A design lover's guide to Sydney

For lovers of design, Sydney presents endless opportunities to discover all things bright and beautiful, from avant-garde addresses to stylish bars, boutiques and businesses.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Sep 2023 -
min read

Like your long weekends with a side-serving of sublime design? Then Sydney is the perfect destination. The Emerald City offers up architecture both cutting-edge and historic, eateries and bars where the design shines as bright as the food offerings, world-class art.




Paramount House Hotel is located at

  • 80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
  • It’s a 10min walk from Central Station
The exterior of Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills, Inner Sydney


Start your design odyssey by booking into your digs, the Paramount House Hotel in inner city Surry Hills. The hotel occupies the former 1940s Paramount Picture Studios – it opened after renovation in 2018. A striking copper-screen now sits atop the original building and the interiors meld modern design with Japanese touches, such as wooden baths. You’ll need fuel for the day ahead, so pop into the industrial-chic Paramount Coffee Project on the ground floor.

Paramount House Hotel. Image Credit: Tom Ross

Paramount House Hotel - Credit: Tom Ross | Paramount House Hotel

Take a 25min walk to Chippendale, home to the White Rabbit Gallery. Here, philanthropist Judith Neilson has amassed one of the world’s greatest collections of modern Chinese art, housed across the four floors of an ex-Rolls Royce service depot.

Two modern architectural masterpieces are close by – the striking double towers of One Central Park, the work of French architect Jean Nouvel; and the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, part of the University of Technology’s Sydney campus. The former is famed for its vertical landscaping; the latter for its extraordinary brick-work.

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at University of Technology Sydney in Ultimo, Sydney

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, University of Technology Sydney

Wander back to George Street to The Old Clare Hotel, a former 1940s Sydney pub that underwent renovations and reopened as a hotel in 2015 – it also has an on-site restaurant, Longshore, serving contemporary Australian dishes with a focus on local seafood. Keep walking down Kensington Street to find affordable eats in Spice Alley, as well as a number of fantastic eateries from tapas-style Paripe to contemporary Korean at Jung Sung

The Old Clare Hotel - Credit: SONRAC Services Pty Ltd

The Clare suite at The Old Clare Hotel - Credit: SONRAC Services Pty Ltd


Hop in a taxi or ride share, and zoom off to nearby Paddington, where impeccably renovated terrace houses rub shoulders with designer boutiques. Wander along the main drag, Oxford Street, then detour down picturesque thoroughfares such as William Street.

Couple enjoying a day of shopping along William Street in Paddington, Inner Sydney

Shopping on William Street, Paddington

Paddo, as the locals call it, is lined with shopping opportunities. Your must-see list should include Dinosaur Designs, MCM House, Jardan and Utopia Goods for homewares, and for fashion, head to The Intersection, on the corner of Glenmore Road and Oxford Street, for Australian labels galore.


For dinner, don’t stray too far from the hotel. Dine at acclaimed Poly, a restaurant and natural wine bar in the basement of Paramount House Hotel. Before or after dinner, drop into walk-in-only bar The Rover for a drink – it’s just a 3min walk away and perfect for classic cocktails. Equally close by is Tio’s, an ‘inauthentic margarita mansion’ serving some of Sydney’s best cocktails and free popcorn. 

Poly - Paramount House Hotel’s onsite restaurant

Poly, Paramount House Hotel’s onsite restaurant - Credit: Poly Restaurant and Bar




Bennelong restaurant is located at

  • Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point NSW 2000
  • It’s a 6min walk from Circular Quay
Bennelong, Sydney - Credit: Brett Stevens - Fink Group


From Central Station, catch a train to Wynyard, where you can admire Chris Fox’s striking Interloop sculpture, suspended above the York Street escalators. Head to Grosvenor Place for delectable brekky treats at Banksia Bakehouse.

Within close proximity are a clutch of Sydney’s most acclaimed modern buildings. Unmissable are EY’s Sydney headquarters at 200 George Street; Sydney’s first high-rise office tower, Australia Square (designed by Harry Seidler) at 264 George Street; modern skyscraper 1 Bligh Street; and Renzo Piano’s Aurora Place at 88 Phillip Street.

Piano’s landmark apartment block brings you firmly into Sydney’s heritage quarter. Wander north and south along Macquarie Street to see historic buildings such as the 1920s Astor building, the Treasury Building, BMA House, Parliament House, Sydney Hospital and the World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks.

Hyde Park Barracks in City Centre, Sydney City

Hyde Park Barracks - Credit: Douglas Riley | Sydney Living Museums

Just behind Macquarie Street is the expansive Royal Botanic Garden, home to the classically elegant Art Gallery of NSW. Spend the rest of the morning browsing the gallery’s broad collections, particularly the Yiribana Gallery in the North Building. The North Building of AGNSW was designed by award-winning architects SANAA, and comprises of a series of light-filled pavilions and outdoor terraces. The gallery’s food and drink offering is a collaboration between The Fresh Collective and renowned Australian chefs Matt Moran and Clayton Wells, Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, Palisa Anderson and Mindy Woods. 

People visiting the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney

People visiting the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 


Head into the city proper to see other landmark heritage buildings such as The Strand Arcade, the Queen Victoria Building and Sydney Town Hall. Both the Strand and QVB offer serious shopping opportunities – the former overflowing with Australian designer labels, the latter with top-end international brands like Coach, Jimmy Choo and Longchamp.

Shoppers in Queen Victoria Building in Sydney's CBD

Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

After some time well spent shopping, head to Barangaroo – a 15min walk from The Strand. The area occupies a stunning waterfront perch and takes its design very seriously. Highlights include Crown Sydney, the triple peaks of International Towers and the lovely Barangaroo Reserve

Men running through by Nawi Cove, Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo, Sydney City

Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo

Walk back to your hotel via Haymarket, home to Chinatown, and stop at Edition Coffee Roasters for excellent brews in a serene, Japanese-inspired concrete space.


Start with cocktails at Bar 83, one of the city’s best – and highest – drink spots, on the 83rd level of Sydney Tower. In reds, whites and golds, the space is seriously retro, in a very modern kind of way.

 Views across Sydney from Bar 83 at Sydney Tower, Sydney CBD

Bar 83, Sydney

Then it’s onto dinner in the building that defines the harbour city – the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Dining at Bennelong is not only an object lesson in five-star dining, but it gives you an insider’s view of the extraordinary interiors of “the House”.

The 2016 supermoon rising over Sydney Harbour on November 14, 2016, Sydney Harbour, Sydney City

Opera House, Sydney Harbour

After dinner, wander back towards Circular Quay and across to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s forecourt to marvel at Secret World of a Starlight Ember, a striking sculpture by Australian-Chinese artist Lindy Lee.




The MCA is located at

  • 140 George Street,The Rocks NSW 2000
  • It’s a 2min walk from Circular Quay
Couple enjoying coffee with views of Sydney Harbour from the MCA Cafe, The Rocks


Breakfast at the Instagram-worthy Bills in Surry Hills is first, then hop on a bus on Oxford Street to head to Circular Quay and The Rocks, one of the city’s oldest precincts.

Group enjoying a historical tour of The Rocks with The Rocks Walking Tour company in Sydney

The Rocks Walking Tour, The Rocks 

When your tour finishes, spend an hour or two exploring the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which are split between the beautifully restored 1950s Maritime Services Board building and the ultra-modern Mordant Wing, designed by leading architect Sam Marshall.

Viewing an installation in the Museum of Contemporary Art - Credit: Anna Kucera | Museum of Contemporary Art

Viewing an installation in the Museum of Contemporary Art - Credit: Anna Kucera | Museum of Contemporary Art


Kings Cross, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay, just east of the city, form a fascinating triangle that you can explore at your leisure this afternoon. (Kings Cross is easily accessible by train.)

Stroll elegant Macleay Street, which is dotted with Art Deco apartment buildings and fabulous homewares stores, including Macleay on Manning, Becker Minty and the flagship store of Australian interior designer Greg Natale. Pop into Room 10 on Llankelly Place for a delicious sandwich or a great coffee. 

Patrons enjoying breakfast at laneway cafe Room 10 in Potts Point

Room 10, Potts Point

Just off Macleay Street are Billyard and Onslow Avenues and Ithaca Road, all of which have beautiful examples of 1930s apartment buildings. Boomerang, a 1920s private residence and one of the most expensive homes ever sold in Australia, sits behind a high wall at 42 Billyard Avenue.

As the afternoon fades, your design weekend comes to a very very stylish close.

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