An Alternative Cultural Guide to Sydney

Sydney, Australia

An Alternative Cultural Guide

Planning a trip to Sydney, Australia?

You’ll find lots of great recommendations for the top touristy things to take in while you’re there. If you want to experience the diverse culture of Sydney the way true Sydneysiders do, check out these ten Sydney sightseeing alternatives.

Sydney Culture Guide: Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House
Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House: Image sourced by

Sydney Culture Guide

1) Close to Sydney University, Newtown is easily reached from City/Surry Hills by train from Central.  Spend a late afternoon sampling craft beers in industrial chic surroundings at Newtown’s Young Henrys, The Union Hotel or any of the other fantastic bars found there.

Take in a gig at the intimate and elegant The Vanguard in Newtown or at lyric-sized The Enmore Theatre (adjacent to Newtown). Timeout says: “The Sydney suburb that has inspired more songs than any other is worthy of those arias.”

2) Visit Balmain by ferry from Darling Harbour to Balmain Wharf, walk up through the charming former working class suburb to Ballast Point Park.

3) Walk around the tracks of Balls Head Reserve and take in the spectacular views. Train across Harbour Bridge to Waverton Park for panoramic views of the Sydney skyline.

4)  Ferry to Manly then walk North Head Sanctuary’s “peaceful and pristine heathland” and explore “diverse flora and fauna complete with hanging swamps” and more breathtaking views of the city.

Sydney Culture Guide: Sydney Harbour Bridge during Vivid Australia
Sydney Harbour Bridge during Vivid Australia: Image sourced by

5) Bike the Cooks River Cycleway to Homebush and Olympic Park and discover hidden gems (shipwrecks galore!) and then ferry back up the river with your bike to Circular Quay or Darling. Olympic park is somewhere different and off the beaten path and is great for families (they have one of the most creative playgrounds for kids you’ll ever experience). This area is renowned for bird watching and spotting endangered frogs like the Green and Golden Bell frog. The historic Brickpit in Olympic Park is wonderful as is the Heritage Railway Discovery Tour. Enjoy fresh seasonal fare and al fresco dining at the Amory Wharf Café in Blaxland Riverside Park.

6) Take in eclectic and off beat live music at Django Bar and Camelot Lounge in industrial Marrickville. It’s only eight minutes on the train from Central. There are two performance spaces featuring some of the world’s finest musicians, wild Liberace on the Nile décor, inexpensive bar service, pizza and ice cream, or just turn up every Wednesday evening for the Gypsy Art Club, their casual life-drawing salon where a nude model takes to the stage in two sets accompanied by outstanding musicians.

7) Housed in the old Eveleigh Rail Yards at Wilson Street in the Redfern Waterloo precinct is Carriageworks, the most significant multi-arts space in Australia, engaging artists and audiences with a diverse program of contemporary ideas and issues.

8)  Very Central and walkable from the city, Darlington and Surry Hills is White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale. Housed in a renovated 1940s Rolls-Royce service depot, the gallery features one of the world’s largest and most extraordinary collections of contemporary Chinese art. The tranquil street-level Tea House is a delightful place to relax and sip on a wide variety of the finest Chinese and Taiwanese teas.

9) A Sydney art tour wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) on the western edge of Circular Quay in the Art Deco-style former Maritime Services Board building. Adjacent to the museum is the historic The Rocks area featuring a variety of craft shops and themed pubs and a large weekend market.

10) Further afield, take the train for a day trip to Katoomba in the magnificent Blue Mountains. Ride the Scenic Railway (the steepest railway incline in the world), visit the antique shops and bookstores, and dine in one of the fine restaurants in the “garden village” of Leura. If you choose to prolong your visit, you can find accommodation in one of the many charming cottages there.

Getting to and staying in Sydney can be expensive. If you are the type of traveler who likes to travel on a budget, check out Sydney travel forums and search for deals and special offers before you start to book your trip.

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