Panorama of Sydney harbour

Free things to do in Sydney over the summer break

5 December 2023
Holiday fun for free
With exams done and dusted and classes not returning until February 2024, it’s the perfect time to unwind, explore and enjoy all that summer in Sydney has to offer. From festival experiences to vibrant art exhibitions and feel-good ways to give back to the community, here’s our list of free attractions, events and activities happening in Sydney over the break.

Give back by regifting

Regifting is rewarding, just ask the Australian Red Cross. Head to the Christmas tree conveyor belt installation on the ground floor of The Galeries from 11 am to 4 pm daily until 26 December to donate your new and unused items this festive season and help those less fortunate. All funds raised will support the Australian Red Cross humanitarian programs, and you’ll receive a $20 Galeries Gift Card as a reward for giving back. Gifts must be unopened, unwrapped and valued at approximately $10 or more, and restrictions include electronics, perishables, white goods, furniture, baby items, and harmful or otherwise unsuitable or inappropriate products.

Wrapped presents in focus with a Christmas tree in the background.

Read sustainably, exchange books

Donate your preloved books while picking up your new favourite read for free at the Maybanke Community Centre second-hand book exchange in Pyrmont. With an interesting collection of books and a quiet nook for you to immerse yourself between the pages, the book exchange runs Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 am to 5 pm, and Wednesdays from 12 pm to 9 pm, until 1 January 2024.

Embrace the art of summer at Sydney Festival

Sharing the wonders of live performance since 1977, Sydney Festival is a city-wide celebration of culture, creativity, and the questioning mind. Running from 5 to 28 January 2024, the festival highlights Australia’s many diverse storytellers while attracting the world’s finest artists to Sydney, animating locations across the city with a trailblazing program of theatre, music, dance, visual art and all the experimental places in between. Explore a collection of exhibitions, performances, experiences, and installations at this year’s Sydney Festival that are completely free to attend.

Journey through time and memory

Featuring objects that have never been exhibited until now alongside beloved Powerhouse Collection icons, 1001 Remarkable Objects explores a fascinating juxtaposition of extraordinary objects across 25 rooms at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. The free exhibition is on every day except Christmas Day until 4 February 2024, with free volunteer-led tours running daily at 11 am, Monday to Friday (bookings recommended).

Afrique en Cirque, Sydney Festival 2022.

Tout your trivia talents  

Think you know everything about Star Wars or Sega vs. Nintendo? Test your knowledge at Game Over Man! Game Over pop culture trivia. Starting 7 February 2024, the trivia is held on the first Tuesday of every month from 7 pm at the 1989 Arcade Bar in Newtown. With free entry, bar tabs to be won and an obligatory Arnold Schwarzenegger question, a fun night is all but guaranteed.

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon

Honour the many cultures represented in our Sydney community at the Sydney Lunar Festival from 10 to 25 February 2024. Featuring a suite of spectacular shows, delicious feasts and magnificent artworks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. To plan your visit, keep an eye on the Sydney Lunar Festival website for more details coming soon.

Feel the pulse of Sydney’s comedy scene

Off The Couch Comedy is Sydney’s premier open-mic comedy night, showcasing some of the funniest comedians on the circuit. Taking place every Tuesday night at the Wildfire Lounge on Broadway from 7 till 10 pm, get ready for all the laughs you can handle with a night of unfiltered humour in a laid-back but professional setting. Entry is free.

A toy set of teeth with eyes against a yellow background.

Get fit with The Run Club

Do you love the sweet release of endorphins after an extra sweaty run? Or are you looking to improve your technique while making new friends? The Run Club at The Rocks is a free weekly running and activity session that delivers a challenging and exciting fitness program for all levels. Subject to weather and seasonal dates, The Run Club meets at the First Fleet Park on Tuesday mornings from 7:15 am.

Move your feet to female street art

Celebrate the amazing women artists who call our city home with the Yeah the Girls street art self-guided walking tour. Starting at Redfern station and covering a distance of approximately 4.8 km, the walk takes around two hours to complete. You can check out the tour map and more information around each featured mural on the tour website.

Strengthen communities by volunteering

By donating your time to help another organisation, volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to gain experience, develop skills, meet new friends, and give back to your community. Learn about volunteering, opportunities available and how you can get involved on the NSW Government website.

Need support over the break?

Find out what health, wellbeing and enrolment support is available to you during the University closedown period from Friday 22 December to Monday 8 January.

Events on campus

If you plan to visit or stay at the University of Sydney over the break, you don’t have to go far for an adventure – the Chau Chak Wing Museum (CCWM) and the Seymour Centre call our campus home.

At the CCWM, create a curated journey and take a self-guided tour through individual galleries by using the Smartify app, satisfy your obsession with ancient Egypt by visiting the Egyptian Galleries and don’t miss your chance to see the exhibition Barbara McGrady: Australia Has a Black History, featuring a selection of powerful photographs from a 30-year archive by the award-winning photojournalist. Entry to the museum and exhibitions is free.

Enjoy an evening of deep diving into highly niche content in a very gay way at the Seymour Centre debut of Queer Powerpoint ft. Jack Halberstam on 15 December. Anchored in the concept of stale corporate presentations and personal optimisation, queer artists dramatically explore and share an idea, current obsession, or ongoing fascination using the most ubiquitous of programming tools – PowerPoint. The Seymour Centre offers discounted tickets to University of Sydney students.

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