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Sydney

Avoid Bondi Beach, and tight swimming trunks. David Evan Giles gives an insider’s guide

David Evan Giles | November/December 2013

Don't expect to see a kangaroo—unless it's on a bed of parsnip purée with truffle oil. Sydney's restaurant scene is alive and hopping: head to the Spice Temple for opium-den chic, or Aria (try the duck consommé) and Quay for good food with views of the Opera House and the bridge.

Do get a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, because Sydney must be experienced from the water. En route, you will spot the properties that the IMF keeps calling a real-estate bubble.

Do think ahead if you're a cricket fan: tickets to the Ashes Test at the SCG (Jan 3rd-7th) were sold out six months ago. New South Wales's four-day games can be seen free, if you don't mind a slight lack of atmosphere.

Do bear in mind that where London has boroughs and Paris has arrondissements, Sydney has suburbs. Explore the inner suburb of Surry Hills: Crown Street is lined with quirky cafés and the queue for gelato outside Messina is long but moves fast. While there, visit Brett Whiteley's studio, preserving the work and workspace of a genius who looked like Harpo Marx and painted like a sunnier, randier Francis Bacon.

Don't drink chain-store coffee in a city full of baristas. Ampersand, on Oxford Street, with its second-hand bookshop upstairs, feels like an old-fashioned club; Mecca, in the CBD (central business district—don’t say "downtown"), is where the suits get their heart-starting espressos.

Do explore the Balmain Peninsula. Start walking down Darling Street and worship at the temple of Belle Fleur—chocolates that would make even a cheerful angel weep—before carrying on past bookshops, galleries and historic pubs. The London and the Three Weeds (in nearby Rozelle) both have a good vibe and a vast range of draught beer—and beds upstairs.

Do park your platforms for the night at the new and achingly cool QT hotel—or, for tastes more Hugo Boss than Vivienne Westwood, the Westin in the grand old GPO building at Martin Place. For the less well-heeled, the brand-new 1888 Hotel's shoebox rooms may be aptly named, but the ceilings are high and the beds comfy.

Do think beyond Bondi Beach: for a more tranquil swim, try the inner-harbour beaches in Vaucluse, such as the hidden gem of Parsley Bay.

Don't wear budgie smugglers, as tight little trunks are known here—they are naff and impractical in water that remains crisp into late summer. Board shorts are much more Sydney.

Do visit Double Bay and Rose Bay for the beauty, both natural and surgically enhanced. Double Bay has more hair salons and plastic surgeons per square foot than anywhere else. Good eating too: for the freshest seafood, book a table at Catalina, named after the seaplane that used to land here after an epic flight from Britain.

Do shop at the Strand Arcade and the Queen Victoria Building—Victorian retail palaces that would have delighted Sir John Betjeman, who described the Opera House as "a scrum of nuns".

Don't complain if it's hot, humid, wet, windy or hailing. This will make you officially a whinger. Do feel free to agree if the Aussies start complaining. This will make you officially a mate.

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