Pubs and bars have been a part of the social fabric of Sydney since settlement, and today the city's drinking scene encompasses everything from historic locals to boutique brewhouses and uber trendy rooftop hangouts. Local writer Joanne Karcz checks in with a list of ten must-visit venues.
With so many fabulous bars and pubs in Sydney, any list of the best ten will omit at least another ten that also deserve mention.
My list of ten of the best Sydney pubs and bars includes options that will enhance your visit to Sydney. These venues are either destinations in their own right or part of a bigger experience, and include historic Sydney pubs whose walls have many tales to tell, iconic waterfront watering holes, and rooftop bars that afford mind-blowing city and harbour views.
I’ve also included a couple of great ‘locals’, for reasons that will become apparent. So, let’s get started!
A walk across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is almost obligatory for every visitor to the city. Afterwards, I like to relax with a drink and lunch at the Australian Heritage Hotel. Located in Cumberland Street in The Rocks, the Australian is known for its gourmet kangaroo, emu and crocodile pizzas. The hotel has been operating on its current site for more than 100 years and still has many of its Edwardian features, including metal awnings, etched signage and saloon-style doors.
2. Hotel Palisade
There are three other fabulous historic pubs to check out in The Rocks. The first is the Hotel Palisade. 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.
3. Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Just a stone’s throw from there is the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Craft beer is brewed on site, in what is arguably Sydney’s oldest drinking den.
4. Hero of Waterloo
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.
5. O Bar
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 up the city sights as you go. See the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Olympic Park, the Prime Minister’s residence in Kirribilli, and even the Blue Mountains in the distance.
6. Opera Bar
If you decide to check out the Opera House more closely during your stay in Sydney, a guided tour is a fabulous way to do it. Afterwards, retire to the harbour-side Opera Bar for refreshments and a dining menu of seasonal specialities. This is quintessential ‘Sydney’. The location is spectacular, and you’ll find yourself mesmerised by the sun’s rays dancing on the gentle harbour swell. The Opera Bar often has live music in the evening.
7. Coogee Bay Hotel
Most visitors to Sydney head for the beach at some point during their stay. Many choose to walk the popular six-kilometre coastal trail between Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach, 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 (my daughter once played pool at the Coogee Bay Hotel with the Springboks!).
8. Watsons Bay Hotel
There are not many places in the world as beautiful as Sydney Harbour. One of the best spots to sit and take in this famous waterway is from another famous watering hole — the Watsons Bay Hotel. The sublime water views are the perfect accompaniment to a glass of white wine and a serve of fresh fish and chips.
For something different, I often take my visitors to Sydney for a walk along King Street in Newtown. It’s home to an eclectic range of stores that sell the wares of both emerging and established designers. 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 really relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
10. The Rose Hotel
I’ll wrap up this list of the best Sydney pubs and bars with an option that’s perfect for a drink before attending the theatre or a weekend jazz performance at the Seymour Centre in Chippendale. It’s The Rose Hotel, which has been a part of the Chippendale community for well over a century. Located on the corner of Cleveland and Shepherd Streets, the pub has an interesting interior and a beer garden with a welcoming feel. It’s not always easy to get a table, but we usually manage to find a spot!
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best Sydney pubs and bars? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Joanne Karcz is a Sydney-based writer and blogger. She 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 has travelled through Europe, South America and Southern Africa. She loves discovering new things to see and do in her own Sydney backyard, and blogs regularly about the city’s suburbs.