The ultimate guide to Sydney

Tamara Hinson

Visit the land down under with this necessary travel guide

Sydney, Australia's largest city. It’s not simply one of the country’s most recognisable destinations, but its hugely diverse, with everything from the wave-bashed Bondi Beach to bar-filled entertainment districts such as the Rocks (the city’s oldest neighbourhood) and one of the world’s most exciting culinary scenes.

 

Getting around

First things first: Sydney is enormous, so don’t make the mistake of assuming you can stroll across Sydney Harbour Bridge before trotting over to Bondi Beach (walking there will take you around an hour), although it’s worth point out that late 2019 saw the unveiling of a new, 80-kilometre walking trail connecting Bondi Beach with the suburb of Manly. The good news is that getting around is wonderfully easy, thanks largely to a comprehensive public transport network of trains, ferries and buses. Our top tip? Pick up an Opal card, which is Sydney’s version of London’s Oyster card. You can use it on buses, trains, ferries and the light rail system, and you can purchase one (and top it up) at train stations, post offices, convenience stores and supermarkets.

 

See and explore 

No trip to Sydney is complete without a visit to the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge (the latter can even be climbed on harnessed rope walks, if you’re feeling brave). The downside? They’re also some of the city’s most crowded spots, so minimise the chance of a selfie stick-induced injury and check out Sydney’s lesser-known gems, too. These include its historic fish market (the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere), which can be explored on behind-the-scenes tours. To learn more about the city’s most famous buildings, consider signing up for an architecture tour, such as one of the Sydney Architecture Walks, which focus on everything from icons such as the Sydney Opera House to fascinating, lesser-known districts such as Walsh Bay Finger Wharves—a cluster of historic industrial buildings which include some of the largest timber structures ever built. We also recommend a visit to Darling Square’s The Exchange, a civic centre and library. This spectacular building, wrapped in wooden panels, was unveiled in late 2019. Designed by Kengo Kuma, the building is the first Australian project to be designed by this legendary Japanese architect.  

 

Eat and drink

Sydney’s food scene is one of the most diverse in the world. Its finest restaurants include Michelin-starred Mr Wong in Merivale for upscale Cantonese cuisine, and for delicious Australian fare, Bennelong, tucked into one of the Sydney Opera House’s sails. The restaurants in areas like the Rocks, metres from the Opera House, and Darling Harbour, tend to be more expensive, although if you love your meal with a side order of a spectacular view, these areas are hard to beat. Alternatively, consider one of the many dinner cruises available. Currently, foodies are getting especially excited about the inner-city suburb of Barangaroo. A growing number of young Australian chefs are setting up shop here. This incudes Kerby Craig, founder of Ume Burger, which specialises in Japanese-inspired burgers (sounds odd, but it works) and Justin Wise, the chef behind 12-Micron, where you can gorge on innovative Australian cuisine while soaking up the view of Sydney Harbour.

Sydney’s nightlife got even more exciting in late 2019, with the abolishment of the infamous so-called lockout laws, which meant nobody could enter a bar or nightclub after 1.30am. And clubbers are incredibly well catered for here. One of the liveliest areas is Darling Harbour, where you’ll find the city’s first superclub, Home Sydney, with its enormous sound system and countless rooms dedicated to dozens of music genres. For something a little more laidback, consider one of Sydney’s fantastic live music venues. Top of your list should be the city’s oldest pub, Fortune of War, which you’ll find in the city centre Rocks area. Partial to a cocktail or two? Waterfront areas like Circular Quay have some of Sydney’s chicest cocktail bars—we recommend Bulletin Place, voted the city’s best cocktail bar by Time Out. Here, it’s all about quality not quantity—there are just five cocktails on the list. We also love Nick and Nora’s in Parramatta. Head to this rooftop bar for stunning views over western Sydney.

 

Where to stay

It’s a myth that Sydney is one of the world’s most expensive cities. You don’t need to avoid its centre to bag a cheap hotel room, either. Our favourite budget options in the city centre include the Ibis Sydney King Street Wharf and the Novotel Sydney Central, although for a bit of luxury, it’s hard to beat the Swissotel Sydney, a five-star hotel on Sydney’s bustling Market Street.

Qatar Airways offers returns from London to Sydney from £720 return.

 

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