The busy harbour of Sydney, Australia during a sunny summer day


Posted: 06/2/2019 | June 2nd, 2019

Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world. It has amazing beaches, scenic shorelines, World Heritage sites, and top-notch dining. It’s a large city, and it’s very spread out.

So what are the best neighborhoods to stay in?

That depends on what you look for in a destination!

Each area of Sydney has its own vibe and highlights. Here are my thoughts on the best places to stay in the city. No matter which of these you choose, you can’t go wrong!

Table of Contents

  1. Best neighborhood for views: The Rocks
  2. Best neighborhood for local life: Surry Hills
  3. Best neighborhood for a local beach: Coogee
  4. Best neighborhood for touristy stuff: Darling Harbour
  5. Best neighborhood for beach fun: Bondi Beach
  6. Best neighborhood for being central: CBD
  7. Best neighborhood for shopping: Paddington
  8. Best non-central neighborhood: Manly
  9. Best neighborhood for nightlife: Kings Cross

 

Best Neighborhood #1: The Rocks

The historic Rocks district in Sydney, Australia on a sunny day


Just north of Sydney’s Central Business District and on the harbor, this neighborhood offers great views along the waterfront. There are numerous historic buildings in the area, including several pubs.

The Rocks Markets is open each weekend, selling all kinds of treasures, including arts and crafts, jewelry and tasty treats. The area has tons of stellar restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues, which helps explain its popularity with tourists.

If you stay in The Rocks, make sure you dine along the waterfront!

Best Places to Stay in The Rocks

  • BUDGET: Sydney Harbour YHA – This hostel is in a great location, offering views of the harbour and the Opera House. The hostel is built in the old colonial area of the city, but has all the modern comforts of a good hostel. This isn’t really a party hostel, though, but rather a great place for travelers looking for a quiet stay. It’s great for families too!
  • MID-RANGE: Mercantile Hotel – Offering live music, free Wi-Fi, and all the standard ammentities you’d expect from a mid-range hotel. The Mercantile is located right near the Opera House, the Rocks Markets, and the Harbour Bridge. To top it all off, it’s also home to Australia’s longest-running Irish pub!
  • LUXURY: Four Seasons Sydney – Offering incredbible views of the harbour and the city — as well as incredible luxury — this is a great choice for anyone looking to visit Sydney in style. With a state of the art fitness center and wellness center and spa, you’ll be able to get pampered while you enjoy all that Sydney has to offer.

Best Neighborhood #2: Surry Hills

The fashionable Surry Hills district in Sydney, Australia


Southeast of the Central Business District, Surry Hills has traditionally been known as the best place in Sydney for fashion. The area is perfect for travelers who want to shop ‘til they drop, but its appeal is much broader than that. There are lots of unique, creative dining options, and many old warehouses have been transformed into classy art galleries and gorgeous homes.

The area is perfect for young travelers, foodies, and those wanting to experience Oxford Street, the longtime Gay Capital of Sydney.

Best Places to Stay in Surry Hills

  • BUDGET: Big Hostel – This hostel offers free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free luggage storage, and late checkout — everything the budget traveler needs! They also have a full-equipped kitchen and promote eco-friendly practices (they have a service for donating old clothings and promote energy conservation and recycling).
  • MID-RANGE: Manor Boutique Hotel – This charming boutique hotel is located in a heritage building with antique furnishings. It’s conveniently located just 5 minutes from Oxford street where you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants. Free breakfast is included too!
  • LUXURY: Little Albion – This luxury hotel is actually located in a heritage building that was once a former convent. It’s right near Central Station and only a short drive from Chinatown and Paddy’s Market. The hotel also has a rooftop terrace, lounge, free WiFi, and a complimentary breakfast each morning.

Best Neighborhood #3: Coogee

The bustling Coogee Beach on a hot summer day in Sydney, Australia


This little area with the funny name is perfect for travelers who want a beach vibe but not all the craziness of Bondi Beach. The area is super scenic and the ocean is calm and safe for swimming. This neighborhood is an eastern suburb of Sydney, but you can get to town on public transit in less than half an hour.

Coogee has a youthful and family-friendly feel. Sydney’s eastern East suburbs, youthful, family friendly. If your trip calls for a lot of beach time, this is a great option. There’s super snorkeling nearby at Gordons Bay, and be sure to check out the Wylie Baths — amazing rock pools perfect for swimming. The seaside town is known for its fish and chips, so be sure to give them a try too!

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Best Places to Stay in Coogee

  • BUDGET: Mad Monkey Coogee Beach – This is a great budget hostel located right on the beach. They have a cool co-working space and there are plenty of bars and restaurants around as well. It’s not fancy by any means, but it gets the job done! Just keep in mind that it can get a little noisy, so don’t stay here if you’re looking for some peace and quiet!
  • MID-RANGE: Coogee Bay Hotel (Boutique) – This lovely boutique hotel is in a great location, located only 20 minutes from downtown and 20 minutes from the airport. It’s right beside the ocean, as well, and there is a restaurant and beer garden on-site.
  • LUXURY: Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach – This incredible hotel boasts panoramic views of the ocean, a heated swimming pool, 2 bars, tennis courts, and a fully-equipped fitness center. It’s a spacious hotel with ultra-modern rooms, and there are lots of great seafood restaurants nearby as well.

Best Neighborhood #4: Darling Harbour

The stunning vista of Darling Harbour at night in Australia


This area of town is best for families. This lively neighborhood is a huge tourist draw, as there are tons of attractions along the waterfront. The Sydney Aquarium and IMAX are here, and there’s all kinds of dining. The area’s clubs come alive at night and there’s lots of shopping. There’s also a Madame Tussauds, if that tells you anything.

If you’re travelling with kids, consider this neighborhood. If not, I probably wouldn’t stay in this Disney-like environment.

Best Places to Stay in Darling Harbour

  • BUDGET: Siesta Sydney – This budget-friendly hostel is clean, located in a great location, and has really friendly staff. They have free towels, free Wi-Fi, a fully-equipped kitchen, and laundry facilities.
  • MID-RANGE: Glasgow Arms Hotel – This charming hotel is located above a beautiful old pub. Free breakfast is served all day long and the hotel is just a 5-minute walk from Darling Harbour.
  • LUXURY: The Darling at The Star– This is a massive, luxuorious hotel home to a spa, casino, and over 20 bars and restaurants. Pamper yourself in their Turkish bath or enjoy a swim in their scented outdoor swimming pool — that also has its own bar!

Best Neighborhood #5: Bondi Beach

People relaxing and enjoying the weather at Bondi Beach, Australia


Bondi Beach is world famous. Once you see the iconic beach, you’ll understand why: The amazing views of the Pacific, the seafood restaurants along Campbell Parade, the happening nightlife! This is a great place for backpackers and those looking to party.

But it’s also a good base for beach couples, as well. Bondi is not right in the heart of the city, but public transit is a piece of cake. This area appeals to a younger crowd, and you’re sure to see surfers in the water, sun worshippers on the sand, and adventurous sorts hiking the scenic coastal trails.

Best Places to Stay in Bondi Beach

  • BUDGET: Bondi Backpackers – If you love the beach, you can’t beat this place! There’s a great rooftop space overlooking Bondi Beach and the hostel offers free surfboards. There are also free yoga classes, walking tours, and other fitness activities. If you’re there Friday night, don’t miss the BBQ party on the rooftop!
  • MID-RANGE: Ultimate Apartments (Bondi Beach) – Located just a 7-minute walk from the beach, Ultimate Apartments offers studio apartments with free parking. They have kitchenettes so you can cook some of your own food, as well as an outdoor pool onsite. The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfy!
  • LUXURY: Hotel Bondi – With views overlooking the beach, this boutique-style hotel has both private and shared balconies, as well as some deluze rooms with kitchen facilities if you want to cook your own meals. There is a restaurant onsite, the showers are great, and the staff is incredibly helpful.

Best Neighborhood #6: Central Business District

A panorama over Sydney, Australia's Central Business District


Sydney’s CBD is the heart of it all. It’s a huge area filled with skyscrapers, business, banking, and commerce. But it’s not only for the suit and tie set. This area has tons of attractions, including the Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden.

The neighborhood is generally pretty pricey, but the location may be worth it. The city’s best dining is here, as are the poshest hotels and chicest art galleries. You won’t find a lot of quirky shops, flea markets, or vintage treasures, but you will feel the excitement of big-city living!

Best Places to Stay in the Central Business District

  • BUDGET: Base Sydney – There aren’t many budget options in this part of the city when it comes to accommodation, so Base will likely be your best choice. They have free Wi-Fi and an on-site bar, making it a great place to have fun and meet people.
  • MID-RANGE: Park Regis City Centre – With a rooftop pool and views overlooking the city, this is a great mid-range hotel offering value above and beyond the pricetag. The location is perfect and allows you easy access to all of the main attractions in the city, and they also offer a free airport shuttle as well.
  • LUXURY: Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park – This hotel overlooks Hyde Park and boasts an indoor swimming pool, rooftop fitness center, a great breakfast buffet, as well as amazing restaurants and room service. It’s the perfect place to pamper yourself in the heart of the city.
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Best Neighborhood #7: Paddington

A red bicycle locked up on the street of Sydney's Paddington district


If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay in Sydney, Paddington is one of my favorite neighborhoods. It’s between the CBD and the beaches, so you can get anywhere pretty quickly via bus. This eastern suburb is mainly residential, with beautiful tree-lined streets and Victorian homes with cute balconies. There are upscale restaurants, lively pubs, and prestigious art galleries as well as funky shops.

The area is known for the Saturday Paddington Markets at the Uniting Church. Centennial Park is a great place to relax in the outdoors. This isn’t the best neighborhood if you are looking for extensive nightlife and party options, though.

Best Places to Stay in Paddington

  • BUDGET: Arts Hotel – Budget options in this area are few and far between, so Airbnb might be your best choice. If you’d prefer a hotel, try Arts Hotel. It’s located right on Oxford Street and have a cool garden, swimming pool, and free bikes to use.
  • MID-RANGE: Airbnb – There aren’t any great mid-range options in this area so I’d try Airbnb for a middle-of-the-road option. Just be sure to book in advance as the best places disappear fast!
  • LUXURY: Mrs Banks Hotel – This hotel is actually located in a former bank. It has a very chic vibe and the rooms are all well designed. There’s free Wi-Fi and breakfast included as well.

Best Neighborhood #8: Manly

A lone surfboard resting in the sand on the stunning Manly Beach


Manly is a suburb of Sydeny located just north of the city. It’s is famous for its amazing beach, giant waves, surfing, and wild nightlife. The area has a completely different vibe to it than the central city; it’s a part of town that knows how to have a good time. A lot of tourists actually miss that part of the city as it is a bit out of the way. But don’t let that stop you — it’s worth the short ride to get here. In fact, it’s one of my favorite areas of the city! You’ll also find some gorgeous coastal walking trails on this side of the harbor too.

Best Places to Stay in Manly

  • BUDGET: Manly Backpackers – This is your classic backpacker hostel, with a great social vibe and lively nightlife. The staff are super helpful and fun and can help you make the most out of your trip. Don’t expect the most neat and tidy hostel as there are many long-term backpackers here and the place can get a little messy. But what it lacks in cleanliness it backs up for in price and atmosphere!
  • MID-RANGE: Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific – Located right across from Manly Beach, this hotel is in the perfect location for those looking to balance soaking up the rays on the beach with Manly’s wild nightlife. The hotel has a fitness center and rooftop pool, as well as a nice bar and free breakfast (including certain rooms). You’ll get some great views here too!
  • LUXURY: Designer Studios Manly – As soon as you arrive, you’ll notice the little touches that make this hotel stand out. Not only is there free Wi-Fi, free parking, and a free airport shuttle but you’ll also be gifted free wine and sparkling water on arrival. The staff can also provide picnic blankets in case you want to go out and relax in one of the citys many parks or beaches (which I suggest you do!).

Best Neighborhood #9: Kings Cross

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kings_Cross_at_night.jpg


Located North of Paddington and east of the downtown core, Kings Cross is another party district for any nightowls looking to have fun. It’s wild and cheap, and you’ll find a good mix of both backpackers and locals here. The famous World Bar is where most of the action happens (it’s home to cheap drinks and a large dance floor). If you’re not a backpacker or not looking to party, this probably won’t be the place you wan’t to stay during your visit.

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Best Places to Stay in Kings Cross

  • BUDGET: Hump Backpackers – This is a social hostel where the staff host plenty of fun daily activities to help you meet people (like BBQs, beer pong, and pancake breakfasts). There’s a free breakfast included, all-day coffee and tea, and a different activities each and every night. The beds here are quite comfortable, the bathrooms and showers are kept clean, and lockers in each room are huge. The hostel is surrounded by lots of restaurants and shops, as well as a few bars, so there’s a bunch of things to do in the area. Note: you have to be 18-35 years old to stay here.
  • MIDRANGE: Quest Potts Point – Boasting a rooftop terrace with views over the city, and located only a 5 minute walk from the rambunctious nightlife of Kings Cross, Quest Potts Point is the perfect choice for travelers wanting privacy and comfort while still looking to be right next to the action. Most of the rooms have kitchenettes, the beds are quite comfy, and the staff can help you organize all sorts of fun tours and day trips!
  • LUXURY: Larmont Sydney – The Larmont Sydney by Lancemore is located just 2 minutes from Kings Cross station. The hotel offers all the luxury you need for a very reasonable price. With all the standards like free Wi-Fi, incredibly comfy beds, and amazing staff (the staff here really go above and beyond), this hotel is a great choice for anyone looking for a luxurious stay in a lively area of the city.

***

While Sydney is a big place, it’s not overwhelming. You should be able to hit all the highlights in one trip. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of places to stay – these are just my favorites!

I really like quite a few of these areas, so maybe you’ll want to experience several neighborhoods — stay in town several nights, then move to Bondi Beach or Coogee to get a feel for the surf. To me, that’s the best of both worlds.

But no matter where you stay, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the city and have an amazing time in Australia!

Book Your Trip to Australia: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite hostels in Sydney are:

  • Hump Backpackers – This is a social hostel with free breakfast, all-day coffee and tea, and different activities every night. The beds are comfy and soft, showers are kept clean, and the room lockers are huge.
  • Lord Wolseley – This hostel is located on the upper floors of a historic bar and restaurant that has been around since 1881. Its location near Chinatown and Central Station makes it one of the cheaper places to stay in town. Darling Harbour is just a five minute walk.
  • Asylum Backpackers Hostel – Asylum is close to Kings Cross station, and it’s just a 30-minute walk to the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens.The dorms are spacious and there are common areas inside and outside and free breakfast each day.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Australia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Australia for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ, J Bar, Mynameisben123 , RubyGoes, Enochlau