The Best Museums and Galleries to Visit in Sydney

Known for its stunning beaches, historic landmarks and bustling city centre, Sydney may not be the first place you think of when seeking museums and galleries. However, four of the country’s best cultural and design institutions are right near the city centre and all within 20 minutes of each other. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australian Museum and Powerhouse Museum allow visitors to wander and browse works at their own pace while providing entertaining and interactive opportunities for children. From Indigenous Australian art to International collections, read along to discover why we’ve chosen these museums and how to make the most of your time here. 

All Things Art 

Nestled between the charming cobblestone streets of The Rocks and the vast waters of Circular Quay stands The Museum of Contemporary Art. As the only contemporary art museum in Australia open to the public, the MCA is an excellent place to browse unique artworks from upcoming and established artists. With five levels to wander, you’ll discover handmade sculptures and statues, thought-provoking prints and photographs and detailed paintings, each with a backstory significant to the artist. Featuring an evolving collection of contemporary art from young Australians to Indigenous artists, there’s always something new to see at the MCA, no matter when you visit. Plus, there are children’s workshops and exhibitions to inspire creative learning for little ones. After a day spent admiring art or in-between exhibits, settle in for lunch at Graze MCA - the Museum’s vibrant restaurant overlooking the Quay. 

Museum of Contemporary Art

Just shy of 15 minutes away from the MCA, take a drive in the rental car through the bustling city streets and emerge into the lush greenery of Sydney’s Domain parklands. Here, you’ll find the Art Gallery of New South Wales with two buildings and a combined eight levels to explore. The North Building comprises various permanent and rotating exhibitions and installations, with a collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Wander the South Building for a look at Australian and International art, with works dating from the 1400s to the present day. With storytime programs, a children’s library and craft-making activities, a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW is well worth the visit for a family-friendly day out. Got your dose of art and looking to dive into history? Read on for a look at our recommended museums to visit while you’re in town. 

Gallery of New South Wales

Uncover Curated Collections 

In a city full of stories, a visit to the oldest museum in Australia is a must-see. Perfectly positioned in the heart of Sydney, across from the iconic Hyde Park, the Australian Museum is the ideal place to delve into the country’s rich history with a focus on nature, science and culture. Visit here to learn about native Australian wildlife (past and present), earth science history and Indigenous culture. From the life-sized Dinosaur exhibit to the expansive Minerals Gallery, adults and children alike will leave the museum with a wealth of knowledge and new discoveries. Witness Australia’s most impactful artefacts and notable people at the 200 Treasures gallery, and learn about historic moments in time with rotating exhibits. Explore the museum in full with a guided tour, or entertain the kids with interactive experiences and animal-themed education spaces. 

After something a bit more left-of-centre? A visit to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo is next on the list. As a branch of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, the Powerhouse is known for its engaging collections spanning transport, technology, space and more. With life-sized locomotive and plane models, hands-on interactive exhibitions and stunning audio-visual displays, an outing here promises an engaging experience for all. The museum features three levels to roam and frequently rotating exhibitions,  offering something new and exciting for everyone, whether it’s your first or fifth visit! After wandering through the exhibits, take a short stroll to the nearby Tumbalong Park for a scenic stop in the centre of the Darling Harbour precinct or make a quick three-minute trip over to Concrete Jungle in Central Park for a delicious meal set in a serene oasis. 

Powerhouse Museum

Whether you’re a science and nature lover or if you lean more towards the arts, Sydney has an array of galleries and museums to choose from that’ll leave you inspired. Looking for more? Notable mentions include the Australian National Maritime Museum for all things seafaring and the Sydney Observatory for an in-depth look at the stars. From The Rocks to Ultimo, Sydney will surprise you with its range of diverse museums and unique art galleries - and the best part is you can travel the city with ease in a Hertz rental car.