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On the southern fringe of Sydney’s CBD, Surry Hills is a warren of streets and laneways that were once filled with pubs, workers’ cottages and humble terrace houses. These days, it’s a lot more gentrified, though with a quirky edge, some great street art, and a community spirit that makes the neighbourhood a great place to go wandering in. Explore it like a local and see why Surry Hills has become one of Sydney’s hottest destinations, for food and a whole lot more.
Start your day with pastries and sweet treats from the legendary Bourke Street Bakery, where the queues are long for a reason. Kick back with a coffee at the industrial-chic Paramount Coffee Project or funky micro-roastery Reuben Hills.
If it’s a warm day, you might want to treat yourself to an icecream at Gelato Messina, where the flavours change weekly, just to keep things interesting. Other Gelato Messina stores have opened in Sydney and around Australia since this one opened in Crown Street in 2002 but the original is always a favourite.
Salivate over the extraordinary selection of cheeses at Formaggi Ocello in Bourke Street, then book in for some pub trivia at The Forresters, which also regularly hosts live music. Kick back in the beer garden or enjoy some simple pub grub at The Cricketers Arms Hotel, a classic Aussie watering hole. Another iconic local pub is The Clock: it’s a great spot to enjoy a sundowner on the terrace.
All the cool folk head to The Winery, famous for its bottomless brunch on weekends and its relaxed garden setting where you can dine under the fairy lights. Restaurant diners are spoilt for choice with fabulous Spanish tapas and dry-aged steaks at Porteño, Lennox Hastie’s delicious offerings at wood-fuelled Firedoor, and innovative vegan and gluten-free food at Yulli's.
You’ll love the great bursts of flavour at Kiln, and then of course there is the ever-popular Bills, and the best Thai food anywhere at Spice I Am. For small bars, check out Firedoor spin-off Gilda’s, enjoy an aperitif at Porteño’s Wyno X, or work your way through the Japanese-inspired cocktail list at Tokyo Bird.
You’ll get a real sense of this vibrant community at Surry Hills Library, which has won a swag of architectural awards for its sustainable design. For an authentic local shopping experience, head to Shannon Reserve for the Surry Hills Markets on the first Saturday of every month. Here you’ll find everything from antiques and upcycled goods to handmade beauty products, ceramics, and fashions from up-and-coming local designers.
There are loads of pubs and other venues in Surry Hills where you can catch live music. For live theatre, the much-loved Belvoir St Theatre showcases up and coming talent and is a great example of a collectively run champion of the creative arts. Cinema lovers adore the arthouse Golden Age Cinema, which shows everything from cult classics to new releases in the old screening room of the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures building.
Creative energy abounds in Surry Hills and there are numerous wonderful art galleries to while away the hours in, including the hip m2 Gallery and the stunning Badger and Fox Gallery.
An absolute must to visit is the Brett Whiteley Studio, the actual home and studio where the late Aussie artist lived and painted from 1988 to 1992. It houses an exhibition of his work along with personal memorabilia, unfinished paintings and a graffiti wall of quotes and images inspired by this acclaimed artist.
Stop for a moment in McElhone Place and reflect on how this formerly down-at-heel spot is now a place of beauty, thanks to community action. From a few pot plants placed in the laneway, it now overflows with greenery and inspires people to connect as they garden and admire. How Surry Hills is that?
At the heart of this colourful community, Adina Apartment Hotel Surry Hills on Crown Street is an easy walk to all the suburb has to offer: vibrant eateries, pubs and bars, vintage shops, boutique shopping, and exciting nightlife.