Ten of the best Sydney pubs and bars

Pub culture is alive and well across the country, although it may surprise you to learn that NSW has almost double the number of hotels as its closest rivals Queensland or Victoria - with a good percentage of them located in Sydney. Joanne Karcz checks in with ten must-visit watering holes around the harbour city…

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Hotel Palisade. Image: Gus Medero Photography

Ten of the best Sydney pubs and bars

With so many fabulous bars and pubs in Sydney, any list of ten will omit at least another ten also deserving mention.

My list of ten of the best Sydney pubs and bars includes options that will enhance any visit to Sydney. These venues are either destinations in their own right or part of a bigger experience, and include the historic Sydney pubs whose walls have many tales to tell, the waterfront watering holes that are absolute icons of the city, and the rooftop bars that afford incredible city and harbour views.

I’ve also included a couple of great ‘locals’, for reasons which will become apparent! Let’s get started.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs: The Australian Hotel. Image: Bigstock

A walk, or for the more adventurous, a climb across the Harbour Bridge is almost obligatory for any visitor to Sydney. Afterwards, I like to relax with a drink and lunch at the Australian Heritage Hotel.

Located in Cumberland Sreet, The Rocks, the Australian is known for its gourmet pizzas, including kangaroo, emu and crocodile. The hotel has been operating on its current site for more than 100 years and still has many of its Edwardian features, including the metal awnings, etched signage and saloon-style doors.

After a stroll through the recently opened Barangaroo Reserve, a mini pub crawl could be the go to visit three other historic locals located in The Rocks.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Henry Deane Bar, Hotel Palisade. Image courtesy of De Simone Designs

The first is the Hotel Palisade, which reopened last year after being closed since 2008. Perfect for a refreshing break from sightseeing or a pre-theatre meal, it now boasts a ground floor pub, boutique accommodation and the super-stylish rooftop Henry Deane Bar, which offers great views of the bridge and harbour.

Just a stone’s throw away is the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Craft beer is brewed on site, in what is arguably Sydney’s oldest hotel.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs: The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Image: Joanne Karcz

And the last but not least of this trio of characters is the quaint Hero of Waterloo, which dates back to the mid 1840s. The cellar (complete with wall shackles) has a tunnel entrance, which legend has it was used for rum smuggling. It can still be seen today. Live music on weekends adds to the atmosphere.

There are lots of great Sydney pub tours that cover The Rocks historic precinct.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs. Image courtesy of Hero of Waterloo

Not far from The Rocks on the 47th floor of Australia Square is the revolving O Bar. For the price of a drink (other than beer) you can travel 360 degrees over the course of an hour, soaking in the city sights. Besides the obvious Opera House and Harbour Bridge, look for the Sydney Cricket Ground, Olympic Park, the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence and even the Blue Mountains in the distance. O Bar is open seven nights from 5pm to late and for lunch on Fridays from 12 noon.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs. Image courtesy of O Bar and Dining

For a different view of the city, nothing beats the Sky Terrace, a rooftop bar atop The Star. It’s a great spot to enjoy views of the harbour and city before or after visiting the Casino or taking in a show at the Lyric. Sky Terrace is sometimes closed for private events or inclement weather – check before going.

Most, if not all visitors to Sydney head for the beach at some point during their stay. Many choose to walk the popular 6km coastal trail from Bondi Beach to Coogee, and here you’ll find another worthy addition to this list of ten of the best Sydney pubs. The iconic Coogee Bay Hotel boasts numerous bars and a popular beer garden. Famous rugby teams have been known to relax here (as a student, my daughter played pool at the Coogee Bay with the Springboks!).

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs. Image courtesy of Coogee Bay Hotel

There are not many places in the world as beautiful as Sydney Harbour. I like to take in the sights of our stunning waterway as my ferry makes its way towards another famous watering hole – the Watsons Bay Hotel. Here, views of the harbour and passing boats are the perfect accompaniment to a glass of white and fresh fish and chips.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Image courtesy of Watsons Bay Hotel

For something different I often take visitors for a walk along King Street, Newtown. The shops here are unique and eclectic. They include the wares of both emerging and established designers, as well as many specialist boutiques.

It’s here that I first stumbled across Corridor, a food and wine bar which, as its name implies, is long and narrow. Described as an ‘intimate nook’, it has a great community atmosphere.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Ten of the best Sydney pubs: Corridor. Image: Joanne Karcz

And finally, my go-to local before the theatre or weekend jazz at the Seymour Centre is The Rose Hotel in Chippendale. Located on the corner of Cleveland and Shepherd Streets, the beer garden has a lovely feel to it. It’s not always easy to get a table, but we usually manage to find a spot.

Ten of the best Sydney pubs

Image courtesy of The Rose Hotel

So there you have it. My choice of ten of the best Sydney pubs and bars. I hope you enjoy dropping in to these wonderful watering holes as much as I do.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten of the best Sydney pubs? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock


About the writer

Joanne Karcz published a blog when she walked the Camino de Santiago some years ago and has been writing about her travels ever since. She is also an aspiring travel photographer and takes her camera wherever she goes. Joanne loves discovering new things to see and do in her own Sydney backyard, and blogs regularly about the city’s suburbs. She has travelled through Europe and South America and taken a group of friends on the trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Her visits to Cuba and India were bucket list items, but she still has a few destinations to tick off!

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