Travel Guide of Central Business District, Sydney for: Swissotel SydneyCentral Business District, Sydney, Greater Sydney
Sydney CBD and Darling Harbour Summary
- Locavore dining scene includes holes-in-the-wall and swanky restaurants
- Buzzing atmosphere and entertainment day and night
- Shopping at George Street’s 19th-century Queen Victoria Building and Pitt Street Mall
- Family-friendly attractions like the SEA LIFE Aquarium and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
- Australian National Maritime Museum, housing Captain Cook's HMB Endeavour
- Sky-high Sydney Tower with glass-floor viewing area and revolving restaurant
- Tranquil Chinese Garden of Friendship
- Home to annual events like the Sydney Film Festival
- Expensive-but-average large chain hotels
- Best eateries packed with office workers during weekday lunch hours
What It's Like
South of Circular Quay, Sydney’s smart Central Business District houses the Australian Stock Exchange, Big Four auditors’ offices, and Supreme Court of New South Wales. Although these skyscrapers help create an impressive skyline, the commercial heart of the city has more to offer than high-rise office blocks. In fact, it's a go-to destination for serious shopping and top-notch dining.
Travelers with retail pursuits in mind should head to George Street, the CBD's main north-south thoroughfare. Malls range from the upscale Westfield underneath the Sydney Tower to the pedestrianized Pitt Street Mall and architecturally splendid 19th-century Queen Victoria Building, which occupies an entire block and has 150 boutiques plus cafes and bars. At Christmas time, locals flock here to see the huge Christmas tree that fills its great glass dome. The Sydney Tower is the city’s tallest building and has a glass-floor viewing area and revolving restaurant. Bookish travelers might like to know that Australia’s oldest library -- the State Library of New South Wales -- is also open to the public.
There are a lot of diverse places to eat and drink in the CBD; weekdays tend to see Aussie corporate-types lining up for lunch, while weekends are a little quieter but more tourist-heavy. Whether it’s a hole-in-the-wall or swanky restaurant, local produce is the order of the day here and new cult eateries seem to pop up weekly. Between the skyscrapers, little lanes host low-key craft breweries and tiny bars.
Bordering the CBD, Darling Harbour buzzes with activity and has a playful after-work vibe that’s similar to London’s Southbank. A former dockside area, this small harbor has been transformed into a major tourist sight and is a go-to destination for waterfront drinks and dining. There are classy restaurants, on-trend bars, and alfresco coffee shops along the waterfront at Cockle Bay, King Street Wharf, and Harbourside.
Darling Harbour is also one of the most family-friendly parts of Sydney. Visit the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, and the Australian National Maritime Museum, where attractions include interactive Arctic stations and Captain Cook's HMB Endeavour. For free kids’ entertainment, the excellent Darling Quarter playground has features like a splash area, sand diggers, and balance ropes. Or, for a tranquil time-out, the peaceful Chinese Gardens of Friendship are one of the largest traditional Chinese gardens outside of China, complete with willow trees, pretty lagoons, waterfalls, and koi ponds.
Where to Stay
Whether it’s mid-range or luxury, large big-brand hotels pack Sydney’s CBD. Holiday Inn, Ibis, Mercure, Novotel, Radisson, Rydges, Sheraton, Sofitel, and Westin all have at least one presence here. Boutique-size hotels are harder to find, but the Pensione Hotel Sydney has a dash of character, though the ’60s-inspired Park 8 Hotel is a bit sexy. There are some decent value places to stay too, including a couple of hostels. If it's water views that you're after, opt for hotels closer to Darling Harbour. To be closer to Circular Quay's ferries and trains (and major sights), stay in the CBD's northern reaches.