Although Sydney is Australia’s biggest city, the best bit about living here has in fact got nothing to do with the city itself. The outskirts in the suburbs is where the real magic lies – each enclave with its own captivating story to tell.
From neigbourhoods with charming terraces to beachside gems with famous golden sands, here’s our ultimate edit of the best suburbs in Sydney, and why they score high on our cool radar.
If you’ve ever stopped to admire a charming, colourful and downright dreamy Victorian terrace somewhere in Sydney, the chances are, you were doing so in the suburb of Paddington. This picturesque neighbourhood is celebrated for rows upon rows of largely intact Victorian terraces — each of which provide a snapshot into Sydney’s colourful past. Beyond this, Paddington is also home to Oxford Street, a beloved dining, wining and shopping strip in Sydney, where you’ll find darling boutique stores such as Nice Martin, and trendy take away joints like Merivale’s The Chicken Shop. And should you wish to take your retail therapy to designer heights, you will find many well-known fashion labels here too, like Camilla and Marc and Acne Studios along Glenmore Road.
One of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods, The Rocks has had somewhat of a Disney-like makeover, transforming from one of the poorest areas into one of the city’s poshest — and who doesn’t love a Cinderella story? Today, both the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge act as a beautiful backdrop to this dockside location, with its sandstone alleys and heritage listed buildings. And there are few ways to experience this suburb in all of its glory; you can join one of the daily walking tours hosted by local historians, as you listen to stories of this suburb’s rich history — or you can join the crowd on George Street for the weekly Friday Foodie Market — and course, you can always wander around at your own pace, at any given day, stopping at one of the many trendy cafés for a long, lazy lunch, such as the Fine Food Store.
3. Surry Hills
Year after year, this list could be re-written and without a shadow of a doubt, Surry Hills will always be included. And that’s because there is simply no denying it — this suburb is the epitome of cool. Evidence of this badge of honour can be found in the suburb’s influx of cool eateries (Chin Chi, Nomad and The Winery) hip boutiques (The Standard Store and Nique), and trendy art galleries (Brett Whiteley Studio) — not to mention the overall laid-back, artsy crowd that it attracts. This is also the type of neighbourhood where you don’t need a car – there are hidden gems scattered all over the place, and the best way to reach them is by foot. Even if you want to go further afield, Central Station is sitting almost right on your doorstep, so you can easily hop-foot it anywhere in NSW from the comfort of your very own train carriage.
Agh, Newtown — the forever young suburb of Sydney, in which the vast student population who live and thrive here continue to keep this area, interesting, fresh and constantly evolving. It’s the quintessential hipster haven, where you’ll find Campos Coffee on Missenden Road, a café where coffee snobbery meets its match, or there’s Stanbuli on Enmore Road, a former hair salon-turned-Turkish meze bar, serving generous share plates, and let us not forget Enmore Theatre, the popular venue where you can catch amazing live music and cultural events year-round. What’s more, Newtown is also one the best suburbs for admiring street art, with so many artistic murals scattered throughout, you’ll likely stumble upon one just by turning a corner.
Being the host of Sydney’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Darlinghurst for this reason alone, scores big on the cool factor. But it’s not only this wonderful parade that marches proudly through Oxford Street which merits this suburb’s street cred, its welcoming vibe allows you to be whoever you want to be, tempting those who are looking to unwind outside the normal 9-5 work life, to come out and play. This is shown in Hinky Dinks, a tiki-themed retro bar with an unapologetic enthusiasm of the 50s cocktail culture, or there’s Govindas Restaurant, a sophisticated, vegetarian Indian buffet, with a charming little-known cinema that allows you to completely lie down on oversized, comfortable cushions.
It goes without saying that this list would not be complete without including Sydney’s most iconic beachside suburb, Bondi Beach. Not only is this arguably Sydney’s most famous neighbourhood – thanks to its white-sand beaches, with reliable waves and Icebergs’ Instagram famous ocean pool – but Bondi also has a lot more to offer other than crashing waves and golden sands. For example, you can join the locals in their activewear, as they take the scenic walk from Bondi to Bronte, or you can feel super healthy by paying a visit to Orchard Street, a health-conscious juice bar with a charming exterior. And then there’s also Hotel Ravesis, where you can stop for a cocktail downstairs, or stay the night upstairs in their revamped, boutique hotel – which by the way, is a Pinterest-worthy interior design dream.