Visiting Sydney – A City Guide
With a sparkling blue harbour, al fresco dining and leafy inner-city villages, Sydney is a chic, bustling metropolis with a laid-back, outdoor vibe. Relax on golden beaches, watch the ferries criss-cross Sydney Harbour or enjoy a cocktail at a swanky rooftop bar.
Sydney: city layout
At Sydney’s heart is the CBD (central business district), with its high-rise buildings, leafy parks and world-famous harbour. The city is surrounded by lively village suburbs. In the inner-west are bohemian Glebe, Newtown and Enmore, alive with bars, restaurants and cafés. To the south is trendy Surry Hills, full of terrace houses, pubs and culinary hot spots. To the east are the vibrant bars and restaurants of Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, while nearby Potts Point and Woolloomooloo offer plenty of swanky dining spots to explore. There’s also designer shopping in leafy Double Bay and great beachside restaurants in Coogee. To the west lie the busy shopping district of Parramatta and the scenic Blue Mountains.
Sydney’s best beaches
Sydney is surrounded by beaches, from family-friendly Manly, Coogee and Cronulla to the fashionable Tamarama and Bronte.
To the east is Bondi, perhaps Australia’s best known beach. Elegant bars, sidewalk cafés and restaurants line Campbell Parade. You can sip a cocktail or enjoy an upscale meal overlooking the ocean baths at Icebergs.
Manly Beach lies to the north, a short, scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay. You can sit beneath 100-year-old pine trees with an ice-cream and watch the waves roll in. The Manly Corso is a vibrant, open-air shopping mall connecting the ferry wharf with the beach.
The concierge recommends…
● Bondi to Bronte coastal walk: this four-kilometre walking track takes you past some of Sydney’s most striking coastal spots, including Tamarama Beach and historic Waverley Cemetery with views over the ocean.
● Henry Deane: With glass walls and 360-degree views of Sydney Harbour and the city, this chic rooftop bar is the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail.
● Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb: For one of Sydney’s most unforgettable views, walk along the upper arch of this iconic structure as the traffic roars beneath your feet.
● Jet boating on Sydney Harbour: Reaching speeds of 75km/h and with 270-degree spins, this is a thrilling way to explore Sydney Harbour.
● Taronga Zoo: Get up close to kangaroos and koalas or see exotic animals like elephants and giraffes against a spectacular harbour backdrop.
Hotels in Sydney
Whether you’re after an exciting stay in the city’s bustling centre or a quiet retreat by the sea, Sydney has you covered.
Sydney’s CBD (central business district) is an ideal place to stay if you want to be close to the city’s vibrant shopping and nightlife, as well tourist attractions like Sydney Harbour, Darling Harbour and the Royal Botanic Garden. The Rocks is Sydney’s historic region, built by convicts and full of sandstone pubs and upscale eateries.
The leafy streets of Potts Point are lined with chic bars and restaurants, just a short walk from the city centre.
Double Bay offers upscale boutiques and al fresco dining in a stylish, harbourside village setting.
If you want to be close to the beach, Coogee is a lively, family-friendly destination, only 15 minutes’ drive to the city centre and a 20-minute drive to the airport.
Eating Out in Sydney
Sydney is well-known for its diverse, world-class dining scene, and restaurant wine lists benefit from being located close to wine-producing regions like Orange and the Hunter Valley. Thanks to a history of Greek and Italian immigration, the city has developed an obsession with excellent coffee, offering some of the world’s best brews in truly funky cafés.
King Street and Enmore Road in Sydney’s bohemian inner west are both a hive of small bars and restaurants. Highlights include pizza, tapas and live music at the Vanguard or the inventive sushi rolls at Japone Sushi. Nearby Erskineville is a little more tucked away, offering laid-back pubs and plenty of places to relax with a meal and a glass of wine.
Near the CBD, Crown Street and Glebe Point Road are leafy, vibrant strips brimming with cafés, bars and restaurants for every budget. Visit Alfie & Hetty for modern Australian meals in charming surrounds, or try izakaya-style dining at Toko.
You’ll find more upmarket dining experiences in Queen Street, Woollahra, and elegant Potts Point. If you feel like eating by the water, visit the modern eateries of King Street Wharf or Rose Bay. The Rocks is home to Sydney’s oldest pubs and a wide variety of smart dining rooms in sandstone buildings.
The chef recommends...
● Schnitzel is a popular menu item at most Sydney pubs. Try the chicken jaeger schnitzel with mushroom sauce, rösti and cabbage salad at Una’s restaurant in Darlinghurst. Bring a healthy appetite!
● Sydneysiders enjoy a lot of high quality Thai restaurants. Check out the beef with black pepper sauce at Thai Pothong in Newtown.
● Brunch in Sydney is serious business. Visit the Grounds of Alexandria and sample their unique menu, particularly the berry hotcakes or the three-cheese omelette. To pass the time while you wait for your table, take a wander through their hobby farm.
Shopping in Sydney
Sydney has shopping experiences for every taste and budget – from vast, glamorous shopping centres to buzzing weekend markets and pedestrian malls.
For major brands and department stores in the city centre, visit Pitt Street Mall, a pedestrianised street packed with beauty and fashion outlets. You’ll also find leading shopping centres like Westfield Sydney and the Victorian-era Strand Arcade. Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs offers over 500 shops, including department stores and luxury brands. Out west, Westfield Parramatta has over 490 retailers to explore.
You’ll find independent shops and boutiques along a number of fashionable inner-city suburban streets. In Newtown, King Street features trendy stores like Better Read Than Dead bookstore and T-Totaler specialty tea shop. Creative boutiques like Maple Store and Stem line stylish Darling Street in Balmain.
Unique Sydney shopping
● Glebe Markets and Paddington Markets take place every Saturday. Expect to find antiques, second-hand goods and handmade soaps, jewellery and gift ideas.
● Browse through some of Australia’s leading fashion boutiques, like sass & bide, Willow and Zimmermann at the Intersection Paddington.
● Mingle with locals at the busy Sydney Flower Market in Flemington and Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont.
Culture & Nightlife in Sydney
Sydney has a vibrant cultural scene, centring around several key venues and annual festivals, like the summer Sydney Festival and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. After dark, neighbourhoods around the city come to life with small bars, nightclubs and pubs.
Visitors can experience opera and theatre productions from home and abroad at Sydney Opera House, the jewel in Sydney’s cultural crown. On a finger wharf in Walsh Bay lies Sydney Theatre Company, the city’s flagship drama company, once under the artistic direction of Cate Blanchett. Other major theatres include the Theatre Royal, State Theatre and the Seymour Centre.
Art lovers should visit the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay and the Art Gallery of NSW next to the Royal Botanic Garden.
If you’re in search of nightlife, the Rocks offers charming, colonial-style pubs. If you’re looking for a drink by the water, try Opera Bar at the Sydney Opera House or venture to stylish King Street Wharf. The beachside suburbs of Bondi and Coogee hum with revellers after dark, and Oxford Street in Darlinghurst has long been Sydney’s gay and lesbian heartland.
Sydney theatre hotspots
● Combine culture and cocktails with a drink at Opera Bar or the Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf before a show.
● Looking for edgy independent theatre? Be sure to visit Stables Theatre, Belvoir St Theatre or Darlinghurst Theatre.
Leisure in Sydney
Sydney is best known for its beaches, harbour and innovative dining experiences. Whether you’re looking for sky-diving, scuba diving or mountain hiking, Sydney has it all.
Fancy a day out on Sydney Harbour? There are many ways to explore this dazzling waterway. Daredevils can try a whirlwind jet-boat ride, or you can take the leisurely Manly Ferry. For something truly luxurious, you could charter a yacht for the day. Be sure to stop off at Fort Denison for lunch, a historical icon in the middle of the harbour.
A great way to see Sydney’s attractions is to jump aboard a double-decker sightseeing bus. A visit to the top of the 309-metre-tall Sydney Tower offers another unique perspective on the city.
Sydney’s most exciting attractions
● Looking for an amusement park? Splash about on speedy water rides at Wet‘n’Wild in western Sydney or visit retro Luna Park on the north shore.
● Enjoy the beach and develop a new skill at the same time. Learn to surf at Bondi, one of Australia’s most iconic beaches.
● Feeling adventurous? Test your agility on tree-top rope courses and flying foxes at TreeTop Adventure Park, or fly high above the sea with a tandem hang gliding ride at Stanwell Tops. For panoramic views, climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge or ascend the Skywalk, a glass viewing platform on top of lofty Sydney Tower.