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By Jasmine Crittenden
May 31, 2019

Ten Essential Spots to Visit in the Sydney CBD

Uncover free art, $1.50 oysters, $5 G&Ts and more.
By Jasmine Crittenden
May 31, 2019


in partnership with

Uncover free art, $1.50 oysters, $5 G&Ts and more.

When you're in the CBD — surrounded by buses, people, traffic lights and tourist traps — it's not always easy to know where to go. But, hidden among the skyscrapers, are stacks of ace places that show off Sydney's best side. With some local knowledge up your sleeve, you'll find locally roasted coffee in heritage-listed buildings, top-notch French fare, oysters you can actually afford and some of the best sunset views for miles.

To help you on your adventures, we've scoped out ten spots you really shouldn't miss — whether you've lived in Sydney since the day you were born or you're visiting for just a few hours. But don't let these be your limit. There are so many more drinks, feasts, shops and experiences to explore. Plus, for a few more hot tips, check out our video above for Nick White's — owner of CBD bar Since I Left You — favourite spots around the city.

  • 10

    Launch into your day with a healthy, tasty brekkie at Cross Eatery. Created by ex-Mecca barista Marcelo Soto, this airy, spacious cafe takes its name from its location — the heritage building that was formerly the Sydney headquarters for the Red Cross. Tuck into the breakfast salad, a mix of brussel sprouts, slaw, wilted kale, raisins, walnuts, poached egg and pickled green apple. Or, if you’re after something sweet, make it the chia pudding with mango, pineapple and passionfruit.

  • 9

    You’ll find this outstanding coffee shop in the luxurious surrounds of The Strand Arcade. The beans travel here from Marrickville, where they’re roasted at Gumption’s head office, known as Coffee Alchemy. Choose from various blends, single estates, cold brews, pour overs and more. And, should you find one you really like, ask to take the beans home. The space has a lovely, tranquil feel, partly thanks to the original stained glass windows. That said, it’s more espresso bar than cafe, so don’t count on getting a table. Tip: order takeaway and have a wander around The Strand’s boutique stores.

  • 8

    Sydney’s restaurant scene always has venues that are around for a good time, not a long time. But, every now and again, one stands strong and transcends any fad or trend thrown at it. Take Ichi-ban Boshi, which, for more than 20 years, has been serving up some of the city’s best Japanese fare. One of the secrets to its success is that every element of every dish is handmade — from the noodles and the dumplings to the sauces and the broths. The star is definitely the Tokyo ramen, where roasted pork meets chicken broth in the best possible way. Other mouthwatering options include the house-made gyoza, the donburi rice bowl and the curry rice.

  • 7

    Restaurant Hubert puts two of life’s finest things side-by-side — French food and live jazz — and presents them in an alternative universe, which is part Narnia and part post-war Paris. If you’ve been longing to wear your finest suit, do. You won’t feel out of place among Hubert’s low lighting, ruffled curtains, wood panelling and baby grand piano. Behind the classic French brasserie menu is head chef Dan Pepperell (ex-10 William Street), whose creations range from duck parfait with liver mousse, maple syrup jelly and house-made baguette to chicken fricassée with bread sauce and green garlic. Get there early, between 4–6pm, for aperitif hour, which means $5 G&Ts, $10 negronis and $5 glasses of wine.

    Image: Daniel Boud

  • 6

    This hard-to-find, pint-sized cocktail bar lies atop a stairwell in a laneway just off Pitt Street. Take a seat and gear up for cocktails by two of Australia’s most highly skilled bartenders: Tim Philips-Johansson and Rob Sloan. Every day, the team comes up with five new concoctions, writes them on a piece of butcher’s paper and pops it behind the bar. Previous offerings include the High Violet (rum, Campari, raspberry, lime and violet) and the American Mary (bourbon, peach, lemon, mint tea and soda). You’re welcome to order classics, too — or choose from the handpicked selection of Australian beers and wines.

    Image: Cesar Echeverri

  • 5

    There aren’t many things you can buy for under $2 in the CBD. But an oyster is one of them. Every Wednesday, from 6–7pm, The Morrison hosts an oyster happy hour. And you’re welcome to eat as many molluscs as you can handle for just $1.50 a pop. If you like what you taste, return anytime to experience the Morrison’s dedicated oyster room, home to more than 30 varieties of Australian oysters, surrounded by greenery, mosaics and dark wood. Alternatively, check out the Fork and Finger menu — delights include duck liver parfait with brioche toast and pickles, Sean’s chicken lollipops with chilli and molasses dip and a sashimi plate loaded with ocean trout, hiramasa kingfish, yellowfin tuna, organic soy and wasabi.

    Image: Trent van der Jagt

  • 4

    If the libations from your visits to the above venues have left you with a newfound appreciation for rare liquor, head here to stock up your home collection. In an age where so many independent bottle-os have suffered at the hands of the big guys, The Oak Barrel has stood its ground. Founded in 1956, it’s still a family-run business and it still specialises in outstanding and hard-to-find plonk. Whether you’re looking for a boutique pinot noir or a limited edition whisky, you’ll find it with the help of the very knowledgable staff. If you’re keen to learn more or try some drops you’ve never tried before, book into an appreciation class — be it in gin, bourbon or whisky.

  • 3

    Prepare for books. Lots and lots and lots of books. This truly epic shop inside The Galeries (and right beside Ichi-ban Boshi) is the biggest bookstore in the whole country. There are more than 300,000 titles to flick through — think debut novels, long-loved classics, uni texts and graphic novels. You could spend an entire day here and not get bored. Should you work up an appetite, take a rest in the adjoining Black Star Pastry cafe with a slice of strawberry and watermelon cake. Events happen every week, too — from book launches to conversations with authors.

  • 2

    After a day spent wandering around the CBD, you’ll need a spot to kick back and feast your eyes on a good sunset. One of the best vantage points is Henry Deane, a rooftop bar atop the Hotel Palisade at Millers Point. Sink into a pink leather couch, order a glass of Champagne or a Rita Hayworth Daiquiri (Havana Club 3-Year-Old Rum, coconut, lime, salt and sugar infused with pandan leaves) and stare — and keep staring. The bar boasts nearly 360-degree Sydney Harbour views so, wherever you’re sitting, you won’t miss out.

  • 1

    Get some culture without blowing your budget at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Most shows are free at this behemoth gallery which is perched on the water at Circular Quay. The permanent collection includes more than 4000 works by Australian artists, while the temporary program ranges from blockbusters and major surveys to performance art. Right now, the gallery is hosting Sydney artist Janet Laurence’s multidisciplinary exhibition After Nature, which explores the natural world and the impact of climate change. It also has a busy events schedule, too, featuring talks, live music, tours and more. When you need a break, make tracks for the cafe on level five, which overlooks the Sydney Opera House and the harbour, foregrounded by the MCA Sculpture Terrace.

    Image: Jacquie Manning


See Since I Left You owner Nick White’s favourite spots around the CBD above and discover more around the city here.

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