I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– I blame it all on my father. He’s the one who moved me to Sydney in 1997, he’s the one who made fun of me when I was nine years old and turned down a trip to Japan (I vowed never to make that mistake again…), and he’s the one who said “Sure! Why not!?” when I suggested moving to Spain… then again when I talked about Colorado… and finally when I expressed an interest in Southeast Asia. My point? My father is the worst. He just keeps sending me around the world. It’s like he doesn’t even want me here… but at least I’ve picked up a lot of tips along the way! And with so many other friends now catching the travel bug, I’ve been asked to share some of that advice. I couldn’t possibly list everywhere I’ve been or everything I recommend doing but I’ll start sharing my ‘top lists’. Obviously, I start with Sydney, Australia.
- The Baxter Inn (an alley halfway down the lefthand side of Clarence Street as you walk from King Street to Market Street, through a gate, to the right, behind some dumpsters, down the stairs in the near right corner): This was my introduction to speakeasy life in Sydney and it did not disappoint. Although slowly becoming more popular and crowded, its a great step back in time to the Prohibition Era and the cocktails are fantastic.
- Palmer & Co (down ‘Abercrombie Lane’ off George Street, behind The Establishment): Although more well-known and mainstream than The Baxter Inn (due to its Merivale association), Palmer & Co is still a great spot for late-night because it stays open. Many bars in Sydney have a 1:00AM “lockout” which means you can’t enter or exit again, and then last call is just before 2AM. When I was at Palmer, I think lockout was 1:30 and last call was 2:30 so you have bit extra time. Plus, its in a basement with 1920s music playing all night.
- The Botanist (17 Willoughby Street, Kirribilli): Surprisingly, an American friend introduced this to me the last time I visited Australia and I had never heard of it before but it’s a great spot. When you get off the train at North Sydney, just leave the station to the left and go down that ‘main street’ a little and this bar is underground on the right hand side after a pub and a couple small food joints. The cocktails are incredible but definitely not for those on a budget. Instead, go with friends and split the jug of sangria.
- Different Drummer (185 Glebe Point Road, Glebe): I can’t finish this list without adding in a Glebe spot. Different Drummer is a latin-inspired, darkly lit, bar near the top of Glebe Point Road. GPR is worth a visit regardless because it has slowly become the foodie capital of Sydney with everything from Vietnamese to tapas to sushi hand rolls to hipster coffee, but Different Drummer is particularly good for its live music and cheaper tapas and cocktails at happy hour.
- The Glenmore Hotel (96 Cumberland Street is the main entrance but you can also access it by going up the stairs and winding around the The Argyle, which is also another fun place to day-drink or go out at night): It might seem cliché, but my favorite spot in Sydney is still The Rocks. On weekends there are street markets with corn-on-the-cob to die for, and weeknights often feature fun live music and drink specials. If you’ve been to Sydney then The Glenmore is no secret (just google “rooftop bars Sydney” and its the first to pop up because there are barely any…) but it is still a classic spot with great food and beer. On Monday nights they also do a steak special.
- Istanbul on King (159 King Street): You can’t leave Sydney without eating a street kebab, and this became my favorite spot for them while attending classes at the University of Sydney. My sister also argues that the one on George Street & Rawson Place is one of the best (and she’s not wrong). It’s right by the 790 Backpackers and Sydney YHA. I know this because I stayed at the nearby WakeUp! Sydney for a while and ate a lot of them.
- Marigold (on the corner of George St & Hay St, go in the little ‘shopping mall’ and up the elevator to the 5th floor): Yum cha is the brunch of Sydney. It fixes everything – hangovers, missing your family on Thanksgiving, classic hunger, and much-needed shopping breaks. Just accept the chaotic restaurant floor in all its glory and be aggressive when you need to find the food you want, but equally aggressive when you don’t want something offered to you. Make sure to try the rice rolls that fried with sesame seeds in front of you and dipped in peanut-soy sauce.
- Bondi Icebergs Club (overlooking the big pool you see to the right when you’re standing on the beach): Perfect at the end of a Coogee-Bondi Walk or before a dip in the ocean, Icebergs is the classiest place to enjoy a glass of wine and look over Bondi Beach. Just know that you will be paying for both your drink and the view, but it is worth a visit.