What Kings Cross may lack in world famous attractions it more than makes up for in character – the most rewarding way to experience the district is often just to wander!
Located two kilometres East of Sydney’s Central Business District, Kings Cross is easily accessible by subway and is the place to go if you are looking for a more bohemian vibe. It is cheaper than most of the city’s more central districts, and as such is popular with a younger, backpacking-oriented crowd. These tourists and Sydneysiders bring a carefree, liberal atmosphere to Kings Cross, in keeping with the historically countercultural style of the place.
Originally called Queen’s Cross to mark Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897, the name was changed after being continually confused with nearby Queen’s square. The area flourished in the early 20th century, though perhaps not in quite the way the authorities would have liked – it became a centre for the production and trade of “sly grog”, illegal alcohol distributed by rival brothel owners. By the 1960s, Kings Cross was firmly established as the city’s red light district. Prostitution thrived with the weekly arrival of thousands of American soldiers on R&R leave looking for cheap entertainment. Organised crime proliferated as well, largely under the command of Abe Saffron, “The Boss of the Cross”, who brazenly operated illegal casinos within a few metres of local police stations.
Cleaning up its Act
These days, the Cross still has a slightly seedy feel to it, but is well worth a visit nonetheless. The iconic El Alamein fountain, a WWII memorial whose dandelion design has been copied around the world, sits at the entrance to Fitzroy Gardens. Also popular is the Coca-Cola billboard, affectionately known by Sydneysiders as “The Coke Sign”, which has been here for over forty years and is the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere.
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