History walks

Our self-guided walking tours introduce you to different aspects of Sydney’s history.

Cover image detail of George Peacock's 1845 historical painting of Customs House and the Circular Wharf. Image from the Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales.

Each tour features a clear map with numbered points of interest and suggested museum stops along the way. All of the tours take 1 to 2 hours to complete.

There are 2 ways to access the City of Sydney’s series of history walks:

City centre walks

PassagePDF · 4.96 MB · Last modified

Aboriginal people, sailors and whalers, convicts and soldiers have all walked this route. Remnants and traces of these early times can still be found among the bustling city streets. Places visited: Circular Quay, Millers Point, The Rocks.

CommunityPDF · 9.84 MB · Last modified

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 arguably the most significant 20th century Aboriginal site in the local area. Places visited: Town Hall, Spanish Quarter, Chinatown Hyde Park.

ExchangePDF · 1.22 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Martin Place, George Street, Pitt Street.

HiddenPDF · 1.01 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Pitt Street, Circular Quay.

Skirting SydneyPDF · 820.47 KB · Last modified

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. Places visited: The Rocks, Martin Place.

Walk on waterPDF · 2.12 MB · Last modified

On the map, 30 different water features are identified, which also features photographs and historical information. Places visited: Haymarket, Hyde Park, Royal Botanic Garden.

City east walks

ParadePDF · 13.94 MB · Last modified

In the 1960s, a scattering of nightclubs catering to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) crowds began to appear along Oxford Street. Over the following decades, more bars, clubs, restaurants, saunas and shops appeared giving the strip its celebratory name, ‘The Golden Mile’. It became synonymous with LGBTIQ life in Sydney.

PassionPDF · 1.2 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Kings Cross, Woolloomooloo.

Strip on the stripPDF · 3.77 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Kings Cross.

City west walks

GrittyPDF · 1.16 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Newtown.

PortPDF · 4.82 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Pyrmont, Ultimo.

PreservationPDF · 1.15 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Glebe.

RenewalPDF · 2.37 MB · Last modified

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. Places visited: Ultimo, Darling Harbour.

Three mobile device screens showing maps with routes and points of interest.

Download free: Sydney Culture Walks app

Discover new neighbourhoods while learning about Sydney’s fascinating history, stunning architecture and the stories behind the city’s most loved public artworks.

Explore Sydney’s past