Small Bars in Sydney
Good things come in small packages – and that’s the premise behind Sydney's buzzing small bar scene. You'll get personalised service, killer drinks and an intimate vibe. Half the fun is finding these small bars, so get ready to walk down alleyways, up long flights of stairs or past a strange shopfront to find cosy drinking dens which are big on fun.
Many of the city’s best small bars are tucked within a new precinct, YCK Laneways. Covering York, Clarence and Kent streets between Town Hall and Wynyard, it’s the place to discover hidden bars in historic buildings, top-notch bartenders and plenty of cocktails. Bars in YCK Laneways include Since I Left You, Papa Gede's, Stitch, The Lobo, Cantina OK!, Grandma’s and more.
Finding a small bar can be half the fun and many are dotted throughout the city centre in hard-to-find places. Head underground for Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern, Grandma's Bar and The Doss House. To find Old Mate’s Place, a rooftop hideaway recently named Sydney’s best bar by Time Out, get ready to climb some stairs.
Door Knock is down the end of a long corridor beside a sandwich shop in Pitt Street – knock three times on the brass pineapple to get in. And to find the bar at The Barber Shop on York Street, you have to walk past men getting their hair cut.
Size-wise, some bars are smaller than most. Tapas venue Bar Topa is channelling bustling Barcelona, with room for just 40 while Mexican-themed Cantina OK! can fit just 20 standing drinkers. Their intimate vibe and exclusive nature makes you want to be one of the chosen few who get to enter.
To distinguish themselves, you'll find that many small bars focus on one kind of drink – and do it very well. Choose from more than 250 rums at The Lobo, learn the difference between blanco and aeñejo tequila at Barrio Cellar and taste some of the 360 premium whiskies on offer at The Baxter Inn.
Darlinghurst & Surry Hills
Darlinghurst is home to some of the city’s most popular small bars, like wine bar Love, Tilly Devine and frontier-themed Shady Pines Saloon. You'll also be spoilt for choice in Surry Hills, drink tequila at Tio's, whiskey at The Wild Rover and acclaimed cocktails at Scout.
Redfern & the Inner West
Redfern is hipster-central, so you know you'll find fabulous places to drink such as The Dock, Arcadia Liquors, Misfits, The Noble Hops and The Bearded Tit. As a bonus, they're all within a few hundred metres of each other, which makes for a great night out as you hop from one to the other.
In Enmore, drink tiki cocktails at Jacoby’s. Go to Newtown for the rock'n' roll vibes of The Midnight Special, dive-bar mood at Mary's, the saloon-styling of Fortunate Son, and Earl’s Juke Joint, hidden behind the façade of an old butcher shop. Head to Marrickville to swing along with live jazz bands at Camelot Lounge.
Across the harbour in Manly, Donny’s Bar is a hugely popular New York loft-style space with live music. Western Sydney is embracing the small bar movement as well. The tiny Uncle Kurt’s in Parramatta is tucked underneath a car park and Mr Watkins is Penrith’s most stylish spot for a nightcap.