Touring Sydney

Whether you’re considering relocating to Sydney or live here and have friends visiting, there so much to see and do within or near the city. Wander out your front door and explore, if you haven’t done so already. Although many of these suggestions you can find in a travel guide, after over a decade of living here I couldn’t resist having a crack at it myself. As I’m a foodie, this is highly centred around eating. If I’ve missed something you love, please post it!!

Photos of Queen Victoria Building (QVB), Sydney
This photo of Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Sydney City
Shopping! Sky Garden, Pitt Street MallQVB, Galeries Victoria, David Jones, MLC Centre and of course the newest addition, World Square.

There are too many places to put a list together, so I won’t even try.

  • If you want to take a client somewhere, the hushed Sheraton on the Park overlooks leafy Hyde Park.
  • Bambini Trust is best known for power breakfasts and after work drinks (and has the price to go with it).
  • On the upper level of the QVB has civilized high tea in the beautifully Victorian styled Tea Room.

China Town (also called Haymarket)
YumCha and shopping; the most popular tourist destination here is Paddy’s Market.

There are so many here, I cannot begin to do this area justice. A couple of local tips: first, if you’re going to yum cha and have a large group, see if they’ll take a booking. If not or you’re with a small group, plan to wait in line. Second, despite being a cosmopolitan city, Sydney largely closes for public holidays and around 10pm — regardless, China Town is open!

  • Zilver  eat chic yum cha.
  • Golden Century  has yum cha with a seafood bent.
  • BBQ King  cheap and cheerful eat in or takeaway BBQ duck, pork and other Chinese delights for you to pack a picnic.

Circular Quay
The Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney ferry hub and most major museums. For New Year’s Eve and Australia Day (26 January) fireworks blaze.

Given you’ve come all this way to see this view, the prices will be equivalent to your expectations.

  • Guillaume at Bennelong champions the best view in the city! Very expensive for food, but you can have a cocktail and/or finger food in the bar without a reservation. It is French or Modern Australian.
  •  Café Sydney Australian fusion with great views of the Harbour Bridge and matching pricing or option of cocktail and nibbles.
  •  Park Hyatt  a good place to take clients to for breakfast and soak up the view of the Opera House.
  •  Wildfire is American steakhouse where you can have a big glass of red (or two) and toast the Opera House visage.

Darling Harbour
IMAX theatre, Saturday night fireworks (yes – all year!) and a variety of festivals year-round .

As this is a tourist hot-spot you’ll find every kind of food at every budget level here. Here are some to try:

  • Chinta Ria for casual Malaysian/Asian style cuisine
  • Zaffron posh Indian in a subdued atmosphere
  • Kazbah Mediterrean dishes served near the water

Pyrmont and Ultimo
Powerhouse Museum, the Star City Casino and Sydney Fish Markets.

In addition to the options listed below, there are a number of great restaurants toward the end of Harris Street and some good places for breakfast or coffee at the end of the street by the water as well. If you’re budget-conscious go to Ultimo where university students frequent.

  • Flying Fish serves creative seafood fare on the pricey end.
  • SugaRoom (modern Australian) Note: this is the only restaurant I’m suggesting to you that I haven’t eaten in (Yet!), but have heard fantastic things about.
  • 1945 as the name suggests, this is Dutch East Indian food in banquet or tapas portion. Great for a group.

photography by Michael WeeBurroughs

  • Marrickville is a slice of Asia. You’ll find any kind of Asian cuisine you want here, like the Vietnamese Pho soup pictured here.
  • Auburn “little Turkey” suggest going during the day as it can be a bit dicey at night.
  • Cabramatta akin to “little Vietnam” –  see Auburn guidelines.
  • Kings Cross used to be the ‘seedy’ side of Sydney, but now Potts Point and Darlinghurst surround “the Cross” and it’s pretty tame. Many bars and small eateries if you just want to wander.
  • Newtown – I’d call this “little San Francisco”. You’ll find students, lesbians, gays, cafes, bookshops, plus any kind of cheap and cheerful food you want.
  • The Rocks is “Old Town Sydney” this is where you’ll find the oldest pubs in the city and tourist type restaurants.

Where the Locals Go

This is where many well-healed professionals live to close to the city. Consequently you’ll find more expensive food and shops here than some of the other neighbourhoods.

The pubs listed are a place where you can’t but help to feel like you’re one of the locals.

  • The London Hotel is an old fashioned pub (see photo above). Bring your dog and have a pint!
  • The Welcome Inn Both a “white tablecloth” restaurant and a gastro-pub. Try to go on a Sunday afternoon as they typically have Irish folk music jam sessions out in the beer garden.
  • Three Weeds Hotel Both a chic fine dining restaurant and fireside tapas bar.
  • The Exchange Hotel A bar and bistro with an old-fashioned second story patio overlooking the street.
  • Local tip: drop the last description of the name when you’re talking about it. eg: We’re going to “the London”.

Like Balmain/Rozelle, but on the other side of Kings Cross. This is a restaurant hot spot for Sydneysiders. Many fantastic options are here for your dining pleasure. Here are some quirky ones:

  • Bill’s has the best scrambled eggs! There are three locations; I like Darlinghurst most as it feels most like you’re in someone’s home.
  • Burgerman has fantastic American style burgers with pickles and “chips” (fries). Great for American expat homesickness!
  • Una’s A stodgy German café that fills you up without draining your wallet.
  • Victoria Room Transport yourself back to the time of the British Raj. Memorable cocktails and Indian/Majhara tapas (medium expensive). GREAT place for an individual or on a date as portions are small and you can have a few different things.
  • The locals hang out at cafes like the Tropicana or Latteria where you can spend a lazy afternoon sipping lattes or eating a “sandie”.

Once a year, Paddington is home to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Outside this busy time of year, Sydneysiders go to “Paddo” to eat, browse bookstores or go to Cennential Park (see ‘Popular Tourist Attractions’ below).


These restaurants and areas are local and there are plenty of options along Oxford Street, which is the main street of Paddington.

  • Five ways  this is an intersection of Paddo where there are a number of eateries here (deli, pizza, fish and chips, tapas, cafes). Tends to be a bit pricey and good quality.
  • Four in Hand  A gastropub with a fine dining flare.
  • Buon Ricardo High-end Italian, feels like you might be in Italy.

Surry Hills/Redfern/Alexandria

This area has a reputation of being one of the dangerous places in the city. I lived there for a couple of years and didn’t have any problems,  just be mindful of yourself. There are more eateries, pubs and bars than anywhere else in the city. I cannot begin to start a list as there are simply too many choices. Definitely a foodies’ paradise!

Popular Tourist Attractions

  • Let someone else drive you to see the city and surrounds. Get on a Hop-on Hop-off bus (pictured).
  • Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly in the afternoon and come back at night. It is cheap and a great way to see the harbour.
  • Go to Featherdale Park (even if you don’t have kids) this is a where you go to see the kangaroos and koala bears that make Australia wildlife so famous.
  • Visit the Sydney Opera House. You can take a tour or go to a performance or both. If you don’t have tickets, sometimes if you show up at the Opera House box office at mid-day, they’ll have unsold tickets for that day.
  • Take a ferry to Taronga Zoo to see the animals. Take your camera as this is one of the best views of the harbour.
  • Walk, rollerblade or rent a bike and go through Cennential Park.
  • Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“Everybody seems to be outside – the beaches are swarming, street cafés buzz and the harbour blooms with sails.” The Lonely Planet Guide to Sydney

Sydney has some of the best beaches in the world and each has its own unique personality. In order to experience them, you probably need a car and go north one day and south the next (or longer, if time permits).

If you go North there are probably 20 beaches along the coastline. Some beach highlights are: Palm, Whale and Balmoral (the closest to the city).

If you go South, there are beaches down to the border, so you could literally drive for hours. If you want to stay closer to Sydney, the most popular beaches are: Bondi (pronounced BOND-‘I’ not Bond-‘ee’), Clovelly, Cronulla (pictured), Bronte and Tamarama. They all have places to eat and things to do around them, so make (at least!) a day of it.


Sydney is obviously a water city, so take advantage of it and try these:

  • Parasailing at Manly beach.
  • Brighton-Le-Sands/Botany Bay learn how to kitesurf or windsurf.
  • Kayak Sydney Harbour.
  • Learn to surf at many locations: Bondi, Cronulla and Manly.
  • Crew a yacht for a fun. Drop into Middle Harbour Yacht club and see if anyone needs an extra pair of hands.
  • Go on a fun cruise or hire a sailboat around the harbour.
  • Or simply get your “cozzie” on and take a dip in the ocean!

Live Music
For other live music venues, there are again too many to list here. To find out what’s on and/or smaller venue listings, a popular site is Time Out/Sydney.

Here are a few popular venues:

Sporting Events
Many types of sporting events are on hand and places to see them are as varied. There is a complete list here on Wikipedia for all venues, so I won’t list many. For the biggest of the big:
Acer Arena, ANZ Stadium and the historic SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground).
Although I reckon best value for money is to pack a picnic and head out to your local grounds on a weekend and cheer on your neighbourhood team. (Like we did for my fast-bowling hubby here.) Fun and cheap!

Tickets for most major sporting and entertainment events are booked through Ticketek — get your credit card out!

Footnotes: Many of the restaurants I’ve listed are expensive because I reckon they’re the harder options to choose from a guidebook. Many of the higher end places have withstood the test of time in the brutal restaurant business in Sydney, which unfortunately more budget-conscious choices do not. There are some absolute “rippa” local cafes and restaurants, so please do support them, it just is too difficult to list them all…perhaps for another post.

As I was researching this post, I ran across this site that looks pretty good for things I have left out that looks very comprehensive, although I have not used extensively

SAFETY NOTE: Mind yourself (and your belongings) as you would anywhere, although Sydney is pretty safe. Compared to the large US cities I’ve visited, we tend to have more petty crimes such as pick pocketing and/or simply lifting your handbag, laptop or phone, etc.

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