The World Bar
Kings Cross — once upon a time the rollicking epicentre of Sydney nightlife — has copped a hammering since the government forced venues to close their doors at 1.30am in 2014, but this trusty favourite is still alive and kicking. The labyrinthine four-storey Victorian house serves its signature teapots of cocktails to young Sydneysiders seven nights a week, and is particularly proud of its no-pokies policy… well, there is one vintage machine, but it only collects coins for charity.
Even Noah’s ark with all its animals wouldn’t have been as lively as Sydney’s Arq on a Saturday night, when huge crowds of fashionable party-goers pile into this huge LGBTQI mega-club just off Oxford St, the city’s queer hub. The cocktail bar, resident entertainers, deluxe lighting and sound system, and dual dance floors — upstairs for house and trance, downstairs for more poppy tunes — make Arq a compulsory night out for gay visitors to Sydney.
Oxford Art Factory
Just a couple of minutes down Oxford St sits the Oxford Art Factory, Sydney’s best boutique live music venue. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York in the 1960s, the venue welcomes a jam-packed line-up of big-name Australian and international artists to the two-room, multi-functional, 500-capacity space — then when the gigs are done, the bars in the Gallery and the Live Art Space are always good for a drink and a dance.
Don’t let the name fool you, you won’t find any Beijing-made washing machines at this inner-city club — the only things spinning at Chinese Laundry are the hottest house, electro, tech, hip-hop and prog tracks on the decks. The massive venue attracts quality DJs — Laundry has hosted the likes of Hudson Mohawke, James Holden, Baauer and Gui Boratto in the past — and bumper crowds in the sweaty Cave and Garden Bar.
Named in homage to the iconic New York original, Sydney’s Stonewall is another staple of the Harbour City’s colourful queer scene, renowned for its drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Featuring live entertainment seven days a week and bars across three levels, Stonewall has been an Oxford St fixture for two decades, throwing its support behind various LGBTQI charities and community organisations.
This city-centre haunt is impossible to describe — part basement bar, part pizza cafe, part pinball museum and part live-music venue. But who cares if Frankie’s doesn’t fit neatly into anything resembling a conventional category because it’s a guaranteed good night out with live entertainment seven days a week, including ear-drum-busting rock and roll on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 3am.
At the less uptight end of the scale sits the Soda Factory in Surry Hills, a lively venue that attracts long queues of locals and visitors alike. Pass the kitschy neon-lit entrance and enter a quirky, industrial space brimming with classic tunes, a heaving dance floor, affordable drinks and American diner-style food — the perfect nightspot for those who don’t want to drop half their week’s pay check on a round of drinks and a bite to eat.
As their website points out, this venue is more than a bar — “Freda’s is a bar and creative space in Chippendale with a commitment to showcasing emerging artists, musicians and DJs”. The old warehouse space juggles a diverse range of local performers with an inventive cocktail bar and a simple pizza kitchen, staying quiet on school nights until it cranks up the volume to 11 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with an eclectic line-up of live music.
The Ivy Complex in the heart of the city contains eight bars, three award-winning restaurants and four events spaces… and the jewel in this glittering crown is the Ivy Pool Club, Sydney’s only rooftop pool bar, hosting Saturday night dance parties under the moonlight and Sunday afternoon recovery sessions in the sunshine. Ivy is a place where Sydney’s social elite come to be seen, either sipping a cocktail in a poolside cabana or stripping off for a dip in the crystal-clear water.
The sparkly glamour of the Star casino in Pyrmont near Darling Harbour is the closest Sydney comes to Las Vegas, and high-profile DJs clearly agree, with Hardwell, Armin Van Buuren, Avicii, Havana Brown, the Stafford Brothers and Will Sparks all gracing the decks at Marquee over the years. The glitzy casino club also features VIP tables and regular celebrity appearances.