Sydney’s bar scene is seriously legit. There’s waterside bars, haunted pubs, speakeasy-style drinking dens and bars where the food menu rivals the drinks menu. Whatever your tastes, Sydney’s got you covered. The variety can be overwhelming though so here are 16 of the best bars in Sydney, with some solid-gold drinking spots to get you started.
El Loco @ Slip Inn
This fun, colourful city bar combines some of the best Mexican food in Sydney with a daily happy hour and weekend DJ. Sit back in the open-air courtyard, with a chilli cheese dog, a plate of charred corn and a Loco Lychie cocktail – life doesn’t get much better. If that doesn’t convince you, you might meet your very own prince here – it is, after all, where Prince Frederik of Denmark met and wooed Princess Mary.
Address: 111 Sussex Street, Sydney
The Bearded Tit
One of the most eclectic bars in Sydney, The Bearded Tit has quirkiness by the bucket load. At this small bar in the gritty inner-Sydney suburb of Redfern, all kinds of art are celebrated – the weirder the better. To give you a taste of what to expect, there’s knitted penises, lots of taxidermy and weird circus posters. Adding to the adventure are constantly changing artist residencies and live entertainment almost every night of the week. But, The Bearded Tit is not just one for the artsy types – here everyone is welcome and celebrated. In fact, there’s a strict egalitarian policy on the door.
Address: 183 Regent Street, Redfern
The Baxter Inn
This moody basement bar has been on the World’s 50 Best Bars list for the past five years, making it not only one of the best bars in Sydney, but one of the best in the whole country! Naturally, the barkeeps are among the city’s best. In between flexing their cocktail-making muscle, the bartenders also show us how real men wear suspenders. On top of the speakeasy fun, there’s also a great wine list, free pretzels and lots of whiskies on offer – 360 to be exact. This mountain of whiskey flanks the wall behind the 10-metre long bar and is accessed using the type of ladder you’d expect to find in a library.
Address: Basement, 152–156 Clarence Street, Sydney
Archie Rose Distilling Co.
Drink vodka, gin and whiskey like a boss at Sydney’s very own distillery. A visit to Archie Rose is a unique experience. First, take a tour of the distillery to see where magic is made, and then pull up a stool at the bar to sample some of Archie Rose Distilling Co’s handcrafted spirits yourself. The old-worldly bar is a beautiful space to enjoy a tipple in, with a copper bar dominating the room and ageing whiskey barrels adorning it. If you don’t like your whiskey neat, the carefully-curated drinks list also includes various cocktails, beers and wines. But, your best bet is to ask the bartenders for advice, because they know their stuff!
Address: 85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery
Wine by the water – it sounds like poetry! But, this is the drill at Manly Wine and a damn good situation to be in, especially if you’ve caught the Manly Ferry here from Circular Quay (the ferry is such a beautiful way to travel in Sydney). Located in the heart of the popular beachside suburb of Manly, the vibe at this bar of wine is relaxed, the wine on point (as you’d expect) and the beach shack setting divine. You’ll have difficulty choosing between the 100+ bottles of wine on offer, or you can play it safe and steer towards the petite-sized beer and cocktail list instead. There are also daily specials, including $20 wine flights every Thursday, and a three-hour happy hour during the week; plus an all-day food menu that’s dominated by seafood. You know you’re onto a winner when Justin Beiber and his posy choose to hang here when they visit Sydney.
Address: 8–13 South Steyne, Manly
The Bucket List, Bondi
Moving onto another of Sydney’s famous beaches, Bondi. The Bucket List is on the foreshore of this legendary stretch of sand, and it’s the ultimate venue for people-watching and soaking up some sun. Throw in a pretty decent food menu that will help soak up the booze, and you’ve got one of the best bars in Sydney for day drinking. Sitting back in a deck chair in the outside courtyard, sipping an Aperol Spritz and listening to the DJ spin the decks you’ll understand why this drinking spot is a favourite of both Sydneysiders and tourists alike.
Address: Bondi Pavilion, Shop 1, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach
With Sydney sporting 236 days of sun a year, drinking in the daytime never looked so appealing. Which is perhaps why Sydneysiders have turned day-drinking into an Olympic sport, and Coogee Pavilion is the stadium. This two-level, nautical-themed beach palace has so much appeal. Its views of Coogee Beach are sublime, the food menu is first-class, the atmosphere is always buzzing and the cocktail-making is impressive. Downstairs there’s a barber, restaurant, florist, takeaway coffee cart and kiddie play area. But, it’s upstairs in the 18+ balcony bar where mischief is made.
Address: 169 Dolphin Street, Coogee
The Beach Club at Watsons Bay Hotel
Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to the idyllic beachside suburb of Watsons Bay, and you’ll find one of the most beautiful places where you can lose a good couple of hours right there on the waterfront. The Beach Club at Watsons Bay Hotel is perfect for sun-chasers, frosé aficionados and those that are just after a good perv on the skyline of Sydney – the city views are some of the best you can find.
Address: 1 Military Road, Watsons Bay
Sydney’s number one backpacker bar, Scary Canary pulls a crowd just about every night of the week. Once the sun goes down, expect some late-night dance floor antics at this bar/club located a few streets back from Darling Harbour. Complete with foam machines, ‘Wet Wednesday’ is notoriously wild. While there’s a theme most nights, there’s also cheap drinks and cheap food round the clock. And, if you’re just after a casual drink, things are much more chilled pre-sunset.
Address: 469 Kent Street, Sydney
Palmer & Co
Hidden in an alleyway, down a flight of stairs, you’ll discover a place that takes prohibition bars to a new level. Inside a vaulted brick basement (where phone coverage is questionable), find flapper-dressed waitresses, dapper barmen and vermouth cocktails served in vintage glassware. If that’s not enough, there’s live music during the week, and cheese and charcuterie boards the size of a small country.
Address: Abercrombie Lane, Sydney
Tucked down a quiet laneway in Sydney’s business district, Kittyhawk is the best kind of hidden find – it’s sophisticated, fun and full of novelty. Walking through the wooden doors, you’ll be transported to another time and place – to an era of liberation and celebration in 1940s post-war Paris. The showpiece is the 12-metre-long bar, whose 900 spirit bottles are likely to cause much decision anxiety. Looking at the food and drinks menu, you could fool yourself into thinking you’re looking at a parts manual for a Kittyhawk fighter aircraft. Or at least that’s the intention, with very elaborate diagrams accompanying the cocktail listings.
Address: 16 Phillip Lane, Sydney
The view from this ultra-elegant bar is next level. In summer, the warm harbour breeze drifts through Hacienda from Circular Quay below, while the Sydney Harbour Bridge is so close you could reach out and touch it. This third-floor sanctum in the Pullman Quay Grand hotel takes its cues from Cuba. There’s Havana-inspired cocktails; plenty of plant life; and furniture in shades of pale pinks, greys and greens. Given the prime Sydney location, you’d expect the drink prices to be horrendously insulting but they’re actually quite reasonable.
Address: 61 Macquarie Street, Sydney
No ‘best bars of Sydney’ list would be complete without Opera Bar taking a bow. Located on the lower concourse of the famed Sydney Opera House, Opera Bar is quintessential Sydney and firmly ensconced in the hearts of locals and tourists alike. With wrap-around views of the harbour, an encyclopedia-sized drinks and food menu, and a buzzy vibe all day long, it’s the perfect place to enjoy some sun and soak up the beauty of Sydney.
Address: Sydney Opera House, Lower Concourse Level, Macquarie Street, Sydney
The Hero of Waterloo
Once the convict settlement of Sydney, the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks are rich in history and house some of the oldest pubs in Australia. The Hero of Waterloo is no exception, having served beer in its coldest form for over 170 years. It’s also definitely not short of a story or two. Underneath the old school pub is a tunnel running from the cellar to the harbour, which was way back when used for rum and people smuggling (allegedly). Given its shady past, it’s probably no surprise that this notorious drinking spot has a resident ghost – ask the locals about Anne Kirkman. If you’re not put off by the poltergeist, the lamb shanks are excellent.
Address: 81 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point
Attracting a colourful mix of characters, this all-American smoked barbeque joint in Surry Hills has lots of convincing reasons to get you through the door. For starters, there’s draught beer, live music and arcade games, along with a ridiculously delicious menu. Stacked fries, buffalo wings and chilli cheese nachos – it’s comfort food at its best. The pork ribs are particularly addictive, so much so you’re unlikely to notice the BBQ sauce dripping down your chin.
Address: 182 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
With its red light, Mary’s might look like a brothel from the outside, but inside you’ll find some of the best burgers going around. This Newtown bar is loud, rough-around-the-edges and a Sydney drinking (and eating) institution. Expect to find homemade Jack Daniel’s light fittings, grim reaper wall art and heavy metal spilling out the speakers. The no-frills bar menu is painted on the back wall, offering a handful of cocktails, wines by the glass and stubbies of beer, along with burgers, fried chicken and fries. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be leaving Mary’s hungry.
Address: 6 Mary Street, Newtown
✨ About The Author ✨
Kim Lamb is a Sydney-based lifestyle blogger, food enthusiast and professional skydiver. All of which is true, except for the last part. She shares all things food, bars, beaches and travel via her blog Eat Play Love Travel. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.