Insider’s Guide to Sydney

After spending a few weeks working in Queensland, I traveled to Sydney for a week for a summer vacation. Even though it was their winter, since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the weather was still sunny, so it made walking around the city super easy. This blog post is part two of my Australian travel series, and next up, is my guide to the outback! I have no idea when I am going, but it’s definitely on the top of my list to explore. If you ever find yourself in Sydney, I hope you find this guide handy! Enjoy! xo.

EAT:

1) Mr. Wong
Located in the heart of Sydney, this iconic Chinese restaurant is nothing short of fantastic. For dinner, Mr. Wong opens at 5:30pm, and it is best to arrive a little bit beforehand, as the wait can be long. If you come around 5:15pm during the week, the hostess can usually seat you and your party right away. I ordered dim sum (my favorite!) as an appetizer and “Mapo Tofu” as my main course. I also tried some classic green tea which was great, especially after eating the spicy minced meat that was on top of the tofu. This is a must-try restaurant in Sydney, and Mr. Wong exceeded all expectations. 

2) Icebergs Dining Room and Bar 
If nothing else, dine at Icebergs for the incomparable view of the ocean and pools. Located at Bondi Beach, Icebergs offers a wide range of Italian food and seafood. Although the food at Icebergs is high quality, the atmosphere and incredible view are what truly make the restaurant stand out among others in Sydney. Simply put, it’s #instaworthy.

3) The Park Hyatt Hotel 
When you’re in Australia, you have to eat somewhere by the water! It’s such a fun experience, especially at The Park Hyatt. You can drink tea and eat scones while soaking in gorgeous views of the Harbour, and their French onion soup is also fantastic. They offer the same menu for both lunch and dinner, and it is quite extensive.

4) Nutie Donuts
Sydney offers an entire eatery dedicated to gluten-free doughnuts– so if you’re gluten free or have an intolerance, not to worry! You can now enjoy doughy, fried goodness again! Some of their flavors include green tea, dark chocolate ganache, and beetroot. If you didn’t think that was extravagant enough already, customers can also try flavors such as champagne and black sesame. If you order a box of doughnuts, they come with a funny card. One says, “Abs are great, but have you tried donuts?” How relatable is that?! Nutie also offers a variety of vegan and dairy-free options, because, well, doughnuts should be for everyone.

5) Gelato Messina 
This eatery was voted best gelato in Australia, and it’s easy to understand why Gelato Messina received that recognition. With over 40 unique gelato flavors, Gelato Messina also serves cakes and other equally delicious desserts. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, be sure to visit Messina. You’ll love it.

6) Saké Restaurant and Bar
Located right near the Harbour in The Rocks, this Japanese restaurant is sushi at its best. Not only is the ambiance fantastic, but the service is impeccable, and the food is delicious. I ordered the king fish sashimi, as well as the oysters and an avocado-tuna salad. The portions are large, so be sure to go with a big group of friends. That way, you can all share.

DO:

1) Take a water taxi around the Harbour
Experiencing Sydney from the water is unbeatable, so be sure to hop on a ferry or take a water taxi one afternoon to travel throughout the world famous Harbour. One of the most enjoyable parts of my ride on a water taxi was seeing the Opera House from all angles, as well as the different small beaches and various neighborhoods. Taking a ride on a boat is an absolute must-do while in Sydney. If nothing else, do this.

2) Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
MCA is one of the best museums in Australia, and their exhibits are highly unique. Admission is free, which is amazing, since that shows that the government supports the arts. When I was at MCA, French artist Kader Attia, who grew up in Algeria and Paris, had a large exhibition, and so did Australian artist Jenny Watson.

3) Spend an afternoon at Bondi Beach
Located about about 30 minutes from the Harbour, Bondi Beach is an Australian staple. Both locals and tourists alike flock to Bondi for the amazing surf, restaurants, and views. The water is crystal clear, and there are even tide pools toward the end of the beach near the boardwalk. Speaking of that, the boardwalk has lots of fun and easy options for kids, such as restaurants with delicious children’s menus, a ferris wheel, and fun boutiques.

4) Walk around The Rocks
Although it’s touristy, nothing is better than taking an early morning stroll around this neighborhood, which offers gorgeous views of the Harbour and Opera House in some areas. If you’re a runner, it’s an excellent place to work out with incredible views and a trail going underneath the bridge, around the Opera House, and through the Botanic Gardens.

5) Climb the Bridge
If you’re craving a physical adventure, be sure to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Although I didn’t do this, I know countless people who have done it in the past, and their photographs are beautiful. It costs approximately $300 per person, so BridgeClimb is definitely costly, but according to the people who do it, it’s absolutely worth the time and money.

SEE:

1) Royal Botanic Gardens
Wandering through the Royal Botanic Gardens on a free afternoon is one of the best ways to spend your first day in Sydney. The gardens are a great introduction to the city, for as you walk through the gardens, you also walk past the Opera House and Harbour. There are also a few restaurants and coffee shops located inside of the gardens which offer pretty good food.

2) Woolloomooloo
It’s fun to go here just for the name alone. Telling friends you went to Woolloomooloo will sound very exotic! There are tons of cute shops and Harbour-side restaurants in this area, as well as some fantastic art galleries, such as ArtSpace. The Navy Center is located in this area as well, and the ships are a neat site to see if you are interested or have time.

3) Sydney Opera House
Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s also iconic, so how could I not include this?! I think the Opera House is rather self explanatory, and it’s an architectural marvel. It’s stunning and makes for a wonderful photo.

4) Ken Done Gallery
Located in The Rocks, this gallery is a neat experience, especially given that Done is one of the most popular contemporary Australian artists. He recently did a collaboration with the shoe brand Havaianas with his artwork printed on the sandals. The gallery includes a wide range of his works, many of which are still for sale.

SHOP:

1) MCA Gift Shop 
Museums, in addition to wonderful works of art, often include unique gift shops with random tchotchkes. The MCA gift shop offers a wide selection of art books, gifts, postcards, and fashion-themed items. While I was there seeing the Attia and Watson exhibits, I purchased a David Bowie nesting doll for my room– super random but fun, right?! My sisters bought a stack of artist-themed playing cards with different Warhol and Lichtenstein paintings on them.

2) Aesop
Aesop is one of the best skincare brands around, and their store on George Street has the largest selection of their products I’ve ever seen! The store in LA at Santa Monica Place is pretty small, so the one in Sydney was a real treat! If you’re in need of hand lotion or face treatments, Aesop is the solution. 

3) Westfield Sydney
If you’re looking for the typical chain stores, Westfield has them all– everything from Adidas to Gucci. This mall is certainly a one-stop-shop!

4) Zimmermann
This Australian brand is one of my all-time favorites, and their store located at Westfield Sydney is fantastic. Their dresses are so detailed and elegant, and their beach items are incredible as well. Although some of the items are pretty pricy, it’s still fun to wander through the store, marveling at the designer’s creativity and talent.

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