Paddington isn’t necessarily on most people’s list of places to visit in Sydney, but if you’ve got a spare afternoon and fancy doing something a bit more local, it’s a great place to shop, eat, see some art and find a few quirky things too. Here’s some of the fun, or unusual, things to do in Paddington.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which mean I earn a small commission if you use them to book. This does not cost you any extra.
First though, where is Paddington
It’s located in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs roughly halfway between the CBD and Bondi Beach. For the sake of this piece, we’re classing Paddington as the area east of Taylor Square on Oxford Street, the main road that runs through the area, all the way up to, and including Cenntenial Park, on either side of the road for a few blocks and down to the Entertainment Quarter to the south. Technically, this area includes both Paddington and a little bit of two other areas, Woolhara and Moore Park, but who’s counting.
Oh, and Paddington is Differentville’s home base so we know it well – particularly the pubs!
Right now we’ve done the house keeping, let’s get on with the main event
Fun and Unusual Things to do in Paddington
Our list here includes art, shopping, history, drinking, food and nature (so that’s going to keep a fair few folks busy I’m guessing).
1. Visit a Piece of the Berlin Wall
It’s not something you’d necessarily expect to find in the middle of Sydney, let alone just sitting there in all it’s graffiti-clad glory in the middle of a tiny park, but it’s there, next to German language school The Goethe Institut.
The piece was actually abandoned in a car park until someone realised what it was and brought it to this spot. Right now, the only thing in the park is the piece of wall but they are hoping to add some other exhibits in the future.
If you want to see a bit more about the piece including what the graffiti means check out this post on Sydney’s piece of the Berlin Wall.
2. See Some Street Art
Okay, it’s not Newtown, which is Sydney’s true home of street art (find all the details about that here from the Sydney Expert team) – but, Paddington is getting the odd mural here and there.
Start with the back wall of the RST pub along Iona Lane where there’s a few pieces livening up the blank wall.
Then, head to my favourite – a mural dedicated to all things Australian (and unicorns) on the garage shutter just down the side of The Unicorn Hotel.
Just around the corner from here, off nearby Glenmore Road you’ll find Hopewell Lane – where there’s a few handy murals very much designed for posing with. If you need to add to your Instagram feed head here immediately.
Your last stop is the small alleyway off Oxford Street called Perry Lane.
This has a handful of murals as it’s part of a designated art space known as the Perry Lane Art Project. the organisers say they hope it’ll give people shopping in Oxford Street a ’cause to pause.’
So far, seven artists have added their marks to the wall – including Andre Braun who painted the dalmation piece here.
Most of the artwork is official, but the latest addition, of the three ibises (known in Australia as bin chickens as they do like to pick up rubbish from the bins), is unofficial and by Royalrightf. I love all things ibis so I hope they let it stay for a while.
3. Visit The Concrete Washing Machine
At the north end of leafy Selwyn Street, you’ll find a small park – with a concrete washing machine plonked in the middle on a plinth. You’ll also notice a skull with LOL carved into it on the wall outside – these are the works of Sydney street artist Will Coles who likes to stick things where they don’t belong!
There are quite a few his creations located around this area – also keep your eyes peeled for a concrete balaclava, a purse marked fake and quite few TV remotes or squashed coke cans.
There’s also a few of these lurking along the main Oxford Street drag.
If you like the look of Coles’ work, check out our larger post on him here. that pinpoints many of the areas you’ll find his creations
4. Check out The Terraces
Paddington is known for a particular style of house known as a Paddington terrace. These are the homes you see in all the street shots of Sydney – with their ornate iron balconies.
They’re super pretty but note if you’re coveting one – they aren’t quite as nice to live in as they are to look at.
They have very little light and are made to stay cool in summer – which makes them absolutely blooming freezing in winter! Take it from someone who quite often types with gloves on once July arrives!
5. See the Bowie Mural
A giant painting of Ziggy Stardust wasn’t what I expected to find on one of my lunchtime walks around the neighbourhood, but there it is, in all it’s glam glory on the wall of the Blender Gallery along Elizabeth Street.
6. Stand Outside a Piece of Space History
There are two black plaques on the wall of the Telstra Building at 363 Oxford Street. The first commemorates it as the site of an underwater cable, the second pays homage to Australia’s role in the moon landings.
Yes, despite being thousands of kilometres away from mission control in Houston, much of the communication between the Apollo 11 astronauts and mission control – and the TV signals that showed Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon was rooted through this nondescript brick building.
And in fact, the team working on the broadcast saw the historic moment 300 milliseconds before anyone else in the world.
For a full of account of the building’s role in the NASA mission and exactly what happened on the night, have a look at this fascinating piece by Luke Hopewell on the Telstra website.
The building now is the main telecoms exchange for the local area – which means it now, technically, sends Differentville out into the world.
A broadcast of one of the main events in world history and now my random musings about odd things – I can’t really see a difference – can you?
7. Visit the Paddington Reservoir
This peaceful (well, when it’s not being overtaken by couples having wedding pics taken) shady spot is a pretty space to sit and chill out.
All ruined arches and plants it’s actually the site of the old reservoir that supplied Sydney with water until 1899. The original structure is still there but it’s now been incorporated into a pleasant place to sit.
The City of Sydney website tells me that the space is meant to be ‘a blend of the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.’
Whatever it’s supposed to be, it’s super pretty.
There’s a few other historical buildings on this junction in Paddington. If you want to find a bit more about these, I’ll send you over to my one of my favourite blogs, Travels with Joanne and her walk around Paddington.
8. Meet Charlie the Redcoat
That’s the name of the ghost who apparently haunts the museum attached to Paddington’s Victoria Barracks.
Charlie shot his sergeant and hung himself in the old jail cell that’s now used as the museum while awaiting trial -and now it seems he doesn’t want to leave.
That’s quite handy though as apparently he’s quite the helpful ghost and actually saved a child living on the site from a piece of masonry about to fall on them.
The Museum only opens on a Thursday from 10-2 and the first Sunday of every month – let’s hope Charlie is a morning ghost if you do go there for spook sightings.
Thursday morning is also the only time you civilians can tour the barracks. You need to apply in advance. You’ll find the link explaining how to do so on the museum website above.
9. Stand Under the Jacaranda
Jacaranda are the most glorious purple trees that flower in Sydney in October and early November and the row of trees the line the opposite side of the road from swanky shopping strip The Intersection is one of the prettiest spots to check out.
It’s really hard to get a selfie with these trees – I’ve tried a lot – as they are high up, so you’ll need to bring a buddy. Also, be very careful here if it’s been raining Jacaranda are pretty, but the leaves become lethal little purple ice rinks after rain!
If you want to find some of Sydney’s other best Jacaranda spots, check out this post which highlights a few others- including the famous Jacaranda tunnel that has sparked a million instagram pictures!
10. Take a Crime Tour
Paddington is known as one of the posher areas of Sydney and so I was a bit surprised when I saw a Crime and Murder tour advertised by Journey Walks… and so I had to take it.
And it was brilliant. I learned so many things about the neighbourhood – not all to do with premature demises! There’s also scams, sly grog and escaped snakes in the mix.
Tour guide Max grew up in Paddington and really knows his history – plus there’s a story of spontaneous combustion which is always fascinating.
11. Post a Letter to Santa
Directly opposite the Jacaranda, roughly at the exact point I took this photo is a little red post box.
If you didn’t know it was there you’d probably walk past it without thinking, but look closer and you’ll see it offers a direct line to Santa – all year round! And if you leave your email address, you’ll get a reply!
The Intersection also has a Jacaranda Santa that appears on Saturdays in November, complete with purple suitso you can also drop off any Xmas wishes in person.
12. Visit Paddington Markets
Open on Saturday between 10-4, this market in the grounds of the local church is the main tourist draw in Paddington.
It’s a mix of secondhand and new goods and you’ll be able to pick up clothes, jewellery, soaps, food and other goodies and souvenirs.
A couple of quirky stalls to look out for include Kotes by Kobe who make dog coats made from (combed) dog fur, hand painted cushions by Bob Window, the innovative flavoured chocolate by Caseys and the super cute heart keychains by Fernworks.
13. Spot the ‘Stolen’ Statue
The statue Dogman, the paparazzi pupper by artists Gillie and Marc that’s located on the pavement outside the Opus gift shop at 354 Oxford Statue made headlines back in 2017 when it was stolen.
This was quite some feat as the thing weighs 250kg!
It was recovered after about a month and returned to its place on the pavement. The cute husky is not always there!
You’ll also find Marc and Gillies work in a couple of other places in Paddington – outside (and inside) the Infinity Bakery just past the Intersection and at the junction of Gurner and Cascade Streets
14. Walk the Labyrinth
Centennial Park is located in that ‘not technically Paddington’ zone that I talked about earlier but, it’s a lovely place to walk on a sunny day and so I’m including it in here.
There are a few things to do in the park – you can hire bikes, grab a coffee, eat from The Spruce Goose an old airstream turned cafe, ride horses from the nearby Eastside Horse Riding Centre and see black swans – but possibly the most unusual things to do in Centennial Park is to walk the labyrinth.
:Labyrinth’s are not mazes – you don’t try and get out of them, instead you just pace the meandering paths as a way to aid meditation, thought processes or to chill you out.
Thankfully the labyrinth is now marked on google maps as it was a right pain to describe how to get to here before so use that to find your way if you want to add it to your list of things to do in Paddington.
15. Visit The UNSW Gallery
Paddington is known for its art galleries – there are a LOT of them – but one of the most accessible to those without large bank accounts is the gallery directly attached to the UNSW Art & Design campus.
It can get quite quirky in there! I’ve actually stopped in my tracks more than once walking past there.
Check their website for opening hours and exhibitions.
You might also want to check out nearby Kudos Gallery which shows some of the best work of the students at the art school and also has some head-turning exhibits.
It’s located at 6 Napier Street. Check their webpage for details and times of exhibitions.
Oh and if you’re here at lunchtime, that huge queue you see on the other side of the road is for South Dowling Sandwiches, apparently Sydney’s best sandwich shop.
That side of the road is technically Darlinghurst, not Paddington which will, one day, have it’s own post so, we’ll just leave that mention there for now.
16. See a Movie at The Verona
It might sound a strange thing to tell you do if you’re on your holiday – but this independent cinema is a true Paddington gem so any support I can give it is good as far as I’m concerned.
Oh, and you get to drink wine while you watch your movie – which, coming from the UK where this doesn’t happen (well not at my old local cinema anyway) seems very civilised!
And talking of wine….
Eating and Drinking in Paddington
While most people think of Paddington as a shopping area, in the last few years it’s also become a leading Sydney foodie destination. That, combined with the fact that there are reportedly 16 pubs in Paddington makes it a great place for diners and drinkers.
Italian really is the cuisine d’area – there’s a lot of Italian restaurants around here, with Lucios (worth it for both decor and food), Buon Ricordo, Barbetta and Don Peppinos topping the list of most local’s must-do lists. That’s all a bit normal for us on Differenville though, so, here’s where else you should check out. You might even spot me (come say hi if you do)!
17. Hit Up Trivia at The Unicorn
I mentioned the Unicorn pub in the street art section of this post, but it’s also a great place to spend an evening.
Run by the team behind the famous Mary’s burgers in Sydney, the food is good and it’s an independent local with no pokie machines
My favourite thing about the place though is Tuesday night trivia and it’s host Howie.
He’s self-deprecating, likes a drink – and a swear – and runs the most fun trivia night I’ve been to in Sydney.
If you like a singsong, you might also want to try the Piano Man on a Friday night.
If you want to eat, they claim their Schnitzel is the best in Sydney. You can, not surprisingly, also pick up a Mary’s burger here.
18. Get a $10 Bacon Sandwich at the RST
Ask any local about this pub and you’ll get a different name. It’s officially called the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle, the sign outside calls it the RST, locals call in the Three Weeds – but all you need to know is that it’s home to a super cheap and really good bacon sandwich – and, in my opinion, also the best nachos in Sydney.
The pub also sells tiny sketches from the students from the nearby art college – you never know what you might pick up. It could be worth a fortune in the future!
This is also a great winter pub as they have a real fire – just don’t nick my seat!
(2022 update: Sadly the RST didn’t survive the first lockdown and is now a Tapas bar called The Rose – which also isn’t bad – but it’s not bacon sandwich!)
19. Get a Cocktail at Charlie Parkers
I admit I haven’t yet set foot in super trendy basement cocktail bar Charlie Parkers (Mr Differentville prefers his drinks in pint-sized glasses!) or Freds, the farm-to-table restaurant above it, but this underground cocktail bar is famous for its innovative cocktail list based around local Australian products and botanicals.
Ingredients like lemon myrtle, wattleseed and fire paste jump out of the menu – and I admit I could even bring myself to drink a cocktail with Scotch in when the lead ingredient is something called fermented banana.
Like many places in this part of town, it’s not going to be a cheap night out, but it will be a memorable one.
The fish-focused St Peter a few doors away is also regularly named one of one of Sydney’s best restaurants.
20. Eat Strawberry Watermelon Cake
Okay, again, this is slightly out of the official Paddington zipcode as it’s officially located in the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park, but it’s only a short walk from the Army Museum down Driver Avenue or through the park from the Labyrinth so I’m going to pop it in here anyway.
Why am I bending the rules? Because the Strawberry Watermelon Cake from Black Star Pastry is one of the top ten foods you have to try when you’re in Sydney.
The store in Sydney’s CBD (by the Kinokura book store in the Galleries) always has a huge queue, but the Black Star Pastry in the Entertainment Quarter is larger, has two floors of seating – and plenty of other seats outside – and while you might queue on a weekend afternoon, it’s fairly quiet in the week.
So, while you’re up here, head in and grab a piece. They also have branches in Newtown and Rosebery.
21. Grab a Glass of Sydney Wine
The Entertainment Quarter is also home to Sydney’s Urban Winery – and while they don’t grow the grapes on site, they do make the wine here.
They have a Cellar Door for drop in tastings or offer full on wine experiences where you can blend your own bottle, learn more about the wines of New South Wales – or, apparently, even stomp some grapes in the right season!
Check their website for opening hours and to see what experiences are currently on offer.
So, there you have it – my guide to some of the fun things to do in Paddington. I haven’t even touched on all the shops, half the pubs or the many other tiny restaurants, cafes and coffee shops you’ll find in the area. So, if you like the sound of it, why not stay here?
Where to Stay in Paddington
As I said, Paddington is directly halfway between the city and Bondi Junction which I think makes it a pretty good base for your trip – and with so many places to eat in the evening, it’s easy to find something to do at night (and if you can’t, you’re also a short walk from Surry Hills and Kings Cross and all the bars and restaurants in those areas too). So try…
Mrs Bank’s Hotel: This boutique hotel on Oxford Street is literally built in the old Commonwealth Bank building. Rooms are super chic with a black and white colour scheme – and some of them are surprisingly large considering the building looks pretty compact from the outside.
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