How to see the best of Sydney without spending a cent

Sydney can be a very expensive city. You can easily spend $100 a day or more as a visitor. But it doesn't have to be that way.

I am about to give you loads of great things to do in this vibrant city that will fill your days but not empty your pockets. I have put together a list of Sydney's top 15 attractions that won't cost you anything to experience them.

15. Wander around The Rocks

The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney and also the most visited. This is where the 10 square rigged sailing ships of the First Fleet landed in 1788 with their cargo of 1400 men, women and children - more than half of them convicts.

The Rocks is an easy, 10 minute stroll from the CBD. The main entry point is George St., which was also the first street in Australia.

This part of Sydney features the oldest remaining European structure in Sydney (Dawes Point Battery built in 1791, as well as great little pubs, open air markets on weekends and some of the best restaurants and cafes in Sydney.

14. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

While a private company charges a small fortune to walk over the top of the arch of this iconic bridge, you can still get breath-taking and beautiful views from the road level while walking across the pedestrian walkway on the eastern side.

With views of Circular Quay, The Opera House, Fort Denison, Middle Harbour and North Sydney everywhere you look, this stroll should take about 30 minutes depending on how many times you stop to take that fantastic photo.

You can access the pedestrian walkway on the bridge from Milsons Point in the north or from The Rocks on the southern side.

13. Take in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in The Domain

Open from 10am to 5pm every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day (and until 9pm on Wednesdays) this is the premier museum and collection of art in Sydney. With over 40 formal exhibitions every year, artworks started to be purchased for this gallery back in 1874.

The gallery is situated in The Domain which is adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, an easy 5 minute walk from Macquarie St. or Hyde Park.

12. Wander around Darling Harbour

One of the newer precincts in the inner city, Darling Harbour really came into its own during the Olympics that were held in Sydney in 2000.

Now one of the major tourist attractions on its own, Darling Harbour features hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants, cafes and Tumbalong Park with its ampitheatre and free music and events held most weekends.

11. Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks

This museum is the sole gatherer of contemporary art from across the country and also from around the world in the whole of Australia. While some pieces might have you scratching your head, others are beautiful, powerful and creative.

The Museum is situated at Circular Quay West in The Rocks and offers guided tours Monday to Friday at 11am and 1pm and on the weekends at 12 noon and 130pm.

10. Parliament House

Members of the public can sit and watch the leaders of the state squabble, bicker, scream at and berate each other during sitting sessions of the parliament.

There are conducted tours (booking essential) which run for 60-90 minutes and give a very details history of the building and the different governments over the years.

Parliament House is on Macquarie St. and is open from 9am to 5pm every weekday.

9. Sydney's Beaches

With more than 30 world class beaches to choose from, beachlovers are spoilt for choice in Sydney - and they are all cost absolutely nothing!

The beaches are basically split into three geographic sections: the Northern Beaches including Manly and Avalon where the soap opera Home and Away is filmed, the Eastern Suburbs Beaches including the famous Bondi Beach, and the Southern Beaches like Wanda and Cronulla.

8. Government House

Built between 1837 and 1845, the Gothic Revival architecture of Government House makes the building appear even more stately than it already is. Built to house the Governor of NSW and also used for visiting royalty and heads of state, the mansion is filled with beautiful furnishings from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sometimes the house is closed when the Governor hosts Vice-Regal functions but otherwise it is open Friday to Sunday from 1030am to 3pm for guided tours only. The spectacular grounds (perhaps the best part of the site) are open daily from 10am to 4pm.

7. Queen Victoria Building

Known by Sydney-siders as simply the QVB, this magnificent example of Romanesque architecture was completed in 1898. The building was erected on the site of the former markets and was dedicated to the long-reigning English monarch.

It started its life as a concert hall and has since had many different incarnations: warehouses, display rooms, offices and most recently it has been remodelled to house many boutique retail stores. It is worth a look inside for the elegant vibe and beautiful ornate interior.

6. Centennial Park

This huge park very close to the centre of Sydney was opened in 1888 and was the site where the Federation of Australia was first declared in 1901. Once inside the vast and peaceful parklands, it is easy to see why it attracts more than five million visits every year.

Regularly the venue for concerts and other large displays, the original traffic of horse and carriages has been replaced by the legion of joggers, cyclists, horse riders and wanderers that visit the park each day.

5. St. Mary's Cathedral

The largest Catholic Cathedral in the country is also one of the most spectacular and peaceful. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Macquarie in 1821, and construction of the present-day building was completed in 1928.

The cathedral is open every day and guided tours are conducted for free every Sunday after 1030am.

4. Australian National Maritime Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum is located in Darling Harbour.

The Museum Ticket costs nothing and includes access to all the galleries and the special exhibitions, the Maritime Heritage Centre and Wharf 7, the North Whard and Marina where the small fleet of historic vessels are moored and the relocated Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse. The Museum is open from 930 to 5pm every day except Christmas Day.

3. Sydney Opera House

Probably the most recognisable landmark in Sydney for the last 30 years, the Opera House contains several concert and opera halls and has daily performances by some of the most acclaimed performers in the world.

Guided tours have a small fee but you can wander around most of the interior and all of the exterior for nothing any day of the week.

2. Bondi to Coogee Walk

This popular walk is probably the best way to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the beach life as well as take in spectacular views and get some sun at the some time!

The walk begins at Bondi Beach and head south around the headland to Tamarama Beach, then Bronte Beach, past Waverley Cemetery with its dramatic cliff-side location, Clovelly Beach and then to Coogee.

The walk isn't physically difficult and there are plenty of places along the way to have a swim and cool off.

1. The Royal Botanic Gardens

In my opinion, the single most underrated tourist attraction in Sydney also has no charge.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are open every day of the year. They have a strange serenity and silence about them despite being literally in the middle of this bustling city.

Guided walks with no cost take place at 1030am every day and go for about 90 minutes.

The Gardens encourage visitors to "Please walk on the grass! We also invite you to smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns" and I would encourage you to also. Every time I wander through the Gardens I am amazed at how beautiful (and empty of visitors) the place is. Check them out - you won't be disappointed.

So there you go. You CAN have fun and see lots of great things in Sydney without paying huge admission fees everywhere. So but your walking shoes on, take your camera and get amongst it!