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Daniel Boud

The 12 best underground bars in Sydney

There's almost nothing Sydney loves more than a drink in the sunshine – but when rain's on the cards, underground booze bunkers are the place to take an elbow

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait
,
Matty Hirsch
&
Elizabeth McDonald
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There's a lot of good reasons to head down rather than up to a rooftop bar when you're feeling parched. Underground, it's always party o'clock, because even if it's 2pm, it feels like after dark. Plus you have no external cues as to the lateness of the hour, so a quick drink can turn into a big night very easily. Drinking below street level is also deliciously climate controlled so on a blazing hot summer's day, or in a torrential downpour (which is more likely than not at present), your best bet is posting up in one of Sydney's best booze bukers.

Need something to line that stomach? Choose from this list of late-night eats in Sydney.

The best underground bars in Sydney

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Circular Quay

In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney’s CBD you’ll find a Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don’t let that put you off. For those of us who have been lying about having seen The Godfather their whole lives, good news. Every page of the drinks menu will run you through the storyline (spoilers lie within, but it’s literally been 50 years).

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

It's almost a competitive sport trying to get into this underground whisky bar. Make it an early or a late visit if you want to get amongst one of the most expansive collections of the demon drink in the inner city without having to queue around the block.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

Were it not for the sight of a security guard or a small queue of people on Bridge Street, you'd have no idea this subterranean ’70s 'porno chic' boozer even existed. And that would be a shame, because good times are writ large down here – Boogie Nights-era soundtrack, banging cocktails, excellent banter and all. 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

With its emerald walls, rattan lamps and bentwood bar stools, Lobo captures the faded grandeur of a Caribbean summerhouse, but this one is found below street level in the heart of the city. Don't know anything about rum cocktails? This is the place to learn.

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Ramblin' Rascal Tavern
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

There are no rules to an evening on the tiles at this party bar in a former comedy club. You can slam down a shit tinnie that'll only set you back six bucks, or savour a Cognac, but keep those spiced, crunchy corn kernels coming. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Circular Quay
  • price 3 of 4

You'll likely be tempted to sit back, settle in for the long haul, soak in some live music, order a rotisserie duck and go home stuffed to the high heavens. But why not just start with a drink and see where the night takes you? (Pro tip: the wine list is worth a good, hard look.)

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 3 of 4

One of the NYC originals that led the worldwide speakeasy charge has brought its brand of late-night cocktail wizardry to the Sydney CBD, complete with signature neon 'Psychic' signage, tarot card readings and chicken soup doled out to the faithful at closing time.

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Palmer and Co
  • Bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

They take the prohibition era brief pretty seriously at this late night bar featuring high rounded bare-brick ceilings decorated with old mugshots of rum runners and bootleggers, beautiful tiling, rare whiskies and rums and lighting that bathes everyone in a dirty warm glow.

The Swinging Cat
  • Bars
  • Sydney
This New Orleans-inspired cocktail den on King Street in the city is not exactly easy to find. The Swinging Cat hides underneath a Subway sandwich shop and boasts almost no signage. Of course, the place pumps regardless after knock off  – Sydney booze hounds can sniff out good drinks at a thousand paces.
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  • Bars
  • Sydney

If you've got a split seam on your hands they won't be able to fix it at this subterranean bar hidden behind a seamstress facade, but the lights are low and the cocktails are delicious, which should help you forget that everyone saw your Batman undies. 

Marble Bar
  • Bars
  • Sydney
This beautiful bar located beneath the Hilton Hotel features 100 tonnes of marble; Renaissance-style paintings of nudes; sky-scraping Corinthian columns; ornate fireplaces, arches and stained glass. It’s as much a museum as a cocktail lounge.
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