A Sydney City Guide

A Sydney City Guide

Sydney. There is more depth to this City than simply having the world’s deepest natural harbour. And whilst 5 million people may call this home, and 1 million tiles may cover the Sydney Opera House, as with most cities, the devil is in the detail. Small, well executed eateries tucked behind narrow streets reward the adventurous traveler. Verdant, green parks interconnect to create walks that culminate in picture-postcard views. Smooth, double-deckered trains criss-cross the city bringing distant neighbourhoods closer. Sydney is an explosion of experiences waiting to be discovered, and this is how we did just that.


Sleep

A crucial part of any trip, and we were fortunate to partner with Zara Tower - Luxury Suites and Apartments, in as good a location as you could ask for in the centre of Sydney. Other than its spoilt-for-choice spot on the map, expect beautiful stripped back concrete walls, expansive warehouse-styled rooms and lovely bespoke furniture, along with some very cool lighting wizardry. We stayed in something called the Luxury Plus Soho Suite, a room so big we started a game of hide and seek with the kids one day and still haven’t found the youngest. A seriously stunning place to call home for the few nights we were in town.

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On Foot

With Zara Tower being only a stone’s throw away from all the excitement Sydney has to offer, it makes sense to attack much of it on foot, as we did with these splendid little places.

Australian Museum (9 min walk)  You’re in Australia, so why not start with the museum that bears its name. Australia’s oldest museum is perfect to while away the hours, with an excellent collection of natural history and anthropological pieces, as well as an amazing under 5’s section designed to replicate a “mini-museum” for curious minds. Kids go free (under 16), but plenty to see for adults also.

Australian Museum (9 min walk)

You’re in Australia, so why not start with the museum that bears its name. Australia’s oldest museum is perfect to while away the hours, with an excellent collection of natural history and anthropological pieces, as well as an amazing under 5’s section designed to replicate a “mini-museum” for curious minds. Kids go free (under 16), but plenty to see for adults also.

Chaco Bar (10 min walk)  What Chaco Bar lacks in size, it more than makes up for in style. This dimly lit Yakitori and Ramen bar is as unpretentious as it is uncomplicated, with a simple menu offering Ramen at lunch, and Yakitori at night (although you can guess the only thing on the menu on “Ramen Monday’s”). Order the Fat Soy Ramen for umami-laden broth, tender pork belly and perfectly soft Ramen egg and the Karaage Chicken side for perfectly deep fried chicken pieces that are meltingly tender, full of flavour and impressively un-oily.  

Chaco Bar (10 min walk)

What Chaco Bar lacks in size, it more than makes up for in style. This dimly lit Yakitori and Ramen bar is as unpretentious as it is uncomplicated, with a simple menu offering Ramen at lunch, and Yakitori at night (although you can guess the only thing on the menu on “Ramen Monday’s”). Order the Fat Soy Ramen for umami-laden broth, tender pork belly and perfectly soft Ramen egg and the Karaage Chicken side for perfectly deep fried chicken pieces that are meltingly tender, full of flavour and impressively un-oily.  

Flour and Stone (13 min walk)  Coffee time. And Cake. Always time for cake. And what better venue to indulge in both than this charming little bakery, a mere 13 minute walk from Zara. Baker and founder Nadine Ingram worked in London’s Ivy and La Gavroche before returning home to open her own place, and what a place it is! If the sound of Fig and Honeycomb Pavlova, Quandong Macadamia Sable Tarts or Lemon Butter Cake with Lemon Curd, Meringue and Double Cream doesn’t entice you, we fear there is little that can be done for you. Homemade Lemonade provides a more refreshing and potentially healthier option, perfect for a hot sunny Sydney day.

Flour and Stone (13 min walk)

Coffee time. And Cake. Always time for cake. And what better venue to indulge in both than this charming little bakery, a mere 13 minute walk from Zara. Baker and founder Nadine Ingram worked in London’s Ivy and La Gavroche before returning home to open her own place, and what a place it is! If the sound of Fig and Honeycomb Pavlova, Quandong Macadamia Sable Tarts or Lemon Butter Cake with Lemon Curd, Meringue and Double Cream doesn’t entice you, we fear there is little that can be done for you. Homemade Lemonade provides a more refreshing and potentially healthier option, perfect for a hot sunny Sydney day.

Sushi on Stanley (11 min walk)  If sushi is what you’re hankering for, look for the queues of people waiting to get their fix of fresh, good quality Japanese food at this hole in the wall eatery. With so many dishes on offer, the walls are plastered with menu options, all suitably priced given the Sydney locale. Bento offerings are a good route if variety if what you’re after, most coming with the classic staples of sashimi of vibrantly fresh salmon and tuna, prawn tempura and miso soup. 

Sushi on Stanley (11 min walk)

If sushi is what you’re hankering for, look for the queues of people waiting to get their fix of fresh, good quality Japanese food at this hole in the wall eatery. With so many dishes on offer, the walls are plastered with menu options, all suitably priced given the Sydney locale. Bento offerings are a good route if variety if what you’re after, most coming with the classic staples of sashimi of vibrantly fresh salmon and tuna, prawn tempura and miso soup. 

Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Opera House (30 min walk)  The best way to set eyes on the iconic Opera House is to set off on foot from Zara Towers, meander through Hyde Park, the oldest parkland in Australia, and eventually join up with the Royal Botanic Gardens, a sprawling oasis straddled by the City on one side, and the harbour on the other. There are many a tranquil path to wander down, so plan to spend more time here if you want to see the various sections, however as you make your way towards the harbour the magnificence of the Sydney Opera House comes into full view. Keep your eye out for penguins swimming in the harbour if you’re lucky, or marvel at the colour of the water as you snake your way around the harbour path towards Circular Quay. A truly stunning way to experience Sydney, and surely one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world.

Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Opera House (30 min walk)

The best way to set eyes on the iconic Opera House is to set off on foot from Zara Towers, meander through Hyde Park, the oldest parkland in Australia, and eventually join up with the Royal Botanic Gardens, a sprawling oasis straddled by the City on one side, and the harbour on the other. There are many a tranquil path to wander down, so plan to spend more time here if you want to see the various sections, however as you make your way towards the harbour the magnificence of the Sydney Opera House comes into full view. Keep your eye out for penguins swimming in the harbour if you’re lucky, or marvel at the colour of the water as you snake your way around the harbour path towards Circular Quay. A truly stunning way to experience Sydney, and surely one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world.

Opera Bar (32 min walk)  After a hard day of seeing the sights on foot, most likely in the heat given Sydney’s famed weather, a cold drink will likely be high up the agenda. Head to Opera Bar, right on the water’s edge, for a glass of prosecco and a spot of people watching. With live music featuring regularly, this is the perfect place to soak up the Sydney vibe. Grab a plate of New South Wales Bresaola and some Australian Olives, and you’re off to the races.

Opera Bar (32 min walk)

After a hard day of seeing the sights on foot, most likely in the heat given Sydney’s famed weather, a cold drink will likely be high up the agenda. Head to Opera Bar, right on the water’s edge, for a glass of prosecco and a spot of people watching. With live music featuring regularly, this is the perfect place to soak up the Sydney vibe. Grab a plate of New South Wales Bresaola and some Australian Olives, and you’re off to the races.

Mamak (9 min walk)  Good, authentic Malaysian food outside of Malaysia can be hard to find, and this place meets all three criteria. The first clue greets you as you arrive - long queues; a double-edged sword suggesting something good awaits, with the emphasis on the wait. Big glass windows allow you to watch homemade Roti Chanai, that celebrated Malaysian comfort dish, being freshly made; another rarity. Order the Kari Ikan (fish curry) if you like it hot, the Ayam Goreng (fried chicken pieces) if you like it crispy and the Chicken Satay if you like it tender on a stick. Extra points if you order a cup of hot, bubbly Teh Tahrik (Malaysian “pulled tea”), another fine Malaysian speciality.

Mamak (9 min walk)

Good, authentic Malaysian food outside of Malaysia can be hard to find, and this place meets all three criteria. The first clue greets you as you arrive - long queues; a double-edged sword suggesting something good awaits, with the emphasis on the wait. Big glass windows allow you to watch homemade Roti Chanai, that celebrated Malaysian comfort dish, being freshly made; another rarity. Order the Kari Ikan (fish curry) if you like it hot, the Ayam Goreng (fried chicken pieces) if you like it crispy and the Chicken Satay if you like it tender on a stick. Extra points if you order a cup of hot, bubbly Teh Tahrik (Malaysian “pulled tea”), another fine Malaysian speciality.


By train

Having explored all that central Sydney has to offer on foot, a quick hop, skip and a jump takes you onto Sydney’s easy to use transport system. Grab an Opal card for free, top it up, and off you go (but beware, getting a refund for credit on your card can be hard to do in some stores). Central station is a mere 7 minute walk, whilst Museum is even closer at 5 minutes walk.

Sydney Park (3 stops from Central - T3)  Whilst this may be Sydney’s third largest park by size, a variety of factors make this a great spot for exploring, especially if you have kids in tow. Bring their scooters and bikes and head to the children’s bicycle track, a brilliant play road system with working traffic lights and road signals. Boasting amazing views of the city from the hill, this park is as perfect for a picnic as it is for a lazy afternoon stroll. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re in walking distance to the next stop, The Grounds of Alexandria.

Sydney Park (3 stops from Central - T3)

Whilst this may be Sydney’s third largest park by size, a variety of factors make this a great spot for exploring, especially if you have kids in tow. Bring their scooters and bikes and head to the children’s bicycle track, a brilliant play road system with working traffic lights and road signals. Boasting amazing views of the city from the hill, this park is as perfect for a picnic as it is for a lazy afternoon stroll. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re in walking distance to the next stop, The Grounds of Alexandria.

The Grounds of Alexandria (1 stop from Central - T8)  Imagine a giant pot bellied pig walking around leafy gardens set against market stalls, wood fired food and insta-worthy cakes, and you’re part way to understanding The Grounds, a trendy retreat set slightly further afield from central Sydney’s bustling streets. The only downside to this is the multitude of other people that have had the same idea, but plough on and be rewarded with excellent food, stylish surroundings and very good coffee. Oh and pot bellied pigs.

The Grounds of Alexandria (1 stop from Central - T8)

Imagine a giant pot bellied pig walking around leafy gardens set against market stalls, wood fired food and insta-worthy cakes, and you’re part way to understanding The Grounds, a trendy retreat set slightly further afield from central Sydney’s bustling streets. The only downside to this is the multitude of other people that have had the same idea, but plough on and be rewarded with excellent food, stylish surroundings and very good coffee. Oh and pot bellied pigs.

Mitchell Road Antique and Design Centre (1 stop from Central - T8)  A mere 18 minutes from Zara by train takes you to this gem of a place, a warehouse sized antique shop selling everything from furniture to artwork to jewelry, all “pre loved”. Prepare to drop a few hours in this place if you’re a fan of vintage paraphernalia, and pop next door to Mecca Alexandria afterwards for a belting Flat White.

Mitchell Road Antique and Design Centre (1 stop from Central - T8)

A mere 18 minutes from Zara by train takes you to this gem of a place, a warehouse sized antique shop selling everything from furniture to artwork to jewelry, all “pre loved”. Prepare to drop a few hours in this place if you’re a fan of vintage paraphernalia, and pop next door to Mecca Alexandria afterwards for a belting Flat White.

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By ferry

As you’d expect for a City with such an iconic harbour, ferry journeys play a big part of daily life for both Sydneysiders and visitors alike. Head to Circular Quay, (12 mins by public transport or a 30 minute walk), and be rewarded with some brilliant water-based journeys. Here we opted for the Manly option for an excellent day out, but there are plenty of others to explore if you have the time.

Manly Beach  Less crowded than Bondi, and therefore potentially less pretentious, Manly offers that classic Australian day out - sand, surfers and sun. Disembark at Manly Pier and have a wander around this small beach-fronted suburb before grabbing an ice cream at one of the many beach side offerings. There are loungers and umbrellas for hire at the beach if your tan is sufficiently topped up, and plenty of fish and chip options nearby if the sea air tickles your fancy.

Manly Beach

Less crowded than Bondi, and therefore potentially less pretentious, Manly offers that classic Australian day out - sand, surfers and sun. Disembark at Manly Pier and have a wander around this small beach-fronted suburb before grabbing an ice cream at one of the many beach side offerings. There are loungers and umbrellas for hire at the beach if your tan is sufficiently topped up, and plenty of fish and chip options nearby if the sea air tickles your fancy.

Manly to Spit Bridge Walk (scenic walk)  If you have a few hours to spare and want to see some of North Sydney’s most stunning beaches, bays and inlets, take this beautiful 10km walk starting in Manly. From Manly Wharf, the trail meanders past Dobroyd Head, a seriously stunning location and a great place to take in more views of the harbour. Carry on through the Sydney Harbour National Park at Castle Rock, before passing by the shorelines of Clontarf Beach, Sandy Beach and Fisher Bay. As the full walk takes 3-4 hours for the fairly fit, expect to stop off for refreshments along the way, and a perfect place to do this is the Sandy Bear cafe, located in the bay bearing its name. Great coffees, and even better cold pressed ice lollies (or “ice blocks” as they call them here), this is an ideal spot to rest your legs over a tasty snack or meal.

Manly to Spit Bridge Walk (scenic walk)

If you have a few hours to spare and want to see some of North Sydney’s most stunning beaches, bays and inlets, take this beautiful 10km walk starting in Manly. From Manly Wharf, the trail meanders past Dobroyd Head, a seriously stunning location and a great place to take in more views of the harbour. Carry on through the Sydney Harbour National Park at Castle Rock, before passing by the shorelines of Clontarf Beach, Sandy Beach and Fisher Bay. As the full walk takes 3-4 hours for the fairly fit, expect to stop off for refreshments along the way, and a perfect place to do this is the Sandy Bear cafe, located in the bay bearing its name. Great coffees, and even better cold pressed ice lollies (or “ice blocks” as they call them here), this is an ideal spot to rest your legs over a tasty snack or meal.

Chiosco by Ormeggio  A big theme of this guide, it’s that time again - food. For a particularly spectacular seafood meal, head to Chiosco by Ormerggio for some of the best Italian fare around. Home made pasta that rivals the best in Italy is what we’re talking about here - with changing daily specials. An excellent children’s menu caters for the little ones, and for the adults try the incredible Calamari, served the best way possible, fried in a light crust with aioli on the side. Also try the local Sydney oysters if you’re feeling indulgent, washed down with a lovely glass of Australian sauvignon blanc/pinot grigio - not a bad way to end a Sydney day out!

Chiosco by Ormeggio

A big theme of this guide, it’s that time again - food. For a particularly spectacular seafood meal, head to Chiosco by Ormerggio for some of the best Italian fare around. Home made pasta that rivals the best in Italy is what we’re talking about here - with changing daily specials. An excellent children’s menu caters for the little ones, and for the adults try the incredible Calamari, served the best way possible, fried in a light crust with aioli on the side. Also try the local Sydney oysters if you’re feeling indulgent, washed down with a lovely glass of Australian sauvignon blanc/pinot grigio - not a bad way to end a Sydney day out!

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Words by Ben, photography by Viv. 
This post is brought to you in partnership with Zara Tower - luxury suites and apartmentsall views our own.

Zara Tower Hotel
61-65 Wentworth Ave, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 8228 7659

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