In 2019, Time Out’s City Index – our annual global survey, quizzing more than 27,000 Time Out readers about the perks and pitfalls of urban living – painted a very bleak picture of Sydney’s nightlife. Out of the 48 cities included on the Index that year, Sydney’s after-dark scene was ranked the worst in the world. Rock. Bottom. And let’s be real, the results kind of had a point. The lockout laws had held the prospect of having a good night out in Sydney in a headlock for more than four years, not only damaging the way locals felt about the city’s nightlife but also tarnishing Sydney’s reputation internationally.
But times have changed here in the Harbour City, oh yes. Since that very poor showing back in 2019, the lockout laws have been given the heave-ho, the state has appointed Sydney’s very first night mayor (aka 24-hour economy commissioner Michael Rodrigues), and lockdowns notwithstanding, much of the red tape and other byzantine compliances that once tied late-night businesses in knots have been simplified or scrapped altogether.
So it is with great pride that I can now inform you, the good people of Sydney, some wonderful news. We no longer have the worst nightlife in the world. We have… the second to worst nightlife in the world. Despite efforts in recent years to improve perceptions of Sydney’s party potential, it seems that the late-night cynicism that built up over the six years that the lockouts were in place is still alive and well.
Taking the crown of the worst of the worst this year is Boston, where just 30 per cent of the residents rated the after-dark scene as a good time. In Sydney, 32 per cent of respondents felt our nightlife was good, while the remaining 68 per cent poo-poo’d Sydney as a party city.
But it wasn’t all bad news. In 2019, Sydney was voted the tenth worst city in the world, ranking a miserable 39th place out of 48. However, in the 2021 survey, Sydney has been ranked the 16th best city in the world – one of its highest ever placings in the Time Out Index. Sydney was also voted as Australia’s most beautiful city, scoring significantly higher than our neighbours to the south in Melbourne (although the Victorian capital scored higher for its culture, food scene and, unsurprisingly, its nightlife). So, while Sydney may have quite some work still to do to rehabilitate its party creds, at least she’s one pretty city.