Sydney, unlike say New York, doesn't have many great rooftop bars. Whether it's because of our nanny state licensing laws, the domination of soulless beer barns, or the simple fact that empty rooftops are hard to come by, there's not nearly as many as there should be.
But for those in the know, there are a few places to drink up high in our fair city. So catch your breath and get ready to climb some stairs. What follows is five notable rooftop bars in Sydney.
The Glenmore Rooftop Hotel 96 Cumberland St, The Rocks
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A mainstay of The Rocks, the Glenmore has one of Sydney's best-known rooftop bars. Covering the entire top floor of the grand old pub, it ain't the hippest spot in town, but with a view like that, who really cares? Pull up a seat and gaze smugly out at the Harbour and Opera House and realise there are people who pay thousands of bucks to come halfway around the world to see what you're seeing. A small bar operates on the roof to service the endless stream of drinkers that trek up the stairs. Come early to snare a good seat.
Newtown's ever-popular shrine to drinking boasts its best feature up top. And unlike a lot of so-called rooftop bars, Zanzibar offers a great big open space that's a whole lot more than just a place to light up a smoke. The tiny bar on the roof mightn't pack a punch - go downstairs for anything fancier than beer or cider – but if it's a cold beer on a hot Newtown night you're seeking, then there's no better spot.
The lower reaches of Hotel Sweeny's are given over to tradies and old men losing their money on horse races, but take the seemingly never-ending staircase up three levels and you'll reach a wonderful rooftop drinking spot. Set against the background of the city's skyscrapers, the small terrace has an equally small bar, which somehow manages to be stocked with an array of good drinks. On a sunny day or warm evening it's a top place to throw down a few.
Situated above McDonald's, on the corner of Bridge and George streets, Pub Metro is your average city watering hole. The first bar, up one flight of stairs, offers pleasant views of the bustle of George Street below, but is nothing more than a one-or-two-after-work place. Another flight of stairs leads to another bar that's exactly the same. But keep climbing those stairs. Although not big – the case could be made that what you've reached is in fact a balcony – the Metro's rooftop is set high up in the skyscrapers and offers damn pleasant views. A terrific city secret.
Pyrmont Bridge Hotel is an old-fashioned boozer that's been around since when Darling Harbour was a working port and not a boring tourist hangout. This pub's got all the boxes ticked: plenty of beers on tap, sport on the tube and cool old pub decor. It's also open 24/7 and has a very, very relaxed entry policy. The rooftop bar is a pleasant space with a chilled-out atmosphere and plenty of prime vantage points. Handy to the newly tarted-up pokie den – known these days as The Star – and just a hop over the bridge from town. Well-worth keeping in mind if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.