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People sitting inside bar drinking at Bulletin Place
Photograph: Anna Kucera

What’s good in the neighbourhood: Circular Quay

The new light rail is the main artery to the heart of each neighbourhood and its offerings. Look beyond the seductive harbour for these hidden treats and eats and discover more along the light rail route

By Time Out in partnership with Transport for NSW

The dazzling centrefold in Sydney’s inner-city spread, Circular Quay has more than just a bloody beautiful harbour. Find a burger barn with live music, the city’s best dim sum, and a terrifying ghost tour with our picks of what to eat, drink, see and do along the waterfront light rail route.  

While you're at it, take our quiz to find out what neighbourhood best matches your personality. Or, explore the other exciting areas along the light rail route.

Dumplings at Mr Wong'sMr Wong's. Photograph: Daniel Boud

Eat this

Start your day with a peanut butter and cranberry jelly toastie with banana chips and candied peanuts from brick-lined café Kansas City Shuffle. They’re as serious about coffee as they are about top quality pastries, so save room for those. Roll into brunch with Mr Wong's memorable dim sum – try the steaming baskets of lobster and scallop dumplings or loaded plates of salt and pepper crispy mushrooms. Enjoy a quick lunch of classic lamb-stuffed Greek pita or delicious prawn aglio olio linguine for dinner right next to all the neighbourhood’s bustling action at Quay & Co. If you’re after supper with a side of live tunes then Mary’s Underground is the joint for you. Updating their famous burgers to fancier fare – think dry aged golden duck, charcoal grilled asparagus and a dedicated clam bar – the Mary’s crew gives great sit-down dinner with a bombastic party atmosphere.

Cocktails at Bulliten PlaceBulletin Place. Photograph: Anna Kucera

Drink this

Fuel your drinking adventure with a strong cup of bean juice from Cabrito Coffee Traders. The small coffee roaster has modest furnishings but it’s all about the intoxicating smells and sharp brews here. Then, pick a sunny spot by the window at Hacienda Bar and take in that gorge harbour view. The Caribbean-inspired cocktail purveyors have plush furnishing for you to sip on a tropical Spritz or a 'campfire' Espresso Martini with marshmallow-infused vodka. If sitting on a quality Scotch surrounded by beautiful wood is more your style, pull up a pew at Grain Bar. Cap it all off with one of Bulletin Place’s transient creations from their ever-changing, deliciously challenging cocktails list.

Outside of Customs House Circular QuayCustoms House. Photograph: Daniel Boud

See this 

No matter where you go in Circular Quay the glittering harbour demands your attention, but look a little closer and you’ll uncover more to gaze at. Contemplate the pre-colonial abundance of Sydney’s wildlife and survival of First Nations people with the Tank Stream Fountain. The detailed bronze water feature was gifted to the city in the ‘80s to honour the original fresh water source of the Gadigal people. Check out the built sprawl of greater Sydney in the foyer of Customs House – the underfoot aerial diorama makes you feel like a giant Astro Boy hovering over the city. You also can’t miss the whopping sandstone Museum of Contemporary Art building. Step inside for rotating blockbuster artist exhibitions and their stellar permanent collection. And if spotting spooks is more your thing, book a tour with Lantern Ghost Tours for a creepy crawl around the Rocks. 

People sitting and eating at the Rocks MarketsThe Rocks Market. Photograph: Robert Polmear

Do this

Flesh out your Circular Quay itinerary with a leisurely browse of the Rocks Markets followed by a head-to-toe pampering at Endota Spa. Or get your blood pumping while you learn and take a Bonza Bike Tour of the area’s vivid history. Chuck a visit to the very specific Justice and Police Museum for a peek at their historic mugshot collection and criminal artefacts.

Remember to play it safe around light rail.


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