How to take a World’s Best trip to Sydney.
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
Guillaume at Bennelong Bennelong Point; 61-2/9241-1999; guillaumeatbennelong.com.au; drinks for two $30.
Hunky Dory Social Club 215 Oxford St.; 61-2/9331-0442; hdsc.com.au; drinks for two $40.
Manly Pavilion Dining Room & Bar W. Esplanade; 61-2/9949-9011; manlypavilion.com.au; dinner for two $170.
Rockpool Bar & Grill 66 Hunter St.; 61-2/8078-1900; rockpool.com; dinner for two $180.
Shady Pines Saloon Shop 4, 256 Crown St.; no phone; shadypinessaloon.com; drinks for two $20.
Sticky Bar 182 Campbell St., second fl.; 61-4/1609-6916; tablefor20.blogspot.com; drinks for two $23.
Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point; 61-2/9250-7111; sydneyoperahouse.com.
Sydney Theatre Company Pier 4, Hickson Rd.; 61-2/9250-1777; sydneytheatre.com.au.
Just south of Sydney Harbour, the InterContinental hotel is adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens and only a 10-minute walk from the Opera House. Rising from the sandstone façade of the 1851 Treasury Building, the hotel houses a total of 509 rooms and 28 suites, each decorated in warm neutral shades with deep purple accents. Many rooms have built-in window seats with panoramic views of the harbor, although the most impressive vantage point is the rooftop club lounge. Additional amenities include a salon, a health club with an indoor pool, and two restaurants serving modern European and international cuisine.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
34 floors of polished, updated rooms and public spaces, plus the city’s largest outdoor pool. From the sky-high atrium lobby to the clubby hotel bar and spacious outdoor pool, this classic in the Rocks never disappoints. Best for Unbeatable service.
Park Hyatt Sydney
Short of sleeping inside the Sydney Opera House itself (if only!), the next best thing has got to be snoozing at the Park Hyatt Sydney, which has snagged a brilliant spot curving around the point opposite just in front of the Harbour Bridge. This sinuous contemporary stone building is fairly low-rise, in keeping with its setting, but the heated rooftop pool still boasts stellar views. Kick back on a chaise lounge or nab a private cabin. The Spa is a great place to unwind, harnessing local iKOU products from the Blue Mountains. The 155 zen-sleek rooms and suites here are pretty snazzy, with neutral hues, huge windows, marble baths, balconies, and Aboriginal art. Personal butlers are available around the clock. Waterfront wining and dining means you won't want to leave.
The Westin Sydney
Former post office building with skyscraper annex in a central downtown location; the city's best hotel for business travelers, with plenty of executive-level amenities.
Room to Book: Fitness buffs will love the workout rooms for their exercise equipment, including treadmills.
Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay
Glass-and-concrete skyscraper featuring a grand 3-floor lobby, along the harbor.