December 25 in Sydney doesn’t need to be a bore if you don’t celebrate Christmas. While the majority of businesses shut down for the day, there’s still plenty to cater to those who don’t partake in Yuletide festivities. From watching the latest blockbusters to downing some dumplings and checking out Sydney’s most famous zoo, here’s what to do on Christmas Day in Sydney if you don’t celebrate.

Visit Taronga Zoo
Beautiful Taronga Zoo is open every day of the year – including December 25. And, thankfully for those who want the full wildlife experience, everything at the waterfront conservation park operates as usual, from the animal encounters to bird shows and talks. Visit the zoo’s new Nocturnal Habitat where you’ll encounter night-loving Australian fauna including bilbies, yellow-bellied gliders, fat-tailed dunnarts, and western quolls. Or, book in for a meerkat experience – the curious critters will climb all over you and feed from your lap.

See the latest blockbusters
Many of Sydney’s movie theatres are open on December 25. And they are often packed with those who celebrate Christmas but whose families are far away, or with those who don’t celebrate Christmas at all. While some of the year’s biggest blockbusters are usually released on December 26, many cinemas are screening them a day early – Event Cinemas will be screening a range of blockbuster and family films such as Wonka, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Migration, Anyone But You, and Indian blockbusters Salaar and Dunki. As for the cinemas that are open? There’s the Ritz in Randwick (which will be continuing its annual tradition of screening Fiddler on the Roof); the newly refurbished IMAX Sydney; Hoyts Broadway, EQ, Eastgardens, Chatswood, Warringah, Wetherill Park, Blacktown, Penrith and Bankstown; and Event at George Street, Parramatta, Hurstville, Burwood, Ed Square and Macquarie.

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Eat yum cha
In America, it’s long been a tradition for Jewish people to eat Chinese food on Christmas Day – and with loads of Chinese restaurants in Sydney remaining open on December 25, we reckon it’s a ritual worth embracing. Head to Piccadilly Tower in the CBD for classic trolley service at Palace Chinese, XOPP for the famous Golden Century XO pippies, Silks for some wagyu beef rice rolls with black truffle sauce, or The Eight Restaurant for its excellent dim sum.

Go to the beach
While most people are enjoying Christmas lunch at home, it’s the perfect time to make the most of the quiet roads and head to one of Sydney’s best beaches (though we’d still avoid busy Bondi). From picturesque harbour stretches of sand, to the sweeping cliff-bracketed beaches of the eastern suburbs and the wild beaches up north, it’s a great opportunity to head to the beach and actually find parking. Check out Sydney’s best beaches here.

Enjoy a picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens
The current weather forecast for December 25 promises a top of 27 degrees Celsius, and Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens are open 365 days a year – it's the perfect backdrop for a picnic in the sun. There are plenty of spots to choose from across the Gardens' 30 hectares – perhaps you'll pick a spot by the Palace Rose Garden, or peruse the Calyx, which boasts one of the largest green walls in the southern hemisphere. Order a hamper in advance and head to the Gardens to enjoy a spread of sweet and savoury treats. Hampers with Bite offers an array of picnic hampers to suit a range of budgets and tastes.

Take a walk
Similarly, December 25 is a great time to hit some of Sydney’s most scenic bushwalking tracks. You’ll likely have the tracks to yourself while everyone else is sweating over a hot oven. Here’s a few to get you started.

Go out for a meal
The vast majority of businesses in Sydney might be shut on December 25 – but there’s still a slimmed-down selection of restaurants and cafes open to service your food and drink needs. Some do only offer set lunches and dinners for Christmas, but others will be running business as usual. We recommend shimmying over to Loulou Bistro – which will only be open for lunch service – in Milsons Point for a serve of chicken-liver parfait, ordering a plate of char koay teow from Ho Jiak Haymarket or Town Hall, or popping down to Sokyo for some sashimi and miso-glazed toothfish. Find out what else is open here.

This article was originally published on December 3, 2021, and updated on December 1, 2023.