By John Campo, a Sydney local who has been living in this energetic city for almost 60 years.Edited by Elodi Troskie
Sydney, one of the largest cities in Australia, is a must visit destination. I’ve been living in Sydney my entire life and I’m always finding cool new places in areas I haven’t really explored before. But he best neighbourhood to stay in Sydney really depends on your preferences and what you plan on doing during your visit. Whether you’re looking for nightlife, culture or great food (or all of these!), Sydney will have the spot that fits your needs. Here’s my neighbourhood guide to the best places to stay in Sydney.
CBD: In The Middle Of The Action
The city centre is the best area to stay if you’re visiting Sydney for the first time and want to be as close as possible to all the must-sees and must-dos. The CBD area is well connected to Sydney’s most popular attractions and places you right in the middle of all the nightlife excitement. The list of restaurants, cafes and bars in Sydney’s CBD is endless and since everything is close by each other, your commute will be short. Because it’s so close to everything I always recommend families who travel with kids to stay in the CBD area. If your budget allows it, opt for one of the hotels in the city centre. The hotels around here cater well for families and provide more than enough entertainment for kids.
The Rocks: Nightlife And Street Food
The Rocks is one of Sydney’s coolest neighbourhoods. It has the best of everything: energetic and edgy, yet historical and atmospheric. This is the best area to stay in Sydney if you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife infused with the charm of historical pubs, weekend markets and international street food. Visit The Rocks Discovery Museum – a free, family-friendly museum that tells the origin story of this neighbourhood, dating back to pre-European times. The Discovery Museum is open from 10:00 until 17:00 every day. Another cool museum in this district is the Museum of Contemporary Art, a trendy modern art house featuring international pieces. The weekend markets are also a big highlight of staying in this neighbourhood. The Friday Foodie Market is a gourmet street food market that sets up shop at the Jack Mundey Place every Friday from 09:00 until 15:00. The Rocks Market is an artisanal makers’ market that’s open every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00. At night, head to the iconic historical pubs like the Australian Heritage Hotel, the Glenmore Hotel or the Hero of Waterloo.
Paddington: Laid-back Cafes And Restaurants
Paddington’s carefree vibes makes it a great area to stay in Sydney. Although the stylish Paddington is home to some luxury boutiques and higher end restaurants, the atmosphere in this neighbourhood is generally laid-back. There are great opportunities for luxury shopping, Instagram-worthy brunch dates, fancy cocktails at sunset and quirky hidden pubs. If you’re looking for an alternative to boutique shopping, visit the fashion markets that pop up here over the weekend. The Victorian architecture paints a beautiful backdrop for scenic walks through the streets of Paddington and the Centennial Park is the picture-perfect location for a relaxed morning of wandering through the gardens or having picnic next to the pond. Looking for nightlife? Weekends in Paddington offer more than enough after-dark entertainment, but it’s not as rushed and rowdy as the clubbing scene in the city centre. Oxford Street is a great place to start your night-time adventures in Paddington.
Newtown: Trendy, Hipster And Arty
If you’re looking for the hipster’s paradise of Sydney, Newtown is the perfect place for you. Newton has an arty feel to it, making it popular among the younger crowd. If you prefer thrift shopping above luxury boutiques, you’ll love the bohemian vintage shopping scene in Newtown. Creative spaces and art galleries are in abundance, generously showcasing young, up and coming local artists, often with strong influences from alternative and contemporary art. You’ll also find a variety of international cuisine in this area – especially Thai food is very popular in Newtown. And as you can expect of the hipster’s heaven of Sydney, Newtown is the best place to go if you’re looking for vegan food. Students, artists and the likes will love this neighbourhood – the ideal place to go for solo travellers to stay in Sydney. Because this area is largely centred around students, you’ll find that prices are often tailored to their budgets, making it a great area for budget travellers!
Bondi Beach: Beach life
Bondi Beach really epitomizes the free-spirited surfer’s vibe visitors so often associate with Australia. If you visit Sydney, a trip to the beach is mandatory! Sundays are the best time to go to Bondi Beach, when locals and visitors alike venture to this iconic white sand beach to relax with an exotic cocktail in hand. This is one of the locals’ favourite things to do in Sydney! If your ideal holiday is being close to the beach, going for early morning swim or surf sessions, taking long strolls along the beach at sunset, indulging in fish and chips and shopping for swimwear, Bondi Beach is the place for you. Another great area to stay if you’re traveling with kids. Who wouldn’t be happy at the beach?
Leichhardt: Little Italy
Leichhardt, often referred to as Little Italy, is a neighbourhood not far from the city centre that is best known for its Italian cuisine. Tucked away from the busiest tourist areas, Leichardt is still relatively undiscovered by visitors. If you’re looking for a quieter area to stay in Sydney, you’re in for a culinary treat if you choose to make Leichhardt your home for the time being. The heart of this neighbourhood is Norton Street, a vibrant street that is packed with Italian restaurants and street-side cafes. Prepare to indulge in pasta, pizza, red wine and tiramisu by the heaps. Be sure to visit Leichhardt’s old-fashioned bakeries and cake shops like Mezzapica Cakes, JD’s Cakes and The Cupcake Room.
Parramatta: History And Culture
Parramatta is one of Sydney’s lesser known neighbourhoods – a real hidden gem if you ask me! Located in the heart of Western Sydney, Parramatta is a historical treasure with a lot of cultural heritage. This area is also quite popular among the younger, creative crowd. The trendy bars and quirky eateries in Parramatta cater to the preferences of those who long for artisanal coffee, avocado toast and bottomless beer on tap. The bustling art, film and fashion scene in this neighbourhood adds to the creative atmosphere and fits perfectly with the historical architecture, riverside theatres and international cuisine. A cool way to access Parramatta is by taking a ferry from Circular Quay, taking you on a scenic trip where you’ll pass by impressive sites like the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Olympic Park.
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