Sydney is Australia’s city that never sleeps. There’s always something to do, something to see, somewhere to be. So you’d be totally forgiven for overcommitting yourself, should you find yourself travelling to the Harbour city for only a short time. You’re there for a good time, not a long time, so here’s a few things worth seeing if you’re only in town for the weekend; especially if you’re new to the joint.
What to do in Sydney
Sydney is a bit like New York City in the fact that it’s quite spread out and has burroughs, each with its own distinct personality. Travelling with a friend who hadn’t been in Sydney before, I decided to stay in the CBD to get her the most bang for her touristy buck. We’re both very much stop and drop holidayers; we like to really explore one area rather than rushing to cover everything in a short amount of time
If you’re one of those people who likes to shop ‘til you drop, then Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall is a treasure trove of high end and mid range stores full of all things bright and beautiful. Just after we checked into our hotel, we didn’t quite have enough time to do any of the big things so it was time for a bit of a shopping spree. Spanning multiple blocks right in the heart of the CBD, Pitt Street is bursting with designer brands, retail outlets and food, glorious food. Honestly you can spend hours there and still not have seen everything. Personal faves include the Haigh’s Chocolates (not available in Brisbane), the clothing stores in Westfield Sydney and the THREE STOREY Mecca store. As a Beauty Editor, this one was pretty much heaven for me. A level devoted to skincare, one for makeup and one as a stunning parfumerie. Honestly, I could have spent a whole day there.
Of course, one of the major Sydney draw cards is, of course, Circular Quay. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the waters lapping at the shore as you sip your drinks and take in the view; these aren’t some of the most famous sights in Australia for nothing. There’s something truly special about sitting at the Quay and just taking it all in. Then once you’re done pinching yourself at the view (and if you have time), you can visit some of the other nearby attractions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, or take a stroll around the historic cobblestones of The Rocks area.
Sydney is also known for great theatre, and it would be a mistake to leave town without seeing a show. From the Sydney Opera House to the Lyric Theatre, from a big musical at the State Theatre to a gripping play at the Wharf Theatres, there’s sure to be a show to satisfy any taste.
For us, we took the opportunity to head down to the Capitol Theatre to take in Baz Luhrmann’s spectacular spectacular Moulin Rouge. With a sumptuous set, dazzling costumes, powerhouse voices and a score reimagined for the stage, this is a real showstopper.
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual on your trip, I can wholeheartedly vouch for Hijinx Hotel. A little further afoot than the CBD in Alexandria, sits a precinct ready to serve up fun and games for anyone who travels there. Featuring the aforementioned puzzle heaven Hijinx Hotel, as well as minigolf wonderland Holey Moley and arcade extraordinaire Archie Bros. Cirque Electric, this is a must for the young and young at heart.
Hijinx Hotel is an immersive interactive game experience. Housed within the theme, wonder and theatre of a quirky New York hotel, the venue features 15 rooms reimagined into quick play, challenge rooms. You could find yourself trying to plug holes on a sinking Titanic, or plink out tunes on a giant keyboard, all before the clock runs out. Then, once you’re done solving puzzles, catch your breath at the eclectic, unicorn festooned bar area for some thirst quenching cocktails and quirky atmosphere.
Where to eat and drink in Sydney
Sydney is bursting with food choices no matter what your fancy. Whether you want to get down and dirty with some greasy eats, pull out the white napkins and have a fancy feast, or instagram your heart out at a picture perfect venue, Sydney has it. And boy did we get the chance to feast our little hearts out over one weekend.
During our little (OK, so it was big) shopping spree, we headed to the top of Westfield Sydney to grab a bite. Forget everything you know about food courts, this one is super bougie; think black marble, shiny surfaces, mood lighting, the works. A big shop works up a big appetite, and burgers, they were a-calling. Nestled in the corner of the food court, sits Slim’s Quality Burger, a 1950s-style diner covered in red leather and nostalgia.
Featuring American-style juicy burgers that are fresher than fresh (seriously, there’s an open glass kitchen and you can watch them hand-slicing your fries right before your eyes), this was the perfect pause from our shopping adventure. Think juicy, full patties, perfect sauce to salad ratio and ice cold soft drinks (or milkshakes) to wash it down with. AND it’s coming to Brisbane soon!
Another top choice for city-dwellers was recommended to me by a local and I am glad they did. Fabbrica Pasta Shop is a little bigger than a hole in the wall cafe dedicated to simple, handmade pasta and other Italian delights. We weren’t sure we’d get a table as we didn’t have a booking but were lucky enough to be squeezed in on our first night.
Perched on our little corner table under a spotlight, we dined on spectacular cured meats, al dente pasta cooked to perfection, an extensive wine list and some scrumptious desserts. Possibly the best pasta I’ve ever eaten, if I am honest.
The Grounds of the City (and their original venue The Grounds of Alexandria) is the type of restaurant you plan your day around. Stepping inside the doors is like stepping back in time to a lavish Parisian bistro, full of cosy nooks, gilted touches, and stacks of leather-bound books. The theme continues into the food offerings with modern takes on classic dishes. I order the bacon chop, because who doesn’t want to find out what a bacon chop is? Turns out its thick, delicious bacon, accompanied by a light and fluffy corn fritter, poached egg and kale slaw. It’s different, and it’s utterly delicious. And because we’re on holidays it’s time for a little breakfast dessert.
Raspberry macaron with lychee sorbet, raspberry and rose water coulis for the win! (Plus the delicious little cheesecake my friend ordered). It was heaven and my only criticism was that I couldn’t sit and luxuriate a little more as the tables turn over quickly.
Where to stay in Sydney
It’s always best to base yourself where you want to spend most of your time in Sydney, and there are loads of lovely hotels to choose from in the CBD. I picked the Amora Jamison because it was both highly rated and reasonably priced, and a short walk to all the places I wanted to visit. And if you don’t feel like walking, there’s a handy light rail stop right on the corner, and Wynyard train station a short hop away.
It’s a bright, contemporary luxury hotel featuring spacious rooms, a luxe indoor pool and tasty restaurant offerings. The hotel room itself was one of the biggest I’ve stayed in, and beautifully appointed. And the bath, OH that bathtub! I still have dreams of soaking in that bathtub with that view of the city, glass of wine in my hand.
The enormous king bed felt like sleeping on a cloud, and was the perfect spot from which to enjoy one of the most delicious chocolate self saucing puddings I have ever had the pleasure to order from room service.
The Amora Jamison proved an excellent base for someone who wants to spend their time exploring all the Sydney CBD has to offer.