot!
Hide Indoors in Cafes and Bars!
The cafe culture in Sydney is amazing. There are gorgeous little cafes popping up everywhere and it’s darn impossible to get around them all! Every time I walked through the city or a suburb I’d add a new cafe to visit on the list in my notebook. The reality of the matter is that even coffee is expensive in Sydney so cafe trips were kept to minimal during our working weeks whilst living in this vibrant city! Anyway, that said there are some cafes that you just have to visit in Sydney.
The Grounds of Alexandria
Hands down everybody’s favourite cafe in Sydney. Honestly, if you don’t believe me then just go and do an Instagram poll or something! It’s the most beautiful cafe I’ve ever been to and before I went I honestly didn’t know if I’d like it. Unfortunately, like a lot of places, it was Instagram that brought my attention to this spot. I use unfortunately loosely because I do think Instagram does contribute to over-tourism in some places but that story is for another day! I’d seen so many photographs of people roaming around the gardens enjoying and photographing all it has to offer. But when you get there it’s so much more than a bunch of people posing for the gram.
The Grounds of Alexandria is more like a playground than a cafe. It honestly reminds me of something that belongs in Alice in Wonderland. The grounds first opened in 2012 with the idea of creating unique experiences that everyone can enjoy. It sends the imagination wild as it conjures up different themes throughout the year. For example, they’ll be a Christmas theme, summer theme, there was an Aladdin theme when the film came out etc. The Grounds create an experience for everybody to enjoy. When we visited it was Easter time so colourful easter eggs were everywhere.
But its defiantly not just about the decor there’s also 2 cafes and a flower shop inside. The cafes themselves are an experience with cakes to die for! Good to note: it’s definitely not just a place that looks good, the food tastes good too! I recommend going with a completely empty stomach as there’s often a doughnut trailer and other treats hanging around too!
I wouldn’t recommend a trip to The Grounds in full on Sydney storm but it’s definitely good for when its a little drizzly and grey.
Enjoy a Pint in the Oldest Pub in Sydney
Filled with character and those who love a good pint or schooner is the Oldest Pub in Sydney otherwise known as, The Fortune of the War. Located in The Rocks why not take a book and ignore the foul weather outside. It’s a great spot to get refreshed and enjoy some well-brewed beer. The Rocks, in general, is full of wonderful pubs you can hop between!
Try some ‘Middle Eastern’ Inspired Dishes at Shuk
Located on Mitchell Street in the heart of Bondi is Shuk. A cafe infused with tastes from the Middle East. What I love about this place is, it’s different. If you’re looking for a decent Avo on toast or Eggs Benedict then anywhere you turn in Bondi is almost guaranteed to have it on offer. Shuk is different which I love! Their food is also delicious and with space to sit both inside and out you can hopefully find a spot indoors on a rainy day. It is popular so don’t be surprised if you do turn up to a full cafe. But don’t sweat it, embrace the Aussie way of life and just relax elsewhere until a table turns up free.
Enjoy a Beverage at Opera Bar
Underneath The Opera House, you’ll find Opera Bar. The same kind of speaks for itself. It’s probably one of the most touristy bars in the whole of Sydney but it offers a drink with those incredible harbour views. You’ll find undercover seating and an inside area where you don’t get the views but you can keep dry or cool!
Things to Do Indoors in Sydney – Explore Bookstores!
Sydney has some amazing bookstores and one or two double up as cafes making it even more worth it! Though I’m only going to share my two favourites there are heaps of bookstores to explore in Sydney come rain or shine!
Gertrude and Alice
An avid reader’s little slice of heaven on Bondi Beach. If you’re like me and easily get bored on the beach, unless I’m reading of course, then head up to Gertrude and Alice’s bookstore come cafe. The shelves are lined with every genre you can imagine, and the cafe does an excellent coffee and the tea is decent too – hard to come by in Australia, sorry.
Either sit and enjoy a book with your hot drink or rummage the shelves for something to take away. Honestly, books cost a small fortune in Australia and if you look hard enough here you might find one that’s reasonably priced. In the UK we pay 7 GBP for a new paperback realise here on the other side of the world? You’re talking $30-40 15-20 GBP, to me it’s steep!
Sappho Books and Wine Bar
This is another little gem and a great thing to do indoors in Sydney. After checking out what titles they’ve got on the shelves, everything! Head into the cafe for coffee or wine and either read the afternoon away or play a board game! It was in this very cafe that Dave taught me how to play chess. And whilst I still have no idea what I’m doing it’s a very memorable afternoon that I treasure. The weather was crappy and it was just a blessing to spend time with each other away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you only have 3 days or similar in Sydney you’re probably going to want to stick to the more ‘touristy’ areas of the city to make sure you see all it has to offer but if you have longer to stay definitely check this little space out in the suburb of Glebe!
Green Square Library
Green Square Library is a brand new state of the art library that’s opened up in Sydney, paired perfectly with a day at The Grounds of Alexandria as it’s just down the road! The architecture of the library is stunning and the reading room offers wonderful views. There’s also a very popular colourful backdrop that does make for great photo-taking too! The library is free to explore making it a great place to relax indoors in busy Sydney!
Scout out the Best Views of Sydney from Inside!
Go up the Sydney Tower Eye
Head up to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye for amazing views of the city below. There is plenty to do inside the tower from shopping and dining but the star of the attraction is seeing the city below! I recommend going up at night time if you do decide to because the city looks so much more magical when the lights are glistening! The observation deck is 250 metres above the city offering views for miles and miles!
Tickets are cheaper online starting at $23.90 per adult.
Other Unique Things to Do Indoors in Sydney
Cork and Chroma in Surrey Hills
Honestly, I wish we had experienced this in Sydney! This is something I’ve come across very recently in Wellington, more on that after we’ve been to our class. Basically, grab a bottle of wine and some friends and let’s paint! These art classes are for anyone wanting to get a little creative on their next night out. Book online depending on which painting you’d like to have a go at and go along to the class. The company was created by husband and wife and has expanded all over Australia!
Prices start at $30 depending on which painting you choose but that includes all of your supplies and canvas painting to take home at the end of the night!
Book your tickets here!
It’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing and I can’t wait for Dave and I to give a similar event a try in Wellington. I’m no painter but it’s all part of the fun, right?
Indulge in the Shops in the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
If you don’t like shopping then do not worry the Queen Victoria Building is somewhere everyone can appreciate. The QVB is my favourite building in Sydney by day and night. It was first built way back in the 1890s as a Municipal Market on a whopping scale. It was restored in 86 and to such a beautiful standard indeed. It’s one of Sydney’s most sought after shopping centres attracting people from all different walks of life.
Expect the designers, architectural buffs and tourists looking to watch the famous Royal Clock which opens and puts on a show every hour – A must-see inside the building. If you get the chance go back to see the QVB at night too as it’s lit up brilliantly and if you’re anywhere near Sydney at Christmas then you’ll want to go in and see the Christmas tree!
Go Indoor Rock Climbing
Okay, this list wouldn’t be complete with adding our true passion on the end! If you’ve followed me on Instagram or just here at Alicia Overseas then you may have noticed we rock climb, a lot. We’ve tried out all the climbing gyms in Sydney and we love Nomads Bouldering Gym in Glebe! Probably because its the exact style of climbing we love but there are plenty of others to choose from and the 9 Degree’s Gyms are very popular – they also have air conditioning which is exactly what the gyms need in the summertime!
Explore the Indoor Things to Do in Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is a fun spot in Sydney with heaps to do but it can be very touristy, which why I’ve left it until last. There are plenty of indoor activities on the harbour like Madamme Tussauds and the Sealife Aquarium but I kind of think you can do those anywhere. But if you are looking to hide away from bad weather and aren’t too bothered about museums, books or anything else I mentioned above then go check the harbour out! Here are some of the best indoor things to do in Darling Harbour Sydney:
- Madamme Tussauds
- Sydney Sea Life Aquarium
- Australian National Maritime Museum
- Wild Life Sydney Zoo
- Powerhouse Museum
Round-Up of Things to Do Indoors in Sydney
I hope that this post has given you a few ideas on how you can enjoy Sydney even when the weather may not be on your side. I have to admit Sydney is its best self when the sun is shining. There’s no better feeling than experiencing the beaches, Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the sunshine! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to have! I highly recommend the Opera House Tour, Cafe/Bookstore Hopping, Rock Climbing and the Sydney Tower Eye! If you want to avoid the Sydney tourist traps then stay away from the Darling Harbour indoor actives I mentioned above – My opinion only!
If you did enjoy this post then I would really appreciate it if you could share it with your friends! I hope you enjoy Sydney and if you know of any other great things to do indoors in Sydney let me know!