It is hard not to feel drawn to Sydney – after all, it’s a coastal crowd-pleaser replete with beaches, bays, barbecues and bronzed bodies. Throw in an enviable climate and high quality of life and it’s little wonder that Sydneysiders are such a relaxed and informal bunch. But the charms of Australia’s most populous city go beyond its natural assets and easygoing lifestyle to include world-leading restaurants, keen retailers and more than a few top-notch independent hotels.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Reimagining the city: Sydney recruited urbanist Jan Gehl to oversee a rethink of the city centre in 2007. The upshot has been new light-rail plans, new ferries and more urban greenery and cycle lanes.
  2. Walk on the wild side: Sydney is alive with all manner of flora and fauna. Forget the clichés about the dangerous stuff; spider bites are extremely rare.
  3. Plastic fantastic: Back in 1998, Australian banknotes became the first in the world to be made from an artificial polymer. These clever waterproof creations are differently sized and coloured to make them easily identifiable.
  4. Hot under the collar: Summer can be sweltering so shorts are practically uniform, while an average minimum temperature of 9C during cooler months (June to August) means you may need a winter jacket.
  5. Late-night tales: Sydney is more a morning than a night-time city. Lock-out laws prevent admittance into bars and clubs after 01.30 and drinks being served after 03.00.

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Hospitality at its finest

  1. Ovolo Woolloomooloo

    New sensation

    Ovolo’s Aussie land-grab began in Melbourne in 2012 but the hotel firm opened two properties in Sydney in 2015. Ovolo’s Sydney sister hotel, located in Darling Harbour, also comes highly recommended.

  2. Park Hyatt Sydney, The Rocks

    Spa by the water

    Location is everything here. Many rooms include baths with postcard-pretty views of the city’s iconic Opera House, which can also be seen from the rooftop pool.

  3. The Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale

    Heritage with a modern twist

    Opened in 2015, this is the seventh hotel from Singapore-based Unlisted Collection and an impressive Australian debut for the outfit.


Local lingo

  1. Arvo: Afternoon
  2. Bathers: Swimming costume
  3. Bottle-o: Off-licence
  4. Daggy: Unchic
  5. Get aggro: Lose your temper
  6. Rug up: Dress warmly
  7. Schooner: ¾ pint
  8. Thongs: Flip-flops
  9. Too easy: No problem

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. The Bridge Room, CBD

    Sleek sustenance

    Designed by Nick Tobias, The Bridge Room is housed in a listed art deco building next to Circular Quay. Every detail has been considered, from the fresh ingredients of the intricate Asian-inspired cuisine onwards.

  2. Acme, Rushcutters Bay

    As good as their word

    This restaurant’s name means “the best something can be” and it comes pleasingly close to delivering on this promise. The boloney sandwich has earned itself semi-mythic status since the place opened in 2014.

  3. Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills

    Roll with it

    You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the lengthy
line snaking down the street. Expect quality coffee, flaky pastries and bread of every measure, from sourdough to seeded loaves.

  4. Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen, Alexandria

    Healthy fare with heart

    This restaurant housed in an Alexandria warehouse has been serving wholesome dishes since 2012. The high-quality ingredients are plated prettily on the café’s signature pink crockery.

  5. Palmer & Co, CBD

    Cocktails on the sly

    This speakeasy-style bar can be
found in the basement of the Establishment Hotel and features mugshots of petty crooks from the 1800s on its exposed-brick walls, and plenty of unusual spirits behind the bar.


Shop talk

  1. The Stables, Surry Hills

    Creative collective

    On the ground floor of this multifaceted space is The Stables, a shop stocking international clothes brands as well as being a pretty café; on the two floors above are an office space and a salon.

  2. Belancé, Paddington

    Bag your accessories

    Belancé has become a prime spot for timeless accessories since opening in 2014. You’ll find leather goods from Octovo, bags from Swiss brand Qwstion, candles from Shoppe 815 and grooming goodies courtesy of Baxter of California.

  3. Beautiful Pages, Darlinghurst

    Design reading

    Beautiful Pages began in 2011 as
an online shop stocking graphic designer Tiana Vasiljev’s 50 favourite books. The inventory now features some 3,000 design books, including coffee-table classics from Gestalten and Taschen and magazines such as Aussie print title The Smith Journal.

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