The Best Pubs in Sydney

Updated 2 weeks ago

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There’s no single criteria that achieves the gold standard for great pub (although the weight and circumference of the house parma does make an impression). But Sydney’s best hit that sweet spot where history, imagination and great menus 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 challenging ideas about what a friendly local can be. From affordable eats to karaoke with a live band, you’ll find what you’re looking for at one of these boozers.

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

  • 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 Chez Crix upstairs dials in the French bistro vibe. Pool comps and jazz quartet jams by the fireplace are regular features.

  • One of the city’s most venerable establishments, from the team behind Odd Culture 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.

  • This Neutral Bay destination had a major revamp a few years back 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Established in 1925, The Lansdowne Hotel is one of the city's most iconic live music venues. Everyone from Billy Eilish to You Am I has graced its hallowed stages, and the Mexican-inspired rooftop is where you want to be at sunset.

  • It’s all about “taps, tunes and Chinese” at this legendary 130-year-old pub. Head in for 17 local beers matched with Shandong-style chicken and prawn wontons from a Hong Kong chef. Don't miss the breezy open-air terrace on top.

  • 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.

  • The Mary’s team's eastern outpost has killer vino and does a chicken parmigiana 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.

  • Opened by a legendary publican and former cabaret star, this iconic corner pub lives its “all are welcome” ethos. The dimly-lit front bar – with its swirling mirror ball, comfy booths and Hollywood memorabilia – is one of the best spots around to catch live music, or just talk your friend's ear off on a Saturday night.

  • When Merivale bought this pub in 2017, the hospitality giant 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Built in 1881, this tiny neighbourhood pub pulls crowds with its bistro, Public Life Kitchen, where you’ll find an essential Sydney burger. The leafy front courtyard is an absolute vibe on weekends – especially when there’s a live jazz band playing and the weather is lovely.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ask anyone about the best spots for a drink in Surry Hills, and Forrester’s would have to be in the conversation. This 100-year-old pub is split into multiple distinct spaces – do afternoon pints in The Public Bar, a bottomless rosé lunch in the dining room, or trivia in the light-filled functions space upstairs.

  • “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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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.

  • The Union ranks among Sydney's best craft beer venues, with 22 taps and even more bottles of both Australia’s finest and oddest (plus some innovations from overseas). Grab a tasting paddle and sample the wares in the lively front bar or the homey bistro out back.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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.

  • 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.

  • This 24-hour Chippendale pub was once home to Sydney’s thriving indie scene. Now that it’s back, new owners have ambitions to tap into emerging party crews. Dance late under pulsating lights, or head upstairs for cocktails, a wine bar, a bottle shop and an outdoor terrace with big inner-city vibes.

  • The Glebe Hotel is a welcoming upscale pub with nods to the past and the present. There’s a working fireplace and chesterfield sofas, portraits of Glebe locals, and in the dining room – where the Sunday Roast rules – there's a majestic jacaranda mural painted by local artists.

  • The new-look Light Brigade has classic pub vibes on the ground floor and a bistro upstairs. Keep heading skyward to the 1920s-inspired cocktail bar, or the cherry on top: a Miami-inspired rooftop with epic views of the city skyline.

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  • Whether you’re chilling in the pub proper or the Surf Deck next door, you’d be hard pressed to find a better beachside watering hole than this one. Come for a jalapeno Margarita, stay for freshly shucked oysters and woodfired pizza with views of the sloshing surf.

  • Public House Petersham gets points for cramming value into every corner of its decent-size footprint. There’s the bar proper, a spacious beer garden and a car park that’s ground-zero for public holiday parties, craft beer events and more. It’s also home to a microbrewery by Batch Brewing Company, pouring beers you won’t find anywhere else in the inner west.

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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.

  • This worn-out boozer copped a refresh in 2023 – but it’s still devoted to booze, bands and pub grub like chicken schnitzel, Guinness-laced shepherd’s pie and smash burgers. Come for weeknight specials (including “curry and a can” Tuesdays) and live music Wednesday to Saturday.

  • Come for a pan-Asian pub menu featuring curries, dumplings and wok-fried classics. Plus, beers on tap, a crowd-pleasing wine list and a lush courtyard vertical garden.

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  • The Chippo Hotel is one of Sydney’s enduring live music venues, where you can catch the best upcoming bands and comedy acts on the intimate stage. Settle into the beer garden for a lazy afternoon session and vegan pub grub from the in-house bistro, Mama B’s.