An alternative guide to Sydney

Find postcard-worthy street art and flat whites to fall for

While other Australian cities tend not to make a fuss, Sydney shouts louder than the rest. Its world-famous sights, glamourous nightlife and glistening coastline put it top of many a city break wish list. What’s more, you don’t have to look far behind that dreamy bronzed sheen to rediscover relaxed Australian life. With our alternative city guide, you can live like a local – all while based at one of the best luxury hotels in Sydney.

Drink in the buzzing café culture

As one of the world’s largest coffee consumers, Australia has mastered the art of everyone’s favourite beverage. And the coffee scene in Sydney rivals the rest, with coffee houses, roasters and expert baristas devoted to pouring the perfect cup. Because of this, big-name chains don’t come close to competing with boutique independent cafés. The only tough decision you’ll be making is where to get your first caffeine hit.

Kickstart your coffee crawl at Marricksville’s Cornersmith. With an ethically-sourced menu of seasonal eats, it’s the perfect place to brunch out with a steaming cup of Mecca coffee. Pair this with the breakfast bowl served with roasted bosc pears, walnuts and local honey, for a sweet yet wholesome start to the day.

Then, walk off your brunch and explore trendy Marricksville, with its Vietnamese restaurants and vibrant art scene. As the midday sun calls tourists to the coast, retreat to Coffee Alchemy for a post-stroll pick-me-up. Coffee lovers will rejoice at this café, renowned for its consistently exquisite drinks. Cool off with a creamy cold brew, or take a seat and sip a single-origin flat white while watching the world go by.

Less than half an hour’s walk from Coffee Alchemy is Brewtown, your third and final coffee spot. Stop here to recharge over a light lunch and a latte. Or for a more indulgent option, opt for the Elvis Burger, comprising beef, cheese and maple-glazed bacon, sandwiched between Brewtown’s famous ‘cronut’ – a sinfully delicious croissant/doughnut creation.

Sydney, Australia

Get inspired, from street to studio

Sydney is brimming with fantastic art. From the contemporary works in established galleries to buildings that have become open-air canvases. Begin your culture trip in up-and-comer Newtown, soaking up the thought-provoking street art. From the giant jungle birds gracing ‘the wall of sound’, to profound murals like ‘I have a dream’ – inspiration could strike around any corner.

If you’re looking for a more concentrated collection of acclaimed art, you’ll never be far from one of the city’s most eclectic exhibition spaces. Head to Carriageworks, the most significant contemporary multi-arts centre in Australia. This former rail yard still holds its distinctly industrial features, giving it a historical feel. Beat a path there for conceptual exhibitions, performance art and even a farmer’s market every Saturday. Or to witness the relationship between Asia and Australia through artistic expression, come to 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

Enjoy the sun without the sand

From open-air shopping to meandering through lush gardens, in Sydney, there’s more to see than just the sea. Though the city is decked out with well-known retailers, we’d recommend taking a trip to one of its many outdoor markets. Our favourite has to be Glebe, held every Saturday. Locals and travellers alike flock here to bag jewellery, vintage clothing and art. It’s worth hanging around to hear local folk bands and singer-songwriters, too.

Wind down your day in Wendy’s Secret Garden. Overlooking Lavender Bay and Sydney Harbour Bridge, this out-of-the-way idyll has a heart-warming backstory and heart-snaring views. After Wendy lost her husband, she devoted her time to transforming the land around her private home. And for 25 years, she’s nurtured and developed this space that’s been adored by passing travellers ever since. 

Where to stay

Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia

At Ovolo Woolloomooloo, you’ll be well within reach of the city’s best sights – but there’s a chance you won’t want to leave. Piercing the heart of Sydney Harbour, this hotel fuses understated luxury with contemporary industrial living. After a day exploring, retreat to your split-level loft, or settle down in the Lo Lounge as happy hour strikes.