It’s easy to be dazzled by the world-famous harbour and bounty of beautiful beaches but 24 hours in this enviable city will reveal her other charms, writes Catherine Marshall.

She’s a girl who shamelessly rejoices in her own startling beauty – that shimmering harbour! Those imposing sights! But Sydney knows that looks alone aren’t enough to keep visitors enthralled. For this, she offers enchantments aplenty: contemporary art, historic architecture, cutting-edge fashion and a sophisticated food scene that maps out the city’s deep multicultural roots. Here’s how to discover it all in a day.

07:00 Lace up your running shoes and fall in beside the locals as they take their routine morning walk along an extraordinary path: the coastal route that connects Bronte Beach with its celebrity sister, Bondi. Watch out for whales in winter, kayakers in summer and surfers throughout the year as the trail curls around Tamarama Beach, skirts sacred Aboriginal rock art at Marks Park and emerges above that most famous of beaches, Bondi. You’ll find it bristling with power walkers, yogis and surfers backlit by the risen sun. Early-morning swimmers will be on their way to work by now but you’ll still catch sight of diehards doing laps at Bondi Icebergs pool – even in the dead of winter.

08:00 Stroll along the shoreline and try to spot local Aquabumps photographer Eugene Tan taking one of his beach shots (emailed to his followers each morning). Then head to Brown Sugar (106 Curlewis Street) for its signature Black Stone Eggs – a simple but satisfying dish of poached eggs on English muffins with hash browns and tomatoes. If you’re recovering from a big night, pair it with a bloody Mary; together, they’re said to be the perfect hangover remedy. Feeling virtuous? Walk around the corner to Lox Stock & Barrel on one of Bondi’s characteristic old backstreets, Glenayr Avenue, and order a zucchini omelette or poached eggs on sprouted quinoa toast.

10:00 Buy an Opal transport card at Woolworths Bondi Beach (it will come in handy soon) then take a cab to neighbouring Rose Bay for a different perspective of the city. You’ll see its skyline jutting out above a mansion-dotted hillside, yachts moored in the bay and the exclusive North Shore suburb of Mosman smiling back at you from across the harbour. Board the ferry at Rose Bay Wharf for Circular Quay, tapping on with your Opal card and tapping off at your destination.

11:00 When you jump off the ferry, you’ll find yourself at the epicentre of Sydney’s tourist hubbub. From here you can view the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as well as reach the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain parklands. Escape the crowds at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a short walk away on the western edge of the quay. The gallery shows a vibrant mix of touring exhibitions and permanent collections throughout the year. Be sure to enjoy the 1950s MCA building, too. It has become an artwork in itself since a geometric wing was added in 2012, complete with the Sculpture Terrace (and those harbour views) on the fourth floor.

13:00 Take a cab, water taxi or – if you have the energy – a 20-minute walk through the Royal Botanic Garden to Woolloomooloo, the former docklands area that retains some of its working-class ethos despite its inevitable gentrification. Woolloomooloo’s centrepiece is the Finger Wharf – once the largest wooden structure in the world and now a warren of bars, eateries and luxury residences with yachts moored outside their front doors. Sit down for lunch at Otto (Area 8, 6 Cowper Wharf Road), a Sydney institution dishing up Italian classics filled with Australian ingredients (blue swimmer crab, Tasmanian crayfish, Byron Bay Berkshire pork) and animal-free dishes from its new vegan menu.

If you’re not that hungry, grab a bite from Flour and Stone, Nadine Ingram’s bakery at 53 Riley Street. A slow-braised lamb or ratatouille and fetta gourmet pie – enjoyed in nearby Hyde Park – should hit the spot.

15:00 From Cowper Wharf Roadway, ascend the McElhone Stairs (112 of them!) to Potts Point, one of Australia’s most densely populated suburbs. This smidgen of land, which shares a postcode with Elizabeth Bay and takes in late-night district Kings Cross, is inhabited by a delightfully inclusive mishmash of people: the affluent, the eccentric and those with nowhere else to go. Explore the suburb’s main artery, Macleay Street, with its Georgian and Art Deco buildings and shops. Arida stocks vintage Chinese furniture alongside designs by Josh Goot, Stella McCartney and Rick Owens. Potts Point Bookshop has been declared “an oasis of culture” by local resident and playwright Louis Nowra. Vintage-lovers should detour to the Wayside Chapel (29 Hughes Street), a community welfare project that runs an on-site café and a second-hand clothing shop. 

16:00 Catch a cab to the Queen Victoria Building (455 George Street), a magnificently preserved edifice filled with up-market stores and eateries. Directly across the road is The Galeries, a cutting-edge fashion emporium with labels such as Alpha60 and Incu. Nearby, straddling George and Pitt streets, is The Strand Arcade. Opened in 1892, it has held on to the Victorian splendour that first earned it praise more than 100 years ago. The historic building is offset by the modern Australian brands it now houses: Dinosaur Designs, Dion Lee and Aesop.

17.30 It’s (almost) time to rest your feet so take a five-minute walk to 152-156 Clarence Street, where an alleyway leads to the nondescript entrance of the speakeasy-styled Baxter Inn. Whisky drinkers will love its exhaustive list of distilleries.

19:30 When it’s time for dinner, hop in a cab and make your way to gentrified Chippendale, on the city fringe, for hot new hotels, restaurants and bars. At Ester (946-52 Meagher Street), you’ll find good food being served in unaffected surroundings and a pared-down mains list that won’t spoil you for choice. Of course, if you want to stay within the CBD, you could always dine at the hotter-than-hot Indu. Located on the corner of George Street and Angel Place – and only a few minutes’ walk from The Baxter Inn – Indu’s menu is inspired by Sri Lanka and the coastal regions of south India. Forego the dessert and, instead, round off the night with a soporific cocktail: Liquid Yoga sounds just about right. 

SEE ALSO: 5 New Ways to See Sydney Harbour

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