Ever-buzzing bars and rainbow flags come together in this cosmopolitan centre.
By Alissa Jenkins
With a past as colourful as the rainbow flags that wave across Darlinghurst, this inner-city suburb has come a long way since being the epicentre of Sydney's underworld during the early 20th century. Aside from the characteristic terrace houses that still line the streets, the only hangover from Darlinghurst's scarlet history is round-the-clock entertainment. Now packed with designer boutiques, impressive galleries, lively coffee houses and a flourishing gay pride culture, the greatest danger is over indulging.
- Dive into the small bar scene
- Explore the array of local galleries
- Sample the vibrant coffee culture
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Top things to do in Darlinghurst
Explore the buzzing small bar scene
Regarded as the heart of Sydney’s burgeoning small bar scene, Darlinghurst is littered with humming hot spots that promise a fun night out. Love Tilly Devine is something of a local landmark. A laneway wine bar with just 40 seats, it rewards early arriving patrons with a 300-strong wine list and Italian bites. A 10 minute walk away on Darlinghurst Road is Eau de Vie, a 1920s-inspired cocktail bar complete with moody lighting, leather lounges and the best whisky cocktails in town. Speaking of whisky, Shady Pines Saloon is a local favourite famed for its cowboy fit out, hard liquor, craft ales and bowls of peanuts. This Must Be The Place, located on Oxford Street, might be a casual little gem but the cocktails are serious; try the signature spritzes. Alternatively, stepping away from small bars entirely is Darlinghurst institution Oxford Art Factory, the home of Sydney hipsters and a venue for some of the biggest touring musical acts.
Join in the LGBTQI festivities
Darlinghurst is synonymous with gay pride, as seen across the neighbourhood with rainbow flags, rainbow street art (visit Taylor Square) and one of the biggest events on the local calendar, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Capturing the imagination of Sydneysiders every year with three weeks of fairs, exhibitions and parties, it culminates with a dazzling, world-famous parade along Oxford Street. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a host of popular gay bars nearby that are beloved by not just the LGBTQI community, but those drawn by the impressive DJs, lively dance floors and excellent cocktails.
Enjoy coffee culture
Big nights go hand in hand with caffeinated mornings and Darlinghurst has plenty of options for a superb brew. Edition Coffee Roasters is a popular hangout, revered for creatively combining Nordic and Japanese cuisine at brunch alongside artisanal coffee in a minimalist all-white cafe space. Bootsdarling is a delightfully rustic breakfast alternative. Its Melbourne-roasted coffee is best enjoyed with the zucchini, corn and ricotta fritters. But if you'd rather trade your usual coffee for a more heavy-duty breakfast beverage, Bloody Mary's on Victoria Street is Sydney's only bar dedicated entirely to its namesake cocktail. In fact, there’s eight different kinds to choose from, topped with all kinds of decadent American-inspired garnishes.
Wander around galleries
Darlinghurst is a hotbed for creativity and self-expression, so it’s only natural that many galleries can be found here. Gallery 9 champions both up-and-coming and established local artists, while Black Eye Gallery promises an engaging line-up of photography exhibitions. The Artery focuses on Aboriginal art from remote communities across Australia. For a taste of convict history, the old Darlinghurst Gaol is now the National Art School, with regular exhibitions housed within in the former prison.
Stay in a boutique hotel
When it comes to Darlinghurst's bars, restaurants, shops and galleries, there's a strong custom-made or boutique flavour, which is also clear in the local accommodation offerings. The Kirketon Hotel houses just 40 guest rooms, each featuring modern conveniences and luxurious furnishings. The hotel is also home to aforementioned underground cocktail bar Eau de Vie and popular Asian restaurant Fu Manchu. On the cusp of Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, just behind the famous Coca-Cola billboard, is the Larmont Sydney by Lancemore, with 76 modern rooms each comprising a plush king-sized bed, sleek decor and an in-room iPad to serve as your personal concierge.
How to get there
Situated less than two kilometres (one mile) southeast of Sydney's city centre, between Kings Cross and Surry Hills, you can reach Darlinghurst by train, bus or on foot. From Sydney Town Hall, take a 15 minute bus ride (catch the M40 or 333) to the intersection of two of Darlinghurst’s main thoroughfares, Oxford Street and Darlinghurst Road.