4 ways to spend Saturday night in Sydney
From cocktails with a view to fine dining by the beach, live music to theatre, Sydney knows how to turn on a good time come Saturday night.
Australia’s largest city is blessed with one of the world’s prettiest harbours, and a bevy of upscale cocktail bars and fine-dining restaurants poised to make the most of that sparkling outlook. It also has an increasingly diverse live music and theatre scene, with performances held in venues big and small, from hidden underground lounges to the legendary Sydney Opera House.
Begin your evening sipping a martini overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, dine with Bondi’s waves as your backdrop, or catch some jazz and a show – here’s how to enjoy the ultimate Saturday night in Sydney.
If you like cocktails with a view…
The most difficult question you have to grapple with when you arrive at Opera Bar is, where do you look? Up, at the pearly sails of the Sydney Opera House? Or maybe across the water to the familiar arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? This perennially popular, semi-open space at Circular Quay dazzles from every angle. Or you could shift instead from sea level to the city’s highest hangout at Bar 83, topping Sydney Tower. The retro-chic decor doesn’t distract from the view, which takes in wide expanses of the CBD and harbour, particularly beguiling as dusk falls and lights twinkle.
For yet another perspective, head to the inner-city suburb of Millers Point, where the Henry Deane caps the heritage . This luxe cocktail bar – comprising two levels in what was once the city’s tallest building – is all pink leather, copper and marble, with floor-to-ceiling windows framing the water all the way to the bridge.
Darling Harbour is your outlook at semi-open Smoke Bar, crowning the sculptural, three-storey Barangaroo House in this buzzing dining precinct. You could while away an evening with cocktails and next-level snacks, but more substantial sustenance awaits on lower floors, especially at restaurant Bea.
The inner-city does scenic bars well, but so do Sydney’s suburbs. In the east, you’ll find Coogee Pavilion sitting steps from the beach, each of its three floors featuring different wining and dining concepts. Head to the rooftop to explore four indoor and outdoor bars, draped in greenery and with the waves (and DJs) as your soundtrack. Or catch a ferry to Watson’s Bay to lose a day in the Beach Club at Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel. The city is silhouetted in the distance as dusk falls, music fills the air, cocktails flow – and the sand is within easy reach.
Head west to Parramatta to find one of the most opulent venues in Sydney. Perched on the 26th floor of the V by Crown development and boasting views of the Blue Mountains, the city and the skyline-in-progress of the surrounding suburb, Nick and Nora's pays homage to the roaring 30s with a lavish Art Deco fit out and an impressive champagne collection.
If you like dancing & live music…
Whether you’re into jazz, soul, rock or house, Sydney’s eclectic music scene aims to please – and with increasing abundance. While some venues house tens of thousands, where the city really stands out is in its intimate, character-filled outlets. Like Mary’s Underground, a subterranean bolthole at Circular Quay where you can eat lobster and steak frites while listening to jazz.
Make your way west to Newtown’s Enmore Theatre, which has entertained crowds with theatre and live music for more than a century. The venue may be intimate, but that’s why some of the world’s biggest entertainers love it. Down the road is The Vanguard, which has long played host to the greats in music. The gig list is a real mixed bag, ranging from blues to folk to burlesque from evening to evening.
Not far away, Lazybones Lounge in Marrickville is something you’d expect to find in a Paris backstreet, all leather sofas and chandeliers and with a performance roster covering everything from blues and soul to jazz and folk.
When most establishments shut their doors for the night, seek out The Soda Factory in Surry Hills, which continues to dish out the cocktails and hot dogs, with DJs and bands on the side. Entry is via a hidden door in the guise of a retro Coca-Cola machine. Less secret haunt and more Sydney Harbour is Glass Island, a three-level party boat sailing every Saturday (and Sunday) with DJs spinning soul, chill-out music, ’80s hits, house and everything in between.
If you like five-star dining…
Sydney has its fair share of restaurants with a view. Perhaps the finest of them all is Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, your outlook here the establishment’s namesake ocean baths adjoining the powdery arc of Bondi Beach. Order pretty plates of mod-Italian fare and try to tear your gaze from the horizon.
Just as fabled for its swoon-worthy vista is Quay – the only thing between you, the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are ferries coming and going on Circular Quay. From the amuse-bouche to petit fours, applauded chef Peter Gilmore’s food doesn’t miss a beat. And that theatrical landmark you overlook at Quay? Turns out you can dine there too, at Bennelong, with another meal conceived by Gilmore. Sit in style under the iconic white sails and enjoy meals heroing Australian produce.
Prepare to be hypnotised by the sparkling waters at LuMi Dining, set on a yacht-studded wharf in Darling Harbour’s suburb of Pyrmont. The Italian degustations are innovative and conversation-starting, prepared with finesse and packed with flavour. Or take a short walk to The Star complex, where the dining options range from , where chef Chase Kojima creates elegant Japanese fare, to chi-chi steakhouse .
Head to the Inner West suburb of Stanmore for a true taste of Australia at Sixpenny, where the dining room is dedicated to local makers – ceramicists, cabinet makers, glass blowers – and the kitchen is like the state on a plate. The space is small, but the flavours on the multi-course menu are big and memorable. Then jump over to the inner east where Surry Hills’ Firedoor is hot – in every sense of the word. From meats to seafood to vegetables, all produce here is cooked over fire, with the open kitchen adding sizzle to the drama of your meal.
If you like theatre…
From cabaret and comedy to drama and dance, the Sydney Opera House deserves its reputation as one of the world’s greatest stages for the performing arts. In reality, it boasts multiple stages, indoors and out – even its dramatic steps have hosted acts over the years. As has the surrounding water, with troupes setting up on a floating pavilion for the annual Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour extravaganza at Mrs Macquarie’s Point each March. Any performance here is a life-changing experience, with the bridge your backdrop and one of the world’s prettiest waterways before you.
Offerings are just as dramatic in the city’s official theatre district at Walsh Bay, home to Sydney Theatre Company, which has taken the pulse of the country’s performing arts scene since 1978. The annual season of shows is split between this home base, nearby Roslyn Packer Theatre and the Opera House. Also in Walsh Bay, visit Bangarra Dance Theatre, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation showcasing the beauty and spirituality of Australian culture through dance, soundscapes, music and design.
Housed inside one of Sydney’s most lavish buildings, the State Theatre transports you straight to the 1920s, the former music palace now hosting theatre film festivals, musical events and so much more – although it’s hard to focus on the productions, given the enormous chandeliers, frescoed domed ceilings and mosaic-tiled floors. Over at Pyrmont, the Sydney Lyric has capacity to host chart-topping shows like recent hit Hamilton, as does the Capitol Theatre in the heart of Chinatown, where you’ll find a dreamy stage and a roster of reliably family friendly shows.