Watch out, Darling Harbour, your neighbours are coming for you. First it was Barangaroo – the swank waterside neighbourhood that sprang to life almost overnight with a spate of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Now it’s Darling Square – a compact cluster of fashion stores, tattoo studios, hair salons, dessert bars, ice-cream parlours and 40 bars, restaurants and cafés – that’s drawing the crowds. Here’s your essential list.

Where to eat and drink

Eat + Drink Head to Auvers Cafe, named after Vincent van Gogh’s home village in France, for the first meal of the day. Start with the classics – crab omelette, say, or eggs Benedict – or try something a little left field: matcha pancakes with green tea glaze and raspberry sorbet.

Hello Auntie, Darling Square

Whether you order the coconut and turmeric crêpes with prawn and pork (the Vietnamese equivalent of surf and turf) or go with spiced chicken wings, prepare to get your hands dirty at Marrickville institution Hello Auntie’s city outpost. Just don’t skip the Pandan Summer – a creamy concoction of rum, pineapple, coconut sorbet and Campari.

The Exchange, Darling Square

The Golden Century Group’s new fine-dining establishment XOPP occupies the entire mezzanine floor of the striking The Exchange building, designed to look like a bird’s nest. You could order the signature pipis in XO sauce but if you really want to incite envy from neighbouring tables, ask the waiter for the palate-popping Hong Kong-style lobster and cauliflower with garlic, onion and red chilli. 

Where to stay

Book a room

Find a room

Sofitel Darling Harbour is about five minutes walk from Darling Square. Book a city-facing room for sparkling views or upgrade to Club Millésime, which gives you access to the 35th-floor lounge with complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapés and cocktails, along with the best skyline vistas this side of the city. 

The best things to do

Don’t miss the eight sculptural installations by South Australian artist Peta Kruger, suspended above Steam Mill Lane. By day the giant blocks and circles bring to mind the colours of a Rubik’s cube, while at night they glow. Also check out Sydney artist Brendan Van Hek’s City Lights installation at Little Hay Street – a tangle of psychedelic neon hovering high above the buzzing laneway. 

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