The Sydney CBD has always been known as a commercial hub rather than a destination for culture and nightlife. But a fast-growing bar scene is redefining the previously limited business district, and now there are more and more options for after-work drinks and late-night cocktails.

So it's no longer necessary to pay tourist prices at Opera Bar if you want a drink in the city. Whether you’re looking for a pub, a champagne parlour, or a hidden speak-easy, the business district has what you're looking for – if you know where to find it.

Cantina Ok!

Bar

Cantina Ok! is a 20-seat cocktail bar specialising in rare spirits from Mexico. It’s in a tiny garage at the end of a delivery laneway, manned by three jovial and variously bearded barmen in white aprons.

Council Place, Sydney

Maybe Sammy

Bar

At 1950s Vegas-inspired cocktail bar Maybe Sammy, there’s a rotating tasting menu of $10 classic cocktails served in mini form. The space has plenty of green, pastels and gold, and bartenders kitted out in pale-pink dinner jackets. Plus, there's a $2 oyster deal on Sunday afternoons.

115 Harrington Street, The Rocks

Reign

Bar

Reign is a posh, light-filled 140-seater with brass detailing, hues of pink blush and gold, plus marble on nearly every surface. Run by an all-women bar team, drinks are garnished with decorations such as origami crowns, paper planes and music sheets, and there’s more than 180 whiskies and 200 wines from around the globe.

Level 1, Queen Victoria Building 455 George Street, Sydney
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Menzies Bar

Bar

The first of three venues to go in at the refurbished Shell House in the CBD. It pulls inspiration from the grand eateries of Europe, with a daily Martini hour, lobster rolls, and a 2am licence.

37 Margaret Street, Sydney

The Baxter Inn

Bar

Track down this dim, intimate speakeasy and you'll be rewarded with more than 800 whiskies and bartenders who know what to do with them.

Rear Basement 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney
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Apollonia

Bar

A moody basement bar beneath Hinchcliff House in Circular Quay. Visit for a signature Negroni on tap, creative cocktails, and Sicilian-style bar snacks – all inspired by Francis Ford Coppola's landmark film, The Godfather. Open until late.

5-7 Young Street, Sydney

Dean & Nancy on 22

Bar

The Maybe Sammy crew's glamorous bar and restaurant on the 22nd floor of a luxe hotel. Come for interactive multi-sensory cocktails and a menu by a veteran Sydney chef that channels the glory days of Vegas.

2 Hunter Street, Sydney

Bar 83

Restaurant

This '70s-inspired cocktail lounge on the 83rd floor of Sydney Tower is the highest bar in town. Cocktails come from an ex-Baxter Inn and Hubert bartender whose drinks will almost distract you from the 260-degree views.

Level 83, Sydney Tower 100 Market Street, Sydney
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PS40

Bar

A dramatic-looking, light-filled bar with its own soda-making plant. While wattle cola and smoked lemonade sound inventive enough, the boozy creations here are truly next-level: salted pina coladas; “breakfast” negronis; and a pitch-perfect homage to Black Star Pastry’s world-famous watermelon and strawberry cake.

40 Skittle Lane, Sydney

Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern

Bar

Whisky, cognac and "shit tinnies" are your reward for finding this rowdy CBD bar. Just look for the three skulls and descend to the basement – you might be down there for a while.

199 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

Double Deuce Lounge

Bar

Take the founders of Ramblin' Rascal, add a subterranean space and finish it off with a ’70s sheen and you have a guaranteed blockbuster cocktail bar. The vibe of the space – filled with wood panelling, plump leather couches and even a furry shag feature wall – is cool, easygoing and cheesy. A smooth funk and soul soundtrack rounds it all out.

6 Bridge Street, Sydney

Frankie's Pizza

Bar

Everyone ends up at Frankie’s eventually. The menu at this late-night parlour copped a serious revamp in 2021. Now it’s a snapshot of New York’s next-level pizza scene, which you can enjoy until the wee small hours. Just like in New York.

50 Hunter Street, Sydney

The Swinging Cat

Bar

Below pavement level on King Street in the CBD there’s a den of New Orleans-inspired drinks, food and jazz. Pete Fischer is behind this small bar and it is the culmination of all his extensive bar experience to date, delivered with moody vibes and clever simplicity.

44 King Street, Sydney

Little Felix

Bar

Little Felix is more than a waiting room for French bistro Felix. Thanks to a Cognac and Cointreau-heavy drinks list and a bar piled high with towers of French cheese cut to order, it's a destination in its own right. It’s all set in an opulent, pale-emerald room replete with comfortable dark-toned leather lounges.

2 Ash Street, Sydney

The Lobo

Bar

One of Sydney’s early shakers in Sydney’s new-wave cocktail movement. The focus here is on rum. It’s got one of the biggest selections of the spirit, and don’t the team behind the bar know how to use it. Add to that a Caribbean theme that never quite crosses over into kitsch, and you’re guaranteed a good night out.

Basement Lot 1 209 Clarence Street, Sydney
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Taylor's Rooftop Bar

Bar

Found on the third floor of the Republic Hotel, the bar is accessed from Tank Stream Way and then via a substantial flight of stairs. The climb reveals an open-air space that's admittedly more roofless than rooftop, but the air is cool and Pitt Street's skyscrapers wink down from above.

69-73 Pitt Street, Sydney

Bar Luca

Restaurant

A classic CBD Friday afternoon atmosphere but with a more interesting beer list, and a mix of American and Italian sides such as lamb ribs with garlic and lemon; or smoky fried chicken wings.

52 Phillip Street, Sydney

Grain

Bar

Grain is decked out with an abundance of timber, a gas fireplace and cosy amber lighting. Settle into the matching Swedish neo-retro furniture and you can peruse a whisky list with more than 240 entries sourced from Scotland, Japan and Australia.

199 George Street, Sydney
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Kittyhawk

Bar

Influenced by the soldiers and machines of the Second World War, Kittyhawk brings rye and rum cocktails to the business end of town. The bar’s concept imagines liberation day in Paris.

16 Phillip Lane, Sydney

Bar Odessa

Bar

Bar Odessa, the plush basement bar at David Tsireka’s Greek restaurant 1821, was inspired by the history of the Greek Revolution. The bar is at the bottom of a narrow, dimly lit staircase. Once inside, Bar Odessa promises luxury fit for a Tsar with an extravagant suite of caviar alongside other Black Sea indulgences: pates, oysters and smoked fish.

Basement Level 122 Pitt Street, Sydney

Prince of York

Restaurant

Have dinner and wine upstairs, then head downstairs to party.

18 York Street, Sydney

The Bandit’s Roost

Cafe

For seven years this spot was Shirt Bar but in 2018 it was reimagined as The Bandit’s Roost, a cafe and bar with a deli-style menu, an extensive whisky list and well-made coffee.

7 Sussex Lane, Sydney

Employees Only

Bar

The bar, which opened in 2004 with an unassuming door and a notoriously misleading “Psychic” neon sign, was a pioneer of the city’s reinvented cocktail scene. It’s since come to be regarded as one of the best cocktail bars in the world, thanks to its well crafted but evolving cocktail list and switched-on staff.

9A Barrack Street, Sydney

Bowery Lane

Cafe

To get to Bowery Lane, you step inside a set of office-like sliding glass doors. But rather than walking straight into another of Sydney’s sky-high office buildings, a sharp left will take you into what feels like a Manhattan loft.

Shop 1, Level 4 1 O'Connell Street, Sydney

Bar Topa

Bar

Bar Topa is a pocket-sized contemporary tapas bar. It only accommodates 40 standing diners and a few on stools that are scattered about. It’s a place to pop into for a couple snacks before heading on to the next venue.

4 Palings Lane, Sydney

Old Mate's Place

Bar

The 98-capacity venue is filled with brown-leather booths in front of bookcases, and foliage peeping from every nook and cranny. To access the drawcard rooftop bar you’ll need to climb another set of stairs (this space closes at 10pm). There’s more greenery and punters have 360-degree views of the city’s skyscrapers.

Level 4 199 Clarence Street, Sydney

Smoke Bar

Bar

Matt Moran's extravagant table-service rooftop bar, with waterfront views and plenty of champagne.

35 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney

The Push

Restaurant

The Push is an intimate bar beneath the Russell Hotel with a focus on cocktails and down-to-earth pub-food such as burgers and steaks.

143 George Street, The Rocks

The Barber Shop

Bar

In the first room you can get a lager or a G& T with your beard trim. But the main draw is room number two. Just behind the sound of buzzers and scissors is a dimly lit bar with a gin selection so wide you need a ladder to traverse it. Order the pepperberry spiced gin with a dirty tonic and pair it with a house-made sausage roll.

89 York Street, Sydney

The Duke of Clarence

Bar

Almost everything about this place is authentically English, right down to the imported antique wallpaper.

152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney

Grandma’s Bar

Bar

A candle-lit den with “faded granny glamour” in spades. Lamps, mismatched armchairs and cheesy baked bean toasties are all comforting throwbacks, but the rum-heavy list of tiki drinks will really get you settled in.

275 Clarence Street, Sydney

Papa Gede's

Bar

A New Orleans-style cocktail bar, with an emphasis on rum.

346-348 Rear 348 Kent Street, via laneway, Sydney
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