We may be biased, but Sydney really does have it all: a sparkling harbour, postcard-perfect beaches, a thriving food and cultural scene, and big-city sophistication. The city meets the sea in a beautiful way, and locals count themselves lucky to live here. While you could spend a lifetime exploring every nook, cranny and cove, if you’re just jetting in for a weekend or entertaining out-of-towners, it’s best to stick to the CBD.
To make sure you make the most of your time in the harbour city, here’s our insider’s guide to the best things to do in Sydney CBD.
Things to do in Sydney CBD: Eat
Blending stunning sandstone interiors with modern Middle Eastern cuisine, Tayim brings a touch of the exotic to the heart of Sydney's iconic Rocks. Forming part of the boutique Harbour Rocks Hotel, this Middle Eastern gem features a mouthwatering Fans of Israeli cuisine are in for a treat with Tayim’s creative collection of showstoppers.
34 Harrington Street, Nurses Walk, The Rocks
Hidden inside Accor’s Pullman Quay Grand Hotel, Q Dining takes full advantage of its location. The elegant dining space exudes modern luxury, with sophisticated furnishings and a beautiful feel. Q Dining's à la carte menu focuses on land and sea dishes, infusing native flavours and sustainable, ethical and locally sourced produce. Beautiful food paired with an iconic backdrop- the makings of a great dining experience.
Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour, 61 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Alberto's Lounge is the neighbourhood Italian restaurant and wine bar from the team behind local favourites Hubert and Baxter Inn. Stylish, yet warm and inviting, Alberto's Lounge features a heavily curated menu of hero dishes and classic eats from rigatoni with braised beef cheek and house-made ricotta, to burrata and prosciutto. All of which are delectable. Intimate and refined, you need to get in early to get a seat.
17-19 Alberta Street, Sydney
Esteban is the latest offering from the team behind popular Paddo neighbourhood-gem, Tequila Mockingbird. From street vendor-inspired bites to large asado share plates, Esteban will deliver an innovative dining menu showcasing authentic Mexican dishes. Across the split-level venue, you can get comfy in the upper-tier restaurant, basement taqueria, tequila and mezcal bar or the alfresco dining laneway. The choice is yours!
1 Temperance Lane, Sydney
It was one of 2016’s most hotly anticipated openings, and now, Restaurant Hubert is a firm favourite on Sydney’s French dining scene. The bistro is a Parisian post-war wonderland, complete with velvet, draped and fringed finishes. In typical French style, the wine list is illustrious, with drops available by the glass, carafe or bottle, and the food is exceptional.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney
Eighty-one floors above the CBD streets, Infinity at Sydney Tower is set to take Sydney's dining scene to new heights...literally. Boasting beautifully, stylish interiors, jaw-dropping views and a killer menu showcasing the best of Australian cuisine, we can't wait until they open their doors!
Westfield Sydney (Located between Pitt & Castlereagh Streets, entry via Level 4 Westfield Sydney)
This Merivale hotspot is bringing the Amalfi coast to Sydney. The new menu takes its cues from the Italian coastline, supported by our incredible Australian produce, and makes full use of the restaurant’s wood-fired oven and charcoal barbeque. Expect delicacies like Burraduc Valley buffalo mozzarella, with Violetta artichokes and Cantabrian anchovies paired with an incredible line up of Italian drops. You are in for one fine summer of dining!
Ivy, Level 4, 320 George Street, Sydney
Loving this foodie inspo? Be sure to check out ourSydney CBD foodie guide.
Things to do in Sydney CBD: Drink
Hyde Hacienda Sydney Bar + Lounge provides a heady mix of dinner, drinks and dancing. This slick late-night venue promises superior table service, private booth hire, weekend DJs, bar theatrics, exclusive events packages and a premium beverage offering. Once the restrictions have lifted, this luxe harbourside locale is once-again set to become Sydney's go-to party destination.
61 Macquarie Street, Sydney
In the heart of the city, Pumphouse Sydney is a tourist destination in its own right since brewing beer in 1891. This fun, casual bar pours their signature brew (Thunderbolt Strong Ale) along with 60 other craft beers, and the kitchen dishes up classic, yet elevated bar cuisine; think wagyu burgers, barramundi fish and chips, and yuzu and wasabi glazed calamari.
17 Little Pier Street, Darling Harbour
Sofitel Darling Harbour’s Champagne Bar is the chic, drinking spot you need to know about. Situated within the luxury hotel, this bar is top-to-toe beautiful- from the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Darling Harbour, to the opulent furnishings. Come night-time, and this luxe bar transforms into a buzzy late-night hotspot slinging Champagne by the bottle and perfected aperitifs. Need we say more?
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, Level 3/12 Darling Drive, Sydney
Arguably Sydney’s most Instagrammed view, when it comes to alfresco dining, it really doesn’t get much better than this. Pair uninterrupted harbour views with the Opera Bar’s Mediterranean eats and a well-stocked bar, and you're pretty much all set. Take any Sydneysider’s advice: come for the sunset and stay for the city lights.
Macquarie Street, Sydney
Sitting pretty on Level 83 of the iconic Sydney Tower, this retro-futuristic watering hole takes its style cues from The Jetsons.Modern, sleek and chic, Bar 83 is all about the sky-high views, beautiful interiors and bold cocktails. We can't wait to take a sip when they open their doors on Friday 25th September.
Westfield Sydney (Located between Pitt & Castlereagh Streets, entry via Level 4 Westfield Sydney)
For more bar-hopping action, be sure to check out our favouriterooftop bars around townand thebest drinking spots in The Rocks and Circular Quay.
Things to do in Sydney CBD: Play
This Tony Award-winning musical is now playing at the Sydney Lyric Theatre this summer. Taking the audience on a vibrant journey of self-discovery, Pippin has to decide whether he wants to take on the responsibilities of his family name, or carve out his own ‘corner of the sky’. Add in an incredibly talented and high profile cast, along with high-flying acrobats pulling off death-defying stunts, and we guarantee you’ll book yourself in to see it a second time.
From now until January 31st 2021
Sydney Lyric Theatre, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
The harbour is the jewel in Sydney’s crown, and the best way to see it in all its glory is from above. If you are looking for a bit of adventure, the Bridge Climb is a breathtaking experience, and it’s even better at twilight, where you can watch the sun dip into the horizon. The climb takes just over three hours, though you can choose a shorter tour if you’re not-so-keen on heights. For adventure-seekers, opt for the Ultimate experience. Taking about 3.5 hours and over 1600 steps, you’ll make your way from the south end of the bridge to the north, and back again. This one-of-a-kind experience will leave you feeling accomplished and deeply inspired by the iconic ‘coathanger’.
3 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
A stay in the city would not be complete without shopping at the Queen Victoria Building. The QVB is a heritage landmark and has had many lives before becoming the shopping mecca it is today. High-street flagships share real estate with exclusive designer labels, and the vintage shopfronts are juxtaposed with the contemporary interiors. For one-of-a-kind accessories, Pushmataaha is the Sydneysider’s go-to and Camilla cannot be beaten when it comes to luxe-boho threads.
455 George Street, Sydney
Forever zipping up and down the harbour providing plenty of entertainment for spectators watching on from the shoreline, a ride on a jetboat in Sydney will get your heart racing. The Thunder Jets’ yellow vessels fly between Rose Bay and Luna Park for 30-45 minutes of hair-raising speed and sharp corners.
Circular Quay Eastern Pontoon - Jetty 1
Keen for an art fix? Stroll down George Street to Circular Quay and pay the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia) a visit. Entry is free, though some special exhibitions are ticketed. Right now, you can view a major survey of Australian Chinese artist Lindy Lee with the Moon in a Dew Dropexhibition. Inside the Art Deco-inspired building with a custom modern five-storey wing, you’ll find a range of incredible art. For a quick bite or afternoon pick-me-up, head to the MCA Café on the rooftop and enjoy the uninterrupted harbour views.
140 George Street, The Rocks
At the top of their game, Swissotel Sydney’s Wellness Spais a must for the self-care hedonist. One of our go-to spots for the best day spa experience in Sydney, you may have a hard time deciding which treatment to indulge in, but the Purovel Mountain Meadow Massage is hard to go past.
To let yourself sink into deep peacefulness review their range of treatments here.
Swissotel Sydney, 10/68 Market Street, Sydney
Beautiful and serene, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the perfect place to familiarise yourself with Australian wildlife. As you meander through, you’ll spot cockatoos, lizards, possums and butterflies. Right now, you can admire the gardens’ colourful world of flowers as part of the inBLOOM exhibit.
If you start to feel peckish, pop over to Luke Ngyuen’s delicious dining destination Botanic House for his lunchtime tasting menu. For a panoramic view of the harbour, the best vantage point (and photo op) is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney
Exit The Royal Botanic Garden and walk around the harbour foreshore until you reach the Sydney Opera House. Every day, talented artists take the stage for theatre, dance, music and, of course, opera performances. This month you can catch ARIA nominated ethno-jazz band Zela Margossian Quintet, and be sure to book your tickets for the December 2020-January 2021 season of the renowned rock musical RENT. You can also tack on a tour to learn about the building’s history, and sundowners at the Opera Bar is a must.
Bennelong Point, Sydney
Things to do in Sydney CBD: Explore
Take a short walk around the harbour’s edge through Barangaroo Reserve to reach one of Sydney’s coolest new precincts. Since opening, the Barangaroo precinct has developed into one of the city’s premium foodie destinations with a bar/restaurant/bistro/café around every corner. Stop in for a coffee while you hit the pavement and explore the city. Campos is a must for caffeine fiends, and for tea lovers, The Rabbit Hole is the place to be.
Something for those looking to face their fears, the SKYWALK provides the perfect setting for sightseeing and adventure. Stepping out onto a glass-floor viewing platform that sits 268 metres above the streets of Sydney, you can bask in the 360-degree views of the city and its spectacular attractions from the observation deck of The Sydney Tower Eye.
Westfield Sydney, 100 Market Street, Sydney
When it comes to iconic summer experiences, seeing Sydney Harbour by water definitely tops the list. If you’ve always wanted to explore the harbour, sipping champagne without a care in the world, then you need to jump aboard Ahoy Club. Offering luxe boat charters on over 60 beautiful yachts, you're guaranteed to have the most amazing day out on the water.
Day charters start at approx. $300 per person
Let’s go back to the beginning – of Sydney’s history that is. The Rocks is the oldest part of the city, and it’s a charming peek into the past. Think cobblestone streets, tiny laneways, sprawling pubs and colonial buildings. Stroll through The Rocks Square Gloucester Walk and Campbells Cove, and check out The Rocks Discovery Museum. If you’re looking for a guided experience, The Rocks Walking Tours offer a popular daily tour and DreamtimeSouthern X have a great Aboriginal heritage walking tour. If you’re there on the weekend, wander the open-air market and pick up a handcrafted treat from candy-legends Sticky.
Taking off from the protected waters of Rose Bay in Sydney’s east, the seaplane whisks you around Sydney Harbour for the ultimate scenic flight. With four different Sydney scenic flight packages available, and the option to upgrade to a ‘Fly n Dine’ experience, there is no better way to see the sights of Sydney than from the air.
From $230 per person
Surry Hills is famous for its thriving creative scene, high-density population, and small-business community. A vibrant suburb on the edge of the city, Surry Hills is where head-turning fashion, gritty graffiti and street art are the norm. To flex your creative muscles, book in a paint and sip session at Cork & Chroma, or a fun pottery class at The Pottery Shed. A go-to foodie destination in its own right, Surry Hills is a culinary mecca boasting an eclectic mix of multicultural eateries, dinner date hangouts and fun cocktail bars.
Things to do in Sydney CBD: Stay
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour brings an extra level of sophistication to Sydney CBD’s accommodation offering.
A sleek fit-out coupled with cool, state-of-the-art features make this hotel the place to be. The infinity pool and cocktail bar are essential hangout spots for your summer staycation in the city, and the harbour views are amazing. Come night-time, indulge in a pre-dinner drink at the opulent Champagne Bar before dining at Atelier, a sumptuous French-inspired grill.
To cater to the health-conscious traveller, the breakfast buffet has a slew of gluten-free options, and the gym is ultra-modern. Even in-room dining has a specially tailored menu from The Healthy Chef’s Teresa Cutter, so you can indulge in a guilt-free room service meal. Or be the picture of health and book the Wellness Package, complete with energy-boosting smoothies, a copy of Teresa Cutter’s plant-based cookbook Earth to Table, The Healthy Chef’s Natural Immune Support, daily breakfast and accommodation.
For something ultra-luxe, splash out and book a night in one of their suites…you won’t regret it.
From $352 per night
12 Darling Drive, Sydney
Check into this five-star luxury hotel for a chic weekend stay. Offering beautiful harbourside and garden front rooms, the Pullman Quay Grand has a modern feel with breathtaking views from every room. Lucky for you, they have just unveiled their renovated guestrooms and they are simply stunning; think bespoke furniture, vintage touches, and vibrant pops of colour.
Its luxe décor and cool dining offering have made it a destination in its own right. Calling the Pullman Quay Grand home, elegant fine diner Q Diningexudes modern luxury. The sophisticated furnishings paired with the sustainable land and sea menu make for a memorable dining experience. For an after-dinner tipple, head upstairs to swanky nightspot Hyde Hacienda Sydney. Cubano-influenced cuisine and cocktails reign supreme, and the floor-to-ceiling windows provide an iconic harbour outlook.
With all this fun and decadence in one spot, you have everything you need for an unforgettable, harbourside staycation.
From $309 per night
61 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Market Street is home to one of the CBD’s most luxe stays, Swissôtel Sydney. With 369 luxury rooms and suites on offer, you’ll feel right at home relaxing in spacious Swiss-inspired rooms with City views and lots of daylight. Within walking distance to Sydney’s top sightseeing and adjacent to Westfield, Castlereagh Street designer boutiques and QVB, the Swissôtel Sydney is all about convenience…and not just for location.
Swissôtel Sydney has an in-house Wellness Spa that is renowned for their rejuvenating treatments, and their hotel lobby bar, Crossroads Bar, is far from your average hotel diner. Serving up Swiss-infused modern Australian bites, you’ll find something on the menu to satisfy your foodie cravings. During the summer, guests take full advantage of the sunshine and lounge around the outdoor rooftop pool.
After just one night at the Swissôtel Sydney, you’ll feel right at home.
For more information on how the hotel’s Swiss Hospitality takes care of everything so all your time can be easily spent doing the things you love, click here.
From $239 per night
68 Market Street, Sydney
Perfectly positioned in the heart of The Rocks, this hotel is dripping in old-world charm. Built in the early 1800s, it hints at its heritage with sandstone walls and exposed beams. This charming hotel has 59 rooms of varying sizes, and offers modern creature comforts like pillow menus, beautiful bathrooms, and king-size beds. Want to splash out? Book the aptly-named Harbour View Suite on the top floor.
During your stay make the most of the delicious dining options available. Creperie Suzette, and their decadent delights, makes for a perfect brunch spot, and Eric’s Bar boasts an impressive wine list. Middle Eastern dining destination Tayim Restaurant and Bar is the best place to go for dinner, and they have recently launched alfresco hotspot Terrace by Tayim, sitting pretty on the Harbour Rocks Hotel’s secret garden terrace.
With everything you need for an iconic Sydney weekend escape under one roof, you’ll never want to leave!
From $229 per night
34 Harrington Street, Sydney
Charming and convenient, this hotel is perfect for the weekend traveller that wants to get amongst the city action. When it comes to Novotel Sydney Darling Square it is all about location, location, location!
Smack bang in the middle of Sydney’s newest culture and dining precinct, you’re a short stroll from the city’s best sights. Right on your hotel doorstep, you can take your pick of 40 different cuisines from the Darling Square precinct, and sip on craft brews from fun time bar Pumphouse Sydney.
For some culture and adventure, be sure to check the event schedule at ICC Sydney and book your tickets to see hot Broadway musical Disney’s Frozen at the Capitol Theatre (from 1st December). Make time to stroll the Chinese Friendship Garden and take your pick of close animal encounters at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquariumand WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.
From $179 per night
17 Little Pier Street, Darling Harbour
For more beautiful stays across Sydney CBD,Accor’scollection of well-appointed, luxury hotels have all your holiday needs sorted.