The basics — Sydney is a summer city. Its best attributes truly emerge during the warmer months. Beaches, beer gardens and boats are all ingrained in the Sydney psyche. Visitors wanting to get a taste of the very best of the city are well advised to stay close to the water. Though, those who choose to stray inwards will be equally rewarded.
01. The airport
Not truly equipped for high capacity, Sydney airport is often bursting at the seams with foot traffic and errant baggage trolleys. It is no surprise that it is the busiest airport in Australia. While this often makes for a thoroughly chaotic introduction to the city, the close proximity to the CBD helps counterbalance this. While there’s a direct train into the city, out of peak hours an Uber is going to be preferable. Image: Qantas
02. Getting around
Getting around the city will take perseverance, a good aptitude for mapping apps, and an Opal card. Windy streets and alleys can make navigating the city slightly challenging on foot, although, if you’re interested in architecture, there is no better way to take in the city’s eclectic design. Buses, trains, taxis and Ubers are readily available, and these help connect the inner city to the outer suburbs. But for a more interesting way of getting about, the city’s ferry system is well worth a jaunt (more on that later).
03. Keeping fit
Sydney is the perfect backdrop for an evening or early morning run. With much of the city enveloped by the harbour (it’s hard not to go on about it), the even pathways which circle the sparkling water views provide the best course. The city is full of inclines and hills, making some of its suburbs more challenging terrain. Swimming is another popular pursuit in the city, with beaches and pools accessible across Sydney. Cycling remains more of a challenge, and while some adventurous types do rely on a bicycle to get around, the city has some work to do to make this a more viable option.
Sleep — While Sydney has been blessed with a crop of impressive new hotels, finding a home away from home in the city takes careful selection and, at times, a generous budget. While there are plenty of delightful Airbnb options, when it comes to affordable and well-executed hotels, the city still has a long way to go. While we might sound critical, it’s also worth stating the standouts do really exceed expectations.
Eat — Eating in Sydney is as much about the food as it is the atmosphere; cosy bars are tucked down side streets, top-notch restaurants see queues around street corners and ornate structures are transformed into trendy brunch spots. Sydney is known for its impressive, and often well-traveled, chefs who have made their mark on the way the city eats, bringing daring gastronomy to the harbour-side hub.
Cho Cho San
With Japanese-inspired cuisine and cool, minimalist interiors, and a decent drinks list (wine, beer, sake, shochu and cocktails), in its opening weeks, Cho Cho San generated a fair amount of buzz. A couple of years later and they’re into their groove. Food is carefully and beautifully presented, and the interiors remain as serene and welcoming as ever. (Image: Nikki To)
73 MacLeay Street, Potts Point
A cute little spot in a quiet cul de sac, Acme offers inventive flavour pairings and an intimate atmosphere. While the deafening music can be a touch disorientating, the food makes up for it. Serving up Italian dishes with a Japanese twist, table service is speedy and the flavours are unexpected.
60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay
An award-winning eatery with all day service, Little Jean is polished, from its food to its aesthetic. A beautiful light-filled spacious spot with bunches of flowers, outdoor tables and home-made delicacies, Little Jean has cemented itself as a firm favourite in Sydney’s food scene.
1/1 Kiaora Road, Double Bay
Coffee — Here, the coolest cafes really do tend to make the best coffee. Do they have trendy furnishings, colorful art on the wall, communal spaces and a water bowl outside for pups? Chances are, you’ve found a spot with top notch offerings to sample.
Paramount Coffee Project
Positively inspired, Paramount Coffee Project is an exquisite little spot to grab a good morning coffee. Centrally located and with quick and friendly service, there is more to this cafe than meets they eye. Named for its location in Paramount House (walk around the other side of the building to see the original signage), Paramount Coffee Project neighbours a stunning co-working space and sits atop a most charming little cinema.
80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
Superbly cosy, Kawa has transformed a residential, heritage home, into a perfect village cafe and juice bar. With polished wooden floors, sun-drenched seating, plenty of cushions and quirky trinkets and decorations, Kawa offers sweetness both in its excellent brunch menu and aesthetic.
346-350 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Maintaining its original industrial fixtures, this attractive two-storey cafe, offers delicious sweet treats and excellent fairtrade coffee. With complimentary sparkling water and hand-made goods on sale upstairs, Brewtown is a charming spot with plenty of character.
6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown
Drink — A city of pubs, Sydney’s bar scene has been somewhat slow to emerge. However, the city is thankfully starting to see the merits of the neighbourhood wine bar. With summery cocktail spots to sample, and dim-lit dens, some careful selection renders good results.
Love Tilly Devine
This intimate venue offers a generous wine list and some decent spirits. Named after Sydney’s notorious Tilly Devine (a brothel madame and organised crime boss), there is something old-fashioned about both the playlist, and neighbourly atmosphere felt the moment you step through the timber threshold.
91 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst
This vibrant choice is a popular haunt for Sydney locals, and has a playful edge in both service and style. Offering an afternoon Aperol with a plate of charcuterie and cheese, they are true to their ‘deli’ moniker. If you spy tinned martinis, a blackboard menu and large set of hard-backed books, you’ll know you’ve found the right place.
210 Australia Street, Newtown
With plush leather seaters to sink into and 900 spirits on offer, soak up the vintage surrounds (and probably a good deal of liquor) at Kittyhawk. With dim lighting, dramatic interiors and an exceptionally long bar, Kittyhawk is themed along the lines of ‘World War Two liberation day in Paris’. Continuing the theme, the bar offers Parisian street food and military adornments for your perusal.
16 Phillip Lane, Sydney
Shop — Sydney in known as a shopping city. From its impressive malls to the great selection of independent retailers, the city boasts an eclectic range. At one end is the grandeur of The Strand Arcade and Queen Victoria Building; at the other, the many neighbourhood markets and weekend retail hotspots. There’s plenty of places to find something unique.
A mini oasis of Australian design in Surry Hills, Planet places an emphasis on the local. Spotlighting the works of Sydney ceramicists, this gallery-esk homewares shop is host to a huge variety of well-made goods. Whether it be rugs, hand-stitched bedding, organic candles and creams, vintage Japanese teaware or handmade journals, Planet is a treasure trove of goods for the home and body.
114 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
Koskela inspires a somewhat cult-like following; its shoppers devoutly sing its praises. Home to hand-thrown ceramics, textured artworks, textiles and furniture, and housed in an impressive warehouse with plenty of greenery, Koskela boasts an impressive range of Australian-made and ethically produced products.
1/85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery
A notably good bookshop. Published Art’s collection of imported books eschews the usual design book roundup. With a focus on design, architecture and art, this global selection is full of unexpected gems. This store also shares premises with a Normann Copenhagen shop, are also worth a gander.
2/38 Mary Street, Surry Hills
See — From the breathtaking, picturesque natural beauty of the city, to the eclectic heritage architecture, iconic Sydney Opera House and beloved public spaces, Sydney is an attractive city. A closer exploration of all it has to offer will reveal even more beauty in its details.
The Goods Line
Born from an urban renewal project, The Goods Line was once a disused rail corridor. An elevated garden with gym equipment, table tennis tables, and plenty of green, this area is a quiet High Line-style park in the busy heart of the CBD. Right across from the impressive, otherworldly architectural design from Frank Gehry, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building of the UTS Business School is something rather extraordinary. Although a fairly new (2015) addition to the city, The Goods Line has emerged as a sought after third space in the city.
Paddington Reservoir Gardens
A hidden, quiet space in the middle of the busy city, the Paddington Reservoir Gardens regularly is the canvas upon which revolving art is displayed. The brainchild of architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and landscape architects JMD Design, this space was transformed from a disused reservoir into a multilayer garden and public space. (Image: Brett Boardman)
Museum of Contemporary Art
Across from the Sydney Opera House, nestled in The Rocks, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia hosts a revolving collection of contemporary artworks, both from Australia and around the globe. With a mixture of sculpture, photography, painting and visual works, the gallery is also known for regularly spotlighting works from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The MCA also host events throughout the year, such as a Zine Fair.
Families — With buskers, public art and plenty of parks, those who arrive in the city with little ones can expect to find an array of family friendly attractions. Bear in mind that, in Sydney, public transport can be a little slow moving, so be sure to pack some distractions before you head out.
Bondi to Bronte walk
A classic, the 4km Bondi to Bronte walk reveals Sydney’s beautiful coastal edge. This walk begins and ends with two of the city’s most famous beaches. With beachside parks offering picnic shelters, play areas, toilets and change-rooms, there’s plenty of places to stop for breaks along the way.
Ferry trip to Taronga Zoo
Sydney’s ferry system is one of its quirkier qualities. For those who want to get another angle of the attractive sights and sounds, hopping on a ferry is an easy option. It’s also an effective way of getting around. Accessible via ferry, Taronga Zoo, which overlooks the city from the north shore, is home to many native Australian animals and is award-winning for their conservation program.
Just a short walk down to the end of The Goods Line, the Powerhouse Museum has been a part of the city for 125 years. Known for its science and technology collection, this museum is home to trains, computers, electrical experiments and even an early Merz Telescope. But while celebrating the old, there are often events which spotlight more recent innovations, including those within the realms of film and art.
Events — Sydney likes to dazzle. If you arrive in time for one of the city’s many events, you’re guaranteed to see another side of this spectacular city.
Sydney Chinese New Year Festival
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade
Sydney Comedy Festival
MCA Zine Fair
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia
Sydney Writers’ Festival
Sydney Film Festival
The Sun-Herald City2Surf
Sydney Design Festival
Sydney Architecture Festival
Sculpture by the Sea