Edited by Emma White
Well known for its quintessential laid-back Aussie vibes, waterside lifestyle, glorious sandy beaches, and vibrant food and drink culture, Sydney is packed full of amazing things to see and do for both first-timers and returning visitors. By day, locals and tourists alike flock to the city’s sandy shores, hike the surrounding parklands, explore the inner city’s quaint streets and dive deep into the Sydney food culture. By night, the city transforms into one seamless nocturnal playground where visitors come from far and wide to experience Sydney’s night-time highlights. But with so much going on, it can be hard to know where to begin. So kickstart your trip by following this guide to the top things to do in Sydney at night for your chance to experience this Australian metropolis like a local after dark.
Watch the Darling Harbour fireworks
One of the ultimate things to do in Sydney on a Saturday night is to watch the Darling Harbour firework display. Every Saturday night at 9 pm, a huge crowd gathers around Cockle Bay to watch the night sky light up with up with a spectacular firework display above the glistening waters of Darling Harbour. As you can imagine this area gets very busy with eager tourists waiting to watch the fireworks so make sure you get there early enough to grab yourself a ringside seat around Cockle Bay with a clear view. The harbour is also a great entertainment spot with tons of harbourside restaurants and bars where you can eat and drink before or after the show. For those of you only planning to visit Sydney for a 2-day weekend break and wondering what attractions to prioritise, this night-time activity should definitely be top of your list as it’s truly an unforgettable experience!
Taste craft beer at Bitter Phew
Most of us Sydneysiders are partial to a tasty craft beer or two at the end of the day and on weekends (or any other time too, let’s be honest). One of the best spots in town for craft beer is Bitter Phew. Whether or not Bitter Phew has the best range of beer in all of Sydney is debatable, however, it certainly has the most varied and most interesting selection of all beer bars in the city. This hidden gem is hard to find as it is quite literally tucked away above an unassuming storefront on the Darlinghurst stretch of busy Oxford Street. But once you find it you will uncover a cosy bar offering a friendly, relaxing atmosphere and a mile-long list of local and international beers spanning every colour, size and country. The perfect nocturnal hang out for beer enthusiasts visiting Sydney! Escape the bustle of Oxford Street and join locals in this little slice of beer paradise. Sit at the bar or head out back to the keg garden, unwind with your favourite beer and chat to your neighbour or watch the world go by out on Oxford Street. Bitter Phew doesn’t serve food but they have menus available from several quality eateries from which they will order food for you and have it delivered right to your table. Now if that isn’t top service, I don’t know what is!
Late night dinner and cocktails at Big Poppa’s
One of the negatives of Sydney nightlife is that most places shut quite early in comparison to other big cities and even restaurants stop serving food relatively early. This can be quite frustrating for those who prefer to eat late or for sightseeing tourists who have been so busy visiting the city that they haven’t realised the time flew by. Luckily there are a few late-night spots that cater to the night owls among us. One of those late-night gems is Big Poppa’s in Darlinghurst. This 90-s hip-hop themed restaurant and bar is open 7 days a week from 5 pm to 3 am, with last orders in the kitchen coming in at around 2.30am! Not only is the food really delicious, specifically their gorgeous and extremely popular pasta dishes, they also have a great selection of cocktails and other drinks to quench your thirst. And if you’re after a midnight snack rather than a full meal, they also offer signature cheese boards featuring a huge variety of quality cheeses to be paired with a good bottle of wine. This is another one to add to your list of things to do in Sydney on a Saturday night as when the weekend rolls around, the party vibes get cranked up a notch and people head downstairs to the dimly lit bar to sip after-dinner cocktails, listen to the old school anthems and dance the night away!
Live Music in Newtown
I’m a big music fan and so another one of my favourite things to do in Sydney at night is to go to a gig or concert to enjoy some great live music. My music taste is varied but since moving to Sydney I’ve become hooked on quirky bands who tap into those chilled Aussie vibes that everybody loves. I also have a friend who plays in a Jazz band and so I often attend live music events in venues across Sydney, but most often in Newtown. If you’re into live music and want to discover new bands and new music, then why not find a concert or gig that you can attend whilst in Sydney? My top tip for this is to look up local artists on Spotify and check when and where they are playing. Another tip is to keep your eyes peeled for posters and flyers around town, especially in Newtown, which advertise concerts, gigs and other live music events. This area is pretty safe and Sydney nightlife safety is generally good. For those who aren’t familiar with the city, I’d also advise you to check out the Entertainment Quarter where they have a big cinema, two concert venues, and loads of restaurants & pubs to enjoy at night. You’re almost always guaranteed to come across some great live music in this area on most days. Grab a drink, settle down and chill out to the sounds of Sydney!
Sunset cocktails in the Sydney Tower
Another one of the cool things to do in Sydney at night is to get up high after sunset for a view of Sydney’s night skyline. One of the best nighttime views of the city can be seen from the 360 Bar and Restaurant, located high above the city in the iconic Sydney Tower. 360 Bar and Dining is not simply a restaurant, but rather a culinary experience complete with revolving views of the entire city below. Enjoy sightseeing at night from above with 360° panoramic views of Sydney while sipping on your favorite cocktail or indulging in a fine dining experience. Tip: Check what time the sun is due to go down on the day you visit and make sure to get up there nice and early to grab a window seat and enjoy sunset cocktails as you watch the city get bathed in an orange-pink haze all around you before eventually setting far on the horizon.
Bar hopping in Surry Hills
Bar hopping is a popular nighttime activity in Sydney and is one of the best ways to get to know the city by night. Surry Hills, Kings Cross, Newtown and the Rocks are all top bar hopping hot spots with tons of cool places to hang out and rub shoulders with locals while you enjoy a few evening drinks. My top choice is usually Surry Hills, with lively Crown Street right on your doorstep as well as many other busy side streets you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to boozing options! The only thing you need to do is to choose where to begin, which is easier said than done! In the mood for good wine teamed with a winning charcuterie board? Check out The Winery (285 Crown St). Fancy kicking off your nighttime fiesta with margaritas? Head to Mexican party shack, Tio’s (4/14 Foster St). Or why not start off with relaxed drinks at The Dolphin (412 Crown St), a recently revamped pub-style drinking den with an open terrace. A bar crawl in Surry Hills is the ultimate boozy pick’n’mix for thirsty visitors to Sydney wanting to experience the best of Sydney’s nightlife after a full day of sightseeing!
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