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7 Must-See Sydney Neighborhoods and How To Visit

Venture beyond the harbor for art, shopping, and surfing.

A bridge with a boat passing under it in Sydney
Hi, I'm Molly!

Molly is an Australian travel and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, Refinery29, and Teen Vogue.

Located on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, Sydney is the sparkling jewel of Australian cities. While the glittering harbor is a hot spot for visitors, there’s plenty more to discover across the city. From the trendy Inner West to Pride Village in Darlinghurst and up to Manly on the Northern Beaches, here’s our guide to the best of Sydney.

1. Circular Quay

A waterside park in Circular Quay, Sydney
Catch a harbor cruise from Circular Quay.Photo Credit: RRong / Shutterstock

A Sydney classic for a reason.

Tucked between the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay will likely be one of your first stops in town. One of Sydney’s main transport hubs, this is also your departure point for cruises around Sydney Harbour. It’s also a great area for outdoor dining and leisurely strolls, with the best views of the bridge and opera house.

2. The Rocks

A view of The Rocks neighborhood in Sydney.
The Rocks is one of the cutest neighborhoods in Sydney.Photo Credit: Alana Dimou / Viator

Where histories of the city converge.

A short walk from Circular Quay is the Rocks, home of Australia’s first European settlement and storied convict past. Journey into the Aboriginal Dreaming of this significant site or take a walking tour around the cobblestone lanes and stone buildings full of boutiques and artisanal goods—you may even find a ghost or two. And to keep you going, there’s an abundance of old pubs to visit, as well as plenty of fine-dining restaurants with harbor views.

Related: Pubs with History: 7 of Sydney's Most Unusual Drinking Dens

3. Darling Harbour

Visitors walk through Darling Harbour in Sydney.
Visit museums, restaurants, and more by the water.Photo Credit: Alana Dimou / Viator

Family-friendly attractions and activities.

On the western side of the city, Darling Harbour makes a popular day out for tourists and locals alike. With attractions including the SEA LIFE® Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and nearby Powerhouse Museum, there’s something for everyone here—and you can even explore by kayak. There’s also an IMAX theater, large shopping center, and a huge array of waterfront restaurants and cafés to choose from, ideal for keeping the kids entertained in Sydney.

Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the annual multicultural festivals that take place here, as well.

4. The Domain

People sitting on the lawn in the Domain neighborhood of Sydney
Where to go for green.Photo Credit: Catrina Haze / Shutterstock

A breath of fresh air and culture.

On the eastern side of the city, and a beautiful walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens from Circular Quay (maybe stop for a picnic on the way), is the Domain—84 acres (34 hectares) of green open space to explore. Home to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and numerous statues and sculptures (including Brett Whiteley’s famous Almost Once matches), the Domain is a haven for lunchtime joggers and outdoor events. On the southern end of the Domain is St. Mary’s Cathedral, and along nearby Macquarie Street you’ll find Hyde Park Barracks Museum, The Mint, NSW Parliament House, and, for bibliophiles, the NSW State (Mitchell) Library—the oldest library in Australia.

5. Darlinghurst

A LGBTQ+ Pride celebration in Darlinghurst, Sydney
There's always something festive happening in Darlinghurst.Photo Credit: FiledIMAGE / Shutterstock

LGBTQ+ Pride and museum magic.

Home to Taylor Square Pride Village and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras every March, the Darlinghurst end of Oxford Street is the heart of the city’s LGBTQ+ nightlife, and loaded with bars, cafés, restaurants, bookshops, art galleries, boutiques, and vintage shops. It also has three of the most interesting museums in Sydney: the Australian Museum (anthropology and natural history), the Sydney Jewish Museum, and the Museum of Magical Arts.

Related: An Insider's Guide to LGBTQ+ Sydney

6. The Inner West

A view of the Sydney skyline from the Inner West neighborhood.
This multicultural neighborhood is just a short ride away.Photo Credit: Taras Vyshnya / Shutterstock

Shop, eat, and drink with fashionable locals.

Fashion, food, and art abound in Sydney’s vibrant and multicultural Inner West. The first stop west of Central Station will take you to Redfern and a short walk to Carriageworks for art, theater, and farmers markets every Saturday morning. Check out King Street and Enmore Road for some of the city’s most eclectic shops, bars, and restaurants. Marrickville is home to craft breweries, including the Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre, named in honor of Australia’s beer loving ex-Prime Minister. The cool continues in neighboring Alexandria, where a visit to The Grounds café is a must.

7. Manly

A beach in the Manly neighborhood of Sydney.
Take a beach day.Photo Credit: Yunsun_Kim / Shutterstock

Home of Australian surfing, this coastal playground is a northern gem.

Take the ferry to Manly Beach, hailed as the birthplace of Australian surfing, and a World Surfing Reserve. If surfing isn’t your thing, instead wander through the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve and its 22 miles (36 kilometers) of coastal walkways for a great day out. Bikes are also a fun way to explore this small peninsula between Sydney Harbour and the Pacific Ocean. And of course, where there’s salt and sea there’s also lots of fish and chips, beer, and wine on offer.

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