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.
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.
- Shop at some of the city’s best design stores
- Explore cutting-edge galleries, including White Rabbit
- Marvel at Sydney’s architectural gems, old and new
- Dine on superb food in beautifully designed spaces
Start your design odyssey by booking into your digs, the Paramount House Hotel in inner city Surry Hills. The hotel occupies a 1940s brick building that formerly housed the Paramount Picture Studios and was renovated in 2018: a striking copper-screen now sits atop the original building, and the interiors are a divine mingling of old and new. You’ll need fuel for the day ahead, so pop into the industrial-chic Paramount Coffee Project on the ground floor.
Take a 20min 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.
Wander back to George Street to The Old Clare Hotel, a classically styled 1930s Sydney pub that underwent a fabulous facelift and reopened in 2015. Keep walking down Kensington Street to find the cheap Asian eats of Spice Alley, as well as a number of fantastic eateries from tapas-style Paripe to contemporary Korean at Jung Sung.
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.
Paddo overflows with shopping opportunities. Your must-see list should include Dinosaur Designs, Great Dane, Jardan, Opus 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.
Tonight, we’re not moving far from home. Before you dine at acclaimed Poly, in the Paramount House Hotel precinct, try an aperitif at Soultrap, a two-minute walk away.
Mistelles, sweet French spirits, are the specialty here, served alongside owner Christophe Lehoux’s millinery creations in an underground space that’s seriously cool, a 2min walk away.
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; 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 apartments, the Treasury Building, BMA House, Parliament House, Sydney Hospital and the World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks.
Just behind Macquarie Street is the expansive Royal Botanic Garden, home to the classically elegant Art Gallery of NSW, built between 1896 and 1909. Spend the rest of the morning browsing the gallery’s broad collections, particularly the Aboriginal and Pacific works.
The gallery’s restaurant is “curated” by A-list chef Matt Moran, so drop in for a light snack or the full works.
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.
Sydney’s newest precinct, Barangaroo, is a 15min walk away. The area, a former disused container terminal, 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.
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.
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”.
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.
Breakfast at pretty-as-a-picture The Mayflower in Darlinghurst 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. The best way to explore its stunning architecture (from 1820s pubs to classic terrace houses) is on a 90min walking tour.
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.
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 Joseph Hyde in Llankelly Place for a delectable toastie or a great coffee.
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.