Whether you are looking to escape the heat or take shelter from the the rain, you can always head indoors to discover a whole new way of looking at the world through art, science, culture and history. Here’s our guide to some of Sydney’s best museums and galleries.
Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of NSW was established in 1871, and features a great mix of Australian and international art with ever-changing world-class exhibitions on display. It is a beautiful spot to spend a few hours wandering around as the galleries are free (major exhibitions are ticketed).
Make like a local and head to the gallery on a Wednesday night for Art After Hours, a fun-filled evening event with talks, tours, musical performances, films, drinks and more.
The Rocks Discovery Museum
The Rocks Discovery Museum, a free museum in the heart of The Rocks, is great for the whole family. The four permanent exhibitions cover the periods of Warrane (pre-1788), Colony (1788–1820), Port (1820–1900), and Transformations (1900–present). With interactive elements, audio, video and touch screens, these exhibitions bring history to life for all to see.
The Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) is home to the Powerhouse Museum. With a focus spanning history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration, there’s something to capture everyone’s imagination here. The transport galleries show how vehicles have shaped our way of life, while children will love the permanent Wiggles exhibition.
Susannah Place Museum
Whilst you are in the historic Rocks precinct, a visit to Susannah Place Museum is a must. This terrace of four houses was built by Irish immigrants in 1884. The house has changed little since it was first built, and is a glimpse into history while walking through the re-created rooms and learning the real stories of residents who used to call it home.
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Pushing architectural boundaries outside, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia pushes them inside too, with an outstanding array of Australian and international artists. The works are contemporary and thought-provoking, with both major exhibitions on display and free galleries to explore and roam at your leisure, situated by the harbour at Circular Quay.
Australian National Maritime Museum
The Australian National Maritime Museum, located right on the water at Darling Harbour, is our national centre for maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology. Experience the history of the Royal Australian Navy in the “Actions Stations” exhibition or explore life at sea and hop aboard the the renowned replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour or the former Navy destroyer HMAS Vampire.
Museum of Sydney
The Museum of Sydney tells the stories of our city from the past to the present. It is built over and around the remains of Australia’s first Government House. Be sure to stop, listen and walk among the 29 pillars at the entrance to the museum. The sculpture, “Edge of the Trees” by Janet Laurence and Fiona Foley, evokes the first encounters between the Gadigal people and the people of the First Fleet as they came ashore in 1788—a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.
The Australian Museum, a world-class research institute and museum, was Australia’s first museum and turns 190 in 2017. Kids will love the “Wild Planet” exhibition featuring over 400 animals, while the First Australians galleries feature the Museum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island collection.
The “Surviving Australia” exhibition uncovers the key to the survival of Australian animals with tales of adaptation and survival over millions of years in a changing climate and landscape.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Located in the heart of the city on Macquarie Street, Hyde Park Barracks Museum is World Heritage-listed and one of the most important convict sites in the world.
It housed convicts from 1819 to 1848, and you can learn all about what life was like back then. It then became a female immigration depot, was taken over by the courts in 1887 before becoming the museum it is today in 1979.