The 10 Best Bars in Sydney’s CBD

Sydney’s CBD is home to a number fantastic bars, many of them with stunning views
Sydney’s CBD is home to a number fantastic bars, many of them with stunning views | © Olaf Schuelke / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tom Smith
4 February 2020

From swanky rooftop terraces to moody underground speakeasies, these are the top 10 places to wet your whistle in Sydney’s CBD.

Victorian-era British pubs, gin joints attached to barbershops, opium-den-inspired bars for dumplings and drinks – Sydney’s inner city is packed with dynamic bars sprinkled among the skyscrapers. Thirsty after work? Then head to one of these stylish spots in the central business district (CBD).

The Baxter Inn for a whiskey cellar with a whiff of New York’s Prohibition era

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
Map View
The Baxter Inn bar © The Baxter Inn
Courtesy of The Baxter Inn

Hidden down an alleyway off Clarence Street in the middle of the inner city, this underground whiskey cellar feels like it’s been lifted straight out of Prohibition-era New York. The 10-metre (33-foot) wall of whiskey is overwhelming – The Baxter Inn boasts a collection of almost 800 bottles – but the dapper staff are only too happy to help you select a tipple either from the shelves or the cocktail menu.

Duke of Clarence for an old-school pub lifted straight out of the Victorian era

Pub, British, $$$
Map View
Duke of Clarence lounge © Duke of Clarence
Courtesy of Duke of Clarence

If The Baxter Inn is a piece of the Big Apple, then the den across the alley is a slice of old London town. Named after the man who went on to become King William IV of England, this Victorian-era tavern is styled like the pubs of yore back in the mother country, right down to the pints of cask ale coming out of the old-school pumps and the British-inspired gastropub shareable plates.

Zeta Bar for creative culinary cocktails on a rooftop

Bar, Contemporary, $$$
Map View
Zeta Bar terrace © Zeta Bar
Courtesy of Zeta Bar

The CBD is peppered with great cocktail bars, but few have the views of this watering hole on the rooftop of the Hilton Sydney. The vistas over the neighbouring Queen Victoria Building are reason enough to pop in for a drink, but Zeta Bar’s creative cocktail menu refuses to be overshadowed. The team of award-winning mixologists produce syrups in-house, experiment with molecular gastronomy, and collaborate with the Hilton kitchen downstairs to create a range of edible ‘culinary cocktails’.

Papa Gede’s Bar for a voodoo-themed hang-out

Cocktail Bar, Australian, $$$
Map View
Papa Gede's flaming cocktails © Papa Gede's
Courtesy of Papa Gede’s

This voodoo-themed hang-out offers one of the most colourful drinks menus in the city, pouring a long list of flaming alcoholic beverages, meme-themed cocktails – such as the Rick Roller and the Troll Face – and an array of traditional absinthe concoctions best imbibed during ‘green hour’ every day between 4pm and 6pm. Papa Gede’s Bar also hosts a monthly comedy night – get more info from the super-friendly staff behind the bar.

Bulletin Place for tropical cocktails that change with the seasons

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
Map View
Bulletin Place cocktail bar © Bulletin Place
Courtesy of Bulletin Place

If there’s a better place in Sydney to knock back a tropical cocktail on a warm summer’s day, good luck finding it. Opened by acclaimed bartenders Tim Philips, Adi Ruiz and Robb Sloan in 2012, Bulletin Place is a tiny, intimate space that curates a cocktail list that changes every single day depending on the fresh, local produce available – expect to sip on plenty of fresh berries and tangy citrus.

The Edinburgh Castle for a cocktail lounge and outdoor courtyard with character

Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
Map View
Edinburgh Castle bar area © Edinburgh Castle
Courtesy of The Edinburgh Castle

A Sydney landmark since 1885, The Edinburgh Castle benefitted from a complete head-to-toe makeover in 2016, revamping everything from the 19th-century decor to the gastropub food and drinks menu. The renovations refreshed the ground floor bar and added a cocktail lounge plus an outdoor courtyard while sacrificing none of the Victorian-era charm that sets this bar apart from Sydney’s more sterile city pubs.

The Lobo Plantation for a huge collection of rum and a wide array of rum-based cocktails

Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
Map View
Lobo Plantation bar © The Lobo
Courtesy of The Lobo Plantation

Named after Cuban sugar tsar Julio Lobo, this Caribbean-inspired Clarence Street cocktail haunt specialises in rum – over 250 types. The Lobo Plantation’s hand-picked collection of rums are used in the 16 exciting cocktails on the menu. Make sure you try the flagship creation, the Old Grogram, a concoction of spiced rum, fresh lemon, sugar and The Lobo’s famous stout vermouth.

The Barber Shop for a vintage-themed gin bar doubling as a hairdresser

Cocktail Bar, Contemporary
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Barber Shop interior © Barber Shop
Courtesy of Barber Shop

Fancy a fresh new hairdo with your gin and tonic? Then this one-stop shop has got you covered. The Barber Shop isn’t just a name – this small bar is a hairdresser in the front and a gin palace out the back. Step through the parlour-styled barbershop to reach the vintage-themed gin joint, where you can order a drink from the sophisticated cocktail list that celebrates local distilleries like Poor Toms and Archie Rose.

Uncle Ming’s for a cocktail menu with a distinctly Asian flavour

Cocktail Bar, Asian, $$$
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Uncle Ming's bar © Kounta / Uncle Ming's
© Kounta / Courtesy of Uncle Ming’s

Named after a Chinese opium gang leader who swapped Shanghai for Sydney in the 1920s, Uncle Ming’s infuses an Australian cocktail menu with a distinctly Asian flavour. Red walls, gold lamps and Buddha statues create a moody atmosphere in this underground den off York Street, which serves an assortment of delicious dumplings alongside Japanese whiskies, boutique bottles of sake and craft beers imported from Asia.

Ramblin Rascal Tavern for the most laid-back watering hole in the CBD

Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
Map View

Many upscale cocktail bars in Sydney’s CBD take themselves too seriously. The Ramblin Rascal isn’t one of them. With loud live music, classic pub grub, an impressive selection of whiskies and cognacs, and good-value tinnies on offer for beer drinkers, this dimly lit basement bar on the corner of Park and Elizabeth Streets is one of the most laid-back watering holes in the CBD to grab an after-work drink.

These recommendations were updated on February 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.