Opera House at Opera Bar
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Why we love Sydney (and what you, reader, get wrong about the Emerald City)

We asked you what you thought about Sydney, and boy did you deliver. But in some ways you were wrong


In March, we asked Sydneysiders what they loved and hated about our fair city, as part of the Time Out Global Cities Index. You told us that while you found Sydney to be safe, beautiful and clean (we agree!), you also thought it was very difficult to make friends here. In fact, Sydney came in third-last among the 53 cities surveyed for making new friends. 

We hear you, Sydney, but we respectfully disagree. There are literally millions of people in this gorgeous city of ours, and quite a few of them could and should be your new best friends. 

But come to think of it, there are a few more things that you told us in the survey that we would like to question. It's easy to become jaded to some of the incredible nightlife, dining, culture and natural beauty in Sydney, but we'd like to open your eyes and gently encourage you to look around and take pride in some of the incredible things that make Sydney so special. Herewith, a full-throated defence of Sydney. 

Elizabeth McDonald, food and drink editor: It is very hard to go hungry in Sydney, where you could eat at a different restaurant every day of the week and still not even scratch the surface.  A huge percentage of you reckon our town is great for eating and drinking, and I couldn't agree with you more. No matter what cuisine you’re after, from classic pub grub to omakase, Ethiopian, regional Mexican and everything in between, our city is an absolute goldmine for the gastronomically enthused.

It’s fair to say that our city’s culture took a massive hit as a direct result of lockout laws for a while there, and the perception that Sydney is all about saying ‘poo poo’ to fun is hard to shake. In fact, most survey respondents said Sydney did not have great nightlife. However, thanks in large part to a deeply resilient hospitality industry and recent cash injections from the NSW government into city recovery, our food and drinks scene has come back swinging. Dining and drinking precincts are the latest awesome offering across our city. Many are in historical and long-established zones such as Quay Quarter down in the Rocks and the aesthetically pleasing 25 Martin Place, which has just undergone a massive refresh. YCK Laneways is a buzzing inner-city precinct stuffed with hidden bars just waiting to be discovered. Part of the point of these revamps is helping create new extraordinary small bars, specialty restaurants and even distilleries, but also driving traffic to existing bars and venues.

Maya Skidmore, lifestyle writer: On top of all the gastronomic deliciousness that Sydney has to offer, this city knows how to switch on the most comfortable lights in the house when it comes to the way we live our everyday. A vast majority of you said Sydney was 'beautiful', and frankly, I couldn't agree more.  Our pristine natural beauty and ability to get lost in a mammoth national park, sail across the high seas or plunge into turquoise beachy waters (all before, or even during work) make this city one of the most delightfully liveable in the world. Our temperate climate (though, yes, not recently), our abundance of natural green spaces and urban wildflowers and our big-city-meets-small-town feel all mean that living here is generally a treat. There is always a headland to scale, a bush track to walk or an isolated beach to visit, all within an hour of the city's cheeky lights. And you all agreed, ranking Sydneycity mega high for its plethora of pristine nature opportunities. 

Another remarkable facet of Sydney is how many different cultures and people it holds within it. Although most of you agreed that Sydney ranks highly for diversity, I want to speak to the few who don't think of Sydney as a diverse city. Sydney is overflowing with hundreds of different cultures, identities and individuals, and with this fact comes a wonderful rainbow of possibilities and new experiences that are just waiting out there for you to discover them. It's all about being willing to look.

Alannah Maher, arts and culture editor: While most of you said Sydney is good for arts and culture, we'd argue that the rest of you just aren't looking hard enough. From the blockbuster spectaculars that pack out our theatres and major galleries to the underground curiosities that turn on the spotlight in off-the-beaten-track stages artist-run spaces, anything worth seeing is in Sydney. From the over-the-top spectacular of Opera Australia's Handa Opera on the Harbour (which is something you can only see in the Harbour City) to the more cheap and cheerful experiences like burlesque shows and drag acts that pop up in pubs and on bar tops, it all adds to the city's vibrance. Heck, Sydney is even the hotbed of Australia's burgeoning pro wrestling sceneAs the chorus goes in the offensively great Sydney-set Muriel's Wedding: The Musical, "When you get to Sydney, you will finally get to be you!" And name me a better conduit for understanding yourself, and others, more intimately than the arts? 

Cass Knowlton, editorial director: Now Sydney, we've talked about this. Yes, we had the odious lockout laws. But we don't anymore, and Sydney's nightlife is absolutely thriving. Just last weekend I went on a bit of a bar crawl through the brilliant YCK Laneways precinct, starting with the world's most perfect Margarita (according to me, anyway) at Cantina OK and finishing up with a Philly cheesesteak and a warming Old Fashioned at Old Mate's Place. These hidden bars – and small-but-mighty bars throughout Sydney are proving that the bad old days of lockout are but a distant, unpleasant memory. 

Nigel Kippers, videographer:  I moved to Sydney late 2019, for me it has been a rollercoaster of a ride with Covid and lockdowns. But since getting out of our last lockdown I’ve really come to love how much there is happening in this city. There’s really something here for everyone, from music to fashion, art, events, drinking and dining out, to nature and exploring, it's really all at your doorstep. Sydney is so diverse, and it’s reflected in our restaurant and food scenes, our art and culture and the variety of things on offer.

Nick Dent, associate publisher: Not everyone rates Sydney for arts and culture? You've got to be kidding. Sydney gets all the cool stuff from overseas. Did Hamilton open in Brisbane? I don't think so. The world's greats are falling over themselves to perform at the Sydney Opera House. And we export greatness: theatre productions originating in Sydney, like Prima Facie and The Picture of Dorian Gray, go on the conquer the world. Sydney is an incredible culture city.

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