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Live on the Golden Stage 2017 February image courtesy Golden Age Cinema and Bar photographer credit Connor Rancan
Photograph: Connor Rancan

Your essential guide to Sydney Solstice on Oxford Street and the surrounds

Fabulous food, divine drinks, and kick-arse culture abound in Sydney’s favourite party district this winter

By Time Out in association with Destination NSW

Winter is right around the corner, but far from going into hibernation, Sydney will be wide awake and alive with a whole heap of events and happenings celebrating the city’s best hospitality and culture. Sydney Solstice will bring together a fortnight of awesome reasons to rug up and leave the house, with a focus on the most innovative and exciting talents in food, drink and the creative industries that are transforming Sydney’s after-dark economy.

Taking place from June 8 to 20, all the action will unfold across four key Sydney precincts. To make sure you don’t miss a single second, we’ve teamed up with the masterminds behind Solstice, Destination NSW, to bring you neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood guides outlining the top local events you need to catch.

It’s little wonder that an event celebrating Sydney’s nightlife has turned to Oxford Street. Sydney’s main LGBTQIA drag is one of the most beloved and trusted nightspots in the city, but its nearby suburbs – Paddington, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Wooloomooloo, Elizabeth Bay, Kings Cross, Potts Point and the Entertainment Quarter – are all after-dark draws in their own right. Here’s where you can celebrate the night, Solstice style, in the 2010 postcode and beyond.

Where to experience Sydney Solstice in and around the Oxford Street area

Discover a fermentation fiesta with a local twist
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Discover a fermentation fiesta with a local twist

Churned, pickled, proven and matured: all things fermented, from cheese and sourdough to beer and wine, will be on offer at Oxford Street’s Bitter Phew Bar this Sydney Solstice. Through a series of workshops, lunches, dinners and meet-the-makers sessions, Sydneysiders can discover the massive flavours that result from microorganisms. There will be a particular spotlight on the distinctive qualities of native ingredients, showcasing the innovative and surprising ways homegrown produce can be used. Sharing the tricks of their trade will be Gabriel Gutnik of Ziggy’s Wild Foods, while lunch and dinner sessions will be hosted by Caitlin Koether of Wild Provisions.

While you’re here: Stick to the shop-local spirit and pay a visit to the trailblazing multi-business “cultural hub” They’re There, just across the street from Bitter Phew. Peruse second-hand records, get a trendy new haircut, or shop for preloved vintage threads, all while listening to local DJs, poets, bands and fringe artists on They’re There’s very own stage.

Eat, drink, rave, repeat at one of Surry Hills’ best pubs
Photograph: Destination NSW

Eat, drink, rave, repeat at one of Surry Hills’ best pubs

Kneel before the gods of EDM and prepare to be raptured to a heavenly realm of rave as Hotel Harry is transformed into Altar Danceteria. Summoning the spirit of the ‘90s warehouse rave scene, techno classics and fresh EDM hits will be spinning on the decks of KIM from the multi-platinum lords of rock’n’rave, the Presets, alongside his Here to Hell record label compadre, Mike Callander. Both are ranked among the most legendary dance DJs of the now, having whipped up the masses at top clubs like Honkytonks and Revolver into a sweaty, heaving frenzy on many an occasion. Over the two-week techno-fest, you can also catch sets by up-and-coming DJ wunderkind Rennie, and Hotel Harry’s resident disc-jockeys, Willo and DJ iPad Air.

While you’re here: Fuel up before you get down with a slap-up feed at Chin Chin, the mod-Asian Surry Hills eatery that has kept the city’s hungry restaurant goers lining up for tables, week after week, for four years.

Witness DJ mastery from one of Australia’s most in-demand record spinners
Photograph: Supplied

Witness DJ mastery from one of Australia’s most in-demand record spinners

If anyone deserves the title, Simon Caldwell could easily be considered an icon of the Australian dance music scene. Since the early 1990s, he’s been spinning the freshest dance tracks across a huge spectrum of genres, from techno to electro, hip hop to house, and just about everything in between. After years as a stalwart on the club and festival circuit he spends most of his time these days marshalling the airwaves at FBi Radio, but he’ll be helming a live performance of FBi’s flagship electronic music show, FBi Radio Sunset Live with Simon Caldwell & Friends at the Golden Age Cinema and Bar for Sydney Solstice. It’s a chance to see the Don of Australian DJing in the flesh, along with a stacked line-up of support acts, in one of the city’s most beautiful art deco venues. Golden Age will also host FBi Radio Sunset Live with Ben Fester, Kato & Friends.   

Golden Age's cinema will also play host to a special Suspiria event with a Sydney Symphony Orchestra quartet playing songs inspired by the film before it hits the screen.

While you’re here: Why not make a night of it and book a room at the nearby Crystalbrook Albion, one of Surry Hills’ most stylish and sophisticated boutique hotels. Bust a few grooves at Golden Age, maybe enjoy a kick-on at the drinking dens of Oxford Street, before you stroll back to a comfy bed in beautiful surrounds, all within a few city blocks. 

Paddington's cosiest nook Five Ways has a surprising amount of top notch eateries, retailers and creatives for its size. For Sydney Solstice the vibrant area will be celebrating its diverse demographic with the Five Ways Festival.

Expect treats and beats galore from Five Ways businesses as the streets come alive for a day and night of revelrie. Street food and cocktails that lean in to global flavours will be pumped out of Tequila Mockingbird, the Royal Hotel, Eat Thai, Vino e Cucina, Mr T's, Omeio and more. And you'll get your fill of the local fashion and art scene with shops hosting special activations throughout the fest. Live music and DJs will provide the day-to-night soundtrack and cute as a button paper store Journals will be hosting a magazine and Margarita pairing event.

While you're here: Follow Glenmore Road down into the lush streets of the Paddo and Edgecliff border to find one of Australia's most on-the-pulse commercial galleries in Soudan Lane. Roslyn Oxley9 gallery is well worth a visit if you can drag yourself away from the excitement of Five Ways.

Ever wanted to sit in near darkness and hear choral covers of your favourite goth pop legends like The Cure and Cocteau Twins? Us too. Luckily for all of us the versatile community group, Polyphony Choir are warming their pipes for an extra special Solstice event at the parish hall of St Peters Church in Surry Hills.

Hear a repertoire of goth-inspired songs from the choir conducted by contemporary classical performer Jack Colwell. The group are known for keeping audiences on their toes with their choices ranging from Bach to Lorde. To get a taste of the vibe, we strongly recommend you watch this haunting and joyful rendition of 'Just Like Heaven' then book your tickets for the June 19 performance pronto.

While you're here: Keep your dark and moody vibes going and pay the Four Pillar's gin laboratory bar, Eileen's a visit. Unwind with one of the gin masters bespoke cocktail inventions while you try to get Joy Division out of your head.

Discover more of the area

  • Things to do

Once the working-class home to Sydney’s rag trade and one of the most dangerous and vice-ridden neighbourhoods in the city, the streets of Surry Hills were the stomping grounds for nefarious underworld types like the notorious 'razor warrior' Kate Leigh. A century on, those gangsters would barely recognise the oh-so-trendy heart of the Eastern Suburbs, with its classy cafés, five-star dining, thriving bar scene and culture hubs – not to mention the soaring house prices.


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