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A local’s guide to Sydney city centre

A bridge and opera house known the world over. Glorious parks and gardens. And hidden laneways promising good eats and retail treats.

In 2018 and 2019, we asked Sydney locals to share what they love most about their own neighbourhoods: everything from where they eat to where they grab coffee, and where they hang out. Now it's more important than ever to support local businesses where you can, just make sure you're prepared for a safe and fun time.

Over the coming weeks, we're revisiting our Sydney Local guides. Check out what the city centre experts had to say. And send us an email if we missed your favourite spot.

Tourist flock here from across the globe to see our landmarks and to soak up our Aussie spirit and culture. Locals live here, quite simply, because they love it. And they all converge to give this city vibrancy and life – in Sydney’s city centre.

The city centre by day

The Strand Arcade

412-414 George Street, Sydney

“Boutique shopping in a Victorian setting.” – recommended by @thesharchseye via Instagram

Whether you’re browsing, buying or simply just taking in the beautiful Victorian-era architecture, The Strand Arcade delivers the goods. This icon connects Pitt Street Mall with George Street and dates back to 1891. Stroll the multistorey emporium for men’s and women’s fashion, shoes; jewellery and accessories, antiques, gifts and collectibles cosmetics and more. For some truly creative contemporary jewellery and objects, don’t miss Courtesy of the Artist on Level 2. This boutique highlights designers doing things differently and hosts regular exhibitions and events to promote talented artisans within the design community. To give your shopper’s feet a rest, stop for an out-of-this-world Italian lunch at Pendolino.

Sorry Thanks I Love You

Shop 2006, Level 2, Westfield Sydney, Pitt Street Mall, Sydney NSW 2000

“A great conceptual design store featuring fashion, gourmet teas, gourmet foods and nurturing relationships and inspiring moments of happiness” – recommended by @elsascucina via Instagram

As its clever, no-nonsense name suggests, this brilliant boutique has a gift to suit every circumstance. From fresh flowers and handmade homewares to clothing and gourmet food (oh, the Bruny Island cheeses!), Sorry Thanks I Love You ensures that your prezzie will be well-received.

Concept store Sorry Thanks I Love You. Image: Katherine Griffiths

The Walrus Cafe

276 Pitt Street, Sydney

“Such a good little set up with amazing food like my corn fritters with scrambled eggs, bacon and smashed avocado! Yummmm!!!” @centralcoastcafecrawl via Instagram.

Grab a coffee or a sandwich on the go or eat in amid the bright, Scandi-style decor at The Walrus. This place doesn’t skimp on the ingredients. For brekkie, try the signature omelette, featuring truffled mushrooms, double brie and chimichurri on grilled sourdough, or the superfood smoothie bowl, with acai berries, banana, seeds, coconut flakes, oatmeal, nuts and other fresh fruit. If it’s lunch you’re after, go for the house-smoked salmon salad with candied walnuts, pickled golden beetroot, goat cheese, oranges, pomegranate and French vinaigrette.

Adora Handmade Chocolates

Shop P9 Wentworth Connection, 2A Bligh Street, Sydney

“Love the Milk Hot Chocolate at @adorahandmadechocolates and love the complimentary Coconut Truffle just as much!”– recommended by @eatwithmyfoodsafari via Instagram.

Slave to chocolate? Let Adora Handmade Chocolates be your mistress. This little confectionary shop sells some of Sydney’s most indulgent truffles – bite-sized morsels of creamy, chocolatey bliss. What’s more, Adora uses no preservatives or artificial flavours in its sweets – just the finest ingredients, including world-renowned Belgian Callebaut chocolate cultured butter and raspberries, passionfruit, limes and other fresh fruit. You can even find some treats featuring native Aussie ingredients, such as wattleseed. Other luxuries on offer include ganache, pralines, marzipans, cakes and specialty marshmallows.

The city centre by night

If you think the city centre is fun by day, you’re right! But nightfall in this part of the city brings a special new dimension with pubs, bars, restaurants throwing open their doors to welcome time-clock punchers and travellers alike.

O Bar and Dining

Level 47 Australia Square, 264 George Street, Sydney

“My fave set menu with amazing views of the harbour” recommended by @racheyilmaz via Instagram.

Watch the Sydney night unfold below you and the menu unfold in front of you at O Bar and Dining. Dining here is truly a multisensory experience – a feast for the eyes and the palate. Perched dozens of storeys above the city, this rotating restaurant featuring 360-degree views is Sydney fine dining at its finest. Chef and owner Michael Moore’s menus highlight fresh, seasonal produce, creative cooking techniques and stunning presentation. Bar, dinner, degustation and vegan menus are available, alongside a carefully curated wine list and cocktail menu.

Balcón by Tapavino

17 Bligh Street, Sydney

“Balcón is one of my favourite spots in the city to meet up with friends, with its Spanish tapas-style dishes made for sharing” – recommended by @see.taste.do via the #SydneyLocal hashtag

Sister wine bar to Bar Tapavino on nearby Bulletin Place and the newish Bórn by Tapavino in Barangaroo, Balcón by Tapavino boasts a spectrum of Spanish share plates (think lots of charcuterie) and wine list that’ll transport you to the vineyards of Spain. Happy hour happens every day from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. Decompress from a long day on the job with great deals on tap beer, house wine, sangria, Aperol spritz, Negroni and margaritas.

Kittyhawk

16 Phillip Lane, Sydney

“I’ve brought so many friends here – I love the atmosphere, the bubbles, the friendly staff (especially the also bubbly hostess, Chloe) and the food” – recommended by Kasey via our online form

This cocktail lounge and restaurant tucked discreetly into one end of Phillip Lane transports you to 1940s Paris with its dim lighting, dark wood, buzzing bar and French-inspired menu.

Kittyhawk is temporarily closed but reopening soon. Keep an eye on their socials for reopening dates.

The Smoking Panda

5-7 Park Street, Sydney

“Relaxed vibe, cold beer, perfect pot stickers” – recommended by Adam via our online form

If dumplings and a drink or 2 sound like the ideal way to spend an evening, duck up the stairs to this Chinese-retro-chic bar. Cocktails range from the classic to the creative – try one of the range of Old Fashioneds or the luscious Panda Colada. Once you’ve got your drink sorted, settle in for some serious Asian-style snacking.

Palmer & Co

Abercrombie Lane, Sydney

“If you ever find yourself in Sydney, this is the bar to see … the perfect place to end your day” – recommended by @hasselkjaer via the #SydneyLocal hashtag

Another popular notch in the Merivale Group’s belt, Palmer & Co is a sexy speakeasy-style bar with the requisite 1920s prohibition-era decor and rogue attitude. Embrace the vibe and a cocktail – the mouth-watering concoctions will make you understand why booze was banned back in the day.