There’s a lot to drink and eat in Sydney with a world class food scene and incredible bars. We know, it’s overwhelming. To help you navigate the plethora of fantastic options on offer we’ve curated a list of a few of our favourites, organised by mood. The city’s your oyster!
When You’re Feeling a Little Bit Fancy:
Hotel Palisade: Feeling fancy? Say no more. Hotel Palisade has you covered, namely its rooftop bar Henry Deane. The vibe is (and literally feels) lush, the 360-degree view spectacular, the drink to order? Rising Sun. It’ Roku gin, umeshu, lemon myrtle, grape kombucha and sloe gin.
Reign: Reign is a light-filled champagne bar in Sydney’s QVB with over 150 bottles on its list. Settle into one of the booths and order a bottle of something French. Alternatively, order a pet-nat by the glass and bask in the fact that there’s marble EVERYWHERE. Talk about lavish.
Hubert: Heading down to Hubert’s underground parlour feels more like you’re stepping into a vintage French speakeasy than CBD city bar. If you can, try and line up your visit with one of its magnum and movie nights.
Kitty Hawk: Another French bar, this one Paris-leaning. Slink into this joint that feels and looks, intentionally, like a Liberation Day in Paris. The heart of the drink offering here is rum and rye Old Fashioneds – there’s a separate list dedicate to them.
When You’re After Something a Little More Casual:
Mary’s Circular Quay: The team behind Mary’s has a reputation for fun, slightly dingy, rock and roll venues. This new iteration in Circular Quay doesn’t fall short. Head for an all-organic and sustainable wine list with American-style burgers. Heads up, the whole entire food menu can be made vegan. Winning!
Frankie’s Pizza: If an underground pizza bar and parlour is more up your alley, then Frankie’s is a good option for you. Grab a slice or two, have a hit on the pinball machines and get lost in the beer list, an arguably bigger drawcard than the pizza.
Cantina OK!: Mezcal and tequila more your speed? Or do you perhaps prefer the micro side of life? A visit to this 20-person standing-room-only bar in a garage will fit your bill then. Find rare spirits and new friends, don’t leave without trying the Tommy’s Marga.
Australian Heritage Hotel: This right here is the quintessential Aussie pub – it’s located in the heart of Sydney’s historic precinct, The Rocks. With over 120 craft beers on the list you may have a hard time deciding what to order. Our suggestion? Pull up a stool among the old-school Aussie posters and Edwardian-style fit-out with a bottle of Hawke’s, a local craft beer dedicated to Australia’s great Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.
When You Want an Element of the Outdoors:
Old Mate’s Place: Sydney has its fair share of excellent rooftop bars, but this joint in the CBD is the perfect place to drop into if you’re in the area (just make sure you get there early, there’s often a queue). Never mind its nondescript exterior, you’ll find yourself in the right place even if it doesn’t feel like it. A plus? Everyone gets a mini amuse bouche on arrival.
Pier One Sydney Harbour: If you’re not up for a hike but want to enjoy Sydney’s stunning water views, then the obvious answer is Pier One, of course! With comfy booths on the Pier, views of Sydney’s incredible Harbour Bridge, plus Archie Rose cocktails and an expertly picked list of local wines, it ticks all the boxes for a drink outdoors.
The Glenmore: The view from the Glenmore is unique and captivating, head here any day of the week and it’ll be packed. Visit and you’ll know why once you get there – the 180-degree views are hard to beat! Order a jug, spot a seat and don’t leave it for the rest of the night!
When You Want To Try a Few Different Drinks:
Maybe Sammy: Behind the bar at Maybe Sammy is world-class, award-winning bartender, Andrea Gualdi, just FYI. While this venue could have easily fit in the “feeling a bit fancy” category, Maybe Sammy is the bar to visit if you feel like dabbling in a number of concoctions. A good way to achieve that? Opt for a few of its half-pour cocktails. Half the price, double the amount of options.
Employees Only: Descend the black-and-gold staircase at Employees Only and you’ll find a Sydney-fied version of its New York counterpart. There’s a fortune teller, a cracking elderflower cocktail and some very excellent turquoise booths to melt into. Pretend you’re in New York … in Sydney.
Bar Patron: We’re getting pretty niche now but Bar Patron, a late-night Mexican CBD bar is perfect for you if you love tequila want options that aren’t just Margaritas. Opt for a classic Paloma then follow it up with the $100 Millionaire’s Margarita, if you dare(read:can)!
When You’re Thirsty But Want a Snack Too:
Bar Topa: Bar Topa, another one of Sydney’s finest standing-room-only bars. While the vibe is very pinxtos, the food offering is more northern Spain than Basque. Sangria on tap with a side empanadas? They’re here!
Ragazzi Wine and Pasta: Get lost in the 250 bottle wine list at Ragazzi (or opt for one of the 20 by the glass) then take a seat (there are only 38) with a plate of handmade pasta. The menu is made up of five or six dishes that change each day so expect hyper-seasonal, hyper-delicious spaghetti and other types of noodles.
J&M: This bar sits atop the historial Angel Hotel. Its 1970s vibes will be the first thing you notice, with the festive wallpaper and decor. You do you, but if we were visiting we’d plonk ourselves on the leather banquette, Silk Route (cocktail) in one hand, croquette in the other.
Uncle Ming’s: Dumplings and beer, it’s a classic combination for a reason. At Uncle Ming’s that’s exactly what you’ll get. This opium den-inspired bar has an extensive beer and cocktail list (try the apple and whisky!) but the prawn dumplings shouldn’t be missed.
When You’re Feeling a Bit Secretive:
Grandma’s Bar: A “retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour” is how Grandma’s describes itself – it’s a perfect description. Trust Google Maps when trying to find this spot, though like many others on this list, prepare to not get a seat, it’s always busy. Don’t let that deter you though, it’s all part of its vibe. Oh, and don’t leave without ordering a jaffle, they’re a specialty.
The Baxter Inn: Sydney loves an underground basement bar and The Baxter Inn was one of the originals. Like Grandma’s, this bar’s located in a nondescript location in what feels like an unmarked street. Again, trust your map, delight in the adventure. Delight also in one of the 800 whiskies on offer.
Door Knock Bar: What’s better than a door-knock bar? Very few things! To locate it you must enter a fire door next to a sandwich shop then follow a corridor till you see a polished brass pineapple door knocker. Knock three times, and you’re in. Need we say more about the vibe? Order the Tiki Baby and completely lean into the experience.