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A DAY AND NIGHT GUIDE
HAYMARKET AND CHINATOWN
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and discover Sydney by day or night.
By Yvonne Lam
February 13, 2018
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By Yvonne Lam
February 13, 2018
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Whether you’re after 35-cent cream puffs or late-night karaoke, the Haymarket/Chinatown area is one of the best places to eat, drink and be merry in Sydney’s inner city.

First things first – eat your way around Chinatown. There’s a bite for every budget, whether you’re hankering for Cantonese, Uyghur, Japanese or Thai. After you’ve had your culinary fill, walk it off. The precinct is home to some excellent art, architecture and shops. You’ve just got to know where to look.

Flick the switch above, and we’ll dim the lights to show you the best things to do once the sun goes down. You can also explore more inner-city suburbs here.

Whether you’re after 35-cent cream puffs or late-night karaoke, the Haymarket/Chinatown area is one of the best places to eat, drink and be merry in Sydney’s inner city.

There’s no such thing as an ordinary night in Chinatown. Feast your way through Sydney’s best Asian cuisine, no matter the size of your budget, appetite or entourage. Then, stay up late dancing, shopping, listening to live music, gazing at public art or… eating your second dinner of the night. 

Flick the switch above, and we’ll turn on the lights to show you the best things to do pre-6pm. You can also explore more inner-city suburbs here.

DID YOU KNOW

The opening scenes of The Matrix – where Neo gets into the car – were shot in Chinatown. Head to the bridge underpass on the corner of Campbell and Elizabeth streets, ideally on a drizzly day, to recreate the scene for yourself.

GETTING AROUND

Chinatown is edged by Goulburn Street, Elizabeth Street and the pedestrian-friendly Goods Line. Get there by public transport — all trains stop at the nearby Central Station — then continue your adventure on foot.

DON’T MISS

The 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art never fails to impress. The not-for-profit gallery has a rotating roster of new works that explore the links between Australia and its regional neighbour, Asia. It’s a surprising, visionary oasis in the middle of Chinatown’s hubbub.

LOCALS LOVE

Chinatown’s food courts are legendary. Each has its own character: the grungy underground Dixon House, the impressive (and promisingly named) Eating World and the newly renovated Market City. Feast like the locals, and feast like a king.

DID YOU KNOW

The Capitol Theatre building was originally home to the New Belmore Markets in the 1890s, before being converted to a hippodrome for the Wirth Bros circus company. It was developed as a theatre in 1928, and narrowly escaped demolition in the 1980s. The theatre was restored in the 1990s to the tune of $30 million.

GETTING AROUND

Chinatown sits on the southern point of Sydney’s CBD. Get there by public transport — all trains stop at the nearby Central Station — then continue your adventure on foot. Trains usually run until midnight, but if you miss the cutoff, grab a Nightride bus which runs until 4.30am.

DON’T MISS

Hunt down Chinatown’s hidden (or not-so-hidden) street art — the artworks positively glow at night. Jason Wing’s In Between Two Worlds, hidden on Kimber Lane (just off Dixon Street) is an awe-inspiring installation that explores heaven, earth and spirits and takes cues from Chinese and Aboriginal spiritual motifs.

LOCALS LOVE

Don’t be fooled by the snaking line at Emperor’s Puffs. It moves quickly, thanks to the efficient cast iron machine that churns out the creamy cake-puffs, oozing with golden custard. They’re a steal at 35 cents, or if you’re flush with cash, fork out a dollar for three puffs.

How to do Haymarket and Chinatown

Do as the locals do.

Cafes

There’s a growing cafe culture in Chinatown, which means you’re only ever a stone’s throw from a decent cup of coffee.

1. Edition Haymarket

Pair quality cuppas with innovative, Japanese-inspired brekkies at this inner-city cafe.

2. Boon Cafe at Jarern Chai Grocer

Thai sandwiches are the cafe fusion we could get very used to.

3. Kingswood Coffee

Kingswood Coffee not only has your coffee needs covered but also offers a little nod to Sydney's past.

4. Kusuka

Finding this hole-in-the-wall is half the challenge. The other half is deciding between the coffee, cafe fare and Indonesian noodle options.

5. Soma

Aka coffee mecca — this cafe is home to great beans and knowledgable baristas.

Restaurants and Pubs

Wear your stretchy pants. The precinct is bursting with amazing culinary specialties from the Asian region.

1. Beijing Impression

One of Ashfield's best Chinese eateries now has a second outpost at Market City.

2. Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang

This choose-your-own hot pot stand is an entertaining enigma.

3. Pasta Wafu

A Japanese pasta joint by three hospitality heavyweights.

4. Eating World

The garish orange exterior masks a treasure trove of Asian specialty eats (including the famous Gumshara Ramen) and its own bar.

5. Dainty Sichuan

Get ready for the numbness — one of Melbourne's best Sichuan eateries is now serving up spicy Chongqing noodles in Sydney.

Shops

Drop some cash at Chinatown’s duo of Japanese cheesecake shops, or pick up some blooms, bargains or blues records.

1. Uncle Tetsu

The world's most coveted Japanese cheesecakes available right here in Sydney.

2. Eddy Avenue Florist

This long-running florist has all your emergency floral needs covered.

3. Dulcet Cakes & Sweets

A Haymarket patisserie with 20-layer crepe cakes by an ex-Quay pastry chef.

4. Citizen Wolf

Your one-stop shop for the perfect tee.

5. Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart

Load up on these famous cheesy, creamy tarts.

Arts and Culture

From galleries and street art to oft-forgotten architectural delights, there are many art gems in Chinatown to discover.

1. 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

The gallery celebrates innovative Asian-Australian art with a mission to foster creativity and thinking.

2. Chinese Garden of Friendship

Take a break from the city bedlam at this serene secret garden.

3. Korean Cultural Centre

Immerse yourself in Korean culture via art exhibitions, language and dance classes and plenty of food.

4. Civic Tower

Potentially the finest example of Brutalist architecture in the southern hemisphere, this tower also houses the intriguing Masonic Centre and museum.

5. Dixon Street

A buzzing street filled with street art, large-scale light installations and a constant throng of people.

Leisure

Head to some old-school, kitsch arcade game parlours, escape rooms and public outdoor areas (with free table tennis).

1. Timezone

Equal doses of nostalgia and fun.

2. Break the Code Escape Room

Can you crack the code?

3. Capitol Square Gaming Arcade

Be a big kid again at this wonderland of retro arcade games.

4. The Goods Line

Sydney's answer to New York's High Line.

5. Tumbalong Park

Take a break from the city at this expansive waterfront park.

Locals Love

We asked, you answered. These are the spots you love to frequent during the daylight hours.

1. Gumshara

A Haymarket stable for rich, gravy-like tonkotsu ramen.

2. Mamak

One of the few places in Sydney where you can get exceptional Malaysian hawker food at an authentic price.

3. Paddy's Markets Haymarket

With fresh food, fashion and gadgets, you're sure to pick up a bargain or two at this iconic, bustling market.

4. @Bangkok

This late-night restaurant will transport you from a dingy shopping mall to the raucous streets of Bangkok.

5. Marigold Citymark

This long-running eatery has earned its stripes as a yum cha institution.

How to do Haymarket and Chinatown

Do as the locals do.

Restaurants and Pubs

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – you’re spoilt for dinner choices in this area. Here are some of Sydney’s favourites.

1. 678 Korean BBQ

Beef tongue, pork neck, pork belly — whatever you want barbecued, 678 have got it.

2. Mamak

One of the few places in Sydney where you can get exceptional Malaysian hawker food at an authentic price.

3. Xi'an Biang Biang

One of the only places in Sydney where you can try Shaanxi chewy pulled noodles and a pastry pork 'burger'.

4. Dae Jang Kum

Get smoky with a Korean BBQ experience. Knock back some marinated beef ribs and tasty bulgogi with a cold Korean beer.

5. Harajuku Gyoza Beer Stadium

Darling Harbour's new venue dedicated to Japanese dumplings and Yoyogi beer.

BYO Restaurants

Who doesn’t love a drink with their dinner? These restaurants serve top-notch meals for you to pair with your own BYO wine of choice.

1. Chat Thai

A Sydney mainstay doing favourites well — and at very, very reasonable prices.

2. Pho Pasteur

No finer pho will you find this close to the CBD.

3. Golden Century Seafood Restaurant

A Sydney institution serving up signature salt and pepper squid and pippies until 4am each night.

4. Chinatown Noodle Restaurant

A mainstay of Chinatown’s cheap-and-cheerful dinner circuit.

5. Sea Bay Restaurant

Dishing up tasty north-west Chinese classics and some of the gooiest dumplings around town.

Live Music

Chinatown’s not the most obvious place to get your live music fix. Lucky you, we’ve scoured the hidden venues for your listening and dancing pleasure.

1. The Metro

Grungy but great; this iconic live music venue delivers the goods.

2. Bang Bang

Sydney's home of mega katsu, cocktails and karaoke.

3. Civic Underground

Venture to the depths of the Civic Hotel to discover a live music space that's sophisticated and little bit sexy.

4. Dynasty Karaoke

An LED-lit karaoke bar hidden in Dixon Mall.

5. The Loft @ UTS

This student haunt hosts live music, comedy nights and art exhibitions with a side of beer and pizza.

Shops

Depending on your sensibilities, you can buy trinkets, desserts or designer sneakers at Chinatown’s eclectic collection of night-time retail haunts.

1. Espionage

If you're a freak who loves their sneak(ers), this boutique is a must-visit.

2. Bucket Boys Bar and Bottle Shop

A one-stop booze spot from Sydney's craft beer experts.

3. Morning Glory

This Chinatown store takes kitsch to the extreme.

4. Thai Kee IGA Supermarket

A one-stop shop for your next Asian feast.

5. Basement Books

Let the bargain book buys begin.

Arts and Culture

From hidden street art to 8000-seat theatres to a bustling weekly night market, the Haymarket area has an intriguing mix of cultural adventures.

1. International Convention Centre

This recently renovated precinct functions as an exhibition and entertainment pub.

2. Capitol Theatre

A night of elegance and entertainment.

3. Street art in Haymarket

Hunt down some of Sydney's hidden art.

4. UTS Gallery

Where art, design and social enquiry collide. The gallery hosts a fascinating roster of artists and curators throughout the year. Open till 6pm on weekdays.

5. Chinatown Night Markets

Browse stalls of knickknacks, eat till your heart's content, then check out the illuminated street art.

Locals Love

We asked, you answered. Here are your favourite haunts for when the sun goes down and the streets of Haymarket and Chinatown come alive.

1. B.B.Q. King

Ducks hanging in the window, plenty of room for groups and the best peking duck in Sydney. What more could one ask for?

2. Emperor's Puffs

Eat as many as you'd like without putting a dent in your wallet.

3. Home Thai

Prepare to battle a queue at this Thai diner from the Spice I Am team.

4. Chinese Noodle House

The other Chinese noodle joint at the Prince Centre.

5. Arisun

Late-night haunt for Seoul-style fried chicken and beer towers.

Find Your Way Through the Haymarket Area

Track down the must-visit local haunts.

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CP'S PICKS

Some of our favourites from around the suburb.

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