Sydney – sightsee like a tourist, wine and dine like a local

by Monique

Avoid tourist traps, like below average food at above average prices, by using this local knowledge of Sydney to discover great places to eat and drink while you're out on the sightseeing trail!

One of the hardest things about being new to a city is finding great places to eat without being sucked into ‘tourist trap’ restaurants and eateries. This guide will help you wine and dine like a local while you’re out ogling the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Visiting: the CBD blocks for shopping

There are various cafés and eateries around the city, to supply the many office workers with their morning and midday fuel. It can be hard to find the best of the best, however, so why not start with breakfast at the Grace Café? (Corner of York & King Streets, 77 York St, Sydney; (02) 9272 6888; Easy to miss if you’re not in the know, it’s underneath the Grace Hotel. Muesli and fruit salads start at around $7, omelettes around $15 or indulge in a big breakfast with eggs, sausages, tomatoes, hash-browns and sausages for only $18. Grab yourself an antipodean ‘flat white’ coffee while you are there.

So many shops, so little time… you may want to grab lunch on the run, so plan to do your shopping around Town Hall and the Galeries Victoria. Underneath the Galeries Victoria, among the trendy clothes and shoe shops, is a tiny sushi shop, a hidden gem one stumbles across while dashing to Town Hall train station. At Sushi Pak (Lower Ground, A4 The Galeries Victoria, 500 George St; 0419 400 001) a sushi handroll will only set you back around $3, and, if you go near the end of the day, you can grab great discounts.

Visiting: Darling Harbour

Ah Darling Harbour…where the boats reside. It has everything from privately owned dinghies, to steamboats, traditional sailboats like Captain Cook’s Endeavour and big cruise liners. It’s always worth a walk down here to watch what’s going on. Give your legs a break and grab a sugar hit at the Lindt Chocolat Café (Shop 104 - 105 Cockle Bay Wharf, Cockle Bay; (02) 9267 8064; Yes, it is every bit as wonderful as it sounds – make sure you try a signature hot chocolate, pouring the melted chocolate into your warm milk before sinking into chocolate heaven. There are varieties of Lindt Balls here which can not be found in retail shops, so I would advise buying some to accompany your hot chocolate, and some for the road! This is one of only six Lindt Cafés in the world (all within Australia), so don’t miss out.

Visiting: Sydney Harbour Bridge/Circular Quay

One can only assume that if you’re in Sydney, you’ll walk around Circular Quay and take in the views of the Harbour Bridge – as you well should. Tucked in among the expensive restaurants right on the Quay is the City Extra Restaurant (Shop E4, East Podium, Circular Quay; (02) 9241 1422; Open 24 hours, the menu here ranges from fish and chips, to lasagne and salmon salad; there is something for everyone. Surprisingly, it is affordable, with mains averaging from $15 to $25. Kids will love it, as the menus are disguised as newspapers, and adults can utilise the machine which will print your own newspaper onsite from various places around the world!

On the Quay side of the Bridge you’ll find one of Sydney’s most historic areas, ‘The Rocks’, where you will inevitably end up. Set up for tourists, it can be hard to grab a good, reliable bite without breaking the bank. Give The Argyle a go (18 Argyle Street, The Rocks; (02) 9247 5500; With a modern Australian menu averaging around $10 to $25 you can grab one of their tasty salads or burgers. Paying for food here is not essential though, as the office workers well know, when they flock here on a Friday night to utilise the free bar food from 4pm until 7pm. In the summer the beer garden is a treat (if you’re lucky they’ll put on an Aussie barbeque), and in the winter cosy up in a booth as you nod along to the soulful tunes. If you are male, it is worth a visit to the loo, as you can attend to your needs in a urinal booth, peering your head out over the crowd. It’s novelty value if nothing else!

Visiting: The Opera House

To finish off the evening, you may like to take in the views of the Opera House. Tourists may or may not know that there is actually a bar alongside the Opera House. Even locals never get sick of the spectacular setting of Opera Bar (Lower Concourse, Sydney Opera House; (02) 9247 1666; With views of the Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge, and of course the Opera House itself, you can settle back here and take in some live music as you sip champagne, or perhaps even try some of the bar’s very own beer. You’ll never want to leave!

Where to stay:

Holiday Inn Darling Harbour (68 Harbour Street, Sydney)

Located right on Darling Harbour on the outskirts of Chinatown, the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour is a fairly standard Holiday Inn with decent-sized rooms and comfortable beds, providing you with a haven right in the heart of the action. Prices range from around $100 for a basic double/twin to $400 for a suite, per night. If you’re into Chinese food, skip the hotel breakfast on the weekend and hop over to Chinatown for some yum cha at the Marigold Restaurant.

Grace Hotel (Corner of York & King Streets, 77 York St, Sydney)

Also in the heart of city, closer to the shopping district and the CBD, is the luxurious Grace Hotel. With great service and big rooms, you won’t regret staying here, either for a business trip or a romantic holiday away. Prices range from around $170 to $500 per night.

Sheraton on the Park (161 Elizabeth Street, Sydney)

If budget is no problem, the lavish 5-star Sheraton on the Park will not disappoint. Hyde Park is on your doorstep and many of the rooms of the Sheraton provide vast views of the park and the city surrounds. Prices range from around $500 to $1000 per night.