A city surrounded by water, Sydney is a fusion of spectacular architecture and white beaches. Set amongst native bushland and lush national parks, the key to this city's identity is its harbor.
Central Business District
The central business district is a pastiche of quarters and boroughs. The multi-cultural nature of this city and its inhabitants ensures an authenticity that is at the heart of its liberal and embracing spirit.
West of Circular Quay, discover the quirkily named
When locals use the term "the city centre," they are referring to
In the southwestern corner of the city, Chinatown is a feast for the senses. This district is home to
Built to commemorate Australia's bicentenary,
On the Eastern side of
The Eastern Suburbs
Oxford Street is the main artery in this district. This elongated street runs from the central business district in Darlinghurst and works its way into Paddington, past the sprawling
At the lower end of Darlinghurst is
The East's harbourside suburbs of Elizabeth Bay, Double Bay and Rose Bay culminate at Watson's Bay, which offers stunning views of the city. Savour the view from the nearby world famous
The first fleet landed at Botany Bay, and the suburbs between here and
The Inner West
Glebe and Newtown are the main suburbs in this district. The inner-west is crammed with restaurants offering international cuisines, new and second-hand bookshops, backpacker hostels, health food shops and traditional pubs.
Further west is Leichhardt, also known as Little Italy. Wander past Norton Street's bookshops, art-house cinemas and delicatessen-shops, which sell a selection of cheese, imported espresso machines and ceramic tiles.
The Greater West
Homebush Bay, the centre of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is situated in the Greater West. Telstra Stadium and a host of sporting facilities are all close by. Neighbouring Parramatta is the major transport and commercial hub of the west. Between Parramatta and the Blue Mountains (Sydney's western boundary) is Cabramatta—Sydney's Little Vietnam, and it is worth the trip for the great shopping and culinary experience.
The Upper North Shore
Sydney's northwest corner intersects at The Hills District—a semi-rural region that is fast developing into a residential quarter. The leafy Upper North Shore is one of Sydney's wealthiest areas.
The Lower North Shore
Everything below Chatswood is the Lower North Shore. Some of the prettier spots are
The Northern Beaches
Sydney is home to many corporate and financial headquarters, and hotels are reflecting this by offering facilities dedicated to the business traveller. However if you are on a budget, there are plenty of cheap, fun establishments, particularly around Kings Cross, Sydney Central Station and the seaside suburbs of Bondi Beach and Manly Beach.
Watch out for the 10 percent surcharge GST (Government levy) on bookings. Tipping housemaids, front of house and waiting staff is commonplace, although not obligatory.
The historic Rocks offers antique-filled terraces, such as the Russell. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel features a sandstone pub with homemade beer and jovial clientele, while the Observatory Hotel has the added pampering attraction of a Day Spa & Health Club.
Circular Quay has recently undergone a transformation, including the building of some controversial apartments, bars and restaurants around the foreshore. The development, nevertheless, has turned a bleak spot into a stunning, paved colonnade. The InterContinental Sydney is just up the road, with the Four Seasons at the western end of the quay. Just along the road from the Museum of Contemporary Art, you will find the grand opulence of the Park Hyatt. For those on a budget, head to the Grand Hotel on Hunter Street.
Two of Sydney's most luxurious five-star hotels are located in the middle of the city; the Swissotel Sydney, above Grace Bros. department store, and the Westin in Martin Place. Business travellers love the Saville 2 Bond Street Apartments near the Stock Exchange, which combines serviced apartments with classic hotel accommodation. The art deco Grace Hotel is also situated nearby.
Central Station and Chinatown
There is bargain accommodation to be found around Central Station and Chinatown. The mega-giant Sydney Central Youth Hostel has a pool, spa and sauna, dormitories and private rooms. The Mercure and Macquarie Boutique Hotel are both moderately priced, along with the quirky Aaron's Hotel in Chinatown. With four-and-a-half stars, The Citigate Central Sydney specialises in theatre and family accommodation packages.
The Darling Harbour district is awash with hotels. Whether it is glitz and glamour or family oriented budget-style, you will have a myriad of choices. For deluxe accommodation, head to Star City Hotel. The former jazz pub on Wattle Street, Vulcan, is a family-run bed and breakfast, which will not break the bank.
Kings Cross is backpacker heaven. Party around the rooftop barbecue at Eva's Backpackers or squeeze yourself into the tiny boutique Hotel 59. For a moderately priced hotel with a few, check out the stylish Vibe Rushcutters offering park and harbour views.
Darlinghurst and Paddington
This area is dotted with ultra-cool boutique hotels, catering to those who enjoy the finer things in life. Closeness to shops, eateries and the Oxford Street nightlife make the Kirketon Hotel, with Armani-clad staff, popular with gay visitors. On the Darlinghurst side of Victoria Street, Morgans is popular for a room or a meal in the restaurant. Up the Centennial Park end of Oxford Street you will find the Hughenden, a renovated terrace full of comfort. On the cheaper end of the scale, stay at the Park Lodge Hotel, a terrace with the friendliest staff, comfortable lounges and shady gardens.
Bondi Beach is a stunning setting, just 10 minutes from the city, with a great selection of places to stay. The Swiss Grand Resort & Spa Bondi is one of the most expensive on the beachfront, while a more moderately priced establishment is the Hotel Bondi. Ravesi's is a small, fashionable hotel featuring a popular restaurant with a wrap-around terrace above the beach. A couple of beaches to the south you will find Coogee Beach and Surfside Backpackers.
Home of surfing, sand and year-round holidaymakers, Manly is surrounded on all sides by beach, with a choice of surf or calm inner harbour. If you are looking for some seaside pampering, then book into the Manly Pacific. Families and those budgeting should try the Manly Paradise Motel, offering childproof, cheap accommodation with kitchenettes, pools and activity rooms.
North Sydney and Crows Nest are home to most of Sydney's advertising, film and computer companies, so there is a selection of hotels catering to business travelers, as well as leisure. The Vibe Hotel in North Sydney is very popular along with a variety of other medium priced establishments to be found scattered along the North Shore.
Highly recommended is Billabong Gardens, a five-star hostel with a pool, children's activities and family rooms, tucked away in Newtown, and the Pittwater Youth Hostel for its unique and beautiful coastal bush setting. Also, the Tricketts B&B in Balmain is a cozy heritage Victorian mansion with convivial hosts.
Sydney has a vibrant, world-renowned arts scene, with a diverse range of contemporary, classical and experimental performances. Many of the city's sports venues, such as the Aussie Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground and ANZ Stadium are also utilized as arts and entertainment venues.
Performing Art Centres
One of Sydney's major centres is the Opera House, where Australia's pre-eminent companies perform ballet, opera, music and theatre. The nearby Wharf, is home to the Sydney Dance Company, the Bangarra Dance Company and the Sydney Theatre Company.
The city movie-strip is located near the Sydney Town Hall, with a cluster of Hoyts and Greater Union locations. Oxford Street's Chauvel, features independent releases, and Reading Cinemas in Chinatown offer Hollywood hits and cheap tickets. Another cinema is Cinema Paris. The IMAX Cinema boasts the world's largest screen, showing specially formatted film. For a summer evening under the stars, take a picnic to Centennial Park for the Moonlight Cinema, or Excite OpenAir Cinema, by the harbour at Mrs Macquarie's Chair.
The Arts Scene
The city's selection of traditional theatres include the Theatre Royal, and the dazzlingly baroque State Theatre. The renovated Capitol, is all gold and Grecian statues and is the venue for long-running musicals. Nearby is the Lyric Theatre and the glitzy Showroom in Star City Casino. Popular Belvoir Street in Surry Hills, and The Ensemble, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in Kirribilli, feature well-known Australian actors. For something alternative, try The Stables, Old Fitzroy Hotel and the Performance Space. From ballet to contemporary, the Opera House and the Wharf are headquarters of Australian movement. Other venues include The Bondi Pavilion, Enmore Theatre and Seymour Centre. The City Recital Hall in Angel Place, and the restored Customs House are welcome additions to the music scene. Enjoy international concerts at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Another live band venue is The Rose of Australia in Erskineville. For jazz, head to the Basement at Circular Quay, or to Pontoon on Sundays.
The Australian and Powerhouse Museums are fun and educational. The National Maritime Museum has naval ships to explore, and Hyde Park Barracks houses the ghosts of former convicts and a history museum. The State Library of New South Wales is a treasure trove, whilst the natural history Macleay Museum exhibits 9,000 stuffed birds and Charles Darwin's flea!
The Art Gallery of NSW, overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay, is one of Australia's premier institutions, with a collection of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander works, as well as Australian, European, Asian and contemporary art. The Museum of Sydney has an innovative approach to educating visitors about colonial and indigenous history, and The Museum of Contemporary Art's international collection is housed in an imposing art deco building. In Surry Hills, the Brett Whiteley Studio Museum, was once his paint-spattered workshop. Jump on the ferry to The Manly Art Gallery & Museum to see approximately 800 paintings and displays tracing the history of beach culture.
The club scene is a moveable feast, with venues coming and going like fashion. One of the hippest is Home at Darling Harbour. Oxford Street is bustling with places frequented by a relaxed and friendly crowd. UN, Q Bar, Goodbar and Rogues are pumping until dawn.
Bars & Pubs
Some of the best bar and pubs include Longrain in Surry Hills and the Grand Pacific Blue Room on Oxford Street. Business types should head to SlipInn, Aqua Luna Bar and Jacksons On George. Oxford Street has Gilligans and the Burdekin Hotel, with the cool Dugout Bar underneath. A downhill stroll along Crown Street brings you to East Village, a happening little spot, with restaurants and bars. Popular venues include the Centennial Hotel, Golden Sheaf and the Beach Road in Bondi.
Gay & Lesbian
Sydney is like San Francisco, a gay capital of the world. The scene is in Oxford Street and its surrounds. Nightclubs like Midnight Shift and sometimes Stonewall are best left for men, but it is a happy, mixed crowd on the dance floor at ARQ nightclub. Get down to the Albury, Exchange and Flinders pubs and the Imperial in Erskineville for some drag. Other popular spots Judgement Bar. For a happening Friday night, visit the friendly Bright 'n' up Bar. The lesbian scene changes regularly, so check local press. Favourites include girl's night at ARQ.
Sydney is a city that enjoys good food and entertainment. The city's restaurants and cafes truly reflect its multicultural influence and diverse population. The choices read like an atlas, so enjoy authentic flavors and cooking styles from across the world.
Traditional Australian fare is reputedly a meat pie and a can of beer, and in keeping with tradition, legendary locations like Harry's Café de Wheels provide the best pies. Meanwhile bush-tucker, which reflects the Aboriginal flavors of Australia—is only now featured on a handful of menus. It was not until 1993 that restaurants were allowed to serve Kangaroo meat.
Being a harbour city, seafood is a main dining feature, and the Sydney Fish Market ensures a fresh and plentiful supply of barramundi, snapper, mussels, prawns, calamari and octopus. Restaurants such as Fishface and Five Dock Seafoods Cafe serve only fish. The seafood-serving king Doyles, is not only one of the oldest fish restaurants in town, it also has a fantastic view from its beachside location in Watsons Bay.
The city's booming cafe culture has an overtly Italian influence. To sample some of the best coffee, head for Bondi Beach. Bar Coluzzi, bills, La Buvette and Tropicana are just some of the hip coffee spots. There are some central-city cafes also worth discovering, such as MoS Café. If you prefer tea however, then pay a visit to Sejuiced in Bondi Beach and the Tea Centre of Sydney.
The pick of Italian restaurants includes Gelbison and Mezzaluna. Norton Street in inner city Leichhardt, is also known as Little Italy, and if you have a passion for pasta, this is the place to go to.
The European influence does not stop with Italy. Bistro Moncur and Sel et Poivre offer some excellent French cuisine whilst Mykonos on Crown and Capitan Torres reflect the Mediterranean flavours of Greece and Spain, respectively. Sample Eastern European cuisine with a visit to Corner 75.
Asian cuisine is also very popular in Sydney. Chinatown in Haymarket, and the newer version in Chatswood, ensure a constant supply of excellent Chinese eateries. From massive yum cha (dim sum) restaurants such as Marigold Restaurant, to the Chinese Noodle Restaurant, aficionados of chop suey and roasted duck are spoilt for choice. Sydney's Asian cuisine also includes Malaysian, Thai, Singaporean, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Indian, Iranian and Cambodian, to name but a few. Establishments such as The Malaya, Chinta Ria, Lebanon & Beyond and Blue Elephant offer oodles of noodles, a suffice of rice, free tea and flavors to be savored.
Then there is Japanese…with well-established trade links, Japanese food has a long-held tradition in Sydney's eating culture. Sushi, sashimi, noodles, tempura and teriyaki—it is all here. Sushi Suma, Shimbashi and Raw Bar are some of the recommended venues.
Restaurants Per District
In terms of restaurants per district, this is the basic rule—the western suburbs offer plenty of Cambodian and Turkish, whilst in the south, there is Greek and Lebanese. Head north for Indian, African and Japanese, and east for Indonesian and European. Dine with a view at The Boathouse, Catalina, and The Summit. Go vegetarian at Govinda's or Harvest, and be seen in the trendiest spots like Bayswater Brasserie Restaurant and Hugo's. To top it all, unique features such as Bring Your Own wine (BYO), cook your own steak, milk crate seating on the pavement, and harbour views, simply add to what is already an exceptional dining experience.
In accordance with the New South Wales Smoke Free Environment Act 2000, smoking is prohibited inside Sydney restaurants.
Rulings in the late 1990s, allowing gambling in drinking establishments, have seen many pubs stripped of their traditional identity. Some pubs do, however, manage a mixture of everything, for example the Golden Sheaf in Double Bay offers gambling, pool, live music and a great outdoor drinking and eating area. There are still some traditional pubs, as well as some very trendy, modern ones. Also note—many pubs are called hotels—some offer accommodation, others are just drinking establishments.
Hotspots in Sydney
For a taste of traditional drinking visit Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, as well as the Fortune of War Hotel, The Dry Dock and Mercantile Hotel. Whilst Scruffy Murphy's, and Cock 'N' Bull are testament to the fact that Irish pubs are everywhere. A city centre favourite is Jackson's On George. Many pubs also serve great food. The Slip Inn has a noted restaurant, as does The Australian Heritage Hotel.
Something For Everybody
There are pubs dedicated to sport and pubs with beer gardens and beach or city views like The Coogee Bay Hotel. There are bars in swanky hotels, like the Lobby Bar at the Swiss Grand, and modern, gleaming bars with harbourside locations such as Pontoon. There are live music venues, such as Bat & Ball Hotel, lesbian bars like the Lava Lounge and pubs for lounge lizards including Burdekin Hotel. For that extra something, sip a margarita at the 25th Floor Cocktail Bar or enjoy some of the best Australian wines in the Grace Wine Bar.
So the list is endless, and whatever your poison—however you like to drink it, the Sydney scene offers a liquid for all tastes.