36 Hours in Surry Hills

Surry Hills is a vibrant hub of restaurants, cafes, independently owned shops and galleries located on the edge of the city. Famed for its flourishing creative scene, expect to find live music, indie plays and surprisingly sophisticated graffiti around every corner. To help you make the most of your time, Backyard Opera has planned out a killer long weekend in Surry Hills, complete with foodie destinations and artsy jaunts.


3.30pm | Blank_Space gallery

Surry Hills is renowned for its thriving art and culture scene. Grab a cup of coffee from Paramount Coffee Project or Cuckoo Callay, and kick off your exploration of the suburb with a visit to Blank_Space gallery, an independently owned, rentable space which displays an amalgam of established and aspiring artists. Expect to find a pop up, launch or exhibition at any given time; from a display by contemporary Asian artist Sang-Sik Hong, to a multimedia exhibit by English born pop artist Simon Lovelace.

6.00pm | Wine and dine at NOMAD

Sustainability is the name of the game at NOMAD, with the restaurant working alongside like-minded suppliers, producers and growers to minimise their carbon footprint. Proponents of nose-to-tail cooking, NOMAD aims to reduce food wastage, as well as foster diversity in Australian wine making by supporting minimal-intervention Australian winemakers. NOMAD’s brings a regional Mediterranean feel to Surry Hills, with its simple meals allowing seasonal produce to shine, with multiple flavours coming together to form a complex taste palate.

9pm | The Soda Factory

Walk off dinner by heading over to The Soda Factory, a retro US-style diner set inside a converted industrial space with moody lighting, serving up crafty cocktails designed by mixologist Mitchell Warters of Richard Branson’s members-only Rooftop Gardens in London. With a constant rotation of live music five days a week, Factory Fridays keeps the tunes flowing all night to start the weekend off right. Set up camp in a booth or plop yourself on one of the comfy 50s style sofas and order a Bourbon & Vanilla Cherry Coke soda float. Soda is also known for its in-house creations, like the Oh, Darla or the Spicy Maiden.


8am | Break the fast at Shift Eatery

Start your day off with breakfast at Sydney’s first vegan deli. Designed to ‘shift’ mindsets about vegan food, Shift Eatery serves up tasty fare in a café-cum-deli, with a vast range of vegan ingredients including ice creams, kimchi, cheeses and chocolates for customers to take home. Sip on insta-worthy superfood lattes in every shade possible (pink pitaya unicorn, blue butterfly pea, golden turmeric and the ever trendy green matcha), while enjoying a signature cheese toastie or a flavourful gluten free jaffa-inspired waffle with cashew ice cream. Don’t forget to peruse the cake fridge at the counter for a delicious donut, tart, or cake for a sweet end to your meal!

10am | Shopping and people watching

Surry Hills is a mecca of unique shops, housing boutiques, vintage stores and thrift shops. Stroll over to Crown St and make sure you don’t miss the side alleys where boutiques and clothes warehouses are tucked away. Hit up Cream On Crown for upcycled vintage pieces or Blue Works for a taste of quality craftsmanship in menswear. If you find yourself in town on the first Saturday of the month, check out Surry Hills Market for recycled goods, second hand fashion and homeware, and to support local small businesses.

As you’re walking between stores, don’t forget to observe the eclectic bunch of people who come flocking to the Sydney suburb; from wannabe lifestyle bloggers to hipsters, and even the rare celebrity sighting, there’s no shortage of interesting characters.

12.30pm | Sushi at Toko Japanese

Elevated Japanese izakaya style dining in a laid-back setting in the heart of Surry Hills. Toko’s menu is designed to be shared, with dishes being served in a steady flow throughout the course of the meal. Freshly made sashimi, rolls, nigiri and hot entrée dishes are some of the gastronomic delights on offer, or opt for the tasting menu to sample a varied cross section of Toko’s signature dishes.

2.30pm | Artistic detour

There’s a certain appeal about gleaning an insight into the thought process of a great artist. After lunch, traipse over to The Brett Whiteley Studio, the former home and workplace of one of Sydney’s beloved 20th century artists from 1988 to 1992. Glean a glimpse into the private world of an artist, with Whiteley’s unfinished paintings, art supplies, sketchbooks, personal photographs and music and book collections strewn about the space.

7pm | Pasta at Il Baretto

Go back-to-basics for a casual Italian meal at Il Baretto. BYO and cash only, the focus here is unashamedly on the food. The range of pastas extends from the classics like spaghetti Bolognese and homemade gnocchi to the slightly more inventive, including the pappardelle with duck ragu or polenta with spicy sausage. Toss back a few glasses of the house red and you are in for a good time, and a taste of what Surry Hills is like for the locals.

8pm | Catch a show

Housed in the former Nimrod Theatre building on Belvoir St, Belvoir Theatre has reigned as one of Australia’s most innovative and critically acclaimed theatre companies since its inception in 1984. With a continual rotation of new productions, there’s always something to see at Belvoir Theatre.

10.30pm | Nightcap

Pop into the nautical themed Button Bar for a nightcap and to discuss the play. The innovative cocktail menu is divided into Pirates, Sailors and Land Lovers, and utilizes a variety of spirits to create flavourful cocktails which are a sensory experience in themselves. Try Grandma’s Addiction, a spicy take on a traditional daiquiri, or opt for The Duke, a delicate iteration of a classic martini.


11am | Brunch at Bills

Famed for its legendary breakfasts, no trip to Surry Hills is complete without a trip to Bills. The brainchild of restauranteur Bill Granger, Bills has played a significant role in shaping Australia’s breakfast culture. You can’t go wrong with classics like the ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter, or the Fresh Aussie, featuring gravlax, poached eggs, kale, avocado and cherry tomatoes.

1pm | Cool off

A romantic interpretation of Sydney’s 19th century parks, Prince Alfred Park features expansive greenery, sustainable landscaping, and best of all; a heated outdoor pool. Take a dip and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the park, stopping for a mid-arvo coffee at the park’s café.


Blending the concepts of hotel and home, the newly opened Little Albion Guest House https://www.littlealbion.com.au/ is the brainchild of designer Connie Alessi and boutique accommodation group 8Hotels. Expect to be welcomed by elegant interiors, an enviable art collection and a rooftop garden featuring panoramic views of the city. Rooms start at $199.

If slick nightlife is more your thing, 57 Hotel caters to the party-conscious guest, deriving inspiration from New York’s infamous Studio 54 nightclub. Featuring modern interiors in a black and gold colour palette, 57 Hotel’s ever-so-instagrammable aesthetic is bolstered by its luxe bedding and close proximity to Surry Hills’ best restaurants and bars.