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Last updated : Nov 2009
Sydney Nightlife
Sydney Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
Oxford Street, the heart of Sydney’s gay area, swarms with cafés and clubs (gay, straight and mixed) while the established red light district of Kings Cross continues to cater for the seedier side of life.

The Rocks, with its wharves and warehouses, was the original drinking heart of Sydney and in the early 20th century, the rowdy scene of the ritual ‘6 o’clock swill’, when workers would drink as much as possible before the pubs closed at 6.00 pm.

Today, the period pubs have been cleaned up for the huge tourist consumers. Drinks at the harbour side terrace across the bay, at Bennelong Point under the curves of the Sydney Opera House, are expensive but also worth it for the views.

Bouncers at the more fashionable clubs enforce firm dress codes and ID checks. The days of the 6 o’clock swill are long gone, as Sydney’s licensing hours are extremely relaxed. At any hour of the day or night, someone somewhere is serving drinks to any person over the legal age of 18. The price of a drink is generally between A $4 and A $10.

For up to date listings, free weekly entertainment guides Drum Media and 3D World are available at most city centre bookshops and record stores, as is the gay and lesbian Sydney Star Observer.

The Sydney Morning Herald also carries an ample entertainment guide, ‘Metro’, in the Friday edition.


The Establishment lives up to its name as Sydney’s de rigueur after work drinking place. Stylish and enormous, it incorporates the exclusive Hemmesphere cocktail lounge.

Address: 252 George Street

Middle Bar plays host to many stunning young things.

Address: 383 Bourke Street

East Village offers a classy take on the traditional Sydney pub, as does the beautiful Art Deco Civic.

East Village address: 234 Palmer Street

Art Deco Civic address: 388 Pitt Street.

ECQ has beautiful views of the Harbour Bridge and equally as stunning prices.

Address: 69 Macquarie Street

The Victoria Room fills out its cavernous space with British colonial décor and classy drinkers.

Address: 235 Victoria Street

The Colombian, which is on the corner of Oxford Street and Crown Street, offers the best of both worlds, straight upstairs and gay downstairs.

The Stonewall is another good place to start a gay night out in Sydney, there are DJs, drag shows and friendly faces in abundance.

Address: 175 Oxford Street

The Darlo Bar, (address: 306 Liverpool Street) the Green Park Hotel, (address: 360 Victoria Street) and the Bank Hotel, (address: 324 King Street) are where the younger inner city crowd congregate for pool and beer.


Star City Casino, is a A $60 million casino, restaurant, theatre and hotel complex on the site of a former wharf. Dress code is smart / casual and the gaming section is restricted to people 18 years and over. A passport or other proof of age is necessary.

Address: 80 Pyrmont Street
Telephone: (02) 9777 90000
Website address: www.starcity.com.au


Sydney takes clubbing very seriously, it is always safer to dress up rather than down and it is advised to be prepared to queue.

Home has 4 different sections featuring techno, funk, 2 step and disco.

Address: Cockle Bay Wharf

Tank, is part of The Establishment complex (please see bars section).

Address: 3 Bridge Lane

The Chinese Laundry
combines a blistering sound system with mock East Asian decor.

Address: 1 Slip Street

Sydney’s well connected society clubbers go to Cave, Pirrama Road, whilst the old stand-by, Q Bar, 44 Oxford Street, is a dependable choice for mid week clubbing.

Other Prominent venues include Gas, 467 Pitt Street, Soho, 171 Victoria Street, and The World Bar, 24 Bayswater Road. The gay dance scene revolves around Arq, 16 Flinders Street.


The Comedy Store is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and is Sydney’s premier venue showcasing local, national and international stand up talent.

Address: Fox Studios, Lang Road
Telephone: (02) 9357 1419
Website address: www.comedystore.com.au

Monday night is comedy night at the Fringe Bar,

Address: Unicorn Hotel, 106 Oxford Street
Telephone: (02) 9360 3554).

The Laugh Garage
, situated in the Agincourt Hotel, corner of George Street and Harris Street is open Fridays and Saturdays (telephone: (02) 8883 1111).

Cultural Events

The Sydney Festival which is held in January, features open air concerts and theatre from around the world, alongside Sydney’s best. The Biennale of Sydney, held from May to July of even numbered years, is an international contemporary art festival held in combination with the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is a month long festival in February / March, which is famous for its colourful and lively parade along Oxford Street, attracting over half a million spectators every year.

The Royal Easter Show is a traditional 12 day show that brings farm life to the city during April. The Festival of the Winds is Australia’s largest kite flying competition, held annually in September at Bondi Beach.

Manly Jazz Festival, which is held on the Labour Day long weekend in October, is Australia’s largest, longest and best known jazz festival, featuring traditional, fusion, big band, bop and contemporary jazz.

Sleaze Ball, which is a fundraiser for the Mardi Gras Festival, is also held on the Labour Day long weekend in October. Up to 16,000 gay and lesbian revellers dress to a theme and party all night at Fox Studios.


The Australian Ballet (telephone: 1300 369 741) performs mainly traditional pieces during its summer and winter season at the Sydney Opera House,

Address: Bennelong Point
Telephone: (02) 9250 7111

Similarly, the Sydney Dance Company (telephone: (02) 9221 4811), the city’s leading contemporary dance group, performs at the Opera House for 2 seasons per year.

The Bangarra Dance Theatre performs a fusion of contemporary and traditional dance at various venues throughout the city. The company also tours extensively, both internationally and nationally.

Address: Pier 4/5 Hickson Road
Telephone: (02) 9251 5333
Website address: www.bangarra.com.au


Syndey's central cinemas, situated near Town Hall, have all merged into the 17 screen Village Greater Union Hoyts George Street

Address: 505 George Street
Telephone: (02) 9273 7431
Website address: www.hoyts.com.au

Fox Studios Australia

Address: Lang Road, Moore Park
Telephone: (02) 9383 4333
Website address: www.foxstudios.com.au

is home to 2 cinema complexes, Hoyts (telephone: (02) 9332 1300), which includes the luxury La Premiere cinema (telephone: (02) 9332 1663), and the arthouse, Cinema Paris (telephone: (02) 9332 1633).

Other arthouse cinemas include the Academy Twin

Address: 3a Oxford Street
Telephone: (02) 9361 4453
Website address: www.palace.net.au

The Academy Twin is home to the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Film Festival (telephone: (02) 9332 4938), the Chauvel, Paddington Town Hall (telephone: (02) 9361 5398), and the Art Deco Hayden Orpheum

Address: 380 Military Road
Telephone: (02) 9908 4344
Website address: www.orpheum.com.au

1st run movies open on Thursday and discount night is on Tuesday.

The Sydney Film Festival (telephone: (02) 9280 0511) takes place every year in June, with most screenings in the magnificent marble auditorium of the State Theatre

Address: 49 Market Street
Telephone: (02) 9373 6852
Website address: www.statetheatre.com.au

Makers of short films enter Tropfest (telephone: (02) 9368 0434) every February to March, with finalists shown on open air screens set up in the Domain, a large park on the fringe of the city centre.

Notable films set or partially set in Sydney include:
    Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977)
  P J Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding (1993)
   Stephan Elliot’s The Adventures of Priscilla
  Queen of the Desert (1993)
  Ray Lawrence’s Lantana (2001)
   Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich’s animated feature Finding Nemo (2003).
Literary Notes

‘One of the finest, most beautiful, vast and safe bays the sun had ever shone upon,’ composed inveterate traveller Joseph Conrad in 1906.

Sydney Harbour continues to inspire eulogies from writers, including Miles Franklin who, in 1946, wrote: ‘A month would not be long enough to imbibe such beauty.’

More recently, Clive James, the satirist, writer, broadcaster and critic, was rather more blunt: ‘Sydney is like Venice without the architecture but with more sea.'

The city’s literary luminaries include Peter Carey, who lived in Sydney before moving to New York, and set his Booker Prize winning Oscar and Lucinda (1988) in 19th century Sydney, where country girl Lucinda dreams of self reliance and an industrial utopia.

David Williamson, Australia’s most victorious playwright, calls Sydney home. His Emerald City (1987) is a comedic hymn to the city’s temptations.

Patrick White, Australia’s Nobel laureate, lived in Sydney for most of his life, and passionately evoked the city’s artistic life in The Vivisector (1970).

A characteristic streak led Sydney born Thomas Keneally from the priesthood to the life of a full time novelist. He published his first novel in 1964 then was consequently awarded the Booker Prize for Schindler’s Ark (1982).

Teenagers Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette wrote Puberty Blues (1979) as an depiction of the sexual rites of passage of teens at the beach suburb of Cronulla.

Robin Dalton’s Aunts Up the Cross (1965) is a demonstrative memoir of Kings Cross in the 1930s, while John Birmingham’s Leviathan (2000) takes a more cynical look at the city’s history of criminals, ‘razor gangs’ and corruption.

Modern Sydney receives a sanction of sorts from one of its favourite sons, world famous art critic Robert Hughes, who wrote:

‘The provinciality that seemed to characterise Australian society, and could be plainly seen in Sydney 25 years ago, is all but gone. To a striking degree, the city’s habits have softened … Sydney is no longer quite so keen on the ‘ocker’ (Pacific redneck) image of the Australian: beer gut, thongs, nasal foghorn voice and a truculent certainty that, short of Paradise itself, Australia is the only ticket and that the rest of the world only displays its inferiority by not necessarily wanting to come here.’


The Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point (telephone: (02) 9250 7111), is the premier performance venue for classical music.

The Sydney Symphony (telephone: (02) 9334 4600), the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs (telephone: (02) 9251 2024), Opera Australia (telephone: (02) 9319 1088) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (telephone: (02) 8274 3800) hold most of their performances at the Opera House.

The Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Ultimo Centre, Harris Street (telephone: (02) 8333 1500), tends to be used for smaller performances, as does Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street (telephone: (02) 9265 9189), and City Recital Hall, Angel Place (telephone: (02) 8256 2222).

The Conservatorium of Music, Macquarie Street (telephone: (02) 9351 1222), hosts symphony, wind and chamber concerts as well as jazz big bands.

Live Music is played at the Hopetoun Hotel and the Annandale Hotel, which are the best centrally located venues for up and coming bands:

The Hopetoun Hotel

Address: 416 Bourke Street

and the Annandale Hotel

Address: 17 Parramatta Road

Leading Australian and international acts perform at:

The Sydney Entertainment Centre

Address: Harbour Street, the Metro, 624 George Street

The Enmore Theatre

Address: 130 Enmore Road.

Jazz fans can find world class performers at :

The Basement

Address: 29 Reiby Place

The Side-On Cafe

Address: 83 Parramatta Road, Annandale.


The Sydney Theatre Company (telephone: (02) 9250 1777) is Sydney’s stylish flagship theatre company.

Performances take place at the Wharf Theatres, Pier 4, Hickson Road (telephone: (02) 9250 1700), the brand new Sydney Theatre, 22 Hickson Road (telephone: (02) 9250 1999) and the Opera House, Bennelong Point (telephone: (02) 9250 7111).

Acting celebrities, such as Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett, have performed at the highly respected Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street (telephone: (02) 9699 3444).

The Performance Space, 199 Cleveland Street (telephone: (02) 9698 7235)), and the Seymour Theatre Centre, Cleveland Street and City Road (telephone: (02) 9351 7940), are the main venues for more left field contemporary performance.

are staged at:

The Capitol Theatre

Address: 13 Campbell Street
Telephone: (02) 9320 5000
Website address: www.capitoltheatre.com.au

The State Theatre

Address: 49 Market Street
Telephone: (02) 9373 6852
Website address: www.statetheatre.com.au

The Lyric Theatre

Address: Star City, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Telephone: (02) 9657 8500
Website address: www.lyrictheatre.com.au

Newer Australian playwrights stage their work at the Stables Theatre,

Address: 10 Nimrod Street
Telephone: (02) 9250 7799
Website address: www.griffintheatre.com.au

Sydney’s longest established theatre is the Ensemble,

Address: 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli
Telephone: (02) 9929 0644
Website address: www.ensemble.com.au