The sun may have gone down and taken the city’s sunny harbour views with it, but Sydney still retains much of its charm after dark. With diverse dining districts, plenty of entertainment options and a cluster of beloved watering-holes, Sydney certainly doesn’t slow down after hours.
Check out our picks for the 10 best things to do in Sydney at night:
Tantalise Your Taste Buds
With a population originating from all corners of the globe, it comes as no surprise that Sydney is home to an incredible range of culinary choices – and dinnertime is no exception. Whatever cuisine you may be craving, you’re sure to find it being served up somewhere in the city. Head to Chinatown for your fix of delicious Asian fare, or stop by the nearby Steam Mill Lane in Haymarket to find local favourites, including Belle’s Hot Chicken and FISHBOWL, in one convenient spot.
For more cheap eats, you can’t go wrong with Mary’s Newtown and Bar Luca for great burgers; Chat Thai and Newtown’s Thai Pothong for delicious South East Asian flavours; or Rosso Antico Pizza Bar and Gigi’s Pizzeria in Newtown for a slice or two of moreish pizza. If fine dining is more your style, book a table at one of the city’s oft-lauded restaurants, including Tetsuya’s, Quay, Aria, est. or Bennelong, and delight your taste buds with their carefully crafted menus.
And if you’re out until the wee hours and hunger hits? Make for one of Sydney’s best late-night eats, such as XO sauce-doused pipis and bowls of congee at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant (open until 4am); bite-sized tapas from Bar Topa (open until 1am, Thursday to Saturday); classic French brasserie fare at Restaurant Hubert (open until 1am, except Sundays); heaping plates of pasta from Big Poppa’s (open until 2.30am).
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Amusing review of our Hot Tenders by @moreeatsplease. The first time our chicken has been likened to God, but we'll take it. 🔥 🔥 "The tenders were like heaven and hell blended together. The flavours were so amazing but too many mouthfuls in a row would set you down a path of agony for a few minutes till you could taste properly. I laugh, I cried, I questioned my testicular fortitude. But I got through it. As the fire burns away the sensation and flavour you have left in your mouth is about as close to being in the presence of god as one can actually experience."
Treat Your Sweet Tooth
After you’ve finished dinner, the next logical step is to find the perfect dessert, and, in Sydney, you’re certainly not going to struggle to find your fix of the sweet stuff. No matter if you’re fond of a scoop (or three) of ice cream or gelato, or your tastes lean to something a little more special; there are so many delicious sweet treats to sample across Sydney. A visit to Gelato Messina is almost a rite of passage (there are 11 stores across the city), with its ever-changing menu of flavours delivering the goods time and time again. Located in Enmore, Cow & the Moon is another local favourite, serving up gelato so good that it scooped the gong as one of the world’s best. Pop past the gelateria to tuck into a cup or cone of flavours including mandorla affogato, passionfruit cream, or fig and marscarpone.
For something a little different, Chippendale’s Koi Dessert Bar, run by Masterchef Australia alumni Reynold Poernomo and his brothers, serves up exquisite pastries and intriguing sweet treats. Dessert devotees can pick a cake or two from the display cases to eat in or takeaway. Track down the boys at Knafeh Sydney to feast on a slice of this traditional Middle Eastern dessert; the Hungarian chimney cake from Kurtosh; or the syrup-topped stacks at Pancakes on the Rocks. If you find yourself in Newtown, don’t miss your chance to try The Gaytime Bao at Belly Bao – a unique fusion of a classic Australian dessert and a light and fluffy Asian bun.
Settle In For a Drink
Head to Newtown in the city’s inner west to take your pick from a fantastic selection of small bars, including The Midnight Special and Earl’s Juke Joint, or if you’d rather add a touch of extra fun to your night, check out one of the CBD’s hidden drinking dens, including Stitch Bar on York Street and Clarence Street’s The Baxter Inn. From classic pubs to wine bars, Surry Hills houses plenty of great spots for an evening tipple. Sip on Japanese whisky at Tokyo Bird on Commonwealth Street, unwind at the pirate-themed Button Bar on Foveaux Street, or soak up the atmosphere at Campbell Street’s Wild Rover. Enjoy great views of Sydney Harbour from the The Glenmore Hotel’s rooftop in The Rocks or make your way to Darling Harbour to find more great waterside venues, such as Bungalow 8, Cafe del Mar and Helm Bar.
Go Stargazing at Sydney Observatory
There’s nothing quite as awe-inspiring as the night sky and, with a visit to the Sydney Observatory after dark, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about our incredible universe and gaze up at the star-filled heavens. For just under $30, you can join a night tour of the historic site, where you’ll see the Planetarium and dome, and perhaps even have the chance to enjoy a telescope viewing (weather permitting). This activity is great for a night out with the special person in your life, families with older kids, or travellers in town with a few friends. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to talk to the astronomy educators and learn more about the astronomical objects on display. The stargazing sessions run every day from 8.30 pm. Night tours at the Sydney Observatory should be booked in advance, either online or on the phone.
Discover the Sydney Opera House
When most people think of Sydney, it’s likely that the Sydney Opera House comes to mind, and for good reason – it’s one of the city’s world-renowned icons. While the Opera House offers some great photo opportunities during the day, there’s more to see and do around this spectacular building after dark. Throughout the year, the building hosts an incredible variety of live performances, from contemporary music and theatre, through to comedy, ballet and classical music. Check out the current calendar of events and pick up tickets to a show that piques your interest, or if you’re not in the mood for a show, head down to the edge of the harbour and enjoy a drink or bite to eat at Opera Bar. Nestled beneath the Opera House, the bar and restaurant offers fantastic views of Circular Quay, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, of course, some great libations.
Get Arty After Dark
If you happen to find yourself without something to do on a Wednesday night, two of the Sydney’s biggest art galleries offer extended mid-week hours, allowing you to see more of their fantastic works on show after dark. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, located next to the Royal Botanic Gardens, runs its Art After Hours program weekly, with a host of lectures, talks and tours until 10pm. Its on-site restaurant also keeps its doors open until 9pm. If modern art is more your thing, the Museum of Contemporary Art, overlooking Circular Quay, also leaves their doors open until 9pm on Wednesdays. The cafe and gift store stay open too. This trip makes the perfect mid-week evening adventure, and is your chance to see incredible works from local and international artists without typical weekend crowds.
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‘As young Chinese Australians, we feel a sense of pride being able to experience an entire floor dedicated to the work [of Sun Xun].’ — Lily Chen and Sandy Ma. MCA Young Guides Sandy and Lily talk to artist #SunXun about the media, his influence and painting in airport lounges. Read on in Stories & Ideas on our website, link in bio. #mcaaustralia • Image: Sun Xun, ‘Who First Saw the Stars?’, 2018, installation view, image courtesy and © the artist, photograph: Leslie Liu
Challenge Your Mates
Step things up a notch and challenge the gang to a game of mini golf, a round of bowling, or a mind-boggling escape room. Newtown’s Holy Moley is the perfect place to head for a few drinks and game of good old mini golf. The space comes decked out with its signature pop culture-themed decor, and holes range from Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne, The Simpsons‘ lounge room, and all manner of crazy contraptions; making your way through the course is a great way to spend a few hours. Just a few minutes’ walk from Wynyard Station, Strike Bowling King Street Wharf is perfect for some late-night fun, open until 11pm during week and until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. With bowling lanes and karaoke booths available, it’s the perfect spot to party the night away. If you’re looking to give your brain a workout, give one of the city’s escape rooms a go. Your lateral thinking and observation skills are put to the test as you tackle any number of puzzles, problems and brain teasers. Check out Escape Hunt Sydney on George Street, The Enigma Room on Pitt Street, or The Cipher Room on King Street in Newtown.
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Bust Out Your Favourite Karaoke Tunes
The thrill of belting out your favourite ballads is something that brings revellers back to karaoke bars again and again. If you love a little sing-song, or are looking to see what all the fuss is about, Sydney has you covered. Across the city, you’ll find plenty of venues perfect for unleashing your best renditions of Britney, Bowie and every musical superstar in between. Head to Dixon Street in Chinatown for local favourites such as K1 Karaoke Lounge and CEO Karaoke Sydney, or pair your session with delicious Japanese food and drinks at Goros in Surry Hills or George Street’s Mizuya.
Catch a Film
A night out at the movies is a timeless evening activity for a reason, so why not step out in style and check out one of Sydney’s grand old cinemas. Some of Sydney’s classic picture-houses were built at a time when a trip to the cinema was an occasion in itself, and designs feature beautiful architecture and furnishings. A trip to these theatres is perfect for when you want to be immersed in the bygone style of old. From new releases to cult favourites and indie flicks, there are plenty of interesting films on offer at Surry Hills’ Golden Age Cinema and Bar and Randwick’s Ritz Cinema. If you find yourself close to Circular Quay, Dendy Cinemas Opera Quays is another great option.
Enjoy a Thrilling Rocks Ghost Tour
The Rocks was the site of Sydney’s first permanent European settlement and as such is an area of the city incredibly rich with history. While The Rocks is delightful to visit during the day, the cobblestone laneways and sandstone buildings act as the perfect backdrop for the Rocks Ghost Tour after nightfall. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the tour reveals some interesting tales from the city’s early days, chronicling eerie crimes to the colourful characters who once called the area home, and retelling some recently-reported sightings and strange phenomena that have occurred. The two hour-long tours run every day and will set you back $45 per person. Eager for more chilling thrills while you’re in Sydney? Look into the Q Station Ghost Tours, which take you into what is said to be one of Australia’s most haunted sites at Quarantine Station on North Head.