Though the places on Crown Street undoubtedly get the lion’s share of the tourists, it really does pay to explore the backstreets a little – there are plenty of hidden gems to be found!
Surry Hills is a thriving, affluent inner city neighbourhood immediately to the south-east of Sydney’s Central Business District. Like Kings Cross, its principal draw does not lie in any particular attraction or location, but rather in the pervasive atmosphere and spirit of the place – although Surry Hills residents would probably not take too kindly to the comparison with the historically seedier Kings Cross.
A Late Bloomer
However, it is undeniable that the history of Surry Hills is rather less colourful than that of the Cross. The first land grants here were made in the 1790s. After decades of subdividing larger estates and developing light industry, it degenerated somewhat into a relatively high-crime working-class neighbourhood, largely populated by Irish immigrants. This began to change after WWII, when newly arrived young families favoured the area for its low property prices, and gradually Surry Hills was gentrified.
These days, the neighbourhood is thriving, and has a strong reputation for restaurants and cafes, combined with a strong emphasis on arts and culture. The central thoroughfare is Crown Street, which is peppered with quirky shops, art galleries and restaurants to suit every taste and price tag. Surry Hills is particularly renowned for its coffee, which residents claim is the best in Sydney. Wander into one of the many little cafes in the area and watch the baristas work their magic with the best Latin American coffee beans. If you are in town on the first Saturday of the month, check out the Surry Hills Markets, a bustling bazaar with as wide a variety of items on sale as you could hope to find in Sydney.
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