Sydney is almost synonymous with Australia. The harbour bridge and the opera house are iconic landmarks of the land down under and while most people skip the actual capital of Australia (Canberra just to show off my amazing geography skills), almost everyone visits Sydney. There is an obvious rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney and while I may be slightly biased I would choose Melbourne in a heart beat and there will be an intensely long post on how much I love it and why. However, I did visit Sydney two times during my trip along the east coast and while I was not greatly impressed the first time around, during our second visit we focused more on nature (beaches, walks etc.) and I did get why so many people love it (even though Melbourne still is number one just FYI).

Where to stay

The first time I arrived in Sydney we already had our van so we obviously had to camp. We chose Lane Cove River Tourist Park, which is only a 30 minute train ride from the city centre and beautifully located right by Lane Cove River National Park. While it is close to the city the national park is super peaceful and quiet so it is quit hard to believe you are in the outskirts of a metropolis.
The second time we chose a hostel: Mad Monkey Backpackers on Broadway. It is an intensely large hostel and has relatively little common areas, which mean they are usually crowded but it is in a great location, has free breakfast and lots of organised activities at night. Sydney is really, really expensive and for our budget this was the best choice. I think especially if you are still in the party period of your trip you will love this hostel.

Circular Quay

This is the tourist heart and centre of Sydney, where you will find the harbour bridge, the opera house, the botanical gardens... We actually decided to get off one train stop earlier and walk across the harbour bridge, which gives you amazing views and is so so much cheaper than climbing the bridge (which I also could never do ever in my life because of my fear of heights). There is also a little lookout in one of the Pylons and a museum about the construction of the bridge. I thought it was perfect to start our day in Sydney: on the harbour bridge with panoramic views of the opera house. 
Right under the harbour bridge is The Rocks a beautiful little quarter with gorgeous architecture and a little street market Fridays through Sundays. This is also a perfect spot for a little photo shoot with the harbour bridge in the background.
On the other side of the harbour is the iconic Sydney Opera house. I personally think it is most stunning from a little distance, but you can also get up real close and personal with a guided tour. Or you can stroll through the gorgeous botanical gardens, which I LOVED and soak up the gorgeous scenery while having a little pick-nick.
While the restaurants along Circular Quay are quite expensive food wise, drinks generally cost about the same everywhere so I thought it was perfect to end the day with a glass of wine overlooking the harbour bridge. And to top it all of you could take the ferry to Milsons Point and see Sydney at night from a boat before heading back home.

Nature Baby

Now I personally do not really think Sydney has much on Melbourne city-wise, but the natural surroundings are gorgeous. Sydney has amazing beaches and a beautiful coastline literally minutes from the city centre and when I focused more on that, I really enjoyed Sydney. 
Bondi beach is obviously very well known and I think you should definitely spend a day here, just for the cool vibe here, the street art along the beach, to see the iconic Iceberg pool and to watch the surfers. Definitely go to Parida Bondi for brunch and great coffee and grab an Acai Bowl at the little juice shop at Bondi Pavillon. Beach-wise I did prefer Cogee and Manly Beach, but Bondi is just oh so cool and should not be missed!
If you are up for a little exercise you could do the short Cogee to Bondi walk (2 kilometers or about 30 minutes) or you could go all the way from Bondi to Watsons Bay on the Federation Cliff Walk. We actually got a little lost trying to do it from Bondi to Watsons Bay so you may want to start in Gap Park or Watsons Bay as it is suggested. This walk took us almost all day, but was gorgeous! You get a beautiful panorama view about halfway in Dover Heights and you can jump into the beautiful Watsons Bay Baths before heading back to the city via ferry. 
Another highlight of Sydney you can reach by ferry is Manly Beach. I really liked Manly overall and really really enjoyed the 20 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay to get there. Try and grab a ferry back in time for sunset and get scenic views of the harbour bridge and the opera house in all their glory for about 4 Euros.

Newtown and my favourite food spots

Realistically during my first visit I was a little disappointed with Sydney. It felt like there was not a lot to see beside the opera house and harbour bridge and I thought a day here was more than enough. Obviously I was very lucky in Melbourne to have friends, who showed me all the highlights and I did not have that in Sydney.
The second time around my friend had gotten some tips from her friends and our Uber driver also recommended us a few spots. Our hostel was in walking distance from Newtown, supposedly the hip bohemian quarter of Sydney and I really, really liked walking around here at night. There are loads of second hand shops and so many great cafés here so you can easily spend a day just roaming. 
We decided to come to Newtown for dinner and in our hunt for the best burger, one place was top of the list at both Google and TripAdvisor: Mary´s. 
I was a little weirded out when we followed Google Maps and ended up in front of what looked like an abandoned church. But we were actually in the right place and a great one at that. The interior here was just beyond cool and gothy with loads of candles, scribbles all over the walls and dried roses. You can dine in an upstairs area or right at the bar, the burgers were delicious and the drinks sounded amazing all for a very reasonable price. DEFINITELY go here!
Afterwards we headed to an absolute gem: The Last Course. It is a restaurant all about the sweet things in life and offers deserts galore. The owners are absolute sweet hearts and the service was top notch! We obviously had to get two desserts and share and they were both life-changing. Another must do in my opinion.
To finish off our time in Sydney with a bang we headed to Smoke Bar. It is a high-class roof top bar right at the harbour. This is obviously a little splurge, but we thought it was perfect for a goodbye drink and really enjoyed the views. It must be even more stunning at night and you should probably book a table then.

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Thanks so much for your lovely comments, constructive criticism and suggestions. I will try to answer all of you!