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The 25 Best Bars in the Sydney CBD

If you find yourself in Sydney's CBD and in need of a few bevs, drop by any of these exceptional bars. You'll find experimental cocktails, low-intervention wines, local beers and heaps of refined eats.
By Andrew Zuccala and Concrete Playground
January 31, 2024
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By Andrew Zuccala and Concrete Playground
January 31, 2024
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THE 25 BEST BARS IN THE SYDNEY CBD

If you find yourself in Sydney's CBD and in need of a few bevs, drop by any of these exceptional bars. You'll find experimental cocktails, low-intervention wines, local beers and heaps of refined eats.

Most of us have our favourite neighbourhood drinking den, it's easy to get lost when searching for the best bars in Sydney's CBD. It can be unfamiliar territory for those of us who don't head into the city centre regularly. And even if you do work in the area, you're unlikely to have explored all the bars hidden down laneways, in basements or on rooftops.

To help you find the best bar in Sydney's CBD, we've compiled this list that includes all kinds of boozers. Whether you're after experimental cocktails in hotel bars or laidback bevs in unpretentious surroundings, we've got you sorted right here.

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Recommended Reads:
The Best Bars in Sydney
The Best Wine Bars in Sydney
The Best Pubs in Sydney
The Best Restaurants in Sydney's CBD

  • 25
    The Caterpillar Club - one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD

    If Swillhouse can nail anything, it’s a city-best moody underground venue — and the hospo crew’s impressive Sydney CBD bar, The Caterpillar Club, is just that. It joins the ranks of the group’s other beloved subterranean standouts Frankie’s (RIP), Restaurant Hubert and Shady Pines (plus Le Foote and Alberto’s Lounge). The inner-city haunt serves up sultry tunes, exceptional service, casual yet sophisticated eats and incredible cocktails right by Martin Place.

    Discover the venue’s hidden entryway tucked away among office buildings and convenience stores on Pitt Street, then descend the stairwell to find the expansive walk-in-only record bar in all of its glory. But that’s not all you’ll find down here. There’s also a hidden speakeasy located within the hidden Sydney CBD bar. Look for the discrete door out the back, where you will find The Bamboo Room. This space serves as a secret cocktail den for those in the know, reviving memories of Frankie’s famous Fun Room.

    Images: Andrea Veltom

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  • 24
    woman ordering a drink while bartenders work at old mate's place - one of the best bars in Sydney CBD

    This hidden rooftop locale is one of Sydney’s best CBD bars for a few reasons. First, the lush palm-lined outdoor deck is perfect for those seeking a sun-soaked retreat in the city. Alternatively, head back inside to find a series of timber-lined rooms that serve opulent library realness.

    Then you’ve got the impressive drinks lists where cocktails reign supreme. Expect a menu that’s broad and oft-changing, spreading plenty of love across a 300-strong back bar selection. Good food isn’t far off, either. We’re regularly hit with bouts of craving for Old Mate’s Place’s Philly cheesesteak. And, any rum lovers should head downstairs and discover the even more secretive Old Love’s in the basement.

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  • 23

    Originally built in 1893 and beautifully restored in 2005, the Marble Bar is a luxury basement bar featuring iconic marble archways, a frosted glass ceiling and a beautifully repaired mahogany bar. Enjoy the Victorian Gothic vibes combined with speakeasy energy as you sip on a glass of sparkling or stunning cocktails at this heritage-listed underground bar and music venue in Sydney’s CBD.

    The drinks and food hark back to the Prohibition Era with signature cocktails like the Autumn in New York (Olmeca Reposado Tequila, pomme vert, apple juice, agave, citrus), classic sidecar and the Charlie Chaplin (Plymouth Sloe Gin, apricot brandy and citrus). Pair with some lobster rolls, charcuterie platters or cheese boards for an epic night on the town. There’s even live music every Monday–Saturday featuring a mix of jazz, pop and R&B to keep the chill vibes going.

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  • 22
    Ramblin Rascal - one of the best Sydney CBD bars

    This underground Sydney CBD bar is full of unpretentious fun and charm. Meander down to the dimly lit space that feels almost like an old-school pub and hidden Berlin bar all at once to find cheap tinnies, classic cocktails and a banging music playlist.

    The evening’s soundtrack echoes a country twang typical of Shady Pines or The Baxter Inn. But stay late enough, and the beat will drop. The mood of the bar transforms as the tables get shifted out of the way, and suddenly, you are cutting shapes with the bartenders to the likes of Nelly and Shaggy. If you’re up late in the CBD and are in need of a little boogie, head here.

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  • 21
    Jacksons on George - one of the best Sydney CBD bars.

    What was once a CBD institution for late-night revellers as the final stop on a night out before they were forced to head home has reopened as a flash multi-storey and multi-concept pub. It reemerged after years in the wilderness in September 2023 following a multimillion-dollar renovation under the guidance of Maurice Terzini (IcebergsRe-) and his DTL Entertainment Group partner Michael Broome.

    There are three distinct spaces in the new Sydney CBD bar: the ground-floor public bar, a flash new French bistro and the sleek cocktail-fuelled rooftop bar. Leading the charge across all three levels is head chef Steven Sinclair, who arrives at the venue with a wealth of experience in world-renowned kitchens. Expect refined Euro-centric eats in the bistro, more casual gastropub dishes on the rooftop and a huge range of local and international wines, beers and spirits across all levels.

    Image: Tom Ferguson.

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  • 20
    Daean and Nancy - one of the best Sydney CBD bars

    Sydneysiders can sip some of the world’s best cocktails from 22 stories up, thanks to the cocktail bar inside the A by Adina Hotel. Dean & Nancy on 22 comes from the team behind Maybe Sammy, Sydney’s award-winning cocktail bar previously named one of the top 50 bars in the world.

    As you’d expect from the Maybe Sammy crew, cocktails here are phenomenal. Plus, they change regularly, meaning you can keep coming back and find something new just about every time. The 120-seat space is also a sight to behold. It’s full of gold-veined marble tables accompanied by subdued black leather chairs. Each seat also offers show-stopping city views, so no one has to cop a dud spot at this excellent Sydney CBD bar.

    Images: Steven Woodburn

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  • 19
    Eau de Vie - one of the best Sydney CBD bars

    Following the world-altering whirlwind of 2020, award-winning Eau-de-Vie closed down, promising to return in the near future. While it took a little longer than expected, the sleek cocktail bar — that was once 13th on the World’s 50 Best Bars list — officially reopened to the public in Sydney’s CBD in 2023.

    The Speakeasy Group (MjølnerNick & Nora’s) and its directors Sven Almenning and Greg Sanderson revived Eau-de-Vie at the Brookfield Place development inside the Beneficial House site at 285 George Street, joining Shell HouseRomeo’s, Edition Coffee, Gojima, NeNe Chicken and PappaRich in the complex. All of the class of the original Eau-de-Vie is on show at the new location with moody lighting, a smooth jazz soundtrack, the signature Whisky Room, plus private whisky lockers in the building’s basement. Without a doubt, it has returned to be one of the best Sydney CBD bars.

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  • 18
    Zaffi - one of the best bars in Sydney's CBD

    Zaffi is a multi-level dining and party space on Little Hunter Street that’s arrived in Sydney right as the city is in the swing of a late-night-scene revival. It joins the likes of The AbercrombieClub 77 and Pleasure Club venues that are pushing Sydney’s nightlife into the early hours of the morning. Zaffi is a versatile space boasting a 42-seat ground-floor restaurant and a 122-capacity basement bar that’s committed to keeping the party rolling until 4am on weekends.

    Owner Chady Khouzame has enlisted the help of ex-Chin Chin and Rockpool chef Graeme Hunt to create a refined Australian-Lebanese mezze-heavy menu for the street-level dining room and basement bar. Down in the party bunker, you’ll find pink velvet-cushioned booths, neon lighting, communal tables and upbeat tunes encouraging late-night revellers to stay well past midnight.

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  • 17
    PS40 - one of the best bars in Sydney CBD

    PS40 was started by the creators of PS Soda, an alternative to sugary, soulless mixers. While it was originally a way to showcase these bright and bubbly sodas, it’s since evolved to become a hotspot for some of this city’s tastiest and most inventive cocktails. Hidden down Skittle Lane, you’ll discover a mad scientist’s lab of beverages.

    The cocktail list is never stagnant, but you might find a nostalgic favourite like the Mango Weiss Bar, taking you right back to your childhood summers or the one-of-a-kind Breakfast Negroni infused with banana bread and coffee beans. Head into PS40 and hand over your trust to the bartenders as they take you on the latest boozy adventure they’ve thought up. You’ll quickly discover why our editors have often voted it the best bar in Sydney.

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  • 16
    Since I left You - one of the best bars in Sydney CBD.

    CBD courtyard bar Since I Left You (SILY) has been kicking around for yonks now and has always managed to keep things fun and laidback — a refreshing find in Sydney’s city centre. The food is kept simple — think gourmet toasties, nachos and a baked wheel of camembert — while the drinks lean into more refined territory.

    You could keep it classic with a pint of XXX Gold or opt for some beers from some of Sydney’s top breweries. Signature cocktails also abound (and change with the seasons), plus there is a healthy selection of local and European wines that’ll keep most punters very happy. If you’re after a few chill drinks in unpretentious surrounds, this is your CBD spot.

    Images: Bodhi Liggett

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  • 15
    Fabbrica - one of the best bars in Sydney CBD

    Part pasta shop, part bar, all fabulous. Fabbrica is an absolute gem of a venue in Sydney’s city centre where you can either pop in to grab some pasta, deli bits and Italian wines to take home or sit at one of the few seats inside so you can take your time enjoying all the crew has to offer.

    Of course, the pasta is a must-order for those wanting a proper feed. But we are equally fond of working through a bottle of something recommended by the team while tasting our way through a few of the smaller Italian bites. Crowd the table with stuffed zucchini flowers, pork croquettes, cheese and salumi plates and a bowl of burrata to snack the afternoon or night away at one of the best Sydney CBD bars.

    Image: Dexter Kim

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  • 14
    the outside of Cantina OK! - one of the best bars in Sydney - cantina ok!

    An old garage down a service laneway might not sound like your typical spot for a Sydney bar, but that’s exactly where this 20-person mezcal bar has taken up residence. Cantina OK! is located down the non-street Council Place, rocking an extensive tequila and mezcal collection, a forest green garage door and no seating whatsoever. But don’t underestimate this joint, head inside to find one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD.

    There are plenty of rare and wild varieties of the white spirits for you to explore stocked behind the bar. If this deep dive into mezcal drinking sounds intimidating, turn to the well-trained staff, who will be eager to get into the “nitty gritty” of it with you. Or, you can just opt for a classic and damn-good margarita.

    Image: Kimberley Low

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  • 13

    Stitch might be hard to find, with its subtle tailor’s shop front and staircase to the subterranean bar, if it weren’t for the frequent queue that forms in this nondescript part of York Street. It’s a tough job to get in, and once you are allowed past the shop front and down the dark stairs, you’ll know why.

    It’s a tiny, pumping, crowded spot with comfy booths on one side and small, hotly contested tables on the other, where hot dogs and strong cocktails are the bar fare of choice. The tailors’ theme is present with old sewing tables and sewing machines under the bar, but that’s where the sweet grandma vibe ends. This small Sydney CBD bar is low-lit, gets pretty noisy at peak hour, and there is some serious booze on the list. Get on the cocktails, fine whiskies or celebratory Dom Pérignon at this hugely popular spot.

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  • 12
    The Baxter Inn - one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD

    Sydney’s original speakeasy basement bar. Also brought to you by Swillhouse, The Baxter Inn is somewhat of a magnet for international accolades — most notably making the World’s 50 Best Bars list several times since its opening in 2012. Much of this comes down to its almighty whisk(e)y menu that boasts almost 800 different kinds of tipple. Any true whisk(e)y lover will fawn over the large cascading wall of backlit bottles, which the bartenders scale constantly throughout the evening.

    But you don’t have to have the spirit straight. The team has curated a list of cocktails for those who want something a little different, making some of Sydney’s best old fashioneds and whisky sours alongside their own original creations. And, while you’re having a few drinks, be sure to light up your palette with the free, salty pretzels.

    Image: Leticia Almeida

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  • 11
    Morrison’s Oyster Bar & Grill

    If you’ve never been to an oyster bar, here’s your chance. A welcome addition to the lower end of George Street, Morrison’s is a class act. Enter, and you’ll be transported to a timeless industrial chic interior complete with exposed brick and concrete pillars.

    Of course, there’s a stacked lineup of oysters and sparkling wine at this Sydney CBD bar and restaurant, but that’s only the beginning. Steaks, pasta, whole grilled fish and stacks of other staples adorn the food options, while drinks span a mammoth selection of cocktails, wine and beer. Everyone will find something they want at this city haunt.

    Image: Steven Woodburn.

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  • 10

    Pass through an old-school barber parlour to find one of the very best gin bars in Sydney. The Barber Shop has regularly won first place in Australia’s Gin Bar of the Year awards, thanks to its impressive 700-strong gin selection and oft-changing menu of highly creative gin-based cocktails.

    True gin aficionados can explore rare varieties of this spirit, trying them with all sorts of tonics or in one of the best gin martinis you’ll ever savour. But don’t worry if gin isn’t your special subject. You can order one of the gin flights, let the bartender recommend something, or skip the gin altogether by ordering wine, beer or a non-gin-filled cocktail. However, we have to admit that it would be a shame to skip the gin altogether at The Barber Shop.

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  • 9

    Tucked away among the chaos of the CBD and hidden through a nondescript Clarence Street door, Burrow Bar is hard to spot, so you could be forgiven for not having visited yet. But now you’ve read this, there are no excuses for not patronising one of the best bars in Sydney’s CBD.

    This haunt is the brainchild of four friends with a hefty dose of hospitality experience between them, who have a deep love for mixing drinks. The cocktail menu is switched up regularly, utilising boutique spirits, seasonal ingredients and house-made liqueurs. Pair the bevs with a few light bar snacks (if the drinks spur on a hunger), being sure to get a bowl of the bar’s renowned nut mix.

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  • 8
    Sammy Junior - one of the best bars in Sydney CBD

    Highly awarded cocktail bar Maybe Sammy welcomed a sister venue to the CBD back in 2021. Sitting in the heart of Sydney’s CBD along King Street, the new espresso bar takes its design cues from Maybe Sammy, with its interiors overseen by famed architect George Livissianis (The Dolphin HotelChin Chin SydneyThe ApolloCho Cho San). Patrons can expect pistachio hues aplenty, including in the terrazzo floor, bar surfaces, and stucco walls.

    Seating-wise, you can choose from the ten chairs around the bar, banquettes in the back and scattered tables elsewhere. By day, you’ll head here for coffee, classic brekkie dishes and small lunch bites. And on Thursday and Friday evenings, it becomes a proper drinking destination, pumping out fun and creative cocktails (as is expected from this team) alongside a great selection of antipasti.

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  • 7

    Knock three times on the brass pineapple and wait. Then, head through the door, down a staircase, along a dark corridor, to find one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD. The secret speakeasy vibes are real at Door Knock, but it’s not all about being hard to find. Here, the cocktails are next-level, and the food is just as good.

    It’s hard to say exactly what you’ll be eating and drinking as the menus change frequently, but expect mostly biodynamic and low-intervention wines, cocktails that hero local produce and spirits, and flavour-packed eats like mac and cheese croquettes, anchovies on toast and modestly priced steaks served with house-made sauces. We don’t know how they’ve managed it, but they’ve squeezed a lot into this hidden underground drinking den.

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  • 6

    Despite taking its name from a raucous, rundown pub in the 80s flick Road House, Double Deuce Lounge isn’t a dive bar. Instead, the CBD drinking hole from the Ramblin’ Rascal team is a refined cocktail lounge with a touch of ’70s porn chic’. No, you won’t find Ron Jeremy lounging in one of the burgundy leather booths. Instead, you can expect loud geometric 70s wallpaper laid with vintage film posters, the likes of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield on heavy rotation and a cocktail list that arrives in a Deep Throat-esque VHS cover.

    The bar’s owners, Charlie Lehmann, Sebastian Soto and Dardan Shervashidze, will also be suitably on the theme, decked out in safari suits and furry vests. Behind the bar, the team shakes and stirs signature cocktails as well as seasonal specials. While the cocktails are proverbially stuck in the 70s, the wines and beers are very much now, thanks to the team at P&V Wine and Liquor, who pulled together an extended list of fun and funky drops.

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  • 5
    Little Felix - is one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD.

    Little Felix, a 60-seat 1920s Paris-inspired cocktail bar and little sister to Ash Street’s hatted bistro Felix comes to Sydney courtesy of the hospo giant that is Merivale. At this watering hole, you can expect to find 1.5-litre magnums of champagne, old-world cocktails and tartines aplenty.

    The space itself is opulent and designed to transport guests back to 1920s Paris — or at least to the set of Midnight in Paris — think Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald parties at their grandest. Head inside, and you’ll immediately see why it is one of the best bars in Sydney’s CBD.

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  • 4
    Bar 83 - one of the best bars in the Sydney CBD

    On September 25, 1981, Sydneysiders got their first look at the revolving restaurants in Sydney Tower. Exactly 39 years later, the restaurants reopened after a $12-million renovation, with new looks, A-plus cocktails and a star cast of Sydney hospitality elite. The tower’s dining precinct is split into three levels: 70s-inspired Bar 83, opulent fine-diner Infinity and casual buffet restaurant Sky Feast.

    Each space has a unique design by Loopcreative, pulling inspiration from the likes of space odysseys, Aussie backyard pools and bygone Kings Cross bars. Part-retro, part-futuristic with circular red and white lounges, gold lights and striking mirrors, Bar 83 is officially Sydney’s highest bar. While there’s no denying the bar’s main drawcard is the views, the cocktails are equally impressive. Food-wise, the options are just okay, so we recommend hitting up a nearby restaurant in the Sydney CBD for a proper feed.

    Image: Robert Walsh

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  • 3
    Vini Divini - one of the best wine bars in the Sydney CBD

    Compared to some of the more decadent and over-the-top bars in Sydney’s CBD, Vini Divini — Italian for ‘divine wines’ — errs on the side of minimalism. The furniture is sparse, while the walls are adorned with bottles of wine or large black and white prints of Italian celebrities. Here, the wine is the hero, not the room. And the team has a 1,000-strong wine list to prove it.

    The inner city bar contains one of the city’s largest by-the-glass wine lists, with selections from ten wine regions, including France, Spain, Greece, Armenia and, of course, Italy. Accompanying the wine is the bar’s impressive selection of antipasti and a short but sweet smattering of larger plates. Vini Divini definitely leans into the snack and drink side of things, being sure to keep its wine front and centre. And with so many great drops available, we aren’t complaining one bit.

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  • 2
    Shell House - home to some of the best bars in Sydney's CBD

    Shell House comes from The Point Group, the hospitality collective behind the likes of The DolphinBondi Beach Public Bar and Harry’s, as well as the restaurant, bar and wine room on the former defence facility, Fort Denison. The much-hyped multi-level venue plays home to four different bars and restaurants: Menzies Bar, Sky Bar, Dining Room and Terrace, and Clocktower.

    Each venue inside Shell Bar comes equipped with a luxurious interior design and its own unique energy. Step into Menzies, and you’ll find warm lighting, thick leather seats and a lavish bistro menu. The gold-heavy Sky Bar offers a fun mix of cocktails with panoramic city views. The Dining Room and Terrace is filled with rich brown and beige tones, as well as a seafood-heavy dinner menu. The Clocktower is fittingly situated inside Shell House’s historic 400-tonne clocktower. Each space is classy and refined, complementing their respective menus. Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink, a hearty meal or a night out with unbeatable city views, Shell House has a spot for you.

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  • 1
    Tiva - one of the best Sydney CBD bars/

    Tiva combines Sydney’s love of luxurious bars and live music into a romantic venue underneath The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar. Head down Wednesday–Saturday, and you’re sure to find a band or a solo artist filling the room with jazz, soul, R&B or folk music until late. Plus, accompanying this roster of live entertainment is a daily program of DJs spinning tunes Monday–Saturday.

    The venue is reminiscent of many classic lounge bars, boasting subtle lighting, velvet booths and mirrored tables. Once you’ve found your table or your booth, your attention will turn to what you’re going to pair with the night’s playlist. If you’ve come for a couple of drinks, there’s plenty to choose from, but we are all about the inventive cocktails. As for food, Tiva takes queues from its upstairs sibling, The Charles Grand, serving up a French-inspired array of eats that’ll keep you satisfied late into the night.

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Top Images: The Caterpillar Club by Andrea Veltom.

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