Sydney has always been the cool kid of Australia (sorry Melbourne, you know we love you). It must be the glorious beaches they're known for, the waves dotted with surfer dudes and the shorelines peppered with beach babes. Paired with the eternal sunshine (and their distinct accent), it seems like it could be forever summer here.
Or that magnificent harbor whose skyline is filled with the steel shape of the bridge or the unparalleled silhouette sails of the Opera House. Clearly, architecture has held its footing here in Sydney and it is revered the world over. Then there's the city with its upscale bars and restaurants, the local dwellers in their stilettos and suits leaving a trail of sophistication in their wake as they hit the streets.
But as my husband and I flit from one neighborhood to another, from one harbor to the next, we noticed that it was not the cosmopolitan, not the cool we thought it would be. Instead, we were spun around on our feet and shown a different kind of Sydney that left us wanting more.
Bondi is an obvious neighborhood and so is the Central Business District. The CBD sounds stiff, formal, and reserved but it has its own charms, too. Head north and you'll reach the historic area known as The Rocks where you can get a sense of Sydney's past with the cobblestoned laneways and brick-lined building facades. But there is also a tribute to present Aussie culture as the Museum of Contemporary Art stands alongside the remnants of yore. Every weekend, locals set up shop in the street market selling artisan goods and goodies. Further south, you can find the Queen Victoria Building and The Strand Arcade which both represent the beautiful Victorian style of architecture, and which hold independent boutiques of local designers and craftsmen.
Paddington neighborhood has the teeming Oxford Street which meanders into side streets not to be ignored. Pavements of both are filled with quaint shops that present an ode to local fashion and design shops - some of which stand their ground in terrace houses. Keep Williams Street on your bookmark. Every Saturday, the Paddington Market comes alive with entrepreneurs selling their latest finds and crafts. Yes, we noticed - these people love their markets.
Then head on over to Potts Point and Surry Hills, areas that have become a culinary playground. The cosy, neighborhood vibe reverberates in every spot here, even if restaurants like Ms. G's and Cho Cho San are filled with urbanites (and waiting lines that snake). Even walking off your meal is a pleasant to-do because 1.) people-watching is fun and 2.) the surroundings are lovely.
Here's what we learned in Sydney: don't be a tourist, be a local. You'll get to know the city for what is really is: surprisingly genteel, ultra friendly, and downright creative. All against that beautiful backdrop of the blue harbor.
Classy Musings' Guide to Sydney
1. Stay in any Ovolo Hotel (if you can, try the Woolloomooloo one). Be prepared to be blown away. You'll never want to leave the lobby (ahem, free happy hour every single day).
2. Grab a tipple and some slaw at Henry Deane in Hotel Palisade. It's a well-designed, cheeky rooftop bar that holds a breathtaking view of the harbor.
3. You must have heard about it, or seen it on Instagram: Grounds of Alexandria. It's a former pie factory that has been converted into every garden's fantasy. Buy some flowers, a chocolate-filled doughnut, and then while an afternoon away in one of their cafés.
4. Have your fill of Argentinian meat at Porteño. Get the pig and lamb cooked over the asador grill (watch it melt off) with some stellar sides (we loved the grilled corn and zucchini) and then finish it off with the leche flan. The high ceilings, open space, and dim lights match the food course perfectly.
5. Obsess over the delicious pastries (works of art in themselves), beautiful flowers, and gorgeous tabletop plates and utensils (locally made by Mud Australia) at Petal Met Sugar. Just like I did.