With so many different kinds of drinking spots in Sydney, it’s hard to know where to even start exploring. Maybe you’re just visiting, or maybe you’re new to town and need some guidance before you head out partying. Well, we’re here to help, with our beginner’s guide to Sydney’s nightlife, covering all the best bits, from laidback pubs to late-night party destinations.
With its evolving mix of world-class nightclubs, live music venues, innovative small bars and waterfront party playgrounds, Sydney’s CBD is proving that it’s a lot more to the local nightlife scene than just an after-work drinks destination. Head on in for some sophisticated cocktails, a lively shape throwing session, or a memorable gig.
Those chasing a big night on the tiles can head to iconic nightclub, Marquee – a sprawling venue with multiple dance floors that pulls all sorts of hot-ticket DJ acts. The crowd here is always ready for a late-night party. Meanwhile, on the other side of Pyrmont Bridge, the most stylish of grown-up party venues awaits you at Ivy. Here, you can lounge by the rooftop pool, or dance under the stars among a flock of pretty people. After something just as dancey, but a little less glam? Chinese Laundry is a long-running underground club, with plenty of attitude, where you can thrash out to house, hip hop and techno beats across three separate dance floors.
Equally hip is iconic dive bar Frankie’s Pizza – a buzzing rock’n’roll joint with a fab line-up of live acts, which you enjoy while downing tasty pizza and some top-notch craft beer. There’s also a karaoke room and frozen Margaritas, to help you get your weekend party started in style. A short stroll south will find you at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern, where the crowd is hip, the cocktails are outstanding and finding the entrance is no small feat. Pop in for some after-dinner boilermakers, and maybe the odd whisky tasting. And to see what it’s like when a small bar does double time as a record store, head along to Mojo Record Bar, where you can browse the vinyl collection in the front room, before heading through to some boozy good times out the back. Expect a 3-piece band every Saturday, funk and soul DJs every Thursday, and great Aussie craft beers on offer all week long.
Right on the cusp of the CBD, Surry Hills is a pocket of cool, home to an array of buzz-worthy eating, drinking and partying spots. From charming whisky bars to basement haunts, you’ll find something here to suit your style.
A hit with punters of all ages, The Beresford is a laidback local haunt downstairs and buzzing party spot upstairs. Camp out in the generous beer garden with craft beers and pizzas, or head on up to enjoy a lively gig, and maybe some tasty concoctions in the cocktail lounge. Further north, a different kind of fun awaits you at Harpoon Harry public bar, thanks to the flavour-packed Southern American food sailing from the kitchen, an equally punchy drinks list and funky tunes that are sure to get you grooving.
Around the corner, The Winery promises a sophisticated kind of evening – it’s a beautiful spot for sipping excellent vino and signature cocktails, perhaps while feasting your way through the kitchen’s seasonal, produce-driven menu. Whisky’s more your thing? Drop by The Wild Rover to sample some of the many varieties they stock behind the bar, or maybe to enjoy a cheeky tasting session. Irish at its heart, this small bar is as cosy as you’d expect, promising good times aplenty and some top-notch boozing. Just up the street, Play Bar has all your live music cravings sorted – it’s an edgy, underground space just waiting to take you on a musical journey. The line-up is varied, the decor is rustic chic, and the bar spins some nifty riffs on your favourite classic cocktails.
With a thriving live music scene, impressive collection of pubs and an eclectic mix of bars and eateries, Newtown is bursting with character. A hefty student population from nearby Sydney Uni lends the area a fresh, hip edge and you’ll soon realise that this is a spot where people aren’t afraid to try something new, different or even totally weird.
The Newtown Hotel is a revamped indie pub that ticks a whole lot of boxes – hearty pub fare, a great leafy courtyard where DJs play weekend sets and a colourful cast of characters through the doors. The beer garden at The Bank Hotel is an equally ace place to share a few cocktail jugs with friends, though this spot also boasts a dedicated craft beer bar and an upstairs band room called Wayward, hosting great live acts Thursday through Saturday. Head a little further up the road and you’ll find The Marlborough Hotel – another fresh-faced, laidback pub where you can watch the footy, catch a gig or feast on tasty, USA-inspired fare.
For a memorable feed, foodies will love Hartsyard’s shareable, nose-to-tail dining. Opt for a sit-down dinner with wine, or get snack-happy at the bar, where you can enjoy classic cocktails and cans until midnight. Otherwise, you can hit up Miss Peaches – a soul food kitchen and bar, with a produce-driven cocktail list, neat range of boilermakers and a whole lot of American craft beer. Playing host to the likes of bluegrass bands and swing classes, the vibe here is always fun.
Meanwhile, music lovers will get a kick out of a visit to Newtown Social Club – a live music destination from the same minds behind Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club and The Corner. This popular haunt has pub-style fare and an impressive drinks offering, in addition to its line-up of great gigs. After something a bit different? Basement bar Tokyo Sing Song aims left of centre when it comes to its entertainment, with an offbeat style that guarantees a memorable night out. From performance art, to themed parties, you never know what kind of weird and wonderful awaits you here.
Having mostly avoided the lockout laws wreaking havoc just up the road, Darlinghurst’s nightlife scene has managed to flourish over the past few years, now playing host to a smorgasbord of live music venues, character-filled small bars and larger drinking dens.
The ever-buzzing Darlo Bar plays host to an eclectic mix of punters, all enjoying the funky retro furniture, broad drinks offering and blissful surrounds of the open-air terrace. Try this spot for casual weekend drinks with friends. Meanwhile, beer-lovers will find a haven in The Local Taphouse, with its renowned tap rotation, rooftop garden, and all-round welcoming space. Swing by to try some experimental brews, or simply to kick back with some weekly trivia. Then, for exquisite cocktails in a space that’ll sweep you off your feet, it’s hard to go past The Hazy Rose, over on the CBD side of Darlinghurst. It’s a charming small bar with moody lighting, British-leaning bar snacks and an ever-evolving selection of signature cocktails.
Cocktails also get top billing around the corner, at Henrietta Supper Club – an old-world space with beautifully-crafted concoctions, alongside next-level burgers and bar snacks, including one of the city’s most epic cheese boards. Take note: this spot’s open till 5am, Wednesday through Sunday. For a different brand of late-night fun, The Standard Bowl offers a fusion of bowling, beers and beats, with a lively atmosphere and solid line-up of DJ sets and gigs setting the pace for your evening. Want more tunes? Legendary live music venue The Oxford Art Factory is your go-to for great gigs and arty vibes – an awesome, energetic space that’s inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1960s New York.
Vibrant and progressive, the suburb of Paddington boats something of an upmarket vibe, attracting plenty of young professionals and a collection of classy eating and drinking spots to match. You’ll find a mix of stylish, revamped pubs and contemporary small bars that are just as fitted to a few casual drinks as they are to a big night on the town.
With a celebrated chef in the kitchen, there’s some brilliant food to be had at The Paddington, though you’ll also find a snazzy front bar and great little cocktail lounge that are perfect for all your drinking needs. Drop by for a sophisticated feed, followed by some fine, late-night boozing. Around the corner, The London Hotel is a comfy, modern pub, with lots of weekly specials, a considered wine list and all your favourite beers. The menu’s unpretentious, and the atmosphere, relaxed, making it a perfect spot for casual drinks with friends.
For something a little livelier, step things up a notch with a visit to The Bellevue Hotel. This striking venue is your go-to for a special dinner, casual midweek drinks, or some weekend fun out on the terrace, with DJs and fab cocktails. Then, just a few streets away, you’ll find The Grand National Hotel, in all its contemporary, local pub glory. It’s a space that’s as pretty as it is comfy – pop in for a top-notch feed, $10 Thursday cocktails, or a spot of after-dinner revelry in the front bar. Meanwhile, The Royal Hotel at Five Ways rocks an equally stylish fitout, as well as an intimate rooftop space with sweeping views. Kick back up here with a few $12 weekend cocktails, or head down to the Verandah, to check out the fresh, contemporary food offering and rather ace wine list.
Today, a very different setting to the notorious ‘hood of eras past, Kings Cross has copped the brunt of the city’s harsh lockout laws. Popping up in place of the gritty drinking dens of old, you’ll now find a mix of multi-faceted pub style venues and even a few slick cocktail bars.
For an all-round crowd pleaser, be sure to pay a visit to The World Bar – a multi-level venue where each night of the week promises a different kind of fun. You catch a funk act and sip teapot cocktails during the week, or dance to DJs until 4am on the weekends. After something a little more sophisticated? Parsons is a cosy, Prohibition-era cocktail bar that pays homage to the area’s colourful past. Visit for excellent, classic-leaning share plates, seriously good cocktail creations and a global range of craft beer. And to quaff high-class cocktails in some very glam surrounds, a trip to the famously good Eau de Vie is surely in order. Here, sink into comfy leather seats and prepare to be impressed by some of the city’s most talented mixologists.
The buzzing beachside suburb of Bondi is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike – a place where those cruisy seaside vibes never stop, even through winter. It attracts a mixed crowd, thanks to its equally diverse array of eateries, bars and pubs, many just a short stroll from the sand.
For a funky drinking spot to cap off a long day at the beach, Bondi Hardware is always a great option. In a space that once sold tools and timber, you’ll now find an inviting bar and restaurant operation, with a smashing global menu and some top-notch signature cocktails. Perfect for a casual arvo session, or to kick start a bigger night out. Just around the corner, House of Luis Tan is a big hit with the foodies, serving delicious Latin-American fusion fare and South American-inspired cocktails. It’s as fun as it is stylish, and a great excuse to try something new. Then, further inland, you’ll find the multi-level venue that’s home to El Topo Basement – a hip, colourful spot where the crowd is young, the DJ sets are ace and Wednesday nights go off with a bang. A 4am licence marks this one as a late-night party haunt of choice.
After something a little more cruisy? Small bar The Anchor nods to its beachside locale with some charming nautical theming and a chilled out atmosphere. It’s a modern pirate’s tavern, serving up pub-style eats, easy-drinking beers and cheap tacos on Tuesdays. Equally cosy and sitting just up the road, Fat Ruperts is your go-to for a tasty feed, generous Friday happy hour and live tunes every Thursday. This one’s got loads of personality and a crowd full of friendly regulars, any night you venture in.
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