The Sydney City Centre was where Governor Arthur Phillip first raised the British Flag on Australian soil in January 1788, the earliest site of European settlement in Australia. After two centuries and more, it now features a Manhattan-like skyline of skyscrapers on the harbour. It is the commercial centre of Sydney, seeing hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders commute daily to work, shop, and socialise.
The city centre meets and embraces its harbour. The entire foreshore is walkway, and much of it is parkland. The office towers compete with each other for the best view of the harbour, with those in the back row grateful for any glimpse.
It is the site of Sydney's grandest structures, from the modern Opera House and Sydney Tower, to the art-deco, the granite facades of the early 20th century, and the colonial sandstone of a convict era. The oldest buildings may be in The Rocks, but those warehouses and residences lack the proportion, scale, and inspiration of the construction in the city centre.
Into the evening, there is a stark contrast as many of the crowded footpaths grow quiet, and many of the city centre eateries and cafes wind down. There are still people around though: the after-work crowd still around in the city pubs, the opera aficionados and diners out down at East Circular Quay, and the groups meeting up near Town Hall for a movie, a drink, or a night out.
The City Centre lies at the hub of Sydney's transport network. Most major roads, and public transport radiate from the city. Catch a train from anywhere and it will stop here.
phone: 13 15 00 (in country only)providing information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney.
By trainThe City Circle loop, which can be used going in either directions, has five stations.
- Town Hall is centrally located. Best for shopping in Pitt Street as well as the Queen Victoria Building.
- Wynyard is mostly for office workers, but also close by to Martin Place and the Rocks.
- Circular Quay has the Opera House, Ferries, Harbour Foreshore and the Botanic Gardens
- St James is closest to Hyde Park, St Mary's Cathedral, State Library, Art Gallery
- Museum is next to the Hyde Park War Memorial
There is also a station at Martin Place on the way to Bondi (pronounced bond eye) Junction in the Sydney/Eastern Suburbs.
If you're headed for the city centre, do not get off at Central in the City South. It refers to Sydney's main train station and is not too close to the city centre.
Direct buses to the city centre are available from many inner suburbs, and some outer regions. If you are travelling from the Central Business District (CBD) by bus on weekdays 07:00-19:00 you need an Opal card purchased in advance to board.
The most pleasant way to arrive in Sydney city centre, or to get out and see the Sydney harbour or north shore, is by ferry. Most ferry routes (from 41 wharves around the Sydney harbour suburbs) start or finish at Circular Quay, at the northern end of the CBD. From here you can take a ferry to Manly or Watsons Bay to the east or Parramatta to the west, all for far cheaper than taking a private tour.
There is a train station and major bus terminus right next to the ferry terminal at Circular Quay for connections to other parts of the city.
There is also a ferry wharf on Darling Harbour (Kings Street) which is next to the city centre. A ferry from Circular Quay to here will take 35 minutes, go under the Harbour Bridge and provide great views of the city.
By carThe city is accessible to private vehicles. It's well signposted from most surrounding areas. Firstly as Sydney, then as City, and finally, as City North or City Centre. Don't confuse City North, with North Sydney, or you will end up on the other side of the harbour.
Traffic in the city can be congested. Peak hours, Friday lunchtime, and Friday afternoon are worst. Weekends are usually fine, although some congestion can occur at any time. Traversing the few city blocks can take up to 30 minutes during these periods.
Many streets in the city are one-way and disallow right turns.
ParkingGarage Parking can vary from around $18 to over $70 for a day on a weekday. You need to do research and book online to avoid high rates. Don't be misled by parking stations advertising parking for $5, as this usually apply for the first 30 minutes, after which charges rise steeply. Early-bird rates (for arriving and leaving during set times) can save up to 75% on hourly rates during the day.
Parking stations usually charge less for evening parking and all-day weekend parking. A flat rate is often available for $15 or less, but not all places have special deals, so check before you park. It is a safe bet to drive around the CBD and check the flat rates advertised outside the parking stations on weekends, but again, you will get better rates booking online in advance.
- Opera House Car Park, at the end of Macquarie St, $18 on weekdays entering before 10:00, and exit after 15:00 and before 19:30. ($42 otherwise for day parking, or $32 if you enter after 17:00). $15 on weekends, provided you exit before 17:00.
- Queen Victoria Building Car Park, $27 enter before 09:30, exit after 16:00 and before 19:30. $50 all day otherwise. $15 Sunday parking.
Street Parking is scarce and although street parking for short periods is possible it is often difficult to find, particularly during the day on weekdays. Free on-street parking or street parking available for extended periods is particularly elusive. Early on weekend mornings, some on-street parking is usually available in Clarence, Kent, or Sussex Streets. On street parking is also available on Art-Gallery road. Expect to pay. Free on-street weekend parking is available where no parking zones apply on weekdays. All public parking zones are enforced by city parking police and occasionally state police, infringement penalties are around $130. Motorcycles and scooters can park for free anywhere a car can park, but must still follow any time restrictions (for example they may not stay longer than 2 hours in a 2P spot). There are also some dedicated motorbike parking spots around the city.
By bikeOne of quietest approach to the city is from the west at Darling Harbour and Pyrmont. The Pyrmont Bridge allows cyclists, and a cycle path takes you along to King St as far as Clarence St. There is bike parking there. From the North take the cycleway over the Harbour Bridge, next to the station at Milsons Point. From the south there is a separated cycle path from Central Station (Eddy Avenue) that winds its way through the city streets to meet the Kent St, King St and Pyrmont Bridge paths.
Maps and other information for cyclists around the inner city are provided by local government.
To access the Sydney Harbour Bridge by foot, take Cumberland St and climb the stone stairs near Argyle St to the east side of Bradfield Highway; continue north onto the Harbour Bridge.
The city centre has a very rough grid system. George St is the major north-south city street, running all the way from Central Station in the south to Circular Quay and The Rocks in the north, with Pitt, Castlereagh, and Elizabeth St running parallel to it through the city centre. City blocks are small, especially in the east-west directions.
There are maps and directional signs to nearby attractions located every few blocks.
Most of the attractions below are within a 1.5km radius, and are easy to walk around. Consult the Walking tour of Sydney for details. The spectacular walk along the harbour's edge (Farm Cove) from the Sydney Opera House (Queen Elizabeth II Gate) through the gated Royal Botanical Gardens to Mrs Macquarie's Chair (Yurong Gate) is for many the epitome of a Sydney experience.
Sydneysiders are notorious for crossing against the red pedestrian lights in the city centre in any gap in traffic. but if you're not familiar with the traffic direction, best to wait for the indicator. And police occasionally do have blitzes on jaywalking, where you will be fined $70 for crossing on the red.
By bikeThere are a few cycleways around the city. Travelling North-South along Kent St in the city west is easy enough. This route connects to Liverpool St to travel east-west, and Elizabeth St to travel to the south. It requires a bit of planning and determination to get around the city centre by bike. It may be best to leave your bike on the city centre fringe, and walk while downtown. You can be fined for cycling in the pedestrian malls or footpaths.
There are bike parking spots all over the city, and you can park your bike pretty much on any street. If you leave your bike unattended then ensure you park it in an area with high visibility - like outside Clarence St Cyclery - and secure it well.
Mobike bike dockless share bikes are available in the city centre, as are Lime e-bikes. Download the respective apps.
Public busesAll buses are numbered on their indicator boards at the front and on the left side of the bus, and show the final bus destination.
The major bus interchanges in the City are at Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. Buses from Wynyard run straight over the Harbour Bridge. From Circular Quay, as a general rule of thumb: Any bus number starting with "3" run the eastern route (i.e. to/from Circular Quay via Elizabeth Street and to/from the Eastern Suburbs), while the ones starting with a "4" run the western route (i.e. to/from Circular Quay via George Street and to/from the Inner West). The ones starting with a "5" out of the city over the Anzac Bridge.
At the interchanges (Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall and the QVB) have multiple stops, each assigned a letter. Both Wynyard and Town Hall bus interchanges are scattered over a few blocks in each direction and you'll need have directions no your phone, or check the interchange maps. Allow extra time if it is your first trip. It's just another reason to consider walking if you're doing a short trip - the next bus stop may be further from where you're going then where you are now.
Hop-on Hop-offCity Sightseeing Sydney Explorer bus tours. Costs more and takes longer than normal public transport, but can take the hassle out planning your routes.
By trainTrains run both ways around the city circle stations Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, St James and Museum. Each of these stations has services every five minutes. Most of the city is no more than ten or fifteen minutes walk from a train station.
Another city station, Martin Place, is mid-town on the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line and has services every 10 min to Town Hall and Central.
Town Hall, Wynyard, Martin Place and St James stations are located within 1km of each other, so unless you are feeling particularly lethargic, catching the train or bus between them will take longer than the walk.
By carIt is unusual to drive between city centre attractions, and it can be problematic if you are unfamiliar with the area. Attractions in the city centre are not signposted from the city roads. The only directional signs you will see will point you out of the city centre, across the harbour bridge or to the west or east. There is a one way system and few right hand turns are permitted. Some right hand turns are legally possible, but are difficult to find breaks in traffic. The quickest route from where you are to your city centre destination will not always be apparent from a map, and even the best GPS will struggle in the canyons of the city centre.
If you are driving into the city centre, best to navigate straight to a parking lot nearby. If you are going between multiple destinations in the city centre, walking is usually the quickest way.
phone: +61 2 9250-7111 (information) or +61 2 9250-7777 (ticket bookings)address: Bennelong Point, Circular QuayThe world heritage listed Sydney Opera House in the north east of the city is one of Sydney's most beautiful and unusual buildings; its sail shaped structure, designed by Jørn Utzon, is world famous, and it is the only structure in the world to have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the lifetime of its architect. The Opera House is also host to most of Sydney's major classical music and opera events. You can walk all around the building, and some of the foyer areas free of charge. Guided tours of the inside are available for $28, leave every 30 minutes, and take about an hour. Some tours are run in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Depending on ongoing rehearsal or performances not all parts may be visited.
Circular QuayIs the hub of the Sydney Harbour and is a vibrant, bustling place home to many buskers, the ferry terminal, overseas passenger terminal, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. For speakers of US English, it's pronounced Circular Key, not Circular Kway
Sydney TowerTowering above the city of Sydney since 1981, when it became the tallest structure in the city, the Sydney Tower reaches a total height of 305m - great views are available from the 250m high viewing level. The tower is Australia's tallest free-standing structure and the second highest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere after the Sky Tower in Auckland). The trip up to the observation deck includes a short "4D" movie (3D with effects such as smoke and water) before travelling up in the lift. If looking at the city through windows isn't enough, take the Skywalk tour on the top of the tower.
phone: +61 2 9220-0400address: 2 St Mary's RdThe Catholic Sydney diocese's cathedral, built in 1868.
address: 455 George StThe site of a market place since 1810, its current Romanesque facade was completed in 1896 and was extensively restored in the late 1980s as a prestigious shopping centre. The Christmas tree around Christmas time reaches through all the floors to the full height of the building.
address: 412-414 George StA fine example of Victorian Architecture, established 1891, and is one of the few remaining Victorian shopping arcades in the world. For the past 20 years or so, it has been a major shopping destination, well known for the large number of Australian designers it showcases. Many well recognized Australian labels in fashion and jewellery are based here, such as Alannah Hill, Zimmerman, and Victoria Buckley Jewellery.
phone: +61 2 9217 0111address: 500 Harris StThe Powerhouse Museum has a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions including the King's Cinema, an intact art deco cinema, Locomotive No 1, Experimentations, Ecologic, the Strasbourg Clock, the Steam Revolution and Interface. There is a cafe and museum shop.
Museums and Galleries
phone: +61 2 9225-1744 (Information desk)address: Art Gallery Road, The DomainThe Art Gallery of New South Wales is the leading museum of art in New South Wales and Sydney, and one of Australia's foremost cultural institutions. It holds significant collections of Australian art, and presents nearly forty exhibitions annually. British Victorian art, along with smaller holdings of Dutch, French and Italian painters of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and a collection of modern British masters, European modernists and European classical art. The collection includes work by Reubens, Picasso, Van Gogh and many others. There is also an impressive collection of Asian, South East Asian, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The gallery also has an extensive collection of contemporary art. Not all of the collection holdings are on exhibition at any one time and the gallery occasionally rotates significant works on exhibition. The building itself is a much photographed sandstone structure with a large formal entrance. There is a popular cafe inside the gallery, with views over Wooloomooloo.
phone: +61 2 9252-4033address: 140 George St, Circular QuayHoused in a fabulous 1930s art deco building, former location of the Maritime Services Board and facing onto the western side of Circular Quay and Sydney Cove, the MCA has been dedicated - since its opening in 1991 - to showcasing great works of modern and contemporary art in all media. There is a cafe inside the museum.
phone: +61 2 9251-5988Built on the site of the first Government House, erected in 1788 by Governor Arthur Phillip and demolished in 1846. The remains of the building were excavated after rediscovery in 1983 and the original foundations can now be viewed through glass floor panels in the museum. Fascinating changing exhibitions of art and photography, films and state-of-the-art technology spin stories of colonial life, Aboriginal culture, environment, trade, authority / law and everyday dramas and dreams in early Sydney. The Museum of Sydney Cafe, by the museum entrance is not really part of the museum, and is much more a restaurant than a cheap and casual cafe.
phone: +61 2 8239 2311address: Macquarie StBuilt in 1818-1819. Constructed by convicts and housed by them, the Hyde Park Barracks provided housing for convicts working in government employment around Sydney from 1819 until its closure in 1848. Interior is restored with exhibits depicting the furnishings and life of the time. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
address: Macquarie StIncludes a large exhibition space with changing artistic, historical and cultural exhibits. The Mitchell Reading Room is a historical large open book-lined room, and worth a look inside. The reference library is a modern addition, and really only of interest for research. The library collection includes a copy of every volume published in New South Wales, and many rare texts. There is a cafe on the ground floor near the entrance to the reference library and the bookshop.
Government HouseOpen to the public, with the entrance to the house and gardens through the Botanic Gardens.
address: Ground Floor, 65 Martin PlHosted by the Reserve Bank of Australia in its city headquarters, this museum displays Australian bank notes and currency from the earliest issues to the present day. Interesting but basic. Drop in for 15min or so if you are passing by Martin Place.
address: Corner Albert and Phillip StreetsOriginally serving as a police station to Court between 1856 and 1886, the museum has now been restored to its 1890s facade displaying its theme of crime and punishment.
phone: +61 2 9320-6000address: 6 College Street, East SydneyNatural history collections, exhibitions, natural science and indigenous cultures. Please see the City East article for more comprehensive details on The Australian Museum.
phone: +61 2 9267-7668address: Hyde Park NorthA large war memorial in the middle of the city, built after World War I. It is a focus of military memorial events in New South Wales. No public toilets or cloakroom.
Customs Houseaddress: 31 Alfred StA historic building, and imposing building. You can imagine it looking out over the port of Sydney (if you can equally imagine the absence of the Cahill Expressway). A large diorama of the Sydney area which you can walk over is on display in the foyer. The Sydney City Library occupies the building, and sometimes has exhibitions. Free.
Parks and gardens
Sydney Botanic Gardens
phone: +61 2 92318111, +61 419 270279 (Ranger assistance)address: Mrs Macquaries RdOne of Sydney's greatest assets, from in front of the State Art Gallery, out to Mrs Macquaries chair, across to Farm Cove and onto the Sydney Opera House. The Gardens back onto the historic Sydney Hospital and Parliament House. This is the oldest scientific institution in the country and home to an outstanding collection of plants from Australia and overseas. The Domain surrounds the Royal Botanic Gardens. The walk along the harbour's edge (Farm Cove) from the Opera House (Queen Elizabeth II gate) to Mrs Macquarie's Chair (Yurong Gate) is for many the epitome of a Sydney experience. The Gardens have an example of the Wollemi Pine, raised from a seed collected from a handful of trees discovered in the wilderness and unchanged since the dinosaurs. A tropical pyramid holds examples of tropical vegetation in a controlled humidity atmosphere. See the rose garden, herb garden and succulent section. The collection has many varieties of Australian plants and grasses. During the summer months there are often open air night time film screenings inside the Botanic Gardens, entry charges normally apply to those screenings.
phone: +61 2 92412419Visitors centre, a restaurant, a cafe and a souvenir shop.
Mrs Macquarie's Chair
Other City Parks
The Domainphone: +61 2 9006 3200In colonial times this land was the Governor’s buffer of privacy between his residence and the penal colony. Roads and paths were constructed through the Domain by 1831 to allow public access. Since that time it has remained a place for the people to breath and relax. The Domain surrounds the Royal Botanic Gardens. In times past has been a site of often quite colourful public oratory and site of public rallies and demonstrations. Home to the popular Opera in the Domain, Jazz in the Domain, and Symphony in the Domain events in summer, as well as the Tropfest short film festival. If attending any of these events, arrive in the early afternoon to secure a picnic spot as upwards of 100,000 people attend.
Hyde ParkAn extensive city centre park of a formal design tradition dissected by Park St, elongated in layout and containing a large fountain (Archibald Fountain) towards the northern end and the Anzac War Memorial at the south - a favorite with city workers at lunchtime, joggers and sunbakers. The park occasionally hosts public and private events and functions.
- Sydney City is home to a large number of outstanding examples of Art Deco architecture, built during the 1920s and 1930s, when Sydney entered a new phase of confidence and investment in urban infrastructure.
Harbour cruisesYou can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour at breakneck speeds.
Harbour Cruises depart from Darling Harbour and at Circular Quay in the city.
address: Circular Quayhave regular cruises from Wharf 1 at the Quay.
Sydney Ferries CruisesSydney Ferries run regular cruises. Just look on the main timetable boards at the Quay, and buy your tickets from any Sydney Ferries ticket office.
You can create your own harbour cruise, as the normal Sydney Ferries services go everywhere a cruise goes and more. Get a daytripper ticket for $20, and take as many ferries as you like, get on and off where you like, and enjoy a picnic in any of the many harbour side parks next to the ferry wharves. On a Sunday and if travelling with children, a Family Funday Sunday ticket can be bought from all the usual outlets for $2.50 and allows unlimited travel on all public transport for the day. Timetables are available at the Quay, and its hard to catch a ferry somewhere that isn't worthwhile. The Manly ferries even have a cafe on board, where you can grab a pie, and sit out in the sun, taking in the view for a fraction of the cost of a luncheon cruise! Consider dropping in at one of the harbour islands
phone: +61 2 9250 7111The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic 20th century buildings in the world. Inaugurated in 1973, the Sydney Opera House also has dedicated theatres for drama including the Drama Theatre, the Playhouse, and The Studio. Student rush tickets are often available for the current day's performances, only at the box office at the Opera House (usually these are single tickets, spread around the theatre).
Theatre RoyalHome to many international productions during their stay in Australia.
phone: +61 2 9373 6852address: 49 Market StHosts a range of events and performances, particularly international comedy acts and musicians. The building itself is heritage-listed, and has a lavish interior dating back to 1929.
Other theatres are at Lyric Theate at Star City in Pyrmont, the Capitol Theatre in the south of the city, and the Wharf Theatres at Walsh Bay in Sydney/The Rocks.
address: 29 Reiby PlFamous place for small gigs in Sydney. Attracts some leading acts.
phone: +61 2 9273 7300address: 505 George StThe three big cinema franchises (Hoyts, Greater Union and Village) merged their neighbouring cinemas here into one big complex.
Dendy CinemaMulti-screen cinema specializing in fringe and arthouse films.
The Art Gallery of New South WalesFree cinema on Wednesdays & Sundays, but usually old films.
If you are interested in fringe or arthouse films, you may also like the Chauvel, Verona and Academy Twin cinemas in nearby Oxford Street.
The CBD of Sydney is also the retail centre of the city, having the largest range of shops and outlets in a variety of settings. Sydney's shopping is frequently concentrated within large city malls and arcades (heavily interconnected mid-town through a number of underground walkways). There are also a number of recognised shopping strips.
If you are shopping for food and supplies, the convenience stores and even the city fruit stores can have up to three times mark-up over supermarkets. If you need to stock up on the basics, it would be cheaper to try the supermarket "Woolworths", one opposite Town Hall on Park and George Sts or one underground north of Wynyard Station in the MetCentre (take down escalator from ground level of the MetCentre); or the supermarket "Coles", one at Carrington and Wynyard Sts or one at 388 George St near King.
address: George StThe building is an attraction in itself. The site of a market place since 1810, its current Romanesque facade was completed in 1896 and was extensively restored in the late 1980s as a prestigious shopping center. 5 Floors of shopping. Don't miss the Christmas tree to Christmas, going through all the levels. Fashion, books, cafes, and a range of specialty and gift shops.
Galleries Victoriaaddress: 500 George StThe modern answer to the historic QVB opposite. Some fashion and food, but also electronics, computer games, and gifts.
address: 412-414 George StThe last of the Victorian arcades to be completed (1891) in Sydney, home to a number of shopping levels featuring design, fashion, antiques and jewellery (the arcade links George Street with the Pitt Street Mall).
Pitt Street MallPitt Street mall is a pedestrianised block between Market and King St that is so busy that it has some of the highest retail rents in the world. Both sides of the Pitt St mall are full of shops and shopping centres, extending westward to George St and eastward to Castlereagh St. Most of the shopping centres connect to each other. The Westfield Sydney connects to the David Jones department store, the Queen Victoria Building (and through there to the Galeries Victoria and Town Hall Station), and the MLC Centre (and through there to Martin Place Station), making this area ideal for shopping in poor weather.
address: Pitt St Mall7 levels of Myer department store and a food court (level 1) on west side; hundreds of specialty and fashion stores plus an upscale food court (level 5) on east side. Entry to Sydney Tower at level 5 east side. Connects underground to the Queen Victoria Building from level 1 west side.
address: 197 Pitt St Mall
phone: +61 2 9266 5544address: 86-108 Castlereagh StThe city stores of this illustrious department store are on Elizabeth Street (main store, women's fashion) and Market Street (men's fashion, homewares, food store). In operation since 1838, David Jones is not only Australia's oldest department store, but also the oldest department store anywhere in the world still trading under its original name.
Castlereagh Street and Martin Place
Castlereagh Street north of King St and Martin Place between Castlereagh and George Sts. Home to a large concentration of fashion houses and big names including DKNY, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Ferragamo, Gucci, Bvlgari, Stefano Canturi and Chanel.
MLC Centreaddress: Martin PlA shopping arcade, primarily focused on luxury clothes and accessories, and a food court downstairs. Belinda in the MLC Centre stocks European designers that don't have standalone stores in Australia. Has some reasonable cafes in the courtyard facing Martin Place.
Neighbouring Chinatown in the south of the city has large a number of restaurants offering cheap and tasty Asian cuisine, and the food courts in Market City Shopping Centre stay open into the evening, when the CBD ones have usually shut.
- Food Courts. All through the Sydney CBD there are food halls where the city workers flock to get lunch. A sit down lunch at these food courts will cost between $5 and $10, and there is competition for business. There are many, but to whet your appetite, try one of the following:
- Westfield Sydney in Pitt St Mall (north of Market, between George and Castlereagh), also open weekends and Thursday nights, level 5 east side for crowded upscale food court dining, level 1 west side for mainline food court.
- David Jones Food Hall, lower level (SW corner of Market and Castlereagh)
- MLC Centre in Martin Place (SW corner of Castlereagh)
- The Galeries Food Court, lower level (500 George St, NE corner at Park St)
- Regent Place, (501 George St, SW corner at Bathurst St)
- Under the Gateway Building or the AMP building at Circular Quay (Alfred St, corner of Loftus)
- Australia Square (the tall but round building) northeast of Wynyard Station (George St, SE corner of Bond) 15 food choices, outdoor seating on concrete plaza
- In the Metcentre just north of Wynyard Station through a ground level connector (west of George St between Margaret and Jamison) ground level.
- Hunter Connection just east of Wynyard Station (Hunter Street, between George and Pitt, or go down the steps at Wynyard Station and take the Hunter Connection tunnel) specialises in SE Asian food, delicious Thai for $6.
If you fancy an early dinner (or late lunch) many of the food halls sell off remaining lunch items at discounted prices around 16:00 in the afternoon, sometimes for as little as $4-5 a meal, but commonly for $6.
CafesThe Sydney CBD is packed with small cafes that serve (usually) good coffee and a breakfast of toasted banana bread, toast (with cinnamon, Vegemite etc) or anything involving bacon and eggs. They mostly serve office workers and are open (generally) between 6:00 and 15:00 during the week. On the weekend most are closed in central CBD, and you may want to head to a more residential area to find breakfast. The ones in the shopping districts will open at little later, but always by 9:00.
- QVB (Queen Victoria Building) has a number of gorgeous cafes - try the ground floor for buzz or the top floor for longer quieter conversations QVB Dining
phone: +61 2 9299-8828address: 67 King StVery good tasting coffee with a massive queue of office workers in the morning.
Mid-rangeThe CBD is flooded with cafes and pubs doing lunch with mains in the $10-15 range. Avoid the ones in or immediately next to major tourist attractions to avoid inflated prices. Clarence St, York St, and even Pitt St have many to choose from.
Outside of the cafe scene, mid-range restaurants in Sydney's CBD proper tend to be a little thin on the ground, but you will find plenty clustered around the George St cinemas and World Square, and on Liverpool St. Liverpool St. in particular has a large number of Korean restaurants to choose from
phone: +61 2 9232 2767address: 111 Elizabeth St, Sydney CBDA restaurant/wine bar open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is Italian-influenced but definitely 'Modern Australian'. Has a very interesting wine list with many available by the glass.
Sydney Madangphone: +61 2 9264-7010address: 371A Pitt StTasty and inexpensive Korean barbecue and other dishes. Open until early in the morning.
BBQ CityIf you can't find Madang, and you're in the mood for Korean, there's always the Sydney institution, BBQ city, a big brightly-lit upstairs restaurant, with Korean pop stars dancing incessantly on TV screens around the room. It's quick, cheap, delicious, and open late.
phone: +61 2 9240-3000address: 1 Ash StAsh St Cellar is a recently-opened Melbourne-style laneway bar just behind the Ivy complex. The food is (Sydney style) tapas influenced share plates, the wine and beer list is good and the atmosphere is great. No bookings and not open on weekends.
phone: +61 2 9251-5192address: Customs House, Ground Floor, 31 Alfred StFamous Sydney pizza and pasta joint very conveniently located just next to Circular Quay. The owners used to own a very famous pizza restaurant on Oxford St in Paddington but have relocated here. Pizzas are not traditional Italian but very good nonetheless. Main courses $20-32, pizzas $24-32.
Nazimiphone: +61 2 9283-2990address: Level 1, 141 York StAuthentic Japanese food, with different options on the menu to a lot of places. Customers are packed in, but the service is very friendly.
phone: +61 2 9360-2523address: College St, Sydney CBDThis is an outdoor vegetarian yum cha restaurant located just down the stairs from St Mary’s Cathedral over looking Cook and Phillip Park. It's a vegan restaurant and has a wide range of enticing and tasteful healthy yum cha options (all vegan). Fantastic on a sunny day. Open on weekends too. Kids can run around safely in the park while you linger over coffee.
Makoto Sushi Barphone: +61 2 9283 6767address: 199 Liverpool StDecent sushi bar, higher quality than your standard sushi train. Makoto offers sushi, sashimi, along with a range of small cooked dishes. Open 7 days, with dinner starting from 18:00.
Ichi Ban Boshiphone: +61 2 9262-7677address: Gallerias Victoria Shopping CentreFantastic ramen soup. The Tantanamen (Spicy sesame base pork ramen) is a very large and delicious soup. Restaurant gets very busy at any time past 11:30 till around 14:00. Expect to wait 10-20 minutes for a table in the peak times.
phone: +61 2 8297 4111address: 24 York StreetLarge German restaurant that is part of a chain with authentic Bavarian beer and somewhat authentic German food.
SplurgeSydney's top-end dining scene is world class, with prices to match. Some of the best restaurants in Australia are listed below, and many of them feature on the San Pellegrino list of the Top 100 restaurants in the world.
Cafe Sydneyphone: +61 2 9251 8683address: 31 Alfred StTucked away atop the Customs House right next to Circular Quay, Cafe Sydney sneaks under the radar of most casual visitors, but the outdoor seating here has some of the best Sydney Harbour views around and draws plenty of locals as well. The pricy but well-crafted food is Mod Oz, try the Bay Bug salad or the tarragon gnocchi and expect to pay around $100/head for a full meal. There's also a bar area with complicated cocktails but no views. Reserve several weeks in advance, especially on weekends.
phone: +61 2 9240 3000address: Establishment, 252 George StThe chef at Est, Peter Doyle, has had a 30-year stint as one of the top chefs in Australia. French-influenced modern Australian cuisine with an emphasis on using the best seasonal produce.
phone: +61 2 8078-1900address: 66 Hunter StPart of the Neil Perry empire (which also includes Rockpool at the Rocks, Spice Temple underneath the Bar and Grill and a bar and grill in Melbourne), this restaurant serves superb modern Australian cuisine in a spectacular art deco setting (that reputedly cost $30 million+ to fit out). As you might expect, the steaks are the highlight but the wine list is also one of the best in Australia. For a more budget option, you can eat at the bar (no reservations) where the $22 wagyu beef burger is about as close to a bargain as you will get for food of this quality.
phone: +61 2 9267-2900address: 529 Kent StTetsuya's, which serves fusion Japanese and French style food, is one of Sydney's most famous and highly regarded restaurants, generally named in the top three year after year. You should be able to get a weeknight booking (excluding Fridays) three or four weeks in advance, for weekends you may need to book a month or more in advance.
Gilt Lounge Barphone: +61 2 9262 0000address: 49 Market StIn QT Sydney Hotel, 5PM New bar opened September 2013. Extensive wine and cocktail list in modern eames-style setting. Located next to State Theatre.
Sydney has recently relaxed its licencing legislation, leading to many experimental style small bars as an alternative to the pubs and beer halls.
Since I left you
Mojo Record Bar
Red Oakaddress: Clarence StThe only pub with onsite brewery in the City Centre, and the brewing is well refined here, with a wide choice, mostly Baviarian in style. Modern decor, popular with the office crowd on Friday lunchtime and Friday night. A variety of ways to taste the beers, with combined food and beer tasting plates available
3 Wise Monkeys Pubphone: +61 2 9283 5855address: 555 George StThe 3 Wise Monkeys is a very popular pub with a younger crowd, only a block south of Town Hall station in the cinema district. It has live music seven nights a week.
phone: +61 2 9550 3666 (box office)address: 624 George StThe metro, in the cinema district near Town Hall, is a live music venue for Australian and overseas acts. Usually standing room only, and active mosh pit at the front, with an active vibe.
The Drum MediaIs a free, weekly music publication. You can find a copy at most music stores around the city and the inner suburbs.
- Metro is the Sydney Morning Herald's entertainment lift-out, published every Friday.
BudgetThere is little budget accommodation in this district. There are some backpacker hostels but generally cheaper accommodation is found in the surrounding areas around Central Station in the City South.
address: 27 Park StPark Regis City Centre is perfectly located in the very heart of the Sydney CBD, adjacent to Darling Harbour and Hyde Park, the hotel is literally surrounded by Sydney’s best shopping, entertainment and sightseeing. Views from the 45th floor rooftop pool and observation deck are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Rooms from $132.
phone: +61 2 9212 2544address: 803 George StreetA vibrant hotel and accommodation solution, combines clean lines, contemporary style and a personal feel.
phone: +61 2 82620000address: 49 Market StOpened in October 2012. Luxury designer hotel. Emphasis on art and fashion. Located on Market Street in the CBD. Across from Pitt Street shopping Mall. Price from $380 per night.
phone: +61 2 9238 0000address: 199 George StLocated at the west edge of Circular Quay, the Four Seasons is an older but immaculately maintained five-star hotel with superlative service. Regular rooms are small, but have direct views of the Opera House, and it doesn't get much better than this locationwise. From $300 up, keep an eye out for promotional package deals.
phone: +61 2 9253 9000address: 117 Macquarie StClose to Circular Quay and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
address: 11 Jamison StJamison Sydney is in the north of the CBD, close to The Rocks, Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Rooms from $200-$250.
phone: +61 2 9259 7000address: 30 Pitt StSydney Harbour Marriott is a 563 hotel at Circular Quay. The hotel offers Opera House and Harbour Bridge view rooms along with a gym, day spa, restaurant, outdoor bar and coffee/cocktail lounge. The hotel also enjoys one of the best locations in Sydney. Approx $259-$409 per night.
phone: +61 2 8214 0000address: 17 O'Connell StA very Scandinavian style refurbishment of an historic stone faced building. Good sized rooms, powerful showers and wide range of amenities. Concierges helpful. Breakfast OK but not sparkling. Hallways have stuffy air.
phone: +61 2 9286 6000address: 161 Elizabeth StThe Sheraton on the Park is one of the nicest 5 star hotels in Sydney. It is located opposite the Hyde Park (ask for a Park view room to take full advantage of the location, but note these are usually more expensive than the City view rooms) and the staff are really friendly. Rooms with one king sized bed: approximately $260 - $300 per night.
phone: +61 2 8223 1111address: 1 Martin PlNo. Approx $325-$435. Superb rooms, particularly the Heritage rooms.
In the daytime Sydney City is a busy location with high pedestrian activity. The biggest threat to your safety during the day is traffic, so take care when crossing roads with high traffic volumes and one-way flows. Occasionally there is a blitz on jaywalking, so look-left, look-right, and look around for police at the intersection before crossing on the red.
If you're out late, stick to popular areas and main streets. The main business area of skyscrapers and office building area north of Park and south of Bridge St becomes very quiet at night as the office workers return to the suburbs. Late at night anti-social behaviour and even some alcohol-related violence is possible around the George St Cinema strip (between Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street) and the northern (harbour) end of George St towards the rocks (north of Bridge St). The harbour end of George St is very busy on Friday and Saturday nights, with large numbers of people arriving in the city to go to the nightclubs, many of them already having started drinking hours ago. On other nights the area around the Quay down to the Opera House is very pleasant. It has a variety of restaurants and bars, a great view, and is safe.
On the trains late at night stay close to the guard's compartment which has an exterior blue light. There is an emergency assistance button on every platform and by the entrance to the train carriages on more modern trains.
Some convenience stores have a terminal or two although prices are high and computers can be antiquated and filled with malware. Expect to pay around $2.50 per 10 min.
For free Wi-Fi in a comfortable environment, try the NSW State Library (free password at the circulation desk) or the Sydney City Library in the Customs House.
Free is also available in numerous supermarkets, shopping centres and food courts, where you'll be asked to give up a social media account in return for access. Try Westfield in Pitt St Mall, MetCentre, Woolworths in Pitt St, and many more.
Most cafes offer Wi-Fi to their customers, although they almost always require a password.
4G Internet is available everywhere in Sydney on all networks.
Public phones are fairly common in the CBD, although seldom used. You can also use them to send text messages, domestically or internationally.
SmareCarte offer luggage storage on Loftus Street at Circular Quay. They also offer a transfer service to their facility at Sydney airport.
Take a ferry trip from Circular Quay to the Harbour Islands, Manly or Parramatta.
Walk, or catch the train, over the harbour bridge to the Lower North Shore.