A guide to Sydney's nightlife for any personality

Whether you like to dance into the evening, sip fancy cocktails, meet interesting new people or take a back seat in a quiet spot, Sydney has a night time option for you.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Jun 2023 -
min read

For the arts sceners 

If you seek a party-among-all-sorts kind of evening grab a ticket to just about anything at Oxford Art Factory, Oxford Street’s multi-vibe, multi-purpose space hosting parties, gigs and events on a changing roster. Then there’s Heaps Gay, a collective hosting everything from events to festivals, whose events are safe spaces for the queer community to party. Darlinghurst's Cafe Freda's, a neighbourhood eatery set on bustling Taylor Square, is also a good spot to people watch and be among some of Sydney’s artiest. Here the vibe is relaxed and stylish, a place you’ll find delicious snacks and drinks served up with DJs, exhibitions (in their upstairs gallery) and an amalgamation of creatives in a pastel-hued, sunlit space.  

Crowd watching performance at Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst

 Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst - Credit: Oxford Art Factory

While Cafe Freda’s and Oxford Art Factory offer a more local scene and vibe, head to art institution Museum of Contemporary Art's MCA Late for a more international and curated after-dark art experience. MCA Late is on from 5-9pm every Friday, offering exhibitions, live performances, artist talks and workshops, and snacks and drinks overlooking the harbour.  

Performance by Chachy Peñalver accompanied by Arrebato Ensemble and Zoe Velez at MCA Late 2021, Circular Quay

MCA Late, Circular Quay - Credit: Lexi Laphor

For the fancy cocktail drinkers 

Sydney’s premium cocktail scene is in a league of its own. Head to Newtown’s dedicated martini bar, Bar Planet, for expertly shaken (or stirred) then dramatically poured martinis (you have to see it!) set within a candle-lit cosmic-vibe space. Be sure to try the Scorpino, a cocktail with rotating flavours like red grapefruit sorbet, and sugarcane and dragon fruit. Just up the road is Ante, a sake and record bar. This is the place to sip from an extensive sake, umeshu, yuzushu and cocktail list, imparted by highly knowledgeable staff in a dimly lit, stylish Japanese-inspired space. The Hoshiko & Amaro is a must-order for those in favour of an adult lemon, lime and bitters.  

Bartender making a martini at Bar Planet, Newtown

Bar Planet, Newtown - Credit: Nikki To

Maybe Sammy, consistently named one of the best bars in the world since 2019, and home to the famous bubble cocktail, is an opulent city bar boasting a comprehensive, one-of-a-kind menu with a host of great-value options. From 4.30-5.30pm daily there are $7 mini cocktails, plus $13 Champagne minis all day. Whatever you order, a seat at the bar is highly recommended for capturing the bartenders in Instagrammable action.  

Woman enjoying a drink at Maybe Sammy cocktail bar in The Rocks, Sydney City

Maybe Sammy, The Rocks

For the dancers 

Students at The University of Sydney may be well-acquainted with The Marlborough Hotel, also known as the Marly Bar. Just a few blocks away from the uni, this student staple serves up a $6 two-hour happy hour plus there’s an underground rave cave called Tokyo Singsong – where parties and techno roll into the early hours. One suburb over in leafy Erskineville is the famous LGBTQIA+ disco institution, The Imperial. Slip into the historic, three-level bar for disco, flair and some of the best and loudest drag shows in Sydney.  

Club event at The Imperial, Erskineville

The Imperial, Erskineville

Near the CBD, look for Cliff Dive, a tiki bar serving up beers, theatrical cocktails and dance floors. Friday and Saturday are R&B and hip-hop heavy while Sunday is more techno orientated. For more options, check out this guide

People on the dancefloor at Cliff Dive, Darlinghurst

Cliff Dive, Darlinghurst - Credit: Cliff Dive

For the non-drinkers 

Nights out in Sydney are fun-filled, delicious and energetic for those who don’t drink too. At South Eveleigh bar Re, it’s all about sustainability and minimising waste across both its food and beverage menus. There is always a refreshing house soda non-alcoholic option, along with non-alc beers, too. In the CBD, PS40 is another purveyor of great no-alcohol drinks. Once famous for its killer sodas, think wattle cola and bush tonic, it now leans more heavily into cocktail making, with excellent seasonal non-alcoholic options such as a cold-pressed nectarine, native rosella, sake lees and Lyres Italian blood orange number. It also has a killer cocktail list if your company is looking to dabble. If you’re less into bar energy and more into a chat, Bean Sisters Cafe is a late-night Asian fusion cafe and dessert spot serving up incredibly intricate sweet treats like Shibuya-style thick toasts plus sushi tacos and pulled pork Croque Madames.  

Selection of bottle cocktails at PS40, Sydney CBD

PS40, Sydney CBD - Credit: PS40

For the snackers 

From Chinatown to hip bars, Sydney is a great late-night snack city. In Surry Hills, Tio’s is a self-proclaimed “margarita mansion”, shaking some of Sydney’s best drinks and serving free popcorn next to them. Plus, there are three different nachos, guacamole and a weekly $10 special marg. Five minutes down the road you’ll find karaoke institution Goros, a favourite late-night spot. Step inside the club-bar mash-up for custom-built karaoke rooms, yakitori, arcade games, DJs and an extensive sake and cocktail list. 

Nachos with guacamole at Tios, Surry Hills

Tio's Cerveceria, Surry Hills - Credit: Nikki To

Over the hill and into Chinatown and Thaitown, the are endless options – Friday night markets, snack sized noodle soups, venues open into the wee hours and a direct line to the bustling Darling Square. One of the most popular snack spots in all of Sydney is Mamak in Haymarket. Their famous roti canai draws lines down the street, plus it's also open till 2am on Fridays and Saturdays for late-night feasts.  

Chef preparing roti at Mamak, Haymarket

Mamak, Haymarket - Credit: Mamak

For the those wanting a good chat 

Perch outside or at a window seat inside at Newtown’s Continental Deli, and watch the world go by with a handful of gildas, a Martinny (tinned martini) and a pal. In Marrickville, Grifter is also a good spot for catching up out of the crowds, as are many of the Inner West’s breweries. Sink a few of their renowned schooners, without all the shoulder rubbing, at this child- and pet-friendly local favourite. Also in Marrickville, Where’s Nick is a quiet, small natural wine bar good for catch-ups and people watching out the front window. It’s exclusively walk-ins only and has a neat menu of snacks to choose from – the perfect spot for a peaceful catch-up with your mate.  

People enjoying a beer at Grifter Brewing Co, Marrickville

Grifter Brewing Co, Marrickville

For the music fans  

Sydney has live music of all genres playing every night of the week. Marrickville's Red Rattler describes itself as a “queer-run creative playground” and is a place where alternative arts, performance and activism flourish. In Newtown there’s Venue 505, an artist-run performance space and jazz bar supporting local musicians and international artists. Mary’s Underground at Circular Quay brings live music to the CBD in a velvet-covered dining room that used to house famous live music venue The Basement. Keep an eye on its roster of events to pick out famous acts or free weekly shows, covering everything from jazz to burlesque and punk. Grab a famous Mary’s Burger upstairs at Mary’s Circular Quay before the gig starts.  

Band performing live on stage at Venue 505, Newtown

Venue 505, Newtown - Credit: Venue 505

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