As one of the world’s most liveable cities, Sydney attracts tourists, travellers and expats alike. It is a true melting pot where myriads of cultures from all over the world converge to create a truly great world city. Here are some suggestions on how to explore this vibrant metropolis.
History and overview:
Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales and its 5M inhabitants live in Australia’s largest and most diverse city. Sydney is so large that most people do not refer to Sydney as one big city but divide the city into many interconnected agglomerations.
The city was founded in 1788 when legendary explorer lieutenant James Cook established a settlement in an indigenous area which he later claimed for Britain. The city has grown ever since and extended its limits to areas beyond its original borders.
In 2000, Sydney hosted the Olympic games which sparked huge infrastructure developments and boosted its liveability. This world renowned quality of life coupled to Australia’s economic success have sustained Sydney’s growth and popularity ever since.
The best areas to stay in Sydney are the City Centre, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. These areas have the highest amount of options and are stragecially located close to all the main sights. Their favourable location obviously explains the higher prices. For more budget friendly options, Surry Hills is an alternative.
The Old Clare Hotel: Once a relic that had lost its charm, the heritage listed Old Clare has been renovated and transformed into one of Sydney’s hippest designer hotels. Located in the midst of the Chippendale art scene, the Old Clare will delight you with its charming and luxurious rooms and its excellent service in a fantastic location.
Establishment Hotel: The ‘shut up and take my money’ option. One of the coolest hotels in Sydney, located right in the business district and excellent in every way. Its Bulgari themed bathrooms are only topped by its five star breakfast and its impeccable service.
Vibe Hotel: A great mid-range option which scores points with its good location, its crisp and modern rooms and its rooftop pool and gym facilities.
Bounce Sydney Hostel: Our budget option for Sydney is a nicely thought out and well located hostel with a bar on top to enjoy a refreshing drink in the evening.
Cultural offer and activities:
Darling Harbour & Aquarium: The famous Darling Harbour will delight travellers with its many bars and restaurants, its lovely views and most of all its world famous Sea Life Aquarium.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA): (140 George St) Sydney’s MCA exhibits the most up and coming Australian artists and thereby gives you a great opportunity to learn about what’s happening in the local art scene. The museum is moreover located very close to the sea and offers stunning views at Sydney Opera House.
Manly Beach: Walk Hiking enthusiasts will love the numerous walks starting or ending in the beautiful coastal town of Manly beach which can be reached by boat from Sydney’s various ports.
Bondi Beach: Surfing As one of the world’s most acclaimed surfing hotspots, Bondi Beach is definitely a must in order to experience one of Australia’s top sports first hand. For surfing lessons in Bondi, check Let’s Go Surfing Bondi, one of the best surf schools in town.
Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge: Two structures that need no introduction. Whether you want to see one of the many famous shows or just admire the Opera’s stunning architecture, Sydney Opera House should definitely be on your schedule. The Harbour Bridge is another must, guided tours enabling you to climb up to the top are available in local agencies.
Rock swimming pools: One of the features that marks Sydney aside from most cities in the world. The location and layout of the rock pools turn an ordinary swim into a genuine experience and should therefore definitely not be missed. Two great ocean pools are Bondi Iceberg Pool (1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach) and Bronte Baths
The Royal Botanic Garden: (Mrs Macquaries Rd) As one of the oldest urban parks in the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney’s 30 hectare botanic garden has had numerous different uses of the years. The park has in fact accomodated windmills, a zoo and an aviary since its construction in 1810. It is today most of all a beautiful oasis of peaceful serenity in the middle of the concrete canyon.
Chinatown: Sydney’s Chinese district is a great place to eat street food from all of Asia and to briefly immerse yourself into the Chinese culture without leaving Australia. Make sure to check out Chinatown’s night markets which are held every Friday night on Dixon Street.
Blue Mountains National Park: A destination that nature lovers will embrace, its proximity to Sydney is an enormous advantage considering the size of Australia and the distances from most cities to the national parks.
Wine & Dine:
Australia is well known for its varied platters of meat and its excellent wine and there is no shortage of options for a gorgeous foodie experience in Sydney.
Cyren Bar & Grill: (Harbourside Shopping Centre, 2-10 Darling Dr) A waterfront food temple that will enable you to taste all the Australian varieties of meet and also an extensive a array of fish and other local delicacies.
Braza Darling Harbour: (Darling Quarter, 1-25 Harbour St) An amazing Brazilian churrascaría in Darling Harbour, not a local option but definitely a great one.
The Grounds: (7a/2 Huntley St) A great place with indoor and outdoor spaces to taste mouthwatering local delicacies and some of the finest coffee in the city. For more info about this food temple, check their blog.
ACME (60 Bayswater Rd) A pasta institution in the King’s Cross area that will delight carb lovers with its vast selection of delicious pasta dishes and its fantastic assortment of local wines. If you love pasta and are looking for a charming restaurant that oozes local flair and coolness, look no further.
360 Bar & Dining: (Westfield Sydney, 100 Market St, Sydney) One of the best views in Sydney, the 360 Bar enables you to enjoy a drink while slowly turning around above the roofs of the city. Enjoy a cocktail in the sky with the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge in full view.
The Ivy: (330 George St) A club located on top of the complex with the same name where you can party until the early morning while enjoying a swim in one of the various rooftop pools
Home Nightclub: (101/1-5 Wheat Rd, Darling Harbour) A modern house and dance music nightclub in Darling Harbour. An expensive option but one of the best places to party in Sydney.
Hacienda Bar: (61 Macquarie St) A stylish cocktail bar looking right at Sydney Harbour Bridge in Circular Quay. The view gets even better after you have tasted some of their fabulous Caribbean cocktails.
King’s Cross area: An area with an enormous amount of bars and restaurants where everybody will find something to his taste
Newtown Hotel: (174 King St, Newtown NSW) An old hotel transformed into a nice cozy pub, situated a bit outside of the teeming parts of Sydney’s central nightlife hotspots.
A local opinion: Sydney’s lockout rules (you can’t enter a bar after 1.30AM and last call is at 3AM) are really annoying, we Australians get around them by just starting earlier. Most Melbourne residents will tell you that their nightlife is better but although the government is trying to crack down on partying in Sydney, the nightlife is still great, make sure to start early, then you won’t be disappointed. (Mark, 26, Sydney native and surf instructor)
Final tips & verdict:
Sydney is a destination worth staying in for at least one week. There are so many locations and activities that the usual weekend getaway won’t cut it.
Sydney’s traffic is horrible but the city has an excellent public transit system with buses and trains which covers the whole of Greater Sydney. Taxis and Uber are also a good option and less pricey than you might think.
Sydney is also very expensive and there are many many rules and signs to follow (no alcohol in the street, no noise at night, last call in bars and so on). So prepare your trip well in order to enjoy this magnificent city without any unpleasant surprises!