Discover the eclectic heart of this Sydney inner city suburb, filled with some of the city's best options for drinks, dinner and more than its share of culture.
By Alissa Jenkings
Once home to Sydney's rag trade, this buzzing inner city neighbourhood has converted its industrial warehouses into swanky gallery spaces and million-dollar apartments. On the southern reaches of Sydney's city centre, Surry Hills is a place of contrasts, of streets lined with blossoming jacaranda trees, upscale boutiques and renovated terrace houses, as well as edgy dive bars and the odd colourful character. But the area's most defining trait is an ever-changing food scene. It's home to some of the best coffee in the city, and there's no shortage of new eateries, serving everything from New York-style bagels to award-winning Japanese fare.
- Sample the excellent coffee, brunch and dinner options
- Peruse the high-end boutiques and funky vintage stores on Crown Street
- See a live performance at the acclaimed Belvoir Street Theatre
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Top things to do in Surry Hills
Shop the boutiques along Crown Street
Crown Street is undoubtedly the royal retail gem in Surry Hills, boasting a vast stretch of designer homeware stores, upscale boutiques, vintage outfits and various pop-ups. Music lovers needn't go past TITLE for everything from vinyl records to books and CDs. Conquer the quest for the perfect greeting card at charming stationery specialty store, Paper 2. Upcycled clothing never looked as good as the range at vintage hotspot Cream on Crown, while Somedays is a nod to Nordic fashion. More elegant than eclectic, Collector Store is like a gallery of homewares and fashion from local and international designers, on par with The Standard Store, which stocks an impressive range of handpicked pieces showcasing the finest fabrics and designs from around the world. You'll also find Parisian fashion label APC on Crown Street — it's the first store in Sydney for the French brand, known for minimalist designs and raw cut denim.
Eat at some of Sydney’s best cafes and restaurants
No matter the time of day, there's always an excuse to sample the extensive list of foodie delights in Surry Hills. Bourke Street Bakery, Bills and Four Ate Five are longstanding breakfast favourites with incredible coffee, and there's been a steady rise of noteworthy newer additions too. Artificer Coffee has a food-free coffee menu that's as minimalist as its floor-to-ceiling American oak interior. Paramount Coffee Project does a delicious take on American Deep South breakfasts (treat yourself to the buttermilk fried chicken waffle), while Reuben Hills has a more South American twist to its menu. Later in the day, the choices are even more varied. Among the newcomers is Butter, an unexpectedly cool hybrid of fried chicken restaurant, sneaker store and Champagne bar, while Nomad is all about Mediterranean fare to share in its converted warehouse. At the higher end of the culinary spectrum is Toko, serving exquisite, award-winning Japanese. Longrain is a Sydney institution, famed for its impeccable South-East Asian cuisine.
Bar hop around Surry Hills
There's a bar for every occasion in Surry Hills, from a relaxed afternoon brew in The Beresford's outdoor beer garden, to dancing the night away at 1950s-inspired The Soda Factory, complete with diner-like booths and retro tunes. Among the biggest crowd pleasers is the recently renovated Dolphin Hotel, with buzzing bar areas, dining room, wine room and open-air terrace all in a contemporary three-level design. Tapping into the small bar movement is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Button Bar, decked out with dark timber, candlelight and an extensive cocktail list. Wine lovers ought to visit Mille Vini (A Thousand Wines in Italian) for an intimate space, moreish appetisers and an unparalleled European wine list (there's not quite a thousand, but enough).
Bask in the sun at Prince Alfred Park
Despite this being an especially urban part of the city, right beside Central Station is Prince Alfred Park. Spanning across almost eight hectares (20 acres) are vast expanses of lush green lawns, shady trees, outdoor seating, a heated swimming pool, children's playground, basketball courts, tennis courts and a paved exercise circuit. An idyllic setting for a sunny day, the park draws young and old, Sydneysiders and visitors alike.
See a performance at the Belvoir Street Theatre
As the professional home of Belvoir, one of Australia's most celebrated theatre companies, this theatre stages impressive performances year round. It showcases the talents of some of the country's biggest (and most promising) playwrights, directors, actors and designers. It's a surprisingly intimate experience, seating just 350 patrons in the Upstairs Theatre and 80 in the Downstairs Theatre. Many of Australia's most famous actors have performed here, including Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Judy Davis and David Wenham. Alternatively, see a cult classic or a new release film at the historic Golden Age Cinema and Bar on Commonwealth Street. Once the screening room for the Paramount Pictures film company, it's been reinvented as a popular Art Deco entertainment space.
How to get there
Sydney's Central Station is on the western fringe of Surry Hills and services all city train lines. Buses run from the city centre to Crown Street in the heart of Surry Hills and take 25 minutes. Surry Hills is about a 20 minute taxi ride from Sydney Airport.