Once again this year, Sydney has ranked in the top 10 cities in the world for students. It has also been ranked one of the 10 most livable cities on the planet by both Mercer and The Economist. Sydney has long been one of the most popular locations for CAPA students too, and it’s easy to see why they love it…because we do too.
So, why study abroad in Sydney? Let’s dive in.
Study abroad in Sydney because:
1. SYDNEY IS AN ACTIVE CITY.
Sydney has been named the most walkable city in Australia by WalkScore and ranks high among other global cities across the world too, so you’ll love having the freedom to easily explore on foot.
With their mild weather, green space, and beaches, Sydneysiders are often found outdoors, walking, cycling, tossing around a rugby ball, enjoying a game of frisbee in the sand, or participating in water sports like kitesurfing.
Health and fitness is ingrained into the culture here. Head down to one of the many beaches as the sun is rising and you’ll likely find bootcamps already in progress on the sand, swimmers and surfers out in the water, and joggers fitting in their pre-work run.
For more on staying fit, healthy, and mentally well in Sydney, we love UrbanSweat. Check out their events calendar, training tips, posts on exploring Sydney, and easy recipes that will keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
Pro sports are popular here too, especially rugby, cricket, soccer, Australian rules football (ask a local to teach you the rules!), and basketball. Find a new favorite team, cheer them on, and attend a game or two while you’re studying abroad in Sydney.
2. SYDNEY HAS STUNNING COASTAL WALKS.
Sydney has a gorgeous coastline, and we highly recommend carving out some time to tackle one of the coastal walks.
One of the most popular is the Bondi to Coogee walk, which is about 3 1/2 miles. It takes you past the Instagram-famous Bondi Icebergs Pool, aboriginal rock carvings near Marks Park, to Tamarama, then Bronte Beach where you can watch the surfers, the much calmer Clovelly Beach, up the steep staircase to Gordon’s Bay, and finally to Coogee Beach.
Another coastal walk that CAPA students really enjoy is the Watsons Bay walk, which takes about two hours to complete. You’ll start in Robertson Park near Watsons Bay, stop for fish and chips in Doyles and then head over to Camp Cove for a swim. From there, find ocean views and snippets of history at South Head as you walk the South Head Heritage Trail and spot the red and white Hornby Lighthouse, and then on to The Gap before finishing back in Watsons Bay.
A longer, but relaxed walk that loops around in just over six miles is the Manly to North Head walk. Hop on a ferry to Manly Wharf and spend some time enjoying Manly Beach and Shelly Beach (where you can snorkel if you like!). Then you’ll veer from the coast along the North Head Scenic Drive route which takes you through Sydney Harbour National Park. Follow the Fairfax Walk for some unbeatable lookout points and you’ll end up at North Head. Explore nearby North Fort and Australia’s Memorial Walk—both of interest to history buffs.
If you enjoy those walks, also try the Barangaroo Foreshore walk, or for a challenge, the two-day hike along the Royal National Park Coast Track which runs 16 miles from Bundeena to Otford with a night of camping at North Era Campground.
3. SYDNEY’S FOOD SCENE IS DIVERSE.
It’s easy to find vegan, vegetarian, and generally healthy food in Sydney these days. Wholesome and nourishing are buzzwords at restaurants and cafes around the city. And of course there are many more indulgent options too, including plenty of gelato joints for those hot summer days.
There’s a strong Asian culinary influence in the city; Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and various types of Asian fusion are just a few examples. It’s not difficult to find excellent dumplings, bao, laksa, pad thai, banh mi, or sushi in Sydney. TripAdvisor is a great place to narrow down your choices.
With 250 languages spoken in Sydney, the city’s diverse population has brought with it tastes of many other countries too, from Greek at Apollo to Argentinean at Porteño, to Lebanese at Zahli, and many others. If you’re missing your favorite dishes from home, you can even pop into American restaurants like Mary’s Newtown, Ze Pickle, or Surly’s for a burger or wing fix.
A few other must-try foods when you study abroad in Sydney are John Dory fish and chips, chicken parmigiana (an Australian pub classic even with its Italian name), meat pies, Vegemite, and their famous cheeseburger with beetroot on top. And for your sweet tooth: Anzac biscuits, Lamingtons, and Tim Tams!
4. SYDNEY UNIQUE WILDLIFE AND WORLD RENOWNED ZOOS.
Some of the most unforgettable activities students love do in Sydney involve animals.
One of the CAPA excursions is the “Roar and Snore”: an overnight stay at Taronga Zoo. You’ll have unique views of the animals at the zoo, listen to the keepers give talks, and stay in safari-style accommodation with views over the Sydney Harbour.
Another favorite CAPA excursion is the hike into the scenic Blue Mountains, stopping to explore the Featherdale Wildlife Park and the town of Katoomba. You’ll be able take a picture with a koala, observe the emus, see an exotic cassowary, and learn about flora and fauna native to the Blue Mountains, like the Tunnel-Web Spider and Lemon-Scented Teatree.
The Australian Museum has a great factsheet about “Wildlife in Sydney” specifically if you’re interested in learning more, and Time Out Sydney has a few more ideas about where you can go to see animals in Sydney.
Besides connecting with wildlife in the city and on CAPA’s organized excursions, students often make their own plans over a weekend or break period to head up to the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland to see the Great Barrier Reef. This is the world’s largest coral reef system, can be seen from space, is a World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s composed of (and built by) billions of tiny organisms and supports a wide diversity of wildlife.
5. SYDNEY HAS DOZENS OF BEAUTIFUL BEACHES.
With over 100 beaches in Sydney, and the perfect climate for enjoying them, you’re bound to find yourself dipping your toes in the water, tossing a rugby ball around on the sand, relaxing on a towel with a book and an amazing view, or learning how to surf.
Safety first though! Wear sunscreen. Even when it’s cloudy. Stay hydrated. Always swim where a lifeguard is on duty and between the flags which are placed to keep unsuspecting swimmers away from riptides. Even if you are a confident swimmer, open water conditions can be extremely unpredictable. If you do find yourself in trouble in the water, raise your hand and hold it as straight as you can in the air. This is the signal to lifesavers that you need help.
But also: enjoy! Sydneysiders love the beach life and it’s likely you will too. The beaches all different, so depending on the vibe you’re after, you might want to try out quite a few.
Bondi Beach is the best city beach, and among the top beaches in Australia. It’s busy but fantastic for people watching, has a buzzing beachfront promenade, and market stalls on Sundays. Manly Beach is another one of the most famous beaches here. You’ll have to take a ferry, but it’s action-packed with plenty to do and great for beginner surfers.
For a more peaceful experience, try Shelly Beach, north of Sydney. It’s a beautiful place for sunsets, and great for snorkeling and scuba. Palm Beach, also north, is an upscale beach which is also calm. It has some of the best quality of water among Sydney beaches. Balmoral Beach is another calm one and a fun spot for windsurfing and paddleboarding.
If it’s privacy you’re looking for, check out the secluded-feeling Bilgola Beach, accessed by a drive along a long road called The Serpentine. There’s also Tamarama Beach, which has become a hangout spot for hipsters and models and has earned the nickname “Glamarama” for this reason. It makes for interesting people watching and is not nearly as crowded as many of the others. Lastly, Garie Beach is one of the best secret beaches in the city and is hidden within the Royal National Park. For a video tour of Sydney beaches, check out this vlog from a CAPA Student.
6. SYDNEY IS BURSTING WITH ARTS, CULTURE, AND CREATIVITY.
From the 1,600 performances held each year at the iconic Sydney Opera House (including ballet and contemporary dance, opera, classical music, stage plays, and more) to ever-changing public art installations in the streets, creativity abounds in Sydney.
There are also many galleries and museums. They range from sprawling spaces with a mix of permanent and changing exhibitions to artist-led initiatives and small pop-ups.
A few favorites include the ever popular Galerie Pompom in Chippendale, which showcases fun, colorful, and often controversial new art talent; the White Rabbit Gallery which hosts some of the world’s best contemporary Chinese art; the Darren Knight Gallery in Waterloo, which often shows quirky pieces alongside talks and occasional musical performances; and Firstdraft, “the cool kid of the art scene and incubator to some of the country’s best artists, writers, and leading cultural workers.” See others on Urban : List.
Sydney often has such beautiful weather that you won’t want to spend much time indoors. On these days, get your art fix from the sun-soaked, canvas walls painted by street artists.
Don’t miss the “I Have a Dream” mural on King Street, which started as an illegal work and is now heritage listed. The Bondi Beach graffiti wall has been attracting street artists since the 1970s and is now regulated by the council and features some impressive art. Around the city, keep an eye open for the work of Scott Marsh who is one of Sydney’s most controversial street artists, thanks to his political art. May Lane near St. Peters station is another spot often refreshed by new artists. Time Out Sydney has additional tips on where to spot the city’s best street art.
Sydney also hosts a lot of music festivals and celebrations, like the Sydney Festival, Vivid Sydney (light installations, projections, and ‘light art’ sculptures around the city along with performances and presentation of new ideas), and Tropfest (the biggest short film festival in the world).
7. SYDNEY IS FULL OF GREEN SPACE.
As we mentioned at the top of this post, enjoying the great outdoors is important to Sydneysiders, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise that they have more green space than most cities in the world. In fact, according to a recent World Cities Culture Forum survey, an impressive 46% of Sydney is made of public green space.
Sustainability has been a big topic of conversation in the city recently as a 2050 vision is being drawn out. As part of a plan to continue “greening the city” and making it even more liveable, there have been opportunities identified to introduce even more usable green spaces and additional areas of landscaping, grow food in the city center, create shadier streets for walking, pedestrianize some streets, generally become more sustainable while looking for ways to prioritize people.
One of the newest developments is the 40-mile walk linking green spaces from Parramatta to Penrith. Other green spaces to visit when you’re studying abroad in Sydney are the Barangaroo Reserve downtown, a transformed and repurposed industrial site with amazing sunsets; Centennial Park with its manicured gardens and duck ponds; the Chinese Garden of Friendship in the CBD; Hyde Park, one of the oldest parks which has been around since 1810; the Royal Botanical Garden; and Victoria Park which hosts the annual Yuban Festival to celebrate Australia’s Aboriginal culture.
8. SYDNEY HAS A RICH HISTORY TO EXPLORE.
Walking around Sydney, you'll occasionally hear the distinct sound of the didgeridoo played by members of Sydney's Aboriginal community to entertain tourists. There are Indigenous communities in the city whose ties to the area date back to Dreamtime as well as more than 1,000 sites of Aboriginal culture and heritage in the area.
Head over to the Cadi Jam Ora Gardens to see some of the plants that the Cadigal people (the first inhabitants in this area of the city) used for food and medicine. In the Australian Museum, there's a collection of artifacts such as didgeridoos and boomerangs. You can also listen to Dreamtime stories, learn about the history of white colonization, and gain insight into the impact of government policy on the lives of the Aboriginal people. Be sure to see the largest permanent collection of Indigenous Australian art in the Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Another interesting historical site that is worth visiting is Cockatoo Island which served as a meeting place for the Eora People prior to colonization, and was also a convict penal establishment, a naval ship dockyard, and an industrial school and reformatory for girls.
The Museum of Sydney is an excellent place for an overview of the city’s history, and Culture Trip shares several other historical sites in Sydney worth visiting.
9. SYDNEY’S ASIA-PACIFIC CONNECTIONS INVITE AN EXCITING CULTURAL MIX.
Australia enjoys strong regional trade and cultural connections with the Asia Pacific countries. In fact, four out of five of Australia’s top trading partners are located in Asia (the other is the US). These connections have played a role in establishing the diversity of Sydney’s residents, which includes a significant Asian population.
We’re particularly fond of the culinary influences that have swept onto Sydney’s food scene which mean that pho, sushi, and those glorious Shanghainese soup-filled dumplings we love are easy to find on menus in the city.
Beyond food, you’ll notice Asia-Pacific influences in the arts, cultural performances, fashion, shops, landscaping, and elsewhere in Sydney.
Because of its location and these Asia-Pacific connections, Sydney is a fantastic place to study International business, trade, politics, history, current affairs, society, and culture among many other important subjects. Its proximity to Asia also makes it a perfect base for exploring the region. Many CAPA students use their break week to visit countries like Indonesia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Thailand, while others prefer to explore other parts of Australia.
10. SYDNEY WAS RANKED ONE OF THE BEST CITIES FOR STUDENTS.
As the QS rankings that put the city in the top 10 in the world for students stated, “As well as being Australia’s financial and economic hub, Sydney is known for the stunning panorama of its harbor, iconic opera house, large selection of green spaces within the city, and proximity to beaches which are among the most beautiful not just in Australia but anywhere in the world.”
Sydney is not only ranked high in livability for students, but the Economist’s Intelligence Unit ranked it the third best place in the world to live overall.