Museums, science & culture in Sydney

To say Sydney’s museum scene is diverse is a bit of an understatement, with some establishments across town catering to niche interests alongside others that host global shows. Whether you want to take a deep dive into maritime history or glimpse the future, here’s where to get your culture on. 

Museums in The Rocks & Circular Quay

If you're looking for a large number of world-class institutions in one place, it's hard to go past The Rocks and nearby Circular Quay. As an added bonus, there’s an endless parade of cafes, restaurants and bars to refuel at post-show.

Museum of Sydney

Open: Thursday to Sunday, 10am-5pm (Friday to 8pm)

Admission: Paid (Adults $15 / Concession $12)

Transport: Just steps from the Circular Quay train station, ferry wharf, light rail station and bus stops. Parking is limited in the area, so we suggest taking public transportation.

One of the dozen Sydney Living Museums venues helping celebrate NSW heritage, the Museum of Sydney was built around Australia's first government house to preserve the stories of one of the most pivotal locations in the country's early history. The state's founding governor, Arthur Phillip, called this location home, and for decades it hosted some of the most important legal events that shaped Sydney, NSW and Australia. Visitors can view original parts of the building as well as a rotating series of exhibitions and events that dive into the state’s colonial history, including a favourite based on the First Fleet ships.

Displays inside the Museum of Sydney in Sydney City

Museum of Sydney, Sydney City

Justice and Police Museum

Open: Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm

Admission: Free

Transport: As with the Museum of Sydney, the best way to get here is via public transport to Circular Quay – from here, it’s a short walk to the museum.

You'll have no trouble respecting the authority of the Justice and Police Museum, which solves the mysteries of some of the state's darkest tales. One of the great Sydney history museums, it occupies the former home of the Water Police and the site of some of the biggest legal proceedings of 1800s NSW. The museum offers a peek into that past with everything from original holding cells to forensic evidence from notorious crimes. It’s also a great day out for kids, with plenty of eye-opening and educational activities for little ones.

Justice and Police Museum

Justice and Police Museum - Image credit: James Horan/Sydney Living Museums

Museum of Contemporary Art

Open: Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday to Sunday, 10am-5pm; Friday 10am-9pm

Admission: General entry is free, while special exhibitions have a fee

Transport: Public transport to Circular Quay is the most convenient option – it’s a short walk from here.

Architectural style and art substance unite at the Museum of Contemporary Art, with a dreamy setting overlooking Circular Quay and the Opera House (for the best view, head to the rooftop cafe for coffee or a glass of wine). The permanent collection of art and artefacts is quite astounding; add to this is a dynamic schedule of blockbuster international exhibitions, and you have an all-round winner.

Museums in the City & Darling Harbour

Powerhouse Museum

Open: Monday to Sunday, 10am-5pm, (Thursdays till 9pm)

Admission: Free

Transport: Take the train to Central Station or light rail to Paddy’s Markets and walk down, or catch the 501 bus, which stops right outside the museum. Paid parking is also available in the area.

The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo prides itself on having a contemporary focus on arts, science, innovation and design. There are several permanent exhibitions, complemented by changing temporary exhibitions and displays, many offering a deep dive into Australian culture. Look forward to regular tours, workshops, forums and other special events held throughout.

Australian National Maritime Museum

Open: Monday to Sunday, 10am-4pm (school holidays, 9.30am-5pm)

Admission: General entry is free, some exhibits are ticketed

Transport: The museum is just a 20-minute walk from Town Hall Station, there’s a light rail stop across the road, the 389 bus stop just outside the door or there's paid parking nearby.

Set sail for adventure at the beloved Australian National Maritime Museum, a pillar of Darling Harbour. There's always fun afloat with a range of rotating exhibitions, not to mention permanent fixtures and a fleet full of vessels to climb aboard and explore. An experience unlike other museum visits, this is a chance for the whole family to see what it's like to live, work, battle and explore on – and under – the high seas.

Australian Museum

Open: Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm (till 9pm on Thursdays with programmed events); weekends, 9am-5pm

Admission: General entry is free, some exhibits are ticketed

Transport: Take a train or bus to Town Hall, St James or Museum stations, all of which are a short walk away. There are also several parking garages nearby, some with discounted parking for museum visitors.

As if the name didn't give it away, the Australian Museum is what many consider to be the crown jewel of the Sydney museum scene. The country's oldest museum (coincidentally located next to the country's oldest park) re-opened bigger and better than ever in late 2020 after major refurbishments. Today, it houses a staggering collection of more than 20 million pieces, including a sizeable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection celebrating our First Nations history and contemporary culture. Regular events and workshops are an added bonus.

Australian Museum, Sydney City

Australian Museum, Sydney City 

Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Open: Thursday to Sunday, 10am-5pm

Admission: Paid (Adults $24 / Concession $20 / Children $16)

Transport: St James and Martin Place stations are a short walk away, while bus stops on nearby Elizabeth Street and Macquarie Street are also good options. There is also a paid car park at the Domain.

Just a short jaunt from the Australian Museum sits the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, which transports you back to the convict history upon which much of modern-day Australia was built. Set in an original building constructed to house convicts in NSW’s early colonial days, the museum offers an immersive, interactive tour that takes advantage of audio and video technology for a next-level museum experience.

Couple enjoying a visit to the Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney City

Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney City

Museums around the city

Sydney Jewish Museum, Darlinghurst

Open: Monday to Thursday, 10am-4pm; Sunday, 10am-4.30pm

Admission: Paid (entry price varies depending on the exhibit)

Transport: The 311 and 389 buses both stop close to the museum. Kings Cross Station is less than a 10-minute walk and Museum Station a 15-minute walk. There's also limited metered street parking and the nearby St Vincent's Hospital car park.

Since opening in 1992, the Sydney Jewish Museum has been teaching visitors about the Holocaust and its long-lasting impacts through more than 12,000 artefacts and 1,000 testimonials. But its lessons don't stop there, as it also hosts extensive, detailed exhibits on the history of Judaism and Jewish involvement in Australia's military.

Woman visiting Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst, Inner Sydney

Sydney Jewish Museum, Darlinghurst

Sydney Cricket Ground Museum, Moore Park

Open: Monday to Saturday, 10am-11.30am

Admission: Paid as part of the SCG Tour (Adults $33 / Concession $25 / Children $22)

Transport: The Moore Park light rail stop is close to the gates and a number of buses also run past the SCG. Paid parking is also available.

It's hard to talk about Australian culture without mentioning the huge role sport plays in it. As the state's most historic sporting venue, the Sydney Cricket Ground has been the site of many of the country's greatest sporting triumphs. The SCG Museum, part of the SCG Tour, paints a picture of some of the most memorable athletic moments on Australian soil, with one-of-a-kind memorabilia and first-hand accounts of the people who lived it.

Camden Museum, Camden

Open: Thursday to Sunday, 11am-4pm

Admission: Free

Transport: Located about 70 kilometres southwest of the CBD, the Camden Museum is around an hour's drive from the city.

The Camden Museum offers a deep dive into Australian Aboriginal history. Located at the intersection of three tribal councils, the story of Camden is intricately interwoven with that of the nation as a whole. Learn more about it through hundreds of documents and artefacts donated to the museum over the years.

Couple learning about the cultural and heritage background of Camden at the Camden Museum in Camden, Sydney West

Camden Museum, Camden

Discover more museums in Sydney


Sydney museums FAQs

Are museums free in Sydney?
What museums are open in Sydney?

What museums are open in Sydney?

Most Sydney museums are open during regular business hours. 

However, some are only open on the weekends, and many are closed for various public and religious holidays. It's a good idea to check the museum's website or call to make sure it will be open when you're planning your visit.

What Sydney museums are good for kids?