Sydney’s pubs – what would we do without them? For all of us at Broadsheet, it doesn’t bear thinking about. 

There’s no single criteria that achieves the gold standard for great boozer (although the weight and circumference of the house parma does make an impression). But Sydney’s best pubs hit a sweet spot where history, imagination and great food and drink collide.

Some of the establishments on this list are as old as the city itself (but more than keep up with times). Others are modern envelope-pushers that challenging our ideas about what a friendly local can be. 

What they all share in common is their standing as perfect places to meet – whether for an affordable meal, a game of trivia or a weekend wind up (or wind down). You’ll find what you’re looking for at one of these pubs.

The Imperial Hotel

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One of the major arteries of Sydney’s drag and queer culture. This multistorey art deco pub was refurbed in 2018 after a tumultuous few years. Now it’s a class act from top to bottom, with a pizzeria and a veg-forward restaurant called Priscillas. The Imperial’s basement performance and dance space is a refuge for free love and self-expression.

35 Erskineville Road, Erskineville

The Henson

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This pub – and spiritual home of the Newtown Jets – is owned and operated by locals. The umami-packed pub grub leans heavily on Asian flavours, and there’s a bustling dining room and pooch-friendly courtyard to revel in. Proudly pokies-free.

91 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville

The Unicorn Hotel

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The Mary’s Group eastern outpost has killer vino and does a parma like no other. A piano man plays in the downstairs dining room most Fridays – expect a healthy dose of Elton John, plus a raucous rendition of the Titanic theme, My Heart Will Go On.

106 Oxford Street, Paddington

The Vic on the Park

Bar

When Merivale’s restaurateurs bought this pub in 2017, they didn’t mess with a winning formula. They just added a new lick of paint and a few Persian rugs. Live music in the front bar is more popular than ever, and punters swarm the car park to shoot hoops or watch the footy on a giant projector screen.

2 Addison Road, Marrickville

The Dolphin Hotel

Restaurant

The avant-garde interior is just as striking as the wine list, which specialises in European drops from independent producers. Defining the menu is tricky. Gastropub? Wine bar? Fine diner? It’s hard to say. In any case, it all tastes great.

412 Crown Street, Surry Hills
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The Newport

Restaurant

The courtyard of this sprawling establishment has the energy of a seafood festival in the Hamptons. A bit specific? If you’ve been to Merivale’s other huge seaside pub, The Coogee Pav, then you’ll know what you’re in store for here. Multiple storeys, eateries and beverages to choose from.

2 Kalinya Street, Newport

The Shakespeare Hotel

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One of Surry Hills’ best value boozers, if not its best looking. Miraculously, you can frequently nab a beer and feed here for less than $20. Take it upstairs to one of the pub’s ornate dining rooms. A happy hour schooner on the footpath outside is just as satisfying.

200 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills

The Oaks Hotel

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This Neutral Bay destination had a major revamp in 2019 to include a new public bar and restaurant. The latter, called Alala’s, deals in upmarket pub fare, while the in-house butcher and grill specialises in dry-aged cuts of beef. The best seats in the house are in the courtyard, under the pub’s 70-year-old namesake – a spectacular fairy-lit oak tree.

118 Military Road, Neutral Bay

Courthouse Hotel

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It feels like the whole suburb of Newtown descends on this vibrant pub each week. Black-clad millennials and neighbourhood lifers tuck into whopping bowls of nachos in the leafy wraparound courtyard. It’s the area’s ultimate meet-up spot.

202 Australia St, Newtown

The Old Fitzroy

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Up there with the city’s most venerable and beloved establishments, from the team behind The Oxford Tavern and The Duke of Enmore. The upstairs bistro offers fun takes on European brasserie fare, and you'll find both new and old-world wines on the list. For a cultural fix, catch independent shows downstairs at the Old Fitz Theatre, home of Red Line Productions.

129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo

The Oxford Tavern

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The original leather booths and wooden paneling are throwbacks to the Ox’s past life as a topless bar, but everything else here is far from nostalgic. There’s a lengthy wine list, vegan Beyond burgers and “Black Betty”, a smoker slinging barbeque every day in the moody, fern-festooned beer garden.

1 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, Petersham

The Kirribilli Hotel

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This is one of the most attractive – and classic – pubs in Sydney, both inside (where a polished wood bar wraps around the cosy dining room) and out (in the pristine art deco facade). The hand-pumped pints of Lord Nelson bitter are a bona-fide rarity on this side of the bridge.

37 Broughton Street, Milsons Point

The Lansdowne Hotel

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Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham have revived this classic boozer’s rock heritage and imbued it with their signature Mary’s moves. Come here for natural vino and Detroit-style pizza, a gritty bandroom and burgers on the rooftop.

2-6 City Road, Chippendale

The Royal Albert Hotel

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This petite Surry Hills boozer does two things exceedingly well – craft beer and the food that goes with it. Beer styles run the gamut, from heavy and hazy to crisp and sessionable. There’s also a huge selection of tinnies and Australian spirits on offer.

140 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

The Golden Sheaf Hotel

Bar

A slice of eastern suburbs history, with a beer garden to rival any on this list. Hordes flock to it every day of the week, but the Wednesday student night is a Sheaf staple. The main attraction is the fairy-lit fig tree overlooking the courtyard bar and restaurant.

429 New South Head Road, Double Bay

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Bar

A waterfront session here is met with postcard views of the CBD skyline and plenty of nautical ephemera. The fish'n'chips are excellent, plus it’s a spectacular ferry ride to and from the city. A true eastern suburbs destination.

1 Military Road, Watsons Bay

Cricketers Arms Hotel

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The Crix inspires devotion. Many of its hardcore followers would call it the very best pub in Sydney, no contest. It’s definitely up there. The public bar is classic pub, while the Pink Parrot cocktail bar upstairs is uber-kitsch, but very much in on the joke. Pool comps and jazz quartet jams by the fireplace are regular features.

106 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills

The Welcome Hotel

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In a suburb full of pubs, The Welcome still stands out as one of Rozelle’s best. Many original details are over 100 years old, making it one of the area’s oldest venues, too. An array of Australian and Italian pours make up the wine list, plus there are 15 taps dedicated to Sydney’s craft beer scene. The bistro’s menu of upmarket grub is worth staying for.

91 Evans St, Rozelle

The Glenmore Hotel

Bar

The Glenmore rooftop has one of the city’s most stunning views, hands down. Punters clamour for unobstructed panoramas during summer, and in winter it’s an excellent perch for the Vivid festival light works. Pints and people-watching on street level complete The Rocks experience.

96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

The Golden Barley

Bar

“Oasis” is a descriptor that’s oft bandied about for beer gardens, but in the Barley’s case it’s justified. Ferns, hibiscus and wisteria grow thick outside the family-friendly bistro. The public bar, with its jukebox and pool tables, has a living-room feel (with the looks of a greaser’s man cave).

165-169 Edgeware Road, Enmore

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

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It’s Sydney’s original brewpub, and it’s been continuously trading for almost 200 years. It’s as old as The Rocks itself, yet the bistro’s pub fare is undeniably modern, even a little progressive. A destination for out-of-towners and beer pilgrims alike.

19 Kent Street, The Rocks

The Rose Hotel

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The one in Chippendale (not Erskineville, Rozelle or Bunbury). It’s super popular with students from nearby Sydney University, and you can’t blame them – this gastropub goes above and beyond on all fronts. There’s dozens of beers on tap, a raft of cocktails and a veritable rolodex of whisky. And the forward-thinking bistro does some truly epic mains and pizzas.

52-54 Cleveland Street, Chippendale

The Erko

Restaurant

A neighbourhood watering-hole with a strong indoor-outdoor game. Smokehouse Sundays are popular not just for American barbecue, but for Turkish, Hispanic, Jamaican and vegan styles, too. A game of pool in the public bar is essential.

102 Erskineville Road, Erskineville

The Taphouse

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A craft beer temple in Darlinghurst. You’re unlikely to find many of the brews here anywhere else, plus the tap list is ever-changing. The heritage main bar is a warm and inviting space to polish off the Sunday roast, while the airy rooftop garden is the ideal setting for a tasting flight.

122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst

Darlo Bar

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A corner hotel where the cocktail names are cheeky and vinyl reigns on weekends. It’s sans bistro, but the done thing is to order some Thai or a burger from the local takeaway joints. Sleep it off after a big night in the pub’s retro accommodation – it’s the next best thing to your own bed.

306 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst

Harbord Hotel

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This oasis by the sea had a revamp in 2020. Now, it combines heritage charm with all the modern ritz you’d expect from a standout seaside boozer. Elevated food and drinks, luxe design and one of Sydney’s best beaches down the street.

29 Moore Road, Freshwater

Friend in Hand Hotel

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A quirky Glebe local with a gallery of kitschy memorabilia. The kitchen serves straightforward grub such as schnitzels and spag bol. The cool, covered backyard is perfect in the heat of summer, or there’s a fireplace to cosy up to in winter.

58 Cowper Street, Glebe

The Lord Dudley Hotel

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A British-style pub for Britons. The Patchett’s Pies and Sunday Roast are a nod to old blighty, as is the mock-tudor style trimming on the pub’s facade. The garden restaurant is a more refined experience, but slumming it on the footpath with a glass-handled pint is best.

236 Jersey Road, Woollahra

The London

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An understated gem in the backstreets of Paddington. A historic facade gives way to a fresh interior, which fills up with rugby fans when the season calls. The tap list is unfussy and steaks are a highlight of the crowd-pleasing menu. Paddington residents are lucky to call this one their local.

85 Underwood Street, cnr of William Street, Paddington
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The Australian Heritage Hotel

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There’s no dearth of pubs in The Rocks, but this Federation-style exemplar stands apart with its dizzying selection of Australian craft beer. By the same token, it’s famous for its heritage pizzas – the “Coat of Arms” has marinated kangaroo and emu on it, but you can always stick to straight pepperoni.

100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Hotel Palisade

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A Miller’s Point pub with three distinct sides – the public house on ground floor has postcard-perfect views of the harbour, plus a lively kitchen with gastropub flair. Upstairs, Henry Deane notches up the class with sophisticated cocktails and eats – but why not go one better in the pub’s accommodation? It’s a luxe inner-city escape.

35 Bettington Street, Millers Point

The Clock Hotel

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This huge two-storey pub – with a popular wraparound verandah and interior courtyard – is one of Surry Hill's original boozers. And after 150 years, you still can't do the Crown Street crawl without a trip to The Clock.

470 Crown Street, Surry Hills
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