Both a relaxed beachside town and a bustling, vibrant city, Sydney can be as laid-back or as dynamic as travelers choose. Brimming with iconic landmarks and secret spots, Australia’s biggest city has plenty to offer—from fine dining to dive bars, designer decor and beyond.
Well-known hotel brand, the Ace opened their first Australian property in Sydney earlier this year. The 257-room hotel is located in the historic Tyne House (a former factory) whose interior has been beautifully designed by Melbourne-based Flack Studio. Earth tones, rich textiles, leather and terra cotta are balanced by pops of color and gorgeous artwork and objects by Indigenous Australian artists including Albert Namatjira. The rooftop restaurant and bar, Kiln, is already a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Located in the bustling neighborhood of Surry Hills (minutes from the city center), Paramount House Hotel is small with just 29 rooms, but big on style. Housed in an Art Deco building that also used to be the Paramount Picture Studios office, this property is more than a hotel: there’s also the 56-seat Golden Age Cinema and bar in the basement, as well as the bustling Coffee Project, where locals work and hang out every day.
Now with several locations in Australia and in NYC, Bourke Street Bakery is a small but mighty Sydney icon. The original opened in 2004 in Surry Hills, and still offers all the classics: various flavored sourdoughs, sausage rolls, meat pies, sandwiches and their beloved sweet treats—including their famous carrot cake and ginger brûlée tart. Be prepared to wait for a seat at this little cafe, or grab your goodies to go.
Encapsulating casual sophistication, Ester promises an exciting culinary experience. The food is contemporary Australian cuisine and the menu is ever-changing—thanks to a focus on local, seasonal produce—but diners can expect the signature blood sausage sanga or buttery king prawns with capers. With an exquisite list of natural and low-intervention wines, Ester offers a la carte or set menu dining.
With locations in the CBD and Newtown, the easygoing but elevated Continental Delicatessen is best known for canned cocktails (batched and canned on-site) including the Mar-tinny, Can-hatten and Cosmopoli-tin, but there are plenty more drinks available—including ciders, beers and an extensive wine list. Functioning as a deli during the day and a bar/bistro in the evenings, the venues offer snacks like tinned seafood, cured meats and cheese, as well as larger meals.
Opening in 2014, The Bearded Tit (named for a type of bird) is a bar, gallery and event space on Redfern’s Regent St. The queer neighborhood spot has a firm focus on community, and everybody is welcome at the playfully decorated bar. Dripping in trinkets and curios, it’s a casual and relaxed atmosphere but the drinks are great—with craft beers, Australian wines and expertly made cocktails available.
Famous for a reason, Bondi is an essential for any trip to Sydney—whether it’s swimming weather or not. Right next to the beach is the historic Bondi Baths pool and the iconic Icebergs restaurant. Visitors can also hop on the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk here, which is a 1.5-mile trail, replete with postcard views.
APY Art Centre Collective Gallery
A collective of Indigenous-owned and -governed enterprises, APY has locations across Australia, and the Sydney gallery is in Darlinghurst—not far from the city center. From painting to sculpture, photography and beyond, the work here is made by First Nations artists and most is available to purchase, with 80% of profits going to the artists and their communities.
If you’re planning a visit to Bourke Street Bakery, be sure to stick around in Surry Hills because it’s a vibrant neighborhood full of creative and cool spots to explore. Visit China Heights Gallery, Brett Whiteley Studio (a gallery and former home of the avant-garde artist), have a beer at the Cricketers Arms pub, shop at Provider Store, or learn about (and sip) gin at the Four Pillars Laboratory.
Two hours away from the city, the Blue Mountains—covered in eucalyptus trees—provide both serenity and dramatic scenery. Visitors can hike, ride the world’s steepest passenger railway, take a glass-floor cable car, explore the stunning Jenolan Caves or take a tour and learn about the significance of this majestic land, which belongs to the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples.