You’re in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – it’s time to drink in the views. Understandably, Sydney comes with plenty of bars and pubs that offer panoramas over the city and its dazzling harbour. Whatever your location or your tipple of choice, here are standout establishments to enjoy a cold one in – and get some perspective of – Australia’s largest city.
Great for: Postcard-worthy views of the Opera House and classic pub vibes.
When it comes to sparkling harbour views, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better vantage than this. With one of the most photographed outlooks in Sydney, The Glenmore Hotel offers dreamy water views all the way to the Sydney Opera House, ideally enjoyed with a beer in one hand and a burger in the other. Unlike its equally wonderful, but more buttoned-up cousin Opera Bar across Circular Quay, The Glenmore is all about laid-back pub vibes.
Yes, you can go a little bit fancy with oysters and polenta chips. But most visitors – whether in a business suit or board shorts – come here for a chicken schnitty and chips and a jug or two of whatever’s on tap, to quench a thirst after a long day exploring The Rocks.
Think all of Sydney's best rooftop bars call the CBD home? Think again. Nick & Nora's towers above most other rooftop bars in Sydney, resting on the 26th floor of the V by Crown in Parramatta – those with vertigo might want to look away.
It's not just the physical heights that make this rooftop bar so dreamy – the experience is of the highest quality, as well. Taking inspiration from the 1934 detective novel The Thin Man, this isn't your average bar. A celebration of the lively party culture during Prohibition, the opulent decor, classy service and fancy cocktails and champagne list will transport you back to the days of flappers and dapper gents. Expect champagne cocktails and caviar to accompany your sparkling backdrop.
An institution in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Icebergs is the kind of place you see on Sydney postcards. Overlooking the waves of legendary Bondi Beach, this is the perfect perch for a few quiet – or maybe a few rowdy – beverages when the sun is shining.
While Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is more tailored to special events, the outdoor terrace is just the spot for an afternoon with friends and a bottle of champagne. Think breezy seaside bliss, complete with lightly shaded wooden furniture, beautiful greenery and light bites like marron and scampi with finger lime, or Sydney rock oysters with lemon myrtle granita.
Great for:Refreshing cocktails enjoyed at a lofty vantage
Sitting pretty atop The Republic Hotel, Taylor’s Rooftop provides open-air escapism in the heart of the city. This place is less about the views – yes, you’re high up – and more about the experience, with the focus on stellar cocktails, great wines and tasty snacks. Try the southern fried chicken burger.
With a retractable roof, Taylor’s can even accommodate a bit of bad weather. But for the most part you’ll have complete exposure to Mother Nature, your setting all ensconced in vertical green walls. Come here on weekends for tunes from some of the city’s best DJs.
Sydney's craft beer scene is as dynamic as it is delicious. Seriously, is there anything local makers can’t brew with? But The Taphouse got in on the ground floor and has been celebrating Aussie brewers for years. With a rotating list of brews that reaches 400-plus annually, there's bound to be something for beer aficionados and novices alike. The Taphouse serves up classic, rustic pub vibes across its three floors, but the welcoming rooftop is the pick of the bunch.
You're not going to find live and loud sport or thumping tunes on this rooftop, and it doesn't even have the same majestic view of others on this list. But you will get pints pulled from more than 60 taps and a classic pub-inspired menu – think tacos, brisket, Southern fried chicken sandwiches and barbecue platters.
Great for: Surrounding skyscrapers in a cosy nook.
Hidden away in a run-down Clarence Street office building, Old Mate’s Place may be hard to find, but it is well worth the effort. The bar’s lower floor could be mistaken for an old library, decorated with bookshelves, dark timbers, quirky family heirlooms and overgrowing potted plants, while the secluded rooftop space – open from Thursday to Saturday – gives you views of the surrounding skyscraper peaks.
Nap a spot at the bar or one of the few tables and order the signature Philly cheesesteak as a side while you make your way through the ever-changing cocktail list. Think concentrated pina coladas (served inside an old tome) or tall glasses of refreshing sake, gin, watermelon, sherry and lemon in the summertime.
Great for: Harbour views just a hop, skip and a jump from the bustling city.
Sitting atop the beautiful Mitchell Building at the State Library of NSW – a previously unused (and underutilized) space – the aptly named Library Bar might be one of the best places in Sydney to sip on a sunset cocktail while enjoying harbour views.
Taking inspiration from other tucked-away CBD drinking dens, like those that populate the cobblestone alleyways around YCK Laneways, guests access the venue from a secret entry on Hospital Road. From there, walk down the grungy corridor and jump on the old goods lift to the observation deck.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.