Sydney might be known for its beautiful harbor or its beaches but the best bars in Sydney are popping up as the underground speakeasy scene grows.
If you are a twenty-something and up, you will no doubt appreciate the lavish cocktails of the speakeasy scene (I do)! Sydneysiders pride themselves on having an international taste for the finer things in life due to their addiction to travel.
I grew up in Sydney and loved to try to find somewhere new each weekQ Ironically almost all of my favourite bars are within walking distance of each other. I created a walking tour for my mates and it was AMAZING!
This self-guided walking tour is perfect for tourists who want to feel like they have found something local and locals who are looking for something a little different. The whole tour covers two blocks and is about 1.2km (approx. 15 mins walking in total so there is plenty of time for drinking). Keep in mind these bars shut by 12 pm but we have a few suggestions to keep the party going after if you want something more!
Onto the tour!
START: THE QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING
Catch the bus or train to TOWN HALL TRAIN STATION and emerge to the Queen Victoria Building onto YORK STREET (if you are facing north it’s on the left side of the building. Head north…)
A QUICK NOTE: FOOD
ADDRESS: 3/56-58 York St, Sydney
If you need to stop in for a snack, try Mr Bow’s. ‘Bows’ are the new ‘it’ food in Sydney and they are AMAZING!!! They are little bundles of delicious Vietnamese and Japanese food wrapped up in a super soft steamed bun. Two is a good base and at $6.00 each, they are simply perfect. Enough about food… onto the tour!
Across the street… is our first stop…
STOP 1: THE BARBER SHOP
ADDRESS: 89 YORK STREET, SYDNEY, 2000
Think gin is for Nannas? Think again.
The first time I went to The Barber Shop, I thought my friend had followed the wrong search item on google map. We walked up to the front door of a closed, traditional style barber shop. The lights were out and it seemed no one was home. Man, was I wrong! A bouncer in civilian clothing stepped out from the shadows, he approached the group and quietly asked for our ID’s. Then he looked around and pushed the front door open just enough so that we could get through… “Go through the shop and to the back” he said, then he was gone.
We walked through the dark barber shop, up the stairs to a sliding door and emerged into a back-room bar. (IT WAS SO COOL)!
This place has a grungy, hipster feel and is a great place get things going. The bar is full of energy and good music. Occasionally they will feature live music so keep an eye out for it. It is definitely on the list when it comes to the best bars in Sydney.
Don’t miss: Pimms and Shave with a G&T twist. The bar does seasonal cocktails which have always been brilliant. Occasionally, I will ask the bartenders to do me their favourite or signature and they always make something that blows my mind.
If you are feeling a little peckish and you didn’t stop for bows, they do have fantastic sharing plates here too.
WALK: Head north until you come to the next crossroad, take a left on KING STREET and then an immediate left onto CLARANCE STREET walk about a third of the way down the street until you come across the 152 alleyway on your left.
STOP 2: THE BAXTER INN
ADDRESS: The Basement (yes the actual basement), 152 – 156 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
It’s time for whiskey. The Baxter Inn is my absolute favourite bar in Sydney. The masterminds behind Baxter have created some of the best-themed bars in the city and it is the top of the charts. If you love good booze, great conversation and a comfortable atmosphere you will love this place.
It’s not the easiest place to find and keeps the riff-raff away! At 152 – 156 Clarence you will come across an alleyway. Head through the large gates and take a right towards the bins and find the bouncer standing next to a small door… yes, it is weird the first time you go!
Descend that dark staircase, open the door at the bottom you emerge into the dapper world of Baxter.
This bar has been styled around a prohibition bar with bartenders sporting bow ties! The best part about The Baxter Inn is that it has an ‘all animals are equal’ entry policy and there are no reservations, no bookings just walk-ins accepted, meaning you always feel welcome. It has a small capacity, about one hundred in a cozy setting, but not cozy enough that you can’t hear a thing. If you do find yourself in a line, hang in there, the wait time is fast due to a quick turn-over.
If you are a whiskey fan, The Baxter has an extensive collection that covers the entire wall and feature whiskey from around the world. These are displayed on a board behind the bar. If you are a whiskey novice, as I was, the bartenders have your back. Talk to them! They have a sensational knowledge and will walk you through an introduction into whiskey.
Don’t miss: Don’t miss whiskey and fresh apple juice. They make the apple juice fresh in front of your eyes and it is to die for!
Let’s step it up a notch… for the ladies.
WALK: Head across the street and down a little to …
STOP 3: THE LOBO PLANTATION
ADDRESS: 1/209 Clarence St, SYDNEY
When it comes to the best bars in Sydney, this place has the ‘wow’ factor (and is a good choice for a date). The first time I visited Lobo was with a group of friends, guys and girls, and everyone was impressed, not only by the drinks list but by the cool vibe. The bar is usually marked by a small palm or plant at the front door on the street. It draws you into the Lobo world.
Lobo attracts a certain type of person who appreciates the decadence of a good cocktail and lavish lifestyle. It does feel as if you are somewhere else, think 1920’s NYC, The Great Gatsby.
You descend from the street down a beautiful staircase into an abundantly designed interior. The décor of the bar includes lavish leather lounges while deep greens give an exotic look and brilliant candlelight gives it that wow factor.
The place was named after Julio Lobo, the last Sugar Baron of the Caribbean, who controlled the industry from the 1930’s to 1960’s. Lobo’s elaborate taste is reflected in the bar’s design. This is a rum bar… in honour of Lobo, so don’t miss a drink here.
Don’t miss: The ‘Old Grogram’ a Lobo creation, Lobo’s spiced rum, fresh lemon, sugar and stout vermouth. The mixologist will light it up and it is just ‘fabulous darling’! Lobo has an exotic selection with over 150 types of rum from around the world! If you don’t think you are a rum fan, talk to the waiters… they will find a way to make your mouth water.
This is a great place for conversation and it always draws an interesting crowd. It is never too loud and it a great spot to play.
Last stop on the tour…
STOP 4: GRANDMA’S BAR
ADDRESS: BASEMENT, 275 CLARENCE STREET, SYDNEY
I don’t really know about how to describe this bar so…think about your Grandma… now think about her a few glasses of champagne under, at a wedding… dancing to The Rolling Stones. She is having a blast and so will you at Grandma’s.
The drinks list ranges from fruity and pretty to robust. It is a rum bar however, their long glasses with a huge range of mixers make them the perfect place for that buzzed Instagram session with your friends.
Drink: The Peanut Butter Colada…. Rum shaken with coconut pineapple and peanut butter.
The design is grandma themed, there are comfortable chairs, knitting, bright warm colours and cozy spots to cuddle up in.
Apart from the fun fruity drinks, this place also does baked bean and cheese jaffles (like grilled cheese).
Described as the “Retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded Granny glamour” you can’t judge this place until you have seen it. It has parrot wallpaper and handmade knitted rugs!
After a few bars, you will appreciate the comfort of Grandma’s to finish off the night in a friendly comfortable bar.
Then, like Cinderella… you can disappear at the stroke of midnight as these delightful speakeasies close their doors at 12pm.
Note, Grandma’s says that is open until late which means they may push the time, but I wouldn’t count on it.
WALK: Crawl out of GRANDMA’S and head south to the next cross street, DRUITT STREET walk a block, turn left and you are back on YORK STREET and at the QVB where you started. You can take the train or bus home from TOWN HALL STATION!
Most Sydney trains do their last run around 12:15 – 12:30 so keep an eye on the timetables to avoid the only replacement, the night bus (believe me, you don’t want to do that).
THE AFTER PARTY
If you are up for more fun we can suggest CHINESE LAUNDRY (they won nightclub of the year recently) for the hard-core dancers and THE SCARY CANARY for those who are after more of a chilled back-packet vibe both are within walking distance.
Enjoy the walking tour! My friends and I love it and we hope you do too!