There are a lot of wonderful things to do in Sydney’s newly revitalised precincts… you just need to know where to go.
The ongoing urban renewal of Sydney precincts determine that you don’t need to travel far to get a sense of escapism. There’s never been a better time to be a tourist in your own city as a raft of newly revitalised and renewed Sydney precincts make living in the NSW capital feel more thrilling than ever.
Whether you’re a long-time local, visiting with family or a new resident, Sydney precincts have you sorted. At every turn, you’re reminded that the city with the #feelnewsydney hashtag isn’t just a place to call home; the Greater Sydney precincts make the city a vibrant place to live.
Here’s the ultimate round-up of revitalised Sydney precincts that should be on your radar in Australia’s biggest city, from Barangaroo to Walsh Bay, from Quay Quarter to Kings Cross.
Sydney’s CBD has never been busier. In addition to an exciting roster of music, art and culture, the city recently celebrated the expansion of the world-class Art Gallery of New South Wales, which has a vast collection of fine Australian and international art. It’s one of the best things to do in Sydney’s CBD.
Sydney recently celebrated the new expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW. (Image: Iwan Baan)
The CBD, located on the Traditional Lands of the Gadigal people, has also done a bit of an about-face thanks to the addition of new green spaces, the ongoing pedestrianisation of George St and a network of bike paths that make an eco-friendly exploration of the inner-urban grid a lot easier.
Oysters with Yuzu and Pepper Mignonette at Shell House. (Image: Jonny Valiant)
Mayor Clover Moore’s decision to extend free outdoor dining until June 2025 and a year-round calendar of great events are also building on that buzz. There’s a lot to discover on the food front too, from the flawless Shell House to Merivale’s MuMu, subterranean steakhouse The Gidley and the high-end cocktail bar and restaurant Kittyhawk.
Indulge in a variety of dishes at MuMu. (Image: Merivale)
After pressing pause during the pandemic, the French bistro is back better than ever with a revamped menu, cocktail and wine list. Expect a lot of fun, French twists to the menu curated by Leonard Michaud under the umbrella of Merlino & Co (The Lobo, Big Poppa’s and the oh-so brilliant Bartolo).
Sydney’s star is on the rise thanks in part to revitalised precincts such as Quay Quarter where Sydney’s architectural past has been fused with its future. One of the most ambitious projects in this new precinct is Hinchcliff House, the heritage jewel of the new precinct’s crown, which occupies a full corner of the CBD in Sydney’s newest neighbourhood.
Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Lana at Hinchcliff House (Image: Steve Woodburn)
Billed as a ‘lifestyle precinct’, this new pocket of the city is built around Quay Quarter Tower, designed as a world-first vertical village, and the character-filled Quay Quarter Lanes, which are no less ambitious. The character-filled lanes offer a diverse range of options for eating out and host Quay Quarter Lanes Markets on the second Wednesday of every month. This lifestyle precinct has added greatly to the amenity of the CBD and has some of the best restaurants in Sydney.
Lana offers some of the finest and freshest food. (Image: Steve Woodburn)
The worth of Walsh Bay can be measured in different ways. But one thing is for certain: the waterfront community has evolved over time to become one of Sydney’s most creative precincts, home to a line-up of some of the city’s most iconic creatives and innovators such as Bangarra Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre Company, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Bell Shakespeare.
Walsh Bay is just around the corner from the Harbour Bridge. (Image: James Horan; Destination NSW)
Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, Australia’s newest cultural precinct, received awards in four categories at the 2022 NSW Architecture Awards for reimagining the cargo wharves that were built between 1913 and 1920. The heritage-sensitive redesign of Wharf 4/5 and Pier 2/3 by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects has ensured the precinct remains an integral part of Sydney’s history.
Walsh Bay plays host to a multitude of Sydney events. (Image: Destination NSW)
In addition to being an exciting new chapter for the arts in Sydney, the amenity of the area has been greatly improved by having great places to eat and stay in Walsh Bay.
It’s all salty air and seagull songs in Woolloomooloo. The shoreline is torn around the edges of the Finger Wharf, an old cargo dock that has been rejigged to include fancy bars and restaurants with water views. The wharf attracts an extravagant clientele who hunker down here to lunch for hours before returning to their swanky accommodation.
The whard has been rejigged to include fancy bars and restaurants with water views. (Image: Ethan Rohloff; Destination NSW)
On the cultural front, while there’s street art visible around the back streets, there are also exhibitions at the Artspace gallery on Cowper Wharf Road that shows contemporary and experimental art. And the character-filled pubs found on residential side streets add to the area’s air of grit and glam. Get onboard the Hop On Hop Off Bus which travels around the main areas of Sydney and includes a stop at Woolloomooloo. Get a sense of the city’s pulse by catching a show at the Old Fitzroy Hotel, home to Australia’s only pub theatre.
The Old Fitzroy Hotel is home to Australia’s only pub theatre. (Image: Destination NSW)
Potts Point is these days best known for its stately mansions, harbour views and heritage. The small stylish suburb has a lot going for it, with its great restaurants and proximity to some of Sydney’s star attractions top of the list. Potts Point, on Gadigal land, was once known as Woolloomooloo Hill and is one of the city’s oldest suburbs.
The Butler Stairs are an iconic Potts Point landmark. (Image: Destination NSW)
Bounded by the suburbs of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay and Darlinghurst, it is also known for its bohemian denizens who were initially drawn by the colourful intersection between grit, glam, stylish and scuzzy. Named after rich landowner Joseph Potts, the suburb was also known for its razor gangs, petty criminals and impoverished artists who all helped shape the area, which has gone from seedy to one of the most sought-after inner eastern suburbs to stay and play in Sydney.
Dulcie’s is a local hot spot. (Image: Destination NSW)
After enduring lockouts and lockdowns, Kings Cross has flickered back to life since the lifting of limited opening hours and the vibe is almost as electric as the iconic heritage-listed Coke sign that has been screaming out an incessant racket for decades.
The Coca Cola sign has become somewhat representative of the area. (Image: Destination NSW)
Today, Sydney’s Kings Cross is not as grungy as it once was. It feels as if the party precinct has removed some, but not all, of its heavy eye makeup and combed its hair, maturing into a place that appeals to a more diverse group of people (read: not just the party animals).
Grab a drink at the funky Kings Cross Distillery. (Image: Kings Cross Distillery)
A decade ago, this vibrant hub was best known for its jumping nightlife and seedy underbelly. And while Kings Cross is increasingly getting its mojo back as a popular place to party, it’s also shaping up as a playground for those who prefer going out for dinner at a nice restaurant and enjoying a quiet drink after dark.
The iconic Kings Cross Hotel spans four floors. (Image: Destination NSW)
The redevelopment of the area is set to continue with plans by property developer Iris Capital to expand into the area with a $65 million hotel and apartment block. There is also a range of great accommodation within staggering distance of Kings Cross.
To really get under the skin of Sydney, you need to get lost amid the historic laneways that thread around The Rocks. The Rocks is located in the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge and is a popular place for temporary pop-ups such as Playfair Street, and Elevate Sydney as well as long-standing festivals such as Sydney Fringe and Vivid, which make this revitalised precinct shine as bright as a coloured drawing by Ken Done (whose gallery is located on Hickson Road, The Rocks).
Uncover the secrets of historic laneways at The Rocks. (Image: Destination NSW)
Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood is one of cobblestone streets and federation-era warehouses as well as charming buildings from the 19th century. While The Rocks were once controlled by local razor gangs, these days you’re more likely to encounter sunburned backpackers and iPhone-toting tourists who’ve arrived via cruise ship at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.
A variety of restaurants, pubs and bars attract people to The Rocks. (Image: Destination NSW)
Find yourself transported back to another era while wandering around the labyrinth of laneways and backstreets, which include the Suez Canal and Nurses Walk. While Sydney has more than its fair share of great restaurants, you will find some of the best places to eat in The Rocks, as well as chic hotels to rest your head.
Pyrmont and Ultimo
If you’re researching the best bush walks in Sydney, the Pyrmont Bay Walk Trail probably won’t make the cut. But it should. It’s a bit of an urban secret. The 3500-step route gains an elevation of about 11 metres and includes a section of clifftop that provides a great vantage point for peering out over Pyrmont. While the area was seen as a slum in the 19th century, it’s now a thriving waterside hub, with beautiful colonial heritage, Victorian terraces and the landmark Jones Bay Wharf.
Spend your day wandering the Prymont Growers’ Market. (Image: Destination NSW)
Some evidence of the suburb’s industrial past remains on the Pyrmont peninsula and a walk down Harris St, with its tiny terraces and pubs and soaring sugar refinery, will give you an insight into the area’s history during the colonial era. Prior to this, the Eora tribe inhabited the area and the Aboriginal name for the area was Pirrama.
Sydney Fish Market continues to draw people to the precinct. (Image: James Horan; Destination NSW)
The new vision for Pyrmont and Ultimo is to transform it into a tourist hub that rivals London’s West End or NYC’s Meatpacking District. Major businesses such as The Star Sydney, Google and Sydney Fish Markets continue to draw people to the precinct and there are plans in the pipeline for improved transport around and within the area. Some of the best places to eat in Pyrmont are located in this precinct thanks to The Star Sydney, where visitors can enjoy a #starcation at Sydney’s first and only Forbes five-star hotel, The Darling at The Star.
Pyrmont is a quiet suburb close to the city. (Image: Destination NSW)
You will find swarms of joggers racing around the peripheral paths that hug the cliffs around Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest Harbour foreshore park.
Barangaroo Reserve is Sydney’s newest Harbour foreshore park.
The Sydney precinct has also become a destination for wining and dining with some of the city’s best places to eat in Barangaroo. There’s a lot to take in at Sydney’s newest landmark waterfront destination from its infrastructure and architecture to its public spaces and experiences (some of which have courted controversy).
Enjoy a walk or jog along the water’s edge. (Image: Destination NSW)
From its laneways with local and international designers to its world-class accommodation, this newly revitalised precinct has taken a section of the city’s oldest industrial sites and flipped it into a six-hectare pocket of green space. The waterfront haven also has two world-class dining precincts – Barangaroo South and Crown Sydney – only a few minutes from Wynyard Station.
Check out Barangaroo’s array of eateries.
Darling Quarter is the newest pocket of Darling Harbour and this modern cultural and entertainment precinct is packed with great bars, restaurants and things to do.
Darling Harbour has become a modern cultural and entertainment precinct. (Image: Destination NSW)
The harbourside playground is one of the most family-friendly spots in Sydney, it’s also rich in history and heritage dating back to the Wangal and Gadigal clans of the Eora nation. The Eora people called Darling Harbour Tumbalong, meaning a place where seafood is found, and there’s a world-class park named in honour of the Traditional Owners.
There are plenty of spots for families to sit and enjoy the sun.
Darling Harbour celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2009 and a quick flick through the book, A History of Sydney’s Darling Harbour shows how the precinct has been revitalised since it was developed in the 80s. Darling Square has played a major role in breathing new life into the precinct and you will find great places to eat within proximity to Darling Habour.
Head down to Darling Harbour to enjoy waterfront views. (Image: Destination NSW)
From the mini dining precinct that is Steam Mill Lane to the new iconic Exchange Building, which is wrapped in 20km of pale accoya timber strips, and the Maker’s Dozen, a Euro-style culinary marketplace, Darling Square has helped make the harbourside precinct of Darling Harbour one of Sydney’s hottest new hubs. It’s a prime spot for a staycation in Sydney.
HONEY in Darling Harbour is inspired by the nightlife of Seoul. (Image: HONEY)
Circular Quay’s location, sandwiched between the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, has in the past meant it rested on its laurels and relied on its position to some of Sydney’s star attractions.
The Harbour Bridge and Opera House are synonymous with Circular Quay. (Image: Destination NSW)
But the arrival of the Light Rail has skewed the scene here to be a bit more local. There are now a plethora of great places to eat in and around Circular Quay, as well as luxe places to stay.
The new lightrail system has made access to Circular Quay easier. (Image: Destination NSW)
Any guide to Sydney precincts must include the strip of rambunctious bars at Sydney Opera House, which includes The Harbour, a nostalgic fish and chip shop that popped up over summer. Add to this the ferries that crisscross Sydney’s waterways and the Overseas Passenger Terminal, which brings in thousands of visitors every time a cruise ship enters the harbour.
The precinct now hosts many events throughout the year. (Image: Destination NSW)
Circular Quay has both form and function: in addition to having major wow factor, it is bordered by Sydney Harbour and Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, and is one of the city’s major transport hubs. You can also embark on an adventure to Cockatoo Island and take a tour with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.
Book a stay and wake up to iconic harbour views. (Image: Sebel Quay West Suites)