I wanted to round up a list of a few favorite discoveries from Sydney, Australia. Five days is not a long time to explore a new city, and though I did my best to get out and around different areas of the city, many of these favorites are located in the neighborhood where I stayed, Surry Hills. It’s a neighborhood I can heartily recommend visiting, though, and I enjoyed strolling up and down Crown Street, checking out a myriad of awesome local shops and restaurants. But without further ado, on to the favorites:
Hyde Park / Metro St. James
Hyde Park is in the center of town, a gorgeous green couple of blocks full of tree-lined walks and fountains. I found myself in Hyde Park every day I was in Sydney, but the walk through the park early in the morning my first day there was pretty magical. We stopped for breakfast at Metro St. James, a brand new French cafe built into an old building that’s part of the entrance to the St. James metro station. The cafe opens up onto the park so that even when sitting inside, you feel like you’re out on the terrace. And this place is good. Great coffee, and I had the best avocado on toast of my life. Both the park and the cafe are worth your time.
It’s relatively rare to see Hungarian restaurants, bakeries, or shops outside of Hungary, so after my year spent living there I get really excited when I stumble upon one. Kürtősh isn’t specifically Hungarian themed, but the prioprietors did take its name from the Hungarian pastry kürtőskalács, one of my favorites (anglicizing the name with an ‘h’ at the end, so that you might come close to pronouncing it correctly!). They even traveled to Hungary in order to purchase the traditional oven kürtőskalács is baked in, and they trained with Hungarian bakers to learn how to make this specialty properly. I can vouch for the authenticity: their kürtőskalács is super good and exactly like what I’ve had in Hungary. The philosophy of this cafe, which has a few locations, was to create a cozy space that feels like home, reminiscent of childhood memories of a kitchen filled with the smell of fresh baked goods. The selection of treats reflect that, with a mix of different offerings, from the aforementioned kürtőskalács and traditional Hungarian dobos torta to the less exotic but totally comforting ‘mum’s chocolate cake’. I visited the Surry Hills location three times in five days, where the staff was super friendly and amazing, and they have two other spots, in Randwick and Crows Nest.
During an afternoon downpour we took refuge inside a little shop called Follow. I didn’t get any photos of the shop interior itself, which is a shame, because it’s tucked inside a beautiful old pharmacy storefront – and I mean old. All the old wooden pharmacy cabinets lining the walls have been preserved and now showcase beautiful products by independent Australian designers. This is one of the best curated boutiques I’ve come across in a long time, carrying clothing by independent designers, a range of artwork and other handmade goods, paper goods and stationery, and jewelry. This spot was another Surry Hills find.
As far as zoos go, this one’s pretty spectacular. Taronga Zoo is a short ferry ride from downtown Sydney, so the journey to the zoo is a trip in itself, with great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Everything about this zoo felt so well done, and there’s a huge emphasis on education and conservation, helping park visitors to learn about the impact our everyday lives as humans have on the natural world and ideas for how to reduce that impact. (Public thank you to my mom for suggesting a trip to this zoo – we wouldn’t have made it over otherwise.)
Mardi Gras Parade
This last one’s kind of cheating, because it’s time-dependent, but I couldn’t not include it in this list. We had no idea until right before we we left for the trip that we’d accidentally booked ourselves into Sydney Mardi Gras’s culminating weekend, but I’m so glad we did. Mardi Gras in Sydney is basically a three week-long pride festival, drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, with a big emphasis on LGBTQI rights and equality. The parade was immensely fun and while I didn’t make it to any of the other events going on, this festival is both one big party and a great opportunity for discussion and education. It was hugely inspiring and I encourage anyone interested to check out the official Sydney Mardi Gras website.