[spotlight series. olivia babarczy, trevor king, georgie abay, ryan o’keefe]
[sydney soundtrack. Home]
Sydney - Australia’s largest city (with a population of over 4.5m people) – almost always appears at the top end of world’s most livable cities’ list. It is not hard to see why. This breathtakingly beautiful, sunsoaked harbor town, with a near perfect climate (albeit a sticky one), bursts with fit, tanned, healthy bodies and exudes super casual vibes. This energetic beachy town was an easy place to call home for seven years. A glittering harbor, endless beaches, lush forests and nature, architectural delights, good shopping, good coffee and an increasingly exciting food scene … this city will become an obsession.
Having lived in Sydney for such a long time, we find it hard to narrow down our top picks. We have tried our best however, to showcase some of our current faves, followed by a bunch of other loves, divided up by area. Undoubtedly though, this list will only just scrape the surface. We hope you can still find some goodness below, to help you enjoy this spectacular harbor town! You might notice that we don’t really include the obvious tourist haunts (we figure it’s a given that you will visit the Opera House or climb the Harbor Bridge) – the recos here are more about living la vida local!
And when in doubt, check our go-to online newspapers - Broadsheet or Twothousands - for the latest haps around town. These guys have their finger on the pulse.
Coffee: a new find, we love the coffee at Will & Co. We probably love even more the hidden nature of this cute little spot, only open on weekends. Tucked down an aqua-colored lane off Hall Street (#33), Bondi Beach. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the caffeine goodness and friendly vibes at the Earth Food Store in Gould Street (just around the corner).
Breakfast (casual): Four Ate Five– consistently delicious food, great coffee and very friendly local service. The owners here are young and perky, and we love this old local of ours, on Crown Street. Great for breakfast, but equally good for lunch. Always busy. Pop into the Organic Café next door afterwards for something sweet (we love their spelt muffins).
Breakfast (for something more special): Bambini Trust– an old favorite. Enjoy the charm of this cosy Italian spot, across the road from Hyde Park. Great egg dishes and good Italian-style coffee. Also brilliant for lunch, dinner, or an aperitiv in the wine bar next door.
Lunch (casual): Çafe Sopra – a huge, light-filled warehouse space, with fresh fruit and veg market downstairs, and Italian grocer / café upstairs – the homemade pasta here is to-die-for. Great bustling atmosphere on weekends. No bookings.
Lunch (more special): Sean’s Panorama– make it a long one – this is our absolute favorite restaurant in all of Sydney. Local and seasonal, Sean’s ever-changing menu is short, but sharp. Always interesting, you will learn from the attentive waiters where each and every product comes from. Excellent wine selection. Cosy. Atmospheric. Across the road from North Bondi Beach. Exsy, but worth every penny.
Dinner (casual): Il Baretto– another local favorite. Along the nondescript end of Bourke Street, this super casual little corner spot has been serving up classic and non-fussy Italian for years. Order bruschetta, followed by either the marinara or carbonara. Mama mia, this is good. BYO.
Dinner (more special): Icebergs – the views from this Bondi institution will impress the socks off you, as well as any guests you drag along. Start with Campari cocktails at the bar, and then move into the restaurant for a delicious dinner. The location alone is worth going back for, time and time again.
Pub: The Forresters or Watsons Bay Hotel – we love both these spots, for different reasons. The Forresters is a great inner-city option. Fun crowd and atmosphere, friendly staff, and a great little Jamaican-ish restaurant upstairs. The newly renovated Watsons Bay Hotel is impeccably perched on the water’s edge in Watson Bay, and offers a fun and relaxed Beach Club (color and style which reminds us very much of the Parker in Palm Springs), as well as some boutique accommodation. This stunning spot is perfect for a few cheeky beers in the sun.
Organic: Earth Food Store– amazing organic grocer and cute little café. Great coffee, green juices, smoothies and our favorite – the “buffin”! A gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free buckwheat muffin, packed full of fresh fruit and nuts (flavors change daily). We dream of these little beauties when we are far away, and they are the first thing we rush back for on any Bondi visit!
Organic Wholefoods & Raw food Cafe: Sadhana Kitchen – check out this newbie in Enmore for seriously healthy deliciousness.
Fish: Fish Face– a tiny neighborhood spot, the fish is always fresh and consistent. We also love Fish & Co – a super laidback café in Annandale, dedicated to serving only certified sustainable catch.
Steak: Porteno (for super cool, super friendly, delicious Argentinian grill) or Rockpool (for incredible meat, more high-end, quite corporate), or $20 steak at theGrand National (this might not be the best steak you ever have, but its good value, reliable, and comes paired, with a good salad, and a good crowd).
Asian: Longrain– a long time favorite. Come here for modern Thai and amazing cocktails.
Italian: A Tavola. Our number one Italian. Authentic, simple and delicious. Great buzzy atmosphere. Request a table in the back courtyard. Exceptional homemade pastas, and desserts.
Hidden dining experience: Table for 20 – the first to bring neighborhood/communal dining to the Sydney food scene, Michael Fantuz is the host with the most. With two long tables of 20, book out the whole restaurant (for 40 people), just one table, or just a few seats. Either way, you will be blown away by Michael’s mama’s authentic, home-style Italian cooking, the impeccable and friendly service, and the live music. Start with drinks upstairs at Sticky Bar.
Wine: 10 William Street - from the same amazing Italianos who brought you Fratelli Paradiso, this cute and cosy wine bar is perfect (especially in winter). Come for a Campari, wine and some antipasti. Nab the window seats.
Bakery: Sonoma (for their incredible range of real-deal sourdoughs) and Bourke Street Bakery (for their world-famous sausage rolls, prepare to queue).
Gelato: Messina. This is the BUSINESS!! No question. Try any of their 3 locations.
Farmers’ Market: Eveleigh Farmers’ Market - this weekly Saturday market is our favorite stop for local NSW based farmers and artisan food producers’ seasonal produce. From fruit and vegetables, to organic meats, fish, dairy, breads, olive oils and fresh flowers – you will find it all here.
City Beach: Tamarama, or “Glamarama” as it is known by the locals. Good surf, plenty of sand and sunbaking opportunities, lovely lawns and bbqs for picnics, and a very beautiful crowd.
Walk: Bondi to Bronte – our most favorite walk in the world. Spectacular views along the coast. Don’t stop at Bronte, keep going if you have time, all the way to Coogee (or anywhere in between).
View: Opera Bar – views to rival most bars in the city, come for a pre-dinner (or pre-Opera House show) drink at this casual harborside bar.
Day trip: Palm Beach – only an hour north of Sydney, this special place is one of the jewels of the Northern Beaches. Swim in the ocean, or paddle on the lake, but whatever you do – eat and caffeinate at the ever-charming and beautiful lakeside Boathouse.
Surf: Blueys Beach, Seal Rocks, Treachery (the best), any of the Northern beaches (try Queenscliff).
Weekend away: Canberra – not normally your first choice I am sure, but trust me on this, HOTEL HOTELhas arrived…and it will make the 3hr drive south from Sydney VERY worth your while.
Bookstore: Ariel Booksellers. Open from 9am until midnight. We have whiled away so many late-night hours amongst the shelves here of art, design, travel and photography books, as well as beautiful cards.
Kids store: KIDO. A one-stop kiddie shopping paradise.
Women’s store: Blood Orange – tucked away in the backstreets of Elizabeth Bay, this was our local favorite when living in the neighborhood, and still is. Loren Abood curates the most classic and beautiful selection of brands. A little treasure.
Men’s store: The Stables– we love the menswear on offer here at The Stables’ flagship store. We also love that there’s a cute café hidden behind the retail section, to grab a salad and a good coffee, in between purchases.
Random bits and pieces store: The Society Inc– the most heavenly corner store, full of swoon-worthy things.
Cinema: Golden Age Cinema & Bar – we adore this relatively new, super rad 40-seat cinema/bar that has been brought to life out of the restored heritage-listed Paramount Pictures Building, showing golden oldie flicks.
Band venue: Oxford Arts Factory – a long-time favorite, we love this intimate venue on Oxford Street Paddington. Mumford & Sons’ first ever Aussie gig here in 2010 was life-changing! We also love 505 in Surry Hills, which was once housed in a sketchy hidden warehouse venue, this artist run performance space, has been showcasing and supporting local and original artists since 2004. Be prepared to be surprised each week by a different fun activity: the 505 crew are impartial to a bit of boogie woogie with their backgammon, or spaghetti western with their poker. BYO booze.
Theatre: we love supporting Australian theatre, and we were frequent visitors at both Belvoir St Theatre and the Sydney Theatre Company. Dynamic, entertaining and inspiring.
Hairdresser: Barney Martin – this beautiful, light-filled and welcoming salon has been keeping Sydneysiders looking lovely since 2004. Run by super-sweet Brit, Barney Martin, and his very friendly team – come here for stylish cuts, colors, and good coffee to boot!
Nails: Paddington Nails – nothing flashy, nothing fancy, but a good, affordable and sociable mani/pedi.
Massage: Venustus – the 4-handed massage here will change your life.
The Paramount Coffee Project: a beautifully designed café in the old Paramount film building in Surry Hills.
Harry’s Espresso Bar: super chilled and friendly Bondi spot – good coffee, smoothies and juices.
Tiger Mottle: an old local favorite from our days living in Five Ways - friendly, cosy and tucked into those cute Paddo streets.
Single Origin Roasters: tiny Surry Hills café focusing on single origin, fair trade, organic and sustainable brews.
Reuben Hills: the coffee is great, and the food options are delectable. Mulled wine poached pears & their avocado, coriander & lime on sourdough rye, two of our brekkie favorites.
Jackies Cafe: a Sydney institution, Jackie has run this café for years. Popular with the fashion set in Paddo – great people watching, and great scrambled eggs. The sushi here is amazing as well.
Earth Food Store: not just amazing for your organic fruit and veg needs, but breakfasts here are so healthy and delicious. Grab a seat at the communal table, grab a smoothie or a coffee and something to snack on. Yum.
M-Deli: a little local hang, on a street corner in Tama, is off the beaten drag and is great for weekend morning brunch.
Flat White: if you are prepared to wait, you will be rewarded with some seriously good nosh. The setting itself is nothing overly special, but the stuff that comes out of the kitchen sure is.
Brown Sugar: we love this spot. A Bondi institution (that was once in North Bondi, but moved down the hill quite a few years ago). Breakfasts are great, and so are dinners. Friendly, local service and great food.
Kawa: very much a Surry Hills-sceney hang, but the people watching is unstoppable and they do a mean freshly squeezed juice and sanga. Grab a little table on the street. A never fail option.
The Stables: we love this cute, bright café, tucked behind their multi-brand retail store out the front. Yummo healthy options and good coffee.
Jackies Cafe: Two words. Sashimi salad.
Piadina: Cute little Bondi favorite. We love this tinypiadineria.
Miss Chu: the rice paper roll queen as she is known, pumps out some of the best riceys you will experience on this side of Vietnam. We love the vegetarian ones. Our local was the Darlinghurst one, the original…but there are plenty of other options now as well.
Toko: for slick, contemporary, communal izakaya-style Jap; beautiful crowd and good cocktails.
Thada Thai: this seriously cheap and cheerful Thai is a long-time love of ours. We used to dine here multiple times each week. Fresh and delicious. BYO beers and wine. Grab a messina for dessert from next door.
Fratelli Paradiso: such a great neighborhood spot. Closed Saturdays! But amazing for a mid-week dinner. Dark, cosy, always busy. Good date night spot too. The food here is phenomenal.
Phamish: seriously good, modern Vietnamese. Prepare to wait (or order to-go).
Jimmy Liks: another great Asian option – modern Thai. Long, sleek cocktail bar on one side, communal dining tables on the other.
Nomad: the latest hotspot on the Surry Hills scene, this big, inviting warehouse space is doing good things. Inventive and interesting menu. Great wines.
Deli Bottega: go for mussel nights on Tuesdays. Very Bondi.
The Shop Bondi: our number one favorite. Super casual, under the radar little café/wine bar. Pull up a milk crate, and sit on the street.
Shady Pines Saloon: we love this spot! A little slice of Americana tucked down a laneway in Surry Hills. Taxidermy, bourbon, peanut shells – yes.
Love Tilly Devine: one of the first small, laneway bars to open once the Sydney liquor-licensing laws were relaxed, we used to love coming here for a Campari or a vino. Service was always a little ho-hum, but the drinks taste good and it’s a super cute spot.
Stuffed Beaver: another Americano-style bar, blaring nineties music and dishing out free tequila if you can throw your peanut shells into a cup behind the bar. What more could you want!
Wine Library: perfect for a few glasses of red on a not-so-sunny winter’s day.
Diamant: this boutique-ish hotel is conveniently located just behind the famous Coke sign, right in the heart of Kings Cross/Darlinghurst.
We love an Airbnb pad: check out these ones in [Paddington] and [Bondi].
Surry Hills: for the Collector Store, KIDO, Paper2,Koskela, ici et la, and a bunch of vintage stores.
William Street, Paddington: for The Corner Shop, andTrunk (high-end vintage).
Glenmore Road, Paddington: for Scanlan & Theodore,Bassike and other Australian designers.
Elizabeth Bay: for Blood Orange.
Book out Bite Club: for a private, hidden communal dining experience in a stunning, old Woollahra home.
Brett Whiteley Studio: check out the former studio of Australian twentieth century artist, Brett Whiteley.
Walk the harborside walk from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay: dotted with beaches.
Pack a picnic and head to Darling Point’s harborsideMcKell Park, an idyllic spot for some harborside lawn action.
Grab a beer on the deck of the CYC (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia) in Rushcutters. Relaxed, sunny fun amongst the boats.
Have a swim in the harbor at the Murray Rose Pool(formerly Redleaf) in Double Bay – with a netted swimming area, there is also plenty of sand and grass for sunsoaking and picnicking.
Camp Cove: a short walk from Watson’s Bay, this quiet little cove has stunning views over the water and back to the CBD.
Bambini Trust: a somewhat corporate hangout, but we love it. Be sucked in by the Italian charm.
Workshop Espresso: a hole in the wall espresso bar, right in the heart of the city. Perfect for your caffeine fix.
Marlowe’s Way: this sneaky little hidden café is a challenge to find. Part of the reason we like it. Cosy and great coffee, by Little Marionette.
Pendolino: perched at the top of the beautiful Strand Arcade, come here for excellent (more formal) Italian.
Uccello: fun on a sunny day. The Italian restaurant here opens up on to the Ivy Pool Club – a city rooftop poolside spot more reminiscent of one of the rooftop hotel bars in LA, than something in the heart of the Sydney CBD. We love the pops of color, the yellow and white striped awnings, the white leather booths.
Establishment Garden Bar: the sunny back atrium-style courtyard here offers a fabulous Thai-style menu and is a great option for a low-key weekday lunch.
Berta: cute, hidden laneway Italian. Consistently good. Friendly service. Great food.
GOOD GOD Small Club: the perfect place to make some shapes! Do yourself a favor and track down this hidden basement bar in the heart of Sydney’s Spanish Corner. Amazing Aussie and international names come through. We were especially excited to see The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, De La Soul and 2 Many DJs.
Grasshopper: this little bar is tucked down a city laneway, and spreads outside with milk crates for seats, old lids for ashtrays and bell jars filled with cocktails. An intimate, but noisy, little drinking hole.
Bulletin Place: with a cocktail menu that changes daily, tapas available from Bar Tapavino next door, and a secret, cosy location – this small bar is the perfect spot for an after-work cocktail.
Island Bar (see below).
Pitt Street Mall: Strand Arcade (for great little Australian designer boutiques).
Westfield Mall: if you’re into that shopping center kind of thing (which we’re not really!).
Establishment: boutique accommodation right in the heart of the city, above the Hemmesphere cocktail bar.
Park Hyatt: recently renovated, come to this high-end option primarily for the killer views over the Harbor. Wake up to the Opera House or the beautiful Harbor Bridge. An unbeatable location.
Get a boat out to Cockatoo Island for drinks at theIsland Bar, made from recycled shipping containers. Seasonal opening times – check website for details.
While away a couple of hours in the beautiful Botanic Gardens – dodge the bats.
Boy Charlton Pool & Cafe: do a few laps, and then grab coffee and a snack at this cute poolside café. A pretty neat location– smack-bang next to the Botanic Gardens and opposite Woolloomooloo Wharf, right on the water.
Coffee Tea and Me: we adore this little hole-in-the-wall café in Redfern. Campos Coffee & little treats.
The Grounds Alexandria: always packed, this Alexandria coffee house/roastery does a great brew and some good food to boot. They have a pig called Kevin Bacon (who was sadly stolen back in October, but found again). Doesn’t get much better than that.
1346 Venice: housed in a restored warehouse in Waterloo, come here for a Golden Cobra coffee or to check out the restored 1930s Crocker motorbikes.
Little Indi: we adore this little wholesome café, tucked into the loading dock of a hardware store in Alexandria. A largely local, organic and vegetarian menu – there is a focus here on minimal waste, and all organic scraps are composted in their coffee bean sack-planter boxes! We love the raw granola to accompany our coffee.
Eathouse Diner: we love this bright little diner – all turquoise and kitsch and retro and loud. American-style cocktails, nosh and service. Always fun.
Baffi & Mo: busy little Redfern staple, good for coffee and weekend brunch.
Sadhana Kitchen: we used to frequent this raw, organic and vegan kitchen in its former backstreet-Enmore digs. Now on Enmore Road, we love coming for their superfood smoothies and raw-sagna!
Moon Park: Bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi. This minimal industrial beauty, pumps out all these Korean favorites and more. Try their famed fried chicken.
Check out this cute Airbnb pad in Redfern: Cool Tin Shed
Doug up on Bourke: take your time to cruise around the huge-array of industrial antiques in this awesome warehouse space.
Great Dane Furniture: the name says it all. Those Danes just know how to do furniture.
A Pair of Chairs: restyled classic and retro furniture selection.
Carriageworks: a great site for contemporary art and culture (and don’t miss the weekly Saturday Eveleigh Farmers Market).
The Little Marionette: a small, breezy hole-in-the-wall café in Annandale. The service here is relaxed and friendly, and the coffee – which is roasted on site – is fresh and delicious.
Coffee Alchemy: an unassumingly great coffee stop in Marrickville.
Oscillate Wildly: located in Sydney's vibrant suburb of Newtown, Oscillate Wildly is a small shop-front restaurant situated in an intimate, neighborhood setting, where product sustainability is of the utmost importance. Express passion and creativity through food
Sustainable fish at Fish & Co.: British chef, Tom Kime, opened this simple café with a belief that if we consciously decide to only use certified sustainable catch, we can keep enjoying eating seafood for years to come. If we protect our oceans and marine environments, then the fish will do the rest for us for nothing. The seafood here is so fresh and delicious, and the menu is always interesting. Additionally, Tom Kime is a super passionate, lovely guy.
Cornersmith - Cornersmith is creating quite a buzz, due in no small part to the beehives on the roof. One of the most interesting of the new wave of Marrickville cafés, Cornersmith maintains a staunch position on local, seasonal and ethical produce.
Bloodwood: this Newtown restaurant and bar, is about all things seasonal and sharing. A great cocktail and wine list as well.
The Welcome Hotel: a great local pub in Rozelle. Come here for some delicious craft brews, or a long Sunday lunch.
Junktique apartment: for something a little different. This cute serviced apartment is located over a retro emporium.
Deus Ex Machina & Deus Cafe: the Venice Beach outpost in LA is where we spend a lot of our time – but this is the original. Dare Jennings (“the godfather of fun”) has created an awesome space for food, art, music, surf, motorbikes, movies, clothing: a custom-motorcycle workshop meets uber-cool clothing shop meets great café.
Pigeon Ground: located in the backstreets of Camperdown, come here for vinyl, vintage clothes, books and other random
White Rabbit Gallery – an amazing private Chinese contemporary art collection in Chippendale.
Balmain ferry hopping – catch the ferry to Balmain East and walk through the suburb to Birchgrove, and then catch another back to the city.
Cucina Italiana: run out of an old Italian-style mansion in Annandale, this authentic Italian cooking class is fun with a couple of friends or a big group. Make a bunch of delicious favorites, and then sit down to enjoy your handywork over a long lunch.
We love coffee (and the friendly service) at the tinyBarefoot Coffee Traders in the backstreets of Manly. Cute and friendly, great waffles as well.
Anvil: it’s not just the coffee (by Fat Poppy) that will impress here. The location is unstoppable. Built into the ferry wharf in Kirribilli, this super cute harbor-side spot does amazing brekkie and lunch as well.
The Boathouse in Palm Beach– worth the drive! The most beautiful spot for breakfast.
Healthy lunch from Nourished: we used to frequent this Avalon staple in its former life as The Healthy Chef. We get just as much joy now from the wholefoods goodness in its new form, as Nourished.
Balmoral Boat Shed: little sister of The Boathouse in Palm Beach, this is a perfect beachside stop for weekend breakfast or lunch.
Pilu Freshwater: located on Freshwater Beach, with incredibly stunning views – come here for high-end, delicious Italian.
Burnt Orange: this verandah house does a great weekend brunch and also has a cute boutique.
Newport Arms Hotel – Sunday afternoon institution, waterfront beergarden. Very laid back.
Barrenjoey House: a 1920s guesthouse and restaurant on Barrenjoey Road. Simple, clean accommodation.Avalon: book a room in this stunning, sunny pad. Home of ex-surfer
We constantly swoon over this amazing getaway inPatonga. Just over 1 hour north of Sydney.
Bassike: this Avalon store is the original. Come here for cotton basics, and their cult t-shirts.
Mark Tuckey: one of our favorite Australian furniture designers. Come here for all your homeware needs.
Taronga Zoo: a beautiful ferry ride will take you to the entrance of the Zoo – one of our favorites in the world – follow up with a swim and a picnic in Mosman’s Clifton Gardens.
Walk around Cremorne Point: with the harbor on one side, and some beautiful residential homes and bushland on the other – this walk is quite spectacular.
Shelly Beach: just a short walk along the coast from Manly, is this special little cove. We love it here. Great for snorkeling and paddleboarding. You will be transported to another place. With Brazilians galore, and more Portuguese being spoken then English, we often used to think we were on some hidden little beach in South America – not a bad problem to have.
Spit to Manly walk: this is a great (but long) walk through bush and hidden beaches. Stunning.
Palm Beach: for TV lovers, this is the beach were Australian long-running soap opera – Home & Away – is set. Sunbake, surf, walk amongst the sand dunes, and up to the lighthouse.
Whale Beach: another great option for sun and surf.
Lunch at Clareville Kiosk: this light-filled and airy cottage sits next to Clareville Beach and is a lovely option for a fancy long lunch or dinner.
GET OUTTA TOWN…
We love jumping in the car, winding down the windows and hitting the road to these amazing places…all pretty sublime weekend getaways.
Jervis Bay: for the whitest sandy beaches in the world, crystal clear waters, hidden coves through the National Park. This is nature at its finest. Camp, swim, fish, snorkel, chill.
Pretty Beach: laidback little town, not too far north of Sydney – for stunning beaches and lakeside relax time. Camp, or treat yourself to some luxury digs atBells at Killcare.
Seal Rocks: one of our favorite Australian beaches. Wild, untamed and raw. A great place to camp. Lots of great rentals available as well. Norma’s Beach Housedoesn’t look too shabby, and we love the look of Lot 3.
Bowral: this Southern Highlands town offers lush, green rolling hills, rambling country farms, cute cafes and boutiques. Oh and golf, if that so tickles your fancy.
Thredbo: This Snowy Mountains village has the best skiing Australian can offer. Fun days on the slopes, and après nights.
Blue Mountains: one of our favorite winter weekend getaways. Cosy up by a fire in a cute mountainside pub, drink red wine; do some stunning hikes; check out the local farmers markets, cute restaurants and antique stores. Jump on a horse! The horseback riding out here is pretty spectacular.
Royal National Park: spend a day jumping into the freshwater lagoons, surfing at the beaches, bushwalking and picnicking under a gum tree. Stop into the cute towns of Austinmer and Thirroul for lunch…and whatever you do, please stop at theScarborough Hotel, for a beer in the sun at the best (we think!) cliffside beer garden in the world, with amazing views along the coast.
Canberra: yes, it’s a little sleepy, but Australian’s Capital City is a great stopover on any trip to the Snowy Mountains. We are especially excited for our next visit given the VERY exciting arrival of HOTEL HOTEL: a new hotel/collaboration between designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. This cool lil spot is sure to bring new and colorful interactions and experiences to the Canberra cultural scene.