Few would argue Melbourne’s buzzing, street art-emblazoned laneways broke the mould as iconic destinations, once dubbed Australia’s top cultural attraction by travel bible Lonely Planet. Not one to compete, big sister Sydney – a global icon in her own right, famed for glistening high-rise, relaxed inner-city beaches and architectural wonders like the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge – has clearly done a bit of navel-gazing of late.
The result? A splendour of revitalised laneways, alleys, nooks and crannies that breathe new life into the buzzing belly of Sydney CBD. Here’s how to stay grounded on your next visit!
First up, you’ll definitely want to put down roots at TFE Hotels’ highly anticipated A by Adina Sydney which will open its doors in April this year. Turning heads and making headlines long before opening (scheduled xx 2021), the crowning glory of a brand-new suite of ‘Premium’ Adina lifestyle properties is full of surprises from top to toe. Glowing like a golden beacon on 2 Hunter Street, it marks the blockbuster arrival of Sydney’s first hotel sky lobby, perched atop Australia’s oldest street.
What lies beneath – and all around – the contemporary new landmark is equally mesmerising, thanks to purposeful creation of a vibrant public space beyond the hotel’s walls. Not least being the activation of a blissful laneway courtyard and network of art-filled alleys that feed into Australia Square – itself celebrated as the site of Sydney’s first skyscraper and the world’s tallest lightweight concrete building, upon completion in 1967. Taking sense of arrival to a whole new level, A by Adina Sydney initially welcomes guests via a semi-subterranean ‘capture foyer’ (off Hunter Street), signposted by a cascading water feature that sinks under the building into peaceful and reflective space. A zone that acts as a sensory cleanse, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, before taking an elevator – 21 storeys up – to the hotel’s sky lobby, complete with plunge pool and mezzanine-style restaurant/bar. Not forgetting, WOW-factor city vistas and mind-boggling view planes between surrounding buildings at the top end of town.
In yet another surprise, the hotel’s lower-ground entry foyer is home to a monumental laneway sculpture entitled ‘Open Space’, artfully deconstructing the word ‘OPEN’ into individual letters that act as pointers to an oh-so inviting open and inclusive public space activated around the hotel.
Did you know? In November 2020, the City of Sydney and NSW Government launched a post-COVID19 community recovery plan, aimed at creating a 24-hour alfresco city – from laneways to rooftops – starting in The Rocks and flowing through the CBD. To celebrate, Tayim restaurant and bar – nestled in a historic sandstone cavern off cobblestoned Nurses Walk laneway, less than 10 minutes’ walk from A by Adina Sydney – opened a gin garden; while heritage underground whisky bar, The Doss House (circa 1840s, and once home to an opium den) ramped up cocktails in its upper courtyard.
Insider's Tip: check into A by Adina Sydney, then check out this curated list of laneway haunts, all within strolling distance of the hotel. Think 5 minutes or less!
Abercrombie Lane (2 minutes’ walk, north)
Home to award-winning 1920s prohibition-style bar, Palmer & Co., hidden beneath CBD streets. Taking its name from a taxidermy business that once occupied the site, this modern-day speakeasy, accessed through a non-descript door, focuses on cocktails and spirits, boasting over 30 gins, more than 80 whiskies, 40-plus tequilas and absinthes (many of which can’t be sourced elsewhere). Champagne also sits high on the list, with 26 to pick from. Expect ‘refined debauchery’.
Bridge Lane (3 minutes’ walk, north)
Sydney’s first lumber yards once graced this laneway, before tea merchants and warehouses moved in towards the end of the 19th Century. Today, Bridge Lane is home to one of the city’s most raved about foodie dens, aka Mr. Wong. Dripping in Shanghai nostalgia – located in the behemoth underbelly of the Establishment building (think, two-storey basement) – Mr. Wong ‘does Cantonese-style food in a larger-than-life way’. Expect to be WOW-ed by 80 mouth-watering dishes (tip: barbecue duck is a crowd favourite).
Ash Street (3 minutes’ walk, south)
Forget Paris! Tucked off Martin Place, this laneway forms part of the buzzing Ivy precinct, home to an eclectic array of eateries and venues, including French restaurant, Felix. Expect to be dazzled by imported French chandeliers, Parisian subway tiles, a stunning pewter bar, and drool-worthy French fare. Oh là là!
Angel Place (3 minutes’ walk, south)
One of Sydney’s better-known – and uplifting – laneways heroes the acclaimed public art installation, Forgotten Songs, featuring a breathtaking canopy of suspended bird cages, paying homage to the songs of 50 species once heard in central Sydney before European settlement gradually forced them out. Situated beneath the installation, China Lane restaurant serves up a modern take on Asian cuisine. Expect everything from Chinese dumplings to Japanese sashimi and Vietnamese rice dishes.
And Finally! Although technically not located on laneways, the following haunts are worth a visit. Door Knock cocktail and wine bar, hidden below Pitt Street, near Hunter Street (just 2 minutes’ walk east of A by Adina Sydney), is a challenge to find, but well worth the effort! Expect wines that ‘lean more on the biodynamic, minimal intervention and natural styles’ and a dynamic cocktail list that promises ‘something for everybody’.
For something different, Dutch Smuggler, located at 200 George Street (about 4 minutes’ walk, north) is famed by locals for great coffee, cold-brew-coffee mocktails and hedonistically-good ‘Indo-Mie Goreng’ noodle toasties. Expect not to go hungry!
Are you ready to lose yourself in Sydney’s laneways? Book now.
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*Activities listed may be subject to Covid restrictions.