Visiting Parramatta – A City Guide
Parramatta is located on the banks of the Parramatta River, halfway between Sydney’s city centre and the charming Blue Mountains. It’s a buzzing retail and business area for western Sydney, with a thriving dining and cultural scene, as well as excellent shopping.
Parramatta: city layout
Nestled amid western Sydney’s urban sprawl, Parramatta combines gleaming high-rise towers, relaxing riverbanks and leafy streets and parks. The CBD (Central Business District), with its ordered grid of streets, is the heart of the city and is considered Sydney’s second CBD.
The Parramatta River, which flows into Sydney Harbour, winds its way through the city from spacious Parramatta Park in the west to the campus of Western Sydney University in the east. Church Street crosses over the river and is a cosmopolitan hub of bars and alfresco dining.
Historical sites in Parramatta
Parramatta has a number of interesting historical buildings that are open to the public. These include several churches, such as St. John’s Cathedral, built in 1855, and All Saints Church, built in 1862. Elizabeth Farm is a rare example of an early colonial bungalow, set in a lush garden.
Parramatta Town Hall is an ornate, pink-coloured Victorian building on the edge of Centenary Square. From here it’s a short walk – via the charming Tudor-style George Street Gatehouse, built in 1885 – to the green acreage of Parramatta Park. While in the park, visit Old Government House. Built by convicts, this handsome mansion dates from 1799 and was the country residence for the first 10 governors of New South Wales.
If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, head to the Woolpack Hotel on George Street. Founded in 1796, it’s one of Australia’s oldest pubs and serves excellent Thai food.
The concierge recommends…
● The Parramatta River Ferry connects Parramatta with Sydney’s world-famous harbour, at Circular Quay, in less than an hour. Expect breathtaking views as it passes Sydney Olympic Park and Cockatoo Island.
● Dress up and experience the thrill of a day at the horse races, with a visit to Rosehill Gardens.
● Motor racing fans will love Valvoline Raceway, a dirt track for speedway cars that attracts a loud, raucous crowd.
● Watch a sporting event or rock concert, or simply explore the extensive parklands that make up Sydney Olympic Park, a 15-minute drive from central Parramatta.
Hotels in Parramatta
Whether you’re looking for an exciting, bustling stay in the city centre or a more peaceful retreat by the river, accommodation in Parramatta is varied and plentiful.
Parramatta city centre is the ideal location if you’re keen to be surrounded by the best of what the city has to offer, including restaurants, pubs, theatres and shopping.
Located just south of the city centre is Harris Park, a vibrant, multicultural suburb with a diverse mix of restaurants and independent retailers.
There are several hotels in North Parramatta, which is a quieter, more residential neighbourhood on the north side of the Parramatta River. It’s also home to scenic Lake Parramatta Reserve, a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city.
A 20-minute drive to the north-east is residential Macquarie Park – a good choice for business guests visiting the Riverside Corporate Park or Macquarie University in North Ryde.
Eating Out in Parramatta
Parramatta’s ethnic diversity is represented in its food. The city has several buzzing dining precincts, and you can take your pick of global flavours, at price points that will suit all budgets.
Church Street in the city centre is known locally as “Eat Street”. This lively strip offers Italian, Chinese, Thai and Mediterranean cooking in smart, modern eateries, many with seats outside. Try Jamie Oliver’s Italian Trattoria or popular burger chain Grill’d. If you have a craving for Asian cuisine, the south end of Church Street is Parramatta’s answer to Sydney’s Chinatown.
Nearby Phillip Street has several stylish, upmarket restaurants, including a large outpost of the Bavarian Bier Café and the Port Bar, which offers roof-top bar, modern Australian food and river views.
Multicultural Harris Park draws lovers of Indian food. You’ll find Greek, Italian and Japanese eateries here too, as well as sweet Lebanese treats. North Parramatta is a great destination for pizza lovers.
The chef recommends...
● Enjoy high tea in the charming Macquarie Street Gatehouse Tea Rooms, built in 1887 on the edge of Parramatta Park.
● Try the five-course tasting menu at The Emporium, a stylish, sprawling place containing a modern Australian restaurant, bar, bakery and coffee roastery.
● Tuck into authentic German beer and sausages at the Bavarian Bier Café. It’s housed in a revamped church and has a spacious beer garden.
● Savour some tasty north Indian classics, such as chicken tikka or murgh makhni, at Ginger Indian in Harris Park.
Shopping in Parramatta
Parramatta offers a wide range of retail opportunities, from vast, modern shopping centres to independent one-offs and a bustling farmers’ market. And if you want more choice, it’s only half an hour by train to the multitude of shops in Sydney city centre.
Westfield Parramatta is one of the biggest shopping malls in Australia, with nearly 500 retailers including department store David Jones and discount giant Kmart. It also has cafés, restaurants and an 11-screen multiplex.
Centenary Square is a modern, open-air plaza with a colourfully lit fountain at its heart. Near the restaurants of Church Street and historic buildings including Parramatta Town Hall, the square is sometimes used for outdoor markets, live performances and big-screen sports.
The lively, multicultural enclave of Harris Park, a short distance to the south, is packed with Indian fashion boutiques, spice shops and delis, and Lebanese sweet shops.
Unique shopping in Parramatta
● Admire the beauty of Indian jewellery, weaving and embroidery at the exotic Saree Shop in Harris Park.
● Parramatta Farmers Market takes place every Friday in Centenary Square. Delicious foodstuffs for sale include Brazilian tapioca, Turkish gözleme and German bratwurst, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods and preserves.
● Browse fashion, homewares, art and crafts – all handmade in Australia – at the Dreamers Market. It’s held sporadically in the courtyard at the Parramatta Riverside Theatres.
Culture & Nightlife in Parramatta
Parramatta’s vibrant cultural scene centres around the multi-functional Parramatta Riverside Theatres complex and the annual summer Sydney Festival. For entertainment after dark, the city offers plenty of energetic bars and nightspots.
Parramatta Riverside Theatres has something for everyone. You can watch professional theatre, dance, opera and comedy shows, from around Australia and abroad, and it’s a key venue for Sydney’s many festivals. Plenty of new releases and mainstream films are shown at the multi-screen Event Cinemas at the Westfield Parramatta mall.
History lovers will enjoy a visit to Hambledon Cottage, a colonial Georgian cottage built in 1824 with convict-made sandstock bricks. Inside are 19th-century furnishings, including a four-poster bed constructed from Australian red cedar timber.
Parramatta city centre is the place to go for nightlife: Phillip Street and Church Street are lined with bars and outdoor diners. You can try unusual German brews at the popular Bavarian Bier Café or, for something different, Sabu specialises in creative cocktails made from saké.
Parramatta’s finest drinking venues
● Enjoy a schooner of beer in one of Parramatta’s historic pubs, such as the Woolpack Hotel, which dates from 1796.
● Sit outside with a chilled glass of wine as you soak up views over the Parramatta River at Port Bar.
● Sample delicious tapas and tropical cocktails at the buzzing Parramatta outpost of Cuban-themed Coco Cubano.
● For live music or DJs sets, check out the Collector Hotel and River Canyon Restaurant.
Leisure in Parramatta
Parramatta has some lovely spots where you can relax and enjoy nature. Parramatta Park, with its manicured lawns, rose gardens and historic buildings, is a short walk from the city centre. Further north, Lake Parramatta Reserve is a spacious bushland area with swimming and boating facilities and walking trails.
Be sure to pack your swimsuit, so you can enjoy Parramatta’s outdoor swimming complexes. A ferry ride along the Parramatta River is a memorable way to visit spectacular Sydney Harbour, or you can simply stroll along the river foreshore.
Further west are the lovely Blue Mountains. It’s a 90-minute train ride from Parramatta to Katoomba, where you can visit Echo Point to see the Three Sisters rocks and experience the beauty and vastness of the Megalong Valley.
Exciting attractions near Parramatta
● Challenge yourself at the Labyrinth Escape Rooms. You get locked in a themed room for an hour, where the only way out is to solve a puzzle using your senses and working as a team.
● Spend the day splashing about on water slides and thrill rides at Wet ‘n’ Wild in nearby Prospect.
● If you’re feeling adventurous, test yourself on the tree-top rope courses and “flying foxes”, aka zip-lines, at TreeTop Adventure Park. Alternatively, drive south for an hour to Stanwell Tops, where you can soar high above the ocean on a tandem hang-gliding ride.