The charming inner Sydney suburb of Balmain combines a peaceful, close-knit village feel with creative flair and fascinating history, all only a ferry ride from the city centre. Walk the streets of this vibrant harbourside suburb, and you’ll discover lovingly restored workers’ cottages and terrace houses, along with an abundance of colourful pubs, cafes and shopping.
Balmain is known for its working-class and bohemian roots, and still bursts with creativity. Some of Australia's best-known writers, actors, film directors, musicians and artists call this pocket of Sydney home, and it’s easy to see why. The peninsula suburb is littered with leafy foreshore parks and sensational Sydney Harbour views.
Things to do
Shopping is a popular pastime in Balmain. Explore the boutiques along Darling Street, and pick up stylish fashions, homewares, art supplies, books and handmade jewellery. If bargains are more your style, head to the bustling Balmain Markets and Rozelle Collectors Market on weekends for fashion, farm-fresh produce, art and bric-a-brac. There are also several day spas along the high street for some indulgence.
Visit Australia’s oldest pool. Built in the 1880s, Dawn Fraser Baths is a tidal flow saltwater harbour pool, so when the tide is out there’s a sandy beach, which is popular with families. You can see another side of the harbour by visiting Goat Island, where there are guided tours of the area’s rich indigenous and convict heritage.
Eat & drink
Home to some of the harbour city’s oldest pubs, Balmain is known for its delightful collection of watering holes and beer gardens. The London Hotel dates back to 1870, while The Bald Rock was built in 1876, The Royal Oak in 1879 and The Riverview Hotel in 1880.
Since 1881, the 3 Weeds in neighbouring Rozelle has been a local favourite, and has now opened a Totti’s Rozelle eatery by Merivale in house. Other great options include The Balmain Hotel, Dick’s Hotel and Unity Hall Hotel, which has jazz on Sundays.
If you want something other than pub fare, you’ll find a pleasing range of great restaurants and cafes too, including One Ford Street for Southern Italian fare, Chon for Thai, Wilhelmina’s for share plates in a bohemian-chic setting, The Cottage Bar & Kitchen for pizza in a leafy courtyard and Phamous Kitchen for Vietnamese. For coffee and breakfast, try Contessa, Le Cafeier, Little Ethel’s, Café d’Yvoire and Ciao Thyme.
A great way to travel to this harbourside peninsula is by ferry from Circular Quat, which takes you under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can also catch a ferry to Balmain East from Barangaroo. Otherwise, there are a number of buses from the CBD that will take you over the Anzac Bridge to Balmain.