Part outsize beach resort, part culture capital, Sydney exemplifies the art of relaxed cosmopolitanism: urbane but not pretentious; cutting-edge but not stressed-out. The latest crop of restaurants, bars, and boutiques is channeling that Aussie energy in some oft-overlooked neighborhoods. Beachside hangout Manly is less touristed than Bondi, and it’s worth the ferry ride from downtown’s Circular Quay to the new Manly Pavilion Dining Room & Bar, where the Mediterranean dishes are as soul-satisfying as the harbor views. Back in the city center, celebrity chef Neil Perry has opened Rockpool Bar & Grill in a grand Art Deco building; it specializes in grilled seafood and house-aged beef. A local initiative to revitalize the sleepy side lanes in the trendy Surry Hills and Darlinghurst neighborhoods has led to a slew of lounge bars opening up. Try Hunky Dory Social Club for inventive cocktails (lychee-infused tequila) in a trilevel space; the speakeasy-style Sticky Bar for Australian wines and aperitivos; and the Shady Pines Saloon for Eagle Rare bourbon and icy Coopers lager. Sydney’s coolest cultural commissar, actress Cate Blanchett, is the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company along with her husband, Andrew Upton. Snag tickets to a production at the Sydney Opera House, where the restaurant, Guillaume at Bennelong, has a bar that’s perfect for post-show cocktails with a knockout harbor view.
Sydney Family Tip: Spend the night at Taronga Zoo, home to koalas, kookaburras, wallabies, and Tasmanian devils. You’ll sleep in tented cabins, go on a nocturnal safari, and wake up with the sunrise over Sydney Harbour. Bradley’s Head Rd., Mosman; 61-2/9969-2777; $285 per adult, $203 per child age 5–17.
Sydney Active Tip: Hike the gentle Bondi to Bronte Coastwalk, which winds two miles along sandstone cliffs and white-sand beaches. Don’t miss the Aboriginal rock carvings, such as the shark and whale south of Mackenzies Point.
Sydney: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 8 city overall
No. 1 city in Australia, New Zealand + South Pacific