Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) is a buzzing epicentre of commuters, historical buildings, and student-heavy areas like Ultimo and Haymarket.
Home to some of Australia’s most recognisable icons – such as the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the Rocks – the CBD is filled with history and offers plenty of fun for day or night.
After you’ve ticked the obvious items off your bucket list (as mentioned above) you can unwind by taking a stroll around the heritage-listed Royal Botanic Garden, which offers stunning views of the harbour as you walk amongst the manicured lawns. If you’ve got the time, you can sign up for a guided tour with an expert who will teach you all about New South Wales’ native plants, or you can join one of the many classes on offer, such as the Aboriginal Bush Food Experience.
There are lots of great shopping opportunities in the city, too. You can brave the crowds at Pitt Street Mall for big retail stores like Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and smaller local shops. Or, head to outlet mall Market City or fresh food-focused Paddy’s Markets if you’re looking for a bargain.
At night, the Sydney CBD comes alive with a variety of food options. Chinatown in Haymarket is not to be missed. Here, you’ll find great yum cha and Japanese restaurants, and some of the city’s best dumplings at Chinese Noodle House on Quay Street (order the braised eggplant dumplings – you won’t be disappointed). For a delicious Brazilian feast, try Braza Churrascaria in Darling Quarter for an all you can eat BBQ.
The CBD is also home to a lot of secret underground bars. Grandma’s Bar on Clarence Street is great for cheap toasted sandwiches and a mouthwatering mango margarita. Other popular underground bars in the CBD include Stitch Bar, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern, and Palmer & Co.
Don’t miss out on the perfect Instagram opportunity at the ‘In Between Two Worlds’ street art display in Kimber Lane, Haymarket. Afterwards, why not have some fun playing arcade games at Timezone or catch a show at the Capitol Theatre?
If you’d rather stay in and cook, then you can stock up on all your groceries at Miracle Supermarkets on George Street. This Asian grocer has a great variety of foods and supplies – it’s a nice spot to get kimchi and Korean BBQ ingredients. For all your Japanese grocery needs, head to Maruyu on Kent Street or Conveni 8 on Pitt Street.
The Ultimo Community Centre is a popular space for sports and other recreational activities. You can hire a basketball court, take a yoga or fitness class, or learn how to do Chinese painting. The centre also offers English conversation classes, and there’s a bilingual Chinese community worker on duty at the facility between Monday and Friday.
There’s also a brand-new City of Sydney library in Darling Square, located inside The Exchange building. The library holds over 30,000 books, including a large Asian literature collection. You can come here to enjoy a good book or study in peace and quiet.
There are several churches around the Sydney CBD, including Scots Church (which welcomes cultural diversity), Church Hill Anglican, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the Hillsong City Campus. Sydney City Masjid in Argyle Place offers two different prayer times on Fridays: 12.15pm and 1.15pm. There are also smaller musallas near Town Hall (167B Castlereagh Street) and Wynyard (56-60 Erskine Street) stations.
The Sunrise Coffee and Kayak tour, run by Sydney by Kayak, is the perfect way to start your day. It’s worth braving the 5.30am start to experience gliding through the glassy waters of Sydney Harbour as the sun is rising. Tours depart from Lavender Bay and the guides will greet you with a hot cup of coffee in hand, making the early start a little more bearable.
Explore the stunning Queen Victoria Building (known as the QVB) and roam through the boutique stores lining the strand arcade. This building was designed in 1898 during difficult financial times, when the government planned its development as a means to employ out-of-work craftsmen. The building has acted as many different things: a concert hall, a library, and even a place for palmists and clairvoyants to rent out. While it nearly succumbed to demolition in 1959, it still stands tall in the heart of Sydney.
If you’re looking for a spot to test your singing skills, Sydney’s CBD is scattered with great karaoke bars. Try Lantern by Wagaya on George Street (order some delicious Japanese food to eat while you sing), K1 Karaoke Lounge on Dixon Street (which offers very cheap happy hour karaoke from Sunday to Thursday and before 8pm on Friday and Saturday) and Echo Point (great for a small group of friends) on Pitt Street. Sydneysiders love their karaoke, so make sure you book ahead of time to secure a private booth.