Enjoying the best views in Sydney for free sounds like a good plan right? Well, these bars all offer views of the harbour, the city skyline or one of the many beaches for the cost of a drink.
With this list, we have tried to pull together what we think are the best places to grab a drink in Sydney. We have included rooftop bars, bars sitting on the harbour’s edge, some great beachfront bars and a couple of hidden gems.
In case you are wondering, that bar above is the newly renovated rooftop space at Cruise Bar. It officially opens on 26 December 2019 and promises to be one of the most popular spots at Circular Quay this summer.
The list includes all sorts of venues from the trendiest, uber chic bars to old school pubs and clubs where everyone feels at home. The list is divided by area so you can choose a bar near you.
- Bars with the best view of Sydney Harbour
- Best Rooftop Bars in the Rocks
- Best High-Rise Bars in Sydney
- Bars at Barangaroo and Darling Harbour
- Bars with a beach view in Sydney
Bars with the best view of Sydney Harbour
Let’s start with what we consider the best bars in Circular Quay because chances are after exploring the harbour or taking in a show at the Opera House you will likely find yourself thirsty in this part of town.
This bar really does not need much of an introduction. With its white umbrellas mimicking the Opera House sails Opera Bar is perfectly positioned for watching a Sydney sunset. From a weekend breakfast to late-night drinks and pizza this place is worth a visit any time.
It’s crazy busy here on Thursday and Friday afternoons with local workers so try to arrive by 4pm if you want a seat. Most evenings and weekend afternoons feature live music from very talented local artists.
Tip: Sunset Hour specials – all beer & cider pints $9, Aperol Spritz or Opera Bar Rosé Spritz $10 from 5pm – 6pm, Monday to Friday
Vibe: Fun and friendly
Where: Sydney Opera House, Macquarie St, Sydney
Hours: 10am till midnight weekdays. 9am till midnight weekends.
Check their website for the latest menus and events.
On the western side of Circular Quay in the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Cruise Bar has an amazing Opera House and city skyline view. The bar offers 3 spaces with indoor and outdoor seating on each level.
On Boxing day 2019 they will launch a new rooftop bar in Sydney, The Rooftop at Cruise with city and Opera House views and lots of outdoor seating.
Vibe: Hollywood Luxe, locals and visitors
Where: Level 1, 2 and 3, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay W,
When: 11am – Midnight 7 days
More Circular Quay Bars
Best Rooftop Bars in the Rocks
If you prefer your bars old school, then you will love the Glenmore. On the top floor of the pub the rooftop bar has great views of the Opera House and a retractable roof for when the weather is not behaving.
Even still, heading up to this rooftop feels like entering the house of an old friend, and the menu is refreshingly affordable.
Tip: Mondays you can get a steak for under $15. Sunday acoustic sessions from 3-y $22 jugs of 4 Pines beer.
Vibe: Relaxed and casual, no need to dress up
Where: 96 Cumberland St, The Rocks
Hours: 11am -Midnight or 1am
This rooftop bar sits at the top of the Palisades Hotel and offers 360-degree views of the city. Encased in glass and with a small outdoor area, you can view both sides of the harbour, west up the Parramatta River and Darling Harbour. Look east and you will have the harbour bridge and the opera house in your sights.
Our tip – avoid the weekend if you can or arrive early if you want a seat.
The menu offers share plates and the cocktails are always excellent.
Vibe: relaxed and bright
Where: Palisades Hotel Bettington St, Millers Point
Hours: Midday to midnight (10pm Sun) – closed Mondays
More: Check the menus and current specials here
Check out our guide to all the pubs in The Rocks and plan an afternoon drinking in history
Best High-Rise Bars in Sydney
If the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is beyond your budget, you can still get a bird’s eye view of Sydney from one of these sky-high bars.
O Bar & Dining
This rotating bar at the top of the Australia Square building is a great spot to head at twilight to watch the city skies change colour and the lights come on. Tapas style menu suited to sharing. Cocktails around the $20 mark and mocktails available for $18.
Tip: A$15 per person minimum on drinks. No under 18s admitted.
Vibe: Boarding on formal with dress rules
Where: Level 47Australia Square, 264 George St, Sydney
Hours: 7 days from 5pm – late
If you are looking for THE Sydney Instagram shot then you will want to check out Bar Blu. Visit earlier in the week for the best experience, weekends can be hectic, and you will often have to wait to get near the view. Day or night these views are hard to beat.
Bar Blu does not take reservations so get there early or book the restaurant if you prefer the idea of being guaranteed a seat.
Vibe: Glamourous, dress rules apply and no shorts after 5pm.
Where: Level 36 of the Shangri La Hotel, Cumberland Street, The Rocks,
Hours: 4pm – Midnight (Mon- Thu) Noon to 1am Fri-Sat 11pm Sun.
More: Check the Shangri-La website for menus and prices
Bars at Barangaroo and Darling Harbour
There are plenty of bars in Darling Harbour and you won’t have to walk far to find a drink but these four are our pick of the best rooftop bars in Barangaroo and Darling Harbour
Looking out to the west this is another great Sydney sunset spot. They also have a massive and interesting gin cocktail list. The crowd is a mix of business meets pleasure during the day and at night the crowd is pretty glamorous.
It’s a large rooftop space with plenty of comfy seating and front row position for the Saturday night fireworks.
Vibe: Relaxed Luxe
Where: Level 12, 161 Sussex Street, Sydney
Hours: Open Mon – Thurs: 4pm-late, Fri – Sun: 12pm – late.
Leading the way at Barangaroo, Smoke on the top floor of Barangaroo House is not a place you can just drop by. Bookings are recommended and usually required. We tried to drop in a few times hoping to score a spot with no luck and finally managed to get organised enough to book. The positive of this is that you will not have to stand or wait ready to pounce on an empty table.
The share plates and interesting and well-priced. I challenge anyone to leave behind a single nut in the serve of cashew & macadamia nuts, with the local plant, lemon myrtle salt. For summer in a glass try the “Film Star” with cachaça, Aperol, coconut, citrus, mango puree.
Smoke won best new bar of the year 2018
Tip: Book for Happy hour or “House Hour” as it’s known here 4-6pm Mon-Friday. $10 CUB pints, $6 wines, $10 cocktails and special prices on snacks.
Vibe: Stylish, even the staff are beautiful
Where: Level 3, 35 Barangaroo House Barangaroo Ave
When: Monday to Wednesday – 3pm to midnight / Thursday to Sunday – midday to midnight
Untied – Barangaroo
Much more chill than the average rooftop bar, Untied is a great spot to go for a catch up with friends.
The view is of Darling Harbour and decor gives the bar a great summer feel
Happy hour deal – $7 House spirits, house wine, tap beer or Froze your way $7 in 6 different flavours.
Vibe: Chill and friendly
Where: 400 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
When: Monday to Wednesday – 3pm to midnight / Thursday to Sunday – midday to midnight
More: Check out the menu and what’s on at Untied
Café Del Mar
Café Del Mar is best known for its chill vibe and afternoon DJ sessions. DJs perform every Friday and Saturday from 5pm until close and from 2pm Sundays for Sunset Sessions.
Along with the music, the tapas-style menu and $20 cocktails are great reasons to visit.
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday 4pm-7pm, Espresso Martini or Aperol Spritz for just $12. Peroni, Corona, standard spirits and wine – for the special price of $6.
Vibe: Chill, very chill.
Where: Rooftop Terrace, Cockle Bay Wharf, 35 Wheat Rd, Darling Harbour
When: 12pm till close
More: Check the website for latest pricing and events
Bars with a beach view in Sydney
Sydney Eastern Beaches are not short of jaw-dropping views and thankfully there are several great places to grab a drink and take them in.
Coogee Pavilion looks out over Coogee Beach and the pacific. The bar offers a range of food including group menus and substantial items if you are really hungry.
The downstairs areas are suitable for families and have a great range of eat-in options. They take bookings too!
Vibe: Cool / locals
Where: Dolphin St, Coogee
When: Noon to Midnight
More: Menu and details on the website.
Bucket list Bondi
The perfect reward for completing the Coogee to Bondi walk is drinking at Bucket List in the Bondi Pavilion.
With $18 cocktails (and jugs for $36) and a relaxed menu featuring tacos, salads and burgers Bucket List is popular with visitors and locals. Weekends feature plenty of great music to help create a chill mood. Bookings are taken for inside seating only.
Vibe: Beach club
Where: Bondi Pavilion, Shop, 1 Queen Elizabeth Dr, Bondi Beach
When: 11am till late.
North Bondi RSL
In case you have not come across it before an RSL is a Returned Soldiers League club. Pretty much every town and suburb across the country use to have one but these days their numbers have dropped a little.
RSL clubs have traditionally been known for their very good value drink prices but this one makes the cut for its position overlooking the beach at North Bondi.
Happy Hour – Thurs and Friday 5pm-7pm – $10 Aperol Cocktail $7 Guava Mimosa Cocktail $5 Rose (glass)
Vibe: Local and relaxed
Where: 118-120 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi
When: Midday till 10pm weeknights, 11pm weekends
More: Check their website for details of what’s on.
Icebergs Dining and Bar
Two spaces an indoor bar with glass walls and an outdoor summer terrace make the most of the spectacular Bondi Beach. A little more expensive than the other Bondi options and a much more limited menu in the bar and terrace but the views are hard to beat.
Vibe: Beach luxe
Where: Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, 1 Notts Ave
When: Noon to midnight
Heading to the northern side of the city if you are exploring Manly these bars are all worth some time.
Manly Wharf Hotel
Sitting right on the wharf where the ferry pulls in a Manly the Wharf Hotel is a big venue with a large indoor area and a smaller bar sitting on a jetty. There are 4 bar areas including a sports bar.
Plenty of daily specials and a large menu including pizzas, buckets of prawns, salads and share plates means it’s easy to find something to please everyone in a group.
Vibe: Casual by day, party by night
Where: Manly Wharf East Esplanade, Manly
When: 11.30am till midnight
Rooftop Garden Bar – New Brighton Hotel
Relax in a Balinese day bed or let your competitive site go wild at Monday night trivia this friendly pub welcomes everyone and has fantastic views over Manly beach and the Corso.
Vibe: Fun and friendly
Where: 71 The Corso, Manly
When: Rooftop open 12pm – 11pm daily.
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