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10 best things to do in Sydney: a local’s guide

Sydney's not just the Opera House, or the Harbour Bridge - but they do act as the crowning jewels in Australia's most well known city. Tripbod Monica shares her local favourites.

1. Centennial Park: a green hub near the city centre

Just 15 minutes away from the city centre at the end of Oxford Street there are 220 hectares of beautiful gardens in the form of Centennial Park. Here you’ll find playgrounds, horse stables and a café-restaurant and is one of my perfect places to catch up with friends, celebrate a special occasion or just pass the afternoon. If you are the sporty type, nothing beats walking/running the 3.8km around the oval on a Sunday morning. When you are done exercising you can choose between a picnic in the gardens, lunch at the main cafe or simply sitting on a bench and watching the world go by. You can also hire a bike for about $15/ hour and ride around the secluded pathways.

Address: Centennial Park, New South Wales 2021, Australia

2. Bar Coluzzi offers a trip down memory lane

Eleni and Luigi Coluzzi built this coffee institution on Victoria Rd in the 1950s. Back then there was nothing like that in Sydney, and famous Italians used to congregate here to play chess, talk about life and do business. Nowadays it still offers some of the best coffee in Sydney and when I go in I never know who I’m going to meet. Old timers sit on the few outside tables to smoke a cigarette, drink their strong short black and watch all sorts of characters pass by on the street. My favourite time to go is Sunday afternoon around 3pm when the sun hits your face before disappearing behind the tall buildings.

Address: 322 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia 2060 Opening times: 5am – 7pm

3. Take the ferry over to Manly for the day

This is where you can really hunker down with the locals. Some Sydney siders are lucky enough to call this ferry their ‘daily commute’, which you can enjoy every day from Circular Quay. This gives you a great view of the Quay and Nelson’s Point from the water. Manly is on the north of the harbour, well known for it’s palm tree lined boulevards, surf shops and seafront restaurants (see 10. on this list!). The beach is perfect for swimmers, but there are plenty of hidden coves where you can catch a few waves too.

Address: Manly, NSW 2095 Ferry times between Manly and Circular Quay: Ferries run between 6am and 1am. Check the full timetable here.

4. Bondi Beach: the quintessential beach that’s still adored by locals

For me, Bondi was love at first sight. This beautiful beach encompasses the Australian way of life, which can be summed up as ‘no worries, mate’. Everyone’s here, from pumped guys in board shorts surfing the waves to bikini-clad girls sunbathing right the way along the beach. Families set up their beach tents to spend the day here and lifeguards remind you to ‘swim between the flags’. It can get pretty crowded during the summer so if you want to do it like a local, get there at 7.30am and leave by 10.30am. There are several restaurants at the Pavilion and if you are one for sitting and enjoying the view from above, go to the RSL on the second floor of Icebergs to watch life, and the waves, go by.

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5. Spoil yourself with a luxurious ‘mini-break’ at The Langham Sydney Hotel

If I want to feel like I’m taking an expensive vacation without even leaving Sydney, I head down to this hidden little gem inside the Langham Sydney (formerly known as The Observatory Hotel) in Sydney’s Central Business District. $45 gets you entrance to the gym and access to the indoor swimming pool, situated under a midnight-blue starry ceiling flanked by Greek white pillars. I sit down in one of the luxurious pool chairs wrapped in my fluffy white robe and slippers and read the morning paper drinking my cup of apple tea. Later on I head down to the jacuzzi and let any stress melt away. The changing rooms alone are exquisite, and there’s a steam bath and sauna to enjoy. If I feel like really treating myself I get one of the fabulous spa treatments like the organic frangipani and pomegranate body wraps. Now that’s what I call good living!

Address: 13 Kent Street, Sydney, New South Wales 2000

6. See the Harbour Bridge from Shangri-La Hotel’s Blue Bar 36

On the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks there’s a bar that, in my opinion, has the very best view in Sydney. With panoramic views over the Opera House, Darling Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge this trendy cocktail bar is all about ambiance and sophistication. With a mixed crowd of young hipsters, tourists and ‘first daters’ this extravagant bar makes me feel that Sydney is indeed a Grand Dame. Tip: the elderflower margarita is a must try.

Address: 36/176 Cumberland St, Sydney NSW 2000
Opening times: 5pm – 12am Cost: Free, drinks start at $10

7. Get off the beaten path at Cockatoo Island

Just 20 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay is Cockatoo Island, once one of the biggest shipyards in Sydney, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place is impressive in itself but there’s also an Island Bar where you can order pizza and cocktails and just soak up the surroundings. There are several tunnels filled with old iron industrial machines and the place is home to several festivals throughout the year. The most notorious is the Biennale Arts festival that happens every two years. For the more adventurous you can rent ‘glam tents’ and spend a fantastic night overlooking Sydney Harbour and exploring the area at night with a torch.

Address: Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour NSW 2000

8. Be part of the underground gangsters’ scene at Love Tilly Devine

In a hidden laneway around the corner from the newly-opened Red Lantern Restaurant in East Sydney there’s a tiny wine bar that is part of the new ‘small-bar revolution’ in Sydney. Tilly Devine was part of the underground gang history of Kings Cross in the 1920s. She was an English prostitute who graduated to run one of the most successful brothels in the time of prohibition in Sydney. The bar serves wine in old-school glass milk bottles. The sommelier is not shy to recommend you one of the 300 different wines – served in old-school glass milk bottles. Although to be quite honest, I always come here for the best ‘Negroni’ in Sydney and to check out the new bar menu, which changes every day.

Address: 91 Crown Ln, Darlinghurst Sydney
Opening hours: 5am-12pm

9. Pretend you’re in a New York jazz club at Blue Beat

Just 20 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay is Cockatoo Island, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It used to be one of the biggest shipyards in Sydney and one my friends remembers people who use to work there fixing machines – without any security equipment to speak of. The place is impressive in itself but there’s also an Island Bar where you can order pizza and cocktails and just soak up the surroundings. There are several tunnels filled with old iron industrial machines and the place is home to several festivals throughout the year. The most notorious is the Biennale Arts festival that happens every two years. For the more adventurous you can rent ‘glam tents’ and spend a fantastic night overlooking Sydney Harbour and exploring the area at night with a torch.

Address: 16 Cross St, Double Bay NSW 2028

10. Fish and chips at Watson’s Bay

My favourite way to spend a Sunday afternoon is taking the Manly Ferry from Wharf 3 at Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay for the quintessential Australian meal: fish and chips’ at Doyle’s on the Beach. Doyle’s is a family restaurant that has been in Sydney for five generations. Perch yourself on one of the tables overlooking the harbour, buy a bucket of Coronas for $20 and get your hands greasy with delicious golden beer-battered fish fillet. You have to watch out for the seagulls though – they are trained attackers!

Address: 1 Military Rd, Watsons Bay NSW 2030 Opening hours: 12-3pm, 5.30-8.30pm

We can almost smell the fish and chips (well, you can if you’re in the UK). Browse flights to Sydney and hotels in the city centre now.

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About the Author: Tripbod Monica is a multicultural globetrotter with an obsession for a good cup of coffee, festivals and digital marketing.

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