Discover Sydney's edgy, art-infused, urban renewal gem.
By Sue Gough Henly
Today's darling of urban reinvention, the once gritty suburb of Chippendale (Chippo to the locals), features a sustainably designed, mixed-use urban village, one of the world's best galleries of contemporary Chinese art, an edgy boutique hotel, a cheap Singapore-style hawkers market, plus lots of tucked-away funky spaces to discover.
- Explore Central Park, one of Australia's best examples of urban reinvention
- Visit White Rabbit and other cutting-edge art galleries
- Feast at bakeries, hawkers markets and a diverse array of edgy restaurants
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Top things to do in Chippendale
Blow your mind at White Rabbit and other art galleries
Start your art exploration at the remarkable (and free) four-storey White Rabbit Gallery, radically transformed from an old knitting factory and now housing the world's largest and most significant collection of contemporary Chinese art outside China. Enjoy a free guided tour to understand the edgy political pop art, enormous sculptures and other eccentric creations on display. The cafe serves fabulous dumplings and a wide range of Chinese and Taiwanese teas including oolong, white teas, chrysanthemum teas and cooling lychee or green iced tea. Visit Galerie Pom Pom for cutting-edge installations from the hottest Sydney and Melbourne-based artists, artist-run Wellington St Projects for its provocative raw works, and Tiny Tailor for artworks and singular design pieces. While you're in the neighbourhood, check out its impressive street art. The upstairs Goodspace gallery at the Lord Gladstone Hotel exhibits the work of street artists. If you would rather explore with a local guide, take the Chippendale-Redfern Tour with Culture Scouts, which combines visits to art galleries and shopping boutiques with the insider story on how this area evolved. For more information on the Chippendale arts scene check out the Chippendale Creative Precinct.
Admire the cutting-edge architecture
Chippendale is one of Australia’s best examples of urban reinvention. Since Sydney’s earliest days, this suburb had been a slum surrounding an enormous brewery. When the brewery finally closed in 2005, a visionary by the name of Dr Stanley Quek decided to transform its heritage buildings into one of Australia’s most exciting urban renewal precincts. Now called Central Park, it is a mixed-use urban village blending apartments, offices, shops (check out Japan’s most famous discount store, Daiso), restaurants and a public park. Go for a stroll to admire its sustainable skyscraper covered by the world's tallest vertical garden, a 150 metre (492 foot) high tapestry of plants, flowers and vines created by French botanist Patrick Blanc. And wander around outdoor sculptures set in a bucolic lawn and garden, including Turpin and Crawford's minimalist wind-influenced Halo. Across the road at the University of Technology Sydney, check out the first Australian building designed by Frank Gehry, nicknamed "the squashed brown paper bag building". On your neighbourhood meanderings, also look for heritage-listed Strickland House, which was Sydney’s first public housing project, as well as White Rabbit Gallery owner Judith Neilson’s house Indigo Slam, designed as a piece of sculpture to be lived in.
Feast on Asian street food at contemporary outdoor hawker centre Spice Alley, where permanent stalls are lined up across the facade of Kensington Street's heritage terrace houses and a small lantern-lit courtyard buzzes with happy diners. The stalls are run by veterans of some of Sydney's most popular South-East Asian restaurants. Alex Lee Kitchen specialises in Nyonya cuisine, a Chinese-Malay fusion, with dishes including chicken rice, roti (Indian flatbread) and sambal. Old Jim Kee offers sweet, frothed Malaysian milk tea alongside curry puffs and fried flat noodles with sausage, prawns, fish cake, bean sprouts and egg. Bang Luck specialises in Thai street market curries and noodle dishes plus a fabulous coconut, mango and mung bean sticky rice, while Hong Kong Diner offers a mashup of Chinatown's favourite fast foods such as congee, prawn dumplings and hot pots. It is a great way to enjoy a warm summer night. For something more upmarket, go to Ester, which offers a sublime and reasonably priced cutting-edge dining experience in a pared-back space with an open kitchen. Try anything that's come out of the wood fired oven. The wine list is exceptional too. LP's Quality Meats is the place to go for smoked and cured meats as well as negroni cocktails and great, if expensive, wines. And for all your bread, pastry and coffee needs, head to Brickfields, which is primarily a bakery and takeaway coffee bar. Must-haves include a ciabatta roll filled with chorizo and spiced red cabbage, and syrup-soaked Persian love cakes. Buzzing Café Giulia, a long narrow space in a renovated 100-year-old butcher shop, offers inspired lunchtime bagels, rolls and burgers plus good coffee, juices, beer and wine. Ippudo, downstairs in the Central Park complex, is the first Australian branch of the famed Japanese ramen stores and does some of the best ramen in Sydney.
Rest your head and dine in-house
Stay at the edgy, boutique Old Clare Hotel, which has been cleverly created from the historic bricks, concrete and timber of an old pub and the adjacent Carlton United Brewery Administration Building (they’re joined by a glass and steel atrium). The rooms have a pared-back, post-Industrial feel, with much of the original brickwork exposed. Soak up some of Sydney’s famous sunshine at the rooftop lap pool and bar. Enjoy witty dishes at the casual, high-ceiling, stone-pillared, all-day brasserie Kensington Street Social. Or try an inspired seasonal degustation menu (which changes weekly) from Clayton Wells (formerly of Momofuku Seiobo) at sleek, monochromatic Automata.
There are pubs for all persuasions in Chippendale. The Rose Hotel is popular with the university crowd as well as locals watching the rugby league. The beer garden out back is perennially popular. The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen has been reimagined with an airy, almost beachy decor, complete with board games, a packed bookshelf and a sunny beer garden with umbrellas and picnic tables. Enjoy a great selection of craft beers, interesting wines and a seasonal menu of updated pub classics. Zigi's Art Wine Cheese Bar has an interesting concept while it waits for their liquor licence: it is operating as a bring your own (BYO) wine bar while it supplies the cheese. The selection of Australian and international soft, hard, white mould, and washed rind cow, sheep and goat's cheese is sensational. Freda's is a neighbourhood bar with an artsy vibe that every so often does a zany light installation with sound and video.
How to get there
Sydney's Central Station is on the north-eastern fringe of Chippendale and services all city train lines. Buses run from Sydney city centre to Broadway in the heart of Chippendale and take 20 minutes. Chippendale is about a 20 minute taxi ride from Sydney Airport.