Is it raining where you are? If so, don’t worry. It’s not always a bad thing in Sydney! The rain is nice and cool on the skin, and there are plenty of things to do when it rains here.
We are going to show you some of my favourite rainy day activities that we have available for tourists in this great city.
You’ll find out how to make the most of your time during these less than ideal conditions, and by the end, hopefully, be inspired to take up those umbrellas and venture outside into a beautiful stormy Sydney day!
We’ve picked out the best things to do in Sydney when it rains, from movie marathons and indoor climbing centres to our favourite pubs with fireplaces and cheap and cheerful eateries.
1. Go indoor climbing
There are ways to work up a sweat indoors when it’s too wet to go for a jog in the park. Purpose-built climbing gyms are popping up all over this fine city – so grab a buddy and get climbing.
With more than 850 square metres of climbing walls, overhangs and boulders to explore, this new indoor rock wall centre in Marrickville is set up to cater to the full spectrum of climbing enthusiasts, from seasoned alpinists to bouldering beginners.
This latest climbing gym by BlocHaus operates in Melbourne and Canberra – is Sydney’s first and features state-of-the-art rock wall tech, capable of replicating challenging conditions for experienced hands using ropes and spotters or free climbers.
BlocHaus’ inclusive, welcoming ethos is also geared towards introducing the uninitiated into the sport of climbing, so there are plenty of more approachable climbs with padded floors where noobs can get to grips with the basics without risking injury.
9 Degrees is a bouldering gym located in Alexandria, where climbers don’t use ropes or harnesses but instead scale shorter walls beside thick, padded flooring.
The benefit here is that you won’t need a climbing partner, equipment or much training – you can just strap on a pair of shoes and explore the centre’s 140 different climbs in nine degrees of difficulty, from entry-level to competition levels.
It’s very close to SkyZone and the Rocks Brewery, so you can easily make a day of sporty indoor activities.
Climb Fit Kirrawee
The South Sydney indoor climbing gym, Climb Fit, is the perfect place to get comfy in that safety harness for the first time or practice your skills until you’re scaling walls like Spiderman.
With over 130 different climbing routes changed weekly, even the everyday climbers will find something new.
There are longer routes where you control the clips, but if you’re less of a pro, join the beginner clinic program to learn the basics of rock climbing.
Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym
Established in 1993, the first indoor rock climbing venue in NSW, Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym, is now the biggest in Australia and has a smaller (by 700 square metres) sibling in Villawood.
There are 3,700 square metres of climbing walls, 50-degree overhangs and 25-metre routes for the brave. There’s also a 4.5-metre high bouldering wall if you want to climb without the ropes.
For the kids, the climbing gym also offers after school programs and school holiday camps.
The Climbing Centre
The Climbing Centre in Penrith has over 100 climbs to challenge everyone from beginners to professionals.
A new unassisted bouldering area upstairs has been installed, and it’s perfect for those looking to work on their bouldering and overhanging skills without the need for ropes.
For the kids, there’s a junior climbing club every Monday and Thursday afternoon.
2. Head underground
There’s a lot of good reasons to head down rather than up when you’re feeling parched. Underground it’s always party o’clock because even if it’s 2 pm, it feels like after dark.
Drinking below street level is also deliciously climate-controlled, so in a torrential downpour, your best bet is posting up in one of Sydney’s best booze cellars.
The Baxter Inn
It’s almost a competitive sport trying to get into this underground whisky bar, The Baxter Inn. So make it an early or a late visit if you want to get amongst one of the most expansive collections of the demon drink in the inner city without having to queue around the block.
Double Deuce Lounge
Were it not for the sight of a security guard or a small queue of people on Bridge Street, you’d have no idea this subterranean ’70s ‘porno chic’ boozer, Double Deuce Lounge, even existed.
And that would be a shame because good times are writ large down here – Boogie Nights-era soundtrack, banging cocktails, excellent banter and all.
Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern
There are no rules to an evening on the tiles at this party bar in a former comedy club at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern. You can slam down a shit tinnie that’ll only set you back six bucks, or savour a Cognac, but keep those spiced, crunchy corn kernels coming.
Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice
Who knew the party was found behind a scuzzy door down in the financial end of the city. Down the stairs at Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice and through the pizza parlour is a good-times bandroom and bar where the glasses are plastic, and the licence is late.
The Swinging Cat
This New Orleans-inspired cocktail den on King Street in the city is not exactly easy to find. The Swinging Cat hides underneath a Subway sandwich shop and boasts almost no signage.
Of course, the place pumps regardless after knockoff – Sydney boozehounds can sniff out good drinks at a thousand paces.
3. Take a dip in an ocean pool
When you’re already wet, does it matter? These ocean pools can be beautiful in the rain, and you’ll have them all to yourself when you dive in for an exhilarating dip.
Fair warning, though – stay well clear when the winds pick up or if the weather turns stormy.
While its more significant, more recognisable neighbour often gets all the Insta-fame, these beautiful ocean baths at Bronte Baths are very deserving of a dip too.
Built into the rocky cliffside, stairs lead down to a shallow-ish pool area, which is excellent for families and little nippers. A small wooden barrier divides the pool up, so lap swimmers can do their thing (it’s not very long, though, making it more suited to a leisurely few laps rather than a severe swim).
Also, try and get here before 5 am – watching the sun breach over the ocean’s horizon from this vantage point is pretty particular.
This salty waterhole is its own entity, carved into a rock flat at the base of a steep hill north of Maroubra Beach.
Mahon Pool is the perfect spot for sand-haters. You can soak up some rays on the rocks beside the beach or shelter in the shade on the grassy hill above.
Built-in 1932, this 30-metre-pool’s best (or worst) feature is the way waves crash over the edge at high tide, giving the ocean bath its own slight swell. During very high seas, it becomes unsafe to swim.
Visit at low tide, and the water is calm – the only sign it’s sometimes owned by the ocean are the dozens of fish that remain when the sea retreats.
Coogee Women’s Baths
The view is stunning, the water is salty, fresh and shark-free, and there’s a couple of strips of grass at the top of the cliff where you can set up solar panel-style with a book.
It’s women only, and the mix of people there is lovely and rare: kids with mums, gal pals, lesbians, women whose religion forbids them bathing in front of men…
Some chicks go topless, but there are none of the leary cultures you might get on the main beach: it feels like a safe space, a little haven. It’s a gold coin donation to get in – just chuck it in the bucket as you enter.
Fairlight Rock Pool
Along the famous Manly to Spit walking path, you’ll come across quieter swimming spots that attract more of a chilled-out family vibe.
Fairlight Beach is one of those gems, and the clear, calm waters are something of a shared secret for snorkelling and spotting sea life.
If you’re more inclined to swim laps or have little ones in tow, there is a walled rock pool and small paddling pool that’s sheltered from the harbour swell.
What makes it super family-friendly are the public facilities, all prams accessible from the path. There are warm showers and accessible toilets too.
Bondi Icebergs Pool
Bondi Icebergs Pool it’s the most photographed ocean pool in Australia – at Sydney’s most famous beach – making the 50-metre saltwater pool a popular spot for sunbathers and a bottleneck spot on the Bondi to Coogee walk.
The baths have been a landmark of Bondi for more than 100 years, and if you want to become a member of the oldest winter swimming club in Australia, you must swim three Sundays a month for five years.
Luckily, for those who just want a slice of the active lifestyle synonymous with the suburb, it’s from $5.50-$8 for casual entry.
4. Have a movie marathon
Even as the world becomes filled with screens and accessing movies becomes as easy as looking at your phone, Sydney’s top cinemas thrive because Sydneysiders love the communal experience of watching a film.
So what are the best cinemas in Sydney? We’ve ranked them according to the quality of film selection, the architecture and the overall pleasure of the experience.
Many cinemas have strict capacity limits, so booking ahead of your visit is advised.
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
Cremorne’s Art Deco picture palace is a stunning step back in time.
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace was built in 1935 by George Kenworthy, the top theatrical architect of the period, today’s version is even glitzier than the original, thanks to a $2.5-million restoration some years back.
Each of the six auditoriums has its own colour scheme and decor, but the 744-seat Orpheum is the show’s true star.
It even has a real Wurlitzer cinema organ, which rises out of a stage pit on weekend evenings, complete with flashing lights and a grinning organist.
Golden Age Cinema
The Golden Age Cinema and Bar is the much-loved basement occupant of the stunning Paramount building.
The building was constructed in 1940 as the offices of Paramount Pictures, with a basement theatrette for the previewing of movies to cinema owners.
In 2013, the owners converted the old screening room into a 60-seat cinema with an adjoining bar. It screens both classic films and new releases, often on the far fringes of art houses.
Palace Central Cinemas
Opened in October 2017, Palace Central is a 13-screen complex within the Central Park Mall with multiple lounges and bar areas and sweeping views over one of Sydney’s most dynamic urban spaces.
The cinema includes a large beer hall with local and international craft beers, a Champagne bar and an interactive wine wall.
Food includes produce from leading provedores, including daily desserts from the local Brickfields bakery.
Palace Verona Cinemas
Paddington’s intellectuals and art-house crowds are always seen milling about the Palace Verona.
The four screens are on the small side, and the seats are snug. Still, we forgive film lovers, especially since this oft-buzzing venue screens an expertly curated line-up of arthouse releases from name directors, world movies, quirky Australian indies and unique one-offs, like screenings of overseas stage productions and concerts.
There’s a licensed café, wine and espresso bar on the premises.
Hoyts Broadway is situated on top of a significant shopping mecca, this huge cinema has had a nip tuck to match the adjacent food court’s complete facelift. As a result, it has all the Hoyts chain perks, in-house Ben and Jerry’s, variants on the capital X hyperbole (LUX, Xtreme, etc.) and deals during weekdays.
It makes this esteemed list because they changed every single seat in their cinemas to an electric recliner—all of them.
Regardless of the price, you can smash that armrest button and have your legs automatically raised and your head gently lowered – it’s magical.
5. Visit a museum
Sydney’s museums are where you’ll uncover stories about the people who’ve made this city what it is today, its natural history and the science, design and innovation that’ll propel us into the future. They’re also indoors!
Chau Chak Wing Museum
Art, science, history and ancient cultures meet under one roof at the purpose-built Chau Chak Wing Museum, whose collections are 150 years in the making.
The museum combines three influential collections from the vaults of the University of Sydney – including three ancient Egyptian mummies.
The Chau Chak Wing Museum is open seven days a week, and entry is free. So it is well worth setting aside a couple of hours (at least) to explore this treasure trove.
While mummies and the tomb artefacts that accompany them are no doubt a significant drawcard for visitors to this crown jewel in Sydney’s museum scene, there’s plenty more to hook you into its 18 exhibitions – from curious taxidermies (you can get up close to some of Australia’s oldest natural history specimens) to contemporary and traditional art.
Walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans, Greeks, Cypriots, Italians, Chinese and Indigenous Australians – and peek back even further with artefacts that predate history.
If the array of historical objects somehow don’t entirely immerse you, the Lego model of Pompeii, one of the most significant Lego historical models ever built, just might.
The Australian Museum, the country’s oldest museum (established 1827), is the custodian of 21.9 million specimens and cultural objects, including Indigenous and Pacific collections, a precious stones collection and the permanent 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum exhibition.
The Museum reopened to the public in November 2020 after closing for 15 months for an extensive 57.5 million dollar renovation, which opened up 3,000 square metres of new public space.
Displays cover the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and the Americas, with items ranging from Aboriginal kids’ toys to a tattooed chalk head from the Solomon Islands.
Any serious museum-tripper should see a few of the local stuffed animals, and the displays should answer all your questions about Australian mammals.
If you’re interested in Aboriginal culture and beliefs, visit the Indigenous Australia section and get informed about important issues, including the Stolen Generations and deaths in custody.
Located on the old Ultimo Power Station site, the Powerhouse opened as a museum in 1988 and is the largest in Australia, with a collection of 385,000 objects, 22 permanent and five temporary display spaces, and more than 250 interactive spaces exhibits. It covers science, technology, creativity, decorative arts and Australian popular culture.
Permanent exhibitions include Ecologic: Creating a Sustainable Future, Cyberworlds: Computers and Connections, Experimentations, and Transport.
There’s also a reconstructed 1930s cinema showing films from that period, a steam-powered locomotive train from the 1850s (in the foyer), and the Boulton & Watt steam engine (1785).
Currently, the Powerhouse is free to enter, but visitors will need to book a time slot ahead of time online due to capped capacities.
Australian National Maritime Museum
For a city whose history has always been entwined with its harbour, the sea and water travel, it comes as no surprise that this museum is one of the finest when it comes to maritime treasures.
The Australian National Maritime Museum‘s collection captures such themes as defence, exploration, trade, adventure, sport and play. The vessels on display include the submarine HMAS Onslow, the big gun destroyer HMAS Vampire, the 1874 tall ship James Craig, and the magnificent replica of Captain Cook’s HMB when they’re in port Endeavour.
Yots Café (open daily 10 am-5 pm; 02 9298 3672) offers seafood-oriented, open-air eating at the water’s edge, while the museum store sells books, nautical knick-knacks and themed gifts.
Sydney Jewish Museum
The Sydney Jewish Museum is a beautifully and respectfully curated space that humanises history and invites visitors to look at the present with new understanding.
The design of the building leads your journey. Passing through the unassuming heavy doors on Darlinghurst Road, you first enter a war memorial with stained glass windows leading through to the museum’s first level, where a gigantic Star of David made from Jerusalem stone is inlaid into the floor.
This symbol of Jewish faith and identity is reflected on the four mezzanine levels that rise above it.
On the crisp white surfaces around this star-shaped central void are a series of names. Some are of the Holocaust survivors who established the museum, while others are the names of Holocaust victims.
For Dr Rebecca Kummerfeld, the museum’s head of education, this powerful memorial holds an immensely personal significance. One of the names on the wall is ‘Rivkah’, her Hebrew name.
There is a misunderstanding that the Sydney Jewish Museum is only meant for Jewish people to visit or only of interest to WWII buffs.
In reality, the museum’s mission is to make history accessible through the lens of the Jewish experience, and in doing so, help us to understand our present.
The ground floor exhibits showcase local Jewish heritage and history, focusing on Australia and the Sydney Jewish community.
As you follow the stairs up from the central atrium (there is also an elevator for anyone with limited mobility), the next exhibition visitors come to explores the Holocaust and the Nazis’ attempt to murder the Jewish people.
From here, the view of the central Star of David is obstructed, as if to convey the fragmentation of Jewish culture during its darkest chapter.
6. Enjoy some delicious cheap eats
If the rain’s got you down, nothing lifts the spirit like a good feed. And if you’re looking for a feast that won’t break your finances, there are plenty of cheap eats that taste a million bucks for just a handful of dollars.
We’ve picked out some of our favourite budget banquets, where you can dine on a dime in style.
This Korean fast food joint, the PBS Chicken, is in the corner of the stark, neon-lit Lemon Grove food court. While the bibimbap and kimchi pancakes are tempting, you need to order the fried chicken.
The special is $9.90 and comes with a hearty serving of black and white rice, salad, potato noodles and kongnamul (sesame seasoned mung bean salad).
On the sauce front, our pick is sweet and spicy, but you can get hot spicy, soy or honey butter mustard too. They change the oil here every day, making for a clean-tasting, extra-crisp fried batter, and they use a mix of boneless dark and white meat.
On any given night, you’ll find Phood packed out with families gathering around the wooden tables sharing fried pork cutlets, grilled lemongrass chicken and barramundi fish cakes.
When you walk into the Archer Street restaurant, the first thing that hits you is the aromatic scent of pho coming from the kitchen – star anise, citrus, and coriander mingle in the air. It tastes as good as it smells.
This Melburnian burger joint has found a welcoming home in Chatswood at Royal Stacks. A puck of deep-fried mac’n’cheese tops the King’s juicy meat patty. It’s a tall order to get your mouth around but a mighty tasty challenge.
The secret burger sauce is like a Big Mac sauce, with hints of mustard, onion and zippy pickle; the meat is cooked just past pink (which is a rarity for any shopping centre burger), and tomatoes are fresh and juicy.
Fujiyama Noodle Bar
Fujiyama Noodle Bar has to be one of the best value meals in Chatswood, with a small serve costing less than a fiver. If your hunger is enormous, no worries – you can upgrade to a large or double up your crisp katsu.
But if you really want to roll away, try the particular (or better yet, share with a mate or two). A long wide platter of rice, four palm-sized pieces of sliced chicken katsu, and what looks like a litre of curry sauce come with bright red pickled radish, shredded cabbage, mayo, sweet teriyaki sauce and some bonus fried katsu prawns – and it’s only $20.
You’ll be drawn to this tiny shop front by the glistening ducks hanging in the window. Inside Tim’s BBQ, you’ll hear customers haggling over the loud thuds of the meat cleaver hacking up whole barbecued ducks.
The two meat and rice options mean you can choose roast duck, seasoned roast duck, pork belly or pork sausage. The char sui is tender. However, the fat isn’t entirely rendered down enough to make it crisp.
The duck is the surefire belter here – it’s ultra-unctuous with auburn skin seasoned, so it’s salty and crisp. Bones and cartilage are left in, making it a messy mission, but the succulent meat is a reward well worth the greasy fingers. You can also get whole ducks, roast pork and sausage by the kilo.
7. Find a pub with a fireplace
Cold and wet? Curl up in front of the flames – preferably wood, but we’ll take gas if that’s what’s on offer – with a pint of beer and lose whole evenings in the comfort of your local, staying warm and dry all winter long.
The Duke of Clarence
The fireplace is a relevant detail at The Duke of Clarence, a distinctly British pub and cocktail bar hidden away in the centre of the CBD. But, if a spot in front of the open flames and the offer of bangers and mash with a proper cask ale poured from an adequate hand pump doesn’t scream cold-weather comfort, we’re not sure what does.
The Hero of Waterloo
There are few pubs in Sydney we’d want to hole up in more than the Hero. But, somehow, you just lose track of time here. It’s probably to do with the low ceilings, Sydney cut-sandstone walls, and Guinness and James Squire brew from clean lines.
You’ll also find four fireplaces roaring here – one wood and three gas.
The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Sydney’s oldest continually licensed hotel, the Nelson, is a handsome watering hole if ever there was one: convict-mined sandstone walls built around a roaring hearth and microbrewery.
Pick up a ploughman’s lunch and one of the six award-winning ales brewed on the premises, and get stuck in.
Cricketers Arms Hotel
Cosy and rustic, cheap and chic – this Slurry Hills icon, Cricketers Arms Hotel, is the perfect place to grab a scotch or sparkling ale and while away a rainy arvo by the fire watching the footy with a toastie in hand and a flatulent labrador dozing at your feet.
You’ll want to head their midweek for some fireside action because Fridays and Saturdays are no fire days, probably to prevent people from getting signed during the weekend rush.
The Hotel Steyne
Forget everything you think you know about the Steyne. A facelift gave the once-troublesome hot spot a swift 180, and it’s been smooth sailing for this Manly watering hole ever since.
There on a windy day? Take shelter in one of the window booths, toast your feet by the fireside and watch the breakers roll in over schooners of craft beers.
8. Go on an art crawl
Sydney is busting at the seams with great art galleries – from major institutions like the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art to incredible privately-owned but publicly accessible (and free!) galleries like White Rabbit.
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Co-op
Leichhardt-based Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative was founded in 1987 by local artists including Euphemia Bostock, Fiona Foley, Tracey Moffatt, Jeffrey Samuels, Bronwyn Bancroft, and Brenda L. Croft.
Challenging the status quo, they drove a new understanding of the urban Indigenous art movement in Australia.
They continue to showcase the incredible work of the foundational members and emerging and mid-career Aboriginal artists whose language groups exist within the NSW state boundaries, with a strong focus on regional creatives.
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art
This impressive non-profit arts organisation aims to strengthen the cultural conversation between Australia and Asia.
The gallery hosts exhibitions, performances, and public programs are showcasing diverse perspectives with a particular focus on art that addresses Asian-Australian experiences.
4A has a proud record both at home and throughout the wider Asian region and highlights the vast contribution of Asian migration in shaping this nation.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
Two international design competitions, months of construction and $53 million later, the MCA was born again in 2012 with double the floor space at its command, including a swish new rooftop café, high-tech education centre and a lush sculpture terrace.
Champions of Australia’s thriving contemporary art scene, the depth and range of their ever-expanding collection is breathtaking.
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
Established in 1982 and nestled in a tiny Paddington backstreet, commercial outfit Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery has played a memorable role in supporting the stellar careers of some of Australia’s most envelope-pushing contemporary artists.
It’s an enviable roll-call, including the likes of Tracey Moffatt, David Noonan, Fiona Hall, Patricia Piccinini, Bill Henson and Dale Frank, and presenting a diverse schedule of international artists.
White Rabbit is a former 1940s Rolls-Royce service depot that was transformed into a privately-owned gallery opening in 2009.
Philanthropist Judith Neilson owns the state-of-the-art, four-floor wonderland showcasing the best of 21st-century Chinese art. She was inspired to establish the great space after visiting Beijing in the late 1990s.
There have been many more such trips to China and Taiwan since, expanding the fantastic collection each time. Be sure to head to the tea room for dumplings while you’re there.
9. Treat yourself to a spa day
Whether you want hardcore results or just a bit of chill time, Sydney’s best spas have you covered. So book it, bring a magazine and prepare to bliss out.
Venustus Beauty Lab
Venustus isn’t a beauty salon in common sense. It’s more like therapy for the body and soul. Before our massage, owner and modern-day sharmanic healer Jeannie Bourke is burning white sage and wafting the smoke around the room.
We’re seated, shoes off, with our feet placed on a large white crystal, and Bourke is asking gentle but probing questions about how we’re feeling about life at the moment.
This information will be used to tailor a transcendent massage and facial, with unusual elements like heated, weighted slippers for your feet, cooling jade rollers and house-made massage serums.
With wall-to-wall marble, silver-leaf wallpaper and a ‘Vitality Pool’ as its gushing, blue heart, the Blainey North-designed Crown Spa is a lesson in interior décor decadence and OTT luxury.
Exiting the lift on the sixth floor of the Crown Towers building, shades of lilac and shiny, sleek marble abound. Head into one of a series of private rooms where you can be lathered and massaged to nirvana.
Pick from a menu of the usual suspects: facials, body polishes, laser light therapy, exfoliating treatments and more unusual options – if you’re only here to do one thing, where the classic massage table is subbed out for a bed of quartz sand, rumoured to have therapeutic effects for muscle aches and pain.
Gillian Adams Salon and Spa
The Gillian Adams Salon and Spa is everything you’d expect from a pamper palace that’s been around for 25 years.
Every word is spoken gently, and with expert knowledge, floral fragrances are floating through the vast relaxation areas and dimly lit treatment rooms, plus a surprisingly expansive garden.
Start with a dip in the aquamedic pool to improve circulation, flexibility and muscle tone. The enormous domed ceiling and butt busts give it a very Greco-Roman feeling.
Finish your ascent to ultimate relaxation with a foot soak and scrub – your job is to inhale frankincense like the royal baby you are – followed by an aromatherapy massage.
The Day Spa at the Langham Hotel
This is the place to go if you want to play kings and queens for a day. The spa and fitness facilities can be used by anyone who fancies indulging the day away, not just for the Langham Hotel guests.
The wow factor here is the 20-metre indoor pool. It has a dark, sparkling night sky overhead. The Day Spa’s signature treatment is the Babor Facial, and they also offer splendidly fancy massage treatments, using everything from Swedish and neuromuscular techniques to Champagne body cream.
Style is paramount at SpaQ. You only have to peek into the Sweeney Todd-like barbershop to understand that the look of this establishment is part of its charm.
Gentlemen can book in for a hot-towel treatment for beard care from a hipster hair groomer (dressed by MJ Bale, no less) and leave feeling as clean and invigorated as Patrick Bateman after his infamous morning routine.
One of the most popular experiences for gents is the Mr Bond treatment (45 minutes, $80), which includes a wet shave, eyebrow and beard taming, eye mask and a massage.
10. Pick up a cozy read
There are few greater pleasures in life than visiting a quality bookshop. No matter the weather, they’re a port in a storm where anyone and everyone is welcome. Not all bookshops are created equal, though, so we’ve put together our pick of Sydney’s best, from the dusty to the designer.
Berkelouw Books – Paddington
Oxford Street has undergone a lot of upheaval in recent years, but Berkelouw has remained a fixture.
The three-level emporium next door to Verona Cinemas has been keeping bookish types happy for over two decades.
Downstairs you’ll find new books, magazines, trinkets and gifts. Upstairs, there’s a sizable collection of secondhand titles covering fiction, art, culture and history. The café looks out over Oxford Street, where you can count on the steady hum of low voices and the pitter-patter of keyboards crafting something special.
It’s the perfect place to hunker down and watch the world go by with a coffee or a glass of wine.
The family-run Gleebooks have been in the book business for over 40 years, and it’s fair to say they know their Descartes from their Dahl. We love the original – the secondhand shop just down the road – and the dainty Dulwich Hill outlet, but our heart belongs to number 49.
This split-level space services everyone from uni students looking for the latest political time to picky toddlers (and their parents) on the hunt for Dr Suess.
Talks are hosted throughout the week and feature an impressive roll call of authors and public figures spruiking their new books and debating the day’s issues.
Housed in a modern, glass-walled building on the streets of Barangaroo, Title is the third store of its kind in Sydney.
It prides itself on an eclectic collection of fiction, poetry, vinyl specialist coffee-table books and independent films. Here for the music? Head to the far left of the store, by the back. New, retro and certified classics combine in an A-to-Z catalogue that spans Kendrick Lamar to Triple J faves First Aid Kit.
It’s a store where you’re guaranteed to find what you were looking for – even if you didn’t know you were looking.
Better Read Than Dead
Better Read Than Dead is a beautifully appointed Biblio hub in Newtown that attracts a steady stream of locals from morning till night.
The downstairs area houses all the latest fiction and has an excellent children’s section for mini readers. Head one level up, and you’ll come to cooking, gardening and other ephemera, while the third level contains some impressive artworks on loan from the Corrigan Collection.
Book club meetings are hosted in stores, and kids can get in on the action, too, with sessions for ages 7-12 and young adults.
For adults, our top pick is the ‘Bad Women Book Club’, which explores the ‘difficult’ women of literature.
Gertrude & Alice
Entering Gertrude and Alice is like stepping inside a good friend’s house – a friend with an insatiable appetite for books.
This cosy bookshop-cum-café is packed to the brim with new and secondhand titles, all jumbled together, piled high to the ceiling and stacked along the walls.
Bondi’s not known for its thriftiness, but if you’re willing to do a little digging, you can find a bargain here. So tuck into a text or put your writer’s hat on at one of the communal tables and while away the hours over a cuppa.
Literary dogs even have their own Gertrude and Alice hashtag on Insta. We always suspected they could read.