Sydney is an incredible city. It’s easy to gloss over it because of how popular it is with tourists and it’s easy to dismiss it as a getaway destination because we’ve all seen the big landmarks before. Heading to Sydney last weekend, I was overwhelmed by just how much fun it was and how much there was to do, without too much of a cheesy tourist status following me around.
The absolute best place to stay in Sydney is Surry Hills. The neighborhood is packed to the brim with fantastic eateries, great bars and a glittering night life. On top of that, it’s smack bang in the middle of everything. You can easily walk to Circular Quay, King’s Cross or Oxford Street and Bondi Beach is a short taxi ride away.
Choosing a hotel to stay at is easy too, The Cambridge Hotel is absolutely fantastic and the best place to stay at for anybody visiting Sydney. The hotel is located just off the main street in Surry Hills, keeping you right in the thick of things but shading you from the hubbub of the nightlife. The rooms are big, spacious and comfortable and offer city views which are just incredible. I was lucky enough to spy the Opera House peeking over buildings and by night, the skyline lights up to put on one heck of a show.
You’re spoilt for choice in Surry Hills as Crown Street and the surrounding areas are bursting with places you have to visit. Chow Bar & Eating House is a really funky take on traditional Chinese food with a super cool and cosy interior and excellent service. You can choose from a variety of share plates, including a ridiculously delicious whole baked fish, and get to try a little (or a lot) of everything. Zushi Restaurant provides fresh and delicious Japanese food, including an out of this world wagyu-beef, in a friendly little shop with helpful and friendly staff.
Coffee addicts among you will rejoice at the fabulous Mr Mo, tucked into a light and airy little shop on Campbell Street in Surry Hills. The coffee is fantastic and I can personally vouch for the amazing home-made muffins that are just too good to walk past, stop in for a spell or grab a coffee and muffin to go.
Breakfast in the local area has to include a visit to Bill’s on Crown Street, a restaurant of famed chef Bill Granger. I’m not usually one to be swept up in the glow of a celebrity chef, but the incredible breakfast I ate did more than enough to sway me. Without a doubt, the ricotta hot cakes are one of the best breakfasts I have had. The restaurant is warm, cosy and the perfect place to start your day.
If you can’t fit in a sit down breakfast but still want to start your morning off with a little indulgence, walk down to the Bourke Street Bakery. The line will definitely be out the door, but it moves fast and it’s well worth it. Delicious little treats like lemon curd tarts will tempt you, but you’ll be equally as pleased if you stick with a traditional croissant. Get your treats to go and sprawl out in the park in the sun to enjoy.
For a great pub atmosphere, visit the Beresford Hotel. Seemingly average from the outside, it opens up to a beautiful beer garden packed with happy locals and a DJ. The happy hour is great and it has a really relaxed vibe. Another fantastic spot for afternoon drinks is The Winery. Another seemingly inconspicuous venue that opens into a sprawling garden and New Orleans style restaurant and bar. A fantastic wine selection and really yummy snack food and meals make this place a must visit.
From Surry Hills you can easily walk through Sydney’s CBD, past Hyde Park and down Pitt Street to Circular Quay. There ain’t any shame in posing for photos in front of Sydney’s two most iconic landmarks, so swallow your pride and give in to your tourist urges. Opera Bar is a great place to sit a while and soak it all in, preferably at sunset, while snapping a few cheesy shots of you enjoying a cocktail in beautiful Sydney.
Circular Quay also gives you access to the city’s ferry system and you can easily take a ferry ride to Luna Park, Manly Beach or simply do a loop and come back to where you started.
For something a little different, hop a short cab ride to Newtown and visit the insanely cool May Lane. This inconspicuous alley has every door, wall, nook and cranny covered in bright and brilliant street art. Graffiti is jumping off the walls and onto the pavement everywhere you look and of course it’s ever changing, which makes it even more interesting. While here, take a stroll up King Street and stop in at South End for all day breakfast and fresh juice served in mason jars.
Keep walking up King Street and savour all the brilliant antique shops, quaint coffee shops and a milk and cookie bar I know you won’t be able to walk past. King Street is also a great place to get your shop on, there are shops here to suit everyone’s needs, including a very quirky button shop. After you’ve visited Newtown, visit d’Albora Marinas for something completely different and off the tourist path. Scope out the beautiful boats, take in a less seen view of Sydney’s landmarks and stop in somewhere for waterfront lunch.
At some stage you’ll feel the need to check out King’s Cross and, don’t worry, nobody is judging you. If you’re a little less on the wild side, visit the Cross during the afternoon. Hinky Dinks, located in Darlinghurst on the fringe of the Cross, is an insanely cool 1950s style bar. While this place may look small, it fits in a throng of very happy customers enjoying fresh popcorn and amazing cocktails served by attentive and creative bartenders.
The best place for dinner in King’s Cross is Love on Top, a dumpling restaurant tucked down a street then up some stairs to a stunning outdoor area lit with fairy lights and jars. The menu here is perfect for sharing and trying bits of everything and doing some serious people watching as the night starts to ramp up.
A visit to Bondi Beach can’t be missed and is definitely worthwhile. If you’ve never been before, you probably have to do the touristy thing and go to Icebergs, even if it’s just for a juice and to check out the insane view. Afterwards, stroll down to the beach or walk along the shop fronts and get among the cool, beachy vibe of the area. Gelato Messina is an absolute ‘must’ while you’re here. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Gelato in my time, but Messina was ridiculously good. Skip your ‘usual’ and try one of their ‘specials’, you won’t regret it!
After a big day (or two) of shopping, eating, drinking and sightseeing, head back to your hotel room and get horizontal! You’ve earned a bit of rest and relaxation.
Watch my ‘Luxe for Less in Sydney’ video
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.