September 29, 2023

The SXSW Sydney Guide To Eating, Seeing, Drinking And Doing In Our Event Precinct

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Image: White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale | Destination NSW


Whether it’s your first time in Sydney or you’ve lived here all your life, there’s so much to see and discover in the famed Harbour City. Sydney is a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles, so whatever speed you travel, the city will offer it up in spades. 


The SXSW Sydney event precinct will stretch over a number of inner city suburbs, including Ultimo, Chippendale, Haymarket, and the CBD. Each area has a distinctive flavour – from the gorgeous harbour views of Darling Harbour to the bustling hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars hidden down the laneways of Chinatown. 


The SXSW Sydney program is going to be packed  – trust us, we know – but there’ll be ample opportunities for you to get out and about and experience the best of this corner of Sydney. 


And luckily for you, we’ve pulled together this list of the best spots to see, experience, eat, and drink. Read on, and start plotting your schedule! 




Away from the sights of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House (which absolutely should be on your list), there are plenty of spaces to poke around between SXSW Sydney sessions. The stunning Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour will bring a sense of tranquillity to your day, while Chippendale’s acclaimed White Rabbit Gallery is the perfect place to take in the best Chinese contemporary art – and grab some dumplings and tea while you’re at it. 


If you’re after a spot to soak in the sunshine, Victoria Park opposite The Lansdowne Hotel has been a favourite of Sydneysiders for many years, boasting a picturesque duck pond and gentle rolling greens. Likewise, the Chippendale Green (near the Central Park Mall) will offer you a convenient and peaceful spot to rest your feet, while Barangaroo features spectacular views across the glittering Harbour (and some excellent bars and restaurants to grab a bite to eat). 


Of course, one of the best ways to experience Sydney is by boat. Jump on a Harbour ferry and take in the sights while you putter along the water, or hop on board one of the many cruise tours. 


Image: Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour | Destination NSW




Signing up to a Sydney Walking Tour or following one of the many Culture Trails is a great way to get yourself acquainted with the footprint of the city. There are plenty of tours that will take you through the heart of the city and SXSW Sydney precinct, as well as other historic areas like The Rocks. For Halloween lovers, consider getting involved in one of the Lantern Ghost Tours


Sydney can get pretty warm in spring, so why not bring your swimmers and take a dip in the stunning Marrinawi Cove? It’s a newly opened reserve for swimmers in Barangaroo, offering a chance to take a dip in the cool waters of Sydney Harbour. 


Located smack bang in the heart of the SXSW Sydney event precinct is the acclaimed Powerhouse Museum, which has been enthralling the public since it opened nearly forty years ago. It’s a must-see for lovers of the arts and sciences alike. If shopping is your vibe, there’s plenty of that too. If you want high-end luxury, take a wander into Sydney’s CBD around Castlereagh Street, but also definitely check out the wonderfully hectic Paddy’s Markets in Haymarket, where you’ll find everything from clothes and shoes to yummy snacks and fresh fruit and veg. 


Image: Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, Sydney | Destination NSW




You’ve probably worked up an appetite after all of that, so it’s handy that Sydney is one of the best culinary cities in the world. Within the SXSW Sydney precinct, you’ll find every cuisine imaginable, and restaurants that range from delightful cheap eats to elegant fine dining. 


If you want to splash out, restaurants like Chippendale’s Ester and the Parisian bistro Gavroche are well worth your time, as is Olio Kensington Street, which will have you tuck into exquisite Sicilian food. If Spanish is more your speed, Paripé is a must-visit. For Korean food-lovers, check out Jung Sung – and if you’re craving a big bowl of ramen, head to Kyo-To. And if you can’t settle on just one place, Spice Alley – situated right in the middle of SXSW Sydney’s footprint – is the perfect place to sample a huge range of food from across Asia. 


If you want an authentic Chinatown experience, you can’t go wrong with the beloved Ho Jiak, Xing Xing Sichuan Dish, or Chat Thai on Campbell Street. And if you want to have a truly authentic Sydney dining experience, you simply have to duck into Chinese Noodle Restaurant for the best cheap dumplings you’ll find (hot tip: make sure to get the Special Braised Eggplant). 


Image: Spice Alley, Chippendale | Destination NSW






Every Australian will tell you: We have the best coffee in the world. While Sydney and Melbourne regularly battle it out over which city is better, the reality is both cities are home to excellent cafes and baristas that take great pride in what they pour. So if you’re a coffee lover, you’re in for a very good time in Sydney. 


The SXSW Sydney event precinct is home to numerous cafes and coffee shops, serving up everything from artisan, single origin cups to quick and breezy flat whites. For the best drops, head to Brickfields Bakery in Chippendale (pick up one of their pastries while you’re at it), or Cafe Giulia or Something For Jess on Abercrombie Street. Complete with a cafe, restaurant, bar, coffee roastery, bakery, florist, market and farm all in one; there is so much to explore at the insta worthy Grounds of Alexandria. Pigeonhole Cafe in Ultimo has been a favourite for locals for many years, while in Darling Harbour you can’t go wrong with Blackbird (the views alone are worth it) or Haven Specialty Coffee


Image: The Grounds of Alexandria, Alexandria | Destination NSW




Sydneysiders love a coffee, and they also love a nice drink. Cocktails? Got them. Specialty beer? Got that too? Local watering holes and venues to jump on the dancefloor? Absolutely. 


There are a heap of places within the SXSW Sydney precinct to have a beverage. If you’re a cocktail or fine wine lover, you can’t go wrong with The Clare on Broadway, while Banchō – tucked away in a small laneway in Haymarket – is quickly becoming one of Sydney’s best small bars. Gin Lane on Kensington Street, inspired by the gin palaces of the 1800s, offers nearly 80 different gins on its menu (who doesn’t love a G&T?). If you’re keen to somewhere packed with character, check out Ultimo’s Saga Bar.

If a pub is more your speed, The Lansdowne Hotel and Abercrombie are both legendary Sydney watering holes, with live music that will carry you into the wee hours of the morning. And to have a boogie, Cargo Bar and Bungalow 8 in Darling Harbour are the places to be. Or feel like some karaoke? Then dive into the famed Dynasty Karaoke in Chinatown. Up for a drag & dine experience or dancing the night away, the iconic LGBTQ+venue, The Imperial is the place to be.


The Imperial, Erskinville | Destination NSW


Accessing SXSW Sydney – the 101 on Badges and Wristbands 


Badges are your master key for SXSW Sydney – they open the doors to all activity across the week-long event, from its Conference and Tech & Innovation Expo to its Music, Screen and Games Festivals. As he is a conference speaker, it is only possible to see Charlie Brooker with a badge.  


Wristbands give access to SXSW Sydney’s Music, Screen or Games festivals, for performances, screenings and showcases.  

  • Music Festival: 300 performances in 25 venues over 4 days and nights.   
  • Screen Festival: unlimited screenings over one week. 
  • Games Festival: 150 new indie games and parties over 6 nights.  


Click here to discover the right level of access for you.


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