From anachronistic karaoke bars to equine drinking holes, Sydney‘s nightlife is prolific, so we’ve combed through some of the options on offer to give you a brief introduction. Get ready to hit the town in one of Australia’s most bubbly cities.
Bars & Lounges
Intimate and Trendy
The Inner West is where to head if you’re looking for intimate settings to savour your martinis and G&Ts. These are the types of places that serve drinks in variations of the ostentatious crystal glasses that gathered dust in your grandparents’ cabinets while you gazed at them from above the rim of your plastic Ikea cup.
Bloodwood is likely one of these places and, aside from serving fancy snacks like polenta chips, it’s also furnished from things like reclaimed wood and vintage chairs and has exposed piping running throughout the ceiling. And, if you’re a vegetarian, you’re in for a treat, with delicious dishes like pancakes and Persian feta with toasted pumpkin seeds among some of the dishes on offer to help soak up all the booze.
Cheap and Cheerful
Attracting a lively student crowd thanks to it being within hailing distance from the University of Sydney, Newtown‘s buzzy and cool, and it’s where you’ll find the kinds of places where you can drink for less than a fiver at Happy Hour. One of these drinking holes comes in the form of the Kingston Public Bar and Kitchen whose impish outdoor signage informs all there’s “nothing to see here”. To those curious and anarchic individuals who find themselves inside, this warning goes unheeded.
This is one of few bars in the area that aims to use Australian spirits wherever possible, and is full of playful decor which hints at a fun and bohemian clientele. 80s anthems fill the space and walls are decorated with random posters in mismatching frames. In the bathroom, a framed photo of a toilet bowl is displayed proudly (just in case you forget where you are). If you’re a fan of quirky spots, you’ll be glad you threw caution to the wind and crossed the threshold.
Image copyright: Wojtek Gurak
One of the city’s most affluent suburbs, Surry Hills, is home to dozens of bars and pubs catering to wealthy residents. In recent years, the area has undergone a transformation, and many of its old-time bars and pubs have been renovated as a result.
One of these recently made over establishments is the White Horse Hotel, which sports a silver stallion on its roof and continues the equestrian theme indoors. There are two bar areas here – one specialising in dark spirits and the other offering a selection of white spirits. This one has been named Lady Godiva, after a noble woman who (according to legend) rode a horse naked through Coventry in the 13th century. There’s lots of choice here in terms of drinks, but if you’re thinking of going all out, you’ll have to reign it in at 12am.
Pacha – If you happen to end up in Ivy’s huge nightclub, you’ll have most likely paid a $20 cover charge, but once inside, you’ll understand why. Burlesque shows and acrobatic displays take place in its mammoth atrium, and resident and international DJs head up the decks, blasting high-energy house bangers into the party-hungry throngs. If you’re looking for a crazy night, you’ve come to the right place.
Home – If you’re hanging around Darling Harbour after 9.30 and you hear people talking about going home, they might not necessarily mean they have plans to binge watch Netflix shows and stuff their faces with junk food. There’s a chance they’re referring to one of the city’s largest clubs, Home. This impressive venue is spread over three levels with eight rooms in total, meaning there’s plenty of space, and there is no shortage of party goers to fill it.
Quirky Nights Out
World Bar has something going on every night of the week, with Latin and jazz musicians taking to the stage on Monday nights and a mid-week rave which has been happening every Wednesday “since the dawn of time”, apparently. If you think Sunday was a night for winding down, think again. A free dance lesson kicks off the Caribbean-themed vibe, and soca, reggae and dancehall tunes liven up the crowds.
The Cliff Dive
The Cliff Dive hosts club nights just on the edge of Surry Hills. Its cocktail selection is impressive, with fun concoctions including the Royal Bermuda Yacht club and the Monkey hat, but even more impressive is its rum selection, with variations from Bermuda, Mauritius and Guatemala monopolising four pages of the menu.
A backpacker’s favourite, Scary Canary offers cheap events all nights of the week, including on Wet Wednesdays, which see the crowds drenched in foam and Make Out Mondays, great for those looking to mingle with other travellers. Find it just off Darling Harbour.
This happening club has a lot of different stuff going on throughout the week, like underground markets in the early evening and jazz hip hop freestyle sessions come sundown. It’s open ’til 4am from Monday to Thursday, and 6am on weekends. This place is for the night owls who are looking for something a little different from your average clubbing night out.
Live Music Venues
Oxford Art Factory
This bohemian venue draws in artistic crowds and music lovers thanks to its gallery and the eclectic mix of bands that perform here throughout the week. The main room, The Live Art Space, holds up to 500 people and acts as a multi-functional entertainment hub, where local bands, burlesque and theatrical performances feature on the diverse events calendar.
The Metro Theatre
Located somewhere between Darling Harbour and Surry Hills, The Metro Theatre is a popular music venue, playing host to the likes of Nelly, Chairlift and The Naked and Famous. There’s lots on throughout the week, and a high-quality sound system will ensure those beats enter your ears the way they were intended.
Sydney Opera House
The iconic Sydney Opera House helps shape the city’s skyline, and many will be surprised to hear that it’s so much more than an opera venue. Within it, you can watch all sorts of shows, from classical ballet to cabaret, or spoken word to theatrical performances.
If your idea of a night out involves belting out your favourite Bryan Adams renditions to a room full of strangers, you might find yourself at home in one of the city’s karaoke bars. If you prefer to do this in the safety of your own private room, a lot of them have these accommodating up to 25 people. Try out Dynasty Karaoke or K1 Karaoke Lounge in Haymarket or, if you just can’t tear yourself away from Surry Hills, there’s Ding Dong Dang, with its books-only system harking back to the almost forgotten touchscreen-free past.