This guide to the best museums in Sydney showcases some of its most important galleries, exhibition spaces, and historical landmarks. These museums are where you can take the whole family to learn more about Australian history through art, science, artifacts, and architecture.

    Sydney is known as the largest metropolitan area in Australia, with attractions ranging from famous beaches to shopping malls. There are also plenty of cultural venues to go to if you want to discover more about the world. Great for a family day out or rainy day activity in Sydney, these museums are well worth visiting during your stay.


    Australian National Maritime Museum

    Harborside museum with ship replicas

    The Australian National Maritime Museum is a popular attraction on the waterfront of Sydney's Darling Harbor. As one of the largest and most diverse in-water fleet museums in the world, there are some incredible ship replicas to explore. 

    The museum also has 6 permanent galleries detailing the history and workings of the Royal Australian Navy. It features frequent temporary exhibitions, with a 3-D theater showcasing informative documentaries. Feeling peckish while exploring the museum? Check out the onsite Ripples Maritime Museum, which offers western fare like burgers and paninis. 

    Location: 2 Murray St, Sydney NSW, 2000, Australia

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9298 3777


    Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

    View cutting-edge art in a stunning Art Deco building

    • Families
    • History

    The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is one of the country’s leading modern art galleries. Located at Circular Quay, the museum is housed inside the former Maritime Services building of late Art Deco design. It showcases more than 4,000 pieces of art from Australian artists, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

    With a permanent collection and ever-changing temporary exhibitions, it showcases different art forms and techniques. Optional and free guided tours take place every day. Inside, you can find MCA Café, which offers a modern Australian menu and scenic views of the Sydney Harbor.

    Location: 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Wednesday-Monday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9245 2400


    Australian Museum

    One of the oldest museums in the country

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    • History
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    The Australian Museum is one of Australia’s oldest museums, having been founded in 1827. Its permanent exhibitions include expansive zoological and anthropological collections, with more than 21 million objects and specimens.

    The Australian Museum is free to enter year-round, making it accessible to everyone. Families might enjoy the Prehistoric Playground and children’s activities. With late opening hours on Wednesday, it offers great night entertainment for those who prefer to learn about the natural world during their stay in Sydney. 

    Location: 1 William St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia

    Open: Wednesday from 10 am to 9 pm, Thursday–Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9320 6000


    Powerhouse Museum

    A state-of-the-art science museum

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    The Powerhouse Museum is a modern museum that focuses on science, innovation, and design. It occupies an old converted electric streetcar in Sydney's Ultimo inner city suburb, around 750 meters south of Darling Harbor. The museum features more than 500,000 items spanning Australian social history, science, technology, transportation, and space exploration. 

    Some of the temporary exhibitions showcase the Indigenous history, photographic exhibitions, fashion displays, and Australian transportation history. The museum has free entry, with guided tours available for those with special needs.

    Location: 500 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007, Australia

    Open: Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm, Friday–Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9217 0111


    Hyde Park Barracks

    A former penitentiary turned UNESCO-listed museum

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    • History

    The Hyde Park Barracks is a UNESCO World Heritage site in central Sydney. The former penitentiary details Australia’s convict foundation, its impact on Aboriginal communities, and subsequent immigration history. It displays over 4,000 original artifacts and includes interactive audio technology to guide you through the museum.

    A visit lets you follow the footsteps of real prisoners, including their personal stories and belongings. It’s a rare opportunity to learn more about Australia’s colonial past in an authentic way. There's a fee to enter the Hyde Park Barracks, with discounts for family tickets, children and concession.

    Location: Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Thursday-Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays to Wednesdays)

    Phone: +61 (0)2 8239 2311


    Art Gallery of New South Wales

    Classical art gallery featuring modern and Aboriginal art

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    • History
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    The Art Gallery of New South Wales displays contemporary, historical, and native art. Founded in 1871, it is housed in a classical-style complex on Sydney Harbor. Since its expansion, it has spread across 2 buildings connected by a public garden.

    Although it's one of Australia’s leading art institutions, entry is free to allow just about anyone to learn about the local art scene. With various exhibitions, you can explore a range of art mediums and eras, including modern and Aboriginal art. Free daily guided tours are available, while free performances, movies, and special events take place on Wednesday nights.

    Location: Art Gallery Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Wednesday from 10 am to 10 pm, Thursday–Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9225 1700


    Museum of Sydney

    A museum that celebrates this Australian city

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    The Museum of Sydney is one of the most diverse museums in Australia. It's just a short walk from Circular Quay, making it easily accessible from the city centre. As part of the group of Sydney Living Museums, this venue was built on the ground of Australia’s first government house to celebrate the history and culture of the city.

    The museum houses a rotating series of exhibitions and events documenting the state’s colonial history and Aboriginal culture and history. From art exhibitions and movies to photography, it uses a variety of mediums to showcase the city. Entry is free of charge.

    Location: Cnr Bridge St &, Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9251 5988


    The Rocks Discovery Museum

    Learn about the history of a local site

    • Families
    • History

    The Rocks Discovery Museum is a great place to learn about the history of The Rocks area of Sydney. Housed in 3 buildings dating back to 1844, the museum includes archeological artifacts recovered from the area to tell the history of the waterfront precinct from pre-colonial days to today.

    There are 4permanent exhibition rooms, with an engaging virtual tour taking you through the stories of the area and the impact of European settlement. It has a strong emphasis on showing local Aboriginal history through artifacts and photographs. It’s particularly popular for families and school excursions to inform younger generations of the local history.

    Location: Kendall Ln, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9240 8680


    The Mint

    One of the oldest surviving public buildings in Australia

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    • History
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    The Mint in Sydney is one of Australia’s oldest surviving public buildings. Originally part of Governor Macquarie’s hospital for convicts, it later became the first branch of the Royal Mint outside of London. The old coin factory is now home to the Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, the Bullion Café, and a public space for hire.

    While not much of a museum in terms of traditional displays and exhibitions, it’s a popular attraction for those interested in colonial architecture and landmark buildings. Inside, many of the rooms are still intact, offering an insight into the history of the building. The Mint is free to enter year-round.

    Location: 10 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +61 (0)2 8239 2288


    Justice and Police Museum

    Discover the dark side of Sydney's underworld

    • Families
    • History

    The Justice and Police Museum, which occupies an 1890s police station, focuses on Sydney’s dark past. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the history of crime, policing, judges, and illegal activity. Through an impressive archive of photographs and artifacts, you get to learn about notable criminals like bushrangers, gangs, and smugglers. 

    You can even visit the 1890s holding cells, offices, charge rooms, and courts to get a feel for the long history of the underworld of Sydney. Only open on weekends, the Justice and Police Museum is easily reached on foot from Circular Quay.

    Location: Cnr Phillip St &, Albert St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

    Open: Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +61 (0)2 9252 1144

    Elisha Donkin | Contributing Writer

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