Ultimate ’Playcation’: How to spend a weekend in Sydney

If one city knows how to do summer well, it’s Sydney.

Beach to bar … bar to beach, our most populous locale serves up the ultimate canvas for foodies, cocktail connoisseurs and luxury lovers alike anywhere from Manly to Maroubra.

Last month, Condé Nast Traveler released its annual Readers’ Choice Awards line-up, with Sydney ranking among the world’s top 10 in the Best Cities in the World category for the third year in a row.

With more than 600,000 readers participating in the vote, Sydney took out fourth spot for 2020, with the team describing our Harbour City as “an ideal getaway no matter the season”, praising the assortment of al fresco dining and outdoor lifestyle as just some of the standouts.

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Sydney really knows how to turn it on during spring and summer. Picture: Gaye GerardSource:News Corp Australia

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But with all the drama 2020 has thrown our way – especially for the tourism industry – this year has also provided Australians with a rare opportunity.

Instead of fleeing to Bali for a week of luxury, we flooded Byron Bay by the thousands. A ski trip to New Zealand turned into a long weekend in Perisher (if you were quick enough for a ticket).

While regional NSW quickly became a playground for Aussies wanting to revisit or explore somewhere new, the city of Sydney and surrounds is yet to be showered with the same amount of holiday love.

“Sydneysiders have gone out to the regions and visited but Sydney itself is suffering. Sydney greatly relies on international travellers and the business sector both of which have struggled,” Destination NSW boss Steve Cox told The Daily Telegraph.

“We are of all the capital cities in Australia, the most impacted.”

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There’s never been a better time to check out one of the world’s best cities. Picture: Destination NSWSource:Supplied

New South Welshmen, myself included, used the closed borders and bans on international travel to step away from our big cities and head for the hills. A welcome decision that saw some townships receiving more tourist dollars over the winter period than ever before.

But while trendy hangouts like Byron Bay and Central West have recorded an overwhelming boom – Sydney needs that ‘staycation’ surge more than ever.

Here’s how Sydney serves up the perfect weekend staycation. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

As one of the most visited cities on Earth, I was given the opportunity to rediscover the place I’d called home for over 30 years. And to my surprise, a whole weekend immersed in the heartbeat of NSW had me wanting so much more.

So with 48 hours up my sleeve, and none of that precious time being chewed up by highways and servo pie stops, I found out exactly how Sydney dishes up a weekend stay-cay like no other.


Until this year, a weekend away or something a little longer always involved long drives with my city apartment well and truly in the rear-view mirror.

After all, if you’re going to go on holidays, why fork out and stay in a hotel 10 minutes down the road from your own bed?

A glimpse inside the incredible Paramount House Hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills.Source:Supplied

Here’s the thing. Every nook in Sydney offers something a little different to your home street. As I discovered during a recent stay at an uber-cool boutique hotel in Surry Hills, you don’t need to fly to New York to feel like you’re in the thick of Brooklyn’s finest.

Paramount House Hotel has everything you want from a weekend getaway without leaving your front door.

Located in the former headquarters of Paramount Picture Studios, each room in the hotel is heritage with a really unique twist.

A three-storey 1930s brick warehouse, the hotel has kept its former life as a picture studio while adding in splashes of colour and character in each of its 29 rooms.

The stunning Loft at Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills, Sydney. Picture: Sharyn CainsSource:Supplied

With rooms from just $150 midweek, it’s not a bad spot for your Sydney staycation. Picture: Sharyn CainsSource:Supplied

Sitting in the thick of Sydney’s best dining and drinking district, the Sunny room is perhaps one of the best in the house. With a view from every corner, a day bed, French linen sheets and a cute little terrazzo complete with plants – it almost feels like you’re in an artists’ abode rather than a hotel (and yes, you will be checking the label on everything within your four walls to pop on your Christmas list).

The décor and minibar is chic but cheeky (every room has a little box of intimate tools if you’re looking to spice up your weekend). The hotel sits above some of the best eatery stops on the street (Paramount Coffee House for breakfast and Poly for dinner) but also just a two-minute walk to Hyde Park and a 20-minute walk to Circular Quay for those craving a few hours outdoors.

The Paramount House Hotel sits in Surry Hills, just a stone’s throw for all the best restaurants and bars. Picture: Katherine LuSource:News Corp Australia

The little box of love inside each Paramount House Hotel room.Source:Supplied

The best bit – as stylish as this little boutique hotel is, there’s no exclusive guest price tag attached to each room – with rooms starting from just $150 per night midweek.


If there’s one thing you shouldn’t be packing during a stay in Sydney, it’s your skinny jeans.

Eating out in Sydney once came with a high price tag, and while that’s still the case for some of the city’s waterfront jaunts, no visit to Sydney is complete without slipping in to some of the smaller hideaways, especially around Surry Hills.

Start your morning off with a coffee at Paramount Coffee Project, which sits directly below the Paramount House Hotel.

Worth lining your stomach – even if you have lunch sorted – because the menu is far more than just avo on toast or a few fried eggs.

You have to line your stomach with waffles and fried chicken.Source:Instagram

If you’re a bacon and egg kinda breakfast person, you won’t be disappointed.Source:Supplied

Loosen the belt and dive in to the signature fried chicken waffle for a real start to your weekend. This dish is as it sounds – maple bacon gravy with chilli pickled apple and roasted hazelnuts placed on top of waffles and chicken.

For those hangry for something on the lighter side at 9am, the garlic-infused ‘scram on sourdough’ is a perfect fix, or the aromatic rice based porridge, ginseng congee, is hard to pass up – just don’t skimp on the pickled ginger ground pork.

Paramount House Coffee sits under the hotel.Source:Supplied

Inside the cute Paramount Coffee Project in Sydney’s Surry Hills.Source:Supplied

After a walk through Hyde Park and along the Circular Quay foreshore, when in Sydney there’s really only one place to do a degustation like no other.

There’s no denying a seat at Quay will set you back a week in rent, but this is not just a lunch – it’s a performance at the tip of your fork from start to finish.

Every seat in the house gives guests a world-class view across Sydney Harbour – one side, the Opera House, and on the other, the coat hanger in all her glory.

Every seat in Quay has a stellar view. Picture: BridgeClimb Escape Travel NewsSource:Supplied

Every dish has a story.Source:Supplied

A lunch at Quay is no in-and-out affair, with six courses costing $240pp or an eight-course menu at $290pp. The theatre on your plate has you indulging through four hours at your table, with your tastebuds going on a journey to meet every ingredient from sea to soil.

Of the eight courses, finding a standout is a real task when each and every dish is so different from one another. But a surprise highlight was executive chef Peter Gilmore’s take on the salmon roe crumpet.

Easily the most opulent crumpet you’ll find in the city, Quay’s signature ‘poolish’ crumpet is slow-proved overnight and served with both smoked and fresh salmon roe and house-cultured cream. It’s a surge of flavour, and is one of the longest dishes to make given the sourdough component of the recipe.

White Coral from Quay Restaurant is a dessert like no other. Picture: Nikki ToSource:Supplied

You will just want more and more of these little crumpets.Source:Supplied

For the sweet tooth, Quay’s signature ‘white coral’ is as beautiful in flavour as it is in presentation. Combining a rich combination of white and dark chocolate, coconut cream and mango ice cream, this dish might look elegantly simple, but it’s far from it. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about the details – just sit back and enjoy one of the most intricate dishes on the menu.

For dinner – yes, dinner – pop in to love.fish for some of the best seafood on the newly opened Barangaroo dining precinct. The new hub of restaurants and bars is buzzing, with this little jaunt serving up fresh fish, oysters, prawns and everything in between – like its signature take on brussels sprouts.

No stay in Sydney is complete without a few oysters.Source:Supplied

Sure, they’re brussels sprouts – but this dish was top of my list on the menu.Source:Supplied


Remember I mentioned no skinny jeans? That’s because no visit to the streets of Surry Hills is complete without a few cocktails and maybe a round of late-night small plates at uber-cool hangout, Poly.

Sitting underneath the Paramount House Hotel, this dark and delicious hideaway has a stellar drinks list (give their Poly Club or Smashie Pear a go).

The coconut sundae is something else.Source:Supplied

If you love a spud, this dish is king.Source:Supplied

It’s a great day-ender because it’s a wine bar first and restaurant second. Stay for three courses or just a few bites. Some of the standouts include the fried potato and salted egg yolk, tuna tartare and miso emulsion and perhaps the most decadent dessert this side of the bride – the signature sticky date doughnut with chantilly cream as well as a coconut sundae.

For an afternoon that will require a little more than your tastebuds, slide into Brix Distillery on nearby Bourke St for a short education session on the rum-making process.

Brix Distillery is a great way to drift from lunch into the afternoon.Source:Supplied

I learnt how to make a delicious spin on an espresso martini.Source:Supplied

Brix is one part restaurant, one part bar and the other being the distillery is a perfect Saturday hangout where you can take part in one of the venue’s rum-based cocktail classes.

Cocktails anyone? At Brix Distillery, you learn how to make them before you get to drink them.Source:Supplied

You can also soak up all that alcohol with a two-course lunch included in the cocktail class.Source:Supplied

With just 20 people taking part in each class, you’ll learn how to make two classic cocktails (a twist on an espresso martini is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up) as well as a two-course Mexican feast.


A new addition to Sydney’s summer line-up, Pier One’s famous ‘Igloos on the Pier’ is being transformed this year into an outdoor garden oasis dubbed the ‘Garden Bubble’.

Not a bad spot to watch the sun set.Source:Supplied

Kicking off from November throughout summer, you and 15 mates can book the lush bubble under the Harbour Bridge. Offering the best ‘bubble’ in Australia right now, floral arrangements fill the space alongside cushions and throws for the perfect harbourside arvo.

The perfect place to soak up a Sydney summer.Source:Supplied

The Garden Bubble serves up the best in drinks and dining.Source:Supplied

Along with the incredible view across Sydney’s cityscape, guests have the choice of delicious gourmet hampers; including Mediterranean style platters, Cheese and Charcuterie or indulgent desserts to graze on throughout the day. Oh, and you won’t go thirsty either with a number of summer drinks – including a signature glitter cocktail.

The garden igloo is a lush spot to spend with 15 of your friends.Source:Supplied

With all that food and wine … wine and food … no stay in Sydney is complete without a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Spanning over 30 hectares, the heritage-listed gardens are at their best in spring and summer. If you’re visiting on a weekend, be sure to book in for the Aboriginal Heritage Tour, where you are taken on a journey through parts of the gardens with an Indigenous guide to learn about the Cadigal people.

From learning about plants, their multiple uses, artefacts and even taste testing some bush foods, the 90-minute tour it’s the perfect way to end your stay in the Harbour City.

This journalist stayed in Sydney as a guest of Destination NSW

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