Sydney is one of the world’s great cities. It’s both sophisticated and fun-loving with countless stunning beaches, wild National Parks, five star restaurants and vibrant nightlife. People come here to surf, sunbathe and shop — getting a dose of local culture and a lesson in history along the way. Plus, the adorable Aussie accents. To help us navigate our way around, we asked two of the city’s top hotel Concierges to open up their little black books and take us on a tour of their favorite local spots.
Meet Your Concierges
Jorge Sousa, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
With 5-star service and 5-star views, the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is situated in the famous Rocks district, looking out on the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The man in charge is Jorge Sousa, a hospitality veteran with 27 years experience — 11 of those spent working here at the Four Seasons. In his role as Head Concierge, he dishes out expert advice and plans perfect itineraries for the hotel’s most discerning guests.
Also in the Rocks district, the low-rise Park Hyatt Sydney has eye-level harbour views and a stylish heated rooftop pool. Guest Services Manager Chris Stebbing was born and raised in Sydney, and has worked for the Park Hyatt just over six years. A Hotel School grad and passionate world traveler, he found his calling as Head Concierge, and now runs the whole show including in-room dining and butler services.
A special thanks to Jorge and Chris for spilling their secrets and sharing personal faves in our first dispatch from Down Under:
When to Go
Jorge: My favorite season is between November and April because I love summer in Sydney!
Chris: February and March; the weather is still amazing however the crowds have eased off after the end of year celebrations!
Chris: My favourite neighbourhood would have to be Surry Hills. This eclectic hub within our city is complemented with amazing fashion, live music venues, art galleries and architecture, along with outstanding rustic dining on every street corner. Start at the corner of Cleveland and Crown streets, walk back towards Oxford Street stopping at all the streets that branch off Crown. You will definitely find yourself something unique at all the specialty one-off stores within Surry Hills. In the neighbourhood, don’t miss Billy Kwong – a traditional Chinese restaurant sourced with sustainable produce, The Devonshire – modern European style menu with professional yet unpretentious service, 121 BC, a hidden wine bar gem, Gelato Messina– the best pit stop for a desert fix after dinner, and Bourke Street Bakery– an institution in Sydney amongst locals.
Jorge: The Rocks. It’s the birthplace of Sydney, and there are some amazing things to see. First, walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens, then do a backstage tour of the Opera House, and if you’re feeling brave, try the Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb – it’s a long way to the top, but so worth it for the best vantage point of Sydney you’ll ever see. A few of my favourite restaurants in the area are: The Woods – a modern Australian menu with an award-winning wine list (I recommend trying one of the steaks – it will not disappoint!) Fish at the Rocks – an extensive seafood menu in an intimate dining room, Nicks at Cockle Bay Wharf – for seafood in a relaxed harbourside setting, Aria – the city’s best fine dining with spectacular views, and Pony – a fun and casual spot.
Where to Bring the Kids
Jorge: Depending on the age of the children, I’d recommend the following: Check out the amazing naval ships and discover Sydney’s maritime history at the National Maritime Museum. See aquatic animals at the Sydney Aquarium and Australian animals at Wildlife World, both at Darling Harbour, or catch a ferry from Circular Quay directly to Taronga Zoo, home to over 340 species. Powerhouse Museum, a contemporary museum of arts and sciences, is Sydney’s best museum/entertainment venue for kids and families. Outside the city there’s an amazing national park called Featherdale Wildlife Park where kids can actually touch the kangaroos and koalas. Older kids might like to have a surf lesson at Bondi or Manly Beach. During winter time, we enjoy going to Ku-ring-gai National Park.
Where to Hang with the Locals
Chris: Rather than only going to a well-known beach, visitors should also check out Balmoral Beach on the Northern Beaches, it’s where the locals go and the casual dining is outstanding!
Where to Eat and Drink
Chris: For waterfront fine dining, try The Dining Room at Park Hyatt Sydney. For something more casual, there’s El Loco in Surry Hills. Chiswick Restaurant in Woollahra is a farm-to-table restaurant using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Gastro Park in Kings Cross does exciting creative gastronomy. For drinks, watch the boats come into Circular Quay from Opera Bar, situated at the water’s edge with a view of the Harbour Bridge.
Jorge: Marque Restaurant has an amazing desgustation menu by celebrated chef Mark Best. Cafe Sydney is a modern restaurant sitting on top of heritage Customs House — balcony seats are best here for views of the Harbour. If you’re in the mood for Japanese, Azuma is Sydney’s best Japanese restaurant; Sake is another fantastic Japanese restaurant in The Rocks and Tetsuya’s has Sydney’s best degustation menu, Japanese-influenced. Steel Bar and Grill is a modern and evolving restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. At The Cut there’s a focus on steaks – you can’t go wrong with an Australian steak! And for great cocktails and craft beer overlooking Sydney’s main George Street, try Grain Bar.
Don’t Leave the City Without Having
Jorge: Kangaroo or crocodile pizza at The Australian Heritage Hotel with a local beer!
Fondest Childhood Memories
Jorge: I used to live in Dover Heights, so I have very fond memories of Bondi Beach. There was always a great buzz around the beach, and although the shops and restaurants have changed, that same lively buzz hasn’t.
A Perfect Day in Sydney
Chris: Sydney is very much a walkable city; there is so much to see and do! Knowing what I know: Spend the early morning strolling along the amazing coastal walk from Bronte ending at the iconic Bondi Beach. Make a pit stop for a coffee as you head towards Surry Hills or Woollahra for some local retail therapy, also both fantastic lunch spots. Head back to the hotel to freshen up before making your reservation to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To finish your wonderful day in Sydney, head out onto Sydney Harbour in your own private water taxi to transport you to a wonderful dining destination arranged by our concierge!
Jorge: Wake up nice and early and go for a run through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Stop for an outdoor breakfast on the balcony of the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. After breakfast, take a drive up the coast to Palm Beach, go for a surfing lesson and enjoy the sunshine and ambience of the northern beaches. Head back to Sydney for a dining experience at one of our many amazing local restaurants.
Visitors Always Miss
Jorge: Too much by not staying enough time in Sydney – I recommend a minimum of five days stay in Sydney.
Chris: Discovering the amazing small pockets/neighbourhoods of our wonderful city.
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*Photos courtesy of Tourism Australia