The Real Sydney in 3 Days

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My last travelling adventure in 2010 ended in Sydney, Australia and I ended up staying a lot longer than I’d planned. Like, a year longer. It’s a captivating city, one you fall in love with more the longer you stay. It has plenty of distinct neighbourhoods to wander around, beautiful beaches to suit every taste, classy bars, dirty drum and bass clubs and heavenly food. I was never bored here, I just always wished I had more money to burn. Returning here with Mickaël, I was determined to show him my Sydney and show him why I loved it here so much. So naturally, I planned the perfect itinerary each day to take us on a 6 day journey of food and frolicking.

Neutral Bay

We stayed here with my old college friend Amy and her husband Lee, in fact my old boss from when I lived here before (no clues for how I got that job). They have a stunning apartment on Military Road in the Neutral Bay Area, it’s a place not many tourists visit as its over the bridge from the centre of town, but I really think it’s a highlight if you like living the high life. There’s tons of boutiques and nice restaurants here, but for me the best part was walking down to Cremone Point along the waterfront which affords your fantastic views of the Sydney harbour bridge, silently bobbing yachts and plenty of benches or grassy knolls to rest your weary legs. When you get down to the point you can catch a ferry to Circular Quay which gives you even better views of the bridge and opera house. The best thing is no tourists! This is a truly secret spot for you to enjoy, courtesy of me.

I don’t think there’s a bad restaurant in this part of town, but one of my highlights was Sam Thai, a cheap and quick lunch spot serving up authentic plates of home cooked Thai food. Head there for a lunch special at an unbeatable $10 a plate. In the evening head over to The Oaks pub on Military road for drinks in their massive beer garden where a giant oak tree covered in fairy lights takes centre stage in dazzling your eyes, you may need sunglasses for this one.

Central

Eating here is mostly for the suited and booted crowd, and there’s plenty of lunch options available. Sydney knows how to do a food court better than any country I’ve seen (apart from maybe Singapore, but at least in Australia I can read the menu!) and you’ll be spoils for choice with the amount of mouth watering food on offer. My hot tip is to head down just after the lunch rush, when the Asian options box up what they haven’t sold into $5 cheap eats. Bargain! My favourite courts are the IGA on St Martin’s Place and underneath town hall, where you’ll also find an incredible Brazilian restaurant if you fancy something more adventurous and expensive.

Don’t miss a wander through Hyde Park after lunch or shopping, it’s not quite like the one in london but it’s definitely one of the best in Sydney.

Your visit to Sydney also wouldn’t be complete without a drink at the Opera Bar, best at sunset. It’s a really magical spot despite the hoards of people, luckily it’s big enough for you to find somewhere to perch and enjoy the view.

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China Town

Sydney’s china town, unsurprisingly, is full of delicious food but the absolute best is Mamak’s on Haymarket, authentic and inspired Malaysian cuisine. Our first night in Sydney I marched straight over there and had squealed with delight over their mouthwatering menu. Sometimes you have to queue as they don’t take reservations, but man is it worth it. Possibly my favourite restaurant IN THE WORLD.

If for some reason this doesn’t tickle your fancy, the best Thai food can be found at Home Thai, as the name suggests, totally home cooked and wonderful with a manic street kitchen vibe about it.

Paddington

Oxford street starts by Hyde park in the centre of town and runs right through Paddington, my old turf and another great place to wander around for boutiques, cafes and markets on the weekend. The part nearer town hold the aptly named North Indian Cuisine restaurant, it’s nothing fancy but it makes wonderful vegetarian Indian food. If you make your way through Paddington you’ll find a whole host of great coffee shops, my favourite being the cafe bookshop with loads of excellent books to tuck into over a cappuccino. In the evening head over to The Beresford Hotel for a drink in their huge garden, this was a favourite pastime of mine when I lived in Sydney before. I love everything about this place, the layout, drink selection, excellent music choices (funk and soul if you’re lucky) and a great atmosphere.

Best beaches

Bondi Beach by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner on Flikr
Bondi Beach by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner on Flikr

Bondi is the obvious choice here, but it can be heaving on the weekends and holidays. Undoubtedly though, It’s a great beach. A huge bay with great waves and nice restaurants nearby. You can walk from here to Bronte Beach along the coast, something I wish we’d done but unfortunately we were hit with bad weather an hour into our sunbathing on Bondi. The next bay down from Bronte is Coogee, another quieter choice with good swimming water and food options nearby.

Balmoral beach is much quieter as its over the bridge near neutral bay, and perfect if you want some peace and quiet or get bored of staring at six packs and boobs. If you’re feeling really adventurous, a drive out to Palm Beach will not disappoint you, after all it’s where Home and Away was filmed. When it starts to cool down, a walk to the top of the hill just north of the bay will give you a little taste of that Australian jungle you wanted without too much effort.

Balmoral Beach by Herry Lawford on Flikr
Balmoral Beach by Herry Lawford on Flikr

The Blue Mountains

No trip to Sydney would be complete without a day trip to these magnificent, and truly blue looking mountains. We met up with some old friends that we made in Bolivia who lived in Sydney, and we took a lovely trip up in their car to the mountains. It’s definitely better if you have your own transport as you can avoid the crowds and find some more deserted viewing spots. The three sisters lookout is the most famous and while it’s worth a look, be warned you may have a challenge on your hands in getting a picture without people on it. We drove out to Evan’s Lookout and Govett’s leap for a really isolated and quiet experience that really left us in awe of these majestic mountains.

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So there you have my whirlwind tour of Sydney, there’s so much more to do here than I could possibly describe which is why I’m so glad I spent a year here living the semi high life. If you don’t have that luxury, try to visit some of these spots and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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