Where to stay
- Bounce Sydney, 28 Chalmers St, Surry Hills; +61 2 9281 2222; www.bouncehostel.com.au. A top-rated hostel offering both dorms and private rooms. Amenities include a rooftop terrace, a barbecue area, and an onsite bar and bistro.
- Meriton Serviced Apartments, various locations; www.meritonapartments.com.au. Value-for-money accommodation, with apartments that include a full-sized fridge, stove, washer and dryer and unlimited WiFi.
- Metro Hotel on Pitt, 300 Pitt St; +61 2 9283 8088, www.metrohotels.com.au. A bright and pleasant boutique hotel set in an Art Deco building. Conveniently located a short walk from Town Hall Station.
- Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour, 139 Murray St, Pyrmont; +61 2 8586 1888; www.ovolohotels.com. A luxe boutique hotel in a circa-1888 building (hence its name). Its stylish, contemporary rooms feature 3m-high ceilings and an industrial-chic aesthetic.
- Sydney Harbour YHA, 10 Cumberland St, The Rocks; +61 2 8272 0900; www.yha.com.au/hostels/nsw/sydney-surrounds/sydney-harbour. An award-winning backpacker hostel located in the city center. All rooms are air-conditioned and have en-suite bathrooms.
- Wynyard Hotel, 107 Clarence St; +61 2 9240 3000; merivale.com.au/wynyardhotel. This is a good base for travelers — it’s just five minutes away from the Wynyard train station and a few blocks away from Darling Harbour. There is free WiFi, and while there’s no air-conditioning (this hotel was founded in 1873!), fans are available.
Where to eat
- ARIA by Matt Moran, 1 Macquarie St, East Circular Quay; +61 2 9240 2255; www.ariarestaurant.com/sydney. Perched on the edge of Sydney Harbour, this award-winning restaurant offers contemporary Australian fare and an extensive wine list. Expect to pay upwards of AUD$250 for two, but it’s an indulgence that’s well worth it.
- Bondi Pizza, various locations; +61 2 9388 9222; www.bondipizza.com.au. Order several of its thin-crust pizzas in unique flavors like peri-peri chicken, and chilli prawn and chorizo, for sharing.
- Bourke Street Bakery, various locations, bourkestreetbakery.com.au. This popular bakery is where you’ll find an assortment of freshly-baked breads and pastries, from croissants and lemon curd tarts to sourdough loaves.
- Cargo Bar, 52-60 The Promenade, King St Wharf, Darling Harbour; +61 2 9262 1777; www.cargobar.com.au. Indulge in steak and booze at this iconic 1970s-themed beer garden – one of Sydney’s most beloved watering holes.
- Devon Cafe, 76 Devonshire St, Surry Hills; +61 2 9211 8777; www.devoncafe.com.au. One of Sydney’s best brunch places, serving up Asian fusion fare that’s borderline fine-dining but with wallet-friendly prices.
- Doyles on the Beach Restaurant, 11 Marine Parade, Watsons Bay; +61 2 9337 2007; www.doyles.com.au. A family-run seafood joint with indoor and alfresco seating, and great views of the harbor.
- Gelato Messina, various locations, www.gelatomessina.com. Widely regarded as the best place in Australia for freshly-churned gelato, with creative flavors like pear & rhubarb, and poached figs in marsala.
- Harts Pub, Essex St and Gloucester St, The Rocks; +61 2 9251 6030; facebook.com/HartsPub. This pub is proud of its reputation as one of Australia’s iconic venues for an all-Australian craft beer lineup. Try Rock Brewing Co.’s The Hangman Pale Ale, which goes well with Rocks Jalapeño Poppers.
- Hurricane’s Grill and Bar Top Ryde, Shop R3006, Top Ryde City Shopping Centre, 109-129 Blaxland Rd; +61 2 9130 7101; topryde.hurricanesgrill.com.au. A sleek, minimalist space specializing in premium steaks and ribs, burgers and seafood.
- Mary’s, 6 Mary St, Newtown; www.instagram.com/marysnewtown. This rustic bar is most popular for its amazing American-style burgers and finger-lickin’ good fried chicken.
- Pancakes on the Rocks, 4 Hickson Rd, The Rocks; +61 2 9247 6371; www.pancakesontherocks.com.au. Besides pancakes in a variety of flavors, this Sydney institution also serves an assortment of pizzas, grilled meats and salads.
- Pie Face, 7 Grand Ave, Camellia; +61 2 9898 5999; www.pieface.com.au. Satisfy your midday hunger pangs with oven-fresh premium pies, quiches, sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
- Sydney Fish Market, Bank St and Pyrmont Bridge Rd, +61 2 9004 1100; sydneyfishmarket.com.au. Here, you’ll find the freshest seafood in the city. Chow down fresh sashimi, briny oysters, grilled scampi, deep-fried lobsters and more at the market’s canteen — you don’t want seagulls stealing your food by sitting out in the open. You’ll also find several restaurants, cafés, a bakery, a greengrocer and even a butcher on site.
- The Bach Eatery, 339 King St, Newtown; +61 2 8084 4093, www.bacheatery.com.au. A rustic, New Zealand-style diner specializing in small sharing plates. Go for the Trust the Chef option, where you’ll be served with whatever the chef feels like whipping up.
- Toko, 490 Crown St, Surry Hills; +61 2 9357 6100; www.toko-sydney.com. This popular restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, but the thought of feasting on classic Japanese dishes alongside inspired modern creations like Moreton Bay bug tempura will lend excitement to the wait.
- Toros Tapas & Bar, Shop 293, Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour; +61 2 9280 0706; www.torostapasandbar.com. Head here for fancy tapas, along with stunning views of Darling Harbour.
What to do
- Bondi Beach, www.bondivillage.com. Australia’s most famous beach for good reason — its half-moon curved bay is beautiful. Go for a walk along the 1.5km coastal track between Bondi and Bronte, where you’ll enjoy great views of steep sandstone cliffs and rolling waves.
- Bondi Icebergs Club, 1 Notts Ave, Bondi; +61 2 9130 3120; icebergs.com.au. Take a dip in the club’s spectacular ocean pool, before refueling with a hearty meal of fish and chips at its bar-bistro.
- Bondi to Coogee Walk, bonditocoogeewalk.com.au. f you’ve got energy and an hour to burn, do the 6km Bondi to Coogee Walk on a cliff-top path that traverses several beaches.
- BridgeClimb, 3 Cumberland St, The Rocks; bridgeclimb.com. If you’re not squeamish about heights, this is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in Sydney. You’ll be buckled up in a safety suit and clipped onto the handrail of the world’s largest steel arched bridge, before climbing 1,332 steps for a gorgeous panorama of the harbor.
- City tours. Visit key attractions in Sydney with the help of local tour guides, who will regale you with interesting stories about various landmarks. Contact I’m Free Tours (+61 4 0551 5654; www.imfree.com.au).
- Fort Denison, fortdenison.com.au. Once a military defense island, it’s now one of Sydney’s most scenic wedding-photo locations, with a beautiful sandstone fort.
- Lady Jane Beach, Watsons Bay. Let it all hang loose at one of Australia’s oldest nudist beaches.
- Luna Park, 1 Olympic Dr, Millions Point; +61 2 9922 6644; www.lunaparksydney.com. A theme park known for its iconic giant clown face (you enter through its mouth) and retro attractions such as wonky walks and mirror mazes.
- Maroubra Beach. The waters off this beach are great for diving, with spots like Magic Point, home to the critically endangered grey nurse shark.
- Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks; +61 2 9245 2400; mca.com.au. A must-visit whether you love art or not. The museum’s veranda-style eatery, the MCA Café, is also the perfect place to have brunch while enjoying sweeping views of the harbor.
- Paddington Markets, 395 Oxford St, Paddington, +612 9331 2923; paddingtonmarkets.com.au. The launchpad of world-renowned Aussie labels such as Sass & Bide, Zimmermann and Dinosaur Designs, this popular weekly market is a must-visit for shopaholics. With over 200 stalls, you’ll not only find homegrown fashion, but also artisan foods, knick-knacks, jewelry and homeware.
- Paddy’s Markets, Hay St and Thomas St; paddysmarket.com.au. Shop for everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to trinkets in the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown.
- Port Stephens. Take a day trip to Port Stephens and try your hand at sandboarding atop the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, which stand as high as 50m. Alternatively, hike up to the summit of Tomaree National Park for an amazing view of the NSW coast.
- SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, 1-5 Wheat Rd; www.sydneyaquarium.com.au. Marvel at over 700 species of Australian sea life. You can even ride a glass-bottomed boat for stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef exhibit!
- St. Mary’s Cathedral, St Marys Rd; +61 2 9220 0400; www.stmaryscathedral.org.au. When viewed from its surrounding gardens, this majestic Catholic church looks like something straight out of a painting!
- Sydney Harbour Tall Ships, Ticket Booth Wharf; +61 2 8015 5571; www.sydneytallships.com.au. Set sail around the scenic Sydney Harbour, while enjoying a buffet lunch and open bar.
- Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point; www.sydneyoperahouse.com. This multi-venue performing arts center is probably the most iconic landmark in Sydney. Take a guided tour of the premise, or watch a show or two.
- Taronga Zoo, Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman; +61 2 9969 2777; www.taronga.org.au. Ogle at over 4,000 animals at this city zoo — after all, it isn’t an Aussie experience without the koalas and kangaroos!
- Vivid Sydney, www.vividsydney.com. An annual festival where Sydney’s urban spaces are lit up with a spectacular matrix of innovative light installations and grand-scale projections.
- Watsons Bay. Head to The Gap, a magnificent cliff and lookout spot offering stunning views of the ocean.