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 Inner City.
To help you explore all the best things to do in the Inner City we teamed up with Mazda to create the ultimate weekend itinerary. To get around, we jumped in their new Mazda CX-5 SP edition.From the turbocharged engine and sleek design, to the flexible storage space and five-star ANCAP safety rating, the stylish Mazda CX-5 SP edition made city driving easy and helped us get the most out of the weekend.
From brunching to after dark cocktails, here are all the best things to do in the Inner City.
Things to do in the Inner City: Eat
With high ceilings, botanical wallpaper and wicker furniture, this restaurant has a chic French colonial vibe written all over it. But, its piece de resistance is the lush terrace, which has panoramic views of the Sydney skyline. The menu is made up of small and large share plates, and the cocktail list is impressive, to say the least.
123 Victoria Street, Potts Point
Bills is an institution among Sydney’s foodie scene. It’s a classic high-end dining destination that has truly mastered the art of brunch, but the dinner menu is just as delicious. The space is minimalistic chic, but the food is hearty and warm.
Bondi Beach, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills
Chester White caught the attention of Sydneysiders with a diner that has a thing for cured meats, pickles and pasta – all to the tune of country and blues music. Its retro vibe and white picket fence sets the scene what is always a guaranteed good feed.
3 Orwell Street, Potts Point
The highly Instagrammable coffee house, The Grounds of the City has a real old-world charm to it. Think a Barista’s Bar designed to tailor your coffee experience and tea ladies with a roaming trolley that is brimming with sweet treats and cakes, to top up for your bottomless cup of coffee.
Shop RG 12, 500 George Street, Sydney
Things to do in the Inner City: Drink
Wind your way through the back streets of Potts Point to find Jangling Jacks. This secluded nightspot is perfect for a romantic rendezvous or night with the ladies. Filled with character and charm, a visit to this bar will not disappoint.
175 Victoria Street, Potts Point
With an award-winning bartending team, look forward to exceptional hotel bar-style service, interiors influenced by 1950s Hollywood and Vegas glamour, and a cocktail list that oozes elegance – Maybe Sammy has got it all. The Hollywood Regency-meets-Palm Springs design screams 1950s glamour; think classic elegance with a splash of extravagance. Bold lighting enhances pink and green velvet on the walls, smoked mirrors, brass fittings and marble tiles catch the eye, while indoor trees and pink tropical wallpaper remind you, you’re here to have fun.
115 Harrington Street, The Rocks
A speakeasy-style bar that’s a throwback to the Prohibition era of the 1920s. They stick to its sophisticated theme with the help of exposed brick walls, timber accents and dim lighting, as well as decorations by the deft hand of Sibella Court. The dapper staff and flapper waitresses add to the basement bar’s speakeasy vibe, as do the live music performances.
Abercrombie Lane, Sydney
The CBD's Champagne parlour Reign is the only bar you need to know about. Situated within the heritage walls of the QVB, this chic watering hole is beautiful- from the pink-hued seating to the opulent lighting. Come nighttime, this luxe bar transforms into a buzzy late-night hotspot slinging Champagne by the bottle and perfected aperitifs.
Level 1, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street, Sydney
Multi-purpose is an understatement when it comes to this venue which acts as both a traditional barbershop as well as a bar with a particular penchant for gin. While the front space is dedicated to the clippers, it’s out back where the drinking begins. Inspired by traditional European drinking venues, the bar space is a dimly lit parlour that is intentionally difficult to find but well worth the effort.
89 York Street, Sydney and Shop 3, Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
Door Knock is a hard-to-find bar that has everyone talking. After venturing through a security door and downstairs, you know you have arrived when you’re at the brass pineapple door knock. The bar has an extensive selection of cocktails, wines and sherries, leaving it hard to know where to start.
B2/70 Pitt Street, Sydney
Located in a heritage-listed basement, renowned New York bar Employees Only is beautiful but without the pretense. Bringing its late-night vibes and world-class cocktails to Sydney, this is a newbie you'll want to sink your teeth into ASAP. Pair drinks with their all-night bar menu (available until 2:30 am) and you'll be more than content.
9A Barrack Street, Sydney
This wine bar-slash-restaurant-slash-nightclub is all about details, from the Stephen Dupont photography on the walls to the expertly curated playlist of rare disco and new wave tracks. The cocktail list is succinct with notable names, and the wine list is bold with an array of rare varietals. For an after-work drink and boogie, the basement bar Pamela’s provides the perfect balance of grunge and flamboyance. Adorned with a disco ball and stage, you kind of get the feeling that you are in store for a memorable night.
18 York Street, Sydney
Things to do in the Inner City: Play
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
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. 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
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
Things to do in the Inner City: Explore
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.
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 the Inner City: Stay
‘Concept hotels’ are millennial magnets, and QT is Sydney’s best. The hotel pays homage to the theatrical history of its building, making it a destination in itself. There are 200 hip rooms, and guests are whisked to theirs via interactive elevators that detect the number of passengers and play music to match. The concierge app is a draw, as are The Gowings Bar & Grill and SpaQ.
49 Market Street, Sydney
Loved our edit of the best things to do in Sydney CBD and surrounds, in collaboration with Mazda, and looking for more? From thebest restaurants andcoffee spots to late-night eats and harbourside bars, we’ve got you covered.
Keen to get out and about in Sydney? Drive in style with the new Mazda CX-5 SP edition. Powerful, efficient and turbocharged, the engine of the new Mazda CX-5 SP edition allows for strong acceleration while maintaining quiet cruising. To be enjoyed both on and off-road, the versatile interior with flexible storage allows for ultimate comfort on your next road trip or after dark expedition into the city. To find out more, visit the Mazda Australia website.