History walks

History walks

Explore Sydney's history on foot

Our self-guided walking tours introduce you to different aspects of Sydney's history. Each one features a clear map with numbered points of interest and museum stops suggested along the way. All of the tours take 1 to 2 hours to complete.

There are 3 ways to access the City of Sydney's series of history walks:

  1. Download the Culture Walks app to your mobile device, or
  2. Pick up a glorious full colour brochure of each walk from City Host information kiosks, our Neighbourhood Service Centres or library branches, or
  3. View or download the basic version of available history walks listed below. 

If your group needs multiple copies of the history walk brochures contact customer service to request them.

Barani (Yesterday)

Barani is an Aboriginal word from the Sydney language meaning 'yesterday'. The website Barani: Sydney's Aboriginal History provides histories of people, places and events in Sydney associated with the histories of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The website has a map showing over 100 places of historical and cultural associations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as thematic essays exploring aspects of Sydney's Aboriginal history.

Barani Redfern and Barani Sydney Cove/Warrane are 2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history walks now available via the Culture Walks app. These 2 walks do not exist as brochures but you can pick up a free Barani/Barrabugu (Yesterday/Tomorrow) – Sydney's Aboriginal Journey booklet from City Host information kiosks, our Neighbourhood Service Centres or library branches.

City centre

Tour Places visited About the tour
Colony (PDF 4.5 MB)
  • Circular Quay
  • Millers Point
  • The Rocks  

Convicts, soldiers, whalers and sailors all walked this route. Remnants and traces of these early times can still be found among the bustling city streets.

Community (PDF 1.3 MB)
  • Town Hall
  • Spanish Quarter
  • Chinatown
  • Hyde Park

This tour takes you from Sydney Town Hall to what was once the industrial backyard of Sydney and today contains its Spanish Quarter and Chinatown. Includes what is along arguably the most significant 20th century Aboriginal site in the local area.

Exchange (PDF 1.2 MB)
  • Martin Place
  • George Street
  • Pitt Street

Much of Sydney's commercial history can be seen in its buildings. This walk will take you from St James station through the heart of the financial and retail district. You'll see the architectural features of key buildings and learn the history behind them. Finishes at the former Mark Foy's department store.

Hidden (PDF 1.0 MB)
  • Pitt Street
  • Circular Quay

A series of informal paths behind Sydney's earliest main streets gave the settlers access to rear gardens, stables and storage areas. Over time, other laneways developed to provide rear access to the commercial buildings which came to dominate the area. Whether charming hidden gem or grungy service lane, they all contribute to the tapestry of the city.

Skirting Sydney (820.5 KB)
  • The Rocks
  • Martin Place

This tour pinpoints key sites where girls and women lived and worked, where they were educated and entertained, and where pioneering activist women held meetings, published journals and sometimes in the process expanded the possibilities for all women's lives.

Walk on water (PDF 2.1 MB)
  • Haymarket
  • Hyde Park
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
This walk is a guide to Sydney's water features and was developed in conjunction with the historical exhibition 'Water, Water Everywhere'. On the map, 30 different water features are identified, which also features photographs and historical information.

City east

Tour Places visited About the tour
Parade (PDF 1.1 MB)
  • Darlinghurst
  • Paddington
Oxford Street has hosted many parades: military and celebratory, ceremonial and political. Journey from the start of this long strip at Hyde Park in the city to Centennial Park in Paddington to discover the evolution of this cosmopolitan area.
Passion (PDF 1.2 MB)
  • Kings Cross
  • Woolloomooloo
Kings Cross and its adjoining locales have a rich and risque history. Departing from Kings Cross station, this circular route uncovers the history of Australia's most famous red light district.
Strip on the strip (3.8 MB)
  • Kings Cross
Part guide, part history, this booklet presents the stories that inspired the bronze street plaques set in the pavement of Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross. Each story highlights the colour, diversity and wit of the bohemians and artists, entrepreneurs, residents and business owners of Kings Cross.

City west

Tour Places visited About the tour
Gritty (PDF 1.2 MB) 
  •  Newtown
Although it began as a rural outpost scattered with ‘gentleman’s estates’, Newtown became increasingly populous with the coming of the railway in 1855. This tour, starting at Newtown station, leads you through one of Sydney's most vibrant and gritty inner suburbs.
Port (PDF 1.3 MB)
  • Pyrmont
  • Ultimo
In past decades, the Pyrmont-Ultimo peninsula was Sydney's industrial heartland, with its wharves, goods yards, woolstores and factories. Departing from Pyrmont Bridge, the tour visits key sites while exploring an often overlooked Sydney community.
Preservation (PDF 1.2 MB)
  • Glebe
Glebe has always been a place of contrasts. This tour explores the areas fascinating built environment and its long history of bohemian lifestyle, activism and intellectual pursuits.
Renewal (PDF 2.4 MB)
  • Ultimo
  • Darling Harbour
Until 1850, Ultimo was semi-rural, with cornfields and cow paddocks. Members of the Gadigal people still harvested cockles on its foreshores. When the landscape was remade by sandstone quarrying and a new railway and goods yard, the suburb became crowded with factories, woolstores and workers’ housing. Eventually, its industrial sites were adapted for entertainment and education.

Rock and Roll Walks of Fame and Shame

Tour Places visited About the tour
City to Pyrmont (PDF 5.5 MB)
Download MP3 (19.5 MB)
  • City centre
  • Ultimo
  • Pyrmont
We traverse the city to discover what remains of your favourite city centre venues then go across to Ultimo and Pyrmont to visit the site of the world famous Festival Records, itself a virtual corporate jukebox of Australian rock history. Finally we examine the place where bands as diverse as Sherbet and Nirvana made their mark on the Australian music scene.
King Street and Enmore Road (PDF 2.0 MB)
Download MP3 (14.8 MB)
  • Newtown
  • Erskineville
  • Enmore
Some of Sydney's music scene was based in Newtown and the adjoining suburbs Erskineville and Enmore. On this tour we take you along City Road to King Street, Enmore Road and beyond. Features John Kennedy (the king of King Street), Brad Shepherd of the Hoodoo Gurus and musician, manger and Ivy League label boss, Andy Kelly.
Oxford Street (PDF 1.7 MB)
Download MP3 (21.1 MB)
  • Darlinghurst
  • Paddington
This journey takes you along Oxford Street and back to when the music of the '60s, '70s and '80s changed the face of rock'n'roll in Sydney. You'll visit the locations, hear the songs and listen to guest voices from Sydney's legendary past. Features Radio Birdman, Mental as Anything, The Missing Links and many more.
Surry Hills to Kings Cross (PDF 6.7 MB)
Download MP3 (20.1 MB)
  • Surry Hills
  • Potts Point
Revisit all the great live venues near Central Station and Surry Hills that gave birth to new music in the '70s, '80s and beyond. Then travel down memory lane to Kings Cross to track the history of its notorious late night clubs.

Last updated: Tuesday, 5 January 2016