In Sydney, you need to know what you’re looking for to find good places. The food scene is vast and expansive and rewards those who do a little research. My perfect day starts with a coffee at Two Chaps in Marrickville, a coffee shop that has become a local institution. Get it to go and order from nearby Henson Park. And then – because it’s my dream day – I flew to Redfern to the Good Ways Deli, where I got a breakfast sandwich: egg and cheese with very tasty onions.
Then for dinner: Sydney likes pizza. Westwood in Newtown makes an amazing classic marinara – or try Pizza Oltra. Just opened under Central Station and was launched by local DJ don Ben Fester so there’s always good music with your tune. For something more upmarket, head to Dear Sainte Éloise in Potts Point, one of Sydney’s many places to gorge on small plates and get drunk on wine. But my favorite spot is Enmore’s Faheem Fast Food – an unpretentious Pakistani diner that makes the best palak paneer I’ve had in Sydney. There you also have to order the Lahori fried fish, which is like a spicier, crispier fish and chips.
One of the places I went to often is the renovated Powerhouse Museum. It hosts themed evening shows every Thursday: movies, DJs, digital artists and a debauched lineup of performers, including a month-long Sydney WorldPride queer takeover. The Museum of Contemporary Art – in the middle of the tourist haven of Circular Quay – is also a classic, with regular exhibitions by famous international artists (and a beautiful rooftop). I haven’t had a chance to go to the Art Gallery of NSW’s new modern art wing, but I’ve heard it’s really beautiful.
Aside from the visual arts: The Golden Age in Surry Hills is a must-visit cinema with current and retrospective shows – and it has an attached bar which is very intimate with amazing mood lighting. A little further down the road in Surry Hills is The Record Store, home to a number of Sydney DJs – all happy to offer local recommendations, sharing what’s going on in the field. Another great place to hunt for vinyl is Papa Disquo in Enmore, where you can listen to lighter downtempo music.
Marrickville in the west of Sydney is a suburb that used to be mostly industrial and is now warehouse-oriented. This is the brewery headquarters: the local beer brand Grifter has a place there and it’s such a beautiful place.
Poor Tom’s Gin also has a distillery in Marrickville – the Sunday session there is always fantastic and their gin is my favorite, hands down. Another warehouse redevelopment is Baba’s Place: a modern Middle Eastern restaurant that feels like it’s located in a restored suburban garage. I love a great meze – everything is there to be shared, except for their famous Tarama on Toast which needs to be bigger because it’s so good.
Green (and blue) space
Listen, I have to mention Campo – the full name of Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. Everyone loved the Campo sesh back in college days and then kind of forget about it, but lately I’ve been going back there. It’s huge, there are dogs and you can get a good bottle of natural wine from the nearby P&V bougie bottle shop (note: alcohol is not allowed after 9pm). During the long summer days, Sydney Park in Alexandria is stunning. Sit on the giant hill and watch the sun go down over the city skyline (or the skaters on the ramp below stacking up).
The Royal Botanical Garden is a must-see for those who have never been to Sydney before.
And of course the beaches – the easiest way to get to Coogee is by public transport. Just take the bus from the Central Station. Gordons Bay, a 10-minute walk from Coogee, is also popular, although I avoid this place like the plague because I hate rocks and it’s a rocky beach.
If you have a car the journey up towards the harbor beaches is great – there’s a collection of them that starts at Camp Cove at the eastern entrance to the harbor and going south you’ll find Parsley Bay – with a bridge you can walk over and watch both sides water – and Shark Beach.
Sydney’s nightlife is now the best it’s ever been – the scene is really recovering, especially after years of lockdowns and lockout laws. Nightlife has been truly insular and dangerous for many demographics – and over the last few years people have been working hard to make spaces feel welcoming.
Darlinghurst’s Club 77 has been around for decades, but it’s really peaked in the last two years: it’s open late all week, and on weekends you’ll experience a different vibe every night. It’s a great crowd and the security staff are lovely.
Red Rattler in Marrickville hosts plenty of queer parties and is one of the few fully accessible venues in Sydney. Also, Lansdowne in Chippendale is a long-running venue that is great for live music and occasionally turns into a raucous rainbow dance floor with nights hosted by queer legend Stereogamous and friends. Speaking of old establishments, Abercrombie, also in Chippendale, has just reopened with a new 24-hour license – so there are plenty of all-night parties now.
For quieter evenings, head to the Lazy Bones jazz bar in Marrickville or Cafe Freda’s in Darlinghurst – a lovely afternoon spot with plenty of outdoor seating to make you feel like you’re in Europe.
Accommodation in Sydney is really expensive – there’s just no way around it if you want to stay somewhere nice. My favorite without a doubt is the Paramount House Hotel (from $330) in Surry Hills. It’s basically an all-in-one boutique hotel: it also houses the Golden Age and its own Paramount Coffee Project. It’s a very Australian place: lots of natural textures, zines and artwork from Sydney-based creators, plus an elevator that will give you the best selfies you’ll ever take. It’s almost all pink with kitschy wallpaper, so sneak up to your mirror or invite a stranger in the elevator to take your picture.
For a cheaper option, it’s best to look for an Airbnb near the central station, so you’re right in the middle.