Neighbourhoods of Sydney

What's great about Sydney is that the different parts of the city each have a very distinctive feeling.  I've lived in a few different neighbourhoods over the past year, and although they all have their merits, I've definitely got my favourites.

CBD, or Central Business District, is what Australians call 'Downtown'.  In Sydney this is the area stretching from Central Station up to Circular Quay, with George Street as the major artery.  I would also include neighbourhoods such as The Rocks, Pyrmont and Darling Harbour in this category, at least in terms of their vibe.  The CBD is where you spend the majority of your time on arrival in Sydney, as your hostel is likely in this area and all the main tourist attractions too.  This is where all the shopping is, the big flashy bars and clubs, the things that make you feel like you're in the Big City.  It's also the least personal, most overpriced part of Sydney - for a shared room in the CBD you'll be paying as much as having your own room in any of the suburbs.  And the excellent thing is, in Sydney living in a "suburb" doesn't necessarily mean a half-hour commute on public transport - you could have the whole city on your doorstep.

The North Shore
Broadly encompassing everything north of the harbour, the neighbourhoods closer to the city are the ones with more going on.  Neutral Bay and Crow's Nest are cool neighbourhoods with plenty of food and drink opportunities, plus decent transport to the city.  Manly is the backpacker epicentre, with lovely beaches and a great nightlife, plus regular ferries back down across the water.  The Northern Beaches suburbs are a little bit hippie, with more Aussies than backpackers and a very laidback vibe.  In general though, the North Shore is quite a yuppie place, with it's own satellite CBD in North Sydney where there are many big businesses, and lots of affluent neighbourhoods populated by well-to-do young people.

The Eastern Beaches
Bondi is not internationally famous for no reason.  The beach is huge, and always packed with an eclectic group of people.  The backpackers you get here are Brazilian, Irish or British - the kind with fake tans and boob jobs, wearing singlets and snapbacks and risking skin cancer every day out on the sand or trying to learn to surf.  The surfers themselves are the Australians we all expected to see, long blonde shaggy hair and washboard abs, and all retreat up to Byron Bay in the summer.  Walk around Bondi Junction a bit and you'll see scrawny middle-aged women whose expensive blonde locks and plastic surgery do little to hide the fact that age is catching up with them.  The further south down the coast you go, the more the wannabe-LA thing eases off.

The Inner West
When I arrived in Sydney, I lived in Newtown - possibly the most hipster neighbourhood in the city, filled with students, vegan lesbians, and creative professionals.  As a result it's jam-packed with cafes and coffee shops because none of the locals have day jobs.  There are also some of the best Thai restaurants in Sydney on King Street.  Stretching out west there's Enmore, Marrickville, Camperdown, Leichhardt, and numerous cool but more gentle versions of Newtown.  Closer to the city there's Glebe, elegant and organic, and Redfern, young and hip but still with the odd junkie hanging about (my current ends).  There's a cool bar (or two) on every block and you can successfully avoid fast food for as long as you want.

I loved something about everywhere I lived - Newtown offered endless options of places to eat and drink, Bondi Junction had Westfield on my doorstep and the beach a short walk away, Neutral Bay was quiet and pretty but a short trip into town - but Redfern is the neighbourhood I've been happiest in yet.  Cool without being too expensive, walking distance to my job and the CBD, buses to every beach, and so much to offer right here I don't even feel I have to leave.  It takes a little time to find the place that's right for you but it's fun to explore and work it out.

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