With quaint brick alleyways, charming cafes, a bustling nightlife and artisans of every craft, The Rocks in Sydney truly has something for everyone. Often referred to as ‘the birthplace of modern Sydney’, this historical precinct is Australia’s oldest colonial neighbourhood - but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t know how to keep up with the times!
Located just a 2 minutes walk from Circular Quay, The Rocks is a hop, skip and jump from Sydney's CBD. For those coming from just north of the bridge, take a short stroll across the scenic Sydney Harbour Bridge and find yourself in the historic district in no time. If you’re coming from an adventure in the city, take a train, bus or Lightrail to Circular Quay Station for quick and easy access to The Rocks.
Whether you are in Sydney for a romantic weekend away, visiting family for the week or simply a local looking to get out and about, The Rocks is full of things to do, see, eat and drink for a classy and cultured day out! Here is our guide to doing this fascinating neighbourhood right!
Begin your day with a warm croissant from one of Australia’s most famous patisseries
One of the most charming qualities of The Rocks is how easy it is to spend hours meandering the cobblestone streets, but to prepare yourself for a big day of walking, you will want to make sure you start with a delicious breakfast! Located in the centre of The Rocks, La Renaissance is a delightful family-owned French cafe serving up a variety of delightful sweet and savoury treats, nestled between sandstone walls.
Order the Smoked Salmon on crusty baguette or relish in their most popular pastry, a buttery Almond Croissant. Dine in the gorgeous, Parisian courtyard or order your pastries and coffee to-go as you wander through the streets.
Learn about the connection between modern Sydney and the Aboriginal dreaming with a walking tour
Stretch your legs while getting familiar with this beautiful area with The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour. Learn from an Aboriginal guide in a 90-minute leisurely walkabout The Rocks and connect the modern site to the culture of the world’s oldest living civilisation, the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
The tour operates daily from Cadman's Cottage 110 George Street, The Rocks and a knowledgeable Aboriginal guide will impart knowledge on the creation stories of historical sites like Sydney Harbour, with the opportunity to handle cultural objects and materials to learn more about the historical connection to the land. This tour is a great opportunity to experience Sydney’s history and significance from its first inhabitants and the perfect start to a unique stay at The Rocks.
Sit down at Sydney’s oldest Bar - the Fortune of War!
After soaking up the unique culture and wisdom from the walking tour, stop in to Sydney’s oldest bar, Fortune of War for a refreshing beverage at one of the outdoor tables. As the oldest continuously licensed public hotel in Sydney, opening in 1828, the Fortune of War is embodied in the history of Sydney.
Depending on what time you arrive, the Fortune of War usually has an excellent line-up of live music to accompany your break in the fresh air. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, you can order a snack or light meal straight from the bar. Now, you have ticked off this famous site, it’s time to simply cross the road for more history and culture.
Be inspired by Australia’s best collection of contemporary art at the MCA
The Rocks is renowned for being Sydney’s artistic epicenter, scattered with gorgeous museums and galleries. Get some creative inspiration from modern Australia’s art scene with a visit to The Museum of Contemporary Art. With a fantastic permanent collection and cutting-edge visiting exhibitions, all housed in a grand art deco building on the water, you’ll find yourself in art-lover heaven.
Catch one of the free guided tours of the exhibitions held daily or enquire about the available talks by artists, curators and industry professionals held in the museum's galleries most Sundays. If you need another coffee, Graze MCA offers sweeping views of Circular Quay on the ground floor or head to the MCA Cafe and Sculpture Terrace on Level 4 to get an unbeatable view of the Harbour Bridge (perfect for taking photos!). The MCA Gift Shop is also not to be missed, with a variety of gorgeous trinkets and souvenirs for yourself or for someone back home.
Enjoy a comforting English High Tea at The Tea Cosy
If you are looking for something memorable and romantic, we’d recommend the ‘Grandstand High Tea’ at this hidden gem, The Tea Cosy. Tucked in a heritage-listed building on Atherden Street in The Rocks, nibble on a selection of their famous scones, three different flavours of finger sandwiches with your choice of jam and double thick cream.
Grab a steaming pot of your favourite tea, served in their signature tea cosy in the colder months or cool yourself down with a glass of the Homemade Iced Tea (the Traditional Lemon or Raspberry Rose are simply divine!). The Tea Cosy has been a multi-generational family business in the Rocks for 35 years, inspired by the simplicity and comfort of Nana’s kitchen!
Stroll back through the cobbled streets of The Rocks Markets
Take a leisurely stroll back down Playfair Street to browse The Rocks ‘exotically local’ artisanal markets. The Rocks Markets are held every Saturday and Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm with a variety of stalls showcasing Sydney’s finest food, fashion, accessories and arts. The Markets are a local and visitor’s favourite, made even more vibrant with the accompaniment of live music.
Try the fresh, traditional Turkish donuts from Lokma-Nia or a delicious cone from Giorgi’s Gelato as you meander through the tables and marquees along George Street.
Treat yourself to the luxury experience at Australia’s Award Winning Jason Ree Jewellery Studio
Nestled in the artistic energy that is The Rocks, treat yourself with a visit to Australia’s multi-award winning jeweller Jason Ree. A family-owned workshop and showroom, Jason Ree is located at 75 ½ George Street, specialising in handmade and bespoke jewellery. Browse a huge range of rare and wonderful diamonds, sapphires, opals and other gemstones in store sourced directly from local miners across Australia.
The Jason Ree experience is a quintessential reminder of The Rocks. As highly trained artisans, any design can be brought to life from the traditional to the more experimental, linking modern with the traditional like The Rocks precinct does itself. Meticulous care is taken with each part of the piece, using ancient and modern techniques combined to create the strongest, most beautiful piece possible, with a strong connection to Australia.
Treat yourself, your partner or a loved one back home to the perfect custom souvenir - a creative collaboration between emotion and art. Book ahead for a conversation with Jason Ree and step into the family-owned workshop to capture your story in jewellry.
End your day with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour at Altitude
Feeling glamorous after your visit to Jason Ree, adorned with a timeless souvenir of The Rocks, discuss the memories of your day over dinner and drinks at this gorgeous panoramic bar. The Altitude Bar is located in the Shangri-La on Cumberland Street, offering stunning 180 degree views of The Rocks, Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Alongside an unforgettable dining experience, Altitude is known for its distinct and diverse wine selection, having been awarded a prestigious 3 Glass rating from Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards, 2021. Enjoy an unforgettable meal from the chef's selection of only the finest local produce from land and by sea for menus that celebrate Australia’s distinct flavours and ingredients.
So there you have it, a perfect day in The Rocks for those visiting or looking to explore one of Sydney’s finest areas to add to your next adventure.