Discover a rich history and vibrant multicultural food and arts scene in Sydney’s second largest city. The commercial heart of Western Sydney, Parramatta also boasts plenty of natural beauty, thanks to its riverside location; UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict sites; and oodles of restaurants, shops and festivals.
Things to do
Home to a melting pot of cultures, Parramatta enjoys a vibrant arts and culture offering, which includes world-class performances and annual festivals such as the popular Parramasala and Parramatta Lanes. For cultural enthusiasts, the first stop is Riverside Theatre, a performance arts centre that hosts over 1,000 events a year. Next, scope out an exhibition at Pari, an artist-run initiative dedicated to telling hyper-local stories through contemporary art.
Pop into the Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre to pick up maps and advice on touring the area. Walk, cycle or join an Aboriginal cultural tour along the pretty Parramatta River, which winds past Old Government House – the country residence of the first 10 governors of the Sydney colony – in beautiful Parramatta Park. Both spots are World Heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites.
Visit the spot where former convict James Ruse successfully grew the colony’s first wheat crop in 1791 and tour the 1835-built Experiment Farm Cottage. Wool pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur owned Elizabeth Farm, an Australian colonial homestead. The site contains the oldest surviving European building in Australia. For more history, visit John Macarthur's Hambledon Cottage Museum.
A short stroll from Elizabeth Farm is Rosehill Gardens Racecourse, or race-goers will know it better as the home of the richest horse race in the world for two-year-old thoroughbreds – the Golden Slipper. Check out the events calendar for more race days, as well as other shows, exhibitions, festivals and historical tours.
Eat & drink
Head to popular eat streets along Church Street and Wigram Road to find relaxed restaurants and cafes, serving an assortment of cuisines, from Asian and Italian to everything in between. Local favourites include Circa Espresso, for its ridiculously good coffee and tasty brunches; Temasek, for its flavour-filled Singaporean-Malay dishes; Pho Pasteur, for its bowls of Vietnamese pho; and Holy Basil for Thai – the Parramatta outpost is just as popular as its sister venue in Canley Heights.
In the new Parramatta Square dining precinct, head to Lilymu for pan-Asian and CicciaBella Trattoria + Bar for classic Italian food. For one of the prettiest brunches in Sydney, stop by the Social Hideout.
Parramatta’s southern neighbour Harris Park, a veritable ‘Little India’, is a guaranteed good feed. The main strip is lit up with dozens of delicious eateries and street stalls, including the popular Chatkazz, Dosa Hut and Hyderabad House. For a behind-the-scenes look, join an I Ate My Way Through tour.
There’s also a buzzy nightlife, with plenty of bars to hop between, including Nick and Nora's, a rooftop champagne bar offering views from the 26th floor. For riverside views, stop by the sprawling, 350-seat Alex & Co for cocktails. The beer gardens at The Post and The Albion Hotel also make for a perfect perch on a sunny afternoon.
A delightful way to travel to Parramatta is by ferry from Circular Quay, gliding under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and along Parramatta River past Sydney Olympic Park to Parramatta Wharf. The scenic trip is about 85min. The train from Central Station is about 25min and the drive is 30min.