Home to the 29 groups of the Eora Nation, the most populous city in Australia has a lot more to offer than just ocean air, ferries and an old arched bridge.
Sydneysiders are considered some of the luckiest humans in the world. The city, established on Gadigal land, is brimming with opportunity and the allure of a vibrant metropolis offering up a new experience to be discovered each day – and after the year that was, there has never been a better time to stay here and enjoy it.
Staycations boast all the benefits of a well-earned holiday, disguised under a veil of simplicity that only comes when your accommodation is situated so close to home. They’re a fantastic way to recharge the batteries without the effort required when planning a trip further afield.
Local operators want you to know that the city is not only open for business, but back and better than ever. Here is how to enjoy the ultimate Sydney staycation.
Where to eat on a Sydney staycation
Sydney’s well fed are always banging on about some new, eminent kid on the block. Fabbrica is the latest, helmed by the already celebrated dream team of Matt Swieboda and Nathaniel Hatwell (Love, Tilly Devine, Dear Sainte Eloise and Ragazzi), Cameron Birt from Fino Foods and Ragazzi chef, Scott McComas-Williams.
Fabbrica (which translates to factory in Italian) is described as a “boundary-pushing retail space” (stay with me) which in layman’s terms translates to a pasta shop, sandwich slinger, wine store and deli in one. For those lucky enough to grab one of the few tables, there is a short list of classic cocktails, beer, grappa and a few variations of wine to sip on.
For food, the space sells eight types of daily-rotating pasta with sauce packs, cured meats and cheese, as well as house-baked bombolone and a few sandwiches from midday onwards.
Speaking of Sydney’s well fed, become one of them with a meal at Hubert – a place where the food and wine matches the drama of its inspired aesthetic. Objectivity and critical rationality be damned, this is my favourite restaurant in the world.
Brothers Anton and Stefan Forte (and former business partner Jason Scott) of the Swillhouse Group (The Baxter Inn, Shady Pines Saloon and Frankie’s Pizza) are the masterminds behind this Bligh Street beauty. From the second you descend down the amber-lit, wood-panelled stairwell lined with miniature liqueurs, you’ll assume a character from post-war France.
Among the soundscape of muted chatter and a grand piano, disassociate from the outside world as you feast on duck rillettes, prime beef tartare, escargot and the best fries this side of Paris. If you haven’t already gathered, those with vegetarian or vegan mods won’t feel at home here.
If those with more ethical palettes still want to see what all the fuss is about, consider a drink at the neighbouring Bar Pincer. You still get all the drama, sans the pressure of ordering a five-course meal.
The Sydney Tower Eye has been dubbed a whole bunch of things colloquially over the last couple of years. Most commonly known as CenterPoint Tower – despite never officially carrying that name – the famed bar space has been given a new lease on life with the addition of Bar 83.
Enter through Westfield tower and venture an ear-popping 83 floors above Sydney’s CBD. When the doors open, feast your eyes on a 260-degree view of Sydney’s glittering landscape, equally captivating at both day and night times.
Record-breaking heights aside, the real drawcard to the Bar 83 is the retro nostalgia of its décor. Bold specialty cocktails, delectable bar fare and attentive table service are set among a Jetson’s-esque aesthetic; a detail that nods to the 70s era in which the tower was designed.
If your Sydney staycation has brought you to the Hilton, you needn’t venture any further than Level two. The hotel’s hatted restaurant by Luke Mangan, glass brasserie, is a lesson in inventive cuisine in the French tradition.
Using mod-Australian ingredients, glass takes diners on a journey through a space designed by New York’s Tony Chi. Expect crisp white tablecloths, consummate service, a double-height wine cellar, raw bar and extensive grill menu. The organic egg crab omelette with enoki mushroom is worth the trip alone.
What to do on a Sydney staycation
Venturing to Carriageworks Market is a Saturday morning rite of passage for Sydneysiders. If you’re at all into interesting architecture, fashion – or farmer’s markets, it’s well worth seeing.
The building itself was constructed between 1880 and 1889, originally operating as the site where the entirety of New South Wales’s trains were built. The industrial façade remains, providing an illustriously contextual backdrop for a spot of morning shopping.
Like many Sydney markets, you’ll find local producers lining the halls, selling organic and biodynamic produce, artisan breads, boutique wines, single origin coffee, herbal teas, meat, eggs, freshly harvested honey and freshly cut flowers. Unlike other markets however, 100 per cent of vendors are sited in New South Wales. Carriageworks follows a strict charter, ensuring it upholds its connection to local growers and producers.
For a true market immersion, talk to producers firsthand in the From the Farm series. You’ll find content from regulars like Pasta Emilia, Mimosa Rock Oysters, Alto Olives and the Watkins Family Farm.
It’s amazing to think that the Sydney Opera House has been open just 49 years, and yet it’s as representative of Australia as the pyramids are of Egypt or the Colosseum is of Rome (both of which, if you think about it, have been standing a tiny while longer). It’s photographed almost as often as these iconic sites as well, but how many people have actually been inside one of the Opera House’s 1000-plus rooms?
With a ticket to an Opera Australia performance, you’re in with a very good chance.
When they aren’t taking over Sydney Harbour with a firework-clad La Traviata extravaganza, Opera Australia hosts myriad performances inside the incredible tiled sails. From Aida to Atilla, Phantom and more – it pays to see the magic happen with your very own eyes.
A stone’s throw from the CBD – tucked behind Oxford street on leafy Bourke – Brix is helmed by the brains (and operational beauty) of Damien Barrow, James Christopher and Siddarth Soin. Inside they produce the core range, White, Gold and Spiced, which is finding its way onto the menus of bars across the country.
The space was formerly used as storage by St Mary’s cathedral. Since gutted, it now retains its old world charm and combines it with an industrial aura complete with a polished concrete floor, a 1200-litre copper still, eight 1000 litre fermentation tanks and mural by local artist Nico Nicoson.
Stop by the distillery for a drink at any time, or partake in one of the informative experiences. There’s the Brix Rum School, Private Cocktail Masterclass, Distillery Tour and plenty more.
Wellness and Bondi – together at last. I’m totally kidding. It’s no secret that Bondi has been slowly transforming into a self-care haven over the last decade or two. As much as it may pain me to admit it, the wellness offering really does deliver on its overly-Instagrammed reputation.
Newbie Slow House encapsulates all that its name suggests. Created by Natassjha Higham, the new-age wellness space fuses the rudiments of fire and ice – borrowing elements from Roman bathing culture.
Come for the private cedarwood sauna and shallow ice bath, stay for the scent of Palo Santo that permeates the space. If you don’t leave at least 110 per cent more relaxed, tranquil and cleansed, I’ll shout you a soy-almond-flat white from somewhere around the corner.
Where to stay on a Sydney staycation
With the QVB, The Strand and Westfield basically on the hotel premises, a two-night stay at Hilton Sydney is an effortless decision.
The 587 rooms of the Hilton are set between the George and Pitt Street entrances. The hotel was completely refurbished in 2007 (it was formerly a drab 1970s-style building in the centre of the Sydney CBD), and now houses some of Sydney’s more popular bars (Zeta Bar, Marble Bar) as well as one of the city’s most fashionable restaurants (glass brasserie, By Luke Mangan).
Prior to a short stint as a quarantine hotel, the space received a $25-million refurbishment which was far more than just a fresh lick of paint. The new interiors were designed by Sydney-based a+ design group. They added high-backed ergonomic desk chairs, 55-inch smart TV’s, upgraded bedside lights and custom work-from-anywhere tables. Corner rooms were given an extra window and family rooms interconnect two spaces with ease. Essentially, a staycation at The Hilton is the perfect inner-city sanctuary for some time out from the daily grind.