Sydney really does live up to its world-class reputation. The locals are friendly, the sun is a constant companion, and there’s a beautiful beach for every day of the week. For Sydney locals, living the good life rates pretty high on the priority scale… as does letting everybody know about it. It’s a city that is tailor made for the Instagram and Pinterest generation: unapologetically extroverted, naturally photogenic, and totally ruled by trends. That’s great news for visitors, as the essential things to do, see or eat are always well within reach. Just be prepared to part with some serious cash in the process! Sydney continues to value style and substance in equal measure, so here are some easy on-the-pulse ways to slip in unnoticed beside the harbour city’s beautiful people.
#1 Do the Taco Tuesday pilgrimage
Finding a free table at revamped pub The Norfolk on a Tuesday night is a feat of willpower and lightning reflexes. The popularity of Taco Tuesday seems to be limitless (hello, $3 tacos!), and killing time by the bar (while sipping a cocktail out of a decommissioned Campbell’s soup can) will definitely involve bumping elbows with young and good-looking types of the bearded, man-bunned and heavily tattooed variety.
#2 Complain about housing prices
No matter the circumstance – renting, sharing or paying off a mortgage, in the heart of the city or out in the ‘burbs – you can take it for granted that everyone in Sydney is haemorrhaging cash for the sake of their home. It’s the great common denominator, and on the plus side it’s the most universal conversation icebreaker. Extra points will be awarded for taking this conversation to Taco Tuesday (see above), to bemoan Sydney’s extortionate living costs over a rare cheap meal.
#3 Become a fitness trend tragic
Put down the chains, and back away from the shouty drill sergeant. Bootcamp, crossfit, pilates and retro kitsch ’80s aerobics classes are over. Sober breakfast raves, HIIT, soul cycle and mindful meditation are where it’s at (for now).
#4 See yourself in Sydney… literally
Perhaps it’s inspired by the gorgeous reflection of the glittering harbour, but Sydney’s new wave of architecture, as spurred on by its fever-pitch property development race, has the city’s structures increasingly covered in shiny glass, reflective chrome and high definition mirrors. It’s sleek, modern, and oh so look-at-me. While Sydney still retains much of that self-deprecating Aussie spirit, new builds like the kaleidoscope of mirrored escalators under Centrepoint Westfields and the futuristic One Central Park highrise give the city permission to take genuine pride in its landscape, while secretly loving its own mirror image.
#5 Argue passionately against Westconnex, and in favour of the light rail, and growing network bike lanes
Never mind that you (and everyone else) buy bottled water, burn through Nespresso canisters, and shop at chain store malls. The minute details of Sydney’s hot-button environmental topics should be ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
#6 Learn the Opal Card trick
Sydney’s public transport network leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s essential for getting around and seeing the sights. Make it fun by gaming the system: tally up a bunch of eight short trip ‘journeys’ on your Opal card early in the week, hit the free cap threshold, and travel for free for all over town the rest of the week.
#7 Play with the dogs at Camperdown dog park
Newtown’s infamous park is not exactly a calm patch of greenery. It’s an entertaining cross-section of the colourful locals who regularly traipse up and down the main drag of King Street – and that’s just the dogs. Prime pooch time starts at 5pm when all the wee doggies descend to frolic off-lead. Pack a frisbee and a poop bag to blend in, and observe the social interactions between the pedigree princesses (replete with tutus, and baby carriages), designer dalmatians, highly-strung yappers and down-to-earth mutts, plus their uncannily identical owners. Cool off with the gang after sunset with a beer (or bowl of water) up the road at the Courthouse.
#8 Treat food and drink like a competitive sport
The wide variety of food and booze in Sydney is incredible, but the circuit can be so intense as to be physical challenging . Short distance relays come courtesy of racing to the new spot, to be the first to try the new menu by the new chef, who used to be old chef at the old spot (which was actually the new place last month). Marathon efforts have filtered down to the casual dining sector: long, snaking queues for fancy gelato, no-frills hand-pulled noodles, Nutella milkshakes and rock’n’roll burgers are still a regular fixture at Messina, Chinese Noodle Dumpling House, Tella Ball Shake and Mary’s respectively.
#9 Talk up the secret spoils of vintage shopping in suburban and regional op-shops.
Then just shop at Cream instead. Because dad jeans and vintage trainers are worth a three-digit price tag.
#10 Alternatively: adopt the high-maintenance, high glamour look.
If the Strand Arcade is the centre of your everything, you’ll never feel underdressed again.
#11 Oppose the lockout laws
The actions of a few testosterone-fueled neanderthals have had tragic consequences in Sydney. Now, the city’s liquor laws mean that there are strict rules over when and where you can enjoy a drink. Sign up to organisations like Reclaim The Streets and Keep Sydney Open to stay informed about their anti-lockout events.
#12 Gordon’s Bay > Bondi
Thousands of people have traipsed upwards alongs Sydney’s famous coastal walk for years, passing or stopping off along the the stretches of white sand and surf, with the promise of the iconic expanse of Bondi Beach waiting at its northernmost end. How that has changed. Now, on any given day, a selection of sculpted and bronzed eastern suburbs types, inner-city cool kids, serious divers, and leisurely swimmers can be found draped over the giant boulders, or crowding the teeny tiny beach of Gordon’s Bay. A tiny, pretty, but unassuming inlet that was once only really frequented by locals, it’s now the top destination for anyone who has moved beyond Bondi.
#13 Also like Melbourne
Melburnians seem to have a complex about being ‘Australia’s second city’. Spend even a little bit of time with one and they’ll constantly point out the ways that Melbourne is superior to Sydney, from its culture to its coffee to its cool – well – everything. Rather than enter into competitive nitpicking, Sydney locals love their beautiful city and also manage to find room in their hearts for Melbourne’s many favourable points. Sydneysiders really get to enjoy the best of both worlds (but Sydney weather totally trumps here, let’s be real).
(Lead image: Lucy Kitsunè Mj/Flickr)
Christine is Berlin-based but Sydney-born, and when she's not chasing the sun between those two cities she loves discover new places. She she also loves to write, particularly about travel and techno. Her life essentials include eyeliner, eye contact, and contact lenses.