While there are certain iconic must-sees in Sydney—you can’t leave without seeing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge—there’s a lot more to the city beyond that. And while the many perfectly situated hotel choices throughout the city make it easy to not want to venture far from where you’re staying, you’ll be missing out if you don’t.
The neighborhoods surrounding the city center provide a glimpse into Sydney’s real charm—its beautiful blend of diversity and creativity. While these lesser-known areas are often left off official tourist guides, they’ve long been favourites of the city’s hipsters, who, let’s face it, are typically a few steps ahead of the crowd.
Here’s a guide to four unique Sydney neighborhoods where you’ll be mingling amongst the (very cool) locals:
Glebe is for shopaholics
A short walk from Sydney’s city centre, Glebe’s main strip is lined with unique boutique shops like Sappho Books, which is a general second hand bookshop with a unique courtyard cafe that transforms into a bar at night with live music. For the ultimate shopping experience, visit the neighbourhood on Saturdays for the Glebe Markets, (pictured above) where you can hunt for the latest fashion trends and unique works of art. And when you’re weary of shopping, pop into Timbah, one of Sydney’s best wine bars.
- Sappho: 51 Glebe Point Road
- Glebe Markets: Glebe Public School, Glebe Point Rd
- Timbah: u1/375 Glebe Point Rd
Head to Surry Hills for coffee
If there’s one thing to be said about hipsters (of which there are plenty in Surry Hills) it’s that they have extremely high standards for coffee. So if an espresso is your vice, this is the place to be. Within walking distance of Central Station, Surry Hills has many hidden laneways and independent cafes—you won’t find the big-name chains here. Instead you’ll discover great examples of Australia’s thriving coffee culture, like Single O or Four Ate Five, both of which offer expertly brewed coffee and stellar brunch. Stop by Bourke Street Bakery for some freshly baked deliciousness, but be prepared to wait in line (it’s worth it). And if you’re looking for a full breakfast, try Bills, a satellite location of the beloved original in Bondi Beach.
- Single O: 60-64 Reservoir Street
- Four Ate Five: 485 Crown Street
- Bourke Street Bakery: 633 Bourke Street
- Bills: 359 Crown Street
Treat your tastebuds in Newtown
A little less hipster and a bit more grown-up, Newtown’s main road is where you’ll find almost every imaginable type of cuisine. Thai Pothong has been consistently voted “Best Thai Restaurant in Sydney,” while Miss Peaches offers satisfying soul food. Mary’s Newtown has become a bit of an institution since it opened in 2013, thanks to its top-notch burgers and fried chicken, while the Young Henrys tasting bar gathers food trucks on weekends so you can pair some street fare with your beers. For something a little more upmarket, try the eight-course degustation menu at the charming Oscillate Wildly, which has become a coveted stop for serious foodies. Other local favourites include cheese bar The Stinking Bishops and Shinmachi, which combines both Japanese tapas and sushi. And while you’re deciding which flavor profile to indulge in, you can also enjoy the colourful street art and the imaginative fashions of the locals.
- Thai Pothong: 294 King Street
- Miss Peaches: 201 Missenden Road
- Young Henrys: D & E/76 Wilford Street
- Oscillate Wildly: 275 Australia Street
- The Stinking Bishops: 5/63-71 Enmore Road
- Shinmachi: 1/239 King Street
With a beautiful mixture of old architecture and an abundance of creativity, Balmain is home to writers, artists and musicians, as well as cultural institutions like the NSW Writers’ Centre, which adds to the neighbourhood’s buzz during the annual Sydney Writers’ Festival. The heart of Balmain is Darling Street, where you can indulge at the famous Zumbo patisserie or visit the famous Balmain Saturday Market. Be sure to save time to explore the many intriguing one-of-a-kind shops, like Embellish Atelier—where you’ll find all sorts of extravagant hats—and Shoes in the Attic, a haven of high-end European shoes. And to pick up some gourmet food and fresh organic produce, head to the other end of Balmain (closer to the neighborhood of Leichhardt) to the Orange Grove Market, held every Saturday from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm.
- NSW Writers’ Centre: Callan Park, Balmain Road
- Zumbo: 296 Darling Street
- Balmain Saturday Market: 217-223 Darling Street,, Cnr Darling Street & Curtis Road
- Embellish Atelier: 128 Victoria Road
- Shoes in the Attic: 495 Darling Street
- Orange Grove Market: Corner of Balmain Road and Perry Street
While there are so many great things to do in Sydney, these four hipster-approved neighbourhoods offer a different perspective of what the city is all about. So plan to tuck away a day or two in your itinerary for some great shopping, art, wandering and, of course, coffee.