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Kings Cross, Sydney Travel Guide

Kings Cross Summary

Pros

  • Up-and-coming part of town with plenty of affordable accommodations
  • Buzzing nightlife -- home to some of Sydney’s most happening clubs
  • Colorful inner-city area that has an interestingly sordid history
  • Walkable to trendy Darlinghurst and bustling Paddington
  • Good transport links, with easy access to Circular Quay

Cons

  • Red-light district that may feel seedy to some
  • Rowdy on the weekends, and some areas are a bit unsafe
  • No big-ticket tourist attractions in the neighborhood

What It's Like

This small area north of Darlinghurst isn’t officially a neighborhood, but over the years it has cemented itself as a Sydney institution -- and the city's party capital. In the 1920s, Kings Cross was a bohemian area known for its prohibition-era bars, while in the ’70s it brimmed with swanky clubs where the rich and famous partied.

Today, after a government initiative to limit the 24-hour party scene, it has a bit of a mixed identity. Some of the iconic hotels and clubs have closed, but nightlife still big business, with wall-to-wall nightspots along happening Bayswater Road. The World Bar, housed in a labyrinthine four-story Victorian building, is known for its eclectic music, cocktails served in teapots, and history of debauchery -- it was both a brothel and gambling den. Travelers come to Kings Cross for the strip shows, gambling joints, cool bars, and trendy cafes, and opinion is divided as to whether there’s a certain historic underground charm, or it’s just plain seedy. 

The area’s most iconic sights are at two ends of the spectrum: the spherical dandelion-like El Alamein Memorial Fountain, built to honor Australia's WWII soldiers, and the giant neon-lit Coca-Cola billboard above the intersection of William Street and Darlinghurst Road. The real reason to stay here is for the affordable accommodation; there are some excellent hostels and with them, a lively backpacker scene. Kings Cross is well located, within walking distance of Darlinghurst and Paddington, and it’s just a few minutes on the bus or train to reach Circular Quay. The neighborhood is also fairly close to the city's annual Mardi Gras festivities.

But there are factors to weigh against the nightlife, great value accommodation, and convenient location. Kings Cross is Sydney’s red-light district and has all of the usual downsides that come with that reputation, including drugs and crime. While it’s not entirely unsafe, you'd still do best to take some precautions at night, even as the neighborhood continues to rapidly gentrify.

Where to Stay

Kings Cross is Sydney’s backpacker mecca and it's home to dozens of functional hostels that have honed their craft over the years. Many of these can be found occupying grand old terrace buildings along Victoria Street, where the higher floors offer fantastic views over Sydney's skyline and even to the Harbour Bridge. Travelers looking for high-rise mid-range and upscale hotels in this area will find them closer to neighboring Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay. Keep in mind that the most central parts of the neighborhood, particularly those near the action on Bayswater Road and Darlinghurst Road, can be noisy until late. 

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