The City South district is home to Australia's largest Chinatown as well as its largest train station, Central station. It is south of City Centre, to the east of Darling Harbour and City West and also adjoins both City East and Eastern Suburbs toward its eastern boundaries. It has three main lineal axis, Pitt Street, George Street and Sussex Street. If you are arriving in Sydney by long distance bus or train, this is the area where you will be dropped off.
The district has some of the cheapest hotels in the city, and is full of good value restaurants, Internet cafes, pubs, markets, and discount shopping. The area also stays open relatively late compared to the rest of Sydney, which makes it a good place to find a late supper.
Sydney's current Chinatown moved to the Haymarket area in the 1920s, and its official status was recognised in 1980 when the community raised funds to erect the traditional archways found at both ends of the pedestrianised Dixon Street. While it is the biggest Chinatown in Australia, the original enclave is noticeably small due to limited immigration during the White Australia Policy era, and has rapidly grown outwards past the old boundaries because of booming immigration from Hong Kong in the 1980s/90s and now China in the 2000s. Nowadays Haymarket is no longer the main Chinese-majority neighbourhood, with satellite Chinatowns popping up in Ashfield, Eastwood, Hurstville, and Chatswood among others.
Other small immigrant communities have also emerged around the area, from the Spanish Quarter on Liverpool Street, to Thai Town on Campbell Street and Korea Town centred around Pitt Street and Liverpool Street.
- From Darling Harbour Chinatown is on the southernmost edge. Walk past Tumbalong Park and the Entertainment center. About 20 minutes from Harbourside.
- From Town Hall walk south on George Street.
Take the train to Central or Town Hall stations. Walk north (towards the harbour/city) along George St from Central, or south (away from the harbour/city) along George St from Town Hall. Turn onto Hay St for Chinatown.
By light rail
The light rail] stops at Haymarket. It's a good option if you are coming from Pyrmont or the Star, but from the City or Darling Harbour it is probably just as quick to walk.
- Buses running from Railway Square north to the City all stop along George St. Get off near Hay St.
- Some buses running south from the city up George St stop along George St adjacent to Haymarket. Not all George St buses take this route. Check the details on the stop and check with the driver. You will want to press the button to get off when you see World Square on the left. George St buses leave from Stand C at Circular Quay.
Some streets in the Haymarket area gets extremely congested on weekends and at peak hour. One wrong turn at these times can add 15 minutes to your journey. However, there is plenty of parking in and around the area. Parking in Darling Harbour or the Entertainment Centre carpark is also an option. Parking is around $25 a day in Market City. Look for $15 all day deals on weekends in some of the lots around the south of the area.
Walking is the best way to explore the crowded streets of Chinatown. Be sure to watch out for traffic and the light rail.
- Central Station. While you can't compare it to New York's Grand Central Station, this Sydney landmark is the busiest and largest station in Australia. The building facade, clock tower and main concourse are the highlights of this station. If you are travelling around on public transport, odds are you may come along the station as it is a major interchange for trains, busses and light rail.
- Chinatown, Dixon St and surrounds. Starts in front of the markets on Hay St and runs just over two blocks to Goulburn St in the north. Dixon St is a malled pedestrian area and closed to traffic. It is decorated in traditional Chinese style and is home to many shops and restaurants. Be sure to explore the surrounding streets for the full experience of Chinatown.
- Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo (If walking, follow the signs from Darling Harbour near the Exhibition Centre. If driving, access via Harris St), ☎ +61 2 9217 0111. Daily 10AM-5PM. The Powerhouse Museum is a large museum, essentially of popular culture. It has displays on the history of fashion and transport, decorative arts, music, and space exploration exhibits. It also partly plays on a sci-tech theme, with interactive hands-on and discovery displays of technology, design and industry There is usually a special exhibition on as well. There are in-depth displays for all ages, but also displays especially created for young children to discover and play. $15 adults, free for 16 and under.
- White Rabbit Gallery, 30 Balfour St, ☎ +61 2 8399 2867. W-Su 10AM-5PM. An Australian gallery dedicated to showing contemporary Chinese art, and claims to have one of the largest collections of it in the world. The teahouse serves an excellent selection of exotic teas along with dumplings and scones. The gallery is often closed in February and August to prepare new installations. Free.
Stroll around the district exploring the colourful Chinese meets Australian culture. If in the mood to play, head to the upper floor of Capitol Square (adjacent to Capitol Theatre) to play an extensive set of Asian arcade games.
- Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell St, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9320-5000. Housed in a 1920s historical building and host to many theatrical productions, from plays to ballet to musicals like Wicked and Mary Poppins when they come to Sydney.
- Chinese New Year Festival. Held yearly to celebrate the Lunar New Year (varies from Jan to Feb). The biggest holiday in the East Asian community, it is celebrated with lion dances, fire crackers and dragon boating in the nearby Darling Harbour. The highlight of the festival is the Chinese New Year Twilight Parade, where floats constructed by the local Chinese, Korean and Viet populations travel down George Street. Free.
Chinatown is particularly famous for its Chinese stores, mainly in Dixon Street and Sussex Street, selling imported clothing and homewares, Chinese herbs, and exotic foodstuffs such as pressed duck, Asian greens and dried mushrooms.
- Brewery Yard Markets, 28 Broadway (Behind Central Park). 10AM-4PM, 1st & 3rd Sunday every month. A small market set on the green adjacent to Central Park shopping centre. This market specialises in street art, crafts, jewelry and clothing with smatterings of food stalls and live music throughout.
- Chinatown Night Markets (on Dixon St). 4PM-10PM F. An open air night market is set up in Dixon Street, selling Asian cuisine, jewellery, clothing, socks, lights, scented candles, sweets and many arts and crafts products. A pale shadow of the markets it is inspired by, but still enjoyable nonetheless.
- Paddy's Markets (on Hay St just off George St). W-Su 9AM-5PM. A famous, large market place in the Haymarket. Lots of clothing, sunglasses, souvenirs, and food. Probably not too many bargains to be had, however. Closest station is Central. Closest bus stop is corner of George and Hay. Light rail stops just outside the door. Parking in Market City.
- Capitol Square, 730-742 George St. A small mall that is best known for Technocity, a maze of over 20 retail stores that focus on electronics; a great option if the Sony store looks a little out of your price range. Many get most of their sales from web front ends or eBay, but it is a very competitive environment to buy computers and electronics. You can also find a few eateries within an an arcade filled with games and Purikura photo booths to keep everyone entertained.
- Central Park, 28 Broadway, ☎ +61 2 8096 9900. 10AM-8PM. This shopping centre is part of a larger complex that includes parklands and apartments. There is a wide selection of unique fashion and homeware stores along with general retail and a supermarket. Central Park is also great for its wide range of food and dining options, from cafes to restaurants. If you visit, be sure to check out their website for events which including workshops, art galleries, local markets and the BYO Cinema.
- Market City Shopping Centre, Level 3, 2-13 Quay Street, Sydney, ☎ +61 2 9212-1388. This mammoth place has a fresh produce market on the first level, factory outlets on the second level and more food from more places than you can imagine on the third level. You'll find Paddy's Markets here too.
- World Square, Corner of George St and Liverpool St. A large shopping precinct on George St, with many specialty stores, including a Sony Store. Avoid the convenience stores for food and supplies. Coles in World Square is a good place to shop for supplies.
This area has an incredible range of restaurants and is one of Sydney’s best dining precincts. There are over 60 restaurants and food court stalls around Chinatown and Haymarket, offering many Chinese regional specialities, plus Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Malaysian cuisines. Many establishments serve the ever popular yum cha, irresistible sweet and savory snacks that are wheeled around on trolleys, generally between 10AM and 2PM. As a rule, avoid any restaurant in Chinatown with touts outside begging you to come in - the food is more often than not overpriced and not good. For a complete contrast, visit near by Liverpool Street, where there are some excellent Spanish restaurants.
- Dixon House Food Court, Corner Little Hay & Dixon Sts, Haymarket. This food court offers a selection of about 20 vendors, with low prices. Dishes $6-10.
- Chinese Noodle House, Shop 7, Prince Centre, 8 Quay St, ☎ +61 2 9281-9051. At this intimate, busy eatery decorated with grapes and Persian rugs, the noodles are handmade in traditional northern Chinese style - and the crowds are glad of it. Dishes $6-8.80.
- Menya Noodle Bar, 8/8 Quay St, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9212-1020. Closed on Su. A great restaurant that specialises in ramen. Serves a broth that is not too thin and not too rich; just right. Long queues during weekday lunch hours.
- Satang Thai Takeaway, 20 Quay St, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9280-0956. Cheap, tasty and large portions, no need to be picky. There's a reason why a branch with expanded seating has opened right across the street. Particular favourite would be the Pad Thai.
- Mamak, 15 Goulburn St, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9211-1668. Lunch 11.30AM - 2.30PM, dinner 5.30PM - 10PM, supper till 2AM (Fr & Sa). Serves Sydney's best roti canai paired with a mouth-warming curry. The teh tarik (pulled tea) and dessert roti are recommended. No reservations are taken, be prepared for queues for up to an hour. Dishes $10-$15.
- Emperor's Garden BBQ & Noodles, 213-5 Thomas Street, ☎ +61 2 9281-9899. This is a popular Chinese eatery specializing in meat and poultry dishes (marinated duck tongue $6) and has a great little window area where you can choose your takeaway goodies. Dishes $3.50-9.
- Eating World Food Court, Cnr of Dixon & Goulburn St. Open 10AM-10PM. Part of the the pagoda-style Harbour Plaza, this food court has a wide range of cheap Asian meals available. Try Gumshara, which sells Japanese tonkatsu ramen, rich with pork collagen. Dishes $6-10.
- Sussex Centre Food Court, 401 Sussex St, Sydney. Open 9AM-10PM. The food court here has a range of cheap, tasty dishes, making it a sensible choice for those who want to eat and run. Dishes $6-10.
- Chat Thai, 20 Campbell Street, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9211-1808. This restaurant is very busy but offers the very best in Thai cuisine in the city south area. Lines will often stretch out of the restaurant down the street. There is also another branch on the Manly ferry wharf and upstairs in Westfield Pitt Street. Best buys include Pad Thai (sweet, salty & peanuts with lemon juice and rice) and Pork Skewers (ask for pork sticks). Dishes $8-$20.
- BBQ King, 18-20 Goulburn St, ☎ +61 2 9267-2586. Open 11.30AM-2AM. As the name suggests, you come here for barbecue, and a lot of people would agree that this place is king. It's old-school (somewhat dirty), with laminex tables and folding chairs. There may be a queue, but it won't last long, and the great duck is worth the wait. Try the spinach with garlic, too. Entrees $4.40-8.80, mains $8.80-26.
- Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, 393-99 Sussex St, ☎ +61 2 9212-3901. Open noon-4AM. With lots of fish tanks displaying your nervous-looking dinner, this place is a favorite late-night eating spot for many of Sydney's chefs and hotel workers. The flavours are exotic and engaging, the service fast and slick.
- Marigold, Levels 4 & 5, 683-9 George St, Haymarket (In the Citymark building), ☎ +61 2 9281-3388. This 800-seat restaurant is a Sydney institution. Serves the hordes yum cha daily for lunch, with service brisk, bordering on rude. Make sure you have a seat close to the centre, or you'll get the leftovers. More laid-back vibe in the evenings. Go for the experience, not the service. Dim sum $2.40-4.60, yum cha specials $5.70.
- Zilver, Level 1, 477 Pitt St, Haymarket, ☎ +61 2 9211-2232. Open 10AM-3PM (yum cha), 5.30PM-11PM (a la carte). Something of a yum cha mothership on weekends, this place offers a mind-boggling array of dishes from the a la carte menu too. Get a group together and have a feast. Entrees $5-15.80, mains $13.80-market price seafood.
- Covent Garden Hotel. A local institution. Usually busy, a mix of the after work crowd, tourists, and people in town for a night out. Gets very busy before some shows at the Entertainment centre. Recently renovated in modern style, and struggling a little to recapture the former vibe.
The area around Central Station and Haymarket has many choices of backpacker accommodation, including Wake Up and two YHAs at Sydney Central and Railway Square.
- Base Sydney, 477 Kent Street, ☎ +61 2 9267 7718, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am.
- Eco Lodge - Sydney, Chalmers St (5 min from Central Station), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest house for environmentally conscious, house has compost, worm farm and 9 chickens. Single Rooms from $40 per night.
- Maze Backpackers Hostel, 417 Pitt St, ☎ +61 2 9211 5115, toll-free: 1800 813 522. Beds in a dormitory room from $21 per night, single room $45, double $60.
- Nomads Sydney (Westend Backpackers), 412 Pitt Street (Nearby to Haymarket, Chinatown and Central station), ☎ +61 2 9211-4588, toll-free: 1800 666 237, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Beds in a shared dormitory room from $23 a night, doubles from $70.
- Sydney Central on Wentworth, 75 Wentworth Ave, ☎ +61 2 9212-1005. In a landmark heritage building. 24 hr reception, coin-operated laundry, guest kitchen, free guest internet kiosk, and subsidized payment for parking in the nearby Wilson Car Park in Goulburn Street. From $38.
- Sydney Central YHA, 11 Rawson Place (Across the road from Central railway station), ☎ +61 2 9281-9111, fax: +61 2 9281 9199, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Beds in a dorm room for non-members are $36 per night, private rooms for non-members are $120 with ensuite.
- Wake Up, 509 Pitt St (Opposite Central railway station), ☎ +61 2 9288-7888, fax: +61 2 9288 7889, e-mail: email@example.com. Side Bar is open from 4PM until late every night of the week. The onsite cafe serves budget conscious breakfasts, lunches and dinner. A/C rooms, internet cafe, 24 hr reception, security key card access, storage lockers in dorms, coin operated laundries and a guest kitchen. Dorms from $32 a night, private rooms from $98.
- Ibis World Square, 382 Pitt Street, ☎ +61 2 9217 6666, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in Chinatown, a 5-minute walk from Central. Very clean rooms and generous breakfast. World Square shopping centre is right across the street. about $130.
- Leisure Inn Sydney Central, 28-30 Regent Street (Opposite Sydney's Central Train Station), toll-free: 1800 060 954. Leisure Inn Sydney Central is a modern, fully refurbished hotel featuring brand new rooms. A short walk to the city centre. Rooms from $95.
- Mercure Sydney Hotel, 818-820 George Street, ☎ +61 2 9217-6666, fax: +61 2 9217 6888. 4 star Sydney hotel with 517 rooms, adjacent to Central Station. Easy access to Darling Harbour, Sydney's shopping and retail center and major attractions. Between $149-$300 per night.
- Rydges Capitol Square Hotel, Cnr George & Campbell Streets, ☎ 1300 857 922 (local rate). Incorporated within the Capitol Theatre complex. Near Darling Harbour, the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Central Station and Chinatown. Rooms from $78-$120.
- Citigate Central Sydney, 169-179 Thomas Street, ☎ +61 2 9281-6888, e-mail: email@example.com. A hotel close to Darling Harbour, Central Railway Station, Chinatown and Sydney's CBD.
The George St area between Town Hall and Central can be a little rough very late at night. It's always busy though, so the usual precautions should see you stay out of trouble. Try to avoid Belmore Park (on Eddy Avenue in front of Central Station) at night as it seems to attract a lot of drug addicts and homeless people.
Central Bus Station isn't the best introduction to Sydney at any time of day, and is unpleasant after dark. If you are arriving late, have plans for how you are getting away safely.
There are many Internet cafes around the area. Newsagents have terminals, internet stores advertise high speed and gaming access. World Square has coin operated terminals, along with a couple of the other shopping centres. Around central station there are several options (although not on the station itself). Expect to pay a couple of dollars to check email, or try to get around $6 for an hour of usage.
In addition the public libraries in the area offer Internet access.