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40 things to do in Sydney this summer

Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

The Sydney Festival starts this week and to mark the 40th anniversary of this celebration of the arts, Destination NSW has put together a list of 40 great experiences to enjoy the city this summer, which they’ve shared with Business Insider.

Take in Sydney Festival

Woyzeck, a Sydney Festival highlight.

1. Visit Carriageworks Bay 17 from January 7 to catch the Australian exclusive of Woyzeck – a highlight on the Sydney Festival line up. The epic German love story lies somewhere between a fever dream and social drama and features the music of American musician Tom Waits.

2. Be whisked away for an evening of opera with a spine-chilling performance of Australian exclusive Winterreise at City Recital Hall on January 7 and 8.

3. Treat your ears to one of Beethoven’s monumental symphonies with an exclusive performance of Anima Eterna Brugge Beethoven’s Symphonies at the City Recital Hall on January 25.

4. Learn why critics have praised Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson, an installation that captures the glorious mess of life at Sydney Town Hall from January 7.

5. Experience music that tests your mind and body with the Sydney Chamber Orchestra’s presentation of Passion at the City Recital Hall on January 14 and 15.

6. Visit Sydney’s new creative playground, the Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve and get involved in the Sydney Festival’s community event The Ephemeral City, with visitors invited to construct a temporary city using cardboard boxes.

7. On January 17, catch a one-off concert presented by The Embassy Kingdom of the Netherlands and experience the cosmopolitan glory days of Baroque night at City Recital Hall with the performance of Bach and his Dutch Contemporaries.

8. Get involved in a day of construction at Darling Harbour on January 7 with Olivier Grossetête’s The People’s Tower. All are invited to help build two gigantic cardboard buildings by the water.

Taste Sydney’s finest foodie treats

Newtown’s Black Star Bakery. Photo: James Horan/Destination NSW

9. Try the Strawberry Watermelon cake that has foodies in an Instagram frenzy at Black Star Pastry. Up your Instagram game, capture the wonder and be sure to tag #ilovesydney.

10. Visit one of the city’s newest rooftop bars, the Henry Deane cocktail bar, at the newly refurbished Hotel Palisade in Millers Point and take in the extraordinary views of the Harbour and Barangaroo.

11. Check out glamorous garden-dining at Woollahra favourite Chiswick, part of celebrity chef Matt Moran’s portfolio. Try the signature slow-roast Moran Family lamb and Grapefruit spritzer made with grapefruits grown in the kitchen garden.

12. Taste the world’s best gelato at Enmore’s Cow and the Moon. Their mandorla affogato saw them take out first place at the world gelato championships in Italy last year.

13. Visit J&M whiskey bar on level 2 of the historic Angel Hotel. This 60’s and 70’s themed bar offers an extensive menu of whiskies and specially crafted cocktails.

14. Escape the heat at retro style restaurant Nel, a basement hideaway in Wentworth Avenue where chef Nelly Robinson cuts loose with unlikely combinations such as tuna paired with treacle.

15. Familiarise yourself with the lobster roll craze and treat your taste buds at Waterman’s Lobster Co in Potts Point. Pure deliciousness!

16. Experience one of Sydney’s best waterfront lunches at Pyrmont’s Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar. Located at Jones Bay Wharf with views of the sparkling summer harbour.

17. Dine outdoors at Sydney’s first outdoor Singaporean style hawker centre Spice Alley on Kensington Street and try some delicious Asian street food run by veterans of some of Sydney’s most-popular South-East Asian restaurants

18. Spend an afternoon in the sun at one of Sydney’s best rooftop bars, The Coogee Pavilion, with spectacular ocean views. Try the daily sashimi platter and Pavilion Piña Colada.

19. Head to the Sydney Festival village in Hyde Park for a delicious treat from Il Carnivale di Gelato Messina, a Gelato Messina pop-up complete with a new doughnut bar.

Grayson Perry photographed at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Arts and culture

20. Visit the MCA to explore Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career as part of the Sydney International Art Series and see for yourself his critically acclaimed ceramics, sculptures, drawings, prints and tapestries from December 10.

21. Be a superhero for a day and visit The Powerhouse Museum to explore the world exclusive The Art of the Brick exhibition that uses thousands of LEGO bricks to create large scale sculptures of super heroes and villains including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Joker.

22. Be captivated by Matilda The Musical, the multi-award winning unforgettable production of Roald Dahl’s classic at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.

The Australia’s 50 greatest explorers exhibition.

23. Discover the stories of ordinary people who became extraordinary explorers at the exclusive-to-Sydney exhibition Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 greatest explorers at the Australian Museum.

24. Don’t miss Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, an exclusive exhibition of the work of the internationally acclaimed Australian designer’s label over the last 25 years. Visit the Powerhouse museum and take a walk down The Goods Line afterwards

25. Experience The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, an extraordinary showcase of some of the world’s most revered Old Master paintings and drawings by the greatest names in European art including Botticelli, Da Vinci and Monet, at The Art Gallery of NSW as part of the Sydney International Art Series.

26. On January 9, enjoy an unforgettable free show from the legends of psychedelic rock, The Flaming Lips, at Summer Sounds in the Domain as part of Sydney Festival.

27. Celebrate Australia Day at Yabun, Australia’s largest indigenous festival in Victoria Park, Glebe.

28. Take a Gallery Walking Tour of Chippendale and discover the area’s edgy art scene. Gallery tours take place on the first Saturday of every month.

Outdoor activities

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

29. Bask in long balmy evenings among flora-lined walls at the MCA’s Grayson Perry-inspired Gin Garden.

30. Pack your swimmers and seek out a secluded patch of sand at Milk Beach, one of Sydney’s secret harbour beaches in Vaucluse.

31. Catch a ferry to Manly and take on the waves with a surfing lesson at Manly Surf School.

32. Soak in postcard views while getting fit swimming laps at North Sydney Olympic Pool, with the flexed bicep of the Harbour Bridge overhead, and Sydney Opera House across the water.

33. Discover Sydney’s up-and-coming designers at Bondi Markets for an eclectic mix of original design, limited-edition handmade clothing and accessories, every Saturday and Sunday

34. Meet the superstars of the animal kingdom including lions, komodo dragons, seals and of course Australia’s native birds and wildlife at Taronga Zoo. Catch the ferry for a truly iconic summer experience.

35. Pack a picnic and visit Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest harbour foreshore park with idyllic coves and exquisite views of Sydney Harbour.

36. Spend the afternoon at Wylie’s Baths, a historic sea pool at the southern end of Coogee Beach.

37. Take an exhilarating rafting trip with an expert river guide at Penrith Whitewater Stadium.

38. Visit Sydney’s own little Vietnam – Cabramatta – with all the flavour and bustles of a South-East Asian street market and make your own summer rolls at Phu Quoc.

39. See Australia’s best marine life without getting wet at Sydney Aquarium and meet its two amazing resident dugongs, Pig and Wuru.

40. Get your serve of world tennis with the stars of the game in town from January 10 at the APIA International.

* For more on what to do in Sydney, visit

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