Weekdays and weekends, morning, noon and night, it feels alive. Shopping, bars, parks, high-end restaurants, fast food, small bars, there’s plenty to more than just offices in this area.

Heading just south-west you will come across Ultimo and Haymarket, hugely popular areas for international students. With easy access to university campuses and a world of food choices in Chinatown, this comes as no surprise. For a pretty small distance, the area is tightly packed with all manner of things, and a whole lot is going on.

Highlights

By day, the Queen Victoria Building is not only a tourist destination because of its architecture and history, but a good place to shop as well. Nearby Pitt St is where you’ll find department stores and clothing chains, as well as fashion boutiques like Incu, which stocks a specialist range of local and international designers.

If you like small bars, then check out the always busy Baxter Inn, on Clarence Street, or the hidden bar (enter through the door with the sewing machine) Stitch on York Street. For something a little bit different, grab a jaffle from the eclectic Grandma’s Bar, also on Clarence Street.

Heading towards Ultimo you will find a range of options for a night out, including catching a gig at the Metro Theatre. Much smaller than the nearby Entertainment Centre, this popular venue on George St is an institution for music lovers.

If you are hungry then get yourself to Haymarket, the range of food available in Chinatown is mindblowing. For the yummiest dumpling in town, Din Tai Fung at World Square is a must. Try and get a table near to the kitchen so you can see the chefs in their white aprons (and surgical masks!) rolling and folding your dinner with meticulous care. Things are a little more relaxed over at BBQ King on Goulburn Street where traditional Chinese pork and duck dishes reign supreme.

Cheap cheats

It’s hard to know if it’s the wobbly chairs, the plastic flowers and grapes hanging from the ceiling or the faded tapestries on the wall that make Chinese Noodle House so special. At the back of a courtyard off Quay Street, just walking past the front door will have the staff shouting at you and offering you a menu. There’s never a spare table, but they’ll happily take your order while you wait in the courtyard outside. They encourage BYO, and their special recipe eggplant is not to be missed.

Just down from Ultimo towards Darling Harbour, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is a peaceful oasis amidst the constant bustle of the area. Combining the traditional elements of water, stone, garden and architecture you’d hardly know you were in the heart of Sydney. At just $3 for a student ticket, you’re buying yourself a clear head and a calm afternoon away from the stress of everyday life.

Useful Info

Accommodation

For long-term accommodation, Iglu and Urbanest are the best quality managed student accommodation in the area.

Iglu Central – 1 Regent Street, Chippendale

Urbanest – 83 Quay Street, Haymarket

There is a host of hotel options within the city centre, most of which are priced at a premium because of the location.

Community facilities

Aside from the UTS and TAFE libraries, the City of Sydney Council runs the Ultimo Library, which has an extensive collection of English and Chinese publications.

The Community Relations Commission of NSW offers interpreting and translation services for more than 100 languages and dialects from its Castlereagh Street office. Check its website and make an appointment to ensure the Commission can help you out.

crc.nsw.gov.au

Campus facilities

The University of Technology campus on Broadway was built in the 1960s. The original brown concrete high-rise has recently been complemented by the Faculty of Engineering and IT building, a bold new space that is part of a long-term regeneration project to build a vibrant education precinct. It’s already a bustling area for students, providing extensive library facilities, sports clubs, social groups and student radio.

Pricing

As you would expect from a CBD, you’ll find a broad range of prices. You can go very high-end or very casual, depending on your mood. At the cheaper end, you will find that it’s possible to grab some nasi lemak from Mamak’s in Haymarket for $9 or pork ramen for about $10 from Japanese favourite Ichi Ban Boshi near Town Hall.

Local legends

Yum Cha at Marigold

Meaning to ‘sip tea’ in Cantonese, the custom of dim sum and green tea in the morning is one everyone should experience. The staff push trolleys of steam baskets between the large tables and you sample whatever looks appealing. It’s a fun and all-too-tempting way to work through the menu.

Marigold

Level 5, 683-689 George St, Sydney

Background

Sydney is Australia’s first city, both as the landing spot of the First Fleet (in 1788) and as the first incorporated city council (in 1842). The beautiful Hyde Park, the ideal spot for relaxation and exploration, is the oldest public park in Australia.

Since about 1920, the area between Ultimo and Haymarket has been known as Chinatown, a cultural hub within inner city Sydney. The annual parade for Chinese New Year provides an opportunity for the whole town to celebrate not only the holiday but also all that Chinese culture has brought to Australian life. Paddy’s Markets have operated in the Haymarket area since the 1840s. Once a market for hay and grains, it has evolved into a bustling retail and produce hub.