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Art

14 Best Sydney Museums for a Historical Journey

Sydney is a city that you can not get bored in. It’s home to many amazing attractions and experiences. We Sydneysiders are spoiled for choice as there’s always something to do. Along with amazing restaurants and entertainment venues, Sydney is home to some pretty amazing museums. Each of which will quench your thirst for knowledge. Sydney’s many museums offer the experience to learn about natural histories, military history, scientific endeavours, design innovations and more. So if you’re looking for something to do in Sydney, check out our list of the best Sydney museums for a historical journey.

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Australian museum

Australian Museum

1. Australian Museum

The Australian Museum is the country’s oldest museum and the fifth oldest natural history museum in the world. The Australian Museum is the custodian of 21.9 million specimens and cultural objects, including cultural objects from Indigenous and Pacific collections. There are also exhibits that cover the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Along with all of this, the Australian Museum is also home to a Prehistoric collection exhibit, some of Australia’s most deadly and cuties animals stuffed or behind glass, a precious stones collection as well as the permanent 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum exhibition. Entry at the Museum is free, however, exhibitions may have a cover fee.

Address: 1 William St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Hours: Mon – Wed 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Thu 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Fri – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9320 6000
Established: 1827

Australian Museum

Sydney museum

Museum of Sydney

2. Museum of Sydney

The Museum of Sydney is built upon the foundations of Australia’s first Government House. The Museum of Sydney not only offers a mix of state-of-the-art installations, nostalgic memorabilia and changing exhibitions. The museum also explores colonisation, invasion and contact. The Gadigal Place gallery honours the clan’s history and culture. The ‘Edge of the Trees’ sculpture installation by Fiona Foley and Janet Laurence is outside the museum and symbolises the first encounter that the Gadigal people had with the First Fleet, where they hid behind trees and watched officers of the First Fleet struggle ashore. The Museum of Sydney celebrates the city’s past, present and future. Entry at the Museum is free for children of age group 0-15 while for adults is $15.

Address: Bridge St &, Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Wed closed, Thu 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Fri 10:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sat – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9251 5988
Established: 1995

Museum of Sydney

Art gallery of nsw

Art Gallery NSW

The Art Gallery NSW is one of Australia’s flagship art museums as well as the state’s leading visual arts institution. Its huge classical building is home to a vast collection that covers all media of fine Australian and international art. Including colonial and 19th-century Australian works and European old masters, as well as contemporary creations. The Art Gallery NSW is the most important public gallery in Sydney and one of the largest galleries in Australia. Admission to the gallery is free, as are permanent galleries and most exhibitions and events.

Address: Art Gallery Rd, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Tue 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Wed 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Thu – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9225 1700
Established: 1871

Art Gallery NSW

Powerhouse

Powerhouse Museum Alliance

4. Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is the major branch of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney (MASS). The Museum is housed in the former Ultimo Power Station, which once powered Sydney’s electric trams. The Huge Power Station has many spaces which are filled with interactive arts and science exhibits, that cover an array of categories, from fashion, design, and technology to transportation, space, engineering, and ecology. The Powerhouse sometimes also has cool after-dark events with pop-up bars, dancefloors and intellectual fun. Entry at the Museum is free for children 16 years of age or under and $15 for adults.

Address: 500 Harris St, Ultimo NSW 2007
Hours: Mon – Wed 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Thu 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Fri – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9217 0111
Established: 1879

Powerhouse Museum

Museum of contemporary art australia

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

5. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is home to a diverse series of exhibitions and events that showcase works by contemporary artists from Australia and across the globe. The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is a grand, waterside art deco building that was extended with a modern wing. The building contains more than 4,000 works by Australian artists. The Museum also has a significant focus on works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The artworks here span all art forms including painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper, as well as moving images. Admission to the gallery is free.

Address: 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000
Hours: Mon closed, Tue – Thu 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Fri 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sat – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9245 2400
Established: 1991

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

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Image: Sydney Living Museums

6. The Mint

The Mint is the oldest surviving public building in the Sydney central business district. Built-in 1816, the colonial structure was converted in 2003 to further showcase the heritage architecture in a contemporary setting. The museum also hosts the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, the only archive in Australia dedicated to the history of the home, including interior and garden design. You can find the museum on the prestigious Macquarie Street, right beside the Parliament of New South Wales. Entry at the Museum is free.

Address: 10 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Sat – Sun closed
Contact: (02) 8239 2288
Established: 1816 as a Hospital, then in 1854 as a Mint

The Mint

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Image: Australian National Maritime Museum

7. Australian National Maritime Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is a federally operated maritime museum in Darling Harbour. The contemporary museum hosts maritime-themed collections and exhibitions that explore Australia’s close links to the sea. The permanent displays range from Australia’s indigenous population’s relationship to the ocean “Eora First People” to early European exploration “Navigators” and immigration by sea “Passengers”. The museum’s collection also captures stories of daring naval rescues, solo round-the-world yacht journies and surfing adventures inject excitement. The vessels on display include the submarine HMAS Onslowthe big gun destroyer HMAS Vampire and when they’re in port, the 1874 tall ship James Craig and the magnificent replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour. Entry to the Maritime Museum is $25 for Adults, $20 for concession, $15 for children (under 15) and free for children (under 4).

Address: 2 Murray St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9298 3777
Established: 1991

Australian National Maritime Museum

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Image: Sydney Living Museums

8. Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Hyde Park Barracks Museum is not only a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in the heart of historic Sydney, but it is also an extraordinary living record of early colonial Australia. The Hyde Park Barracks Museum is one of Australia’s most significant convict sites, housing some 50,000 British-transplant convicts between 1819 and 1848. The Museum offers a moving look at convict life with visual displays of artifacts such as convict carpentry tools, convict clothes. The museum also features audio installations and interactive experiences as well as a database for stories of inmates. Entry to the museum costs $24 for adults, $20 for concession, $16 child (5-15 years), free for children under 5. Plus free entry every Saturday & Sunday.

Address: Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Wed closed, Thu 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Fri – Sat closed, Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 8239 2311
Established: 1819

Hyde Park Barracks Museum

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Image: Sydney Jewish Museum

9. Sydney Jewish Museum

Sydney Jewish Museum is dedicated to documenting & teaching the history of the Holocaust as well as the history of the Jewish people in Australia. The Museum also explores human rights issues in Australia. The museum is housed in the historic Maccabean Hall, which was originally built to remember New South Wales Jews who served in the First World War. The Museum features historical artifacts, video footage, interactive media, personal testimonies as well as in-person talks from Holocaust survivors. Entry to the Museum is $9 for students, $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and concession. Children under 10 enter free.

Address: 148 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Hours: Mon – Thu 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Fri – Sat closed, Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9360 7999
Established: 1992

Sydney Jewish Museum

Justice police museum sydney living museum

Image: Sydney Living Museums

10. Justice & Police Museum

Justice & Police Museum is a heritage-listed former water police station, offices and courthouse. The justice and police museum draws you into a world of crime, punishment and policing with holding cells, offices, charge rooms and courts from the 1890s. The museum features a vast archive of historical artefacts, documents, crime scene photography as well as mug shots and forensics that reveal more than a century of underworld Sydney. Along with stories of bushrangers, sly grog and razor gangs. Entry is $15 for adults and $12 for concession.

Address: Cnr Phillip St &, Albert St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Fri closed, Sat – Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9252 1144
Established: Built from 1854 to 1886

Justice & Police Museum

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Image: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

11. Sydney Observatory

Sydney Observatory is also part of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS). This 1850s-era observatory is a state-listed heritage site that houses copper telescope domes, a 3D Space Theatre as well as the Sydney Planetarium. The site was exclusively used by government astrologers during the 19th and 20th centuries. But in 1982 the building was turned into a museum and public observatory. Here you will find a permanent collection of instruments, artifacts, books, photos, historic telescopes and even Australia’s oldest telescope. The digital Planetarium shows films about astronomy, space flight, and the constellations as well as Aboriginal tales of the cosmos. There is even regular events, workshops, talks, and kids’ activities.

Address: 1003 Upper Fort St, Millers Point NSW 2000
Hours: Temporarily closed for heritage maintenance
Contact: (02) 9217 0222
Established: 1858

Sydney Observatory

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Image: Chau Chak Wing Museum

12. Chau Chak Wing Museum

The Chau Chak Wing Museum is Sydney’s newest museum. This new museum has a huge collection that’s been 150 years in the making. The museum’s collection is a combination of art, science, history and ancient cultures all under one roof. The museum combines three powerful collections from the vaults of the University of Sydney including three ancient Egyptian mummies and tomb artefacts that accompany them. There are also 18 other exhibitions, from curious taxidermies to contemporary and traditional art. Along with an array of historical objects from ancient Romans, Greeks, Cypriots, Italians, Chinese and Indigenous Australians. The Chau Chak Wing Museum also features one of the largest Lego historical models ever built, the Lego model of Pompeii. Entry is free.

Address: University Pl, Camperdown NSW 2006
Hours: Mon – Fri 10am–5pm
Contact: (02) 9351 2812
Established: 2020

Chau Chak Wing Museum

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Image: National Trust

13. Old Government House

The Old Government House is a world heritage listed monument and is the oldest public building in Australia. It was built by convicts between 1799 and 1818 and is set in 260 acres of parkland. The museum boasts the nation’s most important collection the National Trust’s premier colonial furniture collection. As well as early textiles and significant homewares from the time of the colony’s early Governors. Entry costs $10 for concession/child and $15 for adults.

Address: Cnr Pitt and, Macquarie St, Parramatta NSW 2150
Hours: Mon – Wed closed, Thu – Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Contact: (02) 9635 8149
Established: 1820

Old Government House

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Image: Science Space

14. Science Space

The Science Space is an interactive science museum in Wollongong. The museum boasts more than 100 interactive exhibits, a planetarium show, science shows, workshops and even NSW’s most digitally advanced Planetarium. You can also see your body through a heat-sensitive lens, test your strength, be amazed by the power of magnetism. You can even try the Vertical Wind Tunnel or come face to face with animatronic dinosaurs.

Address: Innovation Campus, 60 Squires Way, North Wollongong NSW 2500
Hours: Mon – Tue 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Wed closed, Thu – Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Contact: (02) 4286 5000
Established: 1989

Science Space

General FAQs

Are museums free in Sydney?

Yes, there are a couple of Museums that are free to visit in Sydney. Some include the Australian Museum, Art Gallery NSW and the Chau Chak Wing Museum.

What museums are open in Sydney?

Most museums in Sydney are now back open, however, the Sydney Observatory is closed temporarily.

CONTRIBUTOR

Gabriel Jorge Gouveia

Gabriel Jorge Gouveia is a Sydney-based journalist who specialises in fashion, lifestyle and food reporting. He completed Bachelor of Communication Journalism Major at Western Sydney University and has had work published in the Fashion Industry Broadcast, Aussie Gossip and Beauty News Australia.