If you're a young adult making the trek to Australia's largest city – regardless of whether it be just for a weekend or for a longer stay – odds are you and your mates are going to find yourself preparing at some stage for a night out on the town in Sydney.
As New South Wales' capital, Sydney is a vibrant city full of both entertainment and sightseeing options that operate day and night, and the choice of bars, clubs, and other nightlife spots is wide and varied – which can be both a blessing and a curse given that having to make a decision on which club to spend your night at can be a bit overwhelming owing to the range of choices.
As Sydney covers such a large physical area, your choice of nightlife options will also likely depend on both where you're currently located and how far you're looking to travel, along with the usual considerations such as what kind of music you are into or what kind of “crowd” you are most comfortable mingling with.
With this guide to Sydney nightlife, we aim to break down all the major offerings of each of the most popular venues in and around the city and its various suburbs - including their music, atmosphere, pricing and general target demographics – to hopefully help making the choice of where to spend your hard-earned cash for the night a little bit easier!
Situated on the waterfront with scenic views of Sydney's famous Darling Harbour, Home Nightclub is a massive club – one of, if not the, largest in all of Sydney - at Cockle Bay Wharf that can accommodate up to 2100 guests. An interesting interior with design elements that are a mix of wood, metal and stone, Home has been operating for over 10 years and is a club based around dance music including a large range of prominent DJs from both Australia and internationally who frequently play sets at the venue. In terms of the nightclub scene, Home sits on the higher end of the price range, with a standard entry fee on regular nights being $25.00 and climbing to $35.00 on public holidays. Multiple kinds of music are typically played on the different levels of the club, with most genres closely associated with the word “dance” on display.
With such a massive number of guests – and the club is usually busy enough that lines can stretch around the entire building in order to get in unless you make a conscious effort to arrive early – Home nightclub may be a bit too overwhelming for those looking for a “quieter” night out. As with most upmarket Sydney nightclubs, the dress code is quite strict, and can vary from night to night, but as a general rule expect them not to accept you if you are wearing jeans and sneakers. Multiple rooms, flashy and modern décor, extremely (some might say “too?) powerful sound systems, great views, huge dancefloors and accessible bars are the highlights of Home... just be prepared to pay appropriately for them as it's not the place to go in Sydney for a “budget” night out.
Recommended for: 18-25 year olds, dance music enthusiasts, those who don't mind large crowds
More of a “local” option when compared with some of the other “big city” nightclubs in Sydney, Carmens serves as a decent introduction to clubbing for the younger crowd with a good atmosphere and fairly friendly and accommodating staff. Drinks are reasonably pricey yet relatively inexpensive when compared to the nightclubs found in the city centre. Expect to pay an entry fee of $15.00 and a venue that plays a mix of mainly R'n'B combined with a few other genres for a decent balance of musical variety.
More of a down-to-earth nightclub than some of the other “upmarket” venues, the Carmens has a loyal following of regulars and is welcoming to first-timers, with Saturdays being typically packed out – expect a lively venue full of energy without any of the extra thrills that higher end clubs attempt to sell themselves on. If you're up for a traditional “night on the town” without expecting anything particularly fancy, Carmen's may just be the destination of choice for you!
Recommended for: The younger, “introductory” age of the nightclub crowd; those in search of a less formal clubbing atmosphere; mixed musical interests rather than pure dance.
Located in the heart of Sydney's CBD, The Basement is a long-standing popular venue for live music that also offers various dinners and shows which can all be experienced at the one place! Booking in advance is a good idea as the atmosphere and enjoyment level of The Basement is largely dependent on the table you are seated at – designed in the style of a grand “old music” style club, the stage is what makes it special. The walls of the venue are adorned with decades worth of signed pictures from famed musicians, adding to the theme and providing further justification for its reputation as one of the last few great live music venues left in Sydney.
A place that puts far more emphasis on “chilling out” than “going hard”, The Basement offers food and drinks that are of reasonable quality but tend to be quite expensive for what they are, and depending on your night of attendance or the meal you order, your mileage may vary in terms of their quality. In short, if you are looking for a night out that contains a chilled out atmosphere with an emphasis on live music WITHOUT worrying too much about a fine dining experience, you could do far worse than Sydney's The Basement.
Recommended for: Those who enjoy laid back atmospheres, live music (especially jazz), those not looking for a typical “dance club” experience, those who don't mind paying higher prices per drink.
The Bank Hotel
The Bank Hotel can be found in Sydney's Newtown and underwent extensive (and expensive) renovations after an electrical fire in 2008 – while devastating at the time, it inadvertently contributed to making it simultaneously one of the most historical as well as the most modern “go to” clubs/bars in Sydney, having stood on the same spot in some form or another for nearly a century. Since its internal changes the Bank Hotel has focused on a more contemporary market but still caters to a variety of different musical and social tastes all under the one roof. Those who are looking for a family feel, to the social and hip, to the sexy, and to the – some might say – sleazy, preferences of all kinds are accounted for.
The venue is deceptively large compared to what one might assume when observing it from the outside; many are surprised to find the great beer garden and Thai restaurant that sit in the back of the building and add yet more options for enjoyment to what is already a pretty comprehensive place to visit. With décor that changes from section to section – from a typical “everyday Aussie bar”, to a glass-floored-and-walled rear bar, to the large external terrace that overlooks the building's Thai restaurant, to the upstairs “Velvet room” that adds a touch of sensuality to the proceedings – there is truly “something for everyone” at The Bank Hotel; whether this mix of atmospheres and demographics in the one location will appeal to you is simply a matter of personal preference. The Bank benefits from a prime location, a relatively chilled-out atmosphere with music subdued enough that you can still actually hear people talk, and food that is both fresh and tasty.
Recommended for: Those who aren't sure what they want in a night out and don't want to be locked into any one “style” of evening.
One of the few major nightclubs in Sydney that places an emphasis on R&B and Hip-Hop music, Tunnel Nightclub is a favourite of those with a taste for urban music and live DJ's mixing it up. Found in the suburb of Kings Cross, Tunnel Nightclub is an “underground” venue in every sense of the word – harking back to the typical “hole in the wall” type clubs that have long been a drawcard for the younger crowd looking to escape and simply let loose while enjoying some of their favourite music.
The club's bar is situated right in the middle of the square-shaped venue, making it easily accessible from most angles. Although its location in Kings Cross may seem like a turn off for some due to the suburb's seedy reputation, the crowds that Tunnel attracts are generally content to concentrate on having fun and chasing the opposite sex rather than going out of their way to cause trouble.
Recommended for: Younger crowd who has a preference for R&B/Hip Hop music as opposed to the usual dance/techno mix.
In addition, for more information on things to do in Sydney, be sure to check out our main Sydney region page for details on activities, attractions and more!