Drum Roll: Australia’s Coolest Neighbourhoods Are ….


Richmond in Melbourne and Surry Hills in Sydney – two coveted inner-city enclaves – have been named among the world’s coolest neighbourhoods.

With their terraced houses, bustling bars and thriving café cultures, you could say Richmond in Melbourne and Surry Hills in Sydney are cut from the same cloth.

These traditional working-class suburbs that both sit east of the city centre, have also just been named among the coolest neighbourhoods in the world – outranking pockets of Singapore, Tokyo and Barcelona.

Richmond, or Tiger Town as it is affectionately known by footy mad locals, was named the 10th coolest suburb in the world in Time Out’s annual ranking of the coolest hubs around the globe. Surry Hills, in the Harbour City, claimed 19th spot.

The rankings are based on a survey of 27,000 city-dwellers with input from Time Out editors and contributors, who vetted the public vote against criteria like nightlife, culture and restaurants.

Factors like community spirit, resilience and sustainability, that have come into focus in the pandemic, were also considered.


A Tale of Two Cities

Richmond, Melbourne

Just 3km from Melbourne’s CBD, Richmond is at a cultural crossroads. The tough, working-class suburb that was home to 1930s gangster Joseph “Squizzy” Taylor, is now a magnet for food lovers, bargain hunters and sports lovers.

The southwestern skyline is dominated by the hulking sight of the city’s main sporting stadiums, with the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), AAMI Stadium and the National Tennis Centre just a few minutes away.

Even though Richmond’s demographic is drastically changing, people who live in the area associate strongly with the Richmond Football Club, known as the Tigers.

The Malt District apartment development, at the site of seven silos beneath the famous Nylex clock, is the most visibly prominent example of this once-industrial suburb taking on a new lease of life.

There are actually three distinct vibes in Richmond: gritty Victoria Street is a thriving Little Saigon and the go-to destination for Vietnamese food; the city end of Bridge Road is a mecca for bargain-hunting fashionistas; and Swan Street brims with some of the suburb’s best restaurants and cafés.

Rest assured, you won’t go hungry in Richmond, whether it’s brunching in a cosy cafe, dining in a hatted restaurant or sampling some of the best Vietnamese treats outside of Ho Chi Minh City.

Start your day with blueberry and ricotta hotcakes at popular café, Top Paddock (658 Church Street), then hit the outlets along nearby Bridge Road.

Stop by family-operated Phước Thành Bakery (206 Victoria Street) for one of the city’s best bánh mi rolls. Try the crisp pork belly banh mi, jam-packed with crackling.

Richmond is also home to one of Melbourne’s most beloved live music institutions, the Corner Hotel (57 Swan Street), while on game days the All Nations Hotel (64 Lennox Street) is the place to be if you cant get the the MCG.


Surry Hills, Sydney

Once the working-class home to Sydney’s rag trade and one of the most dangerous and vice-ridden neighbourhoods in the city, Surry Hills is now home to stylish restaurants, galleries, small bars and unique shopping experiences.

With a vibrant LQTBQI+ community and home to artistically-minded professionals, this neighbourhood is a creative central hub that is home to the Brett Whiteley Studio and Belvoir St Theatre, as well as numerous galleries.

With its Victorian-era terraces, new apartment blocks and glam warehouse conversions, and the addition of Sydney’s new Light Rail, Surry Hills is constantly evolving.

A thriving café culture has also made the 2010 postcode one of the most popular weekend brunch destinations in Sydney, where many of the city’s best baristas ply their trade.

Along the 1.5 km from its boundary with Darlinghurst at Oxford Street to its end at Cleveland Street, you’ll find the world on a plate, courtesy of Crown Street’s eclectic, multicultural mix of eateries, bars, pubs, cafés and speciality grocers.

On the leafy streets, laneways and back alleys, you’ll find bars and restaurants increasingly moving to the pavements as part of an al fresco revolution.

Home to the world famous Bourke Street Bakery, as well as popular fine dining restaurants like The Winery, Four Ate Five, The Dolphin Hotel, Dead Ringer and Chin Chin, there’s a good reason Surry Hills is a food lovers paradise.

One of the neighbourhood’s most popular diners is Pizza Fritta (428 Crown St) on the corner of Crown and Foveaux Streets, or closer to Cleveland Street, it’s hard to go past Via Napoli (628 Crown).

Every good neighbourhood also needs a good pub or two, and Surry Hills has the highest concentration of quality watering holes in the Harbour City.

The Clock Hotel (main image) is a Surry Hills institution, serving the good people of Sydney since 1863. The Dolphin, The Shakespeare Hotel (“The Shakey”), The Forresters and the Keg & Brew hotel are also popular watering holes.

The Gin Lab at the Four Pillars micro-distillery (410 Crown St) also feels right at home amongst the drinking dens and dining destinations of Crown Street.

Inner-west Newtown was voted Sydney’s next coolest neighbourhood, followed by Marrickville, Manly and Bondi.


© 2021 BERNARD O’RIORDAN (TRAVEL INSTINCT). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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