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Chinatown and Haymarket, Sydney Travel Guide

Chinatown and Haymarket Summary

Pros

  • Plenty of cheap eats from a wide variety of Asian cultures
  • Cool bargain shopping for everything from electronics to imports
  • Budget accommodations close to the city center
  • Short walk from Darling Harbour and Sydney’s CBD
  • The Goods Line park with views of Frank Gehry's Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building
  • Beautiful 19th-Century Capitol Theatre showing the latest musicals
  • Metro Theatre for live concerts

Cons

  • Can be rowdy with teens on weekends 
  • Accommodation is largely limited to hostels and large chain hotels

What It's Like

South of Sydney’s CBD, Haymarket -- defined as the area between World Square and Central Station -- is one of Sydney's more urban central neighborhoods. It has a youthful vibe due to the high number of hostels and the nearby University of Technology. On weekends, the neighborhood draws local teens who flock en masse to the multi-screen cinemas and fast-food joints. Otherwise, the atmosphere is almost always busy and bustling.

The main draw for travelers in this part of Sydney is Chinatown. While the influence of Chinese immigrants is certainly huge in this part of town, the vibrant neon-lit area incorporates a range of Asian cultures from Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. For quick and cheap eats, some of the best options can be found at the neighborhood's busy food courts and many hole-in-the-wall venues. At the entrance to Chinatown, look out for the eye-catching "Golden Water Mouth" sculpture, a tree-trunk that's been wrapped in gold and embraces feng shui principles.

For shopping, Paddy’s Market (also known as Market City) on Hay Street is a 150-year-old Sydney institution. Open five days a week, it sells an eclectic mix of food, plants, fashion, gadgets, and lots of mobile phone cases. Haymarket is also home to a couple of entertainment gems. For traditional theater, the Capitol Theatre shows classic high-grossing mega-musicals. It’s worth catching a show or taking a backstage tour to admire the opulent interiors of this beautiful 19-century building, which has a ceiling designed to look like the star-filled night sky. Just north of Haymarket, the Metro Theatre hosts mostly alternative/rock/metal bands and occasionally attracts some big-name international artists. For those who prefer to be their own center of attention, Haymarket has plenty of karaoke bars as well.

The Goods Line -- a disused freight railway line that's been transformed into an urban walkway from Sydney Central Station to Darling Harbour -- skirts the western edge of Haymarket. It takes in views of the University of Technology’s Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building. Designed by Frank Gehry, its unique exterior has been described both as a sandcastle and crumpled brown paper bag. While visitors to The Goods Line shouldn’t expect the gorgeous secret-garden feel of New York’s High Line, but it makes for a welcome leafy addition to this hectic part of town.

Where to Stay

Hostels are Haymarket’s staple accommodation and are a great-value option considering the central location. Though they tend to be more expensive than those in the likes of Kings Cross, the fact that most of Sydney’s landmarks can be reached within a reasonable walk is a big pro. Haymarket also has some large mid-range and upscale chain hotels -- the Novotel Sydney Central is in central Chinatown and some of its rooms have lovely views of Darling Harbour. 

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